Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sandy's Promise : Kaliedescope Quilt is Finished!

After nearly 1 year in the making, Sandy's Promise is finally finished!

In November 2006, I look a class from our local quilt shop (Quilt Essentials) with Susie Kubatzki. The pattern comes from Bethany Reynolds' book Magic Stack 'n Whack Quilts (Half-Square Triangle Magic ((or Pinwheel Stars)) from Chapter 3).

What's Stack 'N Whack? explained by the originator, Bethany Reynolds.

I remember going to Borders Book Store to drool over this book when I still lived in Madison more than 10 years ago--long before I became a quilter. Now I have my own copy ... :-)

In a nutshell, all the flower blocks in the middle are made from the border fabric.

That's what is so appealing to me about this technique : every block is different, and every block fits the overall color scheme fir the entire quilt. When I was piecing the flower/stars, I would stay up late into the night because I wanted to see how the next one would turn out. It was always a surprise.

I bought the fabric at Cutting Edge Quilts in Antigo, WI. The owner, Marla, has a wonderful eye for color. And she has the best selection of batiks I've seen in Wisconsin ...

The Specifics
* This quilt is machine-pieced and machine-quilted by me.

* I used Marti Michell's Machine Quilting in Sections technique. It does make quilting a bed-size quilt more manageable than trying to wrestle with the entire quilt at my little machine. I do have 2 lumpy seams at the back where the 6 layers (top, batt, and backing) come together. It works--still, I think this will be the last large quilt I try to do myself on a standard home sewing machine. I want a LONG-ARM with a frame!

Where does the title come from?
My close friend, Sandy died unexpectedly 2 months before my son was born in 2001. I had just visited her the weekend before ... I don't think any of us saw it coming.
About 6 months later, I did a meditation to talk with her, to find out if she was all right and to say, "Good bye." When she met me in this "dream," she gave me the gift of a flower--a water lily. She said, "For your future, Kid!"
When I started putting this quilt together, the flowers reminded me of the water lily Sandy gave me that summer's day. And now, I know that I can talk to her anytime I want ... Those who loved us in life, love us still after death.

"The day will come when it is more painful to stay tightly closed in a bud than to bloom." --Anais Nin.

These colors are not at all "Sandy." She was bright and flashy and sparkly and loud. Before I knew her, she was an exotic dancer ... but she couldn't wear the high heels anymore, so she had to make a career change. She became a naturalist, learning about ecology and giving nature tours--she loved the outdoors. Read about a Fall Day in the Baraboo Hills with Sandy. No--these are really MY colors. This quilt is a gift to myself--with Sandy's continued blessing and encouragement.

For the quilting, I made several good-old-fashioned (mostly) cardboard templates.

I traced these shapes onto the quilt with a purple MarkBGone pen. This was problematic because the ink was already disappearing in our humid summers before I even had the whole section marked. So I spent a lot of time re-marking what I had already marked. Now I use the blue MarkBGone that stays until I remove it with H2O and a damp cloth.

A Note of Caution : Anytime you use the disappearing ink pens, follow the manufacturer's directions for removing the ink completely. You really don't want it to re-appear in 15 years as a brown streaks--not after you've done all that hard work. That would be heart-breaking! As soon as this quilt was complete, I threw it in the washing-machine with Orvus Quilt soap. This gave it a thorough soak to remove any residual MarkBGone ink. It also gives it that great antiquey well-used look that I was after ...

It took a while to decide how to quilt the pinwheels. I didn't want the stitching to take away from the kaleidescope flowers. In the end, I went with a doughnut : 2 circles.

For the doughnut, I cut out the stencils in freezer paper and pinned these to each block. Instead of marking these, I used the paper stencil doughnut as a stitching guide. This worked remarkably well to keep the circles round and even. The paper is easy to fold for registration marks that can be lined up with the respective seam lines--again to keep things straight and even.

Hobbs Heirloom Premium 80/20 Cotton / Poly Blend is my current favorite batting. I like the way it gives an old-timey "well-used look without the cotton squashing down. I wanted the puckers! It also stays light and flexible.

For Piecing : Coats & Clark Star Piecing Thread in cream
For Quilting : Sulky Blendables 30-wt (pastel pink, yellow, green) on flowers and border
Superior Rainbows 40-wt Poly (purple-pink-green) on sashing
For Bobbin : Superior Bottom Line - cream colored. (I had to tear off the cardboard bobbin top as it causes problems for my machine. However, it is so well-wound that it holds it shape nicely without the carboard bobbin.) I like Bottom Line because, you notice the quilting more than the thread.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

4-Patch Stacked Posey Sample Blocks

I started working on a 4-Patch Stacked Posey quilt. Last weekend, I got the squares cut out.

Here's a pic of the overall fabric and pattern for this quilt :

I am easily amused : It never ceases to amaze me how these 4 squares come together in such different patterns, depending on the orientation of the blocks and what elements get highlighted or show-cased.

Here are 4 layout options for the same block :

Depending on what's in the middle, something else always stands out. Even the gray "empty" areas have interesting things happening in them with this fabric.

I'm not even doing any sewing on these yet. It's so darn relaxing to come home after a long day at work using my brain for words and ideas--to come home and start working on something VISUAL like which layout option I like best.

I start out with one orientation (this is a new sample square) :
That looks pretty good ...
But I have to see what the other options might be possible (What am I missing if I don't at least try?), so I turn each of the blocks 90 degrees to the right

Layout#2 : This one is okay ...
Let's see what else might be in store:

Gotta try option #3 : Nah. I'm not crazy about this one.

Option #4 : Wow! Never would I have expected that green wreath in the middle. And I like how the gray swirl moves the eye to the corners. I think this one wins!

It's a whole different part of my brain that gets exercised when I step into my sewing room. The Kaleidescope and 4-patch posey quilts manage to keep my interest. I want to know what the next block will look like. The exciting thing for me is that every block is different, but still fits so well into the overall color scheme. When I'm doing a regular quilt with so many of the exact same blocks, I tend to get really bored with doing the same thing over and over again. Those projects get started and put away because I need a break from the monotony. I think that's why I sort of headed towards art quilts over traditional quilting.

With upwards of 52 4-patch blocks, I'm keeping the chosen layouts separated with sheets of paper (you can sort of see the stacked sheets above)--until I can sit down at the machine and sew them. I don't want to have to shift gears and go into design mode when I'm ready to sew-sew-sew.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Treadle Pot Holders

This chenille potholder was begun (and nearly finished) at Conversations in Cloth in September. Gill showed us how to make them last month. She says you can use any woven cloth. I think these are homespun. Since it's just straight-forward sewing (literally!) I thought it would be a good and easy project to try on the old treadle sewing machine.

I sewed the blue potholder below on the treadle. After I had cleaned, oiled and lubed the treadle, I thought I was ready to go. But I was still having a problem with the top thread not catching the bobbin thread--until I figured out (at Katy's suggestion) to turn the needle 90 degrees, so the hole runs parallel to me as operator (not like on modern machines where the hole faces us).

On the old treadle, I kept wanting to use the reverse button and thread cutter ... Old habits die hard! Things ran reasonably smoothly until the bobbin thread kept breaking. I can see how the rotary bobbins were an improvement for less stress on the thread. I loosened the bobbin shuttle screw, and still the thread would get stuck ... I finally got the channels sewn for the blue potholder. It took about 90 minutes. There's no dual feed on the old machine either, so the plaid came out a little crooked (I trimmed it down here). I also discovered that if I work the tradle in daylight hours next to the window, I have plenty of light. Night-time sewing is difficult on it since I don't have a decent light there ...

These are samples of the potholders before they've been thrown in the washer and dryer with a fluffy towel. Channels have been cut, but not fluffed. The handy slash cutting tool on the right is a must-have item if you want to make any chenille. It makes cutting the channels go fast and relatively easy.

For the red potholder, I went back to my not-so-old sewing machine, and sewed the channels with much less fuss and hassle. Maybe my old treadle machine will just sit there and look nice ...