Sunday, August 12, 2018

Quilting in a New Medium

DH built me a fence, but it is really a tall screen behind which I can hide the garden tools, wheelbarrows, recycling, garbage can...all the detritus of household and landscape management.  We have a faux pond, which we built to catch runoff when we have our occasional gully-washers.  It is a landscape feature with plantings in and around it.  The junkyard behind it was not attractive and spoiled the whole picture.  The fence is doing its job, but was boring and stood out like a sore thumb with its bright, fresh wood.  Odd looking.

I gathered up some flat slabs of old, gray wood that have been lying around the yard for years and years.  I arranged them on the fence and DH attached them.  The fencing is a calm, repetitive background, but too bright.  The irregular, weathered slabs added interest reminiscent of a modern quilt, and toned down the brilliance, but it still lacked something.

 It needed some quilting!

My grandfather bought this cabin in 1938.  He built a little porch where the view is best and put up 3 inch poles around it as rails.  Then he collected a lot of shapely, mountain driftwood and painted it brown like the house.  He nailed all the driftwood pieces to the poles instead of regular balusters to keep us kids from falling off the porch.  Several years ago we built a new, much larger deck across the house and those pieces of driftwood have been sitting around with nothing to do.  What better use for them than to "quilt" my fence....and so I did!  They add texture, contrast and design.  It is all a bit funky, but fun.  It has meaning to my family.  It is functional.  I love it.

"Quilted Fence"
Now, for some big, metal butterflies to add the final touch.  I'll know them when I see them.

Showing a bit of the faux pond, wildflowers and iris.
Try something in a different medium this week.  Broaden your horizons.  Have fun.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Yo-Yo Quilting

This title does not refer to making fabric yo-yos.  Not my thing, but my daughter loves doing them and has several forms to help the process.  I read an article about yo-yo exercising and how bad it is for you.  That means stopping your regular exercise routine for awhile, going back to the routine, dropping it again, etc.  Supposedly this is hard on your muscles, joints and heart.  This summer I have been yo-yo quilting, which means I haven't gotten much done on my quilt.  I have been stitching my yard together instead as you know if you have followed my last few posts.  I doubt that the start and stop, lack of routine of quilting every day is going to affect my physical health.   My mental health is keeping in shape with other accomplishments around the place, and now I am looking at three wonderful weeks of family visits and gatherings so the poor quilt will probably continue to moulder until life returns to normal in September.  By then I will be so eager to return to the peace of quiet quilting every day.

My mother was a happy, creative soul and collected books and pamplets on how to do this and that.  She had a wide range of handwork interests and made beautiful things, including a few quilts.  My sister was going through stuff last week and turned some of Mom's old books over to me.  I have had fun going through them, but they are at least 70 years old and don't hold much interest anymore as today's techniques and tools have moved far beyond the scope of these books. However, I found a quote in one that is apropos of quilting (and other pursuits):

"One is happy as a result of one's own efforts, once one knows the necessary ingredients of happiness -- simple tastes, a certain degree of courage, self denial to a point, love of work, and, above all, a clear conscience.  Happiness is no vague dream, of that I [k]now for certain."  George Sand (Amadine Dupin), writer.

Making things keeps me joyful:  quilts, garden beds, jam, log piles, photos.....

Log pile
My log pile is a thing of beauty compared to the ugly slash pile that used to be there.

My struggling iris
We had to hook up to the city sewer this year and the big digging machines tore up the yard badly.  I had to dig up my iris in the middle of winter, trim them, wash them, dry them, and store them in the basement.  When I pulled them out to replant in June they were desiccated versions of their former selves.  It seemed hopeless to plant them, but I did.  They may look puny, but most of them are growing.  I hope they make it through the winter.

I have wanted hollyhocks for years.  I planted seeds last summer and they got about 2 inches tall.  I wondered if they would make it through the winter.  They did and I have a pink bloom ready to burst.

Sew some happy seams this week or enjoy some activity that keeps your mind and body busy.  I wish you joy and happiness.  Now I am off to buy some blueberries for the final batch of jam.

Sunday, July 29, 2018


What did you think of when you read the title of this post?  Travel?  Beaches?  Baseball games?  Picnics?  Scenic drives?  Vacation? Floating down a river?  Nice thoughts, but not at my house.  Instead I have been busy using the chain saw to cut big tree limbs into logs, pulling weeds, burning slash, cleaning house, making jam, sculpting the landscape, transplanting.  There is always something that needs to be done.  The only regular thing in my life right now is walking the dog every morning.  Sewing is not.

Why is sewing off the schedule?  I have been working on this quilt for a year now.  I am not tired of doing it, but I guess I needed a break.  I have so many ideas in my head, but I find myself having to do some tedious micro-stippling, black on black on background parts.  Don't get me wrong...I love to quilt, but all the other activities have kept me so tired that it seemed like a break would be a good thing.  It won't last long because I derive such joy from stitching when I am not inundated with all the other things that can only be done now in the summertime.

I love gaillardia and someday may make a quilt featuring one or more.  Heaven knows I have enough photos of them.  I made the following film strip in Photoshop.  Just another way to create.

 Enjoy your summertime.  I wish you no fires or floods, but lots of outdoor fun.

Monday, July 16, 2018


So sorry.  No quilting this week.  I am cleaning up a horrible, ugly mess of tree branches that have piled up over the years.  They are the result of fire mitigation as we live in a dry climate and summer is dangerous for us even though we live up in the mountains.  One to two hours in the morning wielding a chain saw and loppers, building a log stack, and burning the little stuff has left me like a pile of jello by noon.  No sewing under those conditions so I am doing genealogy research.  I don't need a seam ripper for that, just the delete key.

We are enjoying this year's batch of mule deer fawns.  One day the mama left her speckled twins in our care as she went off to forage for awhile.  This is normal behavior and the little ones stay put until mom returns.  Some people think they have been abandoned, but that is not so.  Don't ever try to handle  or "rescue" them.  Instead enjoy them from a distance as a precious gift..

Sew some happy seams this week or enjoy the gifts of summertime.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Block Party Adventure

I am on a roll.  Every new block that requires a design ends up getting changed.  Should I have done some sort of overall design for this quilt?  I keep second guessing myself, but the mosaic-type design and bold colors don't lend themselves to an overall design in my mind.  Maybe I am losing my mind!

Case in point:
I have four turquoise blocks that anchor the corners of the design.  What to do with them?  I came up with a design I liked and I posted it last week, but here it is again.

When I look at it I see some wimpy red feathers and a bunch of pebbles that compete with the feathers.  It looks OK, but I want more than OK.  Yesterday I did a second one and made some changes.  I added mini-spines in each leaf of the feathers and in the process built up the red thread in the main spine.  Wow!  What a difference.  Now the feathers are calling to the eye to look at them.  I quit for the day before doing the pebbles.  Oh my, I like it better without them.  The photo doesn't really show the puff, but now the center is enhanced by a puffy frame.  The design is delicate and bold at the same time.  This block is only 4 inches so the frame isn't huge.  I am going to rip out the pebbles of the first block and do the rest without them. I can always put something in there if I want to.  Maybe it needs another line to echo the outside curve.  Time will tell and I will decide when I can see all four corners finished.

And that, my friends, is how I quilt:  by the seat of my pants with the seam ripper nearby.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you adventurous quilting to keep you fresh.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Stitch or Puff - Evolution of a Design

I have four blocks on this quilt that are turquoise, as opposed to the black and rust of all the other blocks.  I stitched out the design I had drawn.  It had gold quilting in the center in a wavy grid, which I did first.  By the time I finished the rest of the quilting I noticed that the gold didn't even show.  It had no character.  What do do?  I decided to remove the gold stitching from the 2 inch center.  Then I sprayed it with water to relax the fibers.  As I walked by later I noticed the the center of the block now puffed up and looked so pretty, except for the seam down the middle.

Gold removed.  You can see old stitch marks.  Nice puff in the center square. 
  I placed a pin perpendicular to the seam to see what it would look like with four quadrants defined.  Voila!  I liked the puff in four quarters better than the closer stitching that had been there.  So...I stitched two straight, perpendicular lines and then a little, accent line in between, all with gold.  The gold still doesn't show much, but the puff does.  In the right light there is a bit of glitz visible.

Gold stitching in the center.  Puff remains.
TIP:  Sometimes you can't plan ahead, so be open to ideas as they stumble across your quilt.

I don't like the poor backstitching on two of the feathers.  I think I will do them over because they are so visible with the red thread.  Yes, I know!  I am fussy.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you design serendipity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Designs Under Duress

Have you ever heard that you are supposed to plan your quilting before you even begin piecing?  When I first began quilting this concept was way beyond my imagination.  I think it takes practice doing actual quilting before you are ready to think ahead very much.  Now I find myself at least thinking about how I will quilt the top while I am busy putting it all together.  Then I sit down and draw out my ideas on tracing paper.  BUT...

Sometimes those designs don't do justice to the quilt.  Grrrrrrr!  This results in ripping and re-designing.  My current quilt is the item under siege at the moment.   It truly has a mind of it own.  Gradually I have made my way out from the center with a fair amount of doing and re-doing.  I have stitched ideas on my scraps, but sometimes even those don't work out.  I have stitched new designs onto the quilt itself when I was sure they were perfect.  But they weren't.  Rrrrriipppppp!  Design looks dorky.  Thread color is wrong. Orientation is wrong.  I was off my feed and the stitching is wonky.

If... I mean when...this happens to you, pull out the bulldog in yourself and let it off the leash.  Rest a bit, but please don't give up.  Designs under duress are often the best ones yet and that is happening to me at this point.  I am now happy and eager to carry through around the other three sides of the quilt.  It is so much easier to quilt when you love how the design looks.  Sometimes you just have to listen to what the quilt is saying.  Sometimes it really has a mind of its own.

The quilt chose this design  It didn't like the orignal plan.
I hate to admit to all the ripping I did before this plan evolved.  This has been a very chatty quilt!  BTW the lighter color filler lines in the feathers is metallic gold.  It makes the quilt sparkle and glow.  The little square at the top is also stitched in gold.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you perfect designs even if under duress.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Is it Cheating?

I am doing free motion quilting (FMQ), and work on a sit-down, domestic machine.  I don't have rulers because I have chosen not to spend the money on a special foot and all the rulers.  Straight lines are problematic when FMQ-ing.  They are probably one of the hardest part of any design.  I have done many of them and am not too bad at it, but I would prefer to avoid the imperfections that I invariably create.  So I cheat.  I put on a standard straight foot (actually my appliqué foot for visual clarity) and stitch with the help of the feed dogs.  In the designs I am currently doing there are a lot of almost straight lines and they look so much better with the cheat method.  I thumb my nose at the Quilt Police.

Is this really cheating?  Of course not!!  I believe that you need to do whatever will accomplish your vision.  I am not a purist, but you need be sure it will work on your quilt without puckering either the top or backing.  The only way to test this is to try it on your actual quilt.  You might have to do a little ripping if it don't do too much for starters.

TIP:  The best way to prevent puckering is to stitch all your piecing and appliqué in the ditch (SID) before you begin any fancy quilting.  This way you have small areas secured.  Every line of stitching takes up a little bit of fabric so there is just a little bit less to bubble up.

Stitching straight guided by my favorite marking tool (Sewline Pencil).
Even those curved leaves came out nicely and there were no puckers.
Another thing to think about is the size of your quilt.  If you need to outline even a little 2 inch square, you will have to turn your quilt four times to make it around.  This may not be practical on a bed-sized quilt.  I make smaller quilts and have a machine with a roomy harp so I am not having a problem except that it is a bit of a nuisance.  However, I think it is worth it to get the straight lines and even stitches.  I also have the whole quilt well secured with lots of SID (every single seam!).

TIP:  You can use your dual feed or walking foot, but the SID allows the use of a regular foot.  I find it hard to maneuver my thick quilt under the dual feed foot.  It depends on your machine and quilt.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you success in evading both the Quilt Police and puckers.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Second Place Stitching

I am in a place where stitching comes second.

Summer is here:  lots of yardwork after the plumbers tore up the yard to hook us into the city sewer.

DH recovering from major surgery:  double duty for yours truly.

24 hour stomach upset:  just me, thank goodness; 48 hour recovery.

Ponderosa pine pollen:  all over the place, leaving us with headaches and sneezes.  It looks like yellow snow on the cars, furniture, kitchen counters, etc.  Lots of dusting to do every day.

Ponderosa pollen covers everything with yellow dust.
Clearly sewing takes second, third or fourth place in this scenario.  However, free motion thinking proceeds as usual, and I think I finally came up with a solution for quilting four, black blocks in my quilt.  I tried it on the actual quilt and below is the result.

Top motif on the black square has been the troublemaker.
Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you inspiration that solves your problems.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Where Have I Been?

Actually I have been home.  It started with house guests - my daughter and grandaughter.  What fun!  We got one hike in when DH developed some scary symptoms and within a week had donated a kidney to the pathology lab.  It all happened so fast, but he is now recovering well.  It sent the family into a spin and I have been too busy doing double duty here at home to spend time writing or sewing. Sewing was curtailed additionally by the fact that my granddaughter was sleeping with my sewing machine until time to report to camp where she is a counselor this summer.

I am now back to quilting and making good progress on a lot of tedious, small designs.  I am slowly making my way to the outer verges of the quilt, and looking forward to working on large feathers in a wide border.

I am also pondering what to quilt on four squares, each 4 inches.  I drew a design, but now that I am there I don't like it.  What do you do when you get stumped on what to do?

1.  Head for Pinterest for ideas.  I do not mean copy verbatim, but be inspired and let your brain digest what you see until your own creative ideas emerge.

2.  Grab pencil and paper.  Draw your ideas.  Some work.  Some don't.  Some lead to interesting effects.  Pretty soon you will have a design worth trying with your needle.

Playtime with pencil, trying a couple of ideas.
3.  Work it out on a scrap sandwich made from the same batting and fabric in your quilt.

Playtime with needle; three ideas on one block.
I still don't like any of the ideas with needle.  The corners are a serious issue.  Yes, it is wonky in the tester, but will be straight and precise on the quilt with better stitching.  This is only a scrap venue for trying it out in a hurry.

4. (optional)  Go back to #1 and hunt for more ideas.  Go further afield than just Pinterest.  Play with it.  In the meantime there are many other parts of the quilt to stitch.  It will come together eventually.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you a plethora of ideas.