Thursday, December 14, 2017

Smitten the Quilt, It's Finally Finished!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
but Smitten the Quilt is delightful!

(I'm pretty sure my hubby wasn't humming this when he was holding the quilt up for me to take the photo but maybe was thinking it would have been nice if I had finished this last week when there wasn't any snow on the ground and the temperature was a tad bit warmer.)
Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall or just one month shy of one year is how long it took for me to make my Smitten Quilt.  It had all of the makings to be a project lasting for several years so this was an unexpected finally finish for me since the top was just done at the beginning of October, (you can read about it here). It could have hibernated for a few years as many of my previous tops have, but this must be my year for finishing up quilts, because who would have thunk that I could handquilt Smitten in a little over six weeks? Certainly not moi!
After finishing up some other projects and experiencing some trepidation since I've never handquilted a large quilt before, Smitten was basted and handquilting started by the end of October.  I was curious to know how Jen Kingwell basted her quilts for handquilting and was surprised to learn she uses a tagging gun or what I call a basting gun which I happened to have.  I purchased my June Tailor Basting Gun well over ten years ago and never used it because at that time they said in order to use it properly, you needed to purchase a separate plastic grid which lifts the quilt up off the table so the plastic tags could be inserted.  I didn't buy one so the basting gun just sat on my shelf.   Now, all you have to do is once the quilt top, batting and backing are laying nice and flat on the table, you just lift the quilt sandwich with your fingers and insert the tag.  I was hesitant at first since I didn't want to shoot my fingers with that very sharp needle but happily I can say it never happened.  Believe me, the whole world would have heard my scream if it did.  And it only took a half hour and three rows of tags and my quilt was basted.  I also remember another problem quilters had with using the basting gun was that the tags left a small hole once it was removed and I have to say it does, but thankfully they're on the back and not the on the front of the quilt.  Since my basting gun is old, there's a possibility that this won't happen with the newer guns and tags. What was really nice was that these tags held the layers together very nicely while I was handquilting and I removed them each time a block was handquilted.
The quilt was backed with a very nice, silky-feeling piece of 60" wide dark blue and white shirting stripe fabric I had in my stash and perfect for the 48"x60" quilt. The batting used was Fat Quarter Shop's 50/50 Bamboo Blend Happy Cloud Batting.  I am not a hand quilter so I can't say the handquilting "felt like butter" as I have read in some batting reviews but I will say I didn't experienced any difficulties and the quilt lays nice and flat.  
I handquilted with Cosmo and DMC embroidery floss and used both embroidery and sharp needles.  I did not use a thimble and the tip of my index finger on my right hand is a little sore.  While digging through my embroidery floss shelf, I found this sweet Longaberger basket to hold my supplies.  FYI, the cup on the lower left side is for garbage in case you're wondering.  I also did not use a hoop, I lap quilted it like Jen Kingwell does but instead of my lap, I laid the quilt on top of my nice, large kitchen table which is right near the TV.
Here's are some close-up photos of the quilts.  As mentioned before, I am not a handquilter which is pretty evident by some of the uneven utility stitching you can see.  It was rather cumbersome when I was handquilting the blocks in the center which may account for the large, uneven stitching.  I will say that I do like the feel and softness of handquilting. I thought it was ironic that right before this quilt was finished, I happened to see a blogpost on flat stitch sewing for paper piecing which is used when you don't want to see the whip stitching on your paper-pieced blocks.  I can say there is whip stitching galore on my quilt and I don't have a problem with seeing how the pieces were sewn together.  Before I started Smitten, I watched a Sue Daley tutorial on paper piecing and used a light silver 100% polyester thread when sewing the paper pieces and the blocks together as she recommends.  I wouldn't change anything about how I pieced Smitten except maybe I should have sewn the pieces together more tightly.
Here are some more photos of Smitten from afar and
on the floor which I am thankful that Sophie, the World's Worst Dog, did not come running into the room to jump on it while I was taking this photo.  I will admit my piecework and handquilting is far from being heirloom quality and the stitching is not as sturdy as I would have liked.  I had to resew several block seams, after the hand quilting was finished, with some mighty fine whip stitching which you can really see.  I mentioned in a previous post my Smitten Quilt will not be used for curling up with but will be hanging on the wall.  The only wall suitable upstairs is in the dining area of my kitchen and unless I hang a clear piece of vinyl over the quilt I don't think so. I can envision flying spaghetti sauce landing on it and I don't think this quilt would survive being machine washed or if it does, there's going to be even more mighty fine whip stitching to mend it.  I guess I should have realized that this quilt would be a little too narrow and a little big too long for my walls in the bedroom and family room and maybe should have made one less row of blocks--lesson learned for next time.  I'll be hanging it up in my sewing studio which might be the right place after all--it's a no judge zone.

Netflix just released some stats saying over 140 million hours of content is viewed everyday and a list of the shows most binge watched and I'm surprised none of the shows I watched while making Smitten made the list. I've watched the complete seasons of Gilmore Girls, the sequel A Year in the Life, Blue Bloods (still loving Tom Selleck), some movies and documentaries, several seasons of Fixer Upper and started watching The Crown.  I wouldn't be surprised if I spent over 500 hours watching TV while working on Smitten.  This was one handpiecing project that I did at home and when I did take it on the road with me just the one time, I got into a little bit of trouble, (you can read about it here).

My friend Carol, who got me started on my Smitten Quilt, is still my friend and just has a few small blocks left to sew and then the side blocks before she can start assembling the top.  She's hoping to get it done in 2018 but that's when we're suppose to be starting Jen Kingwell's Glitter quilt.  I'm sure we can discuss it some more when I see her this weekend for her 50th Wedding Anniversary Luncheon and I'm good with waiting a year.  BTW, this is the second Kingwell project I completed this year, Flutterby being the first one and I've already finished Gypsy Wife several years ago. I'm thinking that I've been challenged enough for the next few years so I can justify doing some easy quilting for awhile, so strip piecing here I sew, but after the Secret Santa quilts are finished.
Cheryl Brickey of Mountain Mist Designs has announced the Best of 2017 Linky Party will be starting Tuesday, December 26th, (you can check out the details here).  Cheryl has hosted these linky parties in years past and I am looking forward to participating in my first "Best" party.
And just when I was about to publish my post, I received my Patreon reward from Quilting Jet Girl.  Yvonne just posted about her December Mini Mini Quilts yesterday (you can read about it here) and I was so surprised to receive it today.  To become a supporter, which I wholeheartedly encourage, please check out Yvonne's Patreon site (you can read about it here).  I am not going to have any problems finding a place in my studio to hang up my mini, mini quilt--it is beautiful beyond words.

Happy Holiday Sewing!

Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Thursday Needle and Thread, Crazy Mom's Finish It Up Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Can I Get A Whoop Whoop Friday, and Busy Hands Quilts, Finish or Not Friday

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Checkerboard Express Block

This is my block for Moda Bakeshop's Countdown to Christmas which started on December 1st.  Everyday in December, up to Christmas Day, a new block created by Moda Chefs for the Countdown will be presented. Today is my day and I am happy to be sharing it with you.  Here is the link to the tutorial

Back in August, Moda put out the request for 6" blocks. Having participated in a few Block of the Months QALs and also completing a version of the Gypsy Wife quilt (in which I still have not recovered), I remember looking forward to making the blocks which were quick and easy. It provided a nice respite after making some of blocks which could be challenging or just made my head spin.  I was not going to create a block with 64 pieces and full of angles for the Countdown.  I was going to "make it easy", so I came up with a block which is a combination rail fence/four patch block and sews together very quickly.  It lives up to the "Express" in the block's name which by the way was given this part of the name by Oda May.
When I first submitted my block, I used four different fabrics.  After it was approved in November and I had the opportunity to see my block next to the other blocks, I thought maybe I shouldn't have made it easy.  After thinking about it for awhile and looking at the three fabrics Moda sent, I realized the block would look better if it was made with only two fabrics.  I had the option of using the fat quarters Moda sent or using my own stash provided it was Moda so I decided to do two color ways of this block, one in a red and green print and one in red and white.  I used different lines of Basic Grey Christmas fabrics.

I'm glad I came to peace/piece with this block.  I think the Checkerboard Express is a great block to accent or use as an alternating block with focus blocks.  Also, it's great for using up some of the scraps. I really enjoyed making the following projects to show how versatile the Checkerboard Express Block can be.

Table Topper (18" square)

This topper was so easy to make.  You need:

(1) 6-1/2" square for center
(4) Checkerboard Express blocks (be sure the center of the blocks goes toward the center square)
(4) 6-1/2" HST, use your favorite method; mine were die-cut

Assemble and sew as you would for a nine-patch.  Quilt as desired.  I've never sewn a binding for an odd angle quilt before and found this tutorial by Anka Treasures (you can see it here) to be a godsend. Thank you Pinterest! I didn't do too bad for the first time.  And silly me for thinking that the binding would be the same as square quilts.

Skinny Table Runner (6" x 24")
This runner was quick and easy to assemble once four Checkerboard Express Blocks are made.  It really looks sweet with my Dept. 56 Snow Village Christmas train which had to be brought out from storage.  We don't plan on decorating the house much this year; just the Christmas/Winter quilts, some table decorations and the small tree will be brought out.
Sewing Tip:  If more than one Checkerboard Express Board is made and will be used together, it is very important to decide which color of the top left rectangle will be so that all of the blocks will look the same. (see arrows). If the blocks are not consistent, the strips will not alternate correctly to create the checkerboard effect.  Leave it to me to discover what could be made wrong.  Also be sure the four patches in the center are orientated the same direction before sewing the blocks together.  (Yep, almost did that too).  And thinking way outside the box, these blocks would also make a nice pieced border or sashing.

Mug Rugs
I haven't made any mug rugs for quite awhile and I have to say that I really enjoyed making these four mug rugs with the Checkerboard Express blocks. The block pattern is simple and not too fancy to be used.  I know some mug rugs can be too pretty to use and when I am gifted with one I end up hanging it up rather than using it. Each block only uses (2) 4-1/2 x 10" pieces of fabrics and great for using up the scraps. Plus, I really liked being able to use up some of the endless mound of batting scraps.  I backed each mug rug with a 8" square of scrap fabric left over from my Hometown Christmas Jelly Roll Charm Chase Quilt and it was sweet to be able to use this fabric for another project.  These mug rugs measure 6-1/2" square and is a nice size for the mug and cookie.  I decided to sew a binding for each mug rug and found it didn't take too much time although I did hand stitch the bind down which I did while watching TV.  I am now binge watching past seasons of Fixer Upper.  I'm thinking these mug rugs with a fabric tray to hold them would make a sweet holiday or hostess gift so I plan on making more of these mug rugs.
In case you didn't know this, it's not easy taking a photo if a cookie is one of the props and there is a certain dog, Sophie, the World's Worst Dog is in the room with you.
Here's the header photo I did for Moda Bakeshop.  I thought I would add some interest to the Checkerboard Express Block by hanging it on the tree in front of my house along with one of my wooden Christmas train ornaments.  I realized that these ornaments are now residing at my son's house which is four hours away so I thought I could easily find one at Target. Much to my surprise, it seems that retro campers have now replaced trains and I was lucky to find this one at Michael's. (it's kind of ironic that the train ornaments I used to have are now living with Michael, my son.) I really liked the glass Narwhal ornament I saw and wished I could have worked it in, it was just that cute.

Now that my commitment to the Countdown has been completed, I am ready to resume working on the projects I've set aside.  But first I have to clean up the studio; mounds of batting scraps laying on the cutting table made one huge mess. 

I hope you visit Moda Bake Shop everyday to see the block for the day. They really are sweet and clever.  If you have any questions about any of my projects, please let me know.  I would love to hear from you.

Enjoy the Holiday Season!  Hope you find time to Sew, Sew, Sew.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Moda Bake Shop: Countdown to Christmas

Today is the first day of The Countdown To Christmas hosted by Moda Bake Shop.   Everyday in December, Moda Bake Shop Chefs and I will be sharing a new block until Christmas.  These blocks will all measure 6" finished and are all holiday inspired.  According to Oda May, "you can make a few for a table runner or make them all for a quilt!  You can use your favorite 6" block quilt layout to put them all together or stick with us through the month to see some layouts we have designed for all of the blocks. Each block is made with a mix of Red, Green and White fabrics.  This is a great opportunity to use your stash or pick up your favorite Christmas fat quarter bundle."

My block will be featured next week on Friday, December 8th.  This week I've been busy working on the posts and projects so I don't have anything I can share with you. I can say that, if you know me, my block will be simple and quick and you may want to make more than one because it can easily be made in under 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, my sewing studio has never looked so messy.  

Be sure to visit Moda Bake Shop everyday in December (here's the link) to see all of the wonderful Countdown to Christmas blocks.  Kristina Brinkerhoff of Center Street Quilts has kicked off the Countdown with the most adorably sweet Peppermint Twist Block.

Today I plan on bringing out the Christmas and Holiday decorations and quilts.  I just can't do it during the month of November.  The only Christmas shopping I've done so far is purchase my presents, thanks to Black Friday sales,  my hubby will be giving me, ho, ho, ho.  I better get busy because in the midst of the holidays, there are quilts I still want to finish by the end of the year. 

Wishing everyone a great and happy week during the most wonderful time of the year!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Splash of Color QAL Top Is Done

I'm a little late with this post but as soon as my granddaughter and her parents left on Friday, I went downstairs to my sewing studio to finish my Splash of Color quilt top.  Seven days was way too long to be away from my sewing machine but like I have said before, Micah takes precedent over quilting.  While I was sewing this top, I, again, made another change and will add it to the story of the making of this quilt which I'll  post once I quilt the top and it is finally completed. I'm experiencing some indecision with the quilting and the backing now which means it's time to take a little break from this project and work on something else.

You can read about the Busy Hands Quilts' Splash of Color QAL here and finished quilt tops are to be posted starting Tuesday, November 28th.  Myra will be hosting a parade of quilt show for the finished quilts after Christmas, just in case some of the quilts will be Christmas gifts, starting on January 2nd.  Hopefully, I'll make up my mind soon about finishing my quilt because I don't want to miss the parade.

Linking Up with:  Myra of Busy Hands Quilts and Crazy Mom's Quilt Finish It Up Friday

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Some Show and Tell Before I Take A Holiday Break

Now that my commitment to the Blanket Ministry has been met, the rush to complete my other projects before the end of the year is on.  This past weekend was a productive one and I must have been still working off of the adrenalin from completing the six baby quilts from last week.
It's great to have another quilt cross the finally finish line and in time for the holiday. I sewed the binding for the quilt made from this past summers 12 Days of Christmas QAL hosted by Sarah Craig of Confessions of a Fabric Addict,  you can read the post here.  Jan, my longarm quilter, again did a wonderful job. While I was making the top, we were experiencing crazy hot weather with lots of rain and now the weather is still sort of unpredictable, cold, rainy and cloudy.  I think the days of taking photos outside when it's sunny are going to be few and far between. 
This is one of the few quilts I've made which has a pieced backing and I used scraps from this project and from stash.  I think the reason why I don't like to piece my backs is the time it takes to make a backing to fit the top; it's like making another quilt top. My son, who held the quilt up for me while I took the photo, does not have the same knack as his father who has earned the title of Master Quilt Holder because father knows how to lower himself so his shoes doesn't show, made the comment that he liked the back of the quilt better than the front of the quilt.  The son also does not have his father's knack for knowing what to say about my quilts.  
The quilt is already hung up in the family room  thanks to father and son who knew I was taking their photo to provide some beefcake to liven up today's post.
The sewing and layout for the Splash of Color QAL blocks, hosted by Myra of Busy Hands Quilts,  you can read about it here was also done this past weekend.  I still have to decide on the sashing and once the top is made, I can write more details about the making of this quilt.  Just to give you a heads up, this quilt was supposed to be pinwheels.
Last month in early October, I attended a Kaffe Fassett workshop and the blocks have been hanging on my design board since then.  I finally sewed the blocks together and added the border and cornerstones.  I needed the design board so I could lay out the Splash of Color  blocks and also was afraid that someone or something was going to knock the blocks off. Here's a sneak peek of the top with the luscious purple Minky which I'll be throwing together and will write a future post about my wonderful Kaffe experience once the throw is completed.  I was tempted to finish it yesterday when the Minky arrived and do a late nighter but decided not to push it since I had to get the house ready for the holiday.
And speaking of taking a holiday break, here is my precious granddaughter who is providing the cupcake to this post to sweeten it up.  Micah will be occupying most of my time when she and her parents arrive this weekend for an eight-day visit.  I don't think I'll have too much time to sew, and if I do, it's probably be something for her.  With this sweet face she's going to get pretty much what she wants.  As you can see, Micah already has the pout down pretty good.

I hope you have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving  next week. I am grateful that I will be spending the holiday with family and friends and am thankful for the many things life has brought me this year.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Happy Quilt Joy: The Six Baby Quilts for the Blanket Ministry Are Finally Finished

I was doing a very happy dance, though not very peppy, last night at 1 a.m. in the morning which was the time I finished Baby Quilt #6.  I have now fulfilled this year's commitment of twelve baby quilts for the Blanket Ministry which is the second most wonderful time of the year for me.   Three of these baby quilts are almost six weeks late and the other three are over six weeks early but nevertheless they are all finally finished and can be crossed off the project list.  I started planning to make three of these quilts back in September thinking that I would be able to finish them by the end of the month to meet my quarterly commitment.  Once I knew I wasn't going to finish the quilts in time, I decided that I would combine it with this quarter's commitment by making six baby quilts at once which I should have known from past experience that it's not a good idea.  It was grueling for me to stay on task, even knowing that once these baby quilts are done, I wiIl be free to work on other projects and possibly starting new ones--I did buy 14.5 yards of fabric last week. 

Here are the six baby quilts with some stats (finished measurements):
36" square, 9" Rail Fence Blocks, horizontal layout
37.5" square, 7.5" Rail Fence Blocks with 7.5" plain squares
40" square, four 18" squares with 2" strips and 4" square
36"x45" Rail Fence, 9" Blocks, horizontal layout
36"x45" Rail Fence, 9" Blocks, horizontal layout 
36"x45" Rail Fence, 9" Blocks, alternating layout 
You can see the other quilts I've made this year for the Blanket Ministry on the following links, (here) and (here).

I joined the Blanket Ministry when it was started at our Church almost five years ago which was also the same time I retired.  I can remember when I first started, my machine quilting was not so great  and was something I really dreaded doing and sewing the binding  by machine was something I never did before. Now that I have made over fifty baby quilts, my machine quilting and comfort level has improved and machine binding is a snap now. Really, most of these quilts are made with my favorite rail fence blocks with six fat quarters, it takes me around four hours, from start to finish, to make a baby quilt, so I wish I wouldn't make them three or six at a time--it would be easier if I would just plan to make one baby quilt a month.  But knowing me, it's easier said than done. I'm hoping next year I will try being more on schedule and on task.  But for now, I'm really looking forward to having some guilt-free quilt time after I give my Juki some tender-loving maintenance.

Minus 100 Yard Challenge.

For one brief moment, my updated total was -102.75 yards and it was so brief since I had to add last week's purchase of 14.5 yards plus 3 yards of Disney Princess fabric I knew I had to have for my granddaughter with a thankful 3 yard reduction.

Previous YTD Total:  -75.25 yards                     Current YTD Total:  -88.25 yards

Here's to some more late night sewing because I have a challenge to meet!

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Primitiva Quilt/Another Quilt Crosses the Finally Finished Line

One of my first posts when I started my blog last year was my disappointment that the Primitiva Quilt which I made in 2015 was still a top after more than a year and wasn't ready for Fall.  It was on my 2017 project list to finally quilt and come October it still was a top and it was bugging me that another Fall would go by with Primitiva still waiting to become a quilt.

I was going to be focused this week by working on projects as planned:
I basted and started hand quilting the Smitten Top
I sewed over fifty blocks for the Splash of Color QAL which Myra from Busy Hands Quilts is hosting(you can read about it here).
And on Wednesday afternoon, before I started quilting the six baby quilts for the Blanket Ministry, I decided to cut the binding I needed and pulled out my die-cutter and the 2.5" strip die.
After that was done, I thought I would cut some more binding while the equipment was out and went to the drawer where I keep fabric set aside for binding and saw the Primitiva fabric. And that's when my best laid plans fell on the wayside because after I was done die-cutting those strips, I was suddenly in the mood to machine quilt the top.  So the backing was sewn, the pin basting quickly done and the decision to quilt organic squiggly (inspired by one of the prints) lines with orange thread came pretty easy  which normally doesn't happen especially when I'm in impromptu mode.
One of the reasons why it took me several years to finally finish this quilt was trying to decide if I should just back it with Minky and call it a Patchwork Coverlet. I'm glad I chose to quilt it instead because the back looks and feels so lush and besides that, what else could I have done with the four yards of backing fabric I already had.  As of right now, I can't seem to locate the rest of the Primitiva fabrics, it's not where I thought I would have put it.
Here are the stats:

Size:        56" x 72"

Blocks:    4" (finished) four patches with 4" x 8" rectangle blocks

Fabric:     Primitiva by Jane Dixon for Andover

Pattern Source:  I'm pretty sure I was inspired by something I saw on Pinterest.

Primitiva is now adorning my dining room table now and am glad that I'll get to enjoy it for at least three weeks before the Winter/Christmas quilts come out.  Hopefully, once I finish quilting the baby quilts, one down with five more to go, my good machine quilting vibes will come back because I still have six more tops on my project list. I should visit my binding drawer again.
An interesting note:  The Primitiva fabric was purchased around the same time I bought Matisse (you can read about it here) by Alexander Henry and Hot Flash (you can read about it here) by Louella Doss (around 2010-11) and you can see similarities with the bright colors and the fun prints.  Also, the three quilts I made from these three fabric lines were all finally finished during 2017 which is a pretty big quilting feat for me.  I love it when I can cross off a quilt, make that three quilts, off my project list.

I won't be posting an updated total for my Minus One Hundred Yard Challenge until I finish the baby quilts for the Blanket Ministry but I can say I've reached my goal; however it's only for a short while because I'm going out today with my Quilt Peep, Carol, to see the Kaffe Fassett Trunk Show at our local quilt shop where I also happen to have a gift certificate.  I'm pretty certain there is going to be some fabric purchases.