Monday, August 31, 2015

Rehab Addict

When I first bought my house, I was planning on doing something every year to update and upgrade it.  That way, I wouldn't have to do a lot of updating when it was time to sell the house and I would get to enjoy the upgrades instead of doing it just for the new buyer.  I started out really well.  In the first few years, the house got some new windows, a new furnace and air conditioner, a new roof, and a new dishwasher.

Eventually though, I got complacent, or was it contented, and stopped doing any more.  This year, though, I am no longer content.  As you know, my keyword for this year is clarity, and I have been doing things to this house to make it a little bit more maintenance-free.  I have been going through my possessions inside my house, shelf by shelf, and getting rid of as much as possible. I give away as much as I can and recycle the rest.  This is a difficult process for me, since I feel like I find a use for pretty much everything I love, but I am trying to clear up more space.

Outside the house, I have also been doing the same.  I have many flower beds in my yard - 10 of them!  The person who owned the house before me was a gardener.  I like gardening so I like the idea of having that many flower beds, and I didn't want to undo her hard work.  I also thought that having that many flower beds made it easier for regular maintenance, since there was less lawn that needed to be cut. 

Over time, many of the flowers and herbs died, and I replaced them with shrubs to make them more maintenance-free.  But the shrubs became over-grown too, and weeds still took over the yard.  Even though I enjoy yard work, I really cannot do much because of my allergies. This year, I have decided to significantly reduce the number of beds, by half.  That way, I can enjoy the process, but it is more manageable.  I am happy to say that many weeds have died in this process.

Most of the beds will be replaced with grass, but I am hoping to upgrade the front of the house with a new porch and a retaining wall.

I've also been watching a lot of remodeling shows. Most of them would say my house is terribly outdated and needs to be completely gutted and remodeled.  I have no plans to gut my house - I actually like walls that I can put my quilts on, instead of the open floor concept.  But the shows have gotten me quite excited about looking at the space differently and making more changes around the house.  I have many more ideas than my budget can handle. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

More Animals Have Arrived for Elephant Parade

More animals have arrived for the Elephant Parade.  First a lovely brown elephant has arrived to take care of her babies.

Next up is a Block Lotto bird.  I've been seeing these whimsical birds on the Blogosphere since April 2013 and kept thinking I should make them.  Now I did!

Last and certainly not least, is a Zany ZebraZ, at half the size as in Lorna's pattern. Since making those teeny-tiny Irish chain pieces, I could handle the teeny tiny pieces on this zebra. I made the neck simpler but otherwise followed the directions exactly.  I might have to get a Sharpie to define the neck a bit more.

Here they are all together.

Next up, I am going to work on people.  I am thinking of a drummer. Can't have a parade without music. I might add a fox too, but I haven't decided on that yet.

This post has been linked to:
Let's Bee Social #87 at Sew Fresh Quilts
Pink Doxies

Friday, August 21, 2015

Quilt Reveal: Irish Chain

I have finished my Irish chain quilt. And I managed to keep it simple and modern. Even though all that white space called out to me to do something - add an applique or embroidery motif, some large multi-colored hand stitches, etc., I kept my promise to keep it simple and do some straight line quilting. I even stayed with the original plan and managed to avoid free motion quilting. I figured that the hexagon quilt is already giving me enough challenge, and I need to get this one done.

I've been trying to make a modern quilt.  Keeping it simple, but for every other quilt, I wound up doing something that threw off the modernity.  Straight lines all the way up and down the quilt, even through the border.  I thought about making vertical and horizontal lines, but I liked them better diagonal to make them fancier. I was originally going to use that dark green thread throughout, but I chickened out and went with the lighter thread for most of it.  The dark green is only on the chains.  I like the contrast the two different thread colors give this quilt.

What's so funny is that my most modern quilt is also the most traditional.  One of the first quilts I ever finished uses this kind of quilting pattern.

I had an extra nine patch left, so I made a label for it. I found several quotes about chains, and I particularly liked this one. We have to make so many decisions in quilting, as in life, and it is always a gamble whether the decision is a good one or not.

 I have not an ounce of regret. Every link is so valuable in forming the chain that is my life. Who I am today is because of those links, and I wouldn't change any of them.
Alanis Morissette

I bound it while binge-watching Rehab Addict, a home improvement show that fits more my style.  A single mother fixed houses without killing the character of the home.  Each of the little squares finish at .75".  It is approximately 21' x 27", making it one of my biggest small quilts.

Monday, August 17, 2015

More Hexagon Happenings

I've made three more "rounds" of hexagons for my rosette.  I used the quotation marks, because the hexagons don't go all around the center, and each round is only 2 or 3 hexagons. When the quilt is finished, it will look like other rosettes are sitting on top of this one.

The first round, if you remember, had the owls in them. I'm still not 100% sure I will be using this layout, but I think this sets off the center pattern and swirly fabric nicely.

For the second round, I decided to use the owls again.

This time, the owls get to be whole, without having their wings and ears clipped off. I added a piece underneath the owl to avoid having partial owls in the hexagon. I think repeating the fabric looks good this way and keeps the continuity from the previous round.

For the next "round", which is only two hexagons, I added this bright fabric.  It worried me to use it, but I really want this quilt to be bright and I really like this fabric.  This fabric is really was more the way I thought this quilt was going to go.  The muted color I started with was making this quilt very muted, which is all right for this small inconspicuous rosette, but I wanted to make sure it looked like it fit in the quilt.  This block is easy to make with just a few pieces and no y-seams, so I figured I could remake the hexagon if I couldn't make it work on this rosette.

I forgot to take a picture of the hexagons in the next and final round of this rosette, but you can see it in this layout. These Y seams caused some trouble. I think I might resort to hand piecing the ones with tricky y seams.  They looked horrible and I went to bed thinking I would have to remake the last two rounds, and maybe the center hexagon.  In the morning, I pressed them, and then they don't look so bad.

I tried different layouts, but I like this one the best for the rounds. By turning the bright fabric inward, and turning that last round so that the dark green is inward, it looks like the dark green would encircle the center, and the rosette looks more cohesive. I do think I will be turning the first round as shown in the photo above. I just need to take a photo of that so I can compare. Then I will put them together. Hopefully, these y seams won't be too bad with the whole hexagons.

I'm really glad I started with a relatively smaller rosette instead of the biggest one, so that I could learn from my mistakes.

In other quilty news, I've decided not to make the triangle quilt at this time.  Since that quilt was supposed to be scrappy, and since it is triangles, I think I should save it for later to avoid confusion and chaos.  This quilt already makes enough of a mess with fabric choices.  I thought about cutting extra fabric to use for the triangle quilt, but I'm not sure I won't need them for future hexagons. I have another leaders / enders idea which uses three fabrics, and all the pieces are the same size square.

Also to clean up the space, I finished the Irish chain quilt (added borders), and quilted it.  I need to add the binding, and hopefully will be able to show you a finished quilt next time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

World Elephant Day

Apparently, August 12 is World Elephant Day.  That must explain why four more elephants came to join the Elephant Parade. They must not be closely related to the other elephants in the parade because they are brown while the others are all shades of gray. They will help show the diversity that is my Elephant Parade.

They brought a tent looking thing, but it is too small for them to use, so it will be used in a different project.

This post is linked to Let's Bee Social #85.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

La Passacaglia Progress

When last we left, I practiced making the center hexagon for La Passacaglia, rosette 8.  That is rosette that the Facebook group is starting on.  It turns out that there are lots of new members, so I could have started at one without a problem, but one is a big rosette, and I wanted to start with one of the less noticeable rosettes.

I found out during the practice that my hexagon was too small.  I remade that hexagon to the proper size.  In this one, I turned the stripes inward to form a circle.

Then, I started choosing fabric for the next round of hexagons.  I really like the look that fussy cutting gives a block. The problem is that most of my stash consists of fat quarters, since I like making small quilts and scrap quilts.  This means that I don't have enough pattern repeat to make a good fussy cut.  I realized that I need more fabric. I considered going to Joann's, which is where I get most of my fabric, but first I had to have that debate about using quilt shop fabric for a quilt that s going to take so much of my time.

I caved and went to the quilt store. It helps that the quilt store is closer than the Joann's.  Much, much closer.  Right now, it is actually walking distance, although they are planning on closing this shop.  I found some pretty fabrics in their clearance section.  That print on the bottom is big enough to be able to get lots of fussy cuts out of it, and it has small motifs in lots of colors, so it should work on a lot of the blocks.  I was hoping for a more springy lime / turquoise / pink / purple colorway, but I think I will be able to brighten this up without too much problem.

All of these fabrics were in the clearance section, but apparently you only get the discount price if you buy at least one yard.  I guess I should have know this rule, since the LQS is so close, and I have shopped there before, but I had forgotten and she did not remind me, so I paid full price ($11.95 a yard!) for the two smaller pieces. If I had known that I wouldn't be getting the discount, I would have looked around more for other fabric I liked better, or let's face it, not bought it at all.

I came home and made my next round of hexagons. After all the debate, I decided that I would be using my stash, and if I wanted to buy any more fabric, it would come from Joann's. I like the store, the prices, and their fabric is good quality.  I wanted something more vibrant, and was happy to find this striped fabric in my stash.  I didn't fussy cut it either, except for making sure that green was in the center, but I did fussy cut the owls. I didn't use the same owl, I used four different colors to keep it interesting. The owls looked good too, but they were really close in size and I had to chop off their ears and wings. If I had to do it over again, which I won't, I would use a different fabric above the owls.

I can now choose different layouts for this round.

 Which one do you like better?

What I have learned? I am capable of making these hexagons!  And it is fun, although it is scary not knowing if I will make a beautiful block or ruin it!

I like this round better than the first one, since has better contrast.  I like the light colors that serve as a background, and the dark stripe which is a interesting fabric that draws the eye to where you want it to go.  I have decided that each block should have a light, a dark, and an accent fabric.  I also like that I used fabric in the first round into the second round. It makes the whole rosette  more cohesive and keeps the quilt from looking like it is made of hexagons.  The owl and the stripe seem to compete, so I need to be careful about how many accent fabrics I use, or at least where I use them.

I have a really hard time envisioning how something is going to look before it is actually put together.  I know that there were very few rosettes I did not like on the Facebook page, and I know that the ones I don't like is when someone played it too safe, matched too perfectly, and didn't have enough contrast on their blocks.

I am also wondering if that center hexagon is interesting enough to work as a center.  I could make more, and move it to an outside round. I don't really like the block pattern for the next round, so I am considering other hexagons for it. I could use it for the center and the outside, but then it might not look like a center anymore.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My First Hexagon for La Passacaglia

I have made my first hexagon ever! This is the start of my journey for La Passacaglia. I chose this block to start because it does not have any set in seams and looks pretty easy to make.  Just attach the little triangle on top of the half hexagon and make bigger triangles. Then sew them together, turning each piece one turn.  My plan was to make this hexagon in several different ways - machine piecing, hand piecing and EPP - so I could decide which method will work better for me. This is my machine quilting attempt.

And I have already learned a lot of lessons on this quilt. I printed out the pattern for the block, and looked at my acrylic templates. The templates were slightly larger than the pieces so I decided that with seam allowances, they would be close enough.  If I always use these templates, then they will work for the quilt, even if the size isn't an exact match to the pattern.  I made the block. I am very happy with the way the swiggly lines radiate out of the center.

Then I compared the block to the picture, and realized that it was too small. The template is for a one inch pieces, and I need one and a half. I need to measure more carefully and use the paper for the template so that I will make the correct size. Then, I looked at the inch measure. I printed the template too small. The one on the left is the correct size. So it is really, really too small.  The good news is that if I make the block the correct size, the quilt will go together pretty quickly. 

The two fabrics are different weights - I was matching colors, not weights, and using the same weight will make it function better.  I also did not match the points correctly in the center, so I am going to have to be more accurate with the piecing and matching of points.

I also did not fussy cut these pieces, since I figured squiggly lines would look fine without fussy cutting, but I do think it will look even better when it is fussy cut.

I've also decided that I like the machine piecing, and that will work best for me.  The other methods require prep - basting down the seams, cutting out the paper pieces, then taking out the paper. I am afraid that this quilt will become a UFO pretty quickly if I don't keep the process as simple as possible.  The acrylic templates worked great in showing me how to trim off the dog ears before I even start, making it easy to line up the pieces. Unfortunately, this quilt uses a lot of unusual pieces so these templates wouldn't be enough even if they were the right size.  Even though I won't be able to use them as much as I thought, I will be able to carry that concept to this quilt.

Other things I learned: 1 don't have nearly enough striped fabric. Also this quilt will not help me keep my space tidy.  Everyone is recommending that you go through your stash to figure out what you can use. 

I have finished sewing the Irish chain top.  It looked really boring to me until I put it on top of the green fabric. It's the same fabric that is in the top.  Now I like it again.  I will use the green for the binding and the back.  I also have another quilt in mind that will be able to use any remaining fabric perfectly. Hmm, I think this quilt might need a border. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Elephant Parade Considerations

Here are all of my elephant parade blocks so far.  Some of them have the applique added, but as you can see, most of them do not.  I really like how it is looking so far, but I have this great debate.

On one side of the argument, I think that this quilt would look better with a 5x5 layout. I really enjoyed making these blocks, and I would be able to enjoy making this quilt longer. The new blocks don't all have to be unique - I could add more elephants, and make the bird that is in the original pattern. And I could make more people - they were fun to make.

On the other side of the argument, there are SO MANY quilts I want to make, as you can tell from my last few posts.  I am being tempted left and right with the next quilt. I also would be able to put away all the fabric that has been set out for this quilt, and get the space cleared up. And the 5 x 5 layout means that there would have to be 9 more blocks to make, and that seems like quite a commitment!

Today, I am leaning towards making more blocks. Yesterday, I wanted to finish it, and the other day, I wanted to make more blocks.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My first post on La Passacaglia

Once upon a time, when I was a fairly new quilter, I came across the book, One Block Wonder  by Maxine Rosenthal. There were also other books in this series too, One Block Wonders Encore! and One Block Wonders Cubed! There are also other similar books like Magic Stack -n- Whack Quilts by Bethany Reynolds and Kool Kaleidoscope quilts by Ricky Tims. All of these books take shapes and repeat them in different ways to make these really nice quilts. Most of them have to do with fussy cutting and lots of y-seams. I was wowed and impressed, but put it away because I was a fairly new quilter and this was completely out of my skill range. Plus fussy cutting uses up a lot of fabric, and I didn't have very much of that and certainly didn't want to waste it like that!

Fast forward twenty-some years, and I come across this concept again.  This time there are some new books. The first one was Millefiore Quilts by Willyne Hammerstein.  This quilt on the cover is what got a lot of people's attention. It is called La Passacaglia with Mr. Pascal. And it is a wonderful variety of shapes and colors that looks like a kaleidoscope.   I think the difference between this one and the older ones is that there are additional shapes that are in here, and there is a bigger variety of sizes of the rosettes. The pieces are hand pieced. This book is no longer in print so it is very expensive to get a copy, but there is a Millefiori Quilts book 2.

The problem was that you had to trace all these pieces in the book and hand sew them. Probably other people felt that it would be time-consuming and beyond their skill level too. But it really sparked an interest and lately there has been a resurgence, because people have been English Paper Piecing these little pieces. And smart people have made acrylic templates to help make cutting the pieces easier. Also smart people are selling paper pieces that are ready to use. You no no longer have to be photocopy and cut out all those little pieces. Also in this latest book, there are more even ways to make the shapes even more spectacular.

This new book is called The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece by Katja Marek, and it is available on a Kindle version, which makes it easy to print the templates. This book doesn't have the quilt pattern in it - just ways to make unique hexagon blocks.  But, Katja is hosting a quilt-along block of the month for the La Passacaglia quilt for people who bought her book. If I understand this right, this quilt combines the concept of the original quilt with some hexagons from her book.  Each month, they make one of the rosettes in the quilt, using hexagons from her book, and she provides instructions on how to do that. People post their progress on the Facebook page, which makes it wonderful to see all the different colorways and design choices people have made for this quilt. They are pretty far along - I think they are on rosette 8 now.

Anyway, I have decided to join them.  I am not sure I am ready for such an advanced quilt, but after twenty-some years of quilting, I am booting myself to the next grade.  Actually, I am told that this quilt is not as difficult to make as it looks. And that is exactly the type of quilts that I like! Something that looks harder than it is.

I am just starting out - I haven't cut a single piece or made a single hexagon.  This quilt can be very expensive to make - the many books, the acrylic templates, the paper pieces, the magic mirror, the glue, not to mention the fabric and the time.  I do think this quilt is worth some extra expense, and these supplies can be used for future quilts.   It can also be relatively inexpensive with the Kindle book and handmade paper pieces.

I've bought some acrylic templates because I remember how much easier and faster it was to cut drunkard's path with a template (layers!). and I think these templates are necessary on a quilt with this many pieces that need to be accurately fussy cut.  I haven't decided whether I will be hand piecing these or EPPing them.  I think I will try a small rosette with both and see which one technique I like better.