Monday, February 23, 2015

Visitors Returned

Hi all -

I just have to share my excitement!  My moose friends returned this afternoon!  This time Lance saw them first. He never barks in the house, so when he gave a little half bark while looking at the front door, I went to see what was bothering him. As I went to the door, he ran out the doggie door and started barking because he knew I was going to keep him in the house. But he ran away from the moose as he barked, so it didn't seem to bother them for some reason. I was shocked! They didn't even move while I was out on the front porch yelling at him to come in the house. This was amazing because the moose were just on the other side of my little wire fence, less than 15 feet away from me. Since I couldn't get Lance, I went in the house and got my camera instead, and just stood on the front porch taking pictures. I wish you could tell by the pictures just how close I was to the moose! They would just eat a little, then look at me for a little, then go back to eating. I was so excited!

Here are some of my pictures to share:

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!


Inspired by Libby, Part 1

Hi all -

Several of us on (TQS) are doing an informal "Inspired by Libby" challenge. The idea is to make a quilt using one or more of Libby Lehman's techniques or inspired by one of her quilts. The deadline for the quilt is March 31, with the reveal on April 1. We chose this challenge because we love Libby's work and because her DVD is available on TQS right now for paid members. So, my first step was to rewatch Libby's DVD to see what might inspire me.

The first technique she shares is her thread-painted ribbons. Then she shows her technique for reverse applique. In watching those, it dawned on me that the ribbons could look like seaweed in an underwater scene. Then fish could be added using reverse applique. So that's what I've decided to do.

To start, I needed a background. In Libby's DVD, she pieces her background out of squares, but I thought that might be too abstract for what I had in mind, so I decided to look elsewhere for the background. I thought back to one of my classes with Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry (her name is really getting too long) and her applipiecing technique. This technique is used by a lot of different artists with a lot of variations, but I took her class so she's who I will reference (although I'm doing it all from memory so some of my steps might be different from hers).

For this technique, you first draw the pattern on freezer paper.  The freezer paper will be ironed on the back side of your fabrics, so the drawn pattern will come out in reverse. I wanted water and the bottom of the sea, so this is what I drew along with my fabric choices:

I figured the water would be lighter closer to the surface and darker as you got deeper. And the bottom would be darker in the background and lighter in the foreground. So that's what I went with.

Since I started drawing my lines at the bottom and worked my way up, I would be piecing from the top down. (That's just how it works out to get any seams that cross correct, just like in paper-piecing.) The first step was to cut the first and second pieces out of the pattern and iron them on the back side of the appropriate fabrics:

Note that I didn't think to take pictures of each step until I'd done a couple of the pieces, but you'll get the idea. Next you cut around the pattern piece, leaving a seam allowance around each edge. As you'll see, I decided to piece the top of the bottom fabric over the bottom of the top fabric, so I left about 1/8" to 1/4" seam allowance along the top of my pieces and a bit of a wider seam allowance along the bottom. This is because I'll be turning over the top edge of each piece.

The top piece I could leave alone. On the second piece, I needed to turn over the top edge using starch. Places along the edge that had a concave curve needed to have a narrower seam allowance so it would turn nicely along the edge of the freezer paper. I made the pattern with gentle curves so I didn't need to clip any of the curves. Using a paint brush and starch, I would apply starch to the seam allowance and then would turn the edge and iron it dry:

I would put the starch on the edge for about the length of the iron, then turn it over and set the iron on it while I applied starch to the next section of seam allowance. I used to be afraid that the fabric would scorch if I left the iron on it, but I learned from Karen Kay Buckley that that isn't a problem. She leaves the iron sitting on the fabric while she starches all the time. I just always have the image of Lucille Ball scorching a white shirt while she irons on I Love Lucy! But that just isn't the case. I don't know if that was just for comedy, or if irons back then didn't have the temperature controls that we have today, but I have yet to scorch anything. Here's what it looks like as you get to the end:

The next step is to place this piece over the previous piece and glue in place. Caryl uses a light box to position the pieces because you can easily see when the freezer paper pattern pieces butt up against each other. Here are the pieces on the light box, not quite in the right position:

Do you see the light shining through between the bottom two pieces? And here it is in the proper position:

Can you see the difference? Once the next piece was in place, I glued them together with a line of Elmer's school glue along the seam allowance. After gluing, I ironed it so the glue would hold better. Once the piece was glued in place, I took it to the sewing machine and sewed on top of the seam with a narrow zig-zag using invisible thread. I used a gray thread in the bobbin, but even with the top tension reduced to 0 I got a few pokies so I might use invisible thread in the bobbin next time. But you really have to look to see them so it wasn't a big problem.

Once all of the pieces were sewn together (I thought I had a picture of this, but I must have forgotten. But you'll see the entire background in my next installment after I finish the next step), I turned it over and pulled out the freezer paper. The pieces came out easily in most places. But I did run into problems where the pieces were narrow or one of the pieces ended in a point. In those places, I found it impossible to get the paper out. Here is a narrow spot:

Do you see how the seam allowance on the bottom edge of the polka dot fabric is also caught in the seam below it? Well, there's freezer paper in there and there's no way to get it out. I'll have to go back to my class notes to see how Caryl handled these situations, but for now I'm happy to leave this as it is. This is a wallhanging so the paper won't be noticeable. But next time I think I might use C&T's fusible wash-away applique paper instead. I'll feel a little better about leaving that in the final product.

Well, that's all for the background. I hope you found this useful.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Some New Beginnings

Hi all -

Since I finished the backing for my Grand Illusion quilt, it was time to start on some new things. The first project I started actually began while piecing the backing. I've wanted to start a leader/ender project for a long time, but never wanted to take the time to do the necessary cutting. For those who don't follow Bonnie Hunter, a leader/ender project is a project that you make as a bonus while piecing another project. The idea is that you use these blocks to start and end your chain piecing so you don't have thread tails at the ends of your lines of piecing. So, you chain piece your blocks for your current project. When you get to the last piece in the chain, rather than pulling the chain out of the sewing machine and clipping your threads, you take a piece from your leader/ender project and put that through the sewing machine (the "ender" for your line of piecing). You then clip the little thread between your line of chain piecing and your ender, and leave the ender under the presser foot. When you start your next line of chain piecing, you just sew your first piece in after the ender (which has become a "leader" at this point). Make sense?

For my leader/ender project, I decided to start with Bonnie's "Sister's Nine-Patch" pattern from her Adventures with Leaders and Enders book. This quilt is made up of 4.5" finished 9-patch blocks set on point with plain blocks in between. I may end up making a different quilt with the blocks, but I needed an idea of what I was making or I would never begin. I decided that the 9-patch blocks would be green and neutral and I started cutting the pieces for the leader/ender project while cutting the pieces for the Grand Illusion backing. I'm thinking I could use red alternate blocks to make a Christmas quilt or maybe purple since I like that combination. But that's a decision that I don't have to make for a long time. I made some good progress while working on the backing:

It's kind of amazing how much progress you can make with a leader/ender project. The other part of Bonnie's system is to pre-cut your scraps into commonly used sizes organized by color so you can quickly grab whatever you need for a project. At this point, that part doesn't work for me because I don't have time to make that many scrap quilts, so there'd be a lot of wasted time in cutting pieces that aren't used and wasted fabric with, for example, having a bunch of squares that were cut at 2" when you are working on a quilt that needs 2.5" squares. But I don't mind continuously cutting pieces appropriate for my current project, and ending up with left-overs at the end that might be used in another project. So that'll be my approach.

Another new project is a pillow based on Philippa Naylor's new book. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I got the book and think it's wonderful. Some friends of mine read the blog and asked if I'd like to join them in making a pillow using the techniques in the book and, of course, I'm in. Here is the pattern that they came up with:

I think it's wonderful! My first task was to make a full-sized pattern from the picture. I started by drawing a 14" square on a piece of paper and drawing the center lines. The paper I have doesn't have grid lines, but I was able to set it on top of my cutting mat and could easily see the lines through that. Then I copied the different figures from the book, cut around them and placed then on my pattern as close as possible to what I could see in the picture. I used removable double-sided tape to initially place each piece until I liked where everything was placed. Then I used permanent tape to tape all of the pieces down so I wouldn't have to worry about them moving. That worked pretty well and I now have my pattern.

Then next step is to choose my fabrics. Philippa used some large-scale prints for her appliques and I really like that look so want to try that, too. I dug through my stash and came up with a set of fabrics that I picked up several years ago because I love the motifs. I thought I'd try using these for this pillow. Here are a couple of the fabrics I have from the line:

Aren't these cool? I have several other fabrics from the line along with some panels. But I've never used large-scale prints for applique before, so I'll have to see if I can make these work for me. I've cut a pattern for the large bird out of mylar so I can lay it over the fabric to get an idea of how that piece will look from different places in the fabric motifs. I haven't found anything that I like yet, but I'll look back at what Philippa did and then play with my fabrics some more before deciding whether this will be my final fabric selection. I'll keep you posted on what I decide.

Finally, I've also started working on a wallhanging for an informal "Inspired by Libby" challenge we're doing on I want to go into some detail about what I'm doing for this, so I think I'll save the details for another post.

I hope you are all having a wonderful week!


Monday, February 16, 2015

February FMQ Challenge

Hi all -

It's time for the February FMQ Challenge and I've finished my pillow. This month's challenge was to use Leah Day's fill patterns in a pillow and I chose option 3 -- selecting fillers from her Craftsy classes.

First, I had to design my pillow. I had gotten a pillow form that was 14"x28", so that's the size of pillow I decided to make. I wanted some different areas for different fills, so I decided to improvisationally piece fabrics strips on a diagonal. I found a fabric that I liked and then picked some other fabrics to go with it. I cut a piece of tracing paper to 14"x28" to give me a base for doing the piecing to make sure that the final panel was big enough. I didn't add seam allowances because I had watched a Nancy Smith Craftsy class a long time ago where she said that she makes the pillow covers a little smaller than the pillow form size to get a more filled pillow. I decided to try that. Here is what the piecing looked like:

I forgot to take into account that I needed extra fabric on the top because of the angle of the fabric when folding it over, so I had to put a little extra fabric at the top of one of the sections:

Oops! Can you see the extra seam? I only had to make that mistake once to be more careful the rest of the time! (This picture is from after I did the SID quilting, so that's why you see the extra stitching lines. I didn't think to take a picture when I made the mistake.)

Once the piecing was done, I pulled off the tracking paper, sandwiched it with batting and backing, and started the quilting. First I did some SID quilting to stabilize everything and give myself a stitching like for traveling. I used a brown thread that I would also use for the rest of the quilting so my travel stitching wouldn't be noticeable. Then I just started picking filler patterns and putting them in the different sections. Here's how it turned out:

Since it's hard to see some of the stitching on some of the fabrics, here's a picture of the back of the quilting:

The patterns I used are (from left to right):
  • Echo Shorthand
  • Sharp Stippling
  • Pearled Feather
  • Poseidon's Eye
  • Basic Maze
  • Frog Eggs
  • Echoing of the fabric pattern (not a Leah fill)
  • Heat Wave
  • Trailing Spirals (with added straight lines0
  • Lollipop Chain
  • Curvy Mosaic
I added the straight lines to the Trailing Spirals fill because I didn't like how my version of the fill looked in that prominent area. They really stood out and didn't look good. Adding the straight lines took the emphasis off of the spirals and toned down the bright solid fabric a bit. Here is what the final pillow looks like:

I really like how the pillow form fills the pillow, so I'm glad I made the cover a bit smaller.

We've had a lot of spring-like weather lately, but winter returned yesterday:

What a change! It's still snowing now and it's supposed to continue overnight, but then should stop tomorrow. We've gotten about a foot of snow so far. Looks like I'll be doing some shoveling tomorrow! But it's still nothing compared to what they're dealing with on the east coast!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Grand Illusion Top Finished

Hi all -

Since Bonnie announced a couple of weeks ago that today would be the deadline for the final Grand Illusion link-up, I decided that I'd better put my nose to the grindstone and get the top finished. It actually didn't take long since I just had to put the borders on it. Here is what the final top looks like:

It really feels good to have that finished!

One thing that I've started doing when piecing is pressing my seams open rather than to the side. When I first learned to quilt, I was taught to press my seams to the side so I've been pretty stubborn about doing that except in places where many seams come together. But I keep hearing professional longarmers talk about how much nicer and flatter tops are with the seams pressed open so I decided to try that on a couple of quilts. This is my second large quilt with most of the seams pressed open and I have to say, it really is nicer and neater and everything goes together better for me. I've still be pressing things like 4-patches to the side so I can nest the seams, but I'm not sure that's necessary. I've had no trouble nestling the seams even with them pressed open and my intersections are looking great, if I do say so myself.

Since I was pushing through to finish the top, I decided that I needed to get the backing and binding ready as well. I decided to use the greens for the binding and got that whipped out pretty quickly:

Since I'm not going to quilt this quilt right now, I've wound the binding around an empty spool to keep it neat until I'm ready to use it. I'll store this in a ziploc bag so it doesn't get knocked around too much. The backing took a bit more time since I pieced it out of a lot of the fabrics I had pulled aside for the front. I just got it finished this afternoon, just in time for the link-up deadline:

Sorry the picture isn't great but I had to lay it out and run around to get a picture before the wind blew it around. I'll get a better picture of it down the road after it is quilted. But I have other things I need to work on, so I'll have to put this one aside for now.

I've also been needing a little wallet for holding my grocery store and Costco cards and stuff like that, so I decide to take a break from piecing the backing to make this little wallet:

It's just a little thing that has pockets inside for the cards:

It turned out cute and I've found it very useful. The pattern is "The Wallie" by Silk Road Creations. I've made a couple of patterns from them and I've found the instructions to be very clear and easy to follow. This one was no exception.

Well, that's it for now. I need to get this post linked up before the deadline....


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Morning Visitors

Hi all -

Yesterday morning we had some exciting visitors in the yard. A couple of moose decided to come and visit. I was just sitting on the couch watching a Craftsy lesson when I happened to look over and see something big and brown through the sliding glass door. I got up to see what it was, and there was a moose just on the other side of the deck! I closed the doggy door to keep Lance in the house then grabbed my camera! After a while, another moose showed up. I've lived in this house for 14 years and this is the first time I've seen moose in the yard (although they've probably been there when I haven't seen them), so it was very exciting for me and the pets!

Here are some of the pictures:

Our first visitor

Isn't he majestic?

Buttercup was fascinated

Here you can see where his antlers used to be. This is how I figured out he was a male.

He's joined by his friend

Lance and Wesley are also fascinated

The new guy
You can see he's also a male. I think he's younger because his antler "scars" are smaller.

Lesson learned? -- I need to wash my windows when it gets warm again!