Sunday, 21 February 2021

Amazing Grace


The husband of a friend from my homeschooling days was dying. We weren't really close friends and I hadn't spoken to her in years. We lived in different communities, attended different churches, and I was on a dramatically different path from what I had been when we knew each other. I went from being a homeschool mom and "housewife" to divorced career woman. Regardless, I still considered her a friend, so, when I heard the bad news about her husband, I determined to make her a quilt. 

I actually started four different quilts before finally settling on this one. And I really think it's the best one for the sad occasion. 

A few years ago, I purchased a panel that was composed of several smaller panels with words: Amazing Grace, the Prayer of Serenity, the Prayer of St. Francis, the Beatitudes, plus some smaller pieces that could be quilt labels and bookmarks. I had never used any of it before, but figured this was a good occasion to use Amazing Grace. So, I rummaged around in my stash trying to find something that would work with it. I found a quilt kit that I thought I could make work. It consisted of 4-patches on point in a square, alternating with fussy cut squares from a fabric that was printed as a cheater double wedding ring quilt. The instructions said to fussy cut 32 squares, but I figured I could get by with less, since I was adding a small panel. However, when I started cutting it, I realized that I was only going to get 16, or 20 at most out of the fabric, nowhere near what I needed. So, I decided not to fussy cut and try just cutting regular squares, but that looked terrible with the printed pattern. Then I pulled another fabric out of my stash that I could use as a focus fabric for the alternate squares instead. Meanwhile, I was noticing the poor quality of most of the fabric from the quilt kit: thin, cheap, not quilt-shop quality. And the alternate yardage that I pulled from my stash was even worse - it was so thin you could see through it! That stuff was given to me and I hadn't paid that much attention to it when I received it. Now I realized that there was no way I could gift a quilt made out of such cheap junk. I would use it some day to practice free motion quilting. Or something. But definitely not for a gift quilt!

Back to the drawing board and back to the stash. This time I decided to try one of the stained glass panels that I have as I had purchased sufficient fabric to coordinate with the panel. 

It's interesting that I had not long before this spoken with my co-worker, who is a potter, about not being able to part with certain projects. And this was one of mine. I have never had such a strong reluctance to part with a quilt. And I don't even know what colours my friend likes. What if she doesn't like purple? Or green? What if this quilt doesn't speak to her heart the way it speaks to mine? Somehow I just didn't feel that this was the right quilt for my friend. 

Rummaging once more in the stash, I next started Home on the Farm, a quilt for which I had all of the fabric I needed. 

But when I posted the first finished Barbara Frietchie block to Facebook, one of my great nieces, who has yet to receive a quilt from me, loved it, as well as the panel I was coordinating it with.

And so this quilt will likely go to her. Originally, I had planned on just surrounding the panel with the blocks, but wasn't sure if I would like the final look. And instead I added the flying geese, which I'm quite happy with. We'll see how it looks when it's finished. 

I decided to go back to the Amazing Grace panel and try some other sort of stained glass look. Then I remembered some cuts of batiks that I had purchased in rainbow colours. I thought they were full metres, but it turned out that they were half metres. And that was sufficient, except that I ended up doing some creative piecing because of incorrect cuts. And I had my bolt of black Kona that I had recently purchased to use in between the batiks. 

I'm really happy with the final product and I trully believe this is the right quilt for my friend. I used the Faith, Hope and Love pantograph. 

You can see hearts, crosses and doves in the stitching. I also wanted a special thread and so ordered Fantastico in the Stained Glass colourway.

It was the first time I've tried this thread and I was quite pleased with it. I used a blue Glide in the bobbin (I don't remember which particular blue). 

Sometimes I put a lot more meaning into a quilt than just "a quilt," and that's what I did with this one. First of all, there's the hymn, Amazing Grace. For this occasion, I wanted to especially focus on the last two verses, 
  1. Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
    I have already come;
    ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
    And grace will lead me home.
  2. When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
    Bright shining as the sun,
    We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
    Than when we’d first begun.
  3. Yes, my friend will get through this trial of losing her husband by God's grace, and will be reunited with him when Jesus returns and spend eternity praising God for His goodness, His love and His grace. 
  4. As I was stitching the pantograph, with all of its crosses, the song "It's About the Cross" kept running through my mind, especially the chorus. 
  5. It's about the cross
    It's about my sin
    It's about how Jesus came to be born once
    So that we could be born again
    It's about the stone
    That was rolled away
    So that you and I could have real life someday
    It's about the cross.

"Real life someday." Yes, Jesus promised us not just a more abundant life in the here and now. (John 10:10), but He promises an even better life in His eternal kingdom when He comes again, a place where... "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4. 

Christians refer to the second coming of Jesus as the "blessed hope." Titus 2:13. And it is with this in mind, that I chose the backing fabric. I wanted something that would remind her of that Blessed Hope.

The fabric is called "First Light" and it makes me think of a couple of songs. The first is a little chorus that we used to sing years ago, Some Golden Daybreak.

Some golden daybreak Jesus will come
Some golden daybreak, battles all won
He’ll shout the victory, break through the blue
Some golden daybreak, for me, for you.

And the second is the hymn, Gleams of the Golden Morning:

The golden morning is fast approaching:
Jesus soon will come
To take His faithful and happy children

To their promised home.

O, we see the gleams of the golden morning
Piercing through this night of gloom!
O, we see the gleams of the golden morning
That will burst the tomb.

Amen, Jesus will be bursting open the tombs and graves of those who loved Him, resurrecting them to reunite them with their loved ones and take them home with Him. 

You'll also notice that there are some dark clouds in the backing fabric. These  remind me of a quote from one of my - and that of my friend's - favourite authors, Ellen G. White in the book, The Great Controversy, p. 640: 

Soon there appears in the east a small black cloud, about half the size of a man's hand. It is the cloud which surrounds the Saviour and which seems in the distance to be shrouded in darkness. The people of God know this to be the sign of the Son of man. In solemn silence they gaze upon it as it draws nearer the earth, becoming lighter and more glorious, until it is a great white cloud, its base a glory like consuming fire, and above it the rainbow of the covenant. Jesus rides forth as a mighty conqueror. Not now a “Man of Sorrows,” to drink the bitter cup of shame and woe, He comes, victor in heaven and earth, to judge the living and the dead.

Notice in the quote "the rainbow of the covenant." We also know, from Revelation 4:3 that there is a rainbow around the throne of God and that the foundations of the New Jerusalem are arranged in the order of the rainbow (Revelation 21:19-20), in addition to the rainbow of promise after the flood (Genesis 9:12-17). So, I chose a rainbow of colours for the fabric in the quilt top as well as the thread to quilt it with. It's a reminder that God is faithful, that He keeps His promises and that He will come again. 

Finally, as I was considering fabric for the binding, the verse came to mind, "The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:2). These are the leaves of the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem. And so I chose a fabric with leaves as a reminder that God will heal us physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

So, it's my prayer that my friend will find this quilt a comfort and a reminder of God's promises. Now to get it packed up and ready for the mail tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The Great Canadian Maple Leaf Quilting Adventure

I'm actually calling this the Vintage Maple Leaf Quilt because it's from a "vintage" pattern, but it has been quite the adventure. This is definitely a quilt of firsts:

  • first applique quilt (yes, I've done applique blocks, but never a whole quilt)
  • first quilt with wool batting
  • first quilt with double batting (one layer cotton, one layer wool)
  • first quilt completed with rulers (I did do those fabric Valentines for my grandson with a ruler, but that was less than a metre of fabric)
  • first quilt that I've taken off the frame and reloaded it sideways
  • first quilt I've had to do three passes over - one for the horizontal borders and sashing plus the leaves, one for the vertical borders and sashing and one to quilt the white background in the blocks
  • first quilt I've used 2 different colours of thread to quilt (an army green for the borders, sashing and leaves and white for the block backgrounds)
  • first time I've completed a quilt from a pattern that I've had for over 43 years (while I may have some books that are older than that, I don't think I have owned any of them for that length of time)
My goal was actually to complete this quilt for my daughter for Christmas. The label on the back says 2020, but that is not entirely accurate. I was alternating rows of blocks between this one and the Stitch Pink quilt, which I was making for my oldest niece. I was able to finish that one before Christmas, and the quilt top was finished for this one. But then the (mis)adventures began. When I unfolded the backing fabric, I disovered that somehow I had miscalculated the amount required and I didn't have enough. Thank the Lord, I was off work, the quilt shop was open and they still had some of the fabric left. That was the 23rd of December and they were closed December 24th and wouldn't reopen until the 4th of January. I wouldn't have been able to do any work on this quilt over the holidays if I hadn't gone in that day. Or I would have had to make a mad dash to another community with a quilt shop open and probably had to purchase the entire amount required for backing since the likelihood of matching this fabric was slim. 
Nearly perfect backing fabric for this quilt. My LQS actually had one that I liked better. It was the same design, but some of the leaves were fall colours. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough of that one. And I almost didn't have enough of this one. 😌
The next issue was trying to get my longarm into ClearView load position. 
Since I would be using rulers, this keeps the top bar out of the way of the rulers and my arms. I watched the video and it looked pretty simple to lift and drop the bar assembly and then it would just be a matter of turning around one of the leaders to use it in this position. However, no matter how much I manhandled it (even lifting the entire frame off the floor), I could barely get it to budge. I finally called my vendor and was told to loosen a couple of the screws on each end (which is what I had thought of trying, but didn't want to try it without their go ahead), and success! Though the left end still gave me some trouble. 
Before I loaded the quilt, I also had to trim both battings so that I wouldn't have a lot hanging over the side. I trimmed them to what I thought was a generous allowance - about 8" wider than the quilt top. Apparently, wool batting scrunches itself back up somehow and once I loaded it, I discovered that I barely had enough and had to keep tugging on it to make sure it extended past the edges of the quilt top. Then, to load. As the clamps would be in the way of the ruler base, I had to have something to which the clamps could attach and then pin the other ends to the backing. Some binding remnants served the purpose. 
These are the rulers I purchased for this quilt: Wiggle Wave, Versa Tool and Straight Edge.

I bought the Versa Tool because it's supposed to be good for applique and stitch-in-the-ditch. I didn't find it really improved my accuracy for applique, and I only did enough stitch-in-the-ditch to get from one diagonal line to the next in the block backgrounds, so that would have required a quick switch back and forth from the Straight Edge to the Versa Tool and back again - not worth the effort, in my opinion. 

I finally started the quilting, but, oh my, what a lot of work quilting with rulers is! I don't know why people like it. It's tedious and time-consuming.

And my free motion quilting on the leaves was terrible. I couldn't stay on the edge of the leaves. And when I did the veins and had to travel back over my quilting, I often ended up with loops instead of my stitching going over the previous path. And what a hassle to switch between colours frequently! I was up late that first night and went to bed discouraged, and could hardly sleep because I was trying to figure out how to get this quilting done. I had pretty much made up my mind to remove it from the frame, rip out all of my stitching and just use a pantograph. I do have two different maple leaf pantographs, after all. And that was what I had originally planned on doing. But I also knew that an allover pantograph just wouldn't do this quilt justice. Those leaves needed to pop, which is what I wanted to accomplish with ruler quilting. 
In the morning, I decided not to let this defeat me and came up with a better plan of attack. I had originally planned on doing the whole quilt with one pass, completing each section as I advanced the quilt. I now recognized that that was not the best way to get this quilt quilted. Trying to do vertical as well as horizontal lines, plus changing thread colours repeatedly wasn't going to cut it. So, I now planned to quilt it in three stages: 
  1. Quilt the horizontal borders and sashing, plus the leaves.
  2. Reload the quilt sideways to quilt the vertical borders and sashing.
  3. Switch to white thread and quilt the block backgrounds. 
I found stage 2 the easiest and stage 3 the most tedious. Stage 3 would have been much quicker and easier if I could have just quilted right over the leaves instead of having to go around them. 

Because each leaf had to be quilted individually, with the veins quilted separately from the outline, I managed to produce a large pile of thread ends. 
Some time during my quilting - I'm not sure what I did: held my finger too long on the up/down button maybe? - but suddenly my needle was stopping so low that it dragged on the quilt top a couple of times. I managed to get it up high enough to clear the quilt top, but still wasn't happy with where it was stopping - too low for my comfort. 
I asked advice in the Handi Quilter group on Facebook and finally contacted the repairman at my vendor. Ultimately, I will have to take it in for adjustment, but it was working well enough for me to comfortably finish the quilt. 
Meanwhile, I was finding that, with the ClearView load, and double batting, it was very difficult to adjust the batting to keep the wrinkles out. So there are a few places where I've got batting ridges in the quilt. I also neglected to trim all of the thread ends, and there are some places where dark threads show through the white fabric. 😖 Live and learn!
I was finding Stage 3 very tedious, and considering just finishing one block at a time, but these blocks are too wide for the throat space, so that would necessitate rolling it back and forth for each block. So I would do approximately half of each block in one row, advance the quilt and then quilt the other halves of the blocks.
Finally, the quilting was done and I took it off the frame and put it on the double bed in the basement bedroom to have a good look. 
My goal with the quilting was to make the leaves "pop." Mystery (my cat) confirmed the success of my goal when he jumped on the bed and promptly tried to play with the leaves.
Now for the binding, which is my least favourite part of any quilt. But especially when it's a bulky, heavy, double-bed sized quilt. And, with two battings, this one is heavy. And stiff because of the fairly dense quilting. I had planned on using this fabric 
It's fall colours, but that black background made me hesitate. There is no other black in this quilt. So, I decided to see if I could find something else. I was planning on going into the quilt shop when I had the chance, but then I found this fabric in my stash. 
Perfect colours, perfect theme. And today, because we had two severe weather warnings in effect (freezing rain and high winds), and I have a 45-minute commute to work, I opted to take one of the Personal Leave days that my employer allows, and got the binding done. Currently, it's snowing horizontally.
And so, nearly 44 years after this pattern was published, I've completed my version of it. 
Original Pattern: Maple Leaf Quilt from Scraps, published in Family Circle magazine in March 1977

(My changes from the original pattern included raw edge appliqué using fusible web, rather than needle turn applique, widening the outside borders to 5", and, of course, longarm quilting rather than hand quilting). 

Thursday, 31 December 2020

My 2020 Crafting Year in Review

Unlike many in this pandemic year, who had to work from home, or not work at all, as a Registered Nurse,  I continued to work throughout the year. So, I didn't have extra time to craft, but I did continue to pursue my hobbies as a way to keep my sanity in this crazy time. 

My first projects for the year were some Christmas-themed hot potholders

Next, I completed a couple of UFOs (unfinished objects), the About Town Ruana for my daughter, 
and this mystery afghan, which I picked up partly finished at a thrift store. 
Following this, I made Ingrid's Tulips for a friend who was going through cancer treatment. 
Next, I was able to take a couple of Helen Godden classes before the pandemic got into full swing and everything was shut down: the Couching class, 
and Flying Into Colours, where I painted and quilted. 
After the pandemic was into full swing, I started making masks for family, plus sold a few (I won't bore you by sharing pictures of all of them). 
I made a couple of panel quilts, Country Christmas, for my home, 
and Transform Me, for my nephew Peter. 
This is the first quilt in which I attempted trapunto - the word Transformers on the panel.
Then I needed to get some baby quilts made for some friends who had been my staff members at Extendicare. Exploring Space
Grand Adventures
and Chevron, 
plus A-Maze-Ing for one of my public health nurse co-workers. 
Following this, I was asked by a friend and former co-worker to make a healing quilt to wrap around grieving people. I call it Healing Love. She asked me to make it because she wanted someone that she knew would pray over it. 
This is my first quilt "for hire" and it's my own design. I haven't posted about it before as I intend to write up and publish the pattern for sale. If you're interested in the pattern, email me and I will let you know when I have the it available.
I moved onto a couple of UFOs that had been sitting around too long: a Christmas placemat set for my niece, Tara, 
and the Dinosaur Days quilt for my grandson. 
Somehow, I managed to fit in a few dishcloths. 
I decided to tackle one of my Craftsy courses and completed Practice Makes Perfect
Needing something a little less challenging, but still awesome looking, I made Fall Frolic for my nephew Andrew and his wife, Amanda.
I added a couple of Christmas projects and made up this Advent calendar panel for my daughter and grandson, 
and finally got the binding on the Christmas Medallion quilt
In a moment of insanity, I decided to do #modastitchpink for my niece Julie as a combination 50th birthday/Christmas gift. 
I actually managed to get it done by Christmas. 
Finally, on New Year's Eve, I finished Mistletoe and Lace
That's it, as far as I can recall, for finished projects. Of course, the Vintage Maple Leaf Quilt is still on the longarm, plus I have a few other quilt tops, and my standard list of WIPs and UFOs.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Mistletoe and Lace


This afghan actually started out as a loom-knitted project after I purchased the afghan loom and wanted to try it out. I soon discovered, however, that not only can I knit faster with needles than I can on a loom, but the pegs were so closer together that wrapping the yarn around them was tedious and frustrating. So, it sat around for awhile until I finally decided to remove what little I had accomplished, unravel it, and start fresh with a different project. 
As you may be aware, my goal is to make at least one project from every craft book I own. If only I would quit buying more books at thrift stores, I might actually be able to accomplish this goal. Nevertheless, I selected from my library the Mary Maxim book Timeless Treasures, and chose a pattern that suited the amount of yarn I had on hand, Ribbons and Lace. Or so I thought. Apparently, I tend to crochet larger than guage (I never do a sample swatch to check my guage, especially not with afghans) and ended up having to buy extra yarn. Even though I didn't add the fringe included in the pattern. (I'm not a fan of fringe on afghans. What is it good for? Besides getting tangled up when you wash the afghan). So, what was supposed to be a 48" x 56" afghan ended up 58" x 67". I got to the point where I had only 3 rows left, and only had a short string of yarn remaining. So one more skein of yarn was purchased, and the afghan was finished today. 

I love variegated yarn, but find that it makes the actual pattern in the design indistinct. I found the same thing with the Lace Enchantment afghan. And this one actually called for a contrast yarn, which I think would have enhanced it, but I'm not redoing it now. The pattern also called for restarting each row at the same end and working into the back loop. I found that a ridiculous idea, especially restarting each row - imagine all of the ends to work in! Initially, I did start working in the back loop, and then into the front loop on the following row for the part of the pattern that called for that, but I didn't really feel it made that great a difference in the look of it, so just started crocheting normally for all rows. 

Another WIP finished, which is likely my final finish for 2020, unless I actually get some potholders made...

Stitch Pink


Stitch Pink was finished in time for Christmas! Yay! I'm so happy to have it finished and gifted. And I don't dislike it as much as I thought I might. Actually, I rather like it, though I still think it would have looked better with sashing. And in spite of my funky fabric choices, I think it actually looks pretty good. Anyway, my niece loves it, and that's what's important. 

Originally, I had hoped to use the Accessories pantograph to quilt it. However, at 16.25", I discovered that it was just too wide for my Amara's throat space to manage. Unfortunately, I purchased this pantograph before I had sufficient experience to know that would not work in a 20" throat. If I had, I would have just had it customized to fit my throat space, like I did with Deb's Fireworks. It really is an awesome pantograph and I'm disappointed that I paid good money for something I will not be able to use. I was really hoping I could squeeze it in. Nevertheless, I then had to chose an alternate pantograph and went with Tea Rose, which I was very happy with. 

If you happen to be looking for a pantograph that works up quite quickly, with a little more substance than Bumpity, I highly recommend this one. 

Meanwhile, the Vintage Maple Leaf Quilt top is also finished and loaded on the longarm. 

I will save reporting on my adventures with that quilt for another post. Till then, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas.