Sunday 28 April 2013

Curved Piecing and Machine Applique: Fan Block

 Well, it's official: I am now up-to-date with my 2013 Block of the month as this is the April block. (I have yet to complete the April blocks for the 2012 BOM). I really never had any desire to do curved piecing as I felt there was too much room for error, but it is part of this course and I was game for giving it a try, at least for this block. (There is also some curved piecing in the 2012 BOM that I haven't gotten to yet). It went surprisingly well, though if you look carefully at the above picture, you can see a little bit of rippling in the background fabric. This is the first block in which I have used my background fabric - the pale green. It's a coarser weave than most quilt fabrics and I suspect that has something to do with the distortions I ended up with. The block was wider at the centre seams. I had to trim to get rid of this unevenness and ended up with a block that is 18" square instead of 18-1/2", but I will remedy that with some extra sashing when I assemble the final quilt. From now on, when using the background fabric, I will give it a shot of spray starch, which will hopefully help to prevent the stretching and distortions. I was careful not to pull on the fabric as I sewed it, but obviously some stretching happened anyway. 
I was puzzled when I read the name of this block and looked at the final product, as it doesn't look anything like a fan. The final block, however, is actually composed of 4 fan blocks sewn together to make a circle. In the course materials, each of the 4 fan blocks is identical, with only 4 different fabrics in the fan. Since I had 40 plus green fat quarters, I opted instead to use 16 different fabrics, making something of a green colour wheel, with the various green shades progressing from one to another. While not a perfect blend, I don't think I could have done better even if I had chosen my fabrics individually, unless I was prepared to spend lots of time and money going from shop to shop. And maybe not even then. It was very challenging selecting the right 16 fabrics to get a blend that I liked. In the original course materials, the border of this quilt block is made from the background fabric, but in the video the instructor used two different fabrics. I considered using purples for this, but, after comparing, felt that the background fabric achieved the look I wanted. 
For the appliqued circle in the centre, I chose to use a fussy cut from the following fabric:
 Isn't this gorgeous fabric? Unfortunately, it's such a large print that it won't work well in a lot of pieced blocks. So, when I had the opportunity to use a larger piece for the applique - a 6 inch circle - I decided to use this fabric. This circle is first applied using a fusible web and then you have the option of using machine or hand applique. I, being the type of person who doesn't hand sew unless I absolutely have to, used my sewing machine, with a purple cotton thread. I was too lazy to wind a new bobbin with the purple thread and unfortunately the grey bobbin thread does show somewhat on the front of the quilt. Live and learn. 
Initially I was not thrilled with this block. I was happy with the greens, but that appliqued flower really annoyed me. I felt that it was too great a contrast from the rest of the block and almost "shouted" at me, and was actually considering appliqueing a green fabric over top of it. I have since gotten used to the appearance of this block, however, and have gotten compliments on it on Craftsy, so have decided to leave it as it is. 
A couple of my classmates had entered their real blocks into the colouring sheet, so I figured out how to do this in Windows Paint, and here's the project so far:
Obviously, I chose the wrong colour blend when I "painted" the background originally as it doesn't match the background fabric in the fan block. Blending colours on a computer and matching them to real fabric is not an exact science. But I'm not going to worry about that. It's just to give an idea of what the final product will look like and I'm not going to fuss any more with painting it. 
Next month, we'll be doing the spool blocks. 
Here's the link to the class if you're interested:
  Online Quilting Class

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Economy Block: Drafting Quilt Blocks

Ah, finally, I have been able to make a quilt block for my 2013 BOM quilt that has the "wow" factor that the String block has. I love this block! The fabric was a fat quarter bundle, "Tulip Festival" by Benartex, which I purchased on eBay (note that I did not use any fabric from my 40 green fat quarter bundle). Was looking for a big enough block to use these tulips in. This block is 17" (17-1/2" unfinished) and I think it worked very well indeed! In the class video, the instructor used background fabric for those corners, but I like my tulips better. And yes, if you look back at my April 22 post, the Offset Log Cabin blocks include a strip of fabric from this collection - the smallest tulip print.
This is the block for March and is called the Economy Block, for reasons unknown. The skill I was supposed to have learned in creating this block is drafting my own quilt block. However, the instructions also gave the measurements for cutting without having to draft it myself. I figured why bother drafting then, if I didn't have to. I am glad for the info, however, and do intend to use it in the future. One of my posts from a couple of days ago shows the book I ordered that was mentioned by the instructor in this class, "The Quilter's Album of Blocks and Borders." Lots of ideas in there that I can use the drafting skills for.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Partial Seams: Spring Blooms Block

These are the February blocks for the 2013 BOM. And once again, I wasn't especially thrilled with them when I finished them. And I really couldn't figure out why. It wasn't that I didn't think they were pretty blocks, definitely prettier than January's Offset Log Cabin. But for some reason I felt rather unhappy with them. And not just because I got some a little crooked (notice the green block on the lower right...). I was puzzled as to why I just wasn't really happy with these ones, as well as January's blocks. Then it hit me - it's the string block (one of the 2012 BOM blocks for March). I was so thrilled with how that one turned out, that these other blocks seem mediocre in comparison. That string block was a pretty tough act to follow. Perhaps if I had completed the Offset Log Cabin and Spring Blooms blocks before the string block, I would have been happier with them when I completed them. Once more, here's the string block:
And now I'm beginning to wonder if this block has spoiled me for all other quilt blocks. Kind of like falling in love: "I will never love another man." When I was married, in the better days of our marriage, I really never noticed if another man was good-looking. I only had eyes for my husband. Could I be this way about quilt blocks? LOL! I guess that remains to be seen. :-)
A couple of other notes about fabric selection and why this block appeals to me more than the others. I really love the bright tonals set off by the black background. Even when I compare all of the blocks I've done so far for both BOM's, the 2012 ones stand out, not just the string block. I considered the Wonky Pound Sign a rather boring block, but I was still pleased with it because of the colour selection and contrast. I will admit that I might not have been so pleased with it had I done the String, the Broken Spider Web or the Balkan Puzzle first. Another factor is the fact that the fabric selection for the 2012 quilt is more my tastes. All of the fabrics (aside from the background, binding and backing) came in smaller fat quarter bundles. I could view all of the fabric in the bundle in the pictures on eBay, so knew what I was getting. And even the fabric that I wasn't 100% thrilled with still worked in the blocks without shouting "yuk." Look back at my post from April 18, where you'll see the String Block and the Broken Spider Web block. A strip of almost every fabric I purchased for this quilt can be seen in these two blocks. My least favourite fabrics are the brownish ones in the Broken Spider Web block. But, to me it's still a very attractive block. Purchasing a 40 fat quarter bundle (the greens that I'm using for the 2013 BOM), where I didn't get to preview any of the fabric might not have been the best choice. Some of these fabrics are downright ugly and I would say that at least half of them are not fabrics that I would have selected had I been given the choice. And since green is the dominant colour in my 2013 BOM quilt, I'm not sure how it's going to end up working out. Still, $1 per fat quarter is a pretty awesome price! I will mention that I do like most, if not all, of the greens I used in the Spring Blooms blocks and the purples are ones I selected either individually or in small bundles. But I'm still not all that thrilled with these blocks. I guess they're just not the String block. :-) On the plus side, once I started colouring in the colouring sheet for this quilt, which I posted yesterday, I was pleased with the overall effect. 
Now, my comments on the Spring Blooms blocks themselves. In the course, the instructor makes all three blocks identical, but I opted not to. You've probably figured out by now that I like to express my own individuality in how I "interpret" a quilt block. Some of my "classmates" who bought the Craftsy fabric package expressed dismay that Craftsy substituted some fabrics, so they couldn't make their blocks exactly like the instructor's. I just shook my head over that. We're all different, aren't we? Personally, I consider quilting as about creativity and art, which to me does not translate as carbon copies of what someone else is making. Back to the blocks, we sewed 5 strips of fabric together and then cut them into the appropriate size. Because we were sewing these to a centre square, the first and last seams had to be partial seams. Don't ask me to explain that. You'll have to take the course to figure out what I'm talking about, but it worked. And I learned a new skill.
Happy quilting everyone!


Online Quilting Class

Monday 22 April 2013

Quilting Book and Colouring Page

I'm verbose tonight... I just wanted to make a correction regarding the quilting book mentioned in the Craftsy 2013 BOM lesson on drafting. It's this one:
  And I've already bought it. Will let you know what I think when I get it. I might still get the other one I linked to a few days ago.
Also wanted to share the colouring page that comes with the course materials for the 2013 BOM. I printed it out with the course materials (which come in PDF format, so can't add to it or change it while still on the computer), then I scanned it back in and saved it as .jpeg. Opening it with Windows Paint, I was able to add colour to it. I haven't finished it yet, but it's kind of a nice tool. Here it is so far:

Can bread be exciting?

 A number of years ago, I found a book in a bookstore called "The Cook's Guide to Bread." I like bread baking, enjoy history, and learning about other cultures and ethnic cuisines, so this book was right up my alley. Then my life changed drastically and I no longer had time or energy for bread making and other culinary and artistic pursuits. So this book just moved with me from home to home, and probably even spent time in a box stored in a granary... Recently, I was at a thrift store and picked up what I thought was a larger version of the same book. When I got it home however, I discovered the two books have different titles, the larger thrift store version being "The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making." Same two authors, Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter. Apart from size, I wasn't sure what the difference was. Then I looked inside "The Cook's Guide to Bread," and saw that it was originally published as "The World Encyclopedia of Bread and Bread Making." It was just a slightly newer version. 
Now, I love a cookbook (or, in this case, a bread-making book) that doesn't just give me recipes, but also teaches me something - history and cultural background. In this book (either version), about half of it is devoted to information other than recipes. It explains the history of bread, different grains and milling methods, along with discussion of other ingredients, techniques and equipment. Then it explains the primary types of bread found in various world cultures. I find it quite interesting, but then I do tend to be an information hound. Here's the link to the book on Amazon:


So owning these two books makes me even more excited about the Artisan Bread Making course I've enrolled in from Craftsy. I'm looking forward to becoming a better bread maker through the course and then trying out even more breads from these books.
There - a post that didn't even mention quilting...  

Offset Log Cabin Quilting Block

As I mentioned in a previous post, I hadn't quilted in years up until this year. Most of what I know about quilting, I've learned from books and magazines. I live in rural Alberta, so access to courses is limited, as is the time I have to go to courses. So when I discovered Craftsy, I was quite excited. I could finally actually take quilting courses from experienced, expert quilters at my convenience and in the comfort of my own home. There's no lugging a sewing machine and quilting supplies back and forth to some classroom somewhere. And I can review the lessons as often as I want as my access to them does not expire. Best of all, some of the courses are free and, for the ones that aren't, there are frequent sales.
I was actually enrolled in the ET Nurse program this year, but resigned from the program for various reasons. And while I'd still love to get my ET certification, I'm not disappointed with the extra time I now have to pursue other interests, like quilting and crocheting. So, after I had enrolled in the 2012 Block of the Month, which is a free course, I then saw the advertisements for the 2013 Block of the Month, which is also a free course. And I decided to take both. That way, I could learn even more quilting skills.

Due to various and sundry distractions (plus waiting for fabric to arrive), I didn't really get started in either course until this month (April, 2013), so I'm kind of scrambling to catch up so I can finish both this year and just have to do one block for each quilt per month. That's why you are seeing so many quilting posts on this blog in one period of time. Trust me, I will get back to blogging on other topics eventually. I just want to get my quilting caught up first. Then I will return to recipe and cookbook reviews and whatever other ramblings I care to discourse on, with quilt blocks thrown in and I will probably discuss crocheting projects as well. Just today, I enrolled in a Craftsy course on Artisan Bread Making. I'm excited about that and you can count on hearing about my experiences with bread making as well. Meanwhile, here's the link to the class:

Online Bread Making Class  

Now I need to discuss the blocks in the picture above. They are from the 2013 Block of the Month, January's blocks. As with the 2012 BOM, I chose to use my own fabric, rather than go with the fabric package available from Craftsy. The final product is going to be throw-size, 60"x63", so I decided to make it for my living room. I chose to make it with greens, purples and some yellows for accents. I purchased all of my fabric on eBay. One vendor was offering 40 green fat quarters for $40. One dollar per fat quarter is practically a steal, so I bought it. Inevitably I did end up with some "duds" amongst the lot, but they all appear to be good quality fabrics, some even name brand (not that I know much about name brands in quilting fabric, but I'm beginning to recognize them). Initially, I thought I would try to sneak some of these duds into my quilt, but then I realized that I don't have to feel obligated to use ugly fabric just because I paid for it. Maybe I'll sell it in a yard sale. (I was raised by parents who grew up through the depression, so it's hard for me to "waste" anything). In addition, I purchased several fat quarters in purples and yellows. I also have some charm packs in purples. Finally, I chose a pale green for my background fabric, which was not easy to find. And it's not easy to know from an online picture if a fabric is the exact colour you want. After buying 2 separate green fabrics, I decided to not continue trying different ones and just selected one of the ones I had already bought.
This block is called "offset" log cabin because the strips on one side of the block are wider than the strips on the other side. In the course, the wider strips are all from the same fabric and the narrower strips are all from the same fabric. I chose to use different fabrics for each strip and made the required four blocks, as above. Normally, when I complete a project, I'm pleased with the results. Not so with these blocks. I was disappointed with my fabric choices and how they worked together. I have had compliments on these blocks, but personally, I'm really not satisfied with them. I don't intend to remake them, but they really don't "speak" to me.
This is going to be an interesting quilt because not only is each month's block different, but the blocks are not always the same size and not always the same number of blocks. 
If you're interested in enrolling in the 2013 Block of the Month course, it doesn't have to be the beginning of the year. You can start - and finish - any time. Here's the link: 

Online Quilting Class

Thursday 18 April 2013

Foundation Piecing

Wow! I am just so thrilled with how well these blocks turned out, especially the string block on the left. Perhaps if the broken spider web, on the right, had been done in cool colours like the string block, I might like it as well. I'm not sure. I just know that the string block is now my favourite block. What can I say? It "speaks" to me. Of course, purples and greens are my favourite colours, so I'm sure that's a factor. I really like the broken spider web as well, but it just doesn't do for me what the string block does.
These are the 2012 BOM blocks for March. The technique learned is foundation piecing. I didn't even know what that was before doing these blocks. Basically, that is starting with background fabric and adding strips of different colours. Each of these blocks is actually four separate pieces sewn together. For the string block, it was four squares, to which the strips were sewn, then the squares were trimmed up and sewn together. For the broken spider web, I started with a large black square, which was cut on the diagonal both ways. The strips were then added to both ends of the resulting triangles. For this one, however, only the first strip was sewn to the background fabric. The following strips were just sewn to the previous strip.The background fabric was eventually cut away from behind the strips, eliminating the bulk that would have resulted. The only problem is I'm now left with 8 black triangles that I don't know what to do with... yet. Another problem I found with the string block is that all of that stitching on the background square pulls the fabric up a little bit with each row and the square ends up being a little smaller than desired. If I use this block again, I will start with the square slightly larger than I want the final product to be. 
You'll notice I used a different background to photograph these blocks. That's actually a piece of quilt batting draped over my ironing board. Shows off my blocks much better than my previous choices.
If you're interested in enrolling in this course, click on the Craftsy link on the right.

The Quilter's Album: drafting quilt blocks

Online Quilting Class Yes, I am also enrolled in the 2013 Block of the Month from Craftsy (more on that later). Was just viewing the video on March's block and the teacher mentioned a book that is a library of quilt blocks, which you can use by applying the drafting skills learned in this month's lesson. I wanted to post it here so I can find the book later when I want to buy it. :-) Here's the book from Amazon:

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Historical Quilting

I love history. And I also love quilting. And books. So, when I find a book that combines both history and quilting, then I'm really excited. I purchase a lot of fabric on eBay and when I discovered 1930s replica and Civil War replica fabrics, I knew there just had to be some patterns specific to these fabrics. So, I started looking. Here are some that I have found on Amazon: Guess what I'd like for Mother's Day?

Half Square Triangles

For February's blocks, we learned half-square triangles. I have to admit that I just love working on these small pieces and then putting them altogether into a block, and then seeing how the whole thing works together. On the left is the Chunky Chevron, on the right is the Balkan Puzzle. If you're not a quilter, it would be too hard for me to describe how these pieces all go together, but it's fun. And it's really not that hard. It's harder, I think, to describe than it is to actually do it. 
Can you guess which one is my favourite? It's the Balkan Puzzle. The Chunky Chevron really doesn't appeal to me for some reason. It's not just the colours, though I definitely love the green in the Balkan Puzzle. I'm still pleased with how it turned out, even though it's not my favourite block. 
I did forget to mention which January block is my favourite in my previous post. It's the asterisk, though the Balkan Puzzle is still my favourite overall. So far that is. There are plenty more to come. This class teaches two blocks a month for 10 months and then you spend the last two months finishing the quilt. It's supposed to be twin-sized. 
Hmm, still puzzling over the best background for taking pictures of quilt blocks. January's blocks were not set off very well by the fabric I set them on. February's blocks were shot on my over-the-door ironing board (which I bought especially for my sewing room). The print on the ironing board cover distracts from the quilt blocks. For next month I will have to find a plain white or cream background. 
Speaking of the ironing board - I have to close the door to use, which does not impress the cats at all. They like being free to come and go as they will. Sometimes they yell or rattle the door while I'm ironing...
Once again, if you'd like to take this course, here's the link:    Online Quilting Class

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Craftsy 2012 Block of the Month - January Blocks

Here they are, my first two quilt blocks. These are the first quilt blocks I've made in years! and I think they were good blocks to start out with, both fairly simple and straightforward. On the left is the asterisk block and on the right is the wonky pound sign. These are slashed blocks, which means you start with a square of fabric and then slash the blocks and add contrasting strips in to make the pattern. As you can see, the asterisk block started with a square of blue print with black background fabric strips added after slashing. The wonky pound sign was started with a large square of black background fabric, which was then slashed to add the mauve print strips. I chose to use my own fabric rather than the Craftsy fabric package. I love the bright colours with the black background. 
If you'd like to join this class, just click here:
Online Quilting Class
After spending my time and energy pursuing an education, career and new life, I'm ready to start doing some of the things I really love again. Most of my hobbies have been neglected while I was diligently getting my life back on track again and getting my degree, etc., etc. Now that I'm no longer studying (at least for the time being), I've got time to enjoy my interests and maybe even find some new ones. Somewhere on the internet, I found a link to Craftsy, an online crafters community, which offers courses, supplies and an opportunity to share pictures of your finished products as well as find the patterns for others' projects that you admire. FREE Block of the Month class at I'm sharing this link because this is one of the Craftsy classes I am enrolled in and I am having so much fun and learning a lot. I've rediscovered my love for quilting and the best thing is - this class is FREE. All the videos and course materials are available indefinitely, so you can go back and review/reuse as often as you like. So check Craftsy out. I'm glad I did. I live in rural Alberta, so my access to live classes is limited. Craftsy has given me the opportunity to take classes that I otherwise wouldn't be able to attend. I will be posting some of my projects as I go along.