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. 

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Christmas Medallion Quilt

Needing a break from more challenging quilts, I actually made this quilt top earlier in the year. It's from this book:

 It's one of the many books that I've picked up at thrift stores, where I love finding bargains for my crafting library. And as the title implies, the quilt was quite simple, and just the break I needed from more challenging projects. And, for being so simple, it's attracted a lot of compliments from my appreciative audience.
I had a collection of Christmas fat quarters, and it was from that collection that I procured my fabrics. I love this Christmas baking one that I used in the centre.
Actually, I think they are all pretty fabrics in this quilt. 
I was debating on what pantograph I was going to use for the quilting. I tossed around various ideas, and one of my co-workers told me that she thought I should use snowflakes. So that's what I did - choosing Deb's Snowflakes Meander. I've said before, and I still think it's true, that the only people to whom the quilting design really matters is the quilter. Only if I point it out, or if the recipient is a fellow quilter, will the quilting even be noticed. 
Well, this quilt then languished on a shelf for months: first, because I didn't have fabric for binding, and then, once I purchased the binding fabric, I was busy with other projects. And then I misplaced the fabric... So, I finally found the fabric and made the time to get the project finished. And I have now draped it over the back of my sofa.
It looks pretty, but I don't think it does the quilt justice because you can see only about a third of the it. If I had somewhere to store quilts and afghans, I would take the non-Christmas ones down off the quilt ladder and put up the Christmas ones... I need to declutter and create more space. 
If you've been following my blog or my Instagram, you're aware that I've been doing the #modastitchpink2020. And 2020 will likely be the only year I will do that, especially so close to Christmas. Nevertheless, I now have five rows done. 
These are the latest two rows, plus block 26.
One of my pet peeves about sampler quilts is that they're not very efficient for either cutting or use of fabric. Because you only do one block at a time, you cut one size of this fabric, another size piece of that fabric, etc, leaving a rather jagged edge on the fabric to work with. So, after completing row 4, I decided to pre-cut for the remaining blocks. I designed a spreadsheet in Excel, with the blocks across the top and the fabrics along the side, and entered what sizes I needed of each fabric for each block. It made for much more efficient cutting, and I have determined that if I should ever design a block of the month (BOM), quilt along (QAL) or sampler quilt, that is what I will do: give the cutting for the entire project up front. 
I kept my projects organized using the pantograph shelf on my longarm. 
Here you can see the maple leaves for the maple leaf applique quilt and the different piles of fabric for each block of stitch pink. I didn't pre-cut for blocks 24 and 26 because these were the remaining two blocks that had the extra strips of background fabric that I wanted to eliminate. And since I would have to modify those blocks, I decided to just cut the pieces as I calculated the dimensions I needed. 
This is block 24, which is probably my favourite block in this quilt.
And this is block 26. I completed both of these blocks before going back to continue in numerical order. 
I have been alternating completing rows of Stitch Pink with rows of the maple leaf applique quilt, and now have 3 rows of that one done. 
I really have a lot of trepidation about quilting this one, as I plan on using rulers. That's going to be quite labour intensive. The free motion part will be outlining the leaves and veins on the leaves. I was gifted a bunch of crochet cotton, which I might never use for crochet or knitting. But I am considering using it for couching when I outline the leaves and veins. 
I'd like to practice it, but I don't really have time. I want both the Stitch Pink and the Maple Leaf quilt finished for Christmas, plus I'm hoping to finally get the Northcott Connector Playmats stitched up for my grandson. I'm already cutting it pretty close. 
Enough "chatting" for now. Time to get back to working on these quilts.