Friday, March 27, 2015

Five shades of grape

We have been, and will be, living between for a while. I feel a little like a secret agent, I can't tell you where I am! I've been splitting my time between Green Bay and Saginaw, but the last thing I want to do is spell out that either place is empty and open for nefarious shopping.

I can tell you that I love Green Bay! They have five, FIVE, quilt shops. FIVE! Each one has a different style and inventory. Being the supportive shopper that I am, I managed to find something wonderful to bring home with me at each shop.

My first quilting mission in GB was to find better purples for my Fine Romance quilt. It seems that I always want the color that isn't on the shelf, the color between the colors there. For this quilt, I wanted a purple that was the color of grape jelly, a rich purple that is not quite magenta, but definitely not a bluey periwinkle. No surprise that it was such a challenge to find. But with all these quilt shops available, I finally managed to find my five shades of grape.

One of my favorite part of designing quilts is figuring out how to use my fabric the most efficiently I can. Being that I consider myself an appliquist first, a piecer second, leaving the largest scraps possible gives me more applique opportunities.

Since we need so little of our fabrics for the pieced blocks I first cut the square for the quarter-square triangles from the end opposite the selvage, which left just enough to cut the strip for our smaller squares.

(I have no idea why these pictures are coming up rotated. A painfully slow internet connection might have something to do with it.)

I just love it when strip cutting ends up with so little waste. The fabric is doubled over in this picture, giving me the four squares that I needed for my hourglass block.

Moving is such an emotional roller coaster. We are excited to start a new chapter, and having tons of fun looking for just the right place to enjoy life as empty nesters. Selling a house is a lot like going to prom without a date. We are helpless wallflowers as we wait for someone else to love the home we've loved for so many years.

My new favorite saying:
They say that God never gives you more than you can handle. God must think I'm a badass.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Fast Four-Patches

Some call it chain piecing, but I learned it as "assembly-line sewing" from my hero, Eleanor Burns, way back in the dark ages when rotary cutting was new. Quilters often believe that the big benefit from the process is to save on thread, but that is really just a nice side bonus.

I really do practice what I preach when it comes to staying organized. Just as the pattern indicates, I sort my pieces into zip top bags as I cut them.

I hate, hate, hate looking for things, and the more I fumble around looking for the right piece the more the chances improve that I will settle on the wrong one. Sorting the pieces so that I have only the shapes I need for the next step makes it harder to make a mistake.

(My hubby, a mechanical engineer who really does know how to do everything, suggests that "idiot proof" is impossible. The best we can hope for is "idiot resistance".)

Before I start, I set out the parts in the configuration in which they will be sewn. If it's hard to tell right from wrong side on a fabric, I take the time to flip them all right sides up in each of their stacks.

Now, all I have to pay attention to is the quality of my seam allowance. The top pair is sewn together, then the bottom pair, then the top pair and then the bottom pair, all the way to the bottom of the stacks.

My goal is always to have just a single stitch in the air between the pairs. When it comes time to sew the cross seam, the thread will act as my pin, holding the first seam in just the right place for that perfect intersection.

I'll be back in a couple of days with pressing strategies and more sneaky piecing tricks for sewing on the triangles.

In the mean time, I'm working on setting up a Pinterest board, and a linky thingie so we can share our progress. I hope you're working away out there, are you? Once we get these sashing strips out of the way, it's all fun and games.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Open House

The long-awaited other shoe has finally dropped. The job transfer has come through and we finally know where we're headed. There are still some details to work out, but it seems that Kent and I will be moving to Green Bay, Wisconsin sometime this spring.

The time has come to say goodbye to our treasured home. We have lived here nearly twenty years. This wonderful old house is practically a member of the family.

We're hosting an Open House on Sunday, March 1st, from 2 - 4 pm.

Click Here for more information, and a tour of the house.

When the realtor, my mom and I turned the corner into the driveway, all those years ago, it was love at first sight. We hardly got past the back hall and into the kitchen (which was orange and black, for heavens sake!) before I was convinced that this house was the perfect place to raise my four rowdy boys. More than that, though, I felt like the house was choosing us.

We've left our mark on this historic old home, to be sure, a lot of living has gone on here in the past two decades. This house has been filled with love and laughter, even when times were hard. We've celebrated birthdays and graduations. We even had a bride come down the wonderful old staircase, something this mother of boys never expected to see.

It's magic here, it really is. I wonder who the house will choose next.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Fine Romance - Step One, The Sashing Strips

It's all about between, which perfectly sums up my life since the beginning of the year. Personally, we're still waiting for that other shoe to drop. And then there are these sashing strips. Simple shapes, right? Easy Peasy. Well, as it turns out, yes and no.

Electric Quilt is just the best for designing quilts, especially the piecing part. I use it all the time to build the framework for my applique designs. One of the functions I love the most is being able to print out rotary cutting instructions for each block. It's terrific! The default setting is to state the sizes to the nearest eighth of an inch, which is just right most of the time.

It wasn't until I'd stitched out all sixty-eight of my four-patches, and then added the half square triangles that it occurred to me to measure the thing. They were about an sixteenth of an inch shy!

I went back to EQ and selected to have the sizes print out to the nearest sixteenth of an inch. (Something I usually do automatically.) Darned if the squares weren't listed as a sixteenth of an inch larger!

Now I know that I already have some quilters shaking in their shoes because there are no many eighth of an inch measurements. For the life of me, I don't understand the fear. The eighths are as clearly marked as the quarters and halves! I could only imagine how heads would explode is I suggested that anything be cut to a sixteenth of an inch. (Even though it's only halfway between the eights, how hard is that?)

So I fussed around and found that by rounding up on some shapes and rounding down on others, and with some careful attention to seam allowance, the sashing strips come out to pretty close to the right size. So, my dear quilting friends, just stay vigilant about seam allowance and all will be well.

What I thought folks would get their knickers in a twist over was the zillions of four-patches. Strip piecing is not my friend, especially the part where I have to cut each segment individually. So I wrote the pattern for both strip piecing and cutting the individual squares.

Step One is posted here. I'll have two more blog posts on piecing strategies in the coming days.

And just because the cold and gray of winter is finally getting to me, and I can't stand how gray and lifeless this post looks, here is a gratuitous picture of preparing the large flower applique pieces.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Fine Romance

Let's do this thing! Because my life just isn't crazy enough, I think it's high time we get this party started!

I've posted the supply list and (fingers crossed) schedule for the release of the pattern steps over on Craftsy.

Click Here

Since things are still unsettled here I'm using the Craftsy Pattern Store to post the blocks. That may change once everything settles down, but for now it's the best I can do.

The introductory step has been posted for free. The individual steps will be posted initially for $1 each and will remain at that price for one month. After that, the price of each step will become $3. (Gotta keep you coming back, right?)

We're going to start with the boring stuff, the pieced sashing strips. I always start by doing my least favorite step. I was chatting with a friend recently who was working on a charming wool applique pattern. She had done all of the special blocks and had only the plain, boring scallop blocks for the edging left. She mentioned that she hoped she could keep with them, seeing how unappealing they were, long enough to finish the project. She gave me such a look when I explained that I would have started with them.

It's just my way of keeping a WIP from becoming a UFO. How many of us have projects that are nearly done? Often there is just one or two steps left to do, but after the interesting parts were done the project just lost all of its steam. Instead, by conquering the less glamorous steps first, while I'm still excited about the project, I can look forward to how much fun the rest of the work will be.

So, meet me back here on Sunday for the first step. I plan to have a stack of pieced sashing strips ready for show and tell. It could happen!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

God Laughs

It's an old Yiddish saying. Man plans and God laughs. I started this year with a renewed creative drive. I had plans, such plans, of all the wonderful new stuff I would make and learn. Wanting to be more painterly in my applique design, I signed up for a beginning watercolor class. With the new quilt project's design nearly finalized, I started pulling fabrics.

And then everything changed. Just like that. While it's too soon to go into details because we don't have any yet. We've been waiting for details, for almost a month. No need to worry, it's nothing dire, just a big change, and one that will be very good when we've finally come through it.

So, here it is, my working plan for the new Block of the Month. I'm calling it "A Fine Romance" after one of my favorite songs, written by Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern.

Some of you who have been around this old blog for a while might recognize the design as one briefly posted a couple of years ago. The piecing plan is pretty much the same, but the applique is all new. I've been wanting to do something all viney and curvy for a while, this project seemed to be the perfect place for it.

With all the uproar around me, it's been a challenge to make even the simplest decisions. For a while I was toying with having the flower colors be much more random, but I'm thinking now that I'm going to stay with the rhythm of the colors falling in their own place. What do you think? The colors in the design are just placeholders anyway, so maybe I'll just have to make a few and see what I like.

Yesterday I added a few more colors to the palette. It seemed to need a more lemony yellow and some citrus greens. Several of the fabrics are from Moda's Grunge line, including the light background. The soft gray for the background accent piecing is a Riley Blake Basic which has a very similar texture. It's taken me a while to settle on the gray. I wanted it to be there, but not there, you know. This gray has a little more presence than that, and I may end up using the back side, or even replace it. We'll see.

The timing for the release of the steps is totally up in the air, just like everything in my life right now. It may have to be two months between steps, or even catch as catch can until things are finally settled, which I understand could be

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wanna Cruise with me?

Warm, tropical beaches. Sunshine. Excellent food. As casual or formal as you please. And quilting!

I hope you'll join me on a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean next March 5-13, 2016 with Quilt Retreat at Sea. That's eight delightful days at sea, eight days to rest and reinvigorate without a care in the world.

My hubby and I love to cruise. It's like staying at a deluxe hotel that also takes us to exotic places. We always return to real life with renewed energy.

This marvelous beauty will take us from island to island. We will be sailing onboard Royal Caribbean’s innovative Independence of the Seas. She recently underwent a $7 million refurbishment. The new features include a Cupcake Shop, an Italian trattoria called Giovanni’s, new digital signage, bow-to-stern WiFi (fees apply) and a poolside movie screen.

Our itinerary:
5 March 2016:          Depart Fort Lauderdale at 5:30pm
6 March 2016:          Cruising and Quilting Day at Sea
7 March 2016:          Labadee, Haiti from 7am to 3pm
8 March 2016:          San Juan, Puerto Rico from 2pm to 9pm
9 March 2016:          Basseterre, St. Kitts from 10am to 6pm
10 March 2016:        Philipsburg, St. Maarten from 8am to 5pm
11 March 2016:        Cruising and Quilting Day at Sea
12 March 2016:        Cruising and Quilting Day at Sea
13 March 2016:        Arrive Fort Lauderdale at 5:30am

On St. Kitts, we'll be visiting Caribelle Batiks, where we'll see first hand how some of our favorite quilting fabric is hand made.

For those days at sea I've designed charming little project that is full of fun techniques . It's a secret for now, but I'll be showing glimpses on the blog from time to time.

Click HERE to find out all you need to know to join us on this amazing tour. Spaces are limited, please check it out right away.