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Progress on the “Oh Canada!” Quilt

Oh Canada

Another labor of love that I’ve been able to enjoy piecing together.  I’m 4/7 the way done with the quilt top and yes the square at the bottom will mark the center of the quilt.  I’m very excited about piecing this two-color quilt.  I wanted to break it down just slightly to give an idea of what it’s like to put something like this together.  Not to scare anyone off, but more of the scope of this sort of project.

This quilt when finished will be composed of 49 blocks (7 rows of 7).  Each block has (5) 3 1/2″ squares and (16) 3 1/4″ triangles.  Put in perspective of the whole, it will contain 245 small squares, 196 each of red and white triangles, 31 bordering strips, and 4 pieces for the panels.  In the end I have planned to add 13 maple leaves of different color to give it a total piece count of 685 individual pieces.  I could be off on my count a little as I was doing the math a little quickly, but you get the idea.

When I start a quilt, I always start with a single block and don’t even necessarily allow myself to think about the above information as it  will quite literally stall the project before it begins.  I don’t even cut out the fabric for all of the pieces because of this.

This quilt, or more correctly the idea that started this quilt is now a year past, as is the first block I created for it.  My question for anyone out there is how do YOU eat an elephant?

Flannel Binding

If I were to talk about one of the biggest obstacles that I’ve face since I started piecing quilts, top of my list is piecing and binding a flannel quilt.  It’s almost like sewing a Lycra skirt together I would imagine.  I am a “fair-weather” pinner and will always try to get away without pinning where I’m able, so long as the fabric I’m working with cooperates.

Flannel is one of my favorite fabrics to piece and wrap up in after a well-done job.  This is also one of the fabrics that needs the most pinning due to the stretchiness of the material.  To go a little into the woods with this topic, when I initially started quilting I wanted nothing more than to make a flannel quilt.  Off to the store I went to pick out some of the warmest, softest, and flannely flannel I could find.  I purchased much more fabric than was needed using the… “if it calls for a yard and a half why not buy four yards” guy mentality.

This of course saved me.  I knew something was off, and at first it was that I had indeed cut the wrong size on a couple of pieces.  Standing there trying to line the fabric up after I re-measured however I started to sew only to have the squares go all wonky on me once I tried to join them together.  This was my initialization into the world of flannel.

Lesson #1, pin… every… little… piece… to sew it together.  Then, pin each and every piece as they come together.  Use the steam and weight of the iron to flatten the material and set the seams, do not stretch the material while pressing.  Now I know there is someone out there that may be able to sew this without pinning using the proper tension and fabric selection on their sewing machine.  When I first started with my singer, I have a difficult time getting this correct.  Now that I have a husqvarna viking, it is a little easier, however I still have to ensure I have the machine set correctly.

I’ve posted before about how much I love to put satin blanket bindings on baby quilts, but I wanted these to have more of a homemade look to them.  People are finally getting vocal about what works for them on a flannel blanket and I’ve decided to go with the double-fold binding.  I’ll cut the fabric 2 1/2″ before folding rather than my normal 2 1/4″ wof.

Lesson #2, Don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone.  I’ll post the pics of these next week to show you how they turned out.

Until next time,

Keep Sewing!!

Are you like a crazy person?

I love the world of quilting.  I love to design, sew, and finish these wonderful projects.  I am especially fond of having a finished product to admire at the end of all my hard work.  The flurry of the holidays is long since passed for me and my time is starting to open back up ever so slightly.  If I am to be perfectly honest, I’ve noticed that something has been missing in my life, a certain lack that when I tried to pinpoint exactly what it was, I realized that I hadn’t created anything new at all for over two months.

 

Life

Does anyone else feel the same when life has “caught them up”?  Given the fact that the holidays are a busy time for both work and life in general, I sacrificed one of my passions to make room for others.  It’s the dance we do when a choice has to be made.

The Persian Plum that I started last year will be complete by next weekend and then it’s off to the quilters.  Between then and now, I have two flannel blankets that simply need to be bound and they will be complete as well.  I should have pictures up of those by tomorrow.

To everyone reading…  Thank you for all your wonderful comments, they mean a great deal to me and are very much appreciated.

Sew Happy!!

My Recent Troubles with the Christmas Quilts…

It’s been crazy with work lately…  Posting up what my projects are and what I’m currently doing has taken a back-seat to work, home, and sewing.  I knew this was going to be a beat-down that will continue through next week but am able today to give a brief account of what I’ve managed to eek out.

While working on the original Christmas quilt, I was showing Kay a video on more patterns with which to make quilts and found one on YouTube of one that to me looked perfect for another Christmas quilt.  It’s basically a Jelly Roll pattern for a quilt and since Kay had a Jelly Roll sitting around with nothing to do, she decided to attempt it.  While I, having a lot of extra Christmas fabric, decided to start on a second quilt without finishing my first!  I know everyone understands what spurs us on to do that…

So, I’m working furiously during my off time to get this new one completed and realized that I had not finished Teagan’s binding so I could send it out.  I stopped working on the new Christmas quilt and finished up Teagan’s.  With that accomplished, I pulled out both of the Christmas quilts and while looking at the first decided to incorporate some embroidery into the pattern.

 

As you can see I’ve become distracted and have lost focus… the only good news is that I AM progressing on getting these two quilts finished until…

While reading through a quilting magazine, I came across a really simple quilt pattern that I thought would be perfect to use with some flannel material.  You can already guess what I did, I stopped working on the Christmas quilts and am 2/3 the way through this new quilt.

Alas, I have no willpower when it comes to starting new projects while the old ones languish waiting to be finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Land of Whimsy

One of my favorite stories growing up and told by my father was about two young children named Sally and Dick.  My younger brother and I were enthralled by the adventures these two would find themselves in.  As a bedtime story, nothing could have been as riveting as when the found themselves in Chocolate land… until that is one night at bedtime my father told us about “The Land of Whimsy”.  I was hooked!!

One of these days I plan on getting my father’s stories published.  The characters he created like George the Ant, and Stuffy the Teddy Bear, were so lovable and real to my brother and me.  As I grew older and realized that he hadn’t been reading these stories from a book, I was amazed.   I’ve written a large part of his stories down so I don’t forget them, but the one I’ll never forget was the tale of the Land of Whimsy.

When I first came across the fabric from Heidi Grace I fell in love with it.  The pattern and textures so rich and inviting and filled in my mind what I had always perceived the Land of Whimsy to be.  Trying to find a way to put the fabric together proved very difficult however.  My wife Kay watched me as I started full of promise only to rip parts of it back up and restart again.  The aggravation when it wouldn’t do what I wanted as I would pull it apart again, only to hear me cursing at it again.

It was a long road to get it completed and now it’s finally back from the quilter (who did a superb job… again!) and now I get to bind it.  I think I did a decent job of giving it a life with the pattern I chose and feel it reflects those wonderful stories that my father told.

Each small square tells of an adventure that happened in one of the larger squares (lands) and sometimes there would be two adventures in one story.

The binding is sewn on to the front now I just need to hand stitch it down to the back.  I should have it done by the weekend and be able to continue working on that Christmas quilt.  Until then, have a wonderful week everybody!!

Soldiering On

I’m in the middle of sewing some of the Christmas blocks together and I hit a wall.  I turned off my sewing machine and unplugged the iron from its power source.  I don’t understand why for the life of me I could have been so excited about it one day and then wanting to throw it in the bin the next.  Have you ever felt like that?  It is turning out okay, but maybe I feel a little daunted by how much work is going to go into this quilt when it will only be used either for decoration, or just a lap quilt.

Either way, I need to work through this.  I don’t have the designed firmly set in my mind, though the design is down on paper.  It’s all laid out and measured and I know where each piece is supposed to go.  I don’t know if I’m sold on the four-square piece that will be interspersed with it though.

If anyone has any suggestions or advice, let me know…

It’s Never Too Early to Start a Christmas Quilt

So I started last night thinking about the first Christmas quilt of the season.  What pattern to use though? Here is a quick preview of the fabric I’m going to be using.

 

Now, in my previous post I mentioned that it’s a good idea to have already picked a pattern out… and I did, I promise.  I may still actually use the pattern I picked in the end, but while playing around with the Electric Quilt software I came across a block that with a little embellishment would highlight the blue fabric like I wanted.

The next thing I knew I was designing an entire quilt around the block I created.  I have the look that I wanted but don’t yet know if I’ll change it in the end.  Here is the finished test block, I still don’t know if I want to fussy-cut the fabric… it just seems such a waste, but I may end up doing it in the end.

 

These squares will be 8″ when sewn together with a foursquare.  I should have some of the panels finished to show by the end of the week end.

Thoughts on New Projects and what to AVOID

I wanted to write a little about the art of piecing.  I was originally going to say ‘the art of quilting’, but I really wasn’t talking about that.  The most difficult, frustrating, and wonderful thing for me is still piecing a quilt together.  I do not want to detract from the quilting process at all, merely to say that while the quality of the quilting can make a huge impact on the design as many people know, it takes a special skill to piece a quilt as well.

One of the things that Kay and I had discovered during our quilting journey, was how many of our wonderful long arm quilters weren’t necessarily great at the construction aspect of the process.  It sounds like such an easy thing to do… pick out fabric, pick out/design quilt, cut said fabric, sew all of it together and then hand it to the “professional” to do the real work of quilting it all down.  As I’ve said, I am not detracting from the artistry and difficulty of the quilter, but want to emphasize the first part of this whole process.

Picking fabric

I can’t tell you how much fabric I’ve passed up even when I’ve fallen in love with a particular one.  Yes, I do have some lone wolves in my stash that I could not resist, but they’re lone wolves because I couldn’t (yet) find anything to put them with.  It’s generally a good idea to start with the pattern you’ve created or one you’ve seen rather than picking the fabric and then ‘stuffing’ it into a pattern.  I have seen a collection of fabric however and made the purchase Hoping to find a pattern that I could use.  With seasonal fabric, it is not as difficult.

Picking a pattern

This can be a tough nut… I’ve picked a pattern before and looked at it in all its ‘simplicity’ and then tried to execute it only to find out that I was bamboozled.  What looked like an easy inviting pattern turned out to be a cutting or piecing nightmare that after I finished with it I swore I’d never attempt that again… or words to that effect!  Another challenge loomed while working with Electric quilt, which is a wonderful product, but is time-consuming to learn and then apply your knowledge to build the pattern.  The one advantage that I can see using the EQ product is that whether or not your pattern is unique among others is that you created it yourself and it might just be a one-of-a-kind pattern.

Another thought before I leave this topic is a personal opinion (be warned)… sometimes more is just, more.

Sewing and Pressing

I can’t for the life of me put enough emphasis on this… when ironing, press the fabric do NOT stretch the fabric.  I realize that after sewing you might measure and find that you’ve lost an 1/8” or more off of what the finished size should be, but trust me on this if you stretch the fabric it’s going to do weird things after the first wash.  Also, by paying attention to your seams and keeping them flat but not stretched, you will help your long-arm quilter avoid the “hills and valleys” they sometimes find in others work.

Sewing can be the swiftest was to destroy a complicated pattern.  I should mention that not all sewing machines are alike, nor are their measurements the same.  The biggest issue that I’ve encountered while piecing a quilt together was using multiple machines during this process.  This error is second only to having a consistent ¼” when sewing.  Don’t let your material boss you around!!  As you sew, keep an even pressure on the fabric and keep the speed as consistent as you can.

I hope this post hasn’t been too preachy, I just wanted to lay down a few things to think about when contemplating your next project.  Until next time, happy quilting!!

Blue Pinwheel is Pieced!!

No, I don’t know why it’s taken me soooo long to finish piecing this quilt.  Call it quilter’s block, which is the term I use rather than the real culprit which I’m sure boils down to laziness…  Well maybe 98% laziness and 2% quilter’s block.

Whatever the reason, I’ve finally managed to finish this quilt top and because I did not follow a pattern ended up with a king sized quilt due in part to the double 4″ borders I thought would look good.  I obviously am not finished with run-on sentences either!  This is, I believe, the largest quilt that I’ve made to date.

Here’s an up-close look at this quilt that has taken me the longest to make.

 

Now, the points are not perfect and it won’t win any awards, but I’ve learned another valuable lesson on the importance of using only one machine to make the different pieces.  Kay and I have different sewing techniques and obviously use different machines.  She helped me piece ten of the blocks together and that introduced some variations that played hell with trying to line up everything.  Now I’m not placing blame, only stating that I have yet to learn for a quilt such as this how to “play nice” with another quilter and get the desired result.

Also in this pattern, when sewing the blocks together there are eight different points that need to line up which presents another challenge.  Normally I would have to make sure that all of the blocks are the exact size and then pin them prior to sewing to give me beautiful uniformity.  When there are eight points that need to match however, block size is only one component to a beautifully pieced quilt.

With all that said, I am still and all very pleased with how this turned out and can’t wait to get it quilted down and bound.  Speak out and tell me the challenges that you’ve faced!  Until then, happy quilting…

So Much Fabric and So Little Time

My trip to the Moda warehouse started VERY early in the morning.  Please don’t think that I’m complaining, I feel fortunate to have Moda so close to where I live.  Still and all, 5am is a little too early for my liking even for a sale.  Kay took a couple of photos while we were there, but we were so focused on all of the beautiful fabric that we didn’t take too many.

This was just one of the rows we walked down.  There was so much wonderful fabric, the patterns and the colors fantastic.  Then we went to the other side of the warehouse where the Notions were stored…. WOW!

To say that we were kids in a candy store was an understatement.  The warehouse was FILLED with what amounted to candy to us.  Kay was so fun to watch as she moved from shelf to shelf, ohhing and ahhhing.

What I bought was NOWHERE near what I wanted to buy, but I thought I’d share it with you.

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