Thursday, January 29, 2009

If The World Stood Still

Do you wish sometimes that you could make the rest of the world stand still and you'd busily catch up with all the things on your list? Jodie posted about her list in only the way Jodie can. I'm a list maker too and sometimes I feel just like her, that my head is going to explode with all the things running around in there trying to get out, trying to prioritize themselves, trying desperately to get done. I make lists so that things don't get lost in there. Sometimes it even works.

I've been a busy bee so far this week. Hubby is in Chicago all week. I miss him terribly, but his absence does give me a bit more time to sew. I've been working on a couple of secret projects. Sorry I can only give a sneak peak. This first one will have a pattern and tutorial later in the spring. I made one for myself as a trial run. I'm loving it. This one is for someone special.
Again, apologies, another secret project....this one is turning out too. The quilting fairy seems to be smiling on me this week.
The heart blocks are coming along. The red ones are ready to become hearts. The pink ones are just about there too. I thought at first this would be one I think it might be two. I'm still playing with ideas for these.
Ever seen a hundred hearts? I'm still cutting....oh dear...these are a secret too.
Lastly, I'm caught up on my virtual quilting bee commitments. Fabric sets were piling up...I was getting a bit stressed; I hate when things are late, so I did a quilt block marathon. The top two are Alissa's blocks for January, bottom left is Jenny's for January, and I even did Stefanie's for February. When an idea hits, you just need to go for it! Don't these ladies know how to pick fabric! They are all so different, but all gorgeous!
My mom's machine is in the shop, so I'm back to my trusty Singer. That means no quilting this week. That means my goal for finishing 2008 tops has to be put on hold. I have been quilting away...three are basted and in progress. So many more to go. I've been trying to hold back with starting new I have an excuse....I'm off to sew. friends...I'm working my way through reading my blog list....I haven't been able to get the list under 500 posts. Could you hold up on posting while I catch up? I have lots to say and share, and I hate to miss out. A little patience, please?

Oh, and I have 3 awards to acknowledge and pass on...I'm working on's harder when you actually try to pass them on. If only the world stood still...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Miscellany

Project Improv Update:
My goal is to post once a week to give everyone an update on the project and let folks know about the status of their blocks. I know it's stressful to put your work in the mail and not know if it's floating in limbo or has made it safely to its destination. These are the blocks that have arrived as of this morning:
Carol E. 5 blocks
Robin L. 3 blocks
Alissa 3 blocks
Fulvia 1 block
Jackie K. 4 blocks
Frogdancer 1 block
Laura J 1 block
Cheri 1 block
Patricia 1 block
I want to tell you all that the pictures don't show these blocks in their full glory. They are beautiful. These ladies used quality fabrics and took great care in their construction. I so appreciate that you labeled the blocks with your name and location. Some folks used sticky address labels, some used business cards and others pinned on their name and location. Great ideas! This makes so much less work for me to keep everything organized. Thank you so much.

Each of your notes has meant so much to me and made the work involved seem a little less and so rewarding. Fulvia, thank so so much for your beautiful postcard. I'm going to post it in the flickr group so everyone can see it. Amber, thank you so much for your card and the fabric you sent. I'm overwhelmed and touched. You made my day!

I also wanted to let everyone know that we now have 167 participants in the project. How's that for a movement! I'm slowly organizing all the offers to help with making tops/binding/quilting and donations of fabric for backings and bindings.

There are still a few folks who need to contact me with email addresses so I can send them details of the project...Susan and Caron. If you don't see your name in the sidebar, you are not a member of the project. Please contact me and I'll get you taken care of. Thanks!
I did have a chance to sew a bit. I made another improv doll quilt. This one is from the scraps from the "Be Still My Heart Block". I quilted it with another stitch on my mom's machine. I love the simple scallops with the minimalist quilt design.  I'm calling this on 'snippets.'
As with each doll quilt I make, the pillow is my favorite part. Can you see the red/white ticking showing through the muslin? I think the pillow is so sweet!
I also spent a little time turning these....
into these. I'm using my own tutorial and hoping to make some kind of a baby quilt. We'll see what develops!
Please forgive me a "proud mom moment". My youngest son and his team won the Kansas State Regional Debate Tournament last month and qualified for the Kansas State Debate Tournament. It's the first time a 4-speaker team has ever qualified from his school. This is his first year in debate. We were at the tournament all day Friday and Saturday. I can attest that this is a grueling experience for these kids. They debate 7 rounds with each round lasting about 90 minutes. That's a whole lot of thinking on your feet! You can see the stress on his and his partner's faces.
These pictures were taken through a 6 inch window in the door. He didn't want me in the room...nerves, you know! So for two days I stood outside classroom doors with my ear to the door and sneaking pictures through tiny windows.
He's making an argument, and doesn't he look dapper! He and his team were fabulous. It was a pleasure spending time with those kids. They finished 4th in the state with a record of 10 wins 4 losses for the tournament. I couldn't be prouder!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Do Overs

I remember playing kickball on the playground at recess and coming up to the plate with such anticipation, ready to kick that home run ball. The pitch rolled toward me and "whoosh!" my foot hit nothing but air. I shouted, "do over!", and the game was new again. The muffed kick quickly forgotten and I had a fresh chance to make my mark on the game.

I rarely kicked that home run ball, but I do love a 'do over'. I think life should be filled with 'do overs' for kids and adults...imagine looking at your teenager after that inevitable misunderstanding and requesting a do over. It's all about learning from experience and not wanting to repeat something that you're not satisfied with.

This post is in the spirit of 'do overs'. First, Bloom is finished. After ripping out two different tries of free motion quilting I think I've finally found something that works. I tried free motion flowers (too busy, not well done), and I tried echo quilting (I got lost in the echoes and couldn't seem to fill the white space effectively.) With Victoria's encouragement I explored the stitches on my mom's machine and did this. It provides texture for the white space without distracting from the composition. It took practice, and a little more ripping, but it was worth it. Thanks for sharing your idea, Victoria. I can't wait to hang it on the wall.

Here's another 'do over.' I took the quilting out of this little doll quilt. I didn't like the loops or the black thread. This time I did a fractured pattern with white thread. It has a much more edgy feel. I even changed the binding. I like how the black binding completes the shapes instead of cutting them off. I know it's only a doll quilt, but it was worth it to me.
These are my blocks for Tracy. It's her month in the Sew Connected Virtual Quilting Bee. Tracy sent some beautiful fabrics, linen, silks, metallics and beautiful prints and stripes. I'm so glad she sent an abundance of fabrics. I had to 'do over' too many times to mention. I had to add some of my fabrics because I literally used hers up in all of my attempts.These are the two blocks that are the right size and that I'm pleased with. I hope she likes one of them.

Nice to know that even a president and a supreme court justice need a 'do over' every once an awhile. A good model for the country.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Heart is Filled with Joy

I'm in Chicago with my hubby and both of my boys. It's rare the four of us are together for 3 whole days. Lots of spirited conversation, time together and all four of us just got back from the gym after working out together. My heart is filled with joy. Back home tonight and we'll all go our separate ways. I will hold this feeling until the next opportunity to be together.
Got a lot of requests to explain how I made this block. So, in the spirit of doing things for others today, here is the 'Be still my heart' block tutorial, just in time for some Valentine's Day crafting. I used this block to make the quilt in the picture above as well as a pink version without the sashing.

Step 1: Pull a set of fabrics. Small scale prints work great for this block. Don't be afraid to throw in a solid or two. For each block you will need ten 1" x 22" strips. Fat quarters work perfectly for these strips.
Step 2: With right sides together sew strips together using a 1/4" seam allowance.
I like to sew my strips in sets of two or three and then join the smaller sets together. I press after each seam. Make sure that you press your seams in the same direction. You may want to alternate sewing strips from the top and then from the bottom. This will prevent your strip set from getting wavy.
Step 3: Continue joining sets until you have a strip set of 10 one inch strips. The width of my strip set measured 4.75". (this measurement may vary depending on whether you are sewing a scant 1/4" seam or not.) This measurement is important because it will determine the size of the background squares. Measure the width of your strip set and remember that number.
Step 4: Use your rotary cutter and ruler and straighten one edge of the strip set.
Step 5: Now cut four 4.75" squares (or use the width measurement of your strip set) from your strip set.

Step 6: Cut two squares from background fabric the same measurement as your strip set squares. Mine are 4.75" squares. You will also need to cut four two inch squares from the background fabric.
Step 7: Use a quilter's pencil or other marking tool and draw diagonal lines on all of the background squares that you cut in step 6.
Step 8: Arrange your strip set squares like the picture below so that the strips alternate between a vertical and horizontal orientation.
Step 9: Lay the two large squares on the bottom strip set squares so that the diagonal lines you drew form the bottom point of the heart. Pin so that you will be able to sew ON the marked lines.
Step 10: Sew ON the drawn lines. Do this for each of the squares.
Step 11: Press so that the squares look like this. Notice at this point that you have two layers of the background fabric.
Step 12: Take each square and flip back one layer of the white fabric. Line up your quarter inch mark on your ruler on your stitching and trim.
The triangles on the right will go into your scrap box.
Flip down the single layer of background fabric and you will have your completed square.
Two of these form the bottom of the heart. They should look like this.
Step 13: The same process is used to complete the top of the heart. Place the four 2" squares like this. Make sure the drawn lines are in the correct position to form the heart shape.
Step 14: Sew ON the drawn lines just like you did for the bottom squares. Flip and press and trim, again just as you did for the bottom squares.
They should look like this...well, not quite like this. I didn't pin my squares and look what happened. Instead of the strips being rotated horizontal/ vertical...mine ended up like this. I did it again, and guess what? I made the same mistake TWICE.
Third time is the charm! They should look like this.
Step 15: Now it's time to put the block together. Put the bottom squares right sides together , pin, lining up the center edges and sew with a quarter inch seam. Press that seam to the left.
Now you have the bottom section of the heart. Repeat this process with the two top pieces and press that seam to the right. You'll want seams opposite to nest the seams when you sew the final two sections together.
See how the center seams lay in opposite directions.
Step 16: Pin the top and bottom sections together and sew with a 1/4" seam.
Then your heart is complete. I added 2" border strips to all sides of the heart to frame it. Now I have to figure out what I'm going to do with this heart. I think a bunch of these would make a spectacular quilt. One or two might be perfect for a table topper or wall hanging for Valentine's Day. If you make one or more, I'd love to see them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Be Still My Heart

It's Oiyi's turn in the Common Threads Virtual Quilting Bee. She's making a quilt for her totally cute daughter, Melody, and she requested a heart motif somewhere on or in the block. She wanted rich pink. Though I loved her idea and was excited about it, I had trouble coming up with an idea I liked. I decided to go with a simple heart block and then tried to come up with an idea to make it special. Oiyi sent lots of small scale fabrics, so I went small and started playing with some one inch strips. This is the final product. A big heart for mom.

Since I did so much experimenting before I actually cut into Oiyi's fabrics, I had lots of strip sets left over. I didn't want them to go to waste so I made a small heart for Melody. Both blocks were a challenge for me. Another kind of improvisation. Take a traditional block and make it your own in some way. Cheryl, of Naptime Quilter has done a post about improvisation called 'Breaking Free.' It's a great read for those of you just starting to step out on your own, actually for all of us. Thanks Cheryl!

Lastly, I'll respond to the emails I've been getting about "what do I have against patterns." As you can see, I don't. I use patterns, I adapt patterns, I make my own patterns, and sometimes I don't use patterns at all. I have a free pattern in my sidebar. I made it because folks asked how to make the teacup quilt. I learned to quilt using patterns. Project improv is not about disparaging the use of patterns. It's about the freedom to exercise your play and have fun with your own ideas.

Alissa and Tracy, your blocks are in progress....soon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Future of 'Pink/Orange'

'Project Improv' is well on its way. Anina had a little bit of time and put some of the blocks that have been posted in the flickr group into a little "potential quilt" mosaic. It's like seeing into the future. This, is a work of art!

Check out the flickr group to see the folks who made these great blocks and check out all the rest. Isn't it GREAT what we can do together. The quilts we make to donate are going to be spectacular. There are more wonderful blocks to see and some folks have even started their improvisational projects.
Don't forget to check out the discussion section of the group. It's a great place to get questions answered or share information.

You guys are awesome!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fits and Starts

I finally had some time to sew this weekend. I didn't have loads of success. I started playing with a black and white improvised quilt. I wanted to work with shapes, so I cut a bunch of black and white strips and started playing. I'll spare you the picture of my trash can.

I quilted the 'Bloom' quilt. I'm ripping that out now. Not a good idea either. You don't really want to see that, do you?

I was able to actually accomplish one thing. Are you rooting for me yet?
I finished a little doll quilt. Thanks Amandajean. I used her pillow and pillowcase instructions and found out what size a doll quilt should be from her. I've been playing with this shape for awhile now. My connections quilt is based on this shape, though I've been struggling with that one since last spring. I love mid-century modern and these retro shapes. This has lots of possibilities and options. I'm pretty sure I can do more with it. Again, probably not the best quilting choice. Straight lines probably would have been better. I do struggle with how to quilt a top. Do you think a little girl would want to play with this quilt?
I haven't figured out my project for project improv. My plan right now is to make a series of doll quilts to test some ideas. And who could resist making those cute little pillows and pillowcases.

Lastly, I was playing around on New Year's eve with a logo for tallgrass prairie studio. I'm not sure this is it. I do like the movement and simplicity of it.

Starting Project Improv has put me in the weeds a bit....I'm behind on everything. I'm running as fast as I can.
A few of you have asked to join in on Project Improv, but you have not left an email address for me to contact you. You can find my email address in my profile in the sidebar. Drop me a line and we'll talk!
Heather - thanks!
Quinta da quilter - thanks!
Tammy - thanks!
Brita - thanks!
If you don't see your name in the sidebar, you haven't been added to the project. I don't want to leave you out, so get in touch!