Saturday, February 28, 2009

Piecing Away

I'm not quite sure what's been up with me lately, but I haven't been particularly motivated to finish any one project that I've been working on. I just keep piecing away on different projects - and have even finished all of the blocks for two out of the three projects I've got going right now - but I can't seem to motivate to actually sew the blocks together into a top. Hopefully I can get up the wherewithal this week.

So here are some photos of quilts in progress:

1. Sugar Candy Quilt
Purchased as a kit from the Fat Quarter Shop, this quilt uses the Simplicity fabric line by 3 Sisters and the pattern is designed by Deborah's Designs. The blocks are a good deal of piecing, but laying them together like this, I actually appreciate it all the more. Hopefully I can have it finished soon because it does make me think of spring and I've pretty much had it with the cold weather.

2. Hot Flash Quilt
These blocks will make up the Hot Flash quilt from Brenda Henning's book, Strip Therapy. I'm using one of the Mint Chip Bali Pops my parents bought me last year. I pretty much pieced these blocks in one evening, so that's not bad. Obviously, not a particularly difficult project, but I'm really liking it. Here you see the "dark" and "light" versions of two different strip sets.

3. Indigo Girl Quilt
Purchased as a kit from the Fat Quarter Shop, this quilt uses the Urban Indigo line from Fig Tree Quilts and the pattern is Jelly Roll Jive from A Graceful Stitch - Quilt Designs by Denise Sheehan. I'm currently about 40% finished with the blocks and this one has me yearning for spring too.

I'll keep you posted on progress this week as I do hope to find myself with some evening sewing time in the coming days.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hummingbird #2

Last night before our regular quilt guild meeting, my little art quilt group met again over dinner. It has been a long time since we got together, and I've been rather delinquent in general, as I didn't really do anything for the group since I made my first hummingbird quilt in September. Blame it on that class it took at MATC and the holidays and all!

If you remember, we're working through the Art Quilt Workbook, by Jane Davila and Elin Waterston. I knew that we were still working in the "birds" series as a group, but had no idea what chapter or technique we were doing, and seeing as I started it Monday evening (for a Wednesday meeting...), I just decided to do whatever I wanted.

Here's my quilt:

When doing research late last summer, I had found a photo on iStockphoto that I knew I wanted to use as the inspiration for a quilt at some point, so I decided to have a go at it. I first reversed it in Photoshop, as there was something that I just liked more about having the bird oriented to the right. I printed out the image at approximately the size that I wanted the quilt to be (remember, our projects are literally the size of a piece of paper), and then rough cut pieces of fabric using the printout to help me with scale. I threadpainted a bit on top of the fabric to tone down some of the colors (like the green on the hummingbird's back as well as to make the white on the throat and belly less bright). As for the flowers... well, I have to admit that I cheated a bit on them and used the leaf shapes that are in Edyta Sitar's pattern "Geraniums," which I finished ages ago, but still need to quilt. In some ways, quilting these was a good test case for how I will quilt them in that project.

At first, I wasn't sure about this project, as the wings aren't quite placed properly, and I don't think the striping across them looks real. But in the end, I am rather happy with how it turned out and am very glad that I had the group to challenge myself to even start such a thing.

Next month, we're switching themes. The new one: food! The technique: painting. I may be in over my head (but at least I could use food to paint!).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Checkerboard Challenge

Tonight was my quilt guild's checkerboard challenge program. The challenge was to create a checkerboard that could be used in actual play, using whatever style, inspiration, etc. you might want. Pretty much the only limitations were on size (no larger than 45" square) and that it had to include checkers (which could be purchased) and a means for storing the checkers. All of the finished checkerboards went to a local charity, Sojourner Truth House, and all members voted on a number of categories, in which awards were presented.

We had 15 members complete the challenge, which is much better than we've done with many of our other recent challenges. I wish I'd taken pictures of some of the other entries, as there were many fabulous ones. Here's mine:

My design inspiration was the "Game Board Quilt" in Kathleen Tracy's book Prairie Children and Their Quilts.

I pretty much simply resized her pattern so that you could really play checkers with it. I originally attempted to do that with EQ6, but kept coming up with really bizarre measurements for the flying geese (seriously, does someone know how to get just a single flying goose from the block library - all I can find is a unit of three flying geese!), so in the end, I did all of the math by hand, which wasn't terrible. I did miscalculate the width of the red inner border once and had to tear it off and put on a new one, but in the end, it wasn't too difficult. I think the final measurement was about 31.5" square.

I made the top (with the exception of the corner half triangles and inner border) from charms of Minick and Simpson's Coming Home line, which came out a while ago. They had just been sitting around, so I decided to finally use them up, and the only thing I had to buy for this was the fabric for the backing!

My checkers, while not always perfect circles, were functional. I made them as if you were sewing a case for a pillow: I cut one circle for the front (thanks, Olfa, for your circle rotary cutter) and two slightly larger circles for the back. Folded the ones for the back in half, right sides out, overlapped them, and placed the smaller circle right side down on top. Sewed a quarter inch from the edge of the smaller circle, clipped the seams, and turned them inside out. No need to hand stitch seams closed and finished edges all around, thank goodness!

Oh, and one final thing: I did win a prize tonight for the "pieciest" quilt!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This Takes the Cake

I'll admit it. I bought something new that wasn't required to finish a project I already had in progress (my new year's resolution is to not buy new things). But... I did have a gift certificate from my birthday that covered all but $2 of it, so I think it is a fairly legitimate purchase (Susan also helped convince me that this was good reasoning). And the good news is that it's not just sitting in my stack: I've finished it already!

The truth of the matter is that when I saw it on the Fat Quarter Shop's email newsletter, I thought it was incredibly darling. And I don't have much in the way of Valentine's decorations. And it fits perfectly on the fabric "wall" at the end of my cubicle, which desperately needed a quilt to replace the pumpkin one that I still had hanging there (hanging my head ashamedly)! And did you even know that they made rick rack that wide?!

I still think it's a cute project. However, I have to admit that I was incredibly disappointed with the pattern. It's a Pieces from my Heart pattern, so I figured it would be good, as they are, as far as I know, a reputable pattern design company. However, the math is JUST ABSOLUTELY WRONG if you want your major vertical seam lines to match up. And the thing is, there is plenty of fabric to be able to do make this happen if the designers would actually have you trim the pieces before you sew them together, rather than having you sew pieces together and trim the excess length from the ends so that the rows are all the same length.

Of course, I didn't realize that this might be a problem until after I'd sewn the rick rack onto all of the layers of the cake and sewn them into the rows. Fixing it up so the seams matched vertically would have required taking apart all of the seams and taking off the rick rack, which seemed like a lot of effort. I was able to come pretty close to getting things to match as I had hoped by taking out a couple of seams and resewing them with very skinny seams.

I wouldn't have been so annoyed about the rows not matching if there was no way to make it work with the fabric at hand (just one of Sandy Gervais' Candy Kisses charm packs). But to design them be to mismatched like that - even if it is just a little bit - really seemed lazy to me. In the piecing guide that accompanies the pattern, they draw vertical lines as if to indicate where each piece of fabric should end, and these make it appear that you should have one vertical line, but in the fabric "drawing" behind these lines, it is clear that one fabric "bleeds" into another's quadrant.

Sigh. Sorry for the long vent. In the end, it finished up quickly, I have a great new piece of art in my cubicle, and I have over a week to enjoy it before the holiday is upon us! It pretty much was a "piece of cake".