Thursday 29 December 2022

Catching Up with Some Smaller Projects

Things have been pretty intense here with cooking, cleaning and crafting, so I decided to take it a little easier and sit down to write a post for my blog. It's been a while, and it's not that I haven't been doing anything...
I don't even remember when I finished this shawl. It's been a few months, I think. 
It measures 62" across and 30" long, and was made with just under 10 oz. (2 cakes) of Bernat Pop. Just don't ask me to remember what colourway this was... Once again the pattern came from this page. It's the design with the number 40 in the description. Here is a close up of the stitching. 
Back in September, I took a non-quilting friend on a quilt shop hop with me (only two shops). At the first shop, she asked about animal print fabric, and fell in love with a couple of panels and commissioned me to make her a lap quilt
and a wallhanging. 
I quilted them both with African Storm
In the yarn arts, I started playing around with some Red Heart Super Saver Stripes yarn in the Bright Stripe colourway. I had started a Tunisian crochet afghan with this yarn several years ago, but I didn't like the way it was going, so I "frogged" it, and the yarn sat in my stash since then. But I decided I needed a new knitting project and pulled this yarn out. I have been wanting to try cables for some time, so decided to try an Irish Fisherman afghan from this book. 
First I tried Athlone, but I was going to do it all in one piece instead of several panels. However, each colour barely lasted a row, so I realized that the frequent colour changes would not allow the stitches to show. And when I was going to all that trouble to create fancy stitches, I wanted them to show! So, I frogged that project.
Next I tried a non-cable, but still textured pattern called Allegro. The picture was very pretty in the book, but after struggling to make it work, I realized it was the pattern and not me. Multiple mistakes and very poorly written. Another project frogged...
Finally, I decided on Shannon, which is individual blocks, small enough that the colour changes are more gradual and the fancy stitching will still be allowed to "shine". 
The interesting thing is that the blocks are small enough that they don't go through the entire colourway, so there will be two quite distinctly different blocks, at least where the colours are concerned. 
I didn't like the way the instructions in the book said to do the bobble stitches, and I was actually tempted to use a crochet hook to complete them. But I googled and found what I considered a more reasonable method to knit them. 
Still a work in progress, this will be a traditional Irish fisherman afghan in very non-traditional colours. I won't be surprised if it takes me a year or more to complete it because these blocks, about 9" square are taking me about 4 hours each. And I will have to see if I can find more of this yarn because I won't have sufficient to complete the project at the rate I calculate - around 40 g (1.35 oz) of yarn per square. 
Back to quilting, I decided to work on My True Love Gave to Me Reprise and wanted to finish it by Christmas. Several years ago, I had it completed up to part of the large triangle border just before the narrow black border. But first, I had to decide how to finish it. Most of what I had left was the plaid fabric, but not really significant amounts of the other fabrics. But I did have my bolt of solid black that I could incorporate. Since it is a medallion style quilt, I decided to pull out this book and do patchwork borders. 
Pieced borders can be complicated. Not only does the design have to fit the width of the quilt, but it needs to end in a spot where you can add a corner that works within the design. Then, I had to make sure that the following borders would work with the new measurements. After finishing the large triangle border and adding the narrow solid black border, I added a 2" version of Border 7 from the book. 
Next came a 4"  version of Border 3, Variation 1. 
Next, I started a 6" version of Border 39. 
While the previous borders were complex enough, I made this one more complicated because I wanted to keep the large squares one piece. Otherwise they would have been done as HSTs and squares. 
But the plaid wouldn't have looked as good if it were chopped up this way. But that's as far as I got because I decided to take a little break from this complex project.
Meanwhile, I actually managed to get some Christmas lights up outside. (Looks much better in person).

Some time in October, I did a thrift shop hop with my buddy Phil and picked up this book (among others). 
As a friend had asked me about buying High Tea for her niece who was hoping to open a tea shop, I decided to make the Tea Party wallhanging from this book. If this friend wants to buy that one, she can, but High Tea already had a recipient and was too big for her purposes anyway. 
The time-saving technique for this quilt was using bias tubing for the appliqué - the handles and the spout. Well, I wasn't born yesterday, nor did I start quilting yesterday, so I knew that not only would making bias tubes waste a lot of fabric, but it was highly unlikely to save any time over raw-edge appliqué using fusible web. So, I skipped the bias tubing and designed my own templates. And this is anything but a time crunch quilt. For something this small, it took quite a few hours becuase it had some very fiddley little piecing. And then the pattern gave instructions for cutting and piecing each individual section - even the creamer separate from the sugar bowl. I think it would have been more efficient to cut all of the pieces from each individual fabric first. But that's just me. 
When it came to the quilting, I knew that this project was too small for most pantographs. So, after outlining everything with stitch in the ditch,  I decided to try microquilting on the background to make the tea set "pop". 
I used my micro quilting foot, Microquilter thread and a size 14 needle. One thing I learned: when the thread is so fine (100 wt) and the background is printed, it really doesn't show up at all. So, after a little while of trying to meander/stipple, I just started scribbling with the machine because it really didn't matter. 
I used a ruler to quilt a heart in each piece of the tea set. And now it's waiting for binding and a hanging sleeve. By this time I had other priorities.
My niece had shared a picture of her Christmas tree and I couldn't help but notice that she was using a blanket as her Christmas tree skirt. I had been debating on what to get or make her for Christmas, and now I knew. And she would need to get it early. But I had to find a fairly quick and easy pattern. Jordan Fabrics has this pattern, but it uses the envelope method of assembly and I wanted to quilt it on the longarm. That would be fine, except that with the inner corners, I would need to use bias binding. I'm not opposed to bias binding, but not if I can avoid it. So, I made some modifications and came up with this, also eliminating any Y-seams. 
It measures about 54" across and 60" point to point. I used Candy Canes to quilt it.
Next, I wanted to clean the living room carpet. It was way overdue and I wanted it done before putting up the Christmas trees. 
I do this by moving the furniture to one side of the room, cleaning the first side, then moving it all to the other side of the room and cleaning the second side, before finally moving all the furniture back where it belongs. 
I forgot to mention that when I retrieved the Christmas decorations from the garage, I noticed that the box that the green tree was stored in had been invaded by a mouse. After disposing of the box, mouse nest and droppings, I rolled the parts of the tree around in the snow and left them outside in the cold for a few days to freeze any germs. It still smelled when I brought it inside however, so since I had already put it in the tub for the snow to melt off of it, I gave it a hot shower. When the smell was still there the next day, I gave it a vinegar treatment, followed by baking soda and more vinegar, and finally a second hot shower. No detectable odour and I now own a plastic Christmas tree storage box for when I take the tree down. 
During all this hubbub, my iron died. It was a cheap one anyway and was given to me by an ex-boyfriend (who gives their girlfriend a cheap iron for Christmas?) quite a few years ago, so I bid it goodbye without any regret. I still have my ancient GE iron that I use as a dry iron, especially for applying fusible web, but decided it was time to get a better quality iron. 
Bonus: Canadian Tire had some on sale. I honestly do not feel I need to spend $200 or $300 on an iron, especially since some of the owners of those expensive irons have complained about their performance in quilting groups on Facebook. So, I got a not quite so expensive Black and Decker with good reviews. Unfortunately, it's fairly heavy and, whether from snow shovelling or ironing or both, my wrist was aching more than normal. So I put my splint on. (I have carpal tunnel syndrome). 
I had been using Go Wild as my couch quilt when I put away the non-Christmas quilts and brought out the Christmas ones. I tried Country Christmas on the sofa, but it just wasn't as snuggly because Go Wild has a minky backing and Country Christmas does not. So, I determined to make myself a minky-backed Christmas quilt. It didn't need to be as large as Go Wild or Country Christmas, so I looked for a 3-yard quilt pattern. And, just in time, Fabric Cafe posted a new free pattern, Boxes and Bows
In between washing bathroom walls (I had the bathroom painted), I managed to squeeze in enough time to complete this quilt. Quilted with Christmas Forest, and Affinity thread in the Christmas blend,
it has been cat-tested and approved. 
Then I needed a quilt in a hurry and none of my UFOs/WIPs would do, so I pulled this pattern,
which is really cool because it offers different layouts to produce different quilts with the same amount of fabric. Unfortunately, my choice of fabrics is so busy that you can barely discern the quilt design. 
I decided that I'm going to have to quilt with rulers to emphasize the design of the blocks. 
But now it has to wait until after Christmas because I had to get cooking. Christmas dinner was delicious, but unfortunately I've been eating it all week. The weather intervened and my daughter, grandson and ex-husband weren't able to make it. Now we're aiming for New Year's and I'm cooking a totally different meal. Meanwhile, I've had a little time to make some Christmas hand towels 
and some Christmas tree napkins
Honestly, if I make these napkins again, I will not include the tree trunks. Even though I followed the instructions, they ended up crooked and off-centre. They are cute, nevertheless. Here's what the napkin looks like unfolded. 
And did I mention that in the middle of the frigid weather the week before Christmas, my truck wouldn't start? New battery put in yesterday.
Now it's time to eat some more of my Christmas dinner and maybe do some more cooking for New Year's Day. 



Monday 7 November 2022

Children of Israel


Several years ago, I decided to make a quilt for some Jewish friends. So, I purchased the blue dreidel fabric and the purple menorah fabric, plus the accent fabrics chosen to coordinate with colours found in the menorah fabric. And then, as usual, other projects superseded this one. 
I finally got around to working on it earlier this year. Unfortunately, not only had I used the backing fabric I had selected in another project (Ingrid's Tulips), but the majority of the fabric for this quilt was of an inferior quality. The blue dreidel fabric and all of the coordinating fabrics were quite thin. Only the purple menorah fabric was good quality fabric. So disappointing! Obviously, I purchased these fabrics before I became more knowledgeable and discriminating about fabric quality. And then I was left in a quandary of what to do. Finding Jewish or Hanukkah themed fabric is not easy. And replacing the four tonal fabrics that coordinated so well with the purple fabric would be even more difficult. I then made a decision based on this video by Jamie Wallen. 
While he is speaking specifically about quilting vintage and English paper pieced (EPP) quilts, I thought it was worth a try to reinforce the quilt top with muslin. That way, there would be two layers of fabric on top and hopefully, extend the life of the quilt. 
The block I had chosen was the Children of Israel, which came from one of my many books of quilt blocks. I don't remember which one, but it's easy enough to find the pattern online if you're really interested. 
I completed the quilt top earlier this year, and then it just sat there. It wasn't the matter of still needing a backing fabric, because that would be easy enough to pick up. And I did. But finding the pantograph that I wanted was another matter. Initially, I wanted Judaica as it was the only Jewish-themed pantograph that I could find. I had just recently ordered a batch of pantographs from Urban Elementz during their spring 25% off sale, so wasn't planning on placing another order from them until the next sale. In order to justify the shipping and the exchange rate, I wait until the sales and order several pantographs at once. So, I looked to see if I could find a Canadian vendor who sold this pantograph. Nothing. I actually approached one vendor to ask if they would order it in for me. They responded that they didn't normally do that, and that when they ordered from Urban Elementz, they had to order a minimum of 3 of each pantograph. So, they would expect me to purchase all three. I understand this because a pantograph like Judaica would have a very limited market, and so they could be stuck with 2 pantographs that they could not sell if they only sold the one to me. Next I asked in a Canadian quilters' group on Facebook. Someone offered to order it in to their store for me and that they were placing an order soon. And then I waited and when I didn't hear back from them, I contacted them again and they just said that it sometimes takes a long time for them to get their orders. And then I waited some more, but never heard again. I'm assuming that they made the decision not to order them in because they didn't want to buy 3 of them, and be stuck with 2 of them. But it would have been nice if they had informed me of this decision.
Meanwhile, I found a different Jewish-themed pantograph on the Urban Elementz website that I liked much better, Dave's Star of David.
And I was honestly glad that I had not been able to purchase Judaica. But again, I couldn't find Dave's Star of David anywhere in Canada. I considered the self print option, but I really don't like doing that. Instead of a nice already printed and rolled pantograph, I'm left printing out multiple papers, trimming and taping them together. But then it was time for Urban Elementz to have it's fall sale, and I placed my order. 
Unfortunately, Canada Customs held my parcel for 2 weeks, further delaying the finishing of this quilt. But the parcel finally arrived and I was able to proceed.
I approached this pantograph with a little bit of trepidation. With the detail in the stars of David and the dreidels, I thought it would be quite labour-intensive. But it was actually a pleasure to stitch out. The olive branches (at least I think they are olive branches) were fairly simple to stitch out, and there was sufficient meandering between the motifs that it didn't end up being anywhere near as labourious as I had feared. Now the quilt is finished and on its way to the recipients.
This has turned into one of my favourite quilts. I like setting blocks on point and I love the bright colours. That green, especially, just makes my heart sing. 
Meanwhile, I've been working on a knitting project with Red Heart Super Saver Stripe in the Bright Stripes colourway. I couldn't help but notice how well it coordinates with this quilt.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Star of Bethlehem


A few years ago, one of my nieces asked for a Christmas quilt. I had found a jelly roll lone star quilt pattern online and saved it for future use. (I can no longer find it online, so I can't link to it). Back when Craftsy/Bluprint was still selling fabric, I purchased this jelly roll and coordinating fabric. The pattern didn't make a quilt as big as I wanted, so I included enough fabric to add the border.
The pattern was kind of complicated, especially since the designer was using a totally different jelly roll from mine. So I had to choose which colour in my jelly roll would best coordinate in which places. If the pattern had actually given a "map" of where each colour would end up in the design, I might have made a different choice or two. As it was, all I knew was that I was sewing offset jelly roll strips together in sets and then cutting diamonds from them, then assembling them into bigger diamonds, and so on. Once I'd sewn the strips together and cut the diamonds out, it was really too late to make changes. But it wasn't until then that I realized I would have liked to. But I wasn't about to start ripping out bias seams... And I'm still very happy with the results.
Anyway, I pulled this out to work on as my "Christmas in July" project. I got the whole quilt top done, but figured I should do some custom quilting on this quilt, with all of that negative space. So, I had to sit on that idea for a while. 
I tried asking in an online longarm group for ideas, and got some good ones. But I had to get my courage up to actually do it. I'm not a custom quilter. I'm a panto quilter and pantographs are my comfort zone. And since I could mail this quilt for free on a Tuesday in October (see my previous post, Butterflies and Blooms), it needed to be finished before the last Tuesday in the month. And I didn't want to rush if I was going to attempt custom quilting. So, yes, I used a pantograph. Initially, I was going to use a star pantograph, but when I flipped to the "Sky" section in my topical index of pantographs, Aurora was the first one in the list. And when I looked at that pantograph, I knew it was perfect. 
And I don't regret not doing custom quilting. Someday, maybe when I'm caught up on all the family quilts, and can just play around, I will do some custom quilting. But for now, I'll mostly stick with pantographs. 

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Butterflies and Blooms

I have a small business account with Canada Post. During the month of October, those of us with small business accounts were allowed to ship one free parcel within Canada and one to the United States every Tuesday, as long as the parcel met size and weight guidelines. So, I have been madly trying to take advantage of those "freebies". While I only had one UFO destined for the US that would meet the criteria (even if I could make my sister's king size quilt in less than a month, it's highly questionable if it could meet the 2 kg weight limit), I knew I could easily come up with 4 to ship within Canada. But they had to be quilts that I could actually get finished. The weight limit is higher for within Canada, but I still didn't think I could make a whole queen sized quilt that I want to make for my oldest sister, plus three others in less than a month. 
Initially, I thought that the 2 quilts a week were within Canada, plus one to the US, and so I managed to get 2 quilts ready for the first week, High Tea, which was ready long ago, and Waves of Blue. Amazing how quickly you can throw a quilt together when you put your mind to it. But the 2 quilts per week turned out to be one within Canada and one to the US. Well, that at least meant that I didn't have to try to complete 8 quilts instead of just 4 or 5. Since I'd already gotten the shipping addresses for both of these quilts, I didn't want either of the recipients to wait another week before I shipped them, so I shipped both, paying for one and sending one free. 
I had ordered pantographs on September 22, which included the one I needed to quilt the Children of Israel quilt, and they were shipped the next day. They should have arrived on time for me to complete this quilt to take advantage of the free shipping. The quilt top was already completed. Unfortunately, Canada 
Customs decided to hold my pantograph shipment, which ended up being for 2 weeks (even though they're duty free). Since I had no idea how long they would hold my parcel, I had to complete other options. I had already started Colour My Classroom for Sew a Jelly Roll Day, so that came next. Meanwhile, I also squeezed in finishing Sew Fast for my grandson. He had already seen the finished quilt top on a previous visit, so I wanted to complete the quilt before our family Thanksgiving. This one didn't need to be shipped. 
Then I had to determine what would come next. I thought of Tales of Ireland and pulled it out. It's a sampler quilt, so more involved than ones with all or most of the blocks the same. And I had only completed one block. But that wasn't my biggest concern. There was a time in my quilting journey when I wasn't so aware of fabric quality. And the fabric I was planning on using in this quilt definitely didn't have it. There was no way I was going to gift a quilt made with that thin fabric! I could reinforce the quilt top with muslin, if I had a sufficient amount. No time to go to the city to buy some either... I set that aside and figured I'd decide what I would do with it later. 
I also considered this Asian-inspired quilt. 
I even started working on more of the applique. This one had been languishing as a UFO for several years. But I'm really hoping to enter it in one of the fairs next year, so I shouldn't be shipping it off. 
So then I pulled out the quilt kit for Grandpa's Tools. I even had the backing fabric already and it was a fairly simple pattern, so I could do it in a hurry. That took care of week three, and that one went to one of my great nephews. 
I was hoping to send a quilt to my niece in Michigan and that would let me take advantage of at least one free parcel to the US, but I still needed one more parcel within Canada. So I asked my nephew, the father of the great nephew that received Grandpa's Tools, what his daughter's favourite colour was. Purple! So, I started searching for purple fabrics in my stash. If only my stash were more organized... But, thank the Lord, I was able to find fabrics that I thought would work, including this sparkly butterfly fabric that was just a random purchase. 
I also had some white solid, but what was I going to do with all the fabrics I had pulled from my stash. No shortage of quilting books and patterns at my house, but I needed to find an idea quickly and one that could be made in a hurry. 
I had purchased this quilt calender back in 2015 for a Christmas gift for myself. 
After flipping through several books and patterns without success, I decided to give this a try. And I found the Friendship Plume pattern. And it looked like it might work with the fabrics I had collected. I did end up having to piece some of the gold and lavender squares, but I made it work. And the nice thing about it is the pieces are large enough to really showcase the butterfly fabric. 
The toughest part of this pattern was the applique.
These are the largest and most complex appliqe pieces I've done to date. It took me 35 minutes to stitch down one block. And that's not including the amount of time it took to enlarge the pattern (which, by the way, is incorrect in the instructions. It says 400%, which would have yielded a 32" block. It only needed to be 200%), copy it 3 more times, tape it together to make the full pattern, trace 4 copies onto Heat'n'Bond, fuse them to the purple fabric, cut them out, including the centre piece, and fuse them to the background fabric. And there was so much turning the block around and around to stitch the applique down that I ended up having an attack of vertigo. Fortunately, there were only four blocks to complete. 
I grabbed some fabric from my LQS for the backing and binding, in shades of purple, of course, and quilted the quilt using the Butterfly Charm pantograph by Hermione Agee from Urban Elementz. 
It's finished and I shipped it off today to my great niece. 
Meanwhile, my pantograph order arrived, and I will be able to utilize the Dave's Star of  
David pantograph to complete the Children of Israel quilt. Too late to ship it free, but at least it will get done. And then I think maybe I will work on something for myself. 

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Grandpa's Tools


Tools have always reminded me of my father. So, when I saw this quilt kit, I decided I must have it. It features fabric from Northcott's Nuts and Bolts line. 
The quilt pattern is Chianti from Villa Rosa Designs. And it's quite boring. All it is is squares with frames. Monotonous. The pattern calls for 16 fat quarters, plus 5/8 yard for binding. And I was to cut enough pieces from each fat quarter to make 3 blocks (squares and frames) and then, when assembling just mix them up so that I didn't end up using the same fabric for both squares and frames. However, the bundle that came with this kit included 11 fabrics from the Nuts and Bolts line plus 5 from the Moda Basic Grey Grunge line. Nothing against Grunge fabrics (in spite of the fact that I really don't like that name) - they make great blenders, but I really didn't want to feature them in the squares. Two of the fabrics from the Nuts and Bolts line were these two, which I also didn't want to feature in the squares. 
I wanted this quilt to be about the tools. The nice thing about using large pieces of fabric in a quilt top is the opportunity to bring the focus to prints that you want the focus on, especially large prints, without chopping them up too small. So, instead, I used the tool fabric for the 6" squares. I also had to use some of it for the frames as there was not enough of the blender fabrics to do them all. 
As I mentioned, I found this pattern rather boring. I was hoping that I would like it better when I put it all together. I didn't. While there are some awesome colours in it - especially that lime green and the electric blue, I just don't find the overall effect aesthetically pleasing. Then I was hoping maybe quilting it would help. I remember when I did Baby Alter Ego, it, too, was a lot of different fabrics with nothing to really pull it together. But when I started quilting it, I liked it a lot better. Unfortunately, that didn't happen with this one. It's still just meh.
You may recall that I have come up with my own goofy terms for rating quilts:
  • the bodley quilt for ugly
  • the nacho quiltfor not your (or my) favourite quilt
  • the Gladys Over quilt for glad it's over, which is not really about appearance, but more about how tedious/labour intensive a quilt was to make
Well, this is definitely a nacho quilt. And I really had second thoughts about whether or not I actually wanted to gift it. Because it was made in honour of my father, I had chosen my oldest nephew's son, who was named after may father, as the recipient. But it's not stunning, it's not heart-stirring or soul-inspiring. It's just meh. Fortunately, I was able to find the amazing electric blue fabric from the Nuts and Bolts line on sale and purchased it for the backing, and my great nephew's favourite colours are blue and orange, and there's plenty of both in this quilt. And the tool fabric is awesome, even if they missed a couple of letters in spelling "pipe wrench" in the white fabric (surprisingly enough, not in the black). 
I used the Hand Tools pantograph by Dave Hudson from Urban Elementz and royal blue Glide thread for the quilting. 
So, hopefully, the recipient will love it, even though his great aunt isn't particularly thrilled with it. 
On to the next quilt...