Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

6 half-square triangle blocks done. 10 to go?

I had hoped to post earlier to show a little more progress on those two-inch half square triangle blocks, but the light wasn't very good -- it was pretty much gone -- by the time I got around to pulling out the camera last weekend. I tried again yesterday, and it is what it is. Six blocks done. The original pattern called for 16 blocks, and I thought I'd make more because 16 blocks would make the quilt only 36-inches square. That was nearly nine years ago when I didn't truly appreciate wall quilts! Now, I'm contemplating nine blocks for a 27-inch square wall hanging and a finished project.

A New Year's resolution will have to be actually blogging more and not just thinking about it. Or maybe it should be making time to actually blog. I have ideas when I'm not near the computer, but then finding time before I forget the ideas ...

I had more ideas for this entry too, but as I'm about to head out to the airport this is going to be it. Yes, on Christmas Day! Hadn't been my plan, but Mom called little more than a week ago to say she was getting married on the 28. And, my husband is a pilot and that means flying standby. Christmas Day seems like the best travel day for that. Won't everybody else be where they want to be for Christmas already? Hoping that all the people on cancelled flights from yesterday are taken care of now or are not interested in going to New Hampshire!

My husband overnighted in Miami and doesn't fly out for a while. Just talked to him, and even though it's raining a bit there he got to walk on the beach. I meanwhile contemplated whether I should bother shoveling out the bit of snow the plow pushed into the driveway. After hearing about walking on the beach, I've decided not to shovel and the dash out to the taxi will be my only exposure to 20 F weather today. I hope.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Backing avoidance

36 two-inch half square triangles per block. What was I thinking?

Instead of making the backing for the orange maverick star quilt, I'm working on these blocks from a UFO that is three months shy of being nine years old. Yes, for some reason it's all of a sudden important that I work on this instead of cutting two pieces of fabric and sewing a very long seam so I can then baste that maverick star quilt. At the time I packed this away I hadn't made a single block, just a bunch of half-square triangles.

After 9 years, there's suddenly progress!

I'd pulled out this UFO awhile back and was using the half-square triangles to end chain piecing on another project. I'd slip a half-square triangle in when I wanted to free my other project from the sewing machine to press it. Then when I went back to the machine I could continue my piecing without a big thread tail. The half-square triangles were ever so slowly getting sewn together. Not enough of a sense of accomplishment to keep up that snail's pace -- especially when there's a quilt backing waiting to be completed.

The two blocks at the top are unsewn. Seam allowances really shrink these down. And, look! That block in the upper right has a couple triangles going the wrong way. At least I caught it before I sewed it that way.

This past week I've gotten two blocks sewn, two more partially sewn and two others laid out on the design wall. I also cut a number of three-inch squares in light, medium and dark. Still a ways to go though. The 16 blocks in this little quilt (36" x 36") will require 576 half-square triangles! That should keep the backing at bay for a bit.

The half-square triangles are made by putting two three-inch squares right sides together, drawing (or eyeballing) a line diagonally through the square and sewing a quarter-inch seam on either side of the line. Cut on the line and press the seams open. Then trim the half-square triangles to two inches.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Design process

Zach is born in the summer and I start thinking baby quilt, but I never did make one for his brother, Luke, so I should make a big brother quilt too. Send them both at the same time and avoid any sibling rivalry issues.

Luke likes orange. A lot. His favorite color adorns the walls of his room. That's my inspiration. Now what? Lots of thinking, rejecting of ideas, buying of orange fabric -- which is easy to do without having any idea what you are going to do with all that orange fabric except "make a quilt."

Reading through some blogs I saw this great maverick stars quilt on Marit's blog. The maverick stars would be perfect for a little boy. And in orange too! A sign for sure.

I started sketching ideas and then scaling them back. If you're going to make two quilts and send them before the baby is in college, it's best to keep the plans realistic.

A little while later, I stumbled on more maverick stars in other blogs, such as this one on Be*mused.

Sketch of original plan.

Originally, I was going to make half the stars orange with a navy background and the other half navy with an orange background, divided diagonally through the quilt with blocks that were half and half on the diagonal.

Uh, what happened to making the plan realistic? Right. Scale back the number of blocks. Make some test blocks. Discover that your blocks are 9 inches instead of 6 inches, because 3x3=9 not 6. Make some 6-inch blocks now, and some 12-inch blocks and some more 9-inch blocks. And some rectangular blocks because it would be pretty cool to have extra long tails on some of these stars.

A maverick star block.

If you're interested in making these easy, fun stars, Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville has instructions here.

Now, how to set them?

Sketch of layout that would have required calculating lots of seam allowances.

Graph paper and rulers (to measure the various block sizes) and lots of scribbles later, I decided to just slap the stars up on the design wall, arrange them into something pleasing,

Pleasing to me block arrangement.

and then attempt to fill the space in between with the leftover orange fabrics that I'd cut into 3 1/2-inch and 4 1/2-inch strips to make the stars.

Adding strips to fill the space between blocks.

Several partial seams later and a bit of reverse sewing here and there, and I'd managed to fill the space around the blocks and make a very orange quilt. Although I was a little wild with the blocks and layout, I am still very much an anal retentive perfectionist so I squared up the piecing as I went along to make sure the top would be flat.

Finished top (48"x74"). The color's off. Maybe all that orange was too much for my camera.

Navy binding done. Batting bought. Backing material sitting out for a few weeks now. What is it about backing that makes me want to procrastinate? I have two big pieces of orange fabric that I just need to cut to the right size and sew together (one seam), and I keep putting it off. Maybe the thought that what follows is basting the layers together and machine quilting, and that's just not my favorite part of the process.

Meanwhile, I have a baby quilt to plan for Zach.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

First things first

For the past year, I've been reading more and more quilting blogs and being inspired by the images and glad for the tutorials. I've been quilting for about a dozen years and would categorize myself as an intermediate quilter. I'll try anything. Any technique. Any color combination. Anything that lets me touch fabric, cut it up and put it back together in a way that pleases me. And how do I know I don't like something until I try it?

Since moving a few years ago, I haven't been as involved in the quilting community as I was. I'm hoping Blogland will give me a place to share my creations, mull design decisions and record my work. ('Cause I sure am a slacker when it comes to that!) Maybe someone more interested than my husband will take a look and give me some feedback. And if not, then at least I'll have a place where I can go back and see what I've been up to.

To start the blog, I thought I'd start by sharing my very first quilt, which was started in January 1996 during a class at an Orlando quilt shop. It was a beginner class, and if it weren't for the rotary cutter revelation I'm not sure the lure of all that pretty fabric would have been enough to keep me going! That and a really great teacher.

I seem to remember that I got the top put together pretty quickly. I was always good about doing my homework. And then my mom, who had quilted for years -- at least since the '70s -- showed me how to hand quilt. That's all she did, so that's what I learned.

After that first class, I was hooked. I signed up for classes every session. I made lots of tops. I was still hand quilting No. 1, and I think it took me two years to finish it. I look at it and think it needs more quilting in the border, but I never get so inspired that I actually add to it. By the time I'd hand quilted in the ditch along every square in that multi-Irish chain, I didn't have the energy to do much in the border. Still don't.

Once I get the binding on a quilt, it's done as far as I'm concerned. Which is why many of my quilts lack labels. (I just put a label on my wedding quilt. We've been married over 10 years. But that's another post.)

My plan for the blog is to keep it short and include pictures. It's what I like about the ones I read. And the picture part is going to be challenging for me.

Hope you enjoy looking and reading my blog.