Friday, June 24, 2016

Hoffman Challenge Finished!

Hi all -

My Hoffman Challenge quilt is finally finished and entered into the contest. At least, I hope it's entered. Somehow I got to the payment part before I got to the registration part so I hope they're able to match up my payment with my quilt! I'm sure it'll all work out.

Here is the picture of the final quilt:

I had thought about adding a line of twilling stitch (a knotted embroidery stitch) using black perl cotton between the circle and the border quilting, but there was a spot where the border quilting was too close to the circle for that, so I punted. I think that would have looked good, but I'm also pleased with it the way it is. I also thought about adding some 3D butterflies but decided that the beauty of this quilt is in the simplicity so skipped those, too. Here is the detail shot I submitted:

I decided to name the quilt Taijitu, which is what the yin-yang symbol is according to Wikipedia. I thought that was a more interesting name than Yin-Yang. I do still need to add the label and the hanging sleeve. I'm waiting to see if this gets accepted into the challenge before adding the sleeve because I use thumb tacks in the hanging sleeve to hang quilts at home so like a flat hanging sleeve for that, but would need to add slack in the sleeve if it's going to be hung in the show. Either way, I'm happy with what I did and also happy to move on to other projects.

Speaking of other projects, I've made good progress on the African dance quilt for my niece. I've cut and fused all of the applique pieces:

I'm really happy with how it looks so far. Now I have to sew the applique pieces to secure them. I want to do that while doing the quilting so I don't get any extra thread build-up around the appliques. Some of these pieces are tiny so I'm really concerned about what's going to happen when I sew over them. For example, the neck pieces are about 1/16" wide and 1/2" long. But I'll just use a monofilament thread and as thin of a needle as I can get to work and just go for it. I'm sure it'll end up working out fine! The original pattern doesn't have a border, but I might want to add one. I don't want to handle the piece too much before the small applique pieces are sewn down, so I'll just sandwich it with an oversized batting and backing so I can add a border quilt-as-you-go style if I decide I want one. I should be able to get started on that this weekend. It's exciting to have a project that is moving along this quickly!

I've also done a little knitting. This is the Spiral Hat pattern by Marci Blank from 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders:

It was a quick and easy knit. It ended up a little bit small because the instructions said to knit until it was 5" tall, and then start the decrease rows. But this pattern squishes up a lot so I wasn't sure how to measure it. Do you unroll the rolled hem? Do you smooth it flat? I should probably of done a few more rounds before doing the decreases, but it's still cute and will fit someone. It doesn't fit Lance:

The last couple of weeks have been a bit hard on me because it's been pine pollen season up here. This time of year we get a thick layer of bright yellow pine pollen all over everything:

It's hard to get a picture of the pollen, but you get the idea. I kept the windows closed in the house as much as possible, but, of course, we had a heat spell at the same time. It even got up to 90 degrees at my house up in the mountains! In June! But I survived and am appreciating being able to breathe again. Happily, we had a couple of little rain storms this week so the deck has been cleaned off pretty well for me now and I look forward to spending some time out there again this weekend.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

A New Start, Hoffman Challenge Progress and Other Crafts

Hi all -

Sorry I've been remiss in my blog posts. My main focus has been my Hoffman Challenge quilt, but I haven't made a lot of progress because my heart just isn't in it. But I'll go into that below, where you can skip it if you're also doing the challenge and don't want to see what I'm doing.

First, I do have a couple of completed non-quilting projects. The first is a pair of fingerless mitts that I really love:

These are from the Sweet Pea Mitts pattern by Lisa Swanson in the book Lace One-Skein Wonders. I planned on keeping these for myself from the start and I really like how they turned out. Here's what one looks like on my hand:

I think these will be nice to wear in the house in the winter when it gets really cold. My house doesn't heat really well when I'm not running the pellet stove, so I spend most of the winter in the 50s. Great when you're having hot flashes, but a bit cold when they go away. Anyway, I'll still be able to quilt and knit with these on in the winter.

My other project is a book I made at a friend's 60th birthday party. She had won a bookmaking class at a silent auction at her church and decided to use it for her party. She made a bunch of covers ahead of time for us to choose from, all of the supplies were provided and we tore the pages to the right sizes and sewed the books together. First you sew pages together into "pamphlet signatures" (I think that's the right term); then you weave the exposed thread at the back of the signatures together to make a spine. Here are pictures of my book:



My weaving wasn't as neat as I would have liked, but I was using waxed linen and it was over 90F outside, so the thread was getting gooey and sticking together. At least, I think it was the heat. But I'm still really pleased with how it turned out. Here is a picture showing how the threads look on the inside of the back section:

And here you can see how the back side of the cover is a page inside the book:

The back cover does the same. The teacher brought us a really nice paper to use for the pages. She says it will hold up to painting or whatever else we might decide to do to embellish the inside pages. I love the feel of it! I think it turned out really cool, so I've ordered some supplies and plan on making books for my nieces and maybe my nephew, although he probably won't be into it like they will be.

On the quilting side, I did start a new project while my Hoffman Challenge quilt was blocking (more on that below). This project has been on my mind since I saw the pattern in the September 2015 issue of American Quilter. The pattern is Dance by Wendy Mamattah:

When I saw this, I knew I had to make it for my niece, Terra, who is passionate about African dance. In fact, I'd been admiring this artist's work for a while and wondering how I could make something like it for Terra, so I was really thrilled when I saw the pattern in the magazine. I just didn't have time to make it before last Christmas so it's been waiting for me get going on it for this Christmas. It took me a while to pick fabrics, but I think I like what I have right now. Here's the background piece I picked:

This is part of a piece that I dyed in a class years ago. I don't know if you can tell in the picture, but the background is a pretty light green. I like the colors and also like how the colors are heavier on the bottom, grounding the quilt. I had planned on trying to paint a background since I knew that Terra would appreciate a hand-made fabric, but I really need to experiment with that first and then I remembered my hand-dyes so looked through those. I think this will work well.

The on to the dresses. I've been collecting African fabrics at quilt shows and through Web sites that give people in Africa opportunities to support their families for a while now, so I dug through those and picked a couple of my favorites and also dug through my Cherrywood solids for a skin fabric. Here's what I ended up with:

I'm pretty happy with these, but reserve the right to change my mind as I go along. I've also enlarged the pattern:

so I'm ready to start putting it together when I finish my Hoffman Challenge quilt. I didn't go any further than this because I would have needed to get out my lightbox, but I need my cutting table (the only place I have for the lightbox) for trimming my Hoffman Challenge quilt before adding the binding. My lightbox is pretty big, so I didn't want to get it out just to have to put it away again.

So, that's all of my non-Hoffman Challenge work. Scroll down if you want to see what I've done with my challenge quilt.

In my last post, I had just finished the quilting of the borders of my challenge quilt. Now I had to quilt the yin-yang symbol itself. It was difficult for me to decide what I wanted to quilt there because I knew it wouldn't be seen because of the busyness of the fabric. I wanted my quilting lines to reduce the impact of the butterflies, if possible, but not distract from the quilt itself. I settled on a wavy diamond grid from a stencil that I have. The grid reminds me of a butterfly net, corralling the butterflies in the symbol. So I got out my pounce powder and started marking:

I thought it looked pretty good:

I got out some black Glide to use in the black areas and white Glide to use in the white areas. I wanted a fairly heavy thread to push these butterflies back a bit. What I didn't notice was that, while the markings look great on the black background areas, it disappears on top of the butterflies. So when I started quilting, I kept getting lost. So my quilting ended up not being on the marked lines and I lost a bit of the evenness of the grid. Also, when I went back to add more marks, my wandering lines made it impossible to line up the stencil again. So I threw in the towel on evenness and decided to just freehand the net. I took my trusty Clover white pen and a ruler and drew straight lines where the grid should go, then quilted over those with wavy lines. After finishing the black side, I took my blue pen and drew lines on the white side so I could quilt that area in white. I had hoped to quilt the white lines as seamless continuations of the black lines, but my wanderings before drawing the lines made that not work out perfectly, but I lined things up as best I could. Here's some of the white quilting lines with the registration lines:

It's not perfect, but I like the effect and I don't think anyone will notice but me. And it's consistently inconsistent, just like we like. Now it was time to block the quilt to prepare for binding. In my frustration with the lines, I'd tried all sorts of marking tools on the quilt, so I ran it through the washing machine to try to get all of that out. I'm a lazy quilter, so I never try the markers on test fabric before going for it so it's always a question of how things will turn out in the end. Luckily, most of the lines came out. The only lines that didn't were the straight lines I drew around the perimeter for lining up the border quilting. And it was nice to have those straight lines to look at while I was stretching the quilt for blocking. Here it is while blocking:

I recently picked up some cheap interlocking rubber floor mats at Costco because I'd seen those suggested for blocking knitting, and they worked really well for my quilt, too. Here it is now that it's dried and removed from the mats:

And a close-up where you can hopefully see the marks that didn't come out along the edge:

But the middle looks good so I'm okay with it:

Now on to the binding. Then I'll have to quilt the little circles in the yin-yang symbol. I was guessing they would need some quilting and they were really puffy when it came out of the wash so I'll fix that. For those, I'll use monofilament thread to quilt around the outline of the butterflies and probably use swirls as a background fill to make the butterflies pop more. Then, time permitting, I'll probably add some embellishment. It's pretty plain so it needs something. I'm thinking a circle of twilling (a knotted hand stitch) between the yin-yang symbol and the border quilting in black perl cotton. Then I just saw a method for making 3D butterflies in an old issue of Quilters' Newsletter Magazine that might be fun to add. The could be butterflies who escaped the net. We'll see what I end up with.

That's all for now. Hope you're all having a great start to summer! The pine trees are dropping their pollen right now at my house so I'm surrounded by bright yellow pollen that doesn't play well with my allergies, but that should be done in another week and then I can start enjoying the great outdoors again.