Monday, November 30, 2015

In the Mail Monday: Colorado Shopping

I recently traveled to Colorado on business and was able to visit a couple quilt shops after the day's work. Since I packed so carefully, I had no room for my loot to come home with me on the return flight, so I filled up a flat rate box and shipped my goodies home.
I took my paint chips along for my version of Bonnie Hunter's 2015 Mystery Quilt. I decided to mix things up a little, so my colors are not the same as Bonnie's.  I did this last year so I feel comfortable doing it again this year. Besides, I'm terrible at following directions.
First on my list was High Country Quilts. This was a great shop0 and I spent entirely too much time there collecting my goodies.
NOTE: if you have a quilt shop and offer a "buy 10 fat quarters, get one free" deal I will buy 10 of them. Every. Single. Time. I couldn't leave the measuring tape twill tape behind. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, but I now have three yards of it. I was pleased to see they still had the Row by Row plates so I grabbed one of those, too.
My next stop was Lady Bug Hill Quilts. This shop was so friendly and helpful. This is where I threw aside my selection of purple as one of my colors and pulled out these amazing magenta fabrics. I love how these play with the blue. I was pleased to find they had the Wrights Companion Angle ruler that Bonnie recommended for the mystery quilt. I love rulers so this was an easy purchase.
My last quilt shop stop was at Nana's Quilt Cottage. This small shop was small but so delightful! Very helpful staff and awesome service.
In the background you can see a couple larger pieces that I picked up from their discounted rack. I couldn't leave them behind at such amazing prices. This was a shop that I could spend my afternoons in if I lived nearby.
I also made one stop at Woolly Works Knit Shop.  I picked up this yummy yarn from Blue Ridge Yarns.
I knew the name looked familiar, and when I got home and looked up the maker I understand why. I likely have seen this vendor at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.  This is Kaleidoscope in the Waterfall colorway; a superwash merino in worsted weight, 200 yards. I think it will make a wonderful cowl or scarf for my DH.
During my travel, I started working on The Doodler, a mystery knit along by Stephen West. I love knitting as a take-along project. If you follow me on Instagram you can check out my progress on this and other projects.  Right now I have three knitting projects on the needles. I will not start another until I bind off at least one. I like to keep my options open.

Have you discovered any new shops in your travels? Small businesses need your patronage to continue to offer the wonderful products. Shop small!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Finish: Scrappy Bee Blocks

Earlier this year the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild had a few quilt bees.  For my month as queen bee, I decided I wanted scrappy stars.  Any star would do, as long as it was low-volume against a good contrast background fabric.
I posted my directions for a Friendship Star and for a Wonky Star so everyone had easy access to the directions.
Any star would do, as long as it was low-volume against a good contrast background fabric.
I used my new design wall to decide on placement of my blocks. I have a project bin full of 6" and 12" blocks that I've been adding to throughout the last couple years. This was the perfect opportunity to use them.
In an effort to avoid working on a very strict grid, I did end up with some short seams. I'm really pleased with how the quilt turned out, but short seams are such a pain!
Once I had the top together I realized I had added an extra row. I was aiming for a 7' by 8' layout and had managed to create a top that was 8' by 8'. Too big! So I did some surgery to remove a row. I rarely rip, so this was important enough that I just hunkered down and got it done.
Here is the final layout. Every star made by the bee is in there.
I pieced the backing and it was a close call with the sizing. This quilt is no small piece of work. This is how I make sure the backing is big enough for the quilt. I fold both the top and the backing into quarters and lay the top on the backing making sure I'm matching the width and length. This means I don't have a have a huge area to lay out the quilt. The top is significantly wider to make sure there is room for the side clamps on the long arm frame.
I selected thread that matches the backing fabric. I wanted to use So Fine! because it is a very understated thread and it quilts up beautifully. The bobbin thread is Omni. This quilt took 8 bobbins to quilt. (The average crib quilt with medium/light density quilting takes about one bobbin.)
The quilting isn't easy to see on the top since it is such a scrappy quilt. This is a view of the back of the quilt while it was still on the frame. This motif really added some amazing texture to the quilt.
Quilted and off the frame!
The texture of this quilting is so much fun!
I dug into my binding bin and found the 10 or so yards of binding ready to go. I attached the binding by machine with a machine-finish. (My tutorial for machine-finished binding can be found here.) I put it on the bed and it is a perfect fit!

Have you been part of a quilt bee this year? If so, did you finish your bee project?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Charity Quilting: Orange Garden

Another fun quilt made for Annapolis Quilts for Kids. The top was pieced by another member of the group and given to me for quilting.
The color choices on this quilt are fun and fresh.
I quilted this one with a fun flower motif. This is one of my favorites.

2015 Charity Quilt Count:  47

Monday, November 23, 2015

In the Mail Monday: Portable Design Wall

I've been wanting a design wall for ages. I've been crawling around on the design floor for so long my knees hurt just thinking about it. I don't remember how I learned about Cheryl Ann's Design Wall but I was so excited when I did learn about it. I was also excited to learn that Cheryl Ann was having a sale (the web special is available until November 30th). I made the leap and submitted an order.
The design wall is available in sizes from 18" by 18" to 72" by 72". As you know, I'm not one for going small. I went for the 72" by 72" model. As you can see, the box is small.  I almost couldn't wait to get it put together.
The design wall comes in an easy to carry bag. The wall is made up of light-weight poles similar to those used in tents.
Here are all the pieces. It took me about 20 minutes to assemble the wall for the first time. I'm sure that it wouldn't take that long a second time.
Here it is, all set up in my sewing space.  For the record, 72" by 72" may seem like a large size, but I could use a design wall much bigger.  I don't have anywhere to put such a thing, and the usability would be questionable, but I could use one.
I used my new design wall to work on the layout of my scrappy bee blocks quilt. This quilt will include the bee blocks from my guild bee.  You can make your own scrappy stars using the tutorials I wrote for my bee members.  Find the friendship star tutorial and wonky star tutorial at the links. You can also check out some of the other blocks I made as part of the bee from posts in June and July.

My review of the design wall: I'm glad I bought it. If I still had a cat I don't know that I would be as pleased with it (cats are enterprising little creatures and this would be an invitation to climbing). It is lightweight. Great if you want to carry it somewhere, or move it out of the way. Bad if you want it to stay put if you bump into it. It won't easily fall over, but it won't take much force to make it fall over if you are determined. I am willing to give up the stability of having a design wall permanently attached to a real wall to not have to clear out space in front of said wall to use it.  Overall, I'm glad I'm not on the floor any more and I'm glad I purchased the design wall. If you think this would work in your creative life, I recommend you check out Cheryl Ann's Design Wall.

Have you discovered any fun quilting or design tools lately?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Bricks and Stepping-Stones

I don't know if anyone remembers that I joined the Sew My Stash 2015 movement (if it can be called a movement) with a promise to not buy a bunch of fabric and to use more what I have. This quilt came entirely from my stash. The blocks, the backing and even the binding came from inside my sewing space. I should set more substantial goals to work through my stash, but this one resulted in a great finish. The pattern, Bricks and Stepping-Stones, is free from Bonnie Hunter's website. She has loads of free patterns that are great for quilters of all levels and you should totally check it out.
While cutting up some of my fabrics, I cut some strips. Here are my selections for the quilt. It turned out I didn't have enough, but this is what I started with. (This is not a tutorial. If you want to make a quilt like this go to Bonnie's site and get the full story there.)
I pressed and trimmed and stitched.
I pressed some more. Where Bonnie chose blacks and neutrals for her stepping stones, I pulled reds and some neutral/light fabrics. My stash is woefully lacking in neutrals and blacks.
I counted, and recounted. I realized I was short a few. I cut more strips and made more. Then I had about 20 extra.
I grabbed my stack of bricks.
I made some blocks. I made a bunch of blocks. 80 or 90 of them.
I pieced the backing with some leftovers from other quilts. Here, I've folded the backing and top into quarters so I can make sure I have enough room to load it onto the quilting frame. Backing is one of those things that does not hang out in my stash.
Again I used this fun flower motif. I matched the thread to the backing and quilted with Superior Thread's So Fine in red.
Quilted and off the frame you can see the full scrappy effect. I see at least one more of these in my future. I do still have bricks cut to the right size.
I grabbed my bin of leftover binding and stitched up some scrappy binding. The binding bin is another great reason to make scrappy quilts. The bin of leftover binding never seems to run low.
I machine-finished the binding on this utilitarian. I came to terms with machine-finished binding and the fact that I would never finish all the quilts I want to make if I hand-finished the binding. Check out my binding tutorials page if you want to see how I attach my binding. I still occasionally hand-finish binding, but the machine-finish is so much faster (about 30 minutes from start to finish once you're practiced) that I use it more and more.

Do you have more fabric than you will ever use? Remember, no one remembers the quilter for the fabric he/she hoarded. They remember him/her for the quilts they made and gifted with love.

Go! Make quilts!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Zombie Apocalypse

Last year during Quilters Quest I picked up this stack of fat quarters.
Just in time for All Hallows I managed to not finish a quilt. Read on to see the finished quilt top and wish me luck in finishing it before next October.
The prints are such fun. Since so many of these are larger prints, I decided to cut the blocks really big to showcase the fabric. I just didn't want to chop up the cute little zombies.
I pulled some solids from my stash to have a little more to work with. I cut the larger blocks and then used the leftovers to make the smaller blocks and added the green sashing to two sides.
A wider border pens all those zombies inside.
I had about a yard of the orange, so that's what ended up being the binding.

I've put the top away until I find a good backing for it. The finished top is around 52" by 52" so I will have to piece it and I don't have more of these prints to do it. Maybe I'll find a good backing in my shopping travels. Even though it isn't a finish, I'm putting it in the category of Sew My Stash 2015 because I did pull all the fabrics for the top and binding from my stash.

The bonus block:
I also made a block to send off to become one small part of the #zombiehugquilt. Because it just seemed right.

Did you make a quilt for All Hallows? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Buried Treasure - Hand-painted Yarn

Since the recent move, I've been trying to get things a little more organized as I unpack boxes.  In some cases this is works and in others... well, not so much.
About five years ago a friend and I dyed some yarn. Here it is all twisted up in this somewhat strange colorway.  I'm pretty sure this was done with leftover dyes which is why the dying doesn't seem so purposeful. This means it is a little weird and I like that.
Since I didn't know much about how hand-painting worked, I did some pretty unorthodox things.
One of those things was to create a super long hank for dying. Since that was six or seven years ago, I was a little surprised when I pulled open the pretty hank and found this strange thing. To get it wrapped up and into a usable form was going to take some work.
I unwound it into this mess. This method is not for the faint of heart, I assure you. I've done it this way dozens of times so I'm pretty confident (and my studio is pet-free) that I won't end up with tangles. You do have to commit to finishing it in one go, though. You can't pop out for lunch or something in the middle.
I wanted to make sure I kept track of the fiber content after caking. This is a worsted weight superwash from Knit Picks. They have great yarn in several weights for dying. You can also buy roving to dye yourself.
Such a pretty yarn once I got it wound up. Now I just need the perfect project. I think a cowl might be good. I'll have to think about it. I think the colors will pool very nicely with the long repeats. The little pops of cherry red might be surprising.

I don't dye often, but I do love the results. Have you hand painted your own yarn?