Sunday, May 29, 2016

Colorful Crab

Hi all -

I know I should be concentrating on my Hoffman Challenge quilt, but I was just invited to a friend's 60th birthday party on June 9 so needed to interrupt things again to make a little quilt for her. If I can just get a good idea that appeals to me, then the construction usually doesn't take long. That's how it went with this quilt.

My first thought was that I wanted to do something with one of my photographs. About 15 years ago I did some traveling with my mom and I have lots of great pictures from exotic places like Egypt, Jordan, Peru, Equador and the Galapagos. When my friend and I were walking through the quilts at Houston last year, I mention in the computer image category that I wanted to do something with my photographs and she was excited about that, so I felt like I was on the right track. But what photograph and what to do with it? I was looking around my sewing room and my eye was attracted by a pile of black and white novelty fabric. My friend likes black and white quilts with pops of color, so maybe I could use those, too. I've also been collecting supplies through the years for coloring and painting on fabric since I really want to make art quilts and these things are fun. That's when it all came together for me. I would select a photograph of a flower and convert it to black and white and use my paints to color the subject of the picture while leaving the background alone.  Then I could use the novelty fabrics for the borders to highlight the photo. Now I was excited!

The first step was to pick a photograph. I took a lot of flower close-ups on our travels so I started looking through those. But I kept getting drawn to the animal photos and finally settled on this crab picture taken in the Galapagos:

This was kind of a cheater picture since the background was already black and white, but I love this picture and thought it was a good place to start since I already know that it looks great colored like this.

I pulled the picture into PhotoShop Elements to convert it to black and white. It turns out that there are a bunch of ways to convert a photo to black and white (who knew??) and PSE had about 10 different options to choose from. They defaulted to "landscape" black and white and that's the one that looked the best to me, too, so that's what I chose. I printed out the color picture to look at and printed two copies of the black and white picture on fabric so I'd have a test version and the final version:

The two black and white pictures look a lot more alike in person than the do in the above photo. After printing, I removed the paper backing and heat set the photographs so I could be confident that the inkjet ink wouldn't run when it got wet:

I then put the paper backing back on the photographs to give them more stability while I was playing with them. I'm not sure if this was needed, but it didn't hurt. I decided to use the Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks for the coloring. Jean Shute, an incredible quilt artist who I see on Machine Quilters Resource, has been recommending Jacquard colorless extender for the textile medium because it isn't runny like some other mediums so it is easier to control.

Sounded good to me! I had my supplies so now it was time to start trying it out. I started with the yellow since that was the lightest color. I would color with the pencil in the areas that I wanted to be yellow, then would load some extender on my paintbrush and brush the color around. It worked pretty well. The extender allowed me to move around the color and keep it pretty much where I wanted it, but the layer of inkjet ink between the color and the fabric made it a bit more difficult. It was kind of like painting on waxed paper, but I was still able to get the color down and I heat set it and it feels like it's going to stay in place just fine:

The next step was adding the borders. I chose my fabrics improvisationally with my only thought being that I wanted the bottom and right borders to be wider than the top and left borders. I got the borders put on then sandwiched is up with a leftover piece of black batting, ready to quilt:

For small pieces like this, I just use temporary basting spray to hold the layers together.

For the quilting on the photo, I used FilTec's smoke-colored monofilament thread. I wanted to stitch around the crab to highlight it and just do lines in the rocks to try to push them to the background. I used a size 70 needle to try to minimize the holes it would make. The photo paper has a fairly high thread count and I think the inkjet ink makes a layer on top, so any holes won't heal up. You certainly hear a pop every time the needle pierces the photo!

If you look closely at the quilting, you definitely see all of the holes, but I found that when you step back just a little bit you don't notice them anymore. I was also worried about the needle causing the inkjet ink to flake off causing a white shadow around the quilting lines and I did see some of that, but that, too, disappeared as you stepped back. My background quilting does make the rocks look more like water, but I do like the effect.

For the borders, I used the wavy line stitch on my sewing machine. I used FilTec Glide thread and quilted most of the lines in black, with a single colored line in each border. The wavy lines run the length of each border and overlap in the corners:

Kind of a neat effect! I even got the hanging sleeve, binding and label done so this project is actually completely finished:

 Here's a picture of the back before adding the label:

This was a really fun project and I hope to do more stuff like this in the future!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Checkers Top Finished

Hi all -

We had a beautiful weekend so I didn't get as much quilting done as I had hoped, but I did get the borders pieced and added to the Checkers top, so the top is finished now:

Since borders are on my mind, I thought I'd talk a little bit about them. The generally accepted process for borders is to piece the inside of the quilt, then measure for the borders to account for inexact seam allowances. And if you are piecing a border, like I did for this quilt, you would really want to make the pieced borders, measure the quilt and the pieced borders and calculate the correct sizes for the plain borders to make everything fit. This has just never worked for me.

Even though my seam allowances aren't perfect, they must be pretty close, because my borders work best if I cut them to the size you would expect based on the pattern. If I try to measure the quilt to calculate the border lengths, I always end up with wavy borders indicating that they were cut too long. I think what happens is that the quilt gets a little stretched as I try to lay it out flat and measure it carefully. I hadn't really thought about why this might be until I was putting the borders on this quilt. When I added the pieced border to the narrow inner border, the pieced border was longer than the plain border, but only by a small amount (maybe 1/8" to 1/4") so I evenly distributed the extra and it looked perfect after pressing. Then I started adding the outer plain border and suddenly the pieced border seemed to be more like 1" too long. How could that be? If everything is measured right, shouldn't it be off by about the same amount as it was on the other side? So I remeasured the outside plain border piece and it was the right length. It was getting late on Friday night at that point, so I figured the best course of action was to put it aside and try again when I was fresh.

So I came back to it today. The outer plain border was still shorter than the pieced border, but I decided to go ahead with it. This has always worked for me so I wanted to stick with it. I really didn't want wavy borders! As I was pinning the border on, I realized that everything was okay. Each time I halved the border and the quilt to put in a pin, the excess in the pieced border was also halved until there was very little to be eased in. And after sewing and pressing, everything looked perfect!

What I think is going on here is that all of the seams in the pieced border provide some elasticity to the quilt. If I cut the plain borders to fit what I measure, the quilt shrinks back and my borders get wavy. If my plain borders are instead slightly shorter than the pieced parts, then they tame the piecing and keep it in place. That's how it works for me, but that doesn't mean that it will work for others. But I thought I'd share since I found it interesting.

Since the quilt top was finished, I decided to go ahead and prepare the binding so I don't have to worry about not having the fabric when I get around to quilting this baby:

I like to wind my prepared binding around an empty spool to keep it neat. It's then stored in a little plastic bag inside the bag where I put the quilt top. And when the backing is finished, it'll be added to the bag, too. Since I was working on bindings, I decided to prepare the binding for my chevron quilt, too:

This one also still needs a backing.

Next weekend I hope to get back to the Hoffman Challenge quilt. I have until June 30 to get that one finished, so it's not time to get nervous yet, but it will be soon. But it's okay since I have a good idea of how I will quilt it.

On the knitting front, I started a new project yesterday:

It's not much now, but in the end it will be a pair of fingerless mitts that just go to the wrist, which will hopefully be a pair for me to keep. This is the finest yarn and the smallest needles I've used so far, but it's going amazingly well. I'm actually using size 2 needles instead of the suggested size 1 since I don't have size 1 circular needles, but I think that'll be okay since there's not much difference between these needles and I have large hands anyway.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Checkers Center Done

Hi all -

It's been a rainy, foggy, snowy week here in the mountains of Colorado. It's good to have all the moisture, but I'm really ready for some sunny days! Of course, I'll be missing the rain and coolness once August gets here! So for now I'm going to try to stay positive and enjoy it.

I made some good progress this week. On the quilting side, I finished piecing the center of my Checkers quilt:

It still has a pieced border and two solid borders, but it's well on it's way. And I'm loving it! And I think it's going to be fun to quilt. I already know what I'm going to do in the white areas.

I've also made some good progress on the knitting end. First, I made a pair of fingerless mitts:

These are from the Prolix Mitts pattern in Laura Nelkin's book Knockout Knits. I love Laura's stuff and will do one of her beaded patterns sometime soon. I have several of her Craftsy classes and I find her a pleasant and amusing teacher. Here is one of the mitts on my hand:

I want a pair of fingerless mitts to wear in the winter in the house because it gets pretty cold. I think they'll be nice to wear while knitting or sewing. But I probably won't keep these because I think I want something shorter on my arm.

There was a bunch of yarn left from the skein so I decided to also work on a hat. I was a little worried about having enough yarn because the length of the full skein as indicated on the wrapper was less than the total yarn amounts indicated in the two patterns, but it looked like I had a lot left and I figured everyone would be conservative so I decided to give it a try. Luckily, I had just enough and here is the hat that I made:

This is from the Lacy Liberty Wool Hat pattern by Meg Myers in the book Lace One-Skein Wonders. I'm definitely keeping this one! I love the softness of the yarn and the hat is really light on my head. And I think it's beautiful!

For you dog lovers, here is the obligatory Lance modelling picture:

The poor guy absolutely hated wearing the mitts! He started flicking his tongue and moving around as soon as I put them on, both of which are dog calming behaviors. But being the good mom that I am, I made him sit still so I could take a couple of pictures before taking them off and giving him a treat. I'm so nice!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful spring!


Monday, May 9, 2016

Started Piecing Checkers Quilt

Hi all -

I know, I know! The last thing I need to do is start piecing a new quilt! Or is it? I've been thinking a lot lately about my lack of motivation for quilting. I believe what's happening is that I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself thinking that I should be quilting better than I am. Then I get frustrated and depressed when I make baubles. And I get overwhelmed thinking about all of the detailed quilting that I want to do, knowing how long all of that takes. So I'm trying to change my thought processes. Not an easy thing to do, but awareness helps. I also know that doing some simple piecing always helps me get back into the groove. So, on to a new project.

Recently Connecting Threads sent me a coupon for 15% or 20% (I don't remember which) off of my purchase, so I glanced through the clearance quilt kits and I happened upon this one that I liked:

The pattern is called Checkers by Kristin Gassaway. I love the clean modern look of the green and purple fabrics on a white background! The piecing for this quilt is very simple, so I thought I'd share some of the little things I do to make piecing easier for me.

My first method has to do with cutting. I saw a left-handed quilter on a show some time ago who was able to rotary cut her fabric with both hands. This allowed her to square up the edges and then cut the pieces without moving the fabric. I thought that was pretty cool so I taught myself to do that to. So, I lay out my fabric and square up the end with the rotary cutter in my left hand:

(My right hand is on the ruler as I cut, but I had to use it for the camera in the picture.) Then I move the rotary cutter to my right hand and measure and cut my pieces:

(Again, imaging my left hand on the ruler!) For me, there are two keys to left-handed cutting. First, I have to go slower. Second, I have to concentrate on keeping even, medium pressure on the cutter and keeping the cutter straight. If I do these things, I've found that left-handed cutting to straighten the edges works really well for me, even when cutting WOF.

As I cut my pieces, record everything about each piece on a post-it note. I start by writing the name of the piece, the size and the number of units. Writing down the size helps me make sure to cut the correct size. Then I make tick marks as I cut the pieces to make sure I have an accurate count. I put the pieces and the post-it note in a plastic bag to keep everything neat and together:

I get really bored with cutting really fast, so, if I know I have enough fabric, I'll just cut what I need as I go along. Above, I've done a rough cut of the fabric for the borders to make sure I don't accidentally cut into the length I need, then I've cut out all of the pieces I needed for the first block. I was able to get all of those blocks pieced:

I then went back and cut out the pieces for the second block. To get everything I needed, I had to cut the borders, then cut the pieces I needed. Here are the second blocks:

For most of my piecing, I've started pressing my seams open to keep the top flatter for quilting. However, log cabin blocks work well with seams pressed to the side, so the first block has been pressed that way. Nothing special there. On the 9-patch, I also press the seams to the side, being careful so that I can swirl all of the seams:

I love how that works! Here are a few of the blocks laid out together:

I think this is going to be a pretty cool quilt!

I've also done a little bit of knitting. I've been wanting to try knitting something called a "nupp" (pronounced noop). A nupp is like a little ball of yarn in the middle of your knitting. So, I looked through my books an decided to try the Islandwood Cowl pattern by Molly Kent in Lace One-Skein Wonders. Here's how mine turned out:

See those things that look like balls next to the holes? I'm not sure if these are actual nupps. The pattern calls them "baubles" and they are made slightly differently than the way I've seen others make nupps, but they turned out pretty nice. I think the other way I've seen to do these is probably a bit more difficult, but will probably make the nupps more neat and even looking. I will definitely try them the other way sometime. Here's the patterning on the sides of the cowl:

And my beautiful model showing how it looks when worn:

I've put this into my bag of knitted stuff that will go to the homeless next fall unless I decide to gift it to someone before then.

Finally, I've done some more work on my Hoffman Challenge quilt. If you want to see what I've been doing, go ahead and scroll down a couple of pages. If you don't want to look, I hope you're having a wonderful spring!


I did some work on my Hoffman Challenge quilt and I got the top pieced. Here is a picture of the pieced top:

Yes, it is completely pieced and not appliqued. I used Dale Fleming's 6-minute circle technique from her book Pieced Curves So Simple. To try to keep things placed properly, I started with the little circles. I ironed the freezer paper pattern for the main piece on the fabric:

Then I prepared the hole (I'll be flipping between the black and white fabrics in the pictures to get the proper images for each step):

I added the circle fabric:

Then I removed the freezer paper pattern and sewed around the seam. Here's a peak at where I did the sewing:

Voila, the circle is pieced:

And the other circle:

Then I put the freezer paper patterns back in place for the next step. I didn't trim around the seam because I thought the extra fabric might add some stability in later steps, but I think it probably would have been easier to do the trimming at this point:

Now to piece the sides together. I wasn't sure of the best way to handle this curve, which is a pretty difficult one since it turns back on itself pretty sharply. The book didn't have a curve quite like this one. My first thought was that I should do the curve in two pieces, with the seams going in opposite directions on the two sides. I've seen people do things like that before with the seam allowance clipped right up to the stitching in the middle so that it can go in the two directions. But I was afraid that if I did that then I might end up with a little hole or some fraying at that center spot and I didn't want to chance that. So, instead, I decided to just keep the seam allowance on the same line all the way through the seam. So, I pressed the seam toward the black side so there wouldn't be any shadowing of the dark fabric under the light:

Then I had to line this piece up on the white piece. Not an easy task! I don't know if you can see it in the pictures, but I drew registration lines on the freezer paper patterns. I had to somehow line those up, but needed to glue things from the right side since there was a lot of extra fabric on the white side across the area towards the narrow tail so I could keep things in place and stable. What I came up with was to push pins through the pieces from the back at the registration marks so I could line them up:

Then I held things together and pinned from the front so I could remove the registration pins:

This held things loosely in place, then I did my best to line things up by feeling where the freezer paper patterns where and gluing the seam in place. Once it was glued, I removed the freezer paper patterns and clipped into the white fabric so that I would be able to get inside there to sew:

This was not easy, but it turned out well:

Now I had to work on the outside edge. I chose a background fabric and ironed on the freezer paper pattern:

Then I prepared the opening:

I laid the background over the other pieces and lined things up the best I could. I laid the yin-yang freezer paper pieces on top to help me get things as centered as possible. Then repeated the process for this last part of the piecing. Here's how it turned out:

It probably would have been easier to do this with applique, but I really like the clean line you get with piecing. Probably nobody else will notice, but I'll know.

Now I "just" have to decide on the quilting and get this finished up!