Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hexagon Patchwork Fun...

It's nearly the end of the month and I just completed the April block from Craftsy's free block-of-the-month project. This time we made "Hexagon Stripe" using English paper piecing. This is the method that often seems to get confused with another popular quiltmaking technique. I think that's because we quilters often use the term "paper-pieced" when we refer to "foundation-pieced" blocks. Originally the term "paper-pieced" referred to the English piecing method, also called piecing-over-papers. At any rate, we only needed 13 of the hexagons for this block. There's a second block for April, also using hexagons, but I ran out of time to complete it this month.

Instructor Amy Gibson provided three sizes of hexagons, which I printed out and glued to cardstock as pattern pieces. Then I traced the pieces onto the dull side of freezer paper and cut each hexagon out on the marked line. Next I ironed each piece to a fabric square, placing the shiny side to the wrong side of the fabric square to adhere it. I trimmed the fabric slightly more than 1/4" beyond the edge of the freezer paper to create a seam allowance. The seam allowance on each side was folded over the edge of the paper and basted in place. And finally, the pieces were whipstitched together in rows. After pressing, I removed the basting and gently removed the papers to preserve the sharp crease on the edges of the 13-piece unit. That unit is appliqued to a background square and any excess was trimmed off.

Then I saw a tutorial on Tallgrass Prairie Studio for sewing hexagons entirely by machine with no marking. Of course I just had to try out this method, too. When it comes to quilting, everything interests me. The hexagons in the photo are large... 2" on a side. The machine sewing method worked quite nicely and the tutorial has excellent photos and step-by-steps.

I pressed the seams open on my sample and it seemed to help the piece to lie flat.
And last, but not least, here's Lily with her very own patchwork ball which also used the English paper piecing method. I made this for her with some pieces from a fabric charm pack and a pentagon paper shape. I'd always wanted to make one of these, and Lily confided that she'd always wanted to have one. The ball was completed a couple of months ago, before re-visiting the method in the Craftsy project. I'm not sure, but I think I've had enough of the method. I'll wait and see if any interest surfaces for making the second hexagon block from April. But these small projects leave me with an even greater admiration for quilters who've completed large Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts or other similar designs with this technique!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Little Sundress and Rosettes ...

When my neighbor's sewing machine had a meltdown, she needed this little sundress for her granddaughter sooner rather than later. So she asked if I could finish it up for her. It was a simple project, just one quick seam and a hem finish, plus ribbon straps. She's made several of the sundresses from elasticized, pre-gathered cotton prints, and she usually adds a matching headband to complete the outfit. Her granddaughter loves them. The dress looks blue in the photo, but it really is a truer color match to the headband and purchased silk rosette in person.

Seeing the headband gave me the idea to make another rosette option to include with the dress. I had used the flower-making instructions in one of the online workshops at Alma Stoller's STITCHED. This session is taught by Annie Hutchings and is titled Fabric Flowers 101. The collection seen at right are the samples I made beginning with different size fabric squares.

And here is the one I added to the second headband. Again, the colors are a better match in person. I enjoyed learning to make the rosettes and was just waiting for a little-girl project to come along so I could use one of them! I'm hoping to see a photo of the little model wearing her new outfit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...

My goal for 2012 is to improve my free-motion machine quilting. To that end, I learned that SewCalGal is hosting a Free-Motion Quilt Challenge. Every month there is a new tutorial from a free-motion expert to help us sharpen our machine skills or learn new ones. I've been following along and giving it the "old college try" each month. For April, author, award-winning quilter and teacher Don Linn presents his method for creating a marking stencil with tulle, and using it to mark a quilt top. I had tulle on hand, a water-soluble marker, plus a hoop (albeit oval and a little small for the design) and a permanent marker, so I was ready to jump in. The photo above shows the flower design marked on the tulle (it's in the hoop, at the bottom of the fabric square), as well as the design marked on the cotton square (done through the tulle with the blue washout marker). Don's instructional video showed clear step-by-steps for this marking technique. 

Once marked, it was time to stitch the design. As you can see, practice is exactly what I need more of. I chose dark thread so that I could easily see where improvements are needed. And now you can see, too! But, as I remind myself, everyone has to start somewhere, and this is where I am with free-motion. Plus, it's the reason behind my 2012 goal. 

This photo may show the marked tulle a bit more clearly. It results in a shadowy image, but the tulle is easy to mark and re-usable. I will need to get a larger hoop though. I had to move the hoop to get the entire design, so I created additional work for myself.

And this photo shows the free-form feather I quilted using Diane Gaudynski's instructions from the February tutorial. Not bad. Plus there is just a glimpse at the upper left of the meandering leaf design taught by Frances Moore in January. I really like that leaf-shaped fill design and have already used it in a full-size quilt. By taking the free-motion pledge, completing each month's tutorial, and linking my blog post to the site, I can qualify to win one of the monthly prizes. Sweet! So I recommend SewCalGal's site if you're interested in learning more about free-motion quilting. I look foward to the months ahead, and the quilts I'll be able to quilt on my home sewing machine.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

More Bead-a-licious...

Aren't these unique? All of the beads shown in this post are from the recent bead swap held by Lenna Andrews at Creative Swaps. Each participant made up to 20 fabric or paper beads, sent them to Lenna, and she exchanged them so that in return we got back 20 beads made by other participants. The bead group above represents work by Margriet, Jodie, Barbara D., Barbara R., Tiffany and Lenna. They're wire wrapped, fiber rolled, glittered, embossed... the methods used by group members were endless.

The grouping at left include beads made by Becky, Trish, Sabine, both Barbaras noted above, and another one from Margriet. The bead swap included members from Ireland and Germany, as well as many states from New Mexico to Florida. Participants also offered some information on how they made their beads which was helpful to know. The ones I made to swap were shown here.

Part two of the challenge is to make something using all or some of our new beads. My mind is spinning, but so far I have not gotten a project underway. All in good time. I'm just enjoying studying the beads I received for now. And I'm looking at the commercial beads and embellishments I have on hand in case I want to combine them. How about you... any bright ideas to share for using these?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Fabric Collage...

"Branches, Buds, and Blossoms" is my class project from an online fabric collage class taught by fiber artist Deborah Boschert. Hers is one of many workshops available once you sign up for Alma Stoller's STITCHED, an online video workshop. The workshops are self-paced, many have accompanying pdf files of info, and you can take any or all of them... there are more than 20! I've found the selection to be worth every penny of the registration fee, and have completed about six of the workshops to date.

This collage project is small, about 12" x 15". But it contains a wide variety of design exercises and techniques. The first of these is the hand-printed fabric in the background. Lots of different fabrics are combined in the piece, including home dec fabric bits, batiks, and commercial prints. The budding branch was added by painting through a freezer paper stencil. I could stand some improvement in using this technique, but I enjoy building new skills and I'm sure I'll progress. This photo shows the piece before it was trimmed and before the final machine quilting and hand embroidery stitches were added. I learned a lot in Deborah's class, and I'm sure I'll incorporate what I learned in future art quilts. Every step of the project was fun and satisfying, from pulling the fabrics together (there's even a strip of selvage in there), to embroidering the accents. Check out STITCHED if you get a chance... it won't disappoint!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He is Risen.. Allelulia

Happy Easter! These photos were taken recently while we were in Phoenix, Arizona, visiting The Garden of Jesus' Suffering. It's a meditation garden that is open from sunup to sundown at Canaan in the Desert, a sanctuary maintained by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary.

As you walk through the peaceful garden, there are benches, statuary depicting the life of Christ, and Scriptural references. The path leads to these crosses seen against the backdrop of Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

One beautiful feature of the garden is the Fountain of the Father's Goodness. Each side is labeled with Father of Mercy, Father of Forgiveness, Father of Grace, Father of Goodness, Father of Comfort, Father of Love, Father of Faithfulness, Father of Patience. Cups nearby allow visitors to take a drink from the fountain. One of the art sculptures of The Good Shepherd is shown below. The three hour time difference between Florida and Arizona had us up bright and early to enjoy a walk through this lovely place. We were there by 7 AM, and had the place nearly all to ourselves, so the peace and quiet along with the beautiful surroundings could really soak in. I'd visited here twice before, but this was my husband's first visit. A wonderful and prayerful start to our day.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Surprising Vintage Quilt Blocks...

These wild quilt blocks were among those found in the old cardboard box given to quilting friend Claudia. The block name is Hens & Chickens, also known as Ducks & Duckling or Corn & Beans. Some of the other pieces were shown in previous posts, here and here. I'm always surprised to see fabrics like these in vintage blocks. The colors are so vivid, and the pattern is so bold and electric. It makes me wonder what kind of response viewers had to the use of this fabric. I'll venture to say it was an attention-getter. Even though I have a fabric dating book to help, I'm stumped by what era the lime-green and black print might have been from. Any ideas?To me, the blocks are both puzzling and compelling. And even a little bit hard to look at. Like an old tv test pattern of yesteryear!

But the surprise of this unusual print was compounded when I saw these lively fabrics offered in a recent Connecting Threads catalog. The swatches at left are from Jenni Calo's "Mastermind" collection. The catalog text indicates that they are robot-inspired... buzzing circuit boards and radio waves whizzing through the air. The two colorways of the second print in the third vertical row (and seen again at the bottom of the middle row) really remind me of the vintage print in the above blocks. Radio waves... that clicks, and I could see that being the concept behind the inspiration for the vintage print, too. That print seems to support the adage "everything old is new again"! I just love those old fabrics and quilts.