It was supposed to be four feathers, actually.
I’m in a whole slew of online quilting bees right now, and for one of the bees we were asked to make blocks for Anna Maria Horner’s Feather Bed Quilt. So I downloaded the pattern and was immediately freaked out by all the templates. Five of them, including two that are pretty obnoxiously tiny.
I put it off, and I put it off, and February ended and I still had no blocks because I didn’t want to deal with templates like, ever. (You are supposed to say “like, ever” in your best Taylor Swift voice, a la “We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together.” Eye roll is optional.)
You see, I hate templates. I hate them with a violent passion. I don’t like tracing things (I make mistakes, or the template shifts and I make a mess). I don’t like cutting out tiny shapes (my scissor skills sucked even when I was in grade school). So templates = yuck.
I managed to piece together some strips for the feather parts about ten days ago, and I pressed the requisite “low volume” background fabric. It sat and sat and sat on the back of a dining room chair, glowering at me. In my defense, my husband was out of town on a business trip for the week, leaving me at home alone with a toddler (when did that happen? she used to be a baby!) and after spending the evening entertaining, chasing, and cajoling her to eat something that isn’t yogurt, crackers, or maple-scented Waffle Wheels, I was pooped. So nothing productive whatsoever took place in the 45 minutes after I finished getting La to bed, getting myself cleaned up, and doing whatever random household crap needed doing (dishes! laundry! garbage! etc.!). I mostly just sat on the couch watching TV.
Yesterday, I decided that enough was enough. I had to get these blocks done. So I grouchily cut out the pieces, starting by making a huge cutting mistake that used approximately half of my strips. Whoops. You know how you’re always told to read directions before you start cutting? You should.
I cursed and swore and ranted as I cut every little inky-dinky piece from those obnoxious templates. I used language that would make the people who were offended by the “Give a F*ck” (asterisk not mine) quilt clutch their pearls, turn violet with offense, and waggle all ten fingers in my direction, all at the same time. I think I made up some new offensive slang, all on my own, just by combining multiple scatological/body part words into strings of offensiveness.
(Admittedly, after a while I was just doing it to amuse my husband, who started snickering every time I opened my mouth.)
It didn’t take long to finish, and I am embarrassed to say that I love how they turned out and I am seriously thinking of making some of these blocks for myself.
And that, readers, is the beauty of online bees. They force you to do things that you would not otherwise do, and sometimes you even learn to LIKE IT.
ETA: Linking up to the Let’s Get Acquainted link-up at Owen’s Olivia.
February is going to be a busy month! I’m heading to QuiltCon at the end of the month, and it’s going to be our first family vacation since Lenora was born. I’m a little panicky about the trip–traveling with a 1-year-old seems like is has the potential to be more than a little stressful–but I am also very, very excited to meet some of the people whose sewing I’ve admired online, and to take classes from Debbie Grifka and Anna Maria Horner.
I have a lot of things on my to-do list for this month, even if it’s a busy one. Most of them are on the small side, though.
My plans for a big finish: complete my Rainbow Road table runner for Curves Class. It’s laid out and ready to go, so I just need to complete the piecing, cut the improv curves, sew the curved rows, baste, quilt, and bind. Most of it won’t take too long–I think the hardest part is behind me.
As far as other Curves Class projects, I really want to make the Scallop Quilt, and I’m planning to make one of the pillow projects for my boss as a retirement gift. I have been loving Curves Class so far, and I hear that Rachel has something new up her sleeve, class-wise. I can’t wait to find out what it is!
Other non-LYoF goals (since I can only officially choose one goal):
- Finish all of the blocks for the Simply Modern Bee. This bee is a little different than the typical bee–we’re making the Garden Fence block for all of the participants (rather than the participants each choosing a different block). Because of this, it’s easy to get ahead! I’ve selected and cut all of the fabric for the rest of the bee, so all I really need to do is chain-piece all of the blocks and get them ready to mail. This shouldn’t take too long.
- Finish my two test bags for Sara from Sew Sweetness. Since these are test bags, I may not be able to post pictures of them by the end of the month (it depends on her pattern release schedule), but the due dates are this month. The first test bag is close to finished–I’ll probably wrap it up tonight–and I need to pick up some supplies for Bag #2. I’m still a bag-making beginner, and even in their raw, unedited format, Sara’s patterns are super-easy to follow, so if you’re looking for some fun bag patterns, I encourage you to check out her shop.
- Keep up with the three BOMs that I’m participating in: Fat Quarter Shop’s Designer Mystery Block of the Month, the Aurifil Designer’s Block of the Month, and Gen X Quilters’ Sisters’ Ten. There are a few other BOMs that I’d like to pick up, but those will be time-permitting. (I love BOMs–breaking quilts up into bite-size pieces is perfect for me!)
- Keep up with my bee blocks. This month I have blocks due for the 4 x 5 bee, plus a few other bees that I’m participating in. I’ve already decided that I am slightly overcommitted with bees–I can keep up with the ones that I’m in, but I know I’m going to have to let a few of these go once the current round is finished. Bright side, though–I will have lots of blocks to make into quilts!
- Piece two Swoon blocks. I started Swoon almost a year ago, when I was on maternity leave. I was so inexperienced back then–I could barely thread my sewing machine without freaking out, and flying geese were the bane of my existence! I’ve come a long way in the last year, and it’s time to pick this up again and make some moves towards finishing. Besides, the sooner I finish Swoon, the sooner I can move on to Fireworks–one of Camille Roskelley’s newest patterns.
- Make the Friendship Bag for the Flickr Friendship Bag Swap, and figure out what goodies I’d like to send to my swap partner. I know I’m going to pop a charm pack of Ruby into the mix, but I’m trying to figure out what else to add. Some tiny scissors, maybe? A few hand-sewing needles? Some random scraps?
- Finally, I’d like to cut the fabric for the sashing on my Amish with a Twist Quilt. I’ve put this off because it involves cutting giant strips parallel to the selvedge–yuck! I need to just throw down and get it done, though. This quilt is SO CLOSE, and I kept telling myself that I wanted to be ready for the applique part so I could finish soon after my applique class at Quiltcon.
For a short list, this sure is…long. We’ll see what I can accomplish, though! Linking up, as usual, to the Lovely Year of Finishes.
There’s a new linky party in town, hosted by Mommy’s Nap Time. What I like about this one is that it allows me to write (and doesn’t require me to post a ton of pictures, which is good because I’m a lousy photographer). This week’s question is:
When did you start sewing? Tell us a bit about your sewing history. When did you realize you were really hooked?
I grew up around crafts and handwork, and I have a lot of sewing memories that involve other people–mostly my mother and grandmother. My mom always made all of our Halloween costumes for us, and she always made whatever we wanted, even if it was something bizarre or difficult to make. One year, my brother was a sandwich and I was the five of hearts from a card deck. I wish I had a photo handy–those were some great costumes! I also have a vivid memory from when I was very young of a bunch of teddy bears that my grandmother made for charity. There’s a photo in one of my family albums of all of these bears in different sizes sitting on the wicker bench on her sun porch. There were probably forty of them, all in soft brown flannel with hand-drawn or hand-embroidered faces.
Sadly, I was of the era where it wasn’t a priority to teach “domestic arts” such as sewing or cooking, so while I got a lot of exposure to sewing and handwork as a child, I didn’t get much experience. I occasionally got kits as gifts, but I wasn’t really allowed near the sewing machine. During the winter break of my junior year of college, I spent an overnight with my grandmother, who taught me how to sew using her machine–a workhorse Viking, probably from the late 1960s or early 1970s. I made a long vest out of a black fabric with a grey print (I was pretty goth-y back then). I still have scraps of the fabric in my stash, and the vest is probably in a bin somewhere. I wore that vest like crazy, and I had a great time sewing it, but sewing wasn’t a hip hobby for young women of the early 1990s, and a sewing machine wouldn’t have fit in my tiny dorm room.
When the Stitch ‘n Bitch trend started to gain ground in the early 2000s, I bought Debbie Stoller’s book and spent a few weeks teaching myself how to knit. It was the summer between grad school and gainful employment, so I had ample time on my hands. Once I figured knitting out, I was hooked, and I’ve been a knitter ever since. But I had always felt drawn to quilting and sewing. I attribute some of that to my grandmother, an expert quilter and seamstress (and my daughter’s namesake!) who can do the most amazing things with a needle and thread. Five or six years ago, my mother upgraded her sewing machine and gave me her old one. It sat in the guest room for a few years–I’d say that it was gathering dust, but it was in a protective case. There were a few times when I’d go to Hancock Fabrics or JoAnn and see a pattern and buy some fabric and think, “I am going to get out the machine and sew something!” but I never made good on it.
Then, around Thanksgiving of 2010, my husband and I went to Waynesville, Ohio to look at the antique shops. While we were there, we wandered into the Fabric Shack, which is an insanely awesome fabric store. Amid all of the beautiful fabrics (it really is a wonderland of fabric with something for everyone), I saw the Moda precuts, and zoned in on a jelly roll in bright pinks and purples and lime greens. It must have called my name. I bought it, and the next time I visited my mom, I said “you must teach me how to do something with this.”
She did, and I started doing some sewing when I would visit her, but it still didn’t stick.
In June of 2011, I got a freelance job for Library Journal to write an article about “trendy crafts” resources for libraries. I had plenty of knitting and crochet books and web sites, but I needed some quilting and sewing stuff. While searching the web for quilting, I discovered the modern quilting “scene” and Fat Quarterly. I remembered that jelly roll, and conveniently, the most recent issue of Fat Quarterly featured projects that use precuts.
Looking back at it…I knew so little. I could barely thread my machine, and changing the bobbin gave me fits. I knew NOTHING about sewing properly, or maintaining a steady quarter-inch seam. I knew NOTHING about cutting fabric, or how to press. That first quilt top is somewhere in my basement. It’s a hot mess. Someday I will take a picture of it so we can all make fun of it. The crooked seams! The weird bias-es of the poorly-cut fabric! The bizarre piecing errors!
But it was liberating, in a way. I knew so little that I wasn’t afraid to mess things up. I wasn’t intimidated by how little I knew–I just jumped in and did. And I’ve tried to keep that attitude, even though I know a lot more now. With that project, I was hooked. After a couple months’ break due to being gigantically pregnant (and then having a newborn around the house), I joined the Swoon Quiltalong about a year ago, and I became full-on obsessed with quilting and sewing. Now I have a formidable fabric stash, and I continue to try new things and to experiment and to learn.
In preparation for QuiltCon (I can’t wait!), here are five things you may not know about me:
- I write the crafts and fiber crafts review column for Library Journal, a magazine that helps librarians select the best books for their library’s collection. I’ve had this job since 2008, and I have a pretty amazing personal collection of quilting, knitting, and sewing books as a result. I also write fiction reviews for a couple of different publications, and I read upwards of 100 books per year.
- I am a crazy cat lady who has four cats. They are all female and they are all rescue cats, including two strays that my husband and I picked up off the street.
- I have (at least) twelve pairs of eyeglasses. I have not counted them lately. My prescription hasn’t changed in about ten years, so they are all wearable.
- I have been writing online since 1997, but thankfully, most of the really old stuff is gone.
- I asked my husband for one, and this is what he came up with (while giving me a look that said “duh, of course this”): I was a three-time Jeopardy champion. The shows aired in early 2002, and the money I made helped me pay for grad school. I wish I had waited to audition, because I know ten times more useless stuff than I did eleven years ago. That is what being a reference librarian will do for you.
I’m linking up to the QuiltCon Link Party, and looking forward to getting to know more of my fellow attendees, both virtually and in-person!
January was mostly a bee block catch-up month, with a few block-of-the-months thrown in. I also started Curves Camp this month, and I’ve been working on a few projects from class.
First, the bee blocks. I already wrote about my 3×6 blocks, which turned out beautifully, and the recipients really seemed to love them! I admit that I am always nervous about picking the right colors for people, especially when they ask for very specific shades of a color. I just try to do the best I can based on their mosaic–that’s all I can do. I’m in a whole bunch of other bees, too, so here’s the rundown on those:
- Mo-Stash Bee, Friends Hive: Melissa wanted Patchwork Wheel blocks in nautical colors–blues and greens, especially. I had a scrap of this rope print in my stash, so I added that as well–it seemed very nautical to me!
- We Bee Learning, Group 2: Shilo wanted a Rocky Road to Kansas block in blues and greens with a grey background. I love this block–it’s a really easy, fun paper-pieced pattern!
- NewBees, January 2013: Dawn wanted a disappearing nine patch block. For this bee, the Queen Bee sends the fabric to you. I love the colors that Dawn sent! This block was super-quick and easy, and the results are great.
- Moody Blues, November 2012: Yes, November. I got behind on this one, mainly because I was really intimidated by the paper piecing. Sabrina wanted a Circle of Flying Geese, and after a few seriously botched attempts, I came up with these. They didn’t turn out perfectly–there’s a couple of minor gaps, and one of the seams tore when I removed the foundation paper–but they’re fixable. And I learned a lot about foundation piecing from making these blocks!
- Moody Blues, January 2013. Linda had an interesting idea: everyone in the group made one block of their choice, plus one block that she assigned to us. She sent us the fabric for the first block, and we made the second block from stash. Coincidentally, I was assigned the same Rocky Road to Kansas block that I made for We Bee Learning, so that one was a breeze. I made it from stash fabrics. The fabric she sent was bright pinks/oranges/yellows, and I have an abundance of those colors in my stash. She sent 5″ charms, so I searched my various quilting books for patterns that use 5″ charms. I found a nice one in Joan Ford’s Scrap Therapy book, so that’s what I made. The pattern made two blocks, so she got three blocks from me!
- do.Good Stitches, Dream Circle, January 2013: This is a wonky star block, but it’s designed so the stars are low-volume prints and solids, and the background is assorted brights. It doesn’t look like much as a single block, but it’s going to look amazing as a finished quilt.
Now, for the BOMs.
- Aurifil’s 2013 block-of-the-month has a rock music theme, and this month’s block is called Jumpin’ Jack Flash. This block had a whole bunch of moving parts–half-square triangles, flying geese–so it was a bit fiddly. I love the result, though! I used my Jeni Baker Blogger’s Choice bundle from Fat Quarter Shop for this one.
- Sisters’ Ten BOM: This one is called Grandmother’s Frame. I used my Kaye Prince Blogger’s Choice bundle for these. (I also added a couple of grey and white prints for added variety.)
- Finally…three blocks from the Fat Quarter Shop’s Designer Mystery Block of the Month. I love this BOM–the fabric is gorgeous (and you always have plenty of leftovers), the patterns are a great combination of challenging and fun, and the results have been great. I fell behind on these during the holidays, but I managed to get caught up this month. So here’s January 2013, December 2012, and October 2012. In a few more months, I’ll have a finished quilt top, just like that!
I’m linking up to the Lovely Year of Finishes, just under the wire! I met all my goals this month, and I look forward to meeting more goals in February.
I think I lost my mind a few months ago.
I signed up for two hives of the 3 x 6 Bee, thinking that I would have plenty of time to get the blocks done during my New Years’ time off. Hahahaha…no. That didn’t happen. Plus, I picked a block for the star hive that was so insanely complex that it drove me crazy. Multiple times.
I’m proud of the results, though. I don’t want to part with some of them!
Hive 8 is the sampler hive. I chose a block from the In Color Order HST Block of the Month series. If you’re in a bee and you’re looking for blocks, this series is a great resource. HST blocks tend to be pretty quick to make, and this was no exception. After I finished all the cutting, it took about 40 minutes per block to assemble these guys:
One of the things I like about participating in virtual bees is that they encourage me to expand my color horizons. If it were up to me, everything would be purple and lime green, purple and lime green, and sometimes red. With a white background, always. But looking at others’ color choices, I start to think that maybe aqua is a nice color, black is a nice background, and grey and orange look great together.
My other hive this round was Hive 1, a star hive. My original plan was to do something simple, but then I started playing around with foundation paper piecing. I’m planning to post something more extensive about foundation paper piecing soon, but I just want to say that it’s addictive, and that newer quilters and sewists shouldn’t be intimidated by it!
So I got ambitious and decided to make the Lone Starburst from Six White Horses. One thing I will say about being new to paper piecing: I don’t have enough sense to understand what is difficult and what is not. This is probably not a beginners’ pattern, but what do I know?
These took a long time, and they’re not completely perfect, but I’m proud of how they turned out:
I have a few more bee commitments to finish up, and then I’m up to date for January…which will bring me to February and a fresh set of commitments. I’ll be making the Lone Starburst for the first quarter of the 4 x 5 Bee, and next month is my first month to design a quilt for the do.Good Stitches Dream Circle. Plus, I have to figure out what to do with all of the great bee blocks I’ve received so far!
I’m linking this post up to the Let’s Get Acquainted Blog Hop, which is hosted at Fabric Mutt this week.
The Fat Quarterly Shape Workshop is an excellent book for novice quilters (and experienced quilters, for that matter). It’s full of the sort of fun, modern projects that the Fat Quarterly e-zine is known for, as well as an excellent selection of modern blocks. The book is organized by shape, so quilting bee participants (or, for that matter, people who like a particular shape) can easily find what they want.
I admit that I didn’t consider making the Orange Soda quilt when I first saw it. Broken down into bits, it’s not that difficult–sew together a bunch of 5″ squares, then use fusible applique techniques to apply a bunch of petal shapes to the patchwork background. But all that fusible applique was intimidating to a novice like me, mainly because you have to sew over the petals once they’re fused to the background. And that means sewing curves. I can barely sew in a straight line, much less sew curves, so I was all, “this is great, but this is not for me.”
Then Allegory started the Soda Pop Quiltalong. Right after it was announced, I was at my parents’ house, showing off my copy of the Fat Quarterly Shape Workshop to my mom and grandmother. I was talking to my grandmother about the projects in the book, and I showed her the Orange Soda quilt and asked, “do you think I could make this?” She looked at the pattern and said, “of course you can!” And that was enough for me. When I got home, I signed up for the quiltalong.
I had a fat quarter bundle of Lucie Summers’ Summersville, as well as a coordinating green sold (both purchased from the awesome Pink Castle Fabrics). I got to work cutting my precious, precious Summersville into 5″ squares for the patchwork background. This took me a while, since I’m not the fastest cutter–at least, I’m not fast if I want to actually be precise about it. Tim would hang out with Lenora while I cut fabric. It took me several sessions to get all of the fabric cut. Then I started tracing petals onto fusible interfacing for the appliques. I invested in an acrylic template from Katy’s Etsy shop to make the tracing easier. Because I am a dumb-butt who doesn’t read directions properly, I actually cut out some of the petals before pressing them to the green solid fabric. This means that I got to cut those petals out TWICE.
Like many quilters, I consider piecing to be the “fun part” of quilting. Cutting fabric is OK, and I haven’t done enough hand or machine quilting to have a serious opinion one way or the other, but piecing is fun fun fun. Since I have five basic colors of Summersville (red, green, aqua, orange, and black) with seven or eight different prints, I decided to start my piecing by choosing one color (in this case, black) and matching the black squares with the other colors, being careful to mix up the prints. Because of the leaf appliques, you’re supposed to press the seams open, so I chain-pieced a whole slew of two-square units, then pressed them, then chain-pieced another square on either side of the two-square units, then pressed those. So it’s piece piece piece press press press, ad nauseam.
I dragged my feet on this for a while. I finished the piecing of the top in one huge burst when I was visiting my parents–they entertained the baby while I spent hours and hours in front of my mom’s fancypants sewing machine, assembling my gigantic quilt top of 5″ squares. And that was five months ago. My mom (who seriously should be sainted for this) traced and cut 500+ leaves for me. She volunteered for it, saying that it gave her something to do while she was waiting to pick my brother up from work. I’ve mentioned this before: the woman likes cutting fabric. With scissors or a rotary cutter. She’s flexible. And I am plenty willing to take advantage of this. because the leaves I cut out were pretty janky. I always did get “needs improvement” for scissor skills when I was young.
So I have a completed quilt top and 500+ fused-and-cut-out leaves. The latest block? I know that once I fuse the leaves to the quilt top, I’m going to have to sew the leaves on. And I am nervous about this because it involves sewing in something other than a straight line. I’ve finally gotten (reasonably) good at sewing in a straight line, now I’m going to have to do something different? Yikes. I think this is one of those situations where I am terrified that I’m going to mess something up, so I don’t want to do it. I don’t know what my problem is. IT’S JUST FABRIC. NOBODY’S GOING TO DIE*. But whatever. I think Curves Class should help with this particular mental block, so soon I should be unstoppable! (Well, until I find something else to fret about quilt-wise.)
The quilt will be not quite large enough for my bed (husband and cats are blanket hogs) and too big for Lenora’s bed (which is a crib for now), so I think it’s just going to be a lap quilt when it’s done. A very large lap quilt. It will be nice for those cold winter nights where everyone’s just sitting on the couch together, watching a movie. Just thinking of future snuggling under my Green River quilt makes me want to finish it as soon as I can. That’s why I’m linking this up to the Finish-Along–I’m hoping it will provide me with the motivation to get this one done. Yes, just in time for spring, where nobody will want a quilt to snuggle under.
What’s left, in brief:
- pressing and sewing the leaf appliques
- deciding if I want a border, and adding the border if needed
- quilting (I’ll use my mom’s longarm for this task)
I’ve got until the end of March. I think it’s manageable.
*I should make a wall hanging for my sewing area that says “IT’S JUST FABRIC, NOBODY’S GOING TO DIE.” Or maybe a decorative embroidery hoop.
My knitting project start-itis is well-documented around these parts (and at Ravelry), and I’m worried that my quilting projects are starting to go the way of my knitting projects: lots of starts and zero finishes. I’ve finished a few knitting projects over the last couple of months, and I finished a queen-size quilt just after Christmas, but I still have a lot of unfinished crafty business. When I saw the announcement of Shanna and Melissa’s Lovely Year of Finishes, I decided that it might be just the kick in the pants I need to actually get some stuff done.
Here’s what’s on the docket for January.
- Keep up with bee blocks. I’m in a metric crapton of bees–I guess I’m a little bit crazy for them! I got slightly behind with two of them over the holidays, but I finished the blocks this weekend and will be mailing them tomorrow. But I still have several outstanding bee projects with January due dates. I have ten blocks for the 3×6 bee (due January 15th)–I’m in two hives this time out. I’m also doing another round of NuBees and my first round of 4×5.
- Keep up with blocks-of-the-month. I’m in several block-of-the-month programs, including the Fat Quarter Shop’s Designer Mystery Block of the Month (which I love), and I’d like to start the Lucky Stars BOM, Gen X Quilters Sisters’ Ten BOM, the Aurifil Designer of the Month BOM, Jennie’s Threadalong, and Alyssa’s Skill Builder BOM.
- Start–and enjoy!–Curves Camp, which begins mid-month.
- Post at least five times to this blog. I do enjoy writing, but setting aside the time to sit down and post takes some forethought.
For the Lovely Year of Finishes, we’re supposed to pick one project. My finishing goal for this month is to complete all of my bee commitments, and get them photographed and mailed before the deadline. I know that this doesn’t seem like much compared to what others are planning, but with an increasingly active toddler and a full-time job, my creative time is (sadly) minimal and precious. Completing my bee blocks is something manageable that I can accomplish while Lenora is napping on the weekends and after she’s gone to bed during the week!
My overarching goal for this entire year is to spend at least twenty minutes per day creating something. It can be knitting, sewing, quilting, baking, cooking…whatever strikes my fancy each day. Last year, I went weeks without creating anything, and I found that I missed it a lot. Of course, I had a lot going on last year–Lenora was just a tiny baby, and I was returning to work, which was an adjustment that took a while to figure out. Now that Lenora’s older and I don’t spend all of my break time pumping milk for her to drink at day care, I’m spending more of my break time at work doing small projects–mostly knitting, but I could see myself bringing some embroidery as well.
I’ll be back again mid-month to update everyone on my progress!
It’s time for my stop on the Travelling Pic Stitch Blog Hop! After looking through photographs of the various places I’ve traveled over the last four years — Gothenburg, Sweden; Madrid, Spain; Portland, Oregon; and Austin, Texas — I decided on a photograph taken in my own backyard here in central Illinois. I took this picture at sunset one day, and it represents some of the things that I love the most about living on the edge of the prairie.
We don’t have sunsets like this every day, but when we do, it’s stunning. Since everything is so flat around here, you can see miles into the distance from my backyard, where this photo was taken. Sometimes, at night, our sky turns a color of midnight blue that I’ve never seen anywhere else that I’ve been. I remember being in graduate school twelve years ago and looking up at the sky when I was walking home from class and seeing that blue color for the first time. I don’t even particularly like blue, yet I was so struck by the color that I wanted to capture it somehow. I wanted everything to be that blue.
Do I think you should drop everything and visit my hometown? Probably not. I like living here, but it’s not exactly a hoppin’ tourist destination. Go to Madrid or Gothenburg or Portland or Austin instead. But for pure visual delight, nothing beats a Midwestern sky.
I signed up for the Halloween stop on this blog hop because I thought I’d be using one of my photos of Austin’s famed bat bridge–home to millions of bats! But when I ran the bat bridge photos through the color palette generator, they were boring. It was all browns and cadet blues — not my colors. And my original English Paper Piecing plans involved a Little Lone Star block, which is a perfect fit for Austin (not so much for Illinois).
I was very pleased to notice a similar block (heck, it might even be the same block) called the Prairie Star in one of Jinny Beyer’s quilting books. That’s my project for this blog hop. Sadly, it’s a completely hypothetical project. I’ve got my paper pieces and my cutting template, and I’ve done some fabric pulls to match my photograph, but I have been way too caught up in life and its various craziness to get any of it done. Let’s just say that it involves diamonds arranged into a dazzling star shape, and I can’t think of a better way to represent the place I call home than a star made out of the colors of the sky.
And once I finish all my quilting bee blocks/hoop swaps/holiday gifts/book reviews/etc. etc. etc. I’m going to tackle this Prairie Star. I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the blog hop on November 30th, so I can share it with everyone. I wish I had more to show you, but sometimes I am just too ambitious for my own good!
There are a lot of quiltalongs out there, and I’ve been tempted by a lot of them. The problem is that I am too novice, too slow, and too busy to manage the timeframe for most quiltalongs. I know that eventually I’ll be able to make a quilt top in a month, but that’s just not happening right now.
But that doesn’t mean that I don’t get tempted.
When Katy announced the Hexy MF quiltalong, I had to participate. It’s a hand-sewn, English paper-pieced quilt named after a Prince song…and there’s no timeline involved. It’s strictly a “finish when you can” project.
Here’s what I’ve done so far:
1) I chose my fabric. I had a bundle of Patty Young’s Lush in the Sunny colorstory, and I combined that with some Joel Dewberry Heirloom that I had leftover from my Swoon quilt. I also had a Blogger’s Choice bundle from Fat Quarter Shop that had some of the Sunny Lush fabrics (as well as three coordinating solids and some other interesting prints). I separated the fabrics into flower centers and flower petals so I could cut the appropriate number of each.
2) I picked up the correct hexagon pieces from Paper Pieces, an online shop that sells paper templates for English paper piecing (among other items). Yes, I could have cut my own hexagon pieces, but I know it would drive me crazy, and I also know that cutting my own hexagon pieces would lead to a lot of inconsistencies in the finished product. Since the hexagons are supposed to fit together perfectly, I didn’t want inconsistencies. Die-cut, purchased pieces are worth it to me.
3) I asked my mom if she had a 4″ square cutter for her Accuquilt machine. She did not, but she offered to cut the 4″ squares for me. I told her that there were 500+ 4″ squares involved and she said she would still do it. And she did. I think my mom just really likes to cut fabric. She did a better job than I would have–my mom is one of those very precise people who can do things like cut fabric perfectly. When I cut fabric, I do a great job for a little while, then I get overconfident (or tired, or bored) and the ruler slips and I make a mess. I’m getting better, but I’m definitely not as good at it as my mom is.
4) In order to reduce bulk, the 4″ squares need to be trimmed down to a hexagon shape. Essentially, it’s the size of the finished hexagon plus a 1/4″ seam allowance on all sides. I got an acrylic template for my birthday to help with this step. This is another thing (like the premade pieces) that I consider a must, because I would completely mess up all my beautifully-cut 4″ squares if I tried to add a 1/4″ seam allowance without appropriate guidance. I’m trimming small stacks of hexagons a few times a week. It’s pretty precise work and I need to concentrate when I’m doing it, which means that it only happens at naptime or when Lenora is otherwise occupied. I’m gathering all of the little scrappy bits into a large plastic bag to use as stuffing for pet beds. They are much too small to use for any other purpose.
5) There are two ways to baste the paper pieces to the fabric hexagons for this project: thread basting or glue basting. I’ve done both, and for this many hexies, I am all about the glue basting. At first I thought glue basting would be a cop-out; after all, I’m hand-sewing everything on this quilt, why would I glue baste? But after spending twenty minutes thread-basting a paltry three hexagons, I went out and picked up a Sewline glue pen. The rest is history. I’m not looking back. I only baste the hexies for 8-10 flowers at a time. The glue holds well, but it doesn’t hold forever, and I want to get the flowers sewn together before the glue starts to weaken.
6) The hand-sewing is the fun part. I take the center piece and match it to a petal, front sides together. Using teeny tiny whipstitches, I sew the petals to the center, one by one. Then I sew the petals together to make a finished flower.
So far, I’ve made sixteen completed flowers. Out of approximately 90 flowers needed. So that’s some reasonable progress! The original pattern calls for 72 flowers, but I’m enlarging mine so it will fit on my queen-size bed. (If I’m spending such an insane amount of time on a project, it belongs on MY bed!) I’m trying to finish 3-5 flowers per week. My ultimate goal is a fully-complete quilt for my local quilt guild’s 2013 show, which will be in October of next year. I think I can do it.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED:
- The more I work on this project, the better my hand-stitching looks. My first few flowers look pretty sad.
- Coordinating thread makes a big difference in the finished product. I used white thread for the first flower, and almost all of my stitches are visible. I switched to grey thread (which is commonly recommended for multicolored fabrics because it blends reasonably well) and I could still see the stitches. Finally, I just ran out to Jo-Ann Fabrics and picked up a couple spools of thread that match the main colors of the fabrics (pink and orange). Now any large/ugly stitches just blend in with the fabric. From now on, I’ll just start with coordinating thread.
- I need to stop making my thread so long. I’m used to working with lengths of yarn, so a “normal” length of sewing thread for hand-stitching looks WAY too short to me. So I cut these gigantic lengths of thread and they always get knotted and snarled. And I never, ever seem to learn from this mistake.
- I really, really love English paper piecing.
Since this is definitely a work in progress, I’m linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!