Blue Ridge Landscape

Blue Ridge Landscape

Blue Ridge Landscape

Internet connections have been frustrating this past week! I’m glad I have a smart phone so that I can use it to get the basics but connection on it is also not the best so I look for excuses to go into town so I can access the pictures on facebook. Email seems to come through pretty easily on the phone but not on the computer. And sending pictures on the computer takes a lot of patience even though I compress them. Well, enough complaining.

blue ridge

I am working on the Blue Ridge landscape to commemorate our trip along the Parkway last year. We still have such pleasant memories of that trip in our airstream, the people we met, the sights we saw and the music we heard—especially the Kruger Brothers at the outdoor concert at the Blue Ridge Music Center. Back to the landscape–the background was pretty easy with the gray blues of the far ground and the darker green of the foreground. I want to feature the beautiful flaming azaleas in the bottom right corner along the rock wall that was a favorite sight at nearly every scenic overlook. I would love to hear some suggestions for how those might be portrayed. I have some batik fabrics that meet the color requirements but I want some of the blossoms to be dimensional and some just in the background. I have some ombre tulle that is a good color match for the flower. The azalea has five petals so I could use a circle folded into quarters and then gather along the curved edge (five in a row and pulled tight) but am open to other ideas.

It’s Finished

It’s Finished!! I said that was gong to be my mantra for the first half of 2015 because I have several items to be finished. While most everyone I know that quilts has unfinished projects some of mine are growing into their teen years. Today I worked on a clamshell log cabin started in a class with Joan Belling about 10 years ago—a mere child. The mitered corners on the border didn’t lay flat and the stripes didn’t match so it was put aside some years ago. I really didn’t have time for mistakes. Corner stripes are now square. Simple quilting highlights the design and binding is on the agenda for tomorrow. As I look at the fabric used I will pull some of the remnants out when we get back to home base in spring. By then I am confident I will have a plan for another creation…just hope I have enough fabric for whatever that might be!

P.S. I also finished the insulation installation for the sewing room. My husband has the sheetrock on the walls. That means we have to tackle the ceiling….how long before I can say “it’s finished”? The DIY Texas sewing room is a little like the UFO’s—but still just a toddler.

“You Are My Sunshine”

feb bom

February Block of the Month

You Are My Sunshine

This block was inspired by the month of February—Valentine’s Day, anniversary of my parents marriage and of several of their siblings and probably many others out there. It is named for my parents song, “You Are My Sunshine” as designated by their school yearbook, next to my dad’s picture. The block is known as Bowtie but also as Lover’s Knot. I use the block in the dimensional form with ombre borders and a few prairie points to resemble rays of sunshine. While I mitered my borders I give instructions for a blocked border. It can be made with scraps of different pinks or one fat quarter and same for yellow background. For an ombre border you will need ¾ yard to cut vertically, otherwise 1/3 yard of 42” fabric will work.

 

Instructions:

Cut three 4 ½” squares from each of four pink fabrics.

Cut eight 4 ½” squares from yellow background fabric.

Cut two 4 ½” x 16 ½” side borders.

Cut two 4 ½” x 24 ½” top and bottom borders.

Prairie Points: Cut seven squares varying from 4 ½” to 3”.

 

Dimensional lover’s knot: (there are many You tube videos on this method)

Fold one pink square in half and sandwich between a pink and a yellow square with all raw edges even. Stitch a ¼” seam on the right side edge.

Sandwich a yellow and pink square on the left side of the folded square (just opposite of the right side, see photo) and stitch.

four patch one

I prefer to press the seams open to reduce bulk for the next step of sewing the four patch.

Pin right side yellow to left side pink. Open the folded square to match the center seams and continue to form the four patch. It will a little difficult to get the folded patch open and folded edge out of the ¼” seam allowance.

four patch two

Dimensional four patch done! Sew four and arrange so “knots” form a ring. Add two side borders and then top and bottom borders.

 

After quilting, before adding binding, place prairie points along bottom and side borders then bind as usual.

 

Prairie points are made by folding the squares in half diagonally and then in half again.

Remember these small projects are a wonderful way to practice your quilting skills.

 

How Did You Do That?

branch closeup  flower closeup

 

How did you make those branches? On a wall hanging that I posted recently there was a question about how the branches were made dimensional. It is a very simple technique. I cut brown toned batik into bias strips. Length really doesn’t matter because you can join as you wish to make the branch your own. Holding each end twist the strip as tight as you want it to be for the diameter of the branch (kind of like twisting your hair with your finger). You can see in the close up here that a more loosely twisted wrap gives a larger diameter. I used a zig zag to secure the branch but have also used other decorative stitches as the situation dictated. For thinner branches a heavy weight decorative thread was used in a simple stem stitch.

 

The flower was a circle folded in quarters, basted along the curved edge to form one petal. Without cutting the thread additional circles are attached to add as many petals as desired. After 5-7 petals are on the thread pull up the thread to gather the petals into a circle or flower shape. For a different texture and color variation I used an ombre tulle. Because I used tulle I took several stitches on top of each other to secure the beginning leaving a tail for tying a knot when ready to gather the petals into a flower. After adding as many folded circles as desired pull the thread tight to form a circle, knot to secure, and add a button or yo-yo center. My initial circle was about 3 ½”—I used a glass for a pattern.

I really love the look of the tulle and will be making more of those for a garden scene.

Be A Curious Quilter

The Curious Quilter

When people view my more artistic quilt designs they sometimes ask how I got the idea or how I knew to use a particular technique. Usually I shrug my shoulders and say “it just came to me”. And that is the truth—but causes me to question why did it “just come to me”? I think to expand your quilting expertise you have to develop your curiosity.   First, you have to be willing to try new things—new skills, new techniques, new fibers and fabrics–even if they don’t work out quite like you planned you have learned something that you may be able to use later. And, for heaven’s sake, do not throw it out. Six months from now it (skill, technique, fabric) may be exactly what is needed to complete a masterpiece.

Secondly, fire that inner critic that judges before you’ve had time to really step back and assess your work. Each of us either spontaneously appreciates or spontaneously critiques a work in progress. Get feedback from both viewpoints to help you form a more credible assessment for your project. (I know which friend to ask when I want the critique and who to ask when I want the appreciative response.)

And third, ask questions. Ask questions of yourself. Not “how” questions but “what if” questions. What alternatives are there? What if I did it this way? What if I used my least favorite color instead of my most favorite color? Ask questions of others whose work you admire. What made you decide to use this technique, this quilting pattern, this color, this fabric?

And do you see? You are right back to the first step—testing the “how”.

Linens and Lace

Linens and Lace

 

softer side of fall         vases

 

The use of linen and lace has become obsolete for most dinner tables and few make their own fresh flower bouquet to grace the table but somehow both continue to hold a place in my heart. (At least the romance of the look lingers in my heart. The reality of ironing those linen tablecloths and napkins gets pushed to the back of my mind.) Like many, I rescue those vintage linens whenever I find them—auction houses, antique stores and boutiques, even from their resting place in the drawers of my friends. I don’t grow flowers as beautiful as those found in the grocery store or the big box store much less the floral shop or, in my case, the fabric shop. My solution for satisfying the heartstrings is to combine vintage linens and floral fabrics in a quilted project for the wall, the table or the sofa.

Small or large, I dye the linens with no special regard for home décor color schemes or the popular color palette of the day or year but for whatever comes out of the dye bath. Those colors that seem most unusable for home décor present the opportunity to find a beautiful floral fabric that can become the flower arrangement.

The bright orange napkin at first seemed hopelessly unfit for anything but I was determined to utilize it’s sunny disposition and found the appropriate color combination in a floral from Westminster Fabrics.

Fusible was adhered to the floral fabric and a variety of flowers cut out. A tricot fusible was adhered to the napkin to stabilize it. My recollection of flower arranging from my 4-H days is quite simple: find a lovely vase (in this case a complement of turquoise to the oranges), make a pyramid, put in some greenery and voila, a flower arrangement! Add a neutral linen napkin for a base, coordinating batik borders, embellishment of beads and thread, quilt and bind. Vintage linens and flower arrangements once again grace the home.

Additional project ideas: A simple arrangement of something resembling bittersweet and the Japanese lantern plant combined into one allowed the design of another napkin to be highlighted through quilting and provide the backdrop for the vases.

Hand-dyed burlap used for a sofa pillow was the perfect background for a small doily with fused teacup fabric—Tea for Two.

You don’t have to have a last name beginning with “F” to use those initialed linens. “F” is for fruit including apple, pear and orange that might once again grace the dining table as a runner.

flower arrgmt 101    dresser scarf  tea for two

 

 

A Preference for Thread Basting

basting closeup              basting full length

I still like to thread baste to prepare my quilts for quilting, especially when I am in my small space at our winter home (I make mostly small quilts). I made a hard foam folding board (48” x 13 ½”-54)” that hides under the sofa and comes out when I have several things ready for basting. I can lay it out on the bed, turn it for accessibility to all sides, pin the backing to assure it is straight on grain and smooth before layering the batting and top. Yes, it is faster to pin or spray or fuse and sometimes I use those methods but I use basting time to study the quilt. How do the fabrics and colors interact to create the design? Would different values or styles of fabrics yield a similar or different result? What type of quilting will complement the pattern design? Free motion or walking foot? What color(s) of thread might I use? I was probably supposed to think about those things before starting the quilt. I do feel like I get a smoother backing and I haven’t tied up my pins if I don’t get to the quilting immediately. The only downside for me is the small callous on the end of my finger—a thimble might help that!

Project pictured is a bed runner, 28” x 84”.