Monday, January 30, 2012

My New Design Wall

I finally have a design wall!  Up to now, I have been using the "design bed" to lay my blocks out before sewing them together.  The design bed is a large piece of white flannel I lay on top of our queen size bed.  The real problem with it is that I need to fold it up and put it away at night to go to bed.  I got some ideas from a few blogs and turned this "before"

into an "after."

The tubs of fabric and the straw hats went into attic storage and my husband removed the hooks from the wall.  The room I sew in is a bedroom that doubles as our guest room.  This section of wall is six feet wide, between the closet door on the left and the window at the corner of the adjacent wall.  The entrance to the room is to the left of the closet door. 

I had two 4' by 8' pieces of insulation board (purchased at Home Depot, in the lumber section) trimmed down to 3' by 7' to better fit the space.  I "bound" the edges with duct tape and taped the two pieces together along the long edge, also with duct tape, putting the tape on just one side so it acts like a hinge and the two pieces fold together, right side facing in.  Making the wall fold in half makes it more portable in case I want to move it around, plus I can take it down and store it under the bed when a guest uses the room.  In use, it just leans against the wall. 

I used spray adhesive to apply a piece of batting, which I then trimmed at the edges.  That part did not go as smoothly as I hoped and the batting actually tore in one spot.  So it is a little rough but it functions. 

You can see five blocks from my current project hanging there, without any pins.  After taking this photo, I finished five more blocks and have blocks 11 to 15 in process.  This design wall is going to be a godsend when it comes time to add the sashing and sew it all together!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winner's Bouquet - One Pattern, Two Looks

The last quilt I made using Fig Tree fabrics was Cider Mill.  The fabric was from a line called Patisserie and the pattern is Winner's Bouquet by Terry Atkinson. 

Here's a close-up of the block.

Fran Rolfsen (no blog) recently saw my post of Dec. 26, 2010, writtern when I completed Cider Mill, recgonized the pattern she used for her quilt, and sent me a photo.  I asked her permission to show you Fran's quilt because it is such a good example of how fabric and color selection makes such an impact on the final look of a quilt.  You are seeing a quilt made from the exact same pattern, with the same block size, but the choice of fabric resulted in a very different look. 

Isn't Fran's quilt gorgeous!  She had this to say about it:

I made mine all in batiks, which started out dark in the upper left corner and gradually worked outward and downward to be lighter and lighter and also went through different color families. Old story: it was supposed to be a wall quilt, but I kept finding more and more gorgeous batiks and so . . . ended up being king-sized! The pictures can't show the whole quilt but I was proud it turned out so well. The background is Hoffman's 1895 "buttercream."  

I just love the change of color over the surface of the quilt.  Must use that myself one of these days.  Fran, thank you so much for sharing your quilt with us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Five Blocks Finished

We had our first snow of the season on Saturday (I don't count that freakish storm back in October); a perfect day to stay home and sew.  Only I had to go out and do a few necessary errands.  But I was able to get five blocks done.

Changes, my current project, is made up of 25 blocks with sashing.  I'm working on my blocks in sets of five.  So far, so good. 

While I was out on Saturday, I swung by Lowe's to pick up some materials to make myself a design wall - FINALLY.  Wish me luck!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Three More Dresses ... and Friday Find

While on vacation, I finished three more dress blocks for the Pretty Dresses wall hanging.  I need nine blocks (I think) so I am well on my way. 

On a Christmas shopping trip to NYC, I found this food storage container at Pearl River Mart.  The store is located in Soho and sells all sorts of Chinese imports, most very reasonably priced.  They call this item a "lunch box."   

It is about 7 inches long, 5 inches wide and 3 inches deep, and I'm finding it very handy for holding my applique supplies.   The lid is held in place with clips to each side.  Under the lid is an upper tray about an inch deep, perfect for flatter items. 

Under the tray is a deeper space that holds spools of thread and my travel pincushion.

This little item costs less than $6.  They also have bigger stacked versions, inlcuding colorful melamine versions they call tiffin lunch boxes.  Sewists and quilters could put them to good use too.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Starting Fig Harvest

With the School Colors quilt out of the way, I am free to start my Fig Tree project.  (My original post about my intentions is here.)  For my first project, I'm using a pattern called Changes, designed by Kelly Guy of Cotton Charm Quilts and the Charming Chatter blog. 

Changes is a layer cake pattern, so if you've been looking for something to do with a layer cake, here's an idea.  But I will be making my version from fat quarters becauset that's what I have on hand.  This quilt design requires a lot of flying geese blocks so I will be using my Fit to be Geese ruler too.  The ruler is such a valuable aid to achieving more accurate blocks.

Kelly made her original Changes out of a Fig Tree line called Buttercup.  I'm using a fabric selected from the Buttercup line for my outer border but I drew fabrics from three lines, Buttercup, Fresh Cottons, and Strawberry Fields, for the blocks.  I'll be using Kona Snow, a softer white, for the background. 

Time to cut!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

School Colors Flimsy

I got all the pieces together into a throw-size quilt (53" by 70").  That piece in the center, the blue and gold "P," was cut from a t-shirt.  It is certainly a lot of blue and gold.  Of course, it will look even better when quilted. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

School Quilt

I spent a lot of time over the weekend in my sewing room and have the quilt for the school auction nearly finished (the top, that is).  The photo above is of one of the panels.  I'm using hourglass blocks, about a gazillion of them as they finish at 3.25", with a piece cut from a school t-shirt in the center. 

I think this plan will work out well for this quilt, though it is not my usual style.  I don't usually favor such sharp color contrast but most schools have two high contrast colors for their school colors:  you know, blue and gold, red and black, green and white.  I already have an idea for next year's auction quilt, which I think will incorporate some white background.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Virtue and Vice Tour

I returned last night from a trip; here are a few of the places I've been:

Hiking in Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ

No, not Paris; the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas

View of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim

On Jan. 2, I flew to Tucson to spend a few days at Canyon Ranch with my mother.  We had a fantastic time and it was so relaxing.  I exercised like crazy, ate fabulous, healthy food, and had three massages.  One of the highlights was a hike in Saguaro National Park.

From Tucson, I flew to Las Vegas, where I stayed "on the strip" at the Paris Hotel.  Everything in Las Vegas is a spectacle and the Paris Hotel has a replica Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe on the premises.  I ate very well in Las Vegas!  (One does not go to Vegas to be a good girl!).  But the highlight was a day trip to the Grand Canyon with Grand Adventures Tours.  It was fabulous!  I cannot describe the impact of seeing the Grand Canyon in person, though I took over 100 photos in an attempt to preserve the memory. 

Now I'm home, the laundry is finished, I have a few Christmas decorations to put away, then it's back to quilting.

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Plans For 2012

This year, I am not doing my usual to-do list of planned projects and goals.  Instead, I'm adopting a theme for my quilting and the theme is Project Fig Harvest.  I've challenged myself to "harvest" my stash of Fig Tree fabrics and patterns by focusing on projects that will use them.  This is less about stash reduction, more about using fabric that I like instead of putting it aside for I-don't-know-what-occasion. 

I've mentioned before that I have quite a lot of Fig Tree fabric in my stash..

...and patterns too. 

During the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I wasn't doing much quilting, I was giving this some thought and I have a couple of projects mentally planned out.  I even have an idea for a scrap quilt to use up the bits left over from the main quilts. 

But 2012 won't be all Fig Tree all the time.  I need to finish this year's school auction quilt before I start a new project and I want to make at least one more Christmasy quilt as well as put my Etchings fat quarters to work in something.  Sometimes, I can't stop myself from making to-do lists!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Project Runway - Dress #3

My latest creation:

The fabric for the dress in this block is a little thinner than usual quilting cotton fabric.  It is closer to voile.  As a result, you can see the dress form through the dress (at least, I can see it).  But once I have all the blocks finished, I will be cutting out the backing from behind the dresses so I have less bulk to quilt through. 

It is great fun to pick out the fabric for these dresses!  It takes me back to my childhood, when I loved playing with dolls.  I am the classic tailored type now; I rarely wear a dress and when I do, it is nothing like this.  Though I did have a brief Laura Ashley phase in the 80's.  For proof, see my wedding dress.

Me and my dad just prior to my wedding.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Slicing and Dicing

The quilt I'm making for the 2012 school auction is made up almost entirely of quarter square triangle blocks, also known as hour glass blocks.  I need to make about 400 of the hour glass blocks.  Luckily, I have some good tools!

I started with teh Easy Angle ruler.  Thelma of Cupcakes 'n Daisies blogged about this ruler, recommending it for making half-square triangle blocks.  What do you know, but I found it among my (rather extensive collection of) rulers.  I don't recall using it before but I think I saw it demonstrated at a quilt show and bought it then. 

Anyway, I decided this project would be the perfect time to try it out and I was not mistaken. It is very easy to use. I sandwiched one blue fabric with a gold fabric, right sides together, using a bit of spray starch. I cut the strips then used the Easy Angle ruler to cut the strips into triangles. The pairs stayed together fairly well and were easy to feed through the sewing machine, chain-style. 

The next step was to cut each resulting block in half, diagonally, and re-sew pairs together to yield the hour glass blocks.  I deliberately made them a little oversize so I could cut them down to the perfect size.  All this cutting is tedious but I find it is the only way for me to get the required accuracy.

For this cutting, I used my Bias Square ruler (shown here on a dinner napkin so you can see the markings).  This ruler has markings every 1/8th inch, plus the diagonal line marked.  It made it easy to trim the blocks down to size.  As you can see in the first photo above, I was basically shaving them down to the correct size and squaring them up. 

So, this is what I have now.  About 400 blocks, arranged by color combination, and ready to be sewn together in rows.

Still a lot of sewing to be done, but I am finished with the cutting.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Now would be a good time to replace the blade in your rotary cutter and the needle in your sewing machine if you have not done so recently.  I am still trying to get in the habit of starting each project with a new blade and a new needle.

 I hope 2012 is a good year for all of us!