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A New Toy

It was that time of year again, when it was time to plan my next big quilt project. With the weekend temperatures in the single digits and very windy, no one was really motivated to set out on a hiking adventure. There was also the fact that a mid-March snowstorm was raging outside with an expected 12 to 18 inches of snow predicted. Of course the storm left us with the hope that we would be able to get in a final snowshoe event after the storm was over, but until the weather improved, it was best to work on a new quilt. This time around, I had a new toy to help me through the design phase.

Watching my attempts at drawing out my ideas on graph paper before ditching that and going on to use a combination of Microsoft Word, Excel and Paint, my husband had an inspiration for my birthday. Unfortunately, it lacked the element of surprise when the postman handed me, not the usual brown Amazon package but a cellophane wrapped box that someone had pulled off the shelf and slapped on a mailing label. I knew that box was my present for it had EQ7 Quilt Design Software printed on it. I texted a thank you to my spouse and promised that I would not tear of the cellophane until he came home.

Once the software was installed, I started playing with designs immediately (after all, every engineer knows that you play with the software first, then read the directions). In addition to being able to create your own blocks, the package included lots of set blocks, from traditional to modern, as well as border and sashing blocks. I selected some blocks and proceeded to remove or add lines to the blocks in order to create new shapes.

One of the best features about this software package, was the ability to scan my own fabrics into the package so that I could actually see the finished product. This feature made me realize that my original idea of using the beige floral print in the outer border just did not work for me. I played around with my other fabric choices and quickly decided that a green border would be best. When showing off my new toy to my daughter, she quickly rotated the pink blocks so that now I had a star in around the center portion of the quilt. That was much better than my haphazard arrangement.

Playing around a little more I noticed that when I set the block size, I could then see the yardage requirements and the cutting sizes for the blocks. What a great feature! But when I told someone I knew about my new software, she told me to be careful of the measurements generated by the program because they could be off. With this in mind, I decided I should make test blocks to test the accuracy of the cutting diagrams. Except for adding an 1/8 of an inch to the triangles, I kept all the other measurements the same and was pleased to find that I ended up with 11.5 inch blocks as planned.

The yardage requirements indicated that I would not have enough of the green for the border. I played with adding cornerstones and center pieces to fudge the green but everything I did still came up with needing a minimum of 2.25 yards of green fabric for the whole quilt and of course I only had 2 yards of the required fabric. For now, I hope that the package is generous with the fabric requirements but I have a feeling that I will need to buy another suitable green fabric for the border. Hmm! Shopping for new fabric is not a bad thing, is it?

 

Quilt Finishes 2016

As 2016 quilts2016-2was coming to a close, I was rushing to finish my annual quilt projects. With two projects completed and one nearing the finish line I present my creative journeys of wandering around the quilt block for 2016.

My largest project, begun at the end of 2015 and continuing to the very end of 2016 was my Home Garden quilt. This was a log cabin quilt with alternating flower blocks. quilts2016-5As mentioned in a previous post, I did have to take it off the quilt frame and complete it using a 12 inch hoop when I realized the leaders were reversed on the frame. The quilt design was a simple flower in the log cabin blocks and an 8 pointed flower resembling a fleur de lis in the floral blocks. I used a leaf stencil to create a chain in the orange border and finished up with butterflies along the outer border. I created the binding using the remaining yellow and red fabrics from the floral blocks.

Next up, my daughter and I collaborated quilts2016-3on a baby quilt for a nephew and his wife who greeted their first daughter in October. My daughter already had the Under the Sea panel, so we brain-stormed on a block design for the border then contributed fabric from our individual fabric collections.  Once a pattern was designed we each contributed 10 fish blocks (Hmm. Looking at the finished product now, I just noticed that there is an extra fish, so someone completed 11 blocks). My daughter has a much better artistic view of things than I do, so she assembled the quilt and completed it on her longarm machine using an overall sea grass and bubble design.

Finally, quilts2016-4my challenge quilt. I normally restrict myself to squares, rectangles and half or quarter square triangles in creating my quilts. But this year someone kept challenging me to do something with curves so I found a leaf design that seemed to fit the bill. I have completed the piecing for the quilt and I must say, I am not sure that I would do curves again. I did have quilters tell me after I had created stencils for cutting out the pieces, that things would have been easier if I had a curved ruler and a tiny rotary cutter for cutting out the pieces (right tool for the job and all of that) but I don’t know how much that would have helped. I discovered 3 problems with doing curves. The first was in quilts2016-1piecing the curves; no matter how many pins I used and how slow I ran my machine to keep the pieces against my ¼ inch seam foot, my seams ran from a quarter inch to almost non-existent. The second problem was a problem I also have with triangles; when too many seams meet in one place there is just too much bulk for the machine needle to easily go through all the layers. This also prevents the block from lying flat. Finally there was the block assembly with each block consisting of four leaf blocks. One would expect that when you sew two squares together the finished product would be an even rectangle but some of my rectangles came out looking a little more like a “V”. My only fix at that point was to trim or square the finished block for final assemble. As a result some of the edges of the leaves were clipped a bit. I finished the piecing and put together a back for quilt using a brown fabric and a yellow / orange starburst fabric before the close of December. Hopefully by the end of January or February I will have completed the quilting of outlining the leaves and adding vein lines to the leaves. So yes, I took up the challenge and the quilt doesn’t look that bad for a first attempt but unless I can either find a class on curved piecing or have someone show me how to do it or give me pointers, I am not sure I would attempt another.

Whoops

As I waslogcabindec16-2 reaching the end of quilting my large Home Garden quilt, I kept getting a bad feeling. Somehow, I had the thought that when we re-assembled the frame after moving, we reversed the front (take up) and the back (feed) rollers. The rollers themselves would not matter but the length of the leader fabrics would make a big difference. If the longer leader was not on the back roller, I would not be able to get the last little bit of the quilt into the quilting space and would have to finish it off the frame.

Before I reached that point, I ran into another snag. As I was rolling the next to last row into the sewing space the rollers stopped moving and would not budge. I looked all around the frame and crawled under it but could not find a reason for the rollers getting stuck.logcabindec16-1 Of course, my husband took one look at it and said “there’s the problem, the batting is as far as it can go.” How true. I had fastened the batting to the bottom roller (which was really not necessary) and once I released it from the roller, I was good to go.

I continued sewing the last two rows,until sure enough, I reached the end of the feeder roller.  I could comfortably stitch the first inner border and could, at a stretch, stitch the second border. Now, I do have long arms but I am not a gorilla, so the third border would LogCabinMay16.4really be an uncomfortable stretch.  I had no choice but to remove the quilt from the frame and sew the last two borders with a 12 inch hoop. This actually turned out to be a good thing because I realized I did not know how I connected the butterflies around the corners on the lower edge of the quilt. Once the quilt came off the frame, I noticed that I did not connect the butterflies at all but stitched a flower in each corner, so some good came of my mishap after all. Here’s hoping for a finish before the end of the year.

Curves

As Curves.1I reviewed my quilt progress over the years, I realized that all of my projects used squares, rectangles or half-square Curves.2triangles. Diamonds, odd pointed stars and circles just intimidate me. But lately, I have been challenged to try something with curves. With much trepidation, I found a pattern template for curves, pulled out some fabric and attempted my first curved block.

Having only a cardboard template to work with, I drew the pieces of the block on the back of my fabric and used scissors to cut the pieces for my project. Weeks later, when my daughter and I were visiting quilt shops during the quilt shop hop, everyone told me that curves weren’t so bad if you used a special Curves.3curved ruler and a tiny rotary cutter. Who knew? But at least now I could blame the absence of the proper tools for any inaccuracies in my work.

The first part of construction was easy. I only had to sew two curved pieces to each other along the straight edge to come up with a leaf shaped curve. It was sewing the convex side of fabric to the concave side of the leaf that proved a bit challenging. I marked the center of each fabric, used lots of pins to Curves.4hold everything together and began to slowly stitch the two pieces together.

The individual leaf squares did not look too bad, so I stitched 4 leaf squares together to complete the block. I wish that the finished block wasn’t so bulky at the center but I don’t think my first attempt was a total disaster. Somewhat satisfied with my first block, I laid out the remaining fabrics in the possible finished order for a completed quilt.

Log Cabin Quilt Project – Part 4

As LogNov15.3I approach the one year mark on my Log Cabin project, I realize that I have not provided an update of my progress. When I last posted about this quilt, I was still trying to decide on just the right combination of blues to actually construct the log cabin block. After polling a number of people about my combination choices, the blue ribbon fabric won a place as the middle fabric for the dark blue side of the block. LogCabinMay16.1Now it was time to actually construct the block.

Normally, I would piece the sections of such straight lines in a method known as strip piecing. This means I would stitch all the yellow centers and the dark blue pieces together first, running each pair through the machine in a continuous line. This method is faster than completing each block before beginning the next block. However, when I stitched together a test block first, I discovered that I lost ½ inch on the block. This meant that by the time I finished the quilt, I could lose several inches overall. My only option was to create each block separately and adjust each section of stitching as I went along (and of course every single row of those blocks needed to be adjusted). As a result, LogCabinMay16.2the log cabin blocks took quite a while to complete but eventually I finished these blocks and was able to alternate these blocks with my flower blocks for a beautiful finish.

With the assembly complete, I was ready to start the actual quilting phase but this presented another problem. A quilt this size would be too cumbersome to stitch using a hoop,  I really needed to use my quilt frame to ease the process of LogCabinMay16.3putting the 3 layers together so I could proceed with quilting. But my quilt frame was in a room occupied by my youngest child. The thought was that we would move the frame into the second guest room but during the month of April my LogCabinMay16.4oldest child and her husband were here most weekends working on projects for their new house.

Finally life settled down and the frame was moved into the second bedroom. I rolled the 3 layers on to the frame, laid out my stitching lines and was ready to quilt. By the end of June, I had completed the lower borders and two rows of my “Home Gardens” quilt.