Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Bluenose II Pixel Quilt - Finally Finished

Dear Cindy,

       Now that your quilt is finally finished and on its way to you, I decided to tell you its full story.
       Since you love the ocean and your favourite colour was blue (that was before you told me that you now prefer the jewel tones), I decided to make you a quilt with a nautical theme, and I started collecting blue fabrics (which I didn't end up using since they were print and I needed solids for this quilt). There are a number of quilt block names that are related to the ocean, and I figured I would likely pick one of these. But I was letting it percolate in my mind for awhile.
       Meanwhile I enrolled in an online quilting class called Pictures to Pixel Quilts. The quilt for the class was a picture of the instructor's eye. Boring. So I started looking around for ideas. In Microsoft Paint, I pixelated a hydrangea photo that I took at Muttart Conservatory. But I wasn't sure if I wanted to try making a quilt out of that either. It was a pretty tedious job trying to calculate the colours...
       One day I was perusing the latest issue of Canadian History while I was home on my lunch break. It had an article on the Bluenose II, and I had a sudden lightbulb moment. That was it - I would do a pixel quilt of the Bluenose II. Perfect! You love the ocean, you love Canadian history and you live in Nova Scotia - what could be better? I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
       In the pixel quilt course, we were introduced to Pic 2 Pat, an online website that converts photos into cross-stitch patterns. Then I had to find a decent picture of the Bluenose II, and upload it to the sight. I had to play around quite a bit to get it the right size. Initially, I was going to make the whole quilt a pixelated picture. But I decided that was a little overwhelming and settled on just the bed top. More or less. It was challenging to get the size right and I settled for what would approximately cover the bed top. I also had to determine the number of squares and colours. The more squares and colours, the more detail in the picture, but also the more challenging. And I ended up settling on 1-inch squares and 77 colours.
       The pattern gave the colour requirements in DMC floss. But I was using fabric not floss. So, somehow I had to convert it. I bought a DMC floss colour card and a Kona cotton colour card. Kona is one of the best known lines of solid-coloured fabric in the quilting world.
DMC Floss Colour Card

Unfortunately, the floss card only had pictures of the floss, not actual samples.
Kona Cotton Colour Card
And the Kona card only had 1-inch samples of fabric. That made it very difficult to compare colours. So my buddy, Phil, who works in a sign shop and knows his colours, and I went to Michael's to compare actual floss with the Kona Colour Card. And I duly noted down our selections. I had also picked up some solid blue fabrics in Ontario at the Aylmer Sales Arena, so they too had to fit into the colour scheme. And Michael's didn't have all of the floss colours either, so I had to do my best with comparing the two colour cards. Unfortunately, there are more floss colours than there are fabric colours, so some fabrics had to stand in for more than one floss colour. I ended up with 66 colours, 41 of which were shades of blue. Did you know that there were even that many different shades of blue? Wow!
I have to pause for a minute and give credit to my pal, Phil. How many men do you know that would have that kind of patience? So, you owe some thanks to him for his part in the colour selection.
But the fun had just begun, because I still had to calculate fabric requirements. The pixel part of this quilt is 63" x 72". That means 4,536 one-inch squares. So, I had to count symbols on the pattern to determine how many I needed of each symbol, which would translate into each colour of fabric. Now, of course, on the pattern, these squares were smaller than 1/8". So, I had lots of fun trying to count those miniscule symbols, some of which look very much alike. Then I had to calculate how many 1-1/2" squares (with seam allowance) I could fit into different measurements of fabric. I actually created a spreadsheet in Excel, indicating the DMC colour number and name with the corresponding Kona colour number and name, and the number of squares I would need of each colour. 
Pattern and Excel Spreadsheet
In addition to the fabric I bought in Ontario, I ended up ordering from three different vendors, because no one vendor had all of the colours I needed. I ordered some charm squares (5" squares of fabric, which would yield nine 1-1/2" squares), fat quarters (an 18x22" piece of fabric), half yards and yardage. And when they all finally arrived, I labelled each piece of fabric with the corresponding DMC floss number and arranged them all in numerical order. However, as I progressed through the quilt, it was very difficult to keep them that way, especially the ones that represented more than one floss colour number.
I also had to decide what to do for borders and backing. I found a boat fabric on eBay, but miscalculated somehow and didn't order enough.
Fortunately, it was still available and I ordered the rest of what I needed.
       For the borders, I decided to alternate an underwater fabric with seashells on the sand fabric,
and use a different nautical themed block for each corner. In those, I hoped to add the jewel tones that you like, and bring out some of the colours from the border fabrics.
Lighthouse Tower
Storm At Sea
Sailor's Delight
Ocean Waves
But back to the pixel part of the quilt - rather than do the large areas of the same colour in individual 1" squares, I chose to do it as larger pieces of fabric. Otherwise, you'd probably still be waiting. I realized, however, that when sewing rectangles together that went every which way, the seams didn't always line up and I had to chose to do only one row of squares at a time - not 2 rows by 4 columns or 3 rows by 3 columns. I put the main fabrics I was working with into bins on my cutting table and labelled each bin with the floss number and symbol. I chose to work in mostly 10" blocks. Once I got to the more challenging parts, I decided to draw a couple of 10x10 grids on my design wall (which is just a vinyl flannel-backed tablecloth with the flannel side out) to keep track of which square of fabric went where. I also discovered that I couldn't work on this quilt if I was feeling tired. I had to be mentally alert to keep the colours in order.
The quilt was about 3/4 finished when I decided that I really needed to get the sewing room renovations done. My design wall with the current squares I was working with came down off the wall, and everything was put away wherever I could find room. That ended up being quite a long quilting hiatus. It's very challenging trying to do renovations while working full time, and I finally hired help. Meanwhile Sophia and Damian moved in, and, since Grandma is Damian's favourite playmate, I still didn't get back to your quilt right away. To be perfectly frank, it was tedious and hard to keep motivated.
Last fall, I determined to get back at it and finally finished the quilt top. All that was left was the quilting and binding. Unfortunately, I had that aborted attempt at Central Sewing Machines, where it seemed everything went wrong. My time is limited for when I can get into the Longarm studio to quilt, but over the Christmas/New Year's season, my favourite - but most expensive - quilting studio had a half price sale and I booked 6 hours on the first available date that I had off and they had time available. That was April 7th. And I switched threads. I didn't think the Aurilux thread (on the right) was blue enough - it's more teal/aqua than blue, so I bought a variegated Artistry thread (on the left).
I figured 6 hours would be ample for this quilt, and hoped I might even get a chance to do another, smaller quilt. Ha! Fortunately no one else was booked for the Longarm machine after me as I used a fairly dense quilting pattern (Wave Upon Wave)
and it ended up taking me 7 hours. And my feet were killing me afterwards. But I was so happy to finally have it done. All that was left was the trimming and the binding, which was also lots of "fun" maneuvering all of that bulky, heavy quilt.
And, as I said, it is heavy - the parcel weighed over 3.3 kg. You'll also find it stiff initially, until it's been washed at least once.
Up close, a pixel quilt looks just like a random bunch of squares of different coloured fabric. The farther away you get, the better it looks. That's why I took pictures in the garage (it was snowing/raining so I couldn't take them outside).
Enjoy your quilt. I will likely never make another like it.
With lots of love,
By the way, I have since found a website that makes actual pixel quilt patterns, and calculates the yardage and colours for you. Oh, how much time I could have saved if YouPatch had been available when I first started designing this quilt!

Other posts about the Bluenose II Pixel Quilt:

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Train Cardigan for My Grandson

Woohoo! It's finally finished.
I don't even remember how long ago I started it. I got the left front finished and then stalled there for awhile, then got to just below the train on the right front done and stalled for even longer. But, through sheer persistence, I am finally finished.

It's a size 4, and my grandson is already 4-1/2 years old, so I was afraid he would outgrow it before I got it finished. However, there's still lots of room to grow in it.
The original pattern called for a white background, but Damian's favourite colour is orange. And orange is a more practical colour than white for a little boy. The two train cars on the back were supposed to be the same colour, which I thought was boring, so I changed that as well.
By the way, my grandson has a headstart on Donald Trump when it comes to wall-building.

Two Quilts Find a Home

I don't always know who the recipient will be when I'm constructing a quilt. Yes, for many of the quilts I make I have a definite recipient in mind. But sometimes I'm making it for a quilt challenge, a quilt-along or a block of the month, or just because I like the pattern and/or fabric. Or sometimes I plan on it being for me, until I find out it's the perfect quilt for someone else. That happened with Wild Mustangs of the Painted Desert.
I really loved the fabric I was using in this quilt. But then horse-loving friends were moving to a different province and I knew this quilt must be theirs as a farewell gift. 
Scrappy Shine was a different matter altogether.
I had a definite recipient in mind - the adopted daughter of one of my nephews. Unfortunately, the adoption fell through and Scrappy Shine was "homeless." The next children of my nephews were boys, and with it's pink binding, I really didn't think this quilt was appropriate. And I resolved to make neutral baby quilts from then on unless I definitely knew the gender. Meanwhile, Scrappy Shine languished, unclaimed for over 2 years. But then - serendipity - the wife of another nephew gave birth to a beautiful little girl. And Scrappy Shine is now on its way to Andrea Jane. 
You'll notice I used this quilt as the background for the slogan at the top of my post. I don't think it's that catchy, but it is how I feel. A girl can only wear a dress for so long before she outgrows it. And then it gets handed down or sold in a yard sale or donated to a thrift store. But I try to make my "baby" quilts with fabric that isn't too baby-ish and make them big enough so that they can be used throughout childhood. And then, if good care has been taken of them, they can be stored and passed down to the next generation. Of if they've been enjoyed until they are rags, then that's good, too. 
And then there's Stars Over Africa.
I made this as my entry in last year's Johnson's Sewing Centre/Quilter's Dream Quilt Challenge. And I won second place - A $150 store credit! But who to give it to, I didn't know. If I owned a castle instead of a bungalow, I might have space to keep all of the quilts I make. But I don't. I offered it to another nephew (yes, I have quite a few of those) as a housewarming gift, but he doesn't like green and opted for a red, white, blue and black quilt, that isn't quilted yet. 
I don't remember what it's called. You'll have to wait until I quilt it and blog about it, and hopefully I'll find the book that it's in, in the meantime. 
So what to do with Stars Over Africa? I liked it, and it was kind of a nice idea to keep it since it was my first big win. Yes, I've won a few firsts in the local fairs, but those are local, small town fairs. This was Edmonton! And I wasn't able to enter this year. I wavered back and forth. And tried to listen to the Holy Spirit's guidance. After all, my talents and abilities are because of His blessings, so I try to find out who He wants the quilt to go to. And tonight I dropped it off at a retired pastor's place, for him and his wife. He's had some very serious health - and other - challenges in the past year or so. And God knew he and his wife needed a "hug." That's what I consider my quilts - hugs from God, a tangible reminder of God's great love for the recipient. 
So, two less quilts in my house - that means more room for fabric. 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Making Progress

When this past week's quilt block for the Solstice Challenge was published, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to do it. It's an applique basket and I didn't feel that it was consistent with the fabric I'm using and the look I am aiming for. But I decided to do it anyway. However, I first had to tidy up the basket. Sorry, Pat Sloan, but it was too sloppy for my liking. I folded the pattern in half to make sure both sides matched. used a ruler to make all of the straight lines straight, used a round object (my paper clip holder) to round off the handle and made the pattern all one piece, rather than the basket and handle separate. And I still didn't like it. It's just not right for this fabric.
When I posted it to Instagram, I noticed that other quilters had customized their blocks and decided I would, too. I had been looking for an opportunity to use a fussy cut of the deer in this fabric, so decided this was the occasion, and made the deer the centre of a square in a square. 
And I love it! See the finished block below.                             
It's gotten a LOT of likes on facebook as well (over 400 last time I checked), 
Here are the two blocks side by side. 
I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the original block. I would have liked it better leaving the centre without the applique. Maybe I'll remove the basket. 
I've also been plodding along on Damian's train cardian. It definitely needs blocking, but I'm pretty happy with my first (and maybe my only) attempt at intarsia knitting. It's a size 4 and he's already 4 years old, but fortunately not big for his age. I need to get this done while it will still fit him. Hmm, is that sleeve supposed to be that big? One more sleeve to go, then the button & buttonhold bands and neckband. 
And today I'm very happy to have finally finished the Stars All Around quilt top for my great nephew Aiden. I think that gives me 4 quilt tops that I need to find time to spend at the longarm studio in order to finish them.  

Saturday, 14 January 2017

My X-Day

Friday the 13th was my "X" day, which is the nickname we give to our scheduled day off. According to our union contract, we get one 3-day weekend (unpaid) every 4 weeks, and mine was a good day. It partially made up for the fact that I was sick over Christmas and while I had time off, I was too sick to do much of anything with the time. Anyway, the weather had finally improved to the point where frostbite was not an imminent danger and I felt comfortable going into the city to get some errands run.
I was notified by my cell phone service provider that they would no longer be able to support the technology for my old flip phone as of January 31. So, that was my first order of business - I had to get a new cell phone. Believe it or not, I had to buy it at a grocery store. My provider started out running grocery stores, then turned to banking and finally to cell phone service. I had already tried to replace my phone on a previous visit to the city last month, but the store I went to only had flip phones. Seriously? Even though they might have more modern technology than my old flip phone, I was trying to get away from that. So the store I went in yesterday initially said they didn't have any phones. Then they started rummaging in a storage room as one of the clerks thought she remembered seeing some somewhere. Then they rummaged in some drawers and cupboards and they managed to find 3 cell phones. One was not for my provider (apparently they sell phones for other providers, as well). Of the other two, one was some generic brand that I didn't recognize and the other was a Motorola. I went with the Motorola. Now I can text people without having to punch the same button 3 or 4 times. And I can access the internet, do Instagram, read my email... Fun!
Next I went to Lori's Country Cottage. I had purchased something in their Stuff Your Stocking event, but had totally forgotten about it. I'm sure it was the Lord that reminded me about it, as one morning before getting up it suddenly came to my mind. But I couldn't remember what it was. Somehow I thought it was a quilting ruler - a rather expensive one, as I seemed to recall. Sure enough, it was the Stripology ruler, plus a Stripology book and a quilt pattern that I hadn't remembered at all.

Plus I picked up some clearance fat quarters. I'm hoping the green will go with my Solstice Challenge blocks in case I need some fabric for finishing - sashing or whatever. And the good thing is, there's room on my pegboard for this huge ruler!
After finishing at Lori's, I decided to make what I thought would be a quick stop at a thrift store (Value Village). I was hoping to pick up a Fondue set as I want to try some of the fondue recipes from this cookbook:
I found one alright, but then decided to check out the book and craft departments. For whatever reason, there seems to be a scarcity of quilting books in the thrift stores lately. Maybe because I've bought them all already, so I didn't find anything on the bookshelves. However, the craft department was another matter. I just had to rescue this from the thrift store:
I think a crafter must have died or moved into a nursing home as, in addition to this unfinished afghan, I found another (uglier) one that was a bunch of granny squares made up but not sewn together and a bit of yarn - it was hard to tell as it was in a sealed bag. There was a smaller bag with finer white yarn and what might have been some granny squares as well. I was able to pass those by, but this red and cream one was calling to me. It's Canada's 150th "birthday" this year and I figured the colours were about right for a sesquicentennial afghan. And I decided to finish it in honour of the anonymous crafter who had to give up her craft. However, it's kind of curious. The final row completed seems to have ended in the middle of the row.
You can see the loop at the top where the row ended, but it appears to be a complete row, so how the yarn ended in the middle is beyond me. The yarn in the bag is a Sears Sayelle. And the bag itself has a Sears sticker on it The yarn label has French as well as English, so I know it came from Canada. Because it's "Sears" and not "Simpsons Sears," this afghan kit would have likely originated after 1978, when they dropped the "Simpsons." If anyone knows this pattern, I would appreciate hearing about it. It certainly would save me trying to figure out the pattern on my own.
Also in the craft department were a bunch of older knitting and crocheting books, which I figure had also belonged to the anonymous crafter. Most of them were too dated to bother with, unless I wanted to sell them as antiques. If I had a craft store, I would buy them for a display case. I do love vintage stuff, but one can only accumulate so much before it becomes a clutter burden. I did pick up a few of the books.
One of them is specifically Canadian knits, so that will make for good projects for this "Sesqui" year. The pillow forms in the back I intend to use for pillow projects from the 50 Country Quilting Projects book.
You might recall that I took a quilt embellishment workshop in September.
I was able to pick up quite a few beads to use to embellish my quilts. Not sure how realistic that idea was, however. I'm lucky to get time to get the quilts quilted, let alone sewing beads on them...
A couple of little sewing kits caught my eye because of all the notions in them, plus a "vintage" sewing basket that I intend to keep in my travel trailer - if I don't sell it in the meantime. The trailer, that is. I'm not a big fan of towing and I'm not sure if I'm prepared to invest in paying for a seasonal site for it. Plus, if I sell it, I could put the money towards a Longarm! Something to consider.
In the front of the above picture is this weird thing:
It was in the bag with one of the sewing kits. If anyone knows what it is, please tell me. I have no idea. At first I thought it was some kind of throat plate, but the upper left part is a cutting blade.
Amazing what you come up with when all you were planning on buying was a fondue set. And the fondue set that I did end up buying didn't come with fondue forks, so now I'll have to look for them.
My next stop was Costco, where I was just going to buy a couple of bags of walnuts. I also thought my membership was up for renewal, but they didn't mention anything about it when I checked out. Which was a good thing. Those two bags of walnuts ended up costing me over $140. Interesting how that happens at Costco (yes, I need that, too, and I think I'll try that, and...). Unfortunately, the Moroccan Style Chickpea soup that I bought a case of didn't turn out to be delicious. I wish Costco would sell sample cans so that you can first determine if you like it well enough to buy a case of 8. Hopefully, the lentil soup will be better.
My final stop was the mall where I had lunch. I had neglected to take my water bottles along, even though I had them by the door when I left, so was very thirsty by the time I got to the mall. I got 2 - 591 ml water bottles with my lunch. That's 1182 ml or over 5 cups. And I had it all gone by the time I was finished lunch. My dehydrated body must have just soaked it right up because I didn't even stop for a potty break on my way home. LOL!

Hook & Needle News 14/01/17

I am grateful to report that the Floating Stars quilt top is finished.

I'm not sure when I'm going to get the opportunity to quilt it, but at least this much is done. And, I have to admit, I think it rocks! 😃
And this week's Solstice Challenge Block:
I am really loving this monochromatic colour scheme and the fabric. Can hardly wait to see it when it's all finished. I ordered some fabric from Sew Sisters that I'm hoping I might be able to use for finishing this quilt, if I need another fabric. We'll see when we get that far. But summer still seems like a long way's away and this Solstice Challenge goes from winter solstice to summer solstice. But it gives me a chance to get other things done.
I didn't take pictures of it, but I'm really making progress on Damian's train cardigan: left and right fronts and back done, and I'm almost finished one sleeve. I need to finish that before he outgrows it!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Floating Stars and Wintry Woods

After completing blocks 2 & 3 of Pat Sloan's 182 Day Solstice Challenge in this fabric, I've decided that I love the look of this colour scheme and will continue with the challenge.
Green is my nephew Justin's favourite colour and so it looks like this is going to be his quilt. I just wish I knew what the finishing is going to be so that I can plan my fabric purchases. However, I will just start with buying more of these two fabrics. I think I'm going to call it Wintry Woods, but I also keep having the Robert Frost poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," run through my head, so that might end up being this quilt's name.
This evening, while working on January's UFO, I've been listening to this CD:

I love classical music and this is a great selection from various composers. However, after listening to it multiple times, I'm getting rather tired of it and need to rummage around and find some of my other classical CDs.
Here's where I am so far with Floating Stars:

That's actually half of the top, minus the borders, of course.
I'm getting sick of trimming half square triangles. The fabric squares are cut out at 4". Once they're made into HST units, they have to be trimmed down to 3-1/2". I'm thinking that the next time I do HSTs I will spray starch the fabric to help keep the bias from stretching and cut the squares at 3-7/8". That way I shouldn't have to trim. Trimming vastly increases the amount of time and effort required to make a quilt. And I'm basically lazy (😃) and don't have a whole lot of time. Besides, I realized that the quilt I was making for my great nephew Aiden didn't make it onto my UFO list for 2017 and he was born last spring, so I really need to get that one done soon! Not enough time to waste trimming HSTs!
By the way, the Floating Stars quilt is from this book:
 It's for my nephew, Bradley, who bought himself a house this past year. We had his housewarming party in September. Some day maybe I'll catch up. Maybe even get ahead so that I can actually give the quilts on the occasion they were intended for.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Must Be Crazy

Since I have so many UFOs (Unfinished Objects), I decided to join the American Patchwork & Quilting's 2017 UFO Challenge. Participants are to make a list of 12 UFOs and APQ announces each month which number we are to work on. For January, it's #6, which for me is the Floating Stars quilt that I am making for my nephew, Bradley. Unfortunately for me, a large percentage of my UFOs are projects that I haven't even started yet, which gives me a lot more to finish than, say, someone who just has to put on a binding. And Bradley's quilt was one of the ones that I had the fabric for, but hadn't even started anything yet. However, that has already changed. I assembled one block because I wanted to see what it looked like.
Then I completed about half of the Square A's.
Then I finished all of the Square A's.
Four of them didn't fit on my design wall, but there are 32 A Squares, plus the 2 B Squares required to complete the first block: 34 out of 64 total squares. Now I've got 30 B Squares to complete.
Meanwhile, Pat Sloan has started The 182 Day Solstice Challenge, which will be a block a week from winter solstice to summer solstice. I wasn't going to join. I definitely did not need another project. But seeing everyone else's pictures on facebook,  I decided to give it a try as well. I considered using Northcott's Porcelain Blue line since I have 5 fat quarters of it and I absolutely love it. But I know that 5 fat quarters are not going to be enough for 25 blocks. Today, after work, I stopped at my LQS. I don't have a whole lot of time from the time I get off work to the time the LQS closes, and I really wasn't sure what I wanted to try or what I felt gave the "look" I was looking for. I ended up buying a metre of two different fabrics to experiment with and see if I liked the combination.
It's definitely a unique look, but I think I like it. The lighter fabric is snow-covered evergreens. The darker is a tonal fabric that looks like pinecones. I figured it was a good combination with the evergreens. So, it's basically going to be a monochromatic quilt. I still have two more blocks to do to catch up with everyone. Once I've done them, I can determine if I like this combination well enough to purchase more fabric to do the whole challenge in it.