Friday, August 31, 2012

Raffle Quilt Progress

Hubby realized that he gave me the wrong deadline for the raffle quilt, so I've gotten a bit of a reprieve. Good thing too, because I haven't made much headway the last week and a half.

All the blocks, sashing units, and the checkerboard borders have been assembled, and all the blocks and sashing units have been sewn into rows. Now I'm sewing the rows together, but it's taking an inordinate amount of time because every square across the row has to be matched and pinned. That's about 20 intersections for each row of sashings and blocks.

My son really likes this quilt, so I guess after I finish this one, I'll start another one for him. 

Last Finish for August

At long last, my Christmas Lights quilt is finished. I'd only used that Poinsettia pantograph once before; but I'm crazy about it on this quilt, so I'll use it again on another Christmas quilt.

At the Mancuso show in New Hampshire a couple weeks ago, I found a new King Tut thread, variegated in red and green. Wish I'd had that before I started quilting this quilt. Gorgeous thread, King Tut, but pricey.

The backing is a flannel sheet, and I think it's perfect for the quilt. I intend for this to be a sofa quilt, and flannel is warm and snuggly. I don't know why I didn't think to use flannel sheets years ago. A queen- or king-sized sheet is large enough to eliminate piecing the back, and they're available in all cotton. A good quality flannel will not pill; and depending on where you shop, the price can be less expensive than buying backing from a quilt shop.

Credit where credit is due: Christmas Lights designed by Bonnie Hunter, Quiltmaker Nov/Dec 2009.

Hexie #41

This hexagon block was the one for last week, I just didn't get it posted because we were on travel. I've already finished the one for this week, but I'll wait til Sunday to post it. Half way there--41 blocks left to go.

This past Wednesday I went to Busy Thimble to look for some purple civil war repros. I was kicking around adding some purples, and Purple Pam convinced me to do it. I found a few, but purple didn't seem to be a popular color back then. But I'm very partial to Jo Morton fabrics, and she's come out with a new collection that features oranges and yellow greens. I really liked them, so I thought, why not? I found some salmon colors I liked too. You'll be seeing all those in upcoming blocks. You know how some quilters say to "let the quilt speak to you"? Well, this quilt is really speaking to me. I'm not sure how much it will look like the original at this point, but I think I'll really like it.

Trip to New York

We left for New York last Friday morning to visit with my son and his wife and came home late Monday afternoon. It was hot, hot, hot  in Saratoga Springs--and that's why I live in Maine. I was really dragging by the time we got home. The heat takes a lot out of me.

To make matters worse, we realized Saturday evening that the air conditioning in the car wasn't working. Hubby bought a can of freon Sunday morning, but it all leaked out by the time we got back to the hotel Sunday evening. Monday morning we bought two more cans of freon for the trip home. I held out without the A/C until about noon, then hubby added one can of freon, and that got us home, thankfully. 

The only other bad part of the trip was that I had an allergic reaction to some lotion I used on my face and neck, which translated to lots of redness, some swelling around my eyes, and intense itching. Several months ago, I made a departure from my regular lotion and bought a different kind--same company, different formula--and had a reaction. I contacted the company and threw away the bottle, but I forgot I also filled up my tiny travel bottle with the same stuff. I used it Saturday morning without a problem; but when we got back to the hotel Saturday evening,  I washed my face and reapplied the lotion, then woke up in the middle of the night itching.

Those two things aside, we really enjoyed the trip and seeing the kids. We went to the Crossgate Mall one day (over 400 stores), and walked around downtown one day. Other than that, we visited at the house. We haven't seen our son in over a year, so it was really nice just to just spend some time together. That's hubby and son, goofing off in the park downtown.
Part of the downtown area. There were some really interesting buildings downtown. At times I felt more like we were in the deep south instead of upstate New York.

Downtown areas tend to be more expensive, particularly during tourist season, so we only went into one shop. My daughter-in-law visited the Saratoga Olive Oil Co. previously and purchased a bottle of oil, so she wanted to show me the store. Sometimes when she's in Portland, we go to Macaroni Grill to eat, and they always serve crusty Italian bread with a plate of herbed olive oil for dipping. We love that, so we bought a bottle of Tuscan herb olive oil to take home. Yummy!

I was amazed how many olive oils and balsamic vinegars they had. There were covered plates of bread chunks and little plastic cups all over the store, so you could taste some of the different oils. There were some odd ones, like olive oil with blood orange.  Nope, didn't try that one!

A yarn bombing, I think. First one I've seen, other than in photos.

Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York, is home to the the printers of Time Magazine, Newsweek, People Magazine, and Sports Illustrated. The mason jar people, Ball Corporation, also reside there, as well as some aluminum can manufacturers that work for companies like Pepsi. But mostly, Saratoga Springs is a horse racing town, and this is horse racing season, so the city is really busy from the beginning of July through the Labor Day weekend. The Saratoga Race Course, a track for thoroughbred racing, is the oldest continuously-operating sporting event of any kind in the United States. We never did find the Course, but we did find the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, which is for harness racing.  Too bad the track wasn't in use when I took the photo.

Because Saratoga is a horse racing town, there are things all over the city that advertise it. On the way into town, we saw billboards with paintings of horse races, a motel called Thoroughbred Motel, hitching posts at convenience stores and gas stations, and a variety of horse statues. I took photos of all the ones we saw, and some of these are really kinda cool. 

A hitching post in downtown, and my daughter-in-law in the background.

A racing panel on the wall in the local grocery store.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hexie #40

There has been no let up around here with my schedule lately. This is the hexagon block for last week, but this is the first opportunity I've had to get it posted. I do like the color of that outer ring, sort of a salmon color. One more hexagon block, and I'll hit my halfway point. Yay!

The original hexagon quilt I was trying to replicate appeared to me to be reds, pinks, blues, browns, and tans--and I tried to maintain that color scheme for a while. But I found I wanted more color, so I added greens and yellows. Before I'm all done, I may have to throw a few purples in there too.

My Christmas Lights quilt is off the frame now, and I'm trying to finish up the binding before the end of the month. I won't be loading another quilt until I get the raffle quilt done, and then I'll load that one. My deadline is looming.

It's been three weeks since Maine Quilts, my state guild's annual quilt show, and I still haven't gotten any photos posted from that show; and I went to another quilt show last Thursday. We went to the Mancuso show in Manchester, New Hampshire. I had a great time but didn't take many photos because the great majority of quilts in the show were art quilts. While I appreciate the effort and workmanship in many of those quilts, I am a traditional quilter through and through, so there are very few art quilts that inspire me enough to take a photo. My favorite though was an Asian themed crazy quilt that had tons of handwork and embellishments. I'll try to get those photos posted in the next couple days. I know I have some emails to answer too, and I'm trying to get to those as well.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Another August Finish

This morning I put the last stitch in the binding on the Holidays quilt, so it's all finished. Isn't that always a good feeling, getting another ufo done? This quilt finishes to 56" square, so it'll be a nice wallhanging size when Christmas rolls around.
I thought this backing was just perfect for the quilt. It looks like it could be part of the same collection, but it was from a different manufacturer. I found it at Marden's during their Christmas in July sale, and I liked it so well that I bought the rest of the bolt, which totaled 13 yards. I figure I might get backings for at least 3, maybe 4, quilts from that piece.

Marden's Surplus and Salvage is a locally owned and operated chain of stores around Maine. Most of the stores have fabric departments consisting largely of quilting cottons. They have some other fabrics, like flannels, upholstery, fleeces, things like that; but the majority of it is cotton, and the prices are unbeatable. If you're ever up this way, be sure to stop by a Marden's. There's a list of locations on their website.

Credit where credit is due: "Holidays at Home" designed by Vicki Bellino. The fabric collection was designed by Faye Burgos for Marcus Fabrics as one of their Block of the Month programs.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August Finish

The second Bug Strippy is done and quilted with the same dragonfly pantograph. I have been applying the binding on these strippies all by machine, and I'm really beginning to like that method. I think it was on Millie's Quilting blog that I found one day the method where you apply quarter-inch wide fusible along the edge, iron the binding in place, then topstitch it. I use a small zig zag stitch to do this, and it works so well.

I finished the quilting on Holidays at Home and took that off the frame yesterday and got the binding sewn to one side of the quilt. This morning I sat down and started handstitching it on the back side and hope to have that done before the end of the week.

This afternoon I loaded Christmas Lights, a quilt by Bonnie Hunter that was featured in Quiltmaker a couple years ago. I'll bet some of you made this quilt--I saw quite a few of them around the blogosphere last year or the year before. My top has been in the ready-to-quilt pile for quite a while. I wanted to quilt little light bulbs on it but couldn't find a pantograph that I liked. Then I thought maybe a simple tree with a star on top. My border print is poinsettias though, so I finally settled on a poinsettia pantograph, and I went with a yellow-green-rose variegated thread. I like the effect. The pattern is one of the more difficult ones for me to stitch out, but it's going pretty well. I don't know how well you can see the stitching. It's a busy pattern on a busy quilt.

I'm on track to finish at least three quilts this month, all UFOs; and it's a good feeling to get them off my plate.

Hexie #39

I actually finished this block a few days ago, but I always like to wait until Sunday to post them. I really like the red print in the outer ring; and for the next one, I'll use the same print but in a different colorway.  I'll probably use it the week after that too. Then it might be time to hunt for some new reds.

We've had showers and cloudy weather the last couple days. Who doesn't need some wet weather right now? I'm afraid it will be short lived though. Our lawns are so dry that they crunch underfoot when you walk on them, and its supposed to be sunny tomorrow.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hexie #38

I've hardly gotten any sewing done since Thursday, but Monday is Sew Day with the girls, and I'll get some of my chain blocks done for the raffle quilt. I had hoped to sew today, but I spent all morning trying to print out hexagons for two more blocks. I use the Inklingo software to do this, and my printer was giving me fits. One wrong setting can screw up the whole process.

The next couple weeks I'll be making red hexagons. Only three of the 38 hexagons I've finished are mostly red, and two of those I don't think I like, so I'll be adding more.

My older son turned 27 today. Geez, if your kid pushing 30 doesn't make you feel old, I don't know what would. He is currently stationed in upstate New York for several more months, going through school. It's been over a year since we've seen him, and we've planned a trip to go down for a visit in a few weeks. I'm excited!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nine Patches Done

The nine patch blocks I need for my raffle quilt are finished. I pulled the colors for these blocks from the border print, shown next to the blocks. I didn't think I'd like them at first, but I almost always do once I get the blocks sewn. Maybe it's just the excitement of having blocks done.

I wanted to use more of a pinkish red instead of the red for the two blocks in the lower right corner, but hubby preferred the red, and besides I didn't want to have to buy more fabric. I only bought a yard of border fabric, and everything else came from the stash.

I'm using up four plus yards of muslin in this quilt, which makes me happy. Nearly all of it has been given to me, and I have a kitchen-sized trash bag full of it. To look at the bag, you wouldn't know I dug four yards out of it. If I ever use it all up, I won't be taking any more muslin!

I also stitched 116 of these 2-patch units for a checkerboard border.

I'm trying to make a couple of passes with the longarm each day to keep my skill level where it is and hopefully improve. In the past, there have been long lapses in between my quilting sessions, and my skills suffer because of it. Quilting a little every day or every other day seems to work better.

Last night I took another bug strippy off the frame--same focus fabric, same dragonfly pantograph. It will be bound in the yellow fabric, and I hope to get this done in the next couple days. 

Holidays at Home is the next quilt to get loaded on the frame. This was a kit that came out last year, I think. The top has been done for a while, just haven't got around to quilting it.

This little red squirrel thinks he is so smart to figure out how to get up onto the bird feeder. And he is, darnit! I've had an awful time trying to keep the gray squirrels off the feeder this summer, and now this little guy. We've tried so many different things to dissuade them; and we finally resorted to, uh, relocating them. It's maddening to be outsmarted by a squirrel!

Today, instead of sewing, I have to pretend like I want to do some serious housework,  because the dust bunnies are threatening to take over. If I get the binding attached to the strippy tonight, I'll be happy. Have a good day, all.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Formal Feathers

The first class I took at Maine Quilts last week was Formal Feathers by Irena Blume. Because Maine Quilts is a comparatively small venue, Irena was the only longarm teacher available to us this year. I hadn't heard of her before, but I enjoyed her class tremendously and learned a great deal. 

Irena is from Poland and now lives in California. After seeing her work, it's hard to believe that she's only been quilting since 2004 and teaching since 2006. 

The Formal Feathers class was supposed to be for all levels, and I thought I was going to learn how to make those beautiful flowing feathers that look like some of the pantographs I have. It turns out that not only are formal feathers constructed differently from a regular feather (or what Irena termed an amish feather), but they were also easier for me to make since I have great difficulty making the amish ones. The entire class was devoted to learning how to draw formal feathers and how to use them to fill a space. 

Longarm machines were available to us to practice on, but we didn't get much time on the machines. That actually turned out to be a good thing, because the machines were way too low for my height, and I had to bend over to see what I was doing, which killed my back. Anyway,  I thought I did a reasonably good job drawing my feathers, but, big surprise, it was another thing altogether to draw them with a longarm. Like everything else in machine quilting, it requires practice. 

Because we only had time to stitch out a couple of designs, it didn't seem worth it to take my sample piece with me. I don't think anyone else took their samples either.  

This is one of Irena's quilts that was hanging in the classroom. Not only is it quilted within an inch of its life, but the quilting is so tiny. There's a detail photo below. 

There is no piecing in this quilt that I could see. Irena has some kind of technique that she uses to color her quilts. She offered coloring as another class at Maine Quilts, but it isn't something I'd be interested in, so I didn't pay much attention to what technique was used to color the quilts.

Irena also had some small samples of some of her filler designs,and there are a couple of drawings at the end of the post showing her drawing of this technique, which she called blooming feathers, and mine. I really liked this one, and it wasn't as difficult to do as I'd imagined.


These are the drawings I did in class, in the order that Irena taught them to us. We started with a simple spine and progressed to some practice filling in specific shapes--a square, rectangle, trapezoid, hexagon, circle, and a heart. 

Then she taught us how to fill in a larger area, and finally, how to meander all over the quilt with the formal feather.