Fussing with Ben – Block 12

I know it’s been pretty quiet here on the blog recently.. I make plans with the best intentions and real life keeps interrupting me!  Luckily even if I don’t get sewing machine time, I’m still able to work in a little applique here and there.  That said, here’s my Benjamin Biggs Wedding Quilt block 12:20150301_Quilt__002

This block had larger pieces so was fairly simple to complete (although I’m REALLY getting tired of the four corner bud pieces on each block).   I found a scrap of red and blue print that could be fussy cut to really pop the flower portion of the block, so overall am very pleased with how it turned out.

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Don’t look to closely at the applique imperfections-  I’m a firm believer in the ten foot rule (hey, there’s another post idea!).  Now to start on block 11;  I’m slowly getting the blocks caught up-  block 15 was released today.

Happy quilting!

Jo :)

Quilting Book Library – the Island Vote

We’ve all done it.   As new quilters we’re like sponges-  we want to try everything:  all the new techniques, new quilt patterns, new quilting designs.  And that usually translates into quilting books-  LOTS of quilting books.  Quilting books from every possible genre.  And then as you transition from a new quilter to an intermediate or advanced quilter, you find your tastes begin to gel into a range or style of quilt.

Sometimes you stay there, or sometimes you transition yet again into styles that reflect how you’re changing as an artist.  I went through that early collection of quilt books a couple of years ago and gifted many that were not relevant to where I was going as a quilter.  And now it’s time to reassess again- what fits?  What quilt books should be part of the next stage of the journey?

With my limited quilting time (dang job!) I’ve really gotten in the habit of using the Internet for patterns and inspiration and realized recently that I haven’t looked at my quilt books for a LONG time.

Time to change that.

I’ve decided to pull a random book out once a month  and take a look at it again.  Is it still part of my quilting style?  Does it still speak to me?  (You know quilts talk to me, so it’s not much of a stretch to believe books talk to me too.)   I’ll vote evaluate if it’s staying on the island or moving on-  over time this will allow me to refine my quilting book library into something that reflects my personal style.

So without further ado..

Here goes-  the books are in a bookshelf in a dimly lit hallway.  I reach into one of the shelves, eyes closed and grab one at random.  And the QBL book for January IS…..

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Rich Traditions:  Scrap Quilts to Paper Piece by Nancy Mahoney, Copyright 2002.

I love to paper piece, but I didn’t learn from this book.  I bought it after I learned doing some paper pieced stars in a sampler Christmas quilt (thanks to former owner/designer Bev Young from the now defunct Glass Thimble quilt shop):IMG_20150126_194100_322

I did and still do struggle to piece accurately;  paper-piecing was wonderful for me and allowed much better piecing results in my early quilting days.  I was hooked and immediately started buying paper-piecing patterns and books.  I bought this book primarily for the Pineapple Splash pattern.  I still love this quilt with it’s movement and vibrant colors

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And Optical Fibers with it’s movement  (see a trend here?):

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And of course the wonderful spools pattern with, you guessed it- movement and scrappy fabrics:

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So, will I keep this book?   Yes- the quilt patterns contained are something I would still enjoy making today.  They’re classic and can be done in a wide range of fabric styles successfully.

So what about you?  What’s your QBL book of the month?  Does it still speak to you?

New to Me…Again

Wow,  this week didn’t start out the greatest.  My son (and his family who live with us) decided to switch bedrooms around in the old part of our house.  There was a lot of initial drama around the lack of prior discussion, lack of voting, lack of consideration for special “girl” needs (my granddaughter was VERY vocal on this one) and so on.   Everything finally calmed down and as they started moving things between all the bedrooms, I staged a strategic retreat and went to bed.

When I got up the next morning to go to work, I found my sitting room stuffed full of bags and boxes that had been emptied out of one of the upstairs storage closets.  The closet probably hasn’t been touched in 6 or 7 years;  it’s upstairs off my grandson’s room and I just don’t go up there unless there’s I absolutely have to.  I went through one set of teenagers and the fight to keep their rooms clean-  I’m avoiding it completely the second time around.  (Anyone who lives a Walton family lifestyle can relate, I’m sure, lol.)

I finally got time today to go through the contents of some of the bags and found a bunch of quilt tops I’d forgotten I had-  score!   Some of the tops were brought home from my mother-in-law’s house after she passed away.  Her husband’s family had lived in the house close to a hundred years and most of the tops were discovered in trunks that didn’t appear to have been opened since maybe the forties (about the time my father-in-law’s mother passed away).

I thought it would be fun to share a few of these quilt tops over the next few weeks.  The pictures aren’t the best;  I didn’t have much room to lay the quilts out, but hopefully you can see enough of the pattern to enjoy the fabric.  I’m so excited-  it was fun to look at these again and consider how I’m going to quilt them!

I think I’m going to call this one Hettie :)  She has dark navy blue sashing with VERY scrappy blocks.

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While there may be some earlier fabrics mixed in here somewhere, I think most it is 30s-50s?  I’ll have to document the fabric in more detail when I’m ready to quilt it.

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Very neatly hand-pieced as well.  Even the bulky area where the seams meet appear to be have spiraled to keep it laying flat.20150124_Quilt__015

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Next up is Maggie-  she appears to quite the older lady.  She has two sandy brown borders and two gray-black borders;  I love the quirkyness of things like that in old quilts!  Wish she could tell me her stories though..all these fabrics must have come from a well stocked scrap bag :)

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I nice little mix of prints and plaids:

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And hand-pieced as well:

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And finally, there’s Caroline:

She’s another scrappy top, but has a slightly different mix of fabrics. This may be a result of some older blocks that were combined with newer blocks and pieced into a top?

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You can actually see embroidered initials on the red and white block to the right.  It appears to be a “T” and a backwards “N” ?  Looking at it from the back of the quilt, it looks like a perfect “N.”  Another puzzle to ponder.

There’s more indigo and shirtings and brown prints:

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And hand-piecing again:

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All of these tops need, at a minimum, some minor seam repair and a good wash!  There’s a few fabrics here and there that may need stabilized or replaced, so I may get to practice some of my quilt repair skills (Nancy Kirk’s DVDs).  I can’t wait to get started!

Happy quilting,

Jo :)

Happy Juki to Me!

It’s not my birthday, but it sure feels like it-  I got a new Juki!

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Okay, not brand spanking new, but pretty close to new and definitely new to me.

I am so thrilled to have this machine after years of fighting with my other domestic sewing machines.  I had an older Viking Quilt Designer that I loved for piecing, but the harp size on that machine did not transition well to free motion quilting.

So when Viking released the Sapphire with the large harp, my FMQ heart jumped right on the bandwagon and ran out to buy one.  Did I research the machine before I bought it?  NO.   Did I FMQ the machine in the store prior to buying?  NO.  Was I an idiot to make such an impulse buy?  YES.

I got the machine home, set it up for FMQ and struggled.  Tension issues I truly thought were my fault;  friends who had the same machine loved piecing on it.  I spent huge amounts of time on web looking for potential solutions;  God bless all those folks who posted different Viking 850 setups that worked for them.  Over time I found a combination of settings, feet, thread and black magic that would *most* times allow me to FMQ without incident.  The stitch and tension quality were never perfect, but at this point being able to use the machine for FMQing was a win.

As time went on, I was still piecing happily on the Quilt Designer and the Sapphire sat idle most of the time;  I had quilt tops to quilt, but it was such a time-consuming exercise, I rarely attempted it.  I finally resorted to using BFF Mary’s Brother 1500S which is a sibling to the Juki (same company, different machine).  The Brother FMQ’d beautifully and every quilt retreat we attended, I would borrow it and work on one my quilt tops;  it was slow, but at least I had options.

Then it happened.

I had been watching Craigslist off and on for a Juki and on a whim checked one evening- and there it was.  A Juki TL98E for sale!  Sadly it was from the estate of a lady who had recently passed from cancer;  she had bought it but never really had a chance to use it.  I was able to see some of her beautiful quilts-  she was a true artist that worked in multiple mediums besides fabric.

I made the call, went to look at it, TESTED it (I did finally learn something from all this) and bought it on the spot.  It’s wonderful!  I came home with it and started FMQing a half-done quilt and couldn’t believe how well it worked.  A couple of small adjustments and I was off and running.  I can quilt on this thing for hours at a time and it just chugs through.   Stitch quality and tension are great and it stands up well to my intermediate FMQing skills.  I had stalled FMQing my Bonnie Hunter Crabapple quilt, but got it back out to try on the new Juki and it was stitch love:

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I finished up the Crabapple quilt, then pulled out The Dreaded Basket Quilt (one of my ten year wonders) and FINISHED it!!

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This photo shows the FMQ history for this ten year project:  an Elna Quilter’s Dream, Viking Quilt Designer, Viking Sapphire 850, Brother 1500S and finally the Juki TL98E:

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So now I’m very happy and have a surplus of sewing machines.  I started piecing on the Sapphire (I have friends who love the machine for piecing) just to make sure it works beautifully there (it does), then thought long and hard about my quilting habits, past and future.

I’ve enjoyed my beautiful electronic machines, but simply don’t use all the features they’re packed with.   I used a few of the specialty stitches when I made Halloween costumes for the grandkids, but those days are gone;  I don’t make clothing or do home dec projects anymore either.   And as I get closer to retirement, we have to start considering the whole downsizing thing that may come up someday.

So, I’m getting both the Viking machines serviced and spiffyed up, then they’re going on Craigslist.  Once they’re sold, then it will be same for my Elna Quilter’s Dream.  After that, I’ll have my Featherweight for piecing, the Juki for quilting and if I can get time to restore it, the Singer Redeye for treadling-  treadles are excluded from the downsizing conversation!

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I’m simplifying my craft and focusing on what I love:  creating.

Happy quilting!

Leader and Ender Girl, Yep- That’s Me!

Bonnie Hunter is brilliant.  And dangerous to any quilter with even a smidgen of love for scrap quilts.

It all started innocently enough;  I was a quilter with a certain number of quilting years under my belt and had bins and boxes and bags of leftover fabric scraps.  I simply could NOT throw them away;  it was nice fabric and cost a lot when purchased.   I loved scrap quilts but it was such a pain to dig through the scraps and find the right sizes and colors to go with whatever pattern I had at the time-  typically I would just give up and use yardage from stash (and of course create MORE scraps in the process).

And then it happened…I stumbled across Bonnie’s Scrap User’s System and suddenly it all made sense.  Scraps had their place in the universe.  I went into a frenzy of cutting, sorting and storing all of these “new” pre-cuts;  I had drawers of 2 1/2, 2 and 1 1/2 inch strips.  I had more drawers of 3 1/2, 2 1/2, 2, and 1 1/2  inch squares.  And yes, I even had a drawer full of 3 1/2 x 6 1/2 inch “bricks.”

It was wonderful, but the newly defined pre-cuts were unfulfilled- lonely even.  Then I found Bonnie’s Adventures with Leaders and Enders book and I knew I had found my scraps’ purpose in life.   This wonderful method teaches you to run a simple scrap block unit under the needle (effectively sewing it) at the end of your regular project block sewing.  You end up never snipping threads to remove your project block because you’re starting and finishing with a leader or ender block component.  (Note:  you can find a number of Youtube demos of the technique online.)

Effectively you end up piecing your leader and ender quilt while you’re working on your “main” quilt project.  I was so excited, I started the Crabapple quilt pattern in the book right away.  It called for a gazillion 9-patches from 1 1/2 inch squares, but I didn’t care;  I figured it would take forever as a leader and ender project and however long it took was fine.  I had several “main” quilt projects that I was working on, so it was a perfect time to add in a leader and ender project.

I was totally amazed at how quickly those 9-patches went together-  it seemed like no time and I had a huge basket of 9-patches pieced and ready to go into blocks.  I’m still somewhat in awe as to how well this worked.  Below is my version of Bonnie’s pattern:

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Sorry the pictures could be better, but I love how the scrappy “crabapples” came out.

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It was even more fun to free motion quilt- especially after switching from my Viking Sapphire 850 to a new-to-me Juki (that’s another post, though).

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I started piecing the Crabapple blocks as my “main” project and added another leader and ender project from the book: the Scrappy Irish Chain.  That project with 2 inch squares is done (115 x 115 king size!) and waiting to be quilted.  Now I’m sewing a raffle quilt and guess what- I’m doing a Scrappy Trip Around the World as the leader and ender (and it’s over half pieced right now!).

I totally believe every time a scrap quilt is finished, an angel gets her wings.  Here’s to making your scraps fly :)

Ben and I – Together Again

Well, I’ve re-joined the Fellowship of the Needle;  it took several months, but I actually picked up my applique needle and started on the Benjamin Biggs Wedding Quilt again.  I’ve missed several blocks, but decided that was okay- I’m just going to finish block 7 (currently in progress) and jump directly to the December and January blocks after that.  I’ll get the missing months a little later.

I completed Block 1 a while ago, it’s here.

Block 2 is below.  I mark the block pattern on the background fabric using a lightbox; you can see my pencil marks on the fabric if you look closely.  I’ll use a clean toothbrush and a little soapy water to remove them prior to storing the blocks.

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Block three is a pretty cherry wreath:

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I like to vary the greens used in each block, so this one has a strong poison green combined with a softer blue green.

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I always struggle with the best approach to making berries/circles.  I have Karen Kay Buckley’s Perfect Circles set, but they require hand-basting the fabric around a plastic template.  The method typically produces a lovely result, but (to me) is a little slow.

When I first learned to applique, I was introduced to the Circleeze template and though I do use other methods, I keep coming back to this one.

You start by cutting out a roughly sized square to match your circle size.  (Note:  my square is oversized in this example to make it show up better in the photos.)

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You wrap the fabric around the circle, pull it tight in the back and push the excess fabric through base plastic.

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Fan out the excess fabric in the making sure no bumps or wrinkle are left on the front side circle.IMG_20140906_175816_851

Spray with starch and set with a hot iron for 10 seconds or so.

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Let cool for a minute then pull out of the plastic base, remove circle template and trim off excess fabric.

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If you have a lot of starch flaking off the fabric, I’ll applique the circle on the block, then use the clean toothbrush again to lightly brush clean.

There’s a lot more berries to be made for this quilt, so I’ll probably revisit the Perfect Circles templates again.  The Perfect Circles templates offer a lot more size options than the Circleeze, so they may end being the best choice in the end.

How do you make your applique circles?  Any favorite tools or methods?  I’d love to hear your approach!

Jo :)

One for Four: Not Making the Majors This Year

So… if this were a batting average, I would be carrying bat bags for the local farm team.   As part of my ten year wonders, you may recall (from here) that I had planned to finish 4 UFOs this year.

Yeah, THAT happened.

So now we’re at the last day of December, time for a quick review:   okay a REALLY quick review.  One done.  Just one- the Dreaded Basket Quilt.  But quite honestly if I could only finish one, I would have picked the Dreaded Basket Quilt anyway.

My first large (king-size plus) quilt, my first complicated pattern-  I loved it when I started it and now that we’ve come full circle in this relationship, I love it again.  Every imperfect inch of it.  I’m finally accepting that like life, this quilt represents a journey.  A journey of cut-off points, mis-matched seams and fabric substitutions that in the end made the quilt a better story (and the quilter a better person).

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It’s on the bed now;  all crinkly from washing (I LOVE wool batts) and sporting a new name-  “Basket Journey.”  It’s ready to host jumping toddlers, sleeping cats and teenage grandkids waiting to share their day.    And those memories, my friends,  will be the next chapter in Basket Journey’s story :)

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