Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Yellow/Orange/Red Spiral Quilt

That name is probably going to get shortened to "spiral."

I started working on it a few days ago. It's going to have words in it, and since I've never pieced letters before, I was eager to try a few. Here they all are (with scraps on the right). They're tiny little things. They'll finish at only 2 inches high.

To get a grounding in free-pieced letters, I took a good look at Tonya's (Lazy Gal) tutorials. Very helpful! Then, well, I just plunged in.

Because the final letters are so small, and the color differences so subtle, I wanted to make sure they were easily readable. So, most of the letter fabric is fairly accurately cut 1-inch strips, using a rotary cutter and ruler, rather than just completely winging it. The blocky letters with parallel lines came together nicely (T, H, etc.). Letters with angles that did not parallel the edges of the block were, um, shall we say, somewhat challenging. Many of these (like A and W) got forced into right-angled shapes, which they graciously accepted. K, V, and N took more thought. In the end, I didn't worry about where the seams fell and got very recognizable results.

Here is the eventual center of the spiral, plus the word "TAKE," which is the first word of "Take what you have and make what you want." This little saying will be incorporated into the yellow part of the spiral. It's a quote from Roberta Johnson, quoted in Accidentally on Purpose, and exactly describes the quilts I'm making these days.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Finally, the Photos

Here it is, hanging in our dining room!

It still surprises me when I first catch sight of it. It definitely has the impact I was hoping for: graphic punch and then, at a closer look, the surprising stitching.

After it was up, I was straightening the left side and heard a pop. Argh! While hand-sewing the binding to the back, there was one spot where the thread tangled and broke as I was finishing it off. I hoped it would hold, but it didn't. Have to fix that.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Puzzleball Diversion

Christmas Eve day. I needed one last gift. A handmade one. A puzzle ball! (Patchwork Puzzle Balls, by Jinny Beyer.) I've made a few of these little (and not so little) gems, and each one has been entrancing. So, I dug through my stash and pulled out a bunch of fabrics that I'm highly unlikely to use in a quilt but that are perfect for fancy puzzle balls.

The puzzle ball I chose has pentagons separated by triangles (final size of ball: 4-3/4 inches in diameter). Contrast between the pentagons is not necessary. A good thing, since my fancy fabric stash is limited. Here are the pieces. Well.....not exactly, since--oops--I cut these triangles too small.

Sewing well went, though! Not too many set in pieces, so I was able to machine stitch most of the seams. Lots of stuffing later (I used poly, not cotton), I had this:

This next photo shows the final hand-sewn seam to close up the ball (right and lower right). That one is really hard to sew.
One small warning: Despite Jinny's breezy assurances about how easy puzzle balls are to make, they do need precise cutting and piecing, plus plenty of unhurried time for fabric choosing and construction. This one took between 5 and 6 hours.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What a Week!

Whew! I've had a very busy week. I took on a freelance project that we all agreed would take about 10 hours, but it turned out to take 30. I got it done Sunday just before noon and have been catching up with the rest of my life since then. Yesterday, I finished the hand quilting on the stones quilt!

It's off the frame now. I just have to take care of a few loose threads dangling from the back, and then bind it and add a sleeve. When I get it hung up on the wall, I'll post a final photo.

In the mean time, I have a couple of detail pictures.

I learned a bunch of things from this quilt, and one of them is that heavy cotton twill (aka khaki pants) didn't mesh well with the kind of hand quilting I used for the wavy lines. The problem is that the stitches cause the fabric to bunch in a way that creates noticeable vertical texture. This would be fine if that's the look I wanted, but I really had in mind a smoother, more horizontal effect, with more visible quilting lines.

At a distance, the verticalness is even more visible and the quilting even less visible.

This next photo is of the back. Every stitch you see is stab stitch. Personally, I'm truly amazed that the stitches are so well aligned with the stitches on the top. I fully expected them to zig-zag all over. I didn't even take particular care to remember to keep the needle perpendicular to the fabric (which helps a lot to position the needle tip in the right spot). Stitch length varies quite a bit, but it varies almost as much on the top. I just didn't have the patience to be more careful.

Yikes! I still have lots to do this afternoon, and the snow keeps coming down. Better get to it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Morning Views from My Kitchen

It's sunny and a whopping 5 degrees out. These are views from my kitchen's three-season porch. I had to work quickly, because moisture was rapidly condensing on the windows.

We had very wet snow, which dragged down branches. Then the deep cold froze everything in place. The trees and shrubs are showing the damage.
I drove a little bit yesterday--enough to find out first hand how awful the streets and parking lots are. The initial slush froze, so there's treacherous ice everywhere. For the past 24 hours, semis have been jackknifing, cars have been sliding into ditches or each other, and lots of people have ended up in emergency rooms because of falls and snowblower accidents. Tomorrow it should warm up enough for road salt to work.

And yes, I moved to Madison on purpose. Twice. (--sigh--)

Once again, I'm very glad I can work from home today, and I have plenty of quilt projects! Got a little more stab stitching done last night, and am hoping to start the spiral quilt later today.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yes, It's Winter

We have 14.5 inches of snow (acquired in less than 24 hours). Yesterday, everything except the most essential services was shut down....and a very good thing, too. Now the cold sets in. It was -3 degrees when I got up this morning. The compensation is that it's too cold for clouds, so we have a brilliantly sunny, blue-sky day. Nice to look at, but I'm glad I can work from home.

Hanging around the house is certainly good for making progress on quilt-related tasks, although the stones quilt (not the most inspired name, but that's what I've been calling it) is not yet done. Only 12 more inches to go, but I've had to give my hands and wrists a four-day break from the hard work of pushing and pulling a needle through that tough fabric. Decision: No more hand quilting of khaki pants fabrics!

In the mean time, I'm planning a new project. Requirements:
1. Hand-quilt-able fabrics.
2. No purchases. Stash only.
3. Appropriate for a wall in the kitchen or living room.
4. Usable as a real quilt, too.
5. Cheerful and bright.
6. No templates, no exacting cutting, no matching of seams.

Here's what fits the bill:

I dug out all the reds, oranges, and yellows (the ones on the left are not quite as pale as they look here). I love these colors together! I drew the line at pink. (Frankly, it's a little worrisome to see how many pink fabrics I've acquired.) All are cottons. I don't have many linen fabrics in this color range, and I'd rather not mix the fabric types.

Two-thirds are purchased yardage---languishing in my stash for anywhere from 5 to 20 years. I remember buying several yards of red in 1989 for a planned red-and-white feathered star quilt. All the measuring and matching required to feather a star turned out to be more effort than I seem able to muster. Time to do something else with it. The rest (all the plaids and the stripe) are from thrifted clothing.

The current plan is to use log cabin construction to make a single, very large, square spiral. Each "log" will be pieced from (mostly) square and rectangular patches. Beyond this, I'm making it up as I go along. Which, if I ponder it too much, feels kind of scary.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Few Spirals

I've made some good progress the past few days. I wanted to take a photo of the central rectangle before I turn the poles again. All the visible stitches are stab stitched. The rectangle is 8 or 9 inches wide. (There's very little natural light this morning--the flurries are starting, and we should have a couple of inches by dinner time--and the lamps make these colors look darker than they really are.)

Here's a bit of detail (with the colors skewed the other way), showing one of my attempts at a little person.

The quilting is roughly three-quarters done. Yay! Around this time in a project, I get antsy and start calculating the number of hours of work left. Current estimate: 13 to 15. Total hours will be close to 60. The cutting and piecing probably took another 8 to 10, and I figure 3 or 4 for binding.

Once every few days, my husband wanders in, looks over my shoulder as I quilt, and says, baffled, some variation of "Where do you get the patience for that?" I have no idea.