Orphan Block Quilt – – – Finally Finished

I certainly do not win awards for finishing projects in a timely fashion! After starting to quilt The Orphan Block Mash Up quilt, I quickly lost interest and it sat under my Sweet Sixteen machine for months. Languishing… it was started over a year ago. Fast forward to the present : I have a growing stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, so I have spent the last two weeks getting it done.

I am not thrilled with it. My quilting is not great so I will not be showing you a close-up. But as I have told students in the past, you can quilt samples or practise on “the real thing” and I chose to do the latter. Most people viewing the quilt in my hallway are not quilters, so they will not scrutinize my work. And if I can keep my tongue in my head and not say “Gee, the quilting is not very good”, I am sure they will admire it. (Sorry for the poor photo – I have no walls big enough to hang a quilt and get away from it to photograph, so it was on the floor and I was on a ladder!)

I must say that I am always amazed when I wash a quilt. It looks so much better and you really have to look closely to see the quilting at all; there’s just a nice texture.

Now that it is done, I can get on with the next project and learn some more.

Finally A Finished Quilt Top!

@#%*?&#! And whew! Piecing the Jack’s Chain quilt took way longer than I planned. I certainly let other projects get in the way of finishing this top, but happily it is mostly done.

One thing slowing me down, was that the thread on my sewing machine began breaking again. I threaded and re-threaded and re-threaded the machine. I wound a new bobbin, or two! I tried different threads. I changed the needles several times. And finally, I went out and bought Dual Duty thread!!!!!! I am a bit of a purist and I like to sew with cotton thread on cotton fabrics, but I have run out of patience. The threads are breaking in between the chain sewing I am doing. I would say it was the quality of the thread, but as I said, I did try several brands. The bottom thread still seems to be breaking between the chaining, but the Dual Duty on the top is holding. Any ideas on why that might be happening?

I have declared that the top is done. I cannot make myself sew one more nine patch square at this point, so the nice pattern will only be on the center on the bed. (I cropped the picture above so that it looks like the pattern covers the whole bed.) I have had it on and off of the guest room bed the last few days and it just looks stupid – like a project half done. So instead of a bed quilt, I will finish it as a lap quilt. Now I just need to decide on borders.

And here is a close-up of some of the squares. The nine patches are mostly bright hand dyed fabrics, though I did add some of my batik stash. I’m relieved to have made the decision to down-size it and it certainly will be easier and faster to quilt. I will add it to the big stack of tops to be quilted!

 

Upcoming Fun at Island Quilters!

I have been asked by my friend Beth to lead hexie make and take sessions at her Hilton Head Island store, Island Quilters next weekend. We will be doing English Paper Piecing; a technique where fabric is basted around a paper template. It’s quick and accurate and addictive. Her description made me laugh – Debbie will tell you about her favorite subject – hexagons! It’s true, I do love them, and I am looking forward to sharing this passion with other quilters. Island Quilters is under new ownership and I wrote about it here.

I have been making a lot of hexie units in preparation for the make and take. We’re hoping for a big turnout and I need to keep ahead of the students, like cooking shows and their swap outs. Each participant will get a little sample pack with EPP pieces and bits of fabrics and learn how to sew them. (Big thanks to Paper Pieces for sending us these packs!) Instead of just making random hexies, I do want to make something, so I chose this medallion pattern, which will take shape as the weekend progresses.

Medallion hexie pattern

There are so many ways to be creative with hexagons! You can play with the patterns of the fabric, like the swirling flower on the right. You can make fun shapes, like the (purple) frog’s foot. You can layer the different sizes. You can cut the hexie in half and use two fabrics on each hexagon. And stars and diamonds, oh my! All of this is just Beginning Hexie. Check out Pinterest and Google for a zillion ideas.

Hexie ideas

But the best fun is getting out your colored pencils and drawing a design to make…

Star hexie pattern

In case you are in the area, or know someone who will be, here’s the information:

Island Quilters store, located on Hilton Head island, January 27 and 28

The sessions will start at 10 AM and will be about 45 minutes long.

If you would like to reserve a time, call the store at 843.842.4500.

Next Steps on Rock Around the Block – Jack’s Chain Quilt

Now that December has come and gone, I am trying to spend more time in the studio – and it’s back to the Jack’s Chain quilt. Knowing that I did not have enough of the background blue hand dyed fabric, I had to fiddle around with a final layout for the top. I finally decided that a center 3 square by 5 square strip, with a strip on either side using the new fabric would work for me.  I shopped around a few quilt stores and found a darker, but similar hand dyed blue.The center strip of the quilt top is completed and I am working on the rows with the new fabric. This pattern is not as circular as the original, more difficult pattern; it is more wavy.

Working on strips

A new addition is little hexies that I have hand appliqued in the middle of every other block. {Looking at the photograph, I am now wondering if I should make one for every middle, but will wait until I have finished with all the blocks…}

Hexie middles

It has been hard to find time to work on it, but I am back to making one square a day.

Rock Around the Block – Jack’s Chain Quilt

Jack’s Chain is a quilt pattern I have admired since I first saw it – in the July/August 1998 issue of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine! In the accompanying article, Nancy Elliott MacDonald said that it was called Rosalia Flower Garden when it was published in the Kansas City Star in 1939 and then renamed Jack’s Chain in Primarily Patchwork by Puckett and Giberson. When you Google the name, you will find lots of lovely variations.

A Jack’s Chain square is made up of 6 nine patches (easy!) around a hexagon with inset triangles (not so much!). Over the years, I have tried to draft and simplify the pattern, but never quite figured it out, but quilt designer Nancy McNally did. She calls her version Rock Around the Block and has added a lattice with a (red) churn dash square in between each chain. Several weeks ago I was so excited to drive to the mountains of North Carolina to A Stitch in Time for a class with her.

Nancy McNally's Rock Around the Block

This class was labeled Intermediate and – wow – there is a lot of sewing involved. Should you want to make this quilt, the pattern is in the Summer 2015 issue of Fons & Porter‘s Scrap Quilts magazine. (Nancy does not presently own the rights to the design.) I would suggest you go to her website to buy the triangle template. In each square, you need 16 of those triangles and it’s so much easier to rotary cut a stack of the background fabric than trace around template plastic. Jack’s Chain was designed in the 1930’s, so the quilts would have been made with lots of pretty prints and a white background, which most of the class chose to do. I have been using pale fabrics a lot recently so I opted for a dark background to make the nine patches pop.

Nine patches with template

I have been sewing away and have decided not use the churn dash/lattice piece. I love the way that the chains continue to circle, which you will see when I sew all the blocks together. Some quilts on the Internet have a hexie appliqued in the middle, which I may add as well. Nancy’s quilt is 12 blocks, but I want this quilt to be sized for a queen bed. I bought all the blue hand dyed fabric on the bolt, but it is not going to be enough. Oh phooey! I have to shop for fabric…

Debbie's Jack's Chain

It was a lovely day in A Stitch in Time. The owner, Maxine, made us lunch so we could sew, sew, sew, and I got two squares completed. (They are my closest Sweet 16 dealer and a Better Homes & Gardens Quilt Sampler store.) The store has lots of great fabric and goodies to check out, and her daughter is Bonnie Christine, designer extraordinaire. Franklin, NC is a lovely mountain town, located pretty close to the amazing towns of Highlands and Cashiers. Most of the ladies were from there, either owning a second home or living part-time in their campers. These mountain towns are a huge draw for Floridians, escaping the heat. It’s a two-hour+ drive for me, so I spent the night and enjoyed my mini vacation very much.

Patchwork Couch-Pillows

I have been eyeing these tiny  blue and white quilt pieces and feeling fairly sure that they weren’t going to become a quilt, but I’d pieced quite a lot and didn’t want to throw them out. One day genius struck and I took them downstairs to the new couch and these four squares fit perfectly on the (matching) (dull) pillows that came with the couch. Yippee!

Tiny Delectable Stars

This is something that I do frequently. Matching pillows on a couch are pretty dull… Here is a couch-pillow slipcover that I made for the Colorado brown loveseats using fun bits of fabrics in my stash.

Brown batiks

In the Colorado Summers, I covered the loveseats with denim slipcovers and made these two cases from my wonderful Asian fabric stash. I hand stitch one end of the cover, so it’s easy enough to rip out the stitches and change the brown covers to the blue ones. (I’m too lazy to sew zippers…)

Asian blue pillows

This Delectable Stars pattern was made using foundation piecing and this is what it looks like when all the paper is (carefully) ripped off. Quite the mess!

Paper piecing detrius

I love to sew triangles, but they are nasty when it comes to pressing. It involves some careful pressing and then a lot of mashing with a steamy iron.

So many triangles

And here it is quilted and in place on the couch! I quilted it way more than I needed to do for just a pillow, but I wanted to be sure to highlight the piecing pattern. And it was good practise for the big Delectable Stars quilt, should I ever finish that one.

Blue pillow

 

Thread Problems

Last week I took a class at a quilt store. I was a good student and oiled my machine, changed the needle and wound bobbins before I went there. When I started sewing in class, I had nothing but problems! I was using Aurifil 50/2 and it did nothing but break. It’s always nice to take a class in a store, so I went out and bought a spool of Guterman 50. It worked well in class, but now that I am home sewing, it’s breaking like crazy. I’m using a dark color and I can see how uneven the thread looks as it spools out on the beige of the sewing machine.

I am using my trusty and reliable Pfaff 7530. It’s been recently serviced and I have threaded and re-threaded many times. The only other time I have had issues with threads breaking was when we lived in Singapore. Luckily the local quilt store owner knew just what the problem was – the humidity! It was so humid there that she said it made the cotton thread swell up and became too thick for some machines. The solution then was using cotton wrapped polyester thread. And back then, the favorite thread for quilters was Mettler, and I bought lots of it. Now I’ve heard that it isn’t the best quality.

So what do you like to use for piecing?

Calling all quilters!!! I need some suggestions.

A Quilt Store Visit – Island Quilters

While we were on our vacation, the stars aligned and we were able to stop on the way home for the grand re-opening of Island Quilters in Hilton Head SC! Why was this so special, you may ask? Because the new owner is my friend Beth Hanlon-Ridder! You have seen her name on the blog before, because she has had a machine quilting business for some years and she has quilted many of my quilts. But now she is in the quilting business big time.

Beth and I met in 1993 in Singapore. Peter and I had been there for a few months when I got a telephone call from Beth, who had just moved and had many questions and concerns. (Our husbands worked for the same company.) She is a super organized person and had thought about what she might do in her spare time and had brought a lot of projects. Mostly she was into counted cross stitch, but she did have one quilt pattern. It was a runner with pieced trees on it, I remember, and not a beginning project, but we did get through it. I had been quilting for about three years, so I was an expert, and I was glad to assist her any time she had a questionThis is a long way of saying that Beth is knowledgeable and experienced and IQ will be a wonderful place to shop.

Beth is knowledgeable

Here is my favorite part of any quilt store – the batik section. There are many to choose from and I restrained myself. I did buy some background for a new Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, but I did need that, I really did.  She carries lots of other fabrics too,including some tempting holiday prints, but you’ve seen pictures of the studio and know I don’t need another fat quarter.

WOnderful batik shelves

There are lots of samples in the store. Some are of quilt design ideas and others showcase her wonderful machine quilting – her big machine is lurking in the back, waiting to get to work. Peter and I were so glad to see she and Jim again (thanks to Jim for photographing us!) and are so pleased now that we all live in South Carolina.

Deb & Beth & Peter

If you are in Hilton Head, please make sure you stop by and tell Beth that Debbie sent you!

The 21 Year Old Rug Update…

Because I have whined so much about the Vermont Shells hooked rug, I promised myself that I would not discuss the rug until it was done – but it is in the home stretch! While filling in some “holidays” and cutting ends, I was mulling over what sort of yarn to whip the edge with. And then I decided to make a braided edge. It will probably take longer, particularly as I don’t quite remember how to attach the braid, but it will be a lovely finish. {I’m so ready to be done with this rug…}

Here are some of the fabrics that I auditioned. The fabric on the left is the one that I used to hook the dark edge of the border, and I could certainly use three lengths of that, but braiding is much more interesting when several fabrics are used. The plain brown is the fabric I hooked around each of the clam shells and I liked the idea of adding some green, so I ripped 2″ strips of the first three wools and braided a quick sample.

Braid ideas

Sampling is important as it is impossible to know 1) how the fabrics will look when they are folded and braided and 2) how the braid will look against the rug. It looks pretty good.

Braid one

For the next sample I subtracted the plain brown and used the blue plaid. I liked the idea of echoing (in very dark values) the main colors of the shells. I like it!

Braid Two

Braiding is a good project to do while watching the Olympics because I can start and stop easily. {And can you believe the amount of commercials??? Holy Cow I am glad that we are watching a day behind. Peter says he is getting a sore thumb from fast forwarding and even with handwork it would drive me mad to watch so many inane commercials.}

The other project I am working on while viewing the Olympics is the Halloween Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt. I haven’t worked on it in quite some time… It’s getting to be that time of year. Maybe I will try to finish it for Halloween of 2017… {It could happen.}

Halloween GFG

Fiddling with Color

I promised myself that when I started making the extra 5 wheels for the enlarged quilt design, that I wouldn’t be too fussy. As I said in the last post about this – my plan was to quickly pick colors and sew them. Ha! With the wheels done, I thought I should assemble everything on the design wall and give it a look. Ha again!

Double Nine Patch mock-up

The wheel in the bottom row, middle, bothers me. Even Peter noticed it when he eyed my progress the other day. It’s not that I need them to match or I would have used the same fabrics for each wheel. But that one sticks out! Why? I finally decided that it was the yellow that offended me and made the wheel way colder than the others. Truth be told, most of the wheels are not in my “color comfort zone”. I have been purposely trying to make them cool and not as ferociously bright as I usually make my quilts.

Wrong colors...

One of these oranges looks like it will help that wheel be friendlier with the others…

Better color...

The topic of being too fussy and re-doing projects is often kicked around by those of us who make things. I have learned over the years, that if it bothers me, it bothers me and it had better come out! The last thing Peter wants to hear before we get into bed is “Why didn’t I change that wheel? I do not like the colors!”.

Once I sew this wheel, I am going to stop being overly critical of the others and get the double nine patches done.

What are you ripping out today???