Monday, November 1, 2010

Quilting Details

The finished quilt! This view is almost like looking out over  a shoreline.

I really like the way the machine quilting turned out. I used a long, slightly wavy stitch in two different widths, so some lines are more wavy than others. This is one of my favorite stitches on my Viking. Each strip (about 3-1/2 inches wide) has three lines of wavy stitches and one line of straight stitches right next to the seam.

It feels so good to have a project done! Next, I'll start the hand quilting of the linen quilt. It's in the frame ... just have to carve out some time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Quilt for My Husband

Yup. He asked for a quilt made especially for him. I was so delighted that I dropped everything else (except paying work) to plan it.

The catch is that he had requirements. Blue and beige (good! that describes most of the shirts in my stash), a simple patch layout (not a problem), and nothing chaotic or, um, weird (well, I couldn't promise anything except that I'd try).

The blue and beige kept reminding me of water and sand, waves and shore. So, I went with that.
Near one corner I included a little symbol of help and protection.

The top went together in no time, but it then languished for weeks, a victim of my heavy schedule.

Eventually, I layered it and pinned it ... with fine straight pins, because safety pins are way too thick. They literally tear the tightly woven shirt fabrics. Machine quilting was quite an adventure, but I drew surprisingly little blood. Quilting gloves and a long-sleeved fleece shirt provided fairly good protection. It also helped that the quilting was simple.

Soon, photos of the finished quilt!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blue and Green, Finally

This is one of the main things that's been eliminating my sewing time----the transformation of the master bath from this

to this

(Ignore the gray foreground--that's just shadow.)

It took three years, but we finally got the wallpaper off, and the paint on. I smile every time I see it!

There's more to come. The other bathroom is wallpapered, and there's a wallpaper border in the master bedroom. It all has to go!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Linen Strips

My 7-year-old grandson saw these and said, "Whoa! That's different." Yup.

These aren't bad photos, but the colors are subdued a bit and the yellow and green are a bit washed out. In real life they really sizzle. I'm particularly fond of the hot pink and red-orange.

It's fun putting together unstraight edges. No rotary cutters used here! I chop away with large shears and, when possible, use the natural uneven edges of the scraps. I take some care to match up a concave curve with a convex curve, and also put wedges in so that the panels don't curve too much, but I try not to overthink things.

I can't believe how fast this top is going together. The plan is for roughly 45 to 50 inches high and wide, and I'm already at about 45 by 35.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A New Linen Quilt

I'm excited about this new quilt! It's one I've been wanting to get to for more than a year, and a few months ago I decided I finally had enough linen collected for it. The main reason I'm starting it now is that a couple of weeks ago we finished painting the dinette/computer area, and the off-white walls (formerly wallpaper and then scarred drywall) are so blank!

The fabrics are 100% linen from yardage (maybe a quarter to a third of the total) and clothing. The weights and textures vary quite a bit. A couple are thinner than I'd like, but the colors are too good to give up.

The emphasis will be on the reds. At first, I wasn't going to include all the colors from the blues through the black, but paging through some quilt books helped me decide that more contrast and added colors will be good. We'll see how it goes, though.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rug Done!

I love this rug! Design-wise, I was really winging it, but I couldn't have planned a better result. It actually looks three-dimensional, and the colors flow so nicely.

(Here's my previous post, which records most of the early steps in making it.) I purposely chose mostly medium colors, so it won't show the dirt as much as the larger one. These are entry rugs, so they trap the grit, wet, and general dirt coming into the condo.

In case you're wondering, washing one of these is not exactly easy, but it's not a terrible experience either. After a good shaking, I put it in the bathtub, add a little detergent and warm water, and then gently shove it around to get the dirt out. After several changes of water, when the water is clear and there's no more sand in the tub, I place it carefully into the washer, spin it, and pop it into the dryer. (I have a water-saving top-loader, so I can place the rug carefully around the sides to keep the strain minimal while spinning, and a very high percentage of the water is removed safely. Not sure how it would survive a front-loader.) I use cotton thread for joining the plaited strips, so I'm careful not to put too much strain on these rugs, especially when they're wet. I also overcast the two cut edges at least twice, and put two rows of wide multistitch zig-zags a little way in from the ends.

By the way, if you make one, make the plaited strips almost a foot longer than the desired rug length. After the plaited strips are sewn together, mark a cutting line on each end, do a straight stitch just to the inside of this line, then zig-zag over it before cutting. After cutting, do another zig-zag over the cut edge. If the cut line differs much from the marked line, add another straight stitch row and zig-zag row over the edge. I think that in every case, I've had to resew/recut the finished edges to make them more square. It takes some effort to keep the cut edges from expanding and ruffling. Add the two lines of multistitch zig-zag after you know you have finished edges. At first, the rug will not lie completely flat. It relaxes over the course of a few days.

Plaited rugs are not quick (they also eat a lot of thread). This one took roughly 35 hours (not including the ripping and resewing of the plaited strips, because the first time I couldn't be bothered to pin them), and it's only 28 inches by 57 inches. But they're beautiful, thin and flat, don't bunch up, light enough to wash and dry, and don't shrink or transfer dye to the floor. Definitely worth the effort.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wedding Quilt Photos

I don't much like it, but I have to accept the fact that I disappear from the blogging world occasionally. When the workload gets heavy, and personal commitments multiply, blogging is simply one of the more expendable items. But things are more relaxed now, and I'm looking forward to catching up a bit.

Along with blogging, the wedding quilt got delayed, too. But, it turned out that personally giving it to the newlyweds a couple of weeks late was actually nicer than having it mixed in with all the other gifts. I had time to make a nice label. We got to chat about the fabrics and how I made the quilt. Having the more personal connection was very nice.

This quilt was a perfect fit for quilting each quarter separately and then sewing the quilted parts together. The method is a pain if you need to match the sections (actually, I've never been able to get such sections to match at all), but it's nice when matching isn't an option to begin with. I can't abide leaving overlapped batting in the finished quilt, so there's a lot of fussy trimming and hand sewing, but that's better than maneuvering an entire queen-size quilt sandwich, especially when using straight pins to hold the layers together. (Safety pins are too thick. They break the threads of the mostly tightly woven shirtings.)

I knew right away I'd do an all-over meander. I think it's a nice contrast to the hard, straight edges, not to mention that it's the one type of machine quilting I'm even somewhat competent at. I used leftover thread from my hand quilting of the linen quilt--variegated green and variegated yellow--plus a somewhat strange variegated pink-beige, gold, and green that worked surprisingly well.

This was a fun quilt to make, and I got pretty attached to it. It was hard to give it away!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Rug Is Taking Shape

No significant quilt content today---I've been too intent on the rug. 

I really like the way it's turning out! Here's the first plait:

It's almost 4 inches wide and has 12 laces. But I need to back up....

To recap, I started with 12 pairs of pants and was able to cut enough 2-inch strips (actually, just a shade narrower, to allow better travel through the binder-making tool) for seven 7-foot laces from each pair (with only a few scraps left over). I folded the strips, pressed them, and stitched them into laces. The colors grouped into two sets of six---one with more grays, the other with more beiges.

I originally planned to plait 6 different-colored laces (graded from dark to light) into one plait. (The photo above and below show the laces sewn together at their tops, in these sets of six, ready for plaiting.) The resulting 14 plaits would then be sewn together to make a rug. Here's the beginning of one plait:

Nice, but the plait would be at most 2 inches wide. I wasn't liking the design possibilities. Besides, that's a lot of plaits to sew together. Time to rethink.

I had never worked with more than 9 laces at once, but I figured that I might be able to handle 12. What the heck. I tried it.

Much better!

I had put two laces of each color next to each other (six colors, and a total of 12 laces) and expected the pairs to stay next to each other throughout the plaiting, but they didn't. They would have if I had done what I normally do, which is simply put the leftmost lace over the one to the right and continue to weave it all the way across, diagonally. However, that leaves the upper right free of plaiting, and with 12 laces, that's a fair amount of wasted lace length. Instead, I started with the next-to-last lace from the right and put it over the rightmost lace, then worked with the fourth lace from the right, weaving it all the way to right, then the sixth lace from the right, and so on. This allowed the plaiting to go all the way up to the the upper edge.

Serendipity! The outermost pairs of laces did indeed move along together, but the interior pairs separated. So, instead of a clearly defined light-to-dark zig-zag, I got a more subtle but, I think, very nice gradation.

I'm mulling the idea of sewing the plaits together by hand instead of machine. The only workable way of doing this would be to slip a blunt needle through the outermost lacing edge and weave it back and forth between the two plaits. But my suspicion is that I'll run into problems because the outer "loops" won't always line up with each other.

In any case, I'd really like to get this project all wrapped up by the end of this coming week, primarily because I have to get back to the wedding quilt---the wedding is only 5 weeks away, and I have lots of non-quilt-related stuff to do during that time, too. I ordered batting, and it should be here in a few days.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Seduced by Cotton Twill

The plan was to dig through three bins that might have suitable yardage for the wedding quilt backing. To get to them, however, I had to get past a bin overflowing with cotton twills ("khaki pants" in their previous life). In fact, I distinctly remember purposely overfilling that bin with the cut-up pants I'd chosen for my next plaited rug, specifically so that I'd notice and, hopefully, make the rug.

I know myself too well. Those almost velvety surfaces, the dense but not too firm hand, the subtle colors ... irresistible. All quilts have been temporarily supplanted. And we really do need another rug for the entry.

I never posted photos of my last rug project, so here they are.

I chose the lightest, most subtle colors and a complicated design with bilateral symmetry. 

The individual strips have anywhere from three to nine laces.
I love it! It's perfect with our tile, too. Twenty-six pairs of pants contributed, with enough fabric left over to fashion a large coffee table runner (not plaited---just made from the 2-inch strips). Plus the inevitable scraps.

The new rug will be a range of somewhat darker colors, although it's hard to tell in this photo. The darkest fabrics haven't been cut up yet. At the far left are the remaining whole pieces, to the right are six bundles of finished laces (all of which will be plaited together). In the middle are two sets of strips ready to fold and sew into laces (plus one bundle of laces). 

I'm deep into the project but, now, almost regret starting it. I'll be so busy with work (courtesy of a small avalanche of freelance projects) that I won't get to any quilts but the wedding quilt anytime soon. Ah well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Quilt for Snowflake the Stuffed Dog and Friends

A couple of weeks ago, I suggested to my 7-year-old step-grandson that we could make a quilt for his stuffed animals. He's been fascinated by my sewing machine for years (along with nearly every other machine and gadget he comes across), and I figured he's old enough to do some simple, well-supervised sewing. He was delighted and a little awed. ("I'm really old enough?")

I chose the nine-patch pattern, got his input on the overall size (we decided on 12" by 12"), and said he could pick anything from a sizable stack of my shirt fabrics. With impressive sureness, he made terrific choices. This kid really does have a talent for art.

Yesterday, I cut the patches, he sewed them (after a few practice pieces, and all the while showing a healthy concern for safety), in exactly the layout he wanted, and I did the rest. Snowflake likes red (and, incidentally, so does his owner), so the quilting thread is red and the backing is a tiny red-and-white check.

Snowflake and his buddies will be sleeping cozily and in style.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Four Quarters Done

I've been happily picking fabrics, cutting strips, and sewing---and the four quarters of the wedding quilt are done!
I'm short on well-lighted floor space, but this photo gives the overall idea. Only a few fabrics were used more than once. Two (a very dark blue plaid, and the central orange) I used three times each. So, this top has more than 60 different fabrics.

Here are a few of my favorite fabric combinations. I love the peaches, tans/browns, and off-white next to the red.

I used mostly 2-1/2-inch strips, but sometimes I went with 3 inches, and sometimes on only one side (and the central squares are different sizes, too), so here, I added in the blue/yellow stripe fabric to make up some inches. 
Great rusty and brown colors! The rust and white plaid was all small pieces, so that strip has lots of crazy seams and grain directions.
At first, I thought that the intense red/navy/yellow plaid, the wild multicolored stripe, and even the bright yellow/blue/white stripe would be too much for this quilt, and I set them aside. But by the fourth quarter, I was ready for them, and they look great! 
Now, I need to decide on backing fabric. Time to dig through my stash and see what largish yardage I can find.

All except two of the quilt-top fabrics are clothing, and almost all are men's shirts, which means almost all the fabrics are very fine and tightly woven. Safety pins literally tear the fabric. So instead, I'm going to pin baste with large straight pins and be VERY careful while quilting. The plan is to layer each half of the quilt separately. I'm hoping that working on a 43-inch-wide sandwich, and free-motion quilting a simple, smallish meandering pattern will make the straight pins workable. Leather gauntlets would be nice, too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

One-Quarter of the Wedding Quilt

My original plan was to focus only on value, to have alternating light and dark strips without much if any regard to color. But right from the beginning, I was organizing by color. I couldn't help it even when I firmly told myself not to.

After my first few fabric choices, which had color linkage despite my efforts, I could see that I just wasn't going to pay attention to the plan. I kept thinking, "That group of four greens looks so nice, and they segue so well into the beiges, which pick up the beige in the red-orange plaid, and the yellow/white/two-blue stripe looks great with the solid yellow," and on and on.

OK. New plan: groups of color-related fabrics, with the occasional sharp shift.

That's when it got fun. And I really like the way it's developing.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tracking Down Similar Quilts

I figured Deb Rowden's blog would be a good place to start looking for quilts similar to the wedding quilt I'm making. Sure enough! Here's one example, and here's another. I love these!

Beginning a Wedding Quilt

My husband's nephew is getting married in mid-May, and that definitely calls for a quilt! At first, I thought I had the perfect already-pieced top just waiting to be quilted. But, no. Although that one is very nice (albeit a bit straight-laced), it's mostly white with pastel stars. The nephew and the top are just not a good fit.

I took a look at those 100 shirts sitting on my cutting table. So many possibilities! But too many of my ideas were too labor intensive. I mean really, how much time am I going to have over the next two months?

The challenge was to find a pattern that (1) the soon-to-be-wed couple have a good chance of liking (2) I like, (3) is good for relaxed piecing (minimal need for precision cutting and matching), (4) has good energy---something on the bold and graphic side, (5) has enough but not too much creative challenge, (6) uses fabrics I already have, and (7) is easy to piece, with not too many patches. Not an easy task.

After much paging though quilt books and photos stored on the computer, and several days of brainstorming, I decided. It's a big, bold log-cabin-ish pattern---all plaids and stripes (and maybe a few oxford-type solids), sometimes cut straight, sometimes not. I know I've seen a quilt very much like it somewhere, but I can't track it down.

Here's the center:
The center is four squares, each 9 to 10 inches, finished, and these squares are not sewn to each other until the end. Strips (2 to 3 inches wide, finished) will be added to the outer two sides of each square until each quarter of the top reaches close to 45 by 45.  inches. Then I'll sew the quarters together. Actually, I think I'll make two halves, do most of the quilting, and then put the halves together. This is the perfect pattern for that approach.

I expect that 60 or more shirts will be donating to the project. The drabber blues will be underrepresented.

Monday, February 22, 2010

100 Shirts

Yup, you're looking at about 100 cut up shirts. (There are a couple of skirts in there too.) Many of the light fabrics are already in the hand-pieced tumbling blocks quilt top I've been working on for several years.

The red/yellow color overload of the spiral project has made me want to look again at these mostly calmer colors. I've been cutting up the last of the whole shirts, while thinking what I might do with them. So many possibilities! As much as I like the spiral project, I also need a project that takes less mental effort, yet doesn't get boring---rather like the orange plaids quilt.

Very Red. Very Yellow.

It's not much progress. But I'll take it. I also redid some of the yellow triangles section. I just wasn't happy with a couple of the fabrics. Also, I've been experimenting with the triangle-making methods in Liberated Quiltmaking II (photos of my efforts soon). This book came along at just the right time!

Frankly, the brightness of the colors can be a bit of a problem in a way I didn't expect. There are days when yellow and red are just too much for me---times when I'm stressed and need calming, not stimulation.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quilting the Plaids

With such a busy week, it's been good to have a relaxed, fun project to work on. Over the past weekend I pin basted and managed most of the machine quilting. Snatching some time one weekday evening, I finished it up.
The quilting really brings it to life and also softens the transitions a bit. Here's a close-up:
I had a few glitches here and there, but overall, this was the easiest and best-looking free-motion quilting I've done. With the spectacularly poor start to my machine-quilting efforts a few years ago, I've since tried to give myself every advantage. I can say that gloves with those little grippy dots, a teflon mat on the machine bed, a set-in table (giving a wide, very flat surface), and plenty of flat table space to the left and the back really help. Still, my Bernina and I were not working well together. I just couldn't get reasonably consistent stitch length. The cramped bed area was annoying. Never knowing when I'd run out of bobbin thread add more frustration. Every project was a high-stress affair, with aching back and genuinely bad quilting. I dreaded doing more. And frankly, that was one reason I started hand quilting.

It was also one of my motivations for getting a new machine, and this is my first free-motion quilting project using it. My Viking Sapphire 870 has five speeds, and speed 3 (a little faster than half) seems to mesh really well with how I move the quilt. It's such a relief to not have to pay attention to foot pressure on the pedal. I just press slowly (the machine has a very smooth start and acceleration) to do a neat start and then put my foot all the way down and concentrate on moving the quilt. Also, I like the spring-action foot. I set the foot lift to it's highest level and increase the tension well above (5.0) what the machine sets as the default (3.0). I love hearing the beeps to let me know I need to shorten my stitches before I run out of bobbin thread! The huge bed space really makes a difference. I actually enjoyed the machine quilting, and the lack of pain in my back was so nice.

It's a good thing this was a quilt without expectations, though. When I had an area just 6 inches by 9 inches to go, I ran out of thread. Completely out. My first reaction was "Oh no!" But then, I thought, "Oh well, what other thread do I have? How about the lavender?"

Works for me.

Next: I have the binding cut. Just need to find time to apply it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Progress with the Plaids

It's been a very busy week (and next week is looking about the same), but I made a point to carve out some quality time to get this quilt top done.

About two minutes after I published my last post, I realized I had actually proposed the possibility of redoing a hundred or more seams! No. Not happening. After mulling a little longer, and a good night's sleep, I decided on the following plan: (1) Reduce the size of the largest dark areas. (2) Find the muddiest of the transitions between fabrics and either add a thin dark strip, or delete the block.

Going through the blocks individually was a good exercise. I ended up deleting two blocks (so it's good I had three extras) and altering another five or six. I did almost no ripping. Mostly, I just sliced out the offending fabric or seam, sewed in a new piece, and retrimmed the block. Less than an hour, and I was done.

When sewing the blocks together, I put most of the larger blocks (those purposely cut more than 8-1/2 inches in one direction) into one strip, to "show them up," and I made sure I had opposing zig-zag columns. But that was the extent of the plan. Otherwise, I just picked up two blocks, and if I liked them next to each other, fine. If not, I picked up another. I really enjoyed putting the blocks together that way. Much more fun than planning out every placement and having to keep everything in order while sewing.

I like it! So does my 7-year-old grandson---at least I think so. He gave it two wows, but that was at least partly caused by shock. This quilt top does assault the eye.

I plan to quilt it with all-over meandering (the only free-motion machine quilting I do reasonably well). In any case, I'm sorry to say it's going to be a while before I'll have the time to baste and quilt.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This One Certainly Is Exhuberant

The plaids have been cut up and sewn, with not too much left over. Here are 45 8-1/2-inch blocks (for 5 columns of 9), plus an extra 3 (which I accidentally made because I'm bad at counting), and a stack of 3-inch strips for sashing:

This will make a fairly small quilt, about 55" by 72".

Here's a sample layout.

Wow. Pretty intense. Good thing the sashing is calming. I like the orange and the opposing zig-zags. The rest, breaks some rules. I can't help but be fond of it just on that account. Maybe it has both too much and not enough contrast. Or maybe the contrast could be better arranged?

Hmm. I'm considering adding a very narrow, very dark strip between all or most of the light strips (I have plenty of the two dark fabrics), and cutting down all or most of the big dark strips. It's at least worth some experimenting.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Experiment

The spiral project is coming along nicely, although slowly, but I got distracted by this:

I've been collecting madras-type plaids--shirts, dresses, etc.--that I thought would go well with some similar yardage I've had for many years. All together, they've finally reached critical mass--enough to make a bed-sized quilt with a fair amount of variety.

The colors fall into two main groups--the citrus and the turquoise/pink--showing their respective vintages. Interestingly, they both include the same lavender and other purples.

My plan was to come up with an easy to stitch free-style design. Lately, I've been very taken with strip-pieced blocks made into strippy-type quilts. And I liked the idea of having the bright orange provide a focus for each block. So, I settled on 8-inch squares, pieced so that the orange diagonals make a bold zig-zag line. I'll use the subdued green/blue plaid for vertical sashing strips.

The pieced fabric looks pretty wild:
After trimming, the blocks look marginally more civilized:

Can hardly wait to see how it looks when it's done!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Day of Piecing

I was very lucky to be able to spend yesterday piecing the spiral quilt top and doing other fun, solitary things. The time was well spent working out some process stuff and making design decisions--the sorts of things you really need uninterrupted time for, plus a fresh eye and unburdened mind.

Originally, I planned the yellow part of the spiral to be strips, randomly pieced. I did a few samples and didn't like them. The red part is going to be nearly all squares--chunks of various checkerboard patterns--and I didn't want the yellow part to compete too strongly with that. But when the strips didn't work out, I kept thinking "triangles."

Triangles. My next thought was all that matching and points and dealing with bias. But, I said to myself, I'm not doing that kind of quilt. It's a freewheeling, boisterous, outside-the-lines kind of quilt. Can I make triangles in a way that doesn't drive me crazy and also makes them look good (to me, at least)? Worth a shot.

First, the heck with even thinking about matching points. (I did measure and rotary cut the strips, but I wasn't obsessive.) Then, I just layered two strips and eyeballed a 45-degree angle, with a little help from some tape on the machine bed. I kept going and then cut the strips apart into half-square triangles.
I ended up with lots of very regular patches, plus just enough with variations. I was having so much fun that I went ahead and pieced together a bunch of scraps, and all the words, too.

Here's the quilt center with the first part of the spiral attached. You can see how uneven the upper edge is. Oh well. It'll be interesting to see how that turns out.