Saturday, March 17, 2018

Little Bites of Progress

Not getting very far with this yet. I just pick it up when there's a few minutes of time before dinner etc. and so it's hard to get much done in one setting.
I'm really enjoying working with these serene spring-like colors. However, the rounded edges are not exactly quick unless I quit coaxing a smooth line and just allow them to get really bumpy looking. Such are the joys of needle-turn applique! It's good to have a pick-me-up sort of project even if it does feel like it's gonna take forever.....

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Railroad Tracks Baby Quilt

About an hour and a half before I generally wake up, a woman called my phone 5 times this morning. Even after she was told positively that the number she was calling was wrong, she stilled called two more times. I didn't bother answering those last 2 times and decided that if she called even one more time, her number was going to be permanently blocked. 
All the blocks sewn together....
Some people are just so stubborn, it makes zero sense. And so I have a headache today.*ugh  Why, why, why? Which means I'm going to sound cranky. {And it might even be true.} I also tend to despise Daylight Savings week as it totally messes me up for days and then to have my day start out extra early with the clueless phone woman. Can I just go back to bed?
Slab strips for the border work
So yeah, Quilting. That's undoubtedly why you dropped in. I've been working on the improv. railroad track blocks {from Maria Shell's Improv. Patchwork book}, until I had the base of a baby quilt size. Each block ended up just being shy of 12", so then I had to decide whether or not add another row of blocks or maybe go with borders. Since all my trim-offs had been used up, it was an easy idea to go for borders. I do have a fondness for that look...
Sewing the borders together
My niece had her baby early last week so then I knew this quilt was destined for a little boy. So glad that worked out {thanks momma!} as this quilt had already taken a sharp turn away from femininity with these unlikely crayon colors. And he's really sweet and adorable, we've been to see him several times. That helps motivate me just a little towards getting this quilt done in time for the upcoming shower.
Auditioning more borders
Initially I thought to add railroad track borders on all sides of the quilt, but after adding the top and bottoms, decided no. Much too busy. I hate admitting to it, but I actually make a fabric run to buy the lighter green plaid fabric. Yeah. Nothing in the stash seemed to work and I was running a bit dry on inspiration.
Getting sandwiched and ready to be pinned
While working on this quilt has been a lot of fun in some ways {loved playing with my trim-offs!}, it's also been a little too uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. These are not my best colors for getting in the zone and I've constantly been beset by insecurities and frustration. As you can imagine, it makes the decision making process more difficult than usual. It's a very good thing this quilt is so small or I'm confident this particular quilt would have overwhelmed me completely. There was a point where I just wanted to be done with the whole project and sincerely felt like somewhere, somehow I had taken a wrong turn. Next time I need to try it in better {for me} colors? 
Tree of Life
The hand quilting on my Tree of Life quilt has proved to be very therapeutic in contrast. Hmm... It feels so very peaceful....

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Catching Up

It's been one of those busy, busy times. Just a lot going on with church functions, family and friends and little time to catch up on social media. I'm ready to burrow down in the quilting room for a good long while, soon as I can catch up on some sleep! Meanwhile, it's mostly been about the hand work around here of late. Finally got the center applique done on all these Melon Patch blocks.
Start of the Melon Patch blocks
 A reader sent me a lovely comment the other day and told me about a quilt she had noticed in a old book, 'It has your name written all over it. It could have just come out of your hoop.'  Well, little did she know that I actually tried to make an interpretation of that very same quilt several years ago!
Such a lovely old quilt
No pattern, just a fun, intriguing challenge for myself. It took a good long while as these sorts of quilts do, but this particular interpretation was finished in 2013. The picture {torn out of a magazine}, hung on my wall for years before compelling me to just dive in and see if I could really make one of my own.
My Vintage Reproduction quilt
And wowsers, do I love that quilt! Never given it away. There's just something about a re-make of an old quilt that can make it feel really special. The process of trying to keep the spirit of the older quilt and yet breathe a little bit of our own voice into it can be deeply engaging. Have you seen my latest antique interpretation attempt? This is definitely not the first time I've fallen down this particular rabbit hole...

Later on I even went digging for the template of that self-same bird, changed up the size a bit and added it into this Flocks of Geese quilt finished in 2017. So charming to see how the bird takes center stage in this particular setting!
Flock of Geese quilt
I think the more current make is probably what her subconscious was recognizing and connecting to in the old quilt--those birds! Most of my current readers haven't been following along since 2013 or even before. Either way, it was a fascinating day or two of us messaging back and forth. Oh yes! That quilt! Uh huh. Yep, Funny thing about that one....  Big smiles here and maybe with her too. It's good to find connections. And too, I adore having people recognize something distinguishing and unique in regards to my quilting. Something ephemeral that says 'Audrey made that'. It tells me that slowly, slowly, I'm finding a clear voice and perhaps even a distinct style. That means the world to me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February Adhoc. Improv. Play

The next AHIQ challenge is an interesting one. It's all about playing with scale--in whatever manner we'd like to interpret. I've been contemplating the idea of making a quilt with rows of simple blocks and/or shapes. Something in subdued colors and just playing with value changes to see if I could make something with an antique 'utility' look.
Playing with Scale--The start
It was an obvious choice for incorporating scale changes as I already had the fabric pull and rows can be easily tweaked for size. As I went digging for inspiration, I kept coming back to the idea of having a centerpiece though. There's something about the idea of a pretty center with radiating piecework that just appeals to me. So of course it had to be applique. Everything lit up when I saw this on my Pinterest boards {sorry Lori for not linking directly to the pertinent post}.
Sewing together the foundation piece
So as things go when we're making things up as we go along, I doodled some quick ideas until one looked about right. Not an exact copy, but something with similar vibes! Then it was time to start making the drawing happen in fabric. I started with rows of small strings or coins for the background. Just a mellow blend of sagey greens and a piece of cream/black toile. I deliberately left the middle of the foundation free of pieced units as I didn't want to cut any of that fabric out of the back of my applique. It's really not large enough, but I also needed enough foundation to securely sew the applique 'circles' to.

To get the appropriate sizes for the applique, I re-drew my doodle drawing onto a perfectly sized piece of freezer paper. Then I carefully cut out each circle, ironed it onto the chosen fabrics and cut out with plenty of seam allowance--especially the inside brown circle as it's easy to move overlay applique a little too far in one direction or another. At that point, I sewed the outside seam of the brown applique with a quick straight stitch on the sewing machine. Who cares. Nobodys ever gonna see that seam! I trimmed the pink circle a little bit, especially at the bottom where it was too flat looking and hand stitched the outside edge of the circle. I cut the cream {applique foundation} circle out and carefully slipped it inside and underneath the brown circle. And yes, I deliberately chose a fabric with a smaller scale of print! Ooh... gotta love layers of interest!

And so I stitched the brown circle to the cream applique background and then the pink circle to the brown circle. On and on until it was time to cut out my flower pieces, still from that same freezer paper drawing! {So efficient!} It was tough on my fingers stitching over areas with seamed rows, but like I said, NOT going to cut the background out on this one. Too much fear of raveling. It's a good start to my 'playing with scale' quilt and for now I'm mentally calling it 'The Quiet Quilt', the centerpiece notwithstanding.  Lots of the fabric pull are soft, quiet and a little blendy. We'll see where it goes from here. At some point I definitely intend to start with some vertical rows, but just had to establish the beginnings to get a feel for the rest!
Adding some applique details
I was hoping to be farther along with the Vintage Lily quilt, but these snowball blocks have been soooo tedious to sew. Easy as pie, but just yawn inducing. All are sewn now, but next up is the ironing and trimming.*ughh  Not my favorite part of the quilting process! Robin is doing something similar with her scale challenge, so it should be interesting to see both of our quilts progress. My snowballs are a little different than hers as I wanted the corners on mine to end up looking very scrappy and a bit messy. You might remember the look from my Scrappy Tulips finish?
Improv. Snowball blocks for Vintage Lily
So the other adhoc. improv. work in progress are these postage stamp baskets. Originally I had plans to mix them with my pineapple applique, but that flew out the window in a hurry. These baskets are just a little too strong to mix with sweet looking applique shapes. First I laid them out next to each other and tried every which way to be happy with the look. I'm certainly intrigued at the intersection where each basket joins up, but it's so not me. It just feels like a waste of all that time I spent stitching on the basket handles!
Improv. Postage Stamp Baskets
On to other plans! There's not much I can do to make these look more like basket blocks and less like loops with stripey corner units. I contemplated adding 'feet' to the basket like someone suggested the other day, but it just made a muddle at the point where the baskets met. There's probably oodles of different things that could be done with these basket blocks, but what appeals to me right now is giving them lots of breathing room.
Auditioning a layout
So yep. The're going to get the good old, classic sashing treatment. Kind of a fall back around here, but when you like something, there's not point in trying to reinvent the wheel! I cut up all the rest of the pale background fabrics {had barely enough} and started auditioning placement. Two brighter blocks got tossed out immediately and the rest seem to be cooperating. For now, I'm using little fussy cut roses I cut out of a fat quarter for all those inside sashing squares. There's not enough for the outside squares, so that and the setting triangle fabric still remain a mystery. 

Overall, I'm quite pleased with where this quilt is headed though I admit to being a wee bit disappointed when the original plain went south. It's not a bad thing to be surprised by a quilts independence though. Just makes us more determined to try and get it right! Linking with Kaja and Ann for AHIQ #30. Are you having fun yet? 'Cuz I certainly am.....

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Moving Another Quilt To the Finish Line

So Chunky Crossroads quilt is now a true-blue finish! Started in February of 2016 as an Ad. Hoc. Improv. challenge, this quickly became a color challenge as well. Basically I took a stack of fabrics that had been simmering for awhile and said, okay, lets just DO SOMETHING.
Chunky Crossroads a completed quilt!
I love quilts with lots of block repeats where the fabrics and colors get to shine. However, these colors were tough for me as they weren't exactly in my comfort zone. I ended up adding in some brighter, hotter pinks and also some lighter greens and that's where I turned the corner from drab murkiness to just having fun with value and sparkle. When I see potential for colors to dance across a quilt, then that's where I dig in and start to get serious. It's one of my favorite creative grooves, really.
Loving the simple texture from the stitching across the crossroads...
 As you can see, there isn't the usual skinny little coping border between the main part of the quilt and the applique border. I'm earnestly trying to audition each part of the quilting phase for what's best. Not just rely on the same 'ol, same 'ol. I know some of you don't especially care for borders, but they are incredibly intriguing to me. This was one quilt that obviously didn't have to have one, and so the challenge was to find a border that said 'neener, neener, neener... Wanna bet I won't look better without a border?' lol  They are always an option around here, but that doesn't mean I'm oblivious to the fact that it's not always necessary....
Amazing how much difference a little bit of binding can make!
This applique border design was cherry picked out of an older book called 'Mad About Folk Art' by Gerry Kimmel. The original design was only the solid fabric vine, bulbs and leaves. After getting that part figured out, measured properly for this particular quilt size, then cut out and tentatively placed, it just wasn't enough. The background fabric was one of those Basic Gray tone on tone fabrics I love, but with just the lime green applique on top, it was a bit too blah. Not in the least willing to ditch any of that cut out applique vine, I finally determined to add the different colored 'flowers'. It was a simple fix but wowsers, upped the time factor considerably. Of course.
Just enough hand quilting in the border
So that left me with lots of time to consider how crazy I am, taking a straightforward improv. style quilt to the next level of complicated. First of all by placing the applique on what is more or less the color of fresh concrete {who does that?}, then playing around with a tricky one-piece applique vine, then saying, nah... 'Not good enough'.... By the time all the hand stitching was done, it was hastily folded up and put out of sight.*sigh  Can I never truly just do simple?
A feel good finish....
But the funny thing is, this quilt has been beckoning to me. Because I really do adore the colors in it. In spite of all the frustration in getting the colors balanced out properly across the quilt and trying to determine a great add on border look, dealing with puckering issues on the back etc.--it's been such a fun, delightfully playful quilt. I mean that sincerely. It must be some sort of illness, thriving on these ups and downs of the endlessly fascinating quilting process! The icing on the cake with this quilt was when I found a perfectly, hideous binding fabric hiding in the stash {given to me by a quilting friend years ago}. One that was exactly the right color. Bingo! Cut small enough, almost any fabric can work as a great binding! It took care of ALL the remnants of worry left about the quilt not being one big cohesive whole. I am still marveling at how that light pink pulled all the lighter colors from the inside of the quilt out to play with the outside edges. Don't you love it when it all gets wrapped up with a bright shiny bow!

For the most part, it always came down to, 'What do I have to lose?' 'Is this idea worth exploring?' The fabrics were all from the stash except for the long border pieces. Time is just whatever I choose to commit. And who cares? It's really all about the process anyway. I'm starting to get a little worried though. Each new foray into different and challenging color palettes seems to take me further and further away from those original 'safe' colorways. I tell myself that it's the benefit of learning and growing, but is there really any going back after a certain point?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tree of Life in the Hoop and the Other HST Quilt in the Works

Like most other diligent hand quilters, I tend to roll straight from one quilt in the hoop to the very next. This 'Tree of Life' quilt has been calling my name lately, sort of impatiently if you want to know the truth of it. It seems to be the time
Tree of Life in the hoop
So, okay, I'm fine with working on these colors right about now. Winter is settling into it's 'Oh no! There's more snow! mode and everything is sooo cold and chilly. These colors are bright, peppy and just feel good in contrast. This quilt was one of those bucket list quilts but also a very whimsical start. I need to remember that all those stacks of fabric piling up around my quilt room will eventually find their day as well.

Also something important to remember is that just because a quilt was on my bucket list doesn't mean that it will end up looking exactly as imagined. This crazy blend of busy-ish fabrics tend to make this quilt look a little more vintage that all the patterns and photos I usually admired. I really stretched myself with this fabric selection and that's a good thing. It feels unique and makes each block feel a little more special. I had to work harder to feel satisfied if you know what I mean. Plus I learned a lot. I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for making and learning from these sorts of choices 3 1/2 years ago! And yeah, it's a little wonky from using homespun fabrics in the setting triangles and not trimming every block to exactly square. Hand quilting will take care of the worst of it {it's very forgiving} and then washing and drying after should take care of the rest of the wonk. In spite of the fact that this quilt rejected most all the fun colors of perle cotton, {it wants to do boring white/cream thread}, we're all good here.
Tree of Life
This past weekend saw me working on adding another round of borders to my HST Medallion quilt too. It was the 5th round of first the black coping strip border and then the pieced triangle border. I tend to lump them both into '1 border round'. It never seems to photograph well when the pink hst's are on the outside edge, especially if they are sewn in the lightest pink colors. Ughh...  Oh well. You can get the idea of where I'm at--exactly halfway through the 10 rows of hst border work! Uh huh. It's gonna be a big one....
One more border for the HST Medallion
I am extremely pleased to report that this hst border went on together as well as the last one did! Yay! Improvements have been made and might be here to stay! {Well, for the life of this quilt anyway...} Lots of notes to refer to, but basically there are specific perimeters that make all the difference in precision. So proud to know that all that improv. work hasn't quite ruined me yet....
HST Medallion about halfway thru....
And because I couldn't bear to take if off the wall just yet, I simply piled all the quilting paraphernalia back on the counter like usual, pushing and stacking it way to the back. Can you believe I iron large quilt tops in this space? Without emptying the countertop first? If you've been following me for very long, you understand that my quilting room is quite small. There is absolutely no room for complete chaos and I often have to tidy up just to jump to the next quilt. Projects are almost all in small totes or the 'in progress' units piled right on top. I have to be extra efficient with all my under-the-counter-space and try really hard to always have my iron and cutting area board ready at a moments notice too. Seriously, I am not complaining! Anythings better than having to work from the corner of the living room, dining room table and/or hall closet like I did for so many years. Having a dedicated quilt space is divine. I'm imploring you, please make room for your own if you haven't yet! You'll never, ever regret it.

Linking up with Linda and Julie for sew, stitch, snap, SHARE!

Friday, February 16, 2018

When the Blocks Start With the Crazy Talk

I know, it's making you feel dizzy.
Getting the basket blocks sewn together and trimmed
It was making me feel the same way, no matter how many applique blocks I threw on the wall or how I changed the setting.
What's it gonna look like with the addition of the pineapple blocks?
This was one of those ideas that started out with a stack of gorgeous {to me} fabrics and lots of behind the scenes meditation on how to best use them. The bottom line always came back to trying to blend some improv. sewing with a sort of classic applique shape.
Those lovely basket blocks are just not doing anything good...
It was something that was hard to get started on. The idea seemed prettier than the final result could ever be, but oh so irresistible. And getting it to this point and seeing all that busyness on the wall was a wee bit frustrating. It wasn't all wrong, but the fun looking baskets were just not behaving well. There was a lot more crazy talk than I expected.
Hmm.. Could it get any busier?
My daughter popped in to tell me something and had to listen to me lament the situation. She hesitantly suggested using one of those 'strips of fabric that go between?' and finally the light bulb went off. These busy, busy blocks definitely seem to need some breathing room. The power struggle on the wall is real, but we quilters have our tricks too.
Okay, maybe the sashing will give everything some much needed space
I think it would help if I had about four design walls! This is most definitely going to take a little more time than I initially thought to settle. No point rushing anything! I finally took it all down and dove right into the scraps. Ahh... It felt like the wall had been yelling at me. 

Luckily, a good distraction was right at hand. There were these lovely. little, stripey bits that didn't want to end up in the garbage can. Did anyone else get the Maria Shell book, 'Improv. Patchwork: Dynamic Quilts Made With Line and Shape' for Christmas? 
Just having fun...
I've been pretty confident that this book was way above my pay grade. And hello? I don't exactly have a lot of solid fabrics, a must-have in the writings of this book. But the funny this is, a few snippets from the book have apparently been percolating in the back of my brain regardless. And guys, I didn't even read through the entire book, just sort of skimmed and gawked a lot, like we do when it's all just a bit too much to absorb in one setting. 

So yep, I'm here to tell you that somehow all these little scraps {some so skinny as to be ridiculous} have pretty much hi-jacked all those other important quilting plans/lists and want-to's. At least for the moment. They are currently making their way into a 'Railroad Tracks' sort of quilt based on Maria's yummy book. It's been open to the relevant page during this free-wheeling make time, let me tell you--trying to make an interpretation that won't come off as total garbage! Too, I'm thinking baby quilt size so it will be small and less likely to get overwhelming when the scraps run out. Which means I will probably be ditching that pink and blue baby quilt idea I proposed a couple months ago. How utterly boring that would have been compared to this....*wink


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