Monday, May 06, 2019

Paper Piecing Class

Learning to do paper piecing has been on my list for YEARS!  I have had a general idea of how it works but have never tried.  (Well, I THOUGHT I had a general idea, but after taking a class I have learned that I wasn't quite right...)  I always admire the fun paper pieced blocks that I see on Instagram.  There is an endless amount of designs!  And, after piecing the cactus block for my daughter's Easter Basket, I knew that there HAD to be a better way to create cute picture type blocks than trying to piece teeny tiny squares into triangles and such.  

So, when I noticed that there was a paper piecing class at Mill House Quilts in Waunakee, Wi on the last Friday of my Spring Break, I decided to sign up.  Spring Break was kind of yucky this year.  The weather was blah, we didn't travel, my daughter had her wisdom teeth out and I had a tooth fixed, there were other appointments and studying for APUSH...not much in the way of fun.  Driving, by myself, an hour and a half to take a three hour class and then driving, by myself, home, seemed like just the ticket!  

And it was!  Friday was a lovely morning, and it's such a pretty drive.  The Rock River and the Craw Fish River both run along the rural highways that I needed to take.  With the rain (and April snow) that we've been having, the rivers are both high and very visible from the road.  I know that parts of my route had endured some pretty severe flooding recently, but Oh, My!  With all the shades of  new spring green on the ground and in the trees, and the clear blue morning sky, the river views that I spied on my way to Mill House were just breathtaking.  I thoroughly enjoyed the drive there, complete with a cup of coffee and my favorite station on the radio.  When that station went out of range I finished with a Beatles CD.  Perfect.

I had never been to Mill House Quilts before.  It's a beautiful shop in a really pretty little town.  The building, as you can guess from the name, is an old mill that is situated next to the railroad tracks.  When I arrived, I headed straight up to the large classroom on the upper level, but I really wanted to explore the shop!  It has a cozy and inviting feel, despite its large size.  Luckily, there was time for that after class.

The class was taught by Kathy Doyle .  There were only three of us in the class, so we had lots of individualized attention.  It was so nice to get to chat with the other ladies, even if I will likely never see them again.  I so wish I had real life friends who quilted.  I really enjoy those connections.  The bit of time spent in this class has strengthened my resolve to get myself to a quilt retreat soon!

We were told to bring our own paper piecing pattern to the class.  Some suggestions were made on the materials list, but evidently those were only available for purchase in the store.  Since I had never been there, and it wasn't specified, I didn't know that.  I searched online for them, but without luck.  I ended up browsing through a LOT of  web sites, and settled on some fairly traditional blocks. I took two options along, since I wasn't really sure which would work best.   I wanted to do something more....pictorial...but many of those had lots and lots of really tiny pieces and looked very intricate.  I knew that if I was going to have a good experience I needed to start out basic and with something  I could complete.  The other two quilters in the class had chosen the same pattern, and both completed just a small portion of it in the time allotted.  But, the little cats and stacks of quilts they did complete were darling!

Once I understood the process, I was able to work pretty quickly through my little "hummingbird" blocks.  The most challenging part was making sure that my fabric was positioned correctly so that it would cover the intended space after sewing.  I took more than one seam out because it didn't fit.  I learned to use larger pieces, and to always flip before sewing.  I think that with practice I will work out a system that works for me, and I think that judging the angle of the pieces will become easier. 

One thing that bothered me a bit about the process is that it seemed to create a lot of waste.  Maybe t was because I was using such large pieces to  ensure that they covered the space, but I kept feeling like I was ending up with SO many oddly sized scraps that wouldn't really be usable in another way.  I suppose that's just a fundamental difference between piecing and paper piecing.  But, if anyone has a tips about this, I'd love to hear them!

I really enjoyed the process of removing the papers once the block was finished.  Its so satisfying!

I keep thinking about making the "star" a neutral and letting the octagon in the center come forward in bold prints.

Table runner?

It would be fun to quilt the "shadow" of the stars in those open spaces!

I'm not sure yet what I will do with the 4 cute little blocks I completed during the class.  They will hang on the design wall for a bit, as a happy reminder of a lovely day, while I finish some things from my Second Quarter Finish Along list.  Eventually, maybe they will become a pillow or a mini quilt or even a table runner.  I'm looking forward to another opportunity to do some paper piecing.  I hope  don't forget how!

After class, I was in no hurry to rush home. So, I spent about an hour browsing in the shop.  There was a lot to see!  I generally don't buy fabric without a specific purpose, but I made an exception to celebrate my "spring break adventure." 
I want to do a table runner based on Stars and Stripes by Thimbleblossoms.  I think a lot of my reds and whites will come from these charm packs.  And I could't resist this patriotic fat quarter.

Swoon! I just love this.  This was the end of the bolt, and I don't think there's enough here to make myself a top, but, wouldn't that be cute?  Maybe my daughter can make herself something.

I think I'm going to start collecting text prints.  Any and all of them.  
I'm so glad I took a day for myself and visited Mill House Quilts.  It was such a lovely day.  I will  visit again, and I won't hesitate to look for more classes to take!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mini Quilts - A Double Finish

My little "secret sewing" projects that I included on my Second Quarter Finish Along list are completed, have been gifted, and can be revealed!  Yay!

These two little quilts were made for my sweet, silly daughters.  The Easter Bunny tucked them into their baskets this morning.  Somehow, the bunny and I managed to keep them secret! 

Both patterns were purchased from Burlap & Blossom, an adorable Etsy shop.  She has a LOT of sweet patterns, and they are all traditional piecing. The patterns were easy to print and easy to follow. I will buy from her again, for sure!  I will think twice about making the 6 inch blocks, though.  Making half square triangles with squares that start out at 3/4 of an inch is not for the faint of heart!! 

The little flowers on this cactus show how much I struggled with this.  Poor things.  If I had had more time, and if I wasn't limited to sewing these when the girls were out of the house, I might have re done those parts.  But, I figure cactus flowers come in all shapes and sizes.  Maybe these were nibbled on by a road runner or an armadillo.  I decided to leave them be.  And, as a whole, I think this little guy is pretty charming.

I used the same cute mini dot background for both quilts, and I kind of wish I hadn't.  I think that the coffee cup quilt needs more contrast.  I LOVE the lid fabric, but it blends too much into the background, and the overall shape gets lost.  Again, if I had more time...

I'm not sure if the girls will hang the quilts in their rooms, or their lockers or use them as mug rugs.  They finish at about 6x9, so they would work for that purpose, too.  I do know that these won't be the last minis that I make for my daughters.  They are fun and pretty quick to make, and I can envision future dorm room walls covered with quilted memories from Mom.  I can dream, right?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Quarter Two Finish Along List

When I made my first quarter Finish Along list in January, April seemed very far way.  And so it is now, making my second quarter list.  July 1st seems to be an eternity away.  Yet, here it is, mid April, in the blink of an eye.  Another blink and summer will be here.

While I didn't finish everything on the first quarter list, having the list to follow definitely helped me to stay focused and committed to finishing some long neglected projects.  Between those finishes and the Project Quilting challenges, I logged more than 10 finishes for the quarter.  There have been years when I haven't finished that many!

This quarter's list might be a bit ambitious, given the scope of some of the projects.  But, I'll give it a try!  Finishing, it turns out, is very satisfying.

Scrappy Stars

This is a finished top, not too big, not too small.  It's a good lap or child size.  It was started to use up some half square triangles that resulted from two different projects.  I also used up a good amount of the squares I had been cutting from scraps.  The challenge with this one will be deciding how to quilt it.  I'm thinking it will be straight line quilted with the walking foot, if I can master using it.  It makes me happy to look at all those bright colors.  Can't wait to have his one done!

Round Robin Mini Quilt
This is a carry over from my first quarter list.  Some progress has been now has an outer border and is basted.  It probably could have been finished last quarter, but, I'm stuck on the quilting.  I thought I might do some log cabin like lines in each of the four quarters.  But, as I planned that out, I realized that the inner borders are not at all straight  I am afraid that linear quilting is going to emphasize how NOT square this mini is.  But, I don't have enough free motion practice, yet, to go that route.  This is a quilt for me, and will hang on the wall, and will make me smile, simply by virtue of its colors.  So, I should probably just go with something straight and simple and get it done.  We'll see.

Doll Sized Hospital Gowns

These were started on a whim in January when Bernie at Needle and Foot posted about the Tiny Gowns she was making for A Doll Like Me.  This was during the time that my daughter was in the hospital.  On one of the days that snow kept me at home instead of being in the hospital with her, I decided to try my hand at some little hospital gowns, too.  I cut and started a few.  Might have finished one...I don't remember.  When they are all done I'll send a package off to Amy so she can included them with the precious dolls she makes, when they are going to a  child facing a hospital stay. Perhaps I'll see if I can get a doll sized quilt made to go with it!

Hello Fall Half Square Triangle Quilt
This is a LONG time WIP.  I don't even remember when it was started.  I know, however, that when I bought the charm packs to use as HST leaders and enders I was excited that the greens in the pack matched the green sofa and love seat in our living room.  Since the walls had recently been painted an autumn orange color (it's prettier than it sounds) I thought I could make a quick sofa quilt that would go perfectly.  Well, the green couches have been gone at least three years.  The walls are still pumpkiny though, so it will be a lovely addition.  And, while we have an assortment of fleece throws that are used constantly. we don't have an actual adult sized quilt that's used downstairs.
There's a lot of work needed on it.  I have no idea how many HSTs I finished, some are pressed and trimmed (I think) and some are not, there's fabric to do more HSTs if needed, and , oh.  I need to decide on a layout.  Getting this one done will be a MAJOR accomplishment.

Cord Keepers
Like the rope bowl on last quarter's list, these are a silly non finish.  They need velcro and top stitching.  That's it.  It will be about a two hour job.  They've been sitting in a bin for two years.  Enough said.

6 inch Quilt Squares for Secret Sewing Project
(This is my first ever secret sewing picture!)  In all honestly, these blocks were just recently started.  I'm adding these to the list because 1. they qualify as a Work In Progress and 2.  because they will be an early finish and I'll get to cross them off the list soon (which Gretchen Rubin says is a good thing to do!).  They are little gifties for my girls' Easter baskets (if life lets me get them done in the next week) and I'm keeping them secret in case anyone snoops.

As I finish my list, snow is falling outside my window.  The long, hot days of July seem so very far away.  Surely I'll be able to finish all of these projects before then!  Right?

Linking up with the Finish Along, and then off to peek at some others' lists of ambitions.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Two More Seasonal "Post Cards"

I've been enjoying making these fabric "post cards" for my friend.  The first four I made for her are here.  The latest two feature a cute girl bunny, and a Mason jar with spring flowers.

I really like the creative process in making these.  Since there is no pattern, it takes a bit of work to come up with a design and then get things sized correctly.  I like that challenge.  I also like the spontaneity involved.  More than once I've stated with a Google image, for one element, like the Mason Jar, but then I change and adapt as I go. It's fun to see where they take me, and sometimes I'm surprised.   I had been planing to embroider the flowers on the Mason Jar, but then, in the middle of the night, I woke up thinking about a fabric with the perfect flowers on it.  Sub conscious,  much?  The next morning before I went down stairs. I stopped in the sewing room and pulled that fabric out of the stack.  So much quicker than embroidery, and so cute, too.

In looking back at the first set and comparing to the latest, I notice that I have moved away from hand sewing in favor of machine applique.  Even the outside edge of these two was machine stitched.  This isn't really a conscious decision on my part.  I just go with the flow with these and machine stitching just felt right.  I won't be surprised if the next few get a bit more hand stitching.

My plan is to keep making these until my friend has a years' worth.  Then, I might try to duplicate some of my designs and make a few more sets.  These little cuties make a perfect "in between" project, and I know a few other people who might like to have a set!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Rope Bowl Finish

I don't remember when or why I started this rope bowl.  I don't know why it didn't get finished.  I DO know that it sat like this...

a tangled my Unfinished Projects bin for quite a while.  I knew that it wouldn't take much time to finish it, and it seems really silly that it sat for so long!   I put it on my First Quarter Finish Along list, hoping that would inspire me to get it out of the bin and into use!

And now, it's finished!

Rope Bowls that I've made in the past have been rather floppy, so I was careful to keep this one small and tightly wound.  I also zig zagged the heck out of it.  It used up lots of partial spools of white thread, which makes me happy!  And I have to say, it's pretty sturdy!

I'm not sure what this pretty little thing is destined for.  I don't really have a spot or a need for it.  Maybe it will be a "just because" gift for someone.  For now, it will sit here on a bookshelf where I can see it as I go upstairs.  It just makes me happy to look at it.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Two Small Finishes

These pretty little squares were on my first quarter Finish Along list, and now they are...finished!

They were made by a quilting friend as part of a round robin exchange we were doing a couple years ago.  She made them as cornerstones, set around a medallion that I started.  My intention was to have a mini quilt, but I think that must not have been clearly communicated, as her addition would have made the quilt far too big to be a mini.

The quilt sat around for a while, and I've since lost contact with that friend.  That makes me sad, but I do think of her often as I look around my sewing room and see small gifts and things she made for me.  And now, I have finished her two blocks and they are part of my room, as well.

I used these blocks to experiment with the free motion foot that I recently bought for my machine.  I knew that the quilting on these would be rocky.  This is a brand new skill for me, and in fact this was the FIRST time I had even put the feed dogs down on this machine!  And, I know that it is usually recommended to start learning to FMQ with scrap fabric.  But, I figured I had little to lose.  I wanted to get these off the  "In Progress" pile, and I wanted to play around with the foot, and figure out how it worked.

I pulled Beginner's Guide to Free Motion Quilting by Natalia Bonner from my shelf before I started and read through the first part.  It was helpful in getting set up, and I will return to the book as I continue to learn.  I jumped in, though, a bit hastily I think.  I started with some swirls and probably should have stayed with loops.

I cringe a bit, looking at the quilting. I almost scrapped these all together and tossed them in the garbage.  But, instead, I finished them both with "self binding".  One of them is hanging on my sewing room wall, and the other is there to greet my coffee cup and treats on the mornings that I get to sew.

 I hope that years from now, when FMQ has become natural to me, I will look at them and smile at how far I've come!  For now, I'm happy to have these done and being used!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Project Quilting 10.6 - Chocolate Craving

It's the final challenge in Season 10 of Project Quilting!

 It has been a blast playing along this year and I'm so happy to have completed all 6 challenges! This week's theme was Craving Chocolate - perfect, because think most of us quilters keep a little secret stash that has noting to do with fabric...
Shhh. Don't tell my children...

There were moments when I didn't think this one was going to get finished.  When the challenge theme was posted on Sunday, I was busy wrapping up my daughter's show, and just, in general, exhausted from two weekends of shows.  On Monday I had oral surgery (ouch) and spent the next two days feeling pretty crummy.   The latter part of the week was spent getting my house ready to host my family on Saturday to celebrate some birthdays.  Cleaning and food prep took two whole days out of my quilting time!  At 8:00 on Saturday evening, after guests left and the last of the dishes were washed, I headed to the sewing room.  I almost threw in the towel in favor of a couple hours on the couch in front of the TV,  but, no, I decided that finished was better than perfect and sat down to see what I could do in two hours.

This is my new Easter table runner!  Like several other Project Quilting participants this week, I used the iconic chocolate bunny silhouette.  I'm sure the fact that these guys started popping up at the grocery store before the Valentine's hearts were even gone has something to do with that!

As with the other project quilting challenges, I found that the key to finishing this runner was to not overthink.  I also continue to find that the right tools, fabrics and notions are right where I need them to be, when I need them.  It's like sewing room magic!

After deciding to put the chocolate hoppers on a cream background, I found a runner-ish sized rectangle in my low volume fabric stack.  It didn't even need to be trimmed or squared up, so that became the background.  I had only one brown solid, so these are dark chocolate bunnies, my favorite.  I knew I'd want a border of some sort.  I decided I liked not having to measure and cut the background, so I went to my messy bin of pre cut strips and found four springy colors in polka dots from a long forgotten jelly roll. 

The dots on the strips are in two shades of each color, so that inspired my thread choices for the background quilting.  I actually HAD the right shades of each color!  And they looked so cute on my little cake stand ready to be used!

 Originally I was going to just matchstick quilt with straight lines in all the different colors.  But, then inspiration struck!  I decided to use a zig zag and a decorative flower stitch to make it a bit more Easter egg like.  I'd had so much fun doing raw edge applique on my Abdedarius project, so that's what I went with for the bunnies.   And, guess what?  Right there on the end of the ironing board, was a square of fusible backing that I hadn't put away from last time!!  No hunting or searching or even getting up to get it!  Win!

No way was I going to make binding, so I went back to the pre-cut bin to find strips to bind with.  The was an 8:30 Saturday night decision, and I literally  held my breath, not knowing if I'd find something that would work.  But, look at that!  The right color and shade for each side.  Would you believe it if I told you that the blue one was exactly the right size?  An inch shorter and it would not have worked! 

And finally, those bows!  Each one of them is made from a ribbon scrap that I pulled out of the box of tiny bits that I save for some unknown reason.  Finding just enough in each of the four colors at 9:45 on Saturday night felt like hitting the jackpot!  I love that they are each different, so each bunny gets a bit of a personality.  And I love that the green one says "Family and Fun".  Good words for Easter and Spring Break in my house!

I walked out of the sewing room at 10:04 p.m with this completed table runner.  I'm pretty tickled with the way it looks on my dark kitchen table.  Those bunnies really pop, don't they?  And, my daughters each immediately claimed a bunny to be "theirs", leaving one each for my husband and me.  Four bunnies for my family of four.  Not planned, but perfect.  Just like so many parts of the process. 

I have to admit that I'm not too happy with the corners of my binding.  I truly was in "just get it done" mode at that point,  I tried something new for binding (stitching on the back and bringing around to the front to top stitch, which I will definitely try again, but since I used 4 different colors not one continuous strip, I had to make the corners up as I went.  It doesn't bother me too much, since when I look at this all I see is the FUN I had making it. But, the corners alone will keep me from entering this in the county fair.  That's OK.  Project quilting sparked some new ideas and I have plenty of time to finish some fair project before summer.

I changed thread colors for this project more than I EVER have before.  I will admit I sighed heavily each time I changed it while putting on the binding.  But, I think I'm over my mental block about it now.  It CAN be done, and I won't be so hesitant in the future. 

I just love how this table runner finished up.  I am so pleased with the way it came together and I love the feeling of FLOW I get from all the materials and tools being right were I needed them.  That's been the feeling in my sewing room since I started participating in Project Quilting!    I'm not sure what to attribute this to, but I like to think it has something to do with the collective positive energy that Kim and Trisha and all of the participants put out in to the universe each week!  I can't wait to do it again next year!!

I created this table runner in my sewing room in Slinger, Wisconsin.  I'm linking up for the last Project Quilting Challenge of Season 10.  Don't forget to visit some of the other contestants and LEAVE COMMENTS!  The comments make us all smile, so take a minute and do it!