Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finished quilt top

To finish putting together my new quilt top, I un-sewed the strips of squares where necessary, rearranging them until I had 20 rows of squares in the correct pattern. Then I numbered the rows with a pencil on the back of the first square on the left of each row. I pinned the loose squares together and re-sewed where needed. At this point all the seams were pressed in the same direction. I took the odd rows and re-pressed the seams in the opposite direction. This is important (I have learned this the hard way). When you sew the strips of squares together, the seams need to nestle into one another, and so they need to be pressed in the opposite direction. I sewed the 20 strips together, pressing the seams open, and had the center of my quilt. The photo below is the back of the quilt, and you can see the seams in each strip of squares pressed in opposite directions.

I chose 3 of the fabrics for a simple triple border. I have been hoarding the red fabric in the final border, using it sparingly in this and that project. I decided I finally had to use it liberally in a project for myself. My hand quilting will show up on this fabric, since it is less busy than some of the other fabrics in this quilt. I plan to quilt the center in a simple grid pattern (easy to do while traveling), and the border in a braid. See the final quilt top below.

I hand-basted the top, batting and backing together late last night. I will be tired today, but I don't plan to get too far tonight. A new road trip! I do love to travel. I will look for quilt shops and inspiration as I go, blogging “on location” as I can.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Busy week, new quilt

I have had a busy week after arriving back home with my daughter Genevieve and granddaughter Danica in tow. My husband and I took Danica floating on the Current River last week and had a fabulous time. Thank goodness for sunscreen! It was hot, but we didn’t get burned. Genevieve had another chemotherapy session and is doing well this time, thanks to the massive dose of steroids she is now getting with the chemo. She even felt well enough afterward to eat pasta and a sandwich from the Whole Foods deli and do a little “retail therapy” at the Galleria mall in St. Louis. I’ve cooked all week—whatever Genevieve feels like eating. And then there has been laundry and garden-watering, and even a little sewing!

I haven’t finished quilting Genevieve’s recovery quilt—that’s going to take a while. But I decided I had to have something new, easy, and fun to hand quilt during my next road trip, which starts tomorrow. My daughter Anne and I are headed to Colorado to help my sister put on her step-daughter’s wedding. I turned to the simplest of shapes—the square—for a fast project, and to my 1930’s reproduction stash for the fabrics. Working with these fabrics makes me happy—the prints are SO cheerful, and I’m frequently reminded of my grandmother’s quilts.

I began by choosing 24 fabrics, mostly fat quarters I hadn’t used yet, and arranging them in a sort of “color wash.” Each fabric has a bit of color in common with its neighbor so that when they are placed adjacent to each other, they begin to run together. See my fabric choices above. I eventually eliminated the two fabrics at the bottom right.

The template for Kaffe Fassett’s “Boston Common” quilt is a 3-inch square, but I wanted a much smaller project I can work on while traveling. I cut two 2-inch strips from each fat quarter and sewed them together, carefully keeping them in order to preserve the color-wash effect.

I created a new striped fabric and pressed the seams to one side, all in the same direction. I then cut 2-inch strips—squares by the strip! See the photo below.

The squares in “Boston Common” are arranged in a rectangular pattern, which I tried with my squares. But I wanted to keep my project small and quickly realized I would need a lot more fabric to accomplish the “Boston Common” look. So I arranged my squares in a stair-step pattern, with my favorite red fabric in the center and the black print slightly off-center. The black print is so strong that it immediately attracts the viewer’s eye, and I did not want it to divide my quilt down the middle. I decided on a size of 20 by 20 squares, which are 1½ inches finished, to give me a center medallion of 30 by 30 inches. This size, with borders, will be large enough for a table topper, but small enough to quilt while traveling.

In the photo above, you see the process of arranging the strips of squares in a pleasing stair-step pattern. Tomorrow: the finished top.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Quilt as desired"

I always chuckle when I read quilt directions that say “quilt as desired.” I usually want a little more help than that because I’m afraid I’m going to ruin my beautiful quilt top, that my quilting will not be nice enough. In the case of my “Recovery Quilt,” I decided that complicated quilting would be lost in the busy fabrics. The directions for all three triangle quilts in Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts say to stitch-in-the-ditch around each patch, and that is exactly what I am doing with my triangle quilt, starting with the diagonal lines and then the grid lines. I plan to do free-motion outline quilting on the sunflowers in the border.

But there will be a temporary break in the quilting action so I can drive Genevieve and Danica from their house in Tennessee to mine in Missouri—a four-hour drive through the beautiful Ozark mountains. Wish me luck on the road. Heaven knows how many stops I will have to make with a chemo patient and a 4-year-old. Maybe they will sleep all the way.

Danica and the "Postage Stamp" doll quilt I made for her.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Quilt sandwich

I arranged my pinwheel blocks in 10 rows of 12 blocks each (above), resulting in a size of about 40 x 48 inches. I finished with a simple triple border—3 fabrics in borders ¾ inch, 2 inches, and 5 inches wide. (The border is shown in a close-up at the end of this post.) This added about 15 inches to the size of the quilt. I felt it needed to be bigger, but I ran out of steam making all those triangles!

Next came my “quilt sandwich.” I pieced the backing of brushed cotton—not as heavy as flannel—and cut Warm and Natural batting to fit the back (above). I build my quilts on my living room floor, which I wash first just to make sure there is no lingering bicycle grease—which, if you know my husband, you also know this is entirely possible. I taped down the backing, pulling just slightly to make sure there were no wrinkles or bumps.

I layered the batting, then the top, smoothing from the center out and using a ruler to make sure the top was straight (above). I used quilter’s spray glue, spraying each layer on the wrong side from the center outward. This glue is nasty stuff. If you use it, you will have to open windows and probably turn on the attic fan to get the fumes out of your house! The spray glue does the job for me—it keeps the layers of the quilt from sliding during machine quilting and washes out in water. But it also gums up the needle and seems to make the quilt sandwich slightly stiffer. I also pinned the layers together using brass pins and a grapefruit spoon (below) to help me close the pins. My quilt sandwich was then ready for quilting, which is what I have been working on for the past few days.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Making triangles

In Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts, there are 4 quilts based on triangles. “Clay Tiles” and “Indigo Points” are the same quilt, except “Indigo Points” has a border around each block of 9 half-square triangles. In these two quilts, the dark triangles are all set in the same direction, sort of like sailboats on the sea. The directions say to cut 504 light triangles and 504 dark triangles. The finished squares are only 2 inches. That’s 504 very small bias seams you would be sewing if you made the blocks that way. There is, of course, an easier way: make half-square triangles. Here is a good tutorial on how to make them: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/pub__9719776.pdf

Because I already had a stack of 5” charm squares, I cut my additional fabric into 5-inch strips, then cut the strips into 5-inch squares. Then, left to right in the picture below, on half the squares, I drew a pencil line from one corner to the opposite. I sewed a quarter inch away from each side of the line, then cut the squares in half on the line and pressed the seams open.

I made a lot of triangles for this quilt and ultimately rejected some of them because the fabric didn’t blend well, including a navy blue floral and a tan floral shown in the picture. I never waste time worrying over what to do with rejected blocks. It’s part of the creative experience! (I’ll probably use them for a baby quilt for my guild’s layette project. We make baby quilts and donate them to the county health department to be included in layettes for new mothers who might not otherwise be able to afford new items for their babies.)

I kept 120 of the half-square triangles and decided to set my triangles like pinwheels, alternating light and dark. Many of my fabrics are in the medium-range tone, so the light and dark setting is not always obvious. The quilt measures 10 squares by 12 squares.

A video

Yesterday I watched 3 short videos of a Kaffe Fassett design workshop. Here’s the link to the first one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YikU6Rde6TQ&feature=related  I also sewed a little with “help” from my 4-year-old granddaughter. I highly recommend Crayola Color Wonder markers—they only mark in the special Color Wonder coloring book. Danica colored with minimal supervision while I sewed—and then got into the thread and buttons. I am quilting the recovery quilt at this point, wrestling with the bulk of the thing in a small sewing space at my daughter’s house. Now I want to show you how I put the quilt together ….

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Recovery quilt

I have to finish this quilt, I just have to. It’s a “recovery quilt” for Genevieve, my 29-year-old daughter who had a liver transplant in November and is now undergoing chemotherapy for bile duct cancer. Genevieve has been covering up in her daughter Danica’s 1st birthday quilt, which is flannel-backed and cozy, or the “Log Cabin in Black and Gold,” which is fairly small (a picture appears at the right). I gave her the log cabin quilt to cover up during her pre-transplant chemo, but she needs another quilt now.

The story of Genevieve’s cancer is a long one. She has a blog, which she (or me) updates periodically. Read about her at http://pscgenevieve.blogspot.com/  The liver transplant is going well—there have been no rejection episodes. But biopsies found that she had cancer in 1 of 30 lymph nodes plus 3 bile ducts removed during the transplant. Thus the after-transplant chemo, which is really throwing her for a loop. She can barely move from bed to couch. I’d give anything to trade places with her. Make me sick, not her. But life doesn’t work like that, of course. So … I’m worried about making her a quilt. What kind of a quilter would I be if she didn’t have a recovery quilt, made by me especially for her?

I started this in February, I think. I wanted Genevieve to have a pretty quilt that would look nice in her living room. My fabric inspiration was a small charm pack of William Morris fabrics I received as a door prize at a quilt shop. The 5-inch squares (at bottom left) were so pretty, but what to do with them? It’s easy to convert squares to triangles, so I decided on pinwheels. I bought another charm pack, a few more pieces of William Morris prints (at the left), and added more florals from my collection. I decided to use a lot of green, which Genevieve likes, and I added the black polka-dot fabric, which you might think is odd in a floral quilt. But I like the way it picks up the black in two of the florals and keeps the whole thing from being overly sweet. To my eye, it adds a more modern, youthful flair.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The plan

1. I will make 23 quilts inspired by the book Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts. They will not be exactly like the quilts in the book—not necessarily the same size or even the same exact layout or pattern. Some of the quilts look tedious to make (even if they are spectacular)—Damask Quarters, for example, with all those small curved seams. Others I can’t wait to try, such as Bicycle Wheel. Note that Kaffe Fassett didn’t actually make all the quilts in the book himself. He designed them. The key words for this project are inspired by. To me, that’s the point of the book.

2. I won’t make the quilts in the same order that they appear in the book. Yes, I am too old to follow someone else’s table of contents.

3. I will try to use fabrics from my stash, which is extensive. Really extensive. However, I will not rule out buying new fabric if I need it to complete the look I want to achieve. Wait—did I just give myself a new reason to buy more fabric?

4. I will use my UFOs (unfinished objects). I have several quilts in various stages of construction that use these simple shapes, including squares, quarter circles, and triangles.

5. I might take time out from this project to make other quilts, too. But I will blog about them.

6. Using photographs, I will show you how I make each quilt. My “how-to” may be different from the book. I will do my best to take good photographs.

7. Quilters and those who love quilts know that every quilt has a story behind it. Quilt stories are usually lost and all that remains are the finished quilts; we have to guess about the stories. I will share my stories with you—who the quilts are made for, how and why I make my color and fabric choices, and what happens to me along the way.

8. These stories are true—I won’t make up anything. Like everyone else, I have a complicated life and sometimes I wish I didn’t have to go through so many “learning experiences.” I have no idea what will happen during the course of this project.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A challenge

In April I was at my daughter Genevieve’s home in Tennessee when I realized that the American Quilter’s Society annual quilt show was going on. Paducah, Kentucky, is only an hour and a half away from Vieve’s house. I figured that after I saw the quilts, I could drive on to Southern Illinois to visit my mom and sister. I never before took time off from my job or family to go to the show, and it was about time. And I needed a care-giver break—more about that later. So off I went.

I loved the show—so many beautiful quilts and unique vendors, and so overwhelming! (I think I actually missed an entire exhibit room.) I’ll allow several days next time. I was very interested in the small exhibit of Kaffe Fassett quilts—I’m a big fan. I bought the quilt show catalog and Fassett’s new book Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts (written with Liza Prior Lucy and subtitled 23 Original Quilt Designs). For weeks now I have been pouring over Fassett’s book—not the show catalog—it’s that good. I completely buy into his philosophy—beautiful fabric arranged in simple shapes can make a quilt spectacular.

This book must appeal to me because I am a fabric lover. No, I confess, I am a fabric junkie. I have plenty of it, and I need to use it. I began to wonder: Can I make 23 quilts of my own based on these simple shapes? I need something to jump-start myself in a new creative direction, so here I go. My 23 quilts inspired by this book may or may not turn out to be spectacular, but it will be a challenge to make them. I’ll show you how I make the quilts and I’ll tell you the stories behind them. I plan to have fun sewing