Reach for the Stars – Part I

Back in July, I discovered that another co-worker was expecting a baby. With this one due in January I knew I had plenty of time to design, assemble and finish a quilt. For once, I would not be putting the finishing touches on one of my creations the day before it was to be gifted.

Normally, one would begin with a pattern in mind and then select fabrics but when have I ever done things in the proper order? So naturally I started the process by going through my fabric stash to pull together some color ideas. Nothing jumped out at me until I found an untouched charm pack (5 inch squares) of various Fossil Fern fabrics. Some of the shades were a bit dark, so I pulled out the brighter colors first, then selected the black leaning hues for a background. Feeling this was not enough fabric to put together a baby quilt, I went back to my stash to find some brighter colors to supplement what I had.

Now I was ready to find an appropriate pattern. Instead of designing something using my Electric Quilt software, I searched around looking for charm pack patterns. After an extended amount of time I located a Pinwheel Star layout that seemed to be appropriate. Just to be sure the fabrics I had selected would work with this design, I replicated the pattern in my software package using the material I had chosen. I discovered that I did not have enough of the darker fabrics to finish this project, so after purchasing an additional black material, I was ready for the assembly phase!

The original diagram for this quilt called for a very scrappy layout with each star containing a variety of colors. Over the years, I have come to realize that I am not a real scrappy quilt kind of person so my personal feeling was that the design got lost with so many colors in one block. I played with multiple variations of color combinations until I came up with something more appealing. Each block still contained multiple scraps of fabric but they were all within the same color family. This was much better!

During the assembly phase of this project I began to have some issues with my right shoulder but determined to finish this task on time I continued on. Unfortunately, by the time I finished the quilt top my shoulder bothered me enough that I had to postpone the hand quilting phase until after I received some medical advice. The worst case scenario would find me sending this throw out to my daughter for machine quilting. After discovering that although there was permanent damage to my shoulder I still had full range of motion and no activity restrictions I decided to take on the hand quilting but limiting myself to 20 minutes a day. This was definitely going to put a crunch on getting it finished in time.



Watching over You

Over the last couple of months I had been trying to ignore the several quilt projects that were waiting for completion. The Follow the Leader quilt needed to be basted and quilted. The return of my Dinosaur donation quilt from being machine quilted needed to have binding and a label added. The stained glass quilt required a label. But all of this was put on hold while I put my efforts into making a baby quilt for a co-worker. After all, I had a deadline to meet which became more pressing when I discovered that a baby shower was in the works a month sooner than my anticipated finish.

I have never entered a fabric shop and felt that there was a print that I absolutely had to have, but on one particular visit I spotted a very cute owl print and knew that I needed this particular fabric. Next to the owls was a fabric of autumn leaves that matched quite nicely with the owls, so I bought yardage of both prints and stored them in my stash to await the right moment of creativity. A few months later, when I discovered my co-worker was expecting her first baby, I knew the time was right for my owl fabric.

Before buying additional fabric, I needed to come up with a design. I wanted the owls to be the focus of the quilt, so I toyed with an Attic Window block, and then a nine patch but neither one seemed to work. Finally I decided that a Snowball black alternating with a nine patch block would be perfect. Once I had the design, I was ready to find additional fabric that would complement the colors in the owl fabric. I pulled a gold from my stash before heading to my local quilt shop to find a green and silver that would complete the design.

The two blocks I had chosen were not difficult to construct. The difficult part was trying to figure out how I wanted to quilt the completed top. I thought about it for a while before I decided to outline the owls and the acorns within the Snowball block and add a crescent moon in the four corners. The nine patch took a little more thought but I finally settled on hearts in the gold patches, stars in the silver and a big fat owl in the green center. Since there was already a lot going on in the leaf border, I stitched a chain of oak leaves along the outer edge of the quilt.

I finished the binding and “Watching over You” label two days before the shower. The recipient seemed pleased with her gift.

Follow the Leader Quilt

I know the winter holiday season was several months ago but I still have to proclaim that this past Christmas I received one of the best gifts ever; time with my daughter learning something new in a hobby we both love. Quilting, of course!

My daughter had signed us up for a class to learn foundation piecing, using a Judy Niemeyer pattern. It was a technique that I have been interested in for quite some time but I just hadn’t taken the plunge to seriously investigate it. Even though I knew I could hunt online for any number of videos that would show me how to learn foundation piecing, this was one of those things that I really needed to be shown in person. So, near the end of January, my daughter made the trip up the day before so we could get an early start on the hour and a half drive to the full day class in Bangor.

Prior to the trip, we had cut 10 inch squares of dark and light fabrics so we would be ready to cut everything to the templates during our lesson. I had chosen to make this a scrap quilt with a variety of yellows for the lights and a combination of greens, reds and browns for the dark. My daughter opted to make a black and white quilt.

The first thing we did during the class was to cut our squares into the individual block pieces using the 10-inch template. Then we switched the dark triangles to the light pile and the light triangles to the dark pile. We were now ready to assemble our first block. And that was when things got interesting.

Our instructor showed us how to glue the first piece to the paper, trim it to a quarter inch, pin the second piece and stitch it to the first piece on the foundation paper. Sounded easy but oh contraire! It must have been a spatial problem because it took me the better part of the class to complete one block. I just could not wrap my head around the fact that we were attaching the pieces to the back side of the paper and stitching along the front. In other words, when looking at the marked side of the paper, I was actually looking at the back of the block not the front. I had to constantly check myself before stitching to make sure I had the right side of the fabric facing away from the paper. I finally had my Eureka moment by early afternoon and went on to finish another 4 blocks before the end of class.  I believe my daughter finished 6 blocks by the end of the day so all in all it had been a productive day.

Once home, I kept creating blocks over the next couple of days so that I would not forget what I had learned. I completed piecing my “Follow the Leader” quilt sometime in March. I would have to put this quilt away for a time before I decided on a hand quilting pattern for it. Time was short and I had an approaching deadline on a baby quilt for a friend.


Stained Glass and Other Finishes

During the down times of the last few winter months, I have taken the opportunity to finish up a few more quilts in progress, or at least bring them closer to the end. As mentioned in my posting about the joint Stained Glass quilt with my daughter, my work has been completed and it is now with my daughter for the finished quilting. She has not only finished the quilting but the binding as well. Soon, it will be back to me to add a label. We are still debating a name for this beauty. I think if the worst comes to the worst, we could just call it Stained Glass, but giving that our friend is an artist who works with glass maybe we can come up with a better name. Perhaps something like Artist Window?

The next quilt on my list is the one I pieced in the fall during an online quilt along. I have been hand quilting this one over the last few weeks by echoing the stars in the star blocks and squares in the lane blocks. In the borders, I have stitched a zig-zag line with a star near each of the points of the zig-zags.  The corners have a larger star than those within the border lines. There are a few places that do not seem to have enough stitching, particularly along the lane between the square and star blocks, so I have added stars there as well. I have decided to call this one Autumn Stars.

Finally, I have pieced a backing for my dinosaur disaster quilt. I thought I had enough of the green to back this one but, alas, I am not even close. I have added a strip of the dinosaur print, only to find that I still don’t have enough. Next? Add a strip of the stars on black background print. I find the backing is still too short. I go for broke and use the last remnants of the fabrics used to piece the top; a strip of yellow and with a sigh of relief I am done. This quilt is now ready to go to my daughter for machine quilting. We have discussed using a dinosaur footprint design but I am still toying with the idea of a design she has shown me using moons, stars and comets. I am not sure a small child would get it and since this is a donation quilt I will not call it Dinosaur Disaster no matter how tempting it is to do so. I think I will call it Dinosaur March.

Stained Glass

During the last two months of 2017, my daughter and I decided to work on a joint quilt project to present to a friend later in 2018. After tossing around several different designs, we finally zeroed in on a Stained Glass Quilt, a fitting choice since our friend worked with recycled glass.

Once the design was finalized it was time to head out to get some fabric. We threw some quilt layouts, sizes and fabric colors in our design software package so that we could at least get an idea about fabric requirements before agreeing to meet at a quilt shop located half way between us. We met at Mystic Maine Quilting in Chelsea and hoped that we could pull the whole thing together. Once inside I was amazed at how quickly my daughter selected 7 fabrics and a border for this project, especially since I have never seen her leave a quilt shop in less than an hour.

With fabric in hand, I returned home to assemble the quilt. First I entered the new fabrics in the software program in order to print out an accurate layout. To prevent confusion at the end I decided that I would sew the blocks row by row, constructing the row as I completed each block. As each row was completed I would attach it to the previous row. I soon discovered that this printout was essential for the construction of this project. Somehow the second row just refused to cooperate. I swear that every block in that row was taken apart at least once. First I would put the black strip in the wrong orientation so that the colored pieces of fabric were in the wrong place to each other. Then I would put the sashing piece on the wrong side of the block. After frequent use of my stitch ripper I finally got the row assembled. From that point on, I carefully referred to the layout diagram during the construction of each block and checked it off when the block was completed.

After a few days I attached the borders and my part of this joint endeavor was finished. I handed the quilt top over to my daughter to add a backing and complete the quilting process. I can’t wait to see the finished product.