Monday, January 25, 2016

Working from the Junk Drawer

What do you do with those odd triangles?  I don’t like to mix them with my cut strips and squares.  For years I have ignored colour or size and tossed them all together into a drawer.  When I noticed that the drawer would no longer close easily I decided it was time to USE THEM! 

I proceeded to stitch triangles together into light/dark pairs and trim them to a common size.  As the stack of units grew I decided to make them into Friendship Star blocks.  Each block makes use of 8 units plus a square, and the top will be a sample for an upcoming class.

Original plan was to use ALL the colours, but as the blocks gathered on the wall I started to reject those that didn’t fit in – out went the solid white, the black, the bright yellow.  I can’t say that the final choices of colours actually “blend” in any way, but the top has more unity than I expected it would!
Very Scrappy Friendship Star quilt.

Everything from calicos and vintage prints to florals and metallics in this block.  And there is a repeated fabric in spite of my best efforts to avoid it.
The scrappy border also used up odd bits.
The only part of this top that is not scrappy is the final brown border.

Final tally: 

  • triangle drawer -- slightly less full
  • bin of “bits” -- not noticeably decreased 
  • my level of satisfaction -- quite enhanced by the experience 
 And I have a useful quilt top.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

It's all about the fabric

About a week before Christmas I was feeling overwhelmed with my list of things to do.  There were not only Christmas preparations but quilting obligations for a variety of commitments coming up quickly in the New Year. 

My solution – start something new!  I found myself deciding that it would be helpful to make an attempt to use some of the “bottom of the barrel” bits and pieces that had been kicking around the sewing room shunted from one type of accommodation to another, for who know how many years (or decades).

 Out came pieces from the drawer labelled Blue Scraps.  From these I was able to cut (or piece, as needed) an assortment of 3.5” by 6.5” rectangles.  And from other drawers – Lights, Two-inch Strips, even Pieces Too Small to Use – I found scraps to cut a mound of 2” squares.  I set to work composing my version of Bonnie Hunter’s Narragansett Blues quilt.

Once I had those blues and 4-patches up on the wall I decided to make it larger, so there was another foray into the bins. When the piece was on the wall and arranged to my satisfaction I realized it must be sewn together working from the wall as there was no simple way to label and stack those bits in hopes of recreating this particular layout later. The wall was needed for other things, so there would be no putting the job off.  I joined  units, made rows, finally actually stitched the rows together.

And I love it!  Every odd, decades-old little scrap of it.  There are calicoes in there.  Bits of recycled shirts.  Fabrics that were gifts from special people.  There’s a novelty fabric with half a chicken on it.  Celestials.  Batiks.

 I know I'm not the only quilter still finding bits of Year 2000 fabric in Deep Stash.

Some of the matching pieces ended up next to each other in spite of all my efforts to to have a random look – I see these and hear my son’s voice
 – “Random does NOT mean evenly distributed, Mum!”

Now what?  Who knows?  I guess it might need a border.  And a destination.

Did I manage to get all those other important things done?   Christmas came and it went and we had a good family time with plenty of love, laughter and food to eat.  And there are samples ready for the quilting class tomorrow.  All is good.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Log Cabin Hearts Quilt

Don’t you just love babies!  The way that each time one arrives there is an opportunity to make a new quilt!  (What?  there are other reasons for loving babies?  Oh, of course, that’s what I meant.)

A precious new little lass in my circle of friends meant I could indulge the girlie side and use some of the pretty pinks and yellows in my collection.  I chose a pattern by Evelyn Sloppy from her book Log Cabin Fever.   The design centres around this sweet little heart block:

I don’t usually follow any pattern exactly, but this one seemed perfect the way it was, even down to the colours shown.  I did rotate my heart blocks so that they all pointed to the centre of the quilt, and I used coloured centre squares for the half blocks around the edge, but otherwise the quilt is just like the one in the book. 

My stash of pastel scraps is (slightly) smaller, and the quilt is on its way to its new home.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Another UFO hits the dust!

I came across a stack of Uneven Log Cabin blocks the other day.  They had been prepared as the demo project/sample for a class, and there they sat as yet another UFO. When a project gets to this stage I often find that the satisfaction obtained by completing it can’t compare with the excitement of starting something new instead.  After all, the adventure is over – I know exactly what this one is going to look like.   So I was very tempted to shove that basket of blocks back out of sight and to tell myself that I would get to it some other time.

But my gaze fell on the wall-hanging that lives above my sewing machine for just such an occasion as this.

if not now

Unable to come up with any reason why “now” was not a good time, and not being able to pinpoint a future point in time which WOULD be a good time, I sighed and undertook the task of laying out and assembling the blocks into a quilt top.

Of course, the job really didn’t take very long!  I did hit a snag trying to decide on borders, but I came up with a solution and soon had a completed top.  I pushed on before I could succumb to the urge to rationalize that once the top was completed it could be tucked away until that hypothetical “right time” might appear.  I found a suitable backing fabric, pieced some batting to the correct size, and soon the quilting was done as well.

Binding was made and applied and will soon be stitched neatly to the back of the quilt. 

A finished project! where once I had only a UFO and some good intentions.  And I’m probably a double winner as regards the UFO count – this one is finished, and working on it prevented me from using that time to start another!

plaid log cabin 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Button tree

A few weeks ago I was working with Christmas fabric and made a scrappy tree block.  It has become a little banner to display special buttons.  Some of these buttons are hand-made and others are quite old. 

Scrappy tree

I don’t know if I like that black one with the lace behind it – I may move that one.  And I see that there is room for more decorations on this tree – perhaps a few beads?  Or some glittery chains?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Vintage Butterflies

Recently a friend purchased a vintage quilt top that she hoped could be finished to make a quilt.  There were twelve muslin blocks, each appliqued with four print butterflies.  The print fabrics look like those from the 20s and 30s, the ones we now buy in reproductions.  
The background fabric in the blocks was a nice heavy, closely woven muslin.  In a couple of places we could see what might have been the remains of the ink that would have been on a bag of feed or flour and we wondered if that was the source of the fabrics.  There are 48 butterflies, and we found only two fabrics repeated.  This quilter had access to a wonderful collection of fabrics! 
We noted that some of the solid fabrics used in the butterfly bodies show dark areas around the edges, almost as if the quilter had used an adhesive of some kind.  These areas feel a little stiff, but there was no obvious cracking or splitting when they were stitched through. 
Butterflies block1
Four butterflies circle on each block.
Note the dark edges on some of the solid fabrics.
21_Butterflies block2
Wonderful fabrics!  Some wing tips were
 "clipped" when they got trapped in
 the seams. 
 A group of us were eager to take on the challenge of turning the top into a quilt, but as we examined the top we realized it had a number of issues.  The twelve blocks were joined with wide yellow sashing. It did not lie flat and on inspection it was clear that there were some rather serious discrepancies in size between the rows of blocks and the sashing strips.  We decided to deconstruct the top and see if it could be adjusted a bit for a flatter effect.
As the top came apart we found several kinds of stitching had been used.  Some seams were hand done.  Others were machine stitched.  Some were machine stitched back and forth several times!   Some of the seams went through tips of butterfly wings  -- these were unstitched VERY carefully to prevent damage to the applique stitches. The original sashing strips were found to be quite faded, and even after a gentle washing they showed stains that we could not remove.  We chose to replace this fabric with a new one and were delighted to find a sunshine-y yellow that matched the original nicely.  We did not wash the blocks – we didn’t want to take a chance on any of the colours running.
First step was to square up the blocks.  This was harder than we expected.   The blocks had been torn from the original fabric and while this meant all the grainlines were nice and straight it did not prevent a bit of skewing.   Many of the appliques were very close to the edges of the fabric leaving little room for adjustments. 
We gave up on square and settled for straight.  Blocks were trimmed to the largest possible dimensions and we were delighted when one of them came out the same size in both directions!  We then grouped them, putting three blocks that shared a size in one direction into each row.  Widths of the sashing strips varied to make the rows work out to the same length.  We kept the sashing strips fairly wide so that differences in block sizes would be less apparent.
As we worked we marvelled that the original quilter had managed her job with none of the tools we were using.  Yes, the blocks were uneven, but she had no acrylic rulers, no rotary cutter, no large gridded mats to help.  We wondered what it would have been like trying to make these blocks using a yardstick on the kitchen table!
The re-assembly of the quilt went quickly.  Then borders were added.  The green print is a reproduction that suits the other fabrics well. 
21_butterfly quilt
Finished quilt is 73" by 93" and is ready to be used on a bed.
First idea for quilting was to stitch around each butterfly to make it stand out. However, we could see that the raw edges under the blanket stitch applique  were fraying a little, so we chose an all-over pattern. Not true to the era, perhaps, but this will hold the butterflies in place.
We don’t know who made this quilt top.  The blanket stitch applique is done with three strands of black floss.  The stitching is quite consistent from block to block, so we guess that it was all done by one person.  Did the same person do both the applique and the assembly, or was it perhaps a multi-generational project?  When it arrived the top had a border down one long side only and this looked like it might have been folded over and top-stitched.  The whole piece had been hemmed – a small amount of fabric turned to the back and machine-stitched down.  Was it perhaps used as a curtain? – that might account for the fading we saw. 
Though we know little about the quilt’s previous life, we do know that it is now ready for a new one! 
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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Memories of Christmas past

A few weeks ago I was fighting with my older Christmas fabrics, grumbling because I was just so very tired of them all. 
But now that the Disappearing 4-Patch quilt is completed I seem to have changed my tune.  Here is the finished quilt, tossed over a big chair.  Now I’m loving the way the fabrics work together and I’m afraid I’m going to have a hard time giving this one up!
Christmas D4P
On my design wall – MORE Christmas fabric scraps!
scrappy trees
These tree blocks don’t use up much fabric, but I’ve had fun with them.  I think I like the one with the scrappier background the best.   I’m still trying to decide what to do about the trunk/pot section of the block.  I plan to finish these as small wall-hangings and perhaps decorate the trees with some special buttons and a few bits of sewing room bling.