Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring in the backyard!

Living in Minnesota gives you a deeper appreciation for the changes that come with 4 seasons, particularly after this last winter.  Spring is finally here and looking great.  Over the 17 years that we have been in this house Steve has worked to improve the backyard.  We now have a private park out my back door.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Photo
The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is currently visiting the yard in groups of 3-6 or more.  The coloring is so clear and crisp.  They like the feeder and will just sit and munch.

American Goldfinch PhotoRight now we have the beautiful Goldfinch in his brilliant mating splendor.  They stay all year round but are the fabulous bright yellow from mid-April to about September. They are small and flit around the yard all day long.  Baltimore Oriole Photo
The Oriole has been working the yard for the past week also.  Steve puts out the grape jelly they like so much along with the cut oranges. We have seen half a dozen in the yard at one time or another.  They are also snacking at the hummingbird feeder Steve has put out.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Photo  Even the hummingbirds are coming back now.  They seem to be the late arrivers at the party.

Steve says that he has seen 1 Indigo Bunting this spring as well.
Indigo Bunting Photo

This seasonal migrating birds are in addition to our regular bird population of Robins, Wrens, House Finches, Sparrows, Grackles, Bluejays, Starlings, Swallows, Red Winged Blackbirds,  Mallard Ducks, the occasional Red Tailed Hawk and even a Bald Eagle every now and then.  It is just consatant entertainment watching the backyard.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Handwork is Good

I started working on this quilt a number of years ago based on a line drawing in a Marti Michelle pattern book on Hexagons.  I like English Paper Piecing and liked the tumbling blocks concept of this design so I started collecting fabrics.

I wanted to do something that was really just color gradations and not showcasing fabric patterns.  Knowing that I didn't need a lot of yardage in any one fabric meant that I could look at smaller quantities of many fabrics.  A trip to Mary Jo's in North Carolina a couple of years ago resulted in lots of options and more dollars than what I had planned.  Oh well, it is a hand project and will last for quite awhile.

I was right about the amount of time but wrong about not needing more fabric.  For the last couple of years I have played with the gradations and made a number of blocks.  In the last month or so we have had a couple of long haul road trips where I was able to tack the fabric while Steve motors us down the road.  Last week I realized that I needed to start putting this on the wall so I can see what I actually have completed, what needs to get changed and what I need to add or edit. I also spent time working out the general placement in EQ7.

My what a difference putting it on the wall made.  I now see that I have a couple of fabrics that are too dark or too green versus teal.  I have figured out what "nine patch"star blocks I want to add into this design and have most of the placement /colors worked out.  I know I want to add a pieced border using the same diamond units to carry the colorful theme all the way out.

I still have some blocks to make but my reluctance to continue the project has been resolved and I have a better plan in mind.  Now I am jazzed to keep working on this.  I have most of it cut and prepped.  This weekend I am going to start working on the "nine patch" star blocks to see just how much of a challenge it is going to be.  I think I will do at least some of it as paper foundation piecing before I whip stitch the 3 diamond row together.  Not sure about the process yet but i should be entertaining.  I will let you know....

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Quilt Retreats

I love it when I get to spend a weekend with quilters and just focus on getting stuff done while having time to chat as well.  When there are 2 retreats within 3 weeks it is amazing what you can get done.

So the first retreat was at Gruber's in St Cloud.  This was my first time there and I really likes the arrangement.  I can see that with 10-16 people it would get crowded but the work room was really nice and the beds where a treat after Lake Beauty for so many years. I will definitely go back and the price was very good at $50 a night for the first two nights and then $25 for each additional night.  You fend for yourself on food but that really wasn't a problem with so many choices in the immediate area.

The big danger here is that Gruber's is right across the parking lot.  They made out well on each of us over the weekend.  Now I know why the rates are low, the sales are clearly higher.

I put together Danielle's off-center log cabin and thought it was a great, quick pattern.  This past weekend I finished the quilt top with a border to complete the look.  Page is going to quilt it with simple clean lines to carry through the "modern" quilt look and then it is going to a couple of shows.

The second retreat was the Midnight Monster's gathering at Emma Krumbee's in Belle Plain.  With 22 of us it gets a little tight and noisy some times but always fun.  I worked on the arc's for the Bachelor Wedding Ring.  There were only another 120 of those that I needed - I have to put them onto the melons for the next step.

I got the border on Danielle's quilt shown above and I finished the applique on the quilt for Chase's raffle as part of her year as president of the Children of the American Revolution in Maryland.  I got the whole top assembled and ready for quilting.  Page was willing to move the quilt to the top of the list so I can get it bound and off to Chase for the sale of raffle tickets.  (a couple of years ago I did a quilt for her brother and it help generate $4500 in fund raising for injured vets)  Chase should have the quilt by the first of April for her installment as state president.  Let me know if you want a raffle ticket.

I don't have any more retreats planned in the near future but I might think about it if I can get this much done in just a weekend or two.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Doilies in Blue with Scalloped border

Doilies in Blue
Back to the stash one more time.  I saw this quilt demonstrated on Simply Quilts about 15 years ago.  I had drawn out the basic directions at the time but I had to redesign the blocks when I sat down to make it.

This is a very quick and simple quilt that is fun to make.  The fans or heart shaped doilies are a quarter cut of a 14 in Battenburg lace doily (ordered online) set into a log cabin style framing square.  The blocks are placed on point with simple sash and corner stones.

The quilt is 54 x 64 with an 80:20 batt.  I worked with Page Johnson of The Quilting Page to use a motif that laid down the quilting in a feather as the shape of the scallop.  This made adding the piping along the feather spine a simple and very even line to follow - a variation on foundation piecing where you just stitch on the printed line.  Adding the binding was easy but a little tricky in the deep valleys.

Side Note:  There is a queen sized version of this quilt that was made as a signature quilt for a wedding reception.  Guests are asked to sign a separate piece of paper (keeps the mistakes off the quilt) which is then slid in behind the doily and traced using a pigma pen.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Red Velvet

I started this quilt when I was still living in Atlanta, so some time before 1997.  I had seen the cotton velvet used in a quilt at a Quilt & Sewing Expo and thought it was really  appealing. 

I went about finding the cotton velvet to use in my quilt.  At the same time that I was looking for the fabric the Log Cabin With a Twist was popular.  Brainstorm:  Velvet and Log Cabin,  Ooooh that would be good.  What I didn't know is that this stuff stretches like a knit and wants to unravel if abused in the slightest.  Clearly this was a bit over my head at the time.  I started and kept having trouble with the fabric shifting and twisting and messing up.  After a while it became one of those back of the shelf projects that I needed to think about.

Years later, the Glad's Staff Quilt Show was Log Cabins.  Great, I have one the is partially finished and what a great reason to get it done.  Besides now I had more skills and experience, lets get it done.  I figured out that it would be much better if I used Golden Threads paper to make-up a paper piecing template to keep the logs straight and to give the velvet some stability until I could get the next round of logs on. 

I was stitching away and putting the blocks together at a retreat when I realized that some of the older blocks were really stretched out of useable shape.  So I ended up with a much smaller top than planned (I think the rejects are in dog beds somewhere).  What I left out of my plan was a couple of buiness trips that happened just before the quilt show so I never got the quilt top layered and quilted.

At the end of 2013 I ran into the project yet again while going through fabric for another quilt.  Looking at it anew I was sure that I could get it quilted and have something I would like.  Over the holidays I worked on the quilt with Page Johnson to come up with a quilting motif that would cement the layers together to stabilize the velvet and be appropriate for the formal design of the quilt.  With the addition of the lace in the cream area across from the velvet I had to fuss with the quilt as the Statler was running.  It was real easy for the hopping foot to catch the lace and just pull it out. 

While it has taken many years to get it done, I think I really like this quilt. (Yes it was a sunny day when I took the photos)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mandala Quilt with RaNae Merrill

Last spring I took a class on Mandala Quilts at Empty Spools in Asilomar, California.  My friend Meg flew into San Francisco and I drove down from Reno.  We took our time along the California coast highway driving down to Monterrey.  I had never been in that part of the country and found the drive to be really gorgeous.  Warning:  You better have a full tank of gas, water to drink and a recent potty stop before you head south on the coast highway because it is long stretches of fabulous scenery but few services along the way.

The Monterrey Aquarium was all that it promised.  The best displays were the sea otters and the numerous jelly fish displays.  The sea otters were just plain fun to watch.  There were probably 10 - 15 different tanks of jellyfish.  All different sizes and shapes.  They backlit each tank with a different colored light which really made the jellyfish glow.  Oh yeah, the seahorses were pretty amazing too.

Asilomar was quiet the location.  Some of the buildings are along the vintage of the great lodges in the national parks.  Wonderful old wood structures with beautiful wood plank floors and antique tiled bathrooms.  Really a very striking retreat area with an easy walk to the beaches.  In April it was a little cool so no swimmers but a delightful alternative to the lingering winter in Minnesota.

Magnificent Spiral  Mandala Quilts  (Book with CD  plus bonus materials)The class with RaNae was interesting,  We had a class of about 20 very experienced quilters.  Some had strong design backgrounds with a real flair for the graphics while others had incredible color sense.  On the one hand the design is a complicated paper piecing layout with lots of small pieces, while on the other hand it is paper piecing so just stitch on the lines.  Playing with the fabric placement and working with mirror imaging or rotational spin ensured that each persons' design was quite unique.

I have the Mandala totally pieced.  I decided to add yellow piping to to separate the Mandala from the black setting border and the floral border.  The outside fabric was the theme for the other fabrics in the Mandala.  The use of Jan Krentz's large mirrors made it much easier to look at how the units were going to fit together.

I still have work to do on this wall hanging.  Once I had the Mandala on the floral fabric and started looking I realized that the center of it is so heavy with multiple layers that it really sagged with held against a wall.  I really need to go in and trim away some weight.  I also see that the Mandala does not sit square to the floral fabric so I have to reposition it anyway. 

I have talked with Page Johnson about some quilting ideas.  With all of the busy-ness in design and fabric the quilting is not going to be a showcase so I have to consider how much to do beyond stabilizing the design and minimizing the stress from the sheer weight of the unit.

Now that I know more about the technique I will use pieces of it again.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I had to take an inventory

I am always amazed at how fast the pages on the calendar flip over.It seems like I have things planned out and before I know what happened I am already behind. 

I have been going through the photos and coming up with a list of what I got done in 2013.  Despite the fact that I was in a one room closet for most of the year, I did do a lot of sewing.  I think they call it escapism.  I decided that I had to come up with a list of what is done and what is at The Quilting Page for quilting (I get to count those twice - once in 2013 and celebrate completion in 2014).

So here is the list and then I can build separate blog pages for each over the next couple of days.
  1. Migration By Night - there is an entry for this already
  2. Fabulous Fifty - A Glad Creations Mystery pattern
  3. Renee Merrill's Mandela quilt - Interesting class and process
  4. Large Doily quilt for a wedding guest registry
  5. Small Doily quilt for a sample and to test the scalloped border concept
  6. Red Velvet Quilt
  7. Diana's signature quilt
  8. Oriental Four Patch Posey
  9. 5 Doily gift quilts
  10. Chronicle Quilt
  11. The Blue Kaleidoscope
  12. My Christmas Card fiasco
  13. And a posting for the fabulous stuff that Steve has finished in the last couple of weeks - retirement suits him well
 I realize that I don't have photos right now for some of these quilts so I will have to work on those postings in the coming days.
Now that I look at the list I guess it was a lot of different stuff - this may take me more than a day or two to get entered.