Thursday, February 25, 2010

Buzzing with Activity

I am participating in 3 online quilting bees. One is technically a block round robin, but it's close enough to a bee. I just won't get all the blocks until the end of the year.

February has been my month for the Fresh Comfort II bee. I designed a wonky log cabin block and sent out an assortment of brown and aqua fabrics. Some of these are not trimmed yet so disregard the variety of sizes. I am still awaiting 8 blocks so that this can be larger. I can hardly wait to quilt this one...have some very radical thoughts for the quilting and interesting threads currently on order too!

I am also participating in The Bees Knees quilting bee. My month is April, which is really right around the corner considering I have to have fabrics sent out in 3 weeks (and a block plan finalized prior to then!). I have gathered pretty fabrics for months. My plan was to do one bee quilt more modern and edgy (above) and do one more traditional (this one). I have 4 yards of the Martha Negly floral below. Most of this will go on the backing, but all of the other materials were selected to coordinate with this. I stumbled into a great thing last month...Mardens (a legend if you live in Maine) had MANY of the coordinating prints in stock at $3 per yard. I bought more than a few. I think that the large floral backing was also only $3 a yard at Whittles too. That is a great online store if you have not heard of it!
I love the set of coral/orange prints And there are several different greens as well.
And I have 4 small pieces (under a yard each) of finger paint fabrics - for those interested, they are FingerPaints by Stephanie Brandenburg. I thought they'd be nice for small accents on the blocks, since I cannot send a ton of any to all people.
The stripe at the top is likely for the binding and maybe for a small accent border. I probably won't send it to anyone in the Bee.
Now, the problem is that I cannot settle on a design. Wanna weigh in your thoughts?... please....

Here's one thought (created with EQ6, using pictures of the actual fabrics). Note that this will likely NOT be the background fabric for the stars, however....It is fairly traditional. They'd be 12" blocks, and each person I think has already agreed to make 2. I'd supply a tutorial for a block. The fun thing about this block is that color placement can drastically change how the star looks. It can look like a flower or a star or even a twisted friendship star. Interesting, but not my favorite. I am currently polling the Bee members to get a sense of their abilities and whether or not they want to create their own design or follow a tutorial. Stars and triangles are easy for me, but I'm not sure how the masses feel about keeping every point!
Concept #2... A little more radical and modern. I love flying geese. And I love circles...I really love when the geese fly in circles, if you catch my drift! I'd probably make instructions to a few blocks available to those that are not comvortable making their own, and then hope that I did not get 20 blocks that are all the same! These would also be 12" blocks.
The thing with a 12" block is that it does not allow for too much detail, or the beauty of these larger scale prints gets lost. So, I am also contemplating an option where each swapper makes just one 18" block. It's the same area as 2-12" blocks approximately. Here's just one concept. I made one of these blocks last year for a round robin in an 8" block (if you can believe how small some of those pieces were!). It was largely paper pieced. I think I can print off the pattern pieces for people and that size won't be that hard to make. My only concern...people that don't paper piece much can be very wasteful using that technique, and the thought of wasting this gorgeous material... ... I'll likely redesign this larger 18" block, but you get the idea. I'd send "x" number of fabrics, specifying a desired background fabric, and let people pick and choose how they wanted to color their blocks.

So, what is your recommendation for the swap block(s)??? My inquiring mind wants to know :-)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A lovely Applique Quilt enroute to a happy owner

A post of few words today, but I suspect that this owner will be doing a happy dance this week. She's already seen a few sneek peeks, so it's not a complete surprise, but I know she's liked the pictures I have showed her.
This is by far the best blanket stitching applique I have ever seen. I have no idea what machine she has, but it does a fantastic job. It is a full-sized quilt and is of the most vibrant marbles. Just lovely in person. I would have normally done some quilting on top of the appliques (or more than the basic outlining I did) but they are stiff from the stabilizer and layers of fusible. I hope, hope, hope that washing will soften the bouquets a bit. I had to sneak a few quilted flowers into the center bouquet too. Wonder if she will notice...
Rather than quilt each block differently, I selected one common thread (the aqua of the sashing) and did a swirly all-over in the blocks. It makes them more cohesive since there are so many colors used.
The wide border was a blast - twirly whirly feathers and then more feathering amidst the appliques.
The texture is amazing. It is flannel backed and it is SO apparent what good fabrics and nice weight batting (Hobbs Heirloom) can do for creating awesome texture. Thinner, cheaper fabrics and batting just make the quilt look flat, regardless of how it is quilted.
Yvette...Hope you love this when you get it as much as I do! And I am ready for your other quilts too-

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Summer Quilt is Finished

OK, well I think that the quilting is finished of my Summer Quilt. That point of absolute certainty does not come quickly when I am doing my own quilting. For some reason I have to overthink my own projects way more than I would anybody elses. So how long do you think it took me to quilt???... Not counting pinning it to the frame, 22 hours. That is frightening! Summer Quilt, and it's February??...Not sure where the name originated, as it has seen at least 2 summers in it's life thus far. I think that the soft sandy and aqua/teal colors reminded me of the beach.
So here is the top, or as much of the top as I can show given the fact that it is 100" square (and my hallway is NOT!). Am I happy with it?...You betcha! I love it, or most of it anyways. The curving bands of feathering are fantastic (even when you consider that some of those feathers are more like "hot dogs" and "potato chips" - Suzanne-isms from my Feather Bootcamp class). I am stoked to get the binding on in the evenings, once I get a little bit more applique completed on another quilt.
Here's a closeup of the feathered star. I didn't really use a pattern on this...that is why some of the pieces do not come together exactly as they probably should. Still, I think the design is pretty decent considering it was ad-libbed, one block at a time. I wish I had recorded how long this quilt took me to make. I vaguely remember each of the 18" blocks (and there are 9) taking 2-3 hours to construct. I was pretty anal about maintaining every point.

As I said previously, this was the quilt I sent to Carla to quilt whisper as a part of the MQResource QW class I did last month. Look back a post or 2 to see a link to what she drafted up. In hindsight, I probably could have quilted what she drafted, in it's entirety, but I decided to meld my favorite designs for the quilt with the ones she proposed that I liked best. I did not do quite as much SID or ruler work as she may have proposed. Frankly, I hate ruler work, and it is not my best thing! Also, I decided I loved the slightly more lofty look that the wonderful wool batting gave, so I opted not to "quilt the heck" out of it, even if the design was magnificent! None the less, I am grateful to her for her great ideas for the piece; many were incorporated. I'm curious what she'd think of the finished project!

This is the center of the feathered star. I still have a couple of bits of stitching to take out in the pebbling, so ignore that for now. I love how the curved cross-hatching looks in the block backgrounds. I am still having a hard time loving the curved stitching in the triangles, because this is an area I should have used a template and not freehanded it. It could look better, more consistent, and I know it. Problem is, it was stitched integrally with the CC, and removing it will mean that the CC might come unstitched too. Yuck! I can live with it I have decided. And I know how I will do it differently next time. The learnings are half of the battle. I dithered on how to quilt the feathered part of this star (above), and in the end opted to go with Carla's fancier design. It is, afterall, the center focal of the quilt and should not look under-quilted.
It is time to tahe a damp cloth to remove the rest of the purple marking pen. It's funny how the feathers around the blocks show up for the pictures. They were practically nonexistent while I was quilting them - to the point where it felt like I couldn't see the stitching whatsoever. I didn't know if I'd backtracked properly. Happliy, they all look pretty decent.

I absolutely love the feathering in the outer border....the way they surround the stars is one of those great finds that happened purely by chance! And while I was quilting it, I really could not wait to see the back. It's all stitched with an aqua Bottomline thread, so nothing but the texture shows. I am definitely investing in more Bottomline - I love it.
And the stripe around the periphery of the back of quilt miraculously ended up just about where it was supposed to. It may be a quarter of an inch more towards one side, but who's measuring???
Oohh...lovely texture. My bed definitely needs a new bedskirt to match these soft tans and aquas, but I'm not sure I have time yet. I must attend to some lack of attention I have been giving Feather Bootcamp, and load on some scrap fabric and practice feathers for Suzanne!! Because I have several customer quilts arriving next week that need my attention :-)

Have a good week! I'll post pics from a client's quilt this weekend. It's enroute to her as I type in California. It was fun and turned out great too.
So, ...if you like this quilt, just remember, I can quilt for you too - just email me!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Pics after about 12 hours of Quilting

Sadly, I think I have to revise my time estimate for this quilt from 18 hours to about 24 hours! I have just made it more complicated than initially thought. The ditch stitching and constant stopping and starting is very time consuming. I am, however, very pleased with how it is looking. These pictures are from Saturday and Sunday.
The first two of the eight feathered star points are done (above). I waffled as to whether I wanted to leave them a bit more poofy or go with what Carla Barrett had designed. In the end, I decided to trust her judgement, in hopes that the center focal of the quilt really pops.
There are 2 stars like this on either side of the center medallion star.
I am not convinced that I love the pebbling, despite thinking that I really wanted to do it. There are a couple places I need to pick out where the arc was not in exactly the right location (disregard that!). I am considering putting the pebbling in the star centers and perhaps in the teardrops (see 1st picture above) that are just outline stitched so that this quilting is echoed elsewhere on the quilt. Thoughts??? I am definitely known for overthinking my own work more so than I would something for another person.
And yes, in case it seems as though I am not making's the amount which is no longer on the floor! Here was 2 days before... Currently, there is only a foot of quilt beneath the belly bar (the end is in sight, and may be realized on Wednesday or Thursday!).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Long Time in the Waiting

I have been wanting to have this quilt top quilted for over a year now. I initially thought I'd send it to the Amish to hand quilt last summer, and then the plans for getting the longarm started falling into place. I held off quilting it in the earlier months for fear I'd ruin it. Afterall, I spent 8-9 months with the intricate piecing, and did not want to blow that. Additionally, I have had grandiose plans for how I wanted the quilting to be, and I had to actually learn how to quilt that!
Right now, I have about a dozen quilt tops about to be sent or brought to me, so I am taking advantage of the lull to get my quilt on the machine. The backing has a 3" band which I hope will be centered around the periphery of the quilt. This is next to impossible to do hand basting, but on the frame seemed much more doable. The back is a soft aqua Andover dimples, and that stripe is a dainty and old-fashioned small flower (and not just taupe as it appears).
The first bobbin of aqua bottomline is coming off the winder. Please overlook the rest of the mess on that table. Some housekeeping really needs to take place soon...
Viola...1 hour in and the top and backing are on, and basted at the top and sides. I am taking "quilt top floating" for a trial run with my quilt. I figured that with all of the blocks on point and set in seams, this quilt is likely not to be as square as I think it is. I am also curious what all the hype (good and bad, but definitely vocal) is all about regarding "floating" or "partial floating". So far, after 4-5 hours of quilting I can say it is a bit of a pain because a TON of batting and top hang in an area I like to have clearer. There is no easy access to see underneath to the backside. Also, with this technique, you have to pin the quilt often, and access is restricted.
I have incorporated design features from Carla's Quilt Whispering class. Scroll down and you can see what she drafted for the quilt! It's gorgeous and aggressive, and more at her ability rather than mine. I took ideas and some patterning from her design and merged these with what I drafted for the quilt. So far I am tickled! Above is a continuous-line pattern I designed for the quilt's outer 4" border. One of my requirements with quilting is to limit the stops and starts, as they waste too much time and thread. And below...the design partially marked on the border...
...And then sewn all across one side. One other thing I have done differently with this quilt is to test out a Hobbs Heirloom wool batting. I have heard that it is just lucious to quilt with and that it gives the best definition to the quilting. And boy, are the rumors right. I just love this stuff! It is not cheap, but for special quilts, it is worth the cost. Consequently, since I love the little bit of "poof", I modified Carla's design so that it does not yield such an over quilted (and flat) quilt. FYI...I found the batting at for only $35 (king sized) and this was a good $10-15 cheaper than anywhere else.
This morning I started on the 2 rows of wide feathering (only after doing way more SID than I like around the stars and stripes of the border!). I am only now taking a Feather Bootcamp online class, but I am not unhappy with how my feathers look (my repetoire just needs expanding!). The next shot is before I decided that the 2" darker taupe band really did need more quilting.
Because of the odd shape of blocks on point and the fact that they are large blocks, I have to quilt parts of blocks rather than the entire thing.
I know it all looks simple, but I just don't want to overflatten the quilt. Question...Would you do something more with the darker taupe stripe (which currently just have SID and the teardrpos quilted??)? If so, then what?
Much of the first block is quilted now. I don't know that I "love" the larger curves in the teal parts of the star, but that is because I know they could have been done more symmetrically and better. I love the curved cross-hatching though.
16" of quilting done, MUCH more to go!... Probably another 12 hours if I am estimating properly. Maybe this will go faster since I know what I am doing, but it is still slow because of not being able to do a full block at a time, etc.
Tomorrow...quilt the red and aqua blocks, and start on the points of the feathered star. This may be slow, however, because there may be a change of thread colors to a burgundy.
The texture on the back is wonderful. The tension looks great (a sigh of relief!). Thank you Bottomline and wool!
Stay tuned for another update later this weekend and perhaps some more peeks of the applique quilt I showed earlier this week.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Perspective and a Peek

So, one of my readers thought she needed some perspective on the size of this 42 mile cone of thread...
Here goes...The cone is 7-1/2" in diameter at the bottom and is 9" tall. The mini cone on the top is one of Superior's 3280yd cones which I use on the longarm. The teeny spool is standard 500 yard spool which I use all the time. The gargantuan cone is equal to 148 of the small spools and 22.5 of the Superior cones! I value it around $350!

And here's a little peek at a gorgeous quilt I have on the frame right now. It has an applique medallion as well as applique on the border. Stitching around the appliques is taking me forever and a year to do. I think I am about half done (with 6-7 hours in). The second half is always faster, as all the mistakes are done in the beginning as I try to figure out what will look best. I have yet to do any of the ruler work to set off the two fills in the medallion area. I'm most anxious to complete this one (yes it is tedious, but I have another motive). When it is off, the next quilt on is my summer quilt (see sidebar link). I finally have plans in place and thread in hand to quilt it. Whether I have the skills needed to execute my plan remains to be seen...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Forty-Two Miles of Thread

Yes, you read that correctly. 42 miles.
I got this free at Saturday's Project Linus blanket event. A stand is being made for a mere $3 so I can use it. 100 of these spools were donated by a P&G mill which actually makes feminine monthly products (you can guess what the string may be actually used for!). If the stand and thread work, I may truly NEVER have to buy white piecing thread EVER AGAIN!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Tid-Bits of another week

These weekly bits are rather discombobulated and partially unrelated, but that's my life!

I made these blocks (2 on left) for Pat as part of flickr's Quilt Block Round Robin . There;s also a link on my sidebar of progress of this monthly block swap. Pat made the two blocks on the right, I made the two on the left, and then I mailed them off to someone who will continue this progress. She requested floral posey pinwheels to this pattern.
I did a couple of quilts last week for local clients. This one gave me a bit of a scare. It's all done in lovely batiks. Just after I loaded the quilt, I had a minor needle incident, and then when I started quilting, I was having stitches skipping. I was frantic. Turns out after giving HQ a call, it was most likely tension related and a result of the batik fabric. Who would have known! After a couple basic adjustments, it sewed just fine. PHEW! The owner was very pleased and liked my all-over ferns.
Another client sent me a couple of lap quilts. She wanted some kind of cameo in the yellow blocks, either flowers or hearts. I chose to do a variety of different flowers, and then I did curve cross-hatching in the squares. I try to do something other than just an ugly stippling when people only want a basic type of quilting. It really doesn't take that much longer, honestly, if a pattern can be done without stopping and starting.
Here is her 2nd quilt. It was a tad more challenging because of the many seams, and inherrent bulk. I didn't want to stipple the entire quilt, even though the owner suggested it as a possibility.

I used a wedgewood blue thread and did a simple feathering in the stars (which who didn't really show much at all) and a very basic leaf in the yellow part of the pinwheels. The quilting shows best in dim light.
So, that's about it for the week's quilting. OK, so that was really last week's quilting. I was waiting for a quilt to arrive and some thread so I didn't do much this week there.
These wonky log cabin blocks have been arriving. These are part of the Fresh Comfort Two quilting Bee. February is my month, and they started rolling in early (yay!). Later in the month, when I have most of them I will show a picture of the entire projected quilt. It's a bit avant-gard for me.
And...a little of my own handiwork. I started this last fall with the gorgeous hand-dyes my husband got me for my birthday. It's all hand appliqued, with plenty of bias strip work. I have decided I will put forth a stron effort this month to work on the border (the 4 triangles) to see if it may be possible to finish it in time for the Maine Quilt Show this summer. Why worry now??...just figured if I got it far enough along I could decide if I wanted it "just in the show" or as a judged quilt. It'll be about 40" square when it is done. That corner (or half of it) took me about 2-3 hours to hand applique this week.
And lastly...tomorrow is my first Project Linus Blanket event in nearly 2 years. Our chapter has been lacking $$ and a coordinator, sadly. Now we have the coordinator and hopefully after the raffling of this quilt which I made, they will have a little bit of $$ too. I have also made this quilt for them to raffle (when I thought I didn't really want the other one to go away), but in last week's flurry, I was notified by the editor of Machine Quilting Unlimmited that they'd like to have it in the magazine. It has since been shipped to Colorado to be photographed! Pretty exciting for my humble little ladybug :-) So... to get ready for tomorrow's blanket day, I've been combing through mountains of scraps. And I do mean mountains. I made 18 12-1/2" string blocks and have NOT made a dent. I have a box of 5-600 squares to make up into flimsies tomorrow and other odds and ends.
STRING BLOCK MAKERS... I have a LOT of strings of various lengths and widths (1-3") and would be willing to send you these if you want them (postage at your expense). Just leave a message here and I will contact you.
Have a great weekend!