Friday, October 23, 2020

Making Improv Bits, and Snakes

My friend Elizabeth @occasionalpiece and I recently swapped emails discussing the merits of value, as it relates to fabric, and how each of us learned about the importance of it. She learned as a teaching assistant while working in a black and white photo lab (remember those the days of film?). I learned as a new quilt maker, but didn't embrace the importance of value until I began teaching beginner quiltmaking in 2002.

In the first lesson to new quilters, I explain that not only should they look for fabrics in pleasing-to-the-eye color combination, but also the roles played by different scales, contrast, and values. You probably already know this, but newer quilters are most often attracted to the color blue, and most quilters are attracted to and buy fabrics in the medium value range. 

All this leads me to a refresher about value, that was reiterated by Maria Shell during my September workshop, and in her book Improv Patchwork where she devotes several pages to color and value.

When I selected colors for my next improv quilt, I trialed values too. At least a half dozen color combinations and values were arranged and photographed before I settled on these. All fabrics are Painter's Palette solids except for the fifth one from the left. That's Kona Wabi Sabi.

I began stacking colors in value order. Once I was happy with them in a black and white picture, I mixed up the values to ensure that each one stands up well against the piece beside it. That's what settled this color combo for me. 

You'll see I have black (far left) there. I never use black in my quilts (except for black and white stripe, usually as binding), so I'm leaving that as an optional fabric in this quilt. 

I'm cutting everything without the use of a ruler. That is, except for the last squaring-up of each block. 

The first "bits" - Maria's term for different methods of piecing improv patterns - I made were "dots." Again, Maria's term. I followed her instructions to the letter to make 16-dot blocks. 

Then, I made more - 25-dot blocks. 

Next I made three sets of "ribbons," following suggested fabric width combinations from workshop hand-outs, and which also appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Quilting Arts magazine, a copy of which was graciously mailed to me by my friend Deb in Iowa. 

Combining dots and ribbons make these. I think I'll make more of them because I like them so much!

Next came "short row stripes" that I intentionally cut wonky for greater interest.

I like this 16" X 16" Cornered Quilt Block from the latest issue of the MQG's "Modern Monthly."

Maybe it will work into this improv quilt.  

So, these are the improv bits now on my design wall. Those ribbons will need to be cut into a smaller size. I don't yet know how all these bits are going to go together, but I'm not ready to arrange them. Because I want this to be large, useable quilt, I'll make more bits before I start playing. The next piece(s) I'll make will be "plaid" fabric, again, according to the Improv Patchwork book. 

Because I've been using my last Sench needle to bury quilting threads, I have been on the hunt for where to buy more. Happily, I found them in my friend Lora's Etsy shop: Dragonfly Quiltworks. I stocked up! And also bought this wideback "Grunge Hits the Spot" fabric as backing for my postage stamp quilt. 

Our Florida skies have been especially pretty lately. This was taken Thursday afternoon. I could have looked skyward for way too long. 

Dan was startled this morning to step out the front door and find a snake crossing our entry sidewalk! In fact, there were two of them, each about 30" long, racing around our front landscaping! A service person at the neighbor's house saw us looking startled and came over to look and explained that the snakes - he'd never seen two of them together! - are Black Racers, and that though they bite humans, they aren't poisonous. Well, that's a relief. 

After briefly stepping outside to take pictures, the photo below was taken from the safety of my sewing room! Mr. Snake was literally winding its way up the center and through the branches of a Princess bush. I guess these snakes are good to have around because we've noticed a decrease in the gecko population. 

Book Recommendation
When we were gone, in Kansas City, book-listening time was limited so I didn't finish this one until we returned home. But oh boy, it's good!

Virgil Wander by Lief Enger is about Virgil Wander who lives in the once-thriving ore town of Greenstone, Minnesota, on the shore of Lake Superior. The story begins with Virgil's car flying off an icy road and plunging into the lake. He survives, but he isn't quite the same. Virgil lives sort of a plodding-along life as city clerk, while running a fading movie theater. He interacts with people we get to know - the widow and son of a locally famous baseball player; a renown, yet unusual movie producer; an enthusiastic town mayor; a couple with marital problems; the Pea family, two of whom are sturgeon fishermen; and Rune who visits Greenstone to town to learn about his missing son and fly kites.

Midwesterners will appreciate the infusion of a Minnesota accent as narrated by MacLeod Andrew. This would be an excellent book club book to review for understanding human character and life values.

Linda's score: 4.6/5.0


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Trip Wrap-Up and She Caving Again

After being in the Midwest for nearly two weeks, I was reminded what I miss about living there. Fall colors. Though the trees weren't yet at their peak, a few were showing off and beautifully contrasted against the blue-blue sky. 

Though we arrived in Kansas City with temperatures in the 60s, the days thereafter reached the low 80s. I'm glad because all three visits with my dad were outdoors.

For each visit, we had to check in at the front desk: answer numerous questions, have our temps taken, sign a form, and wear a stick-on "approved" label. Then we'd go outdoors, choose a shady spot, set up bag chair(s), and chat from a six-foot distance. We managed to converse over the traffic noise of nearby Interstate 35. It was so good to see him!

We made a one-day trip to West Des Moines to take care of some personal business, and I got to visit my long-time friend, Kim. She invited me for lunch where we had a lovely time chatting. Kim is the friend who mailed Iowa tomatoes to me a couple months ago, and I made and sent her a Sew Together bag. She sent me back to Kansas City with more tomatoes and two quarts of canned tomatoes. Thank you, Kim!

I sure wish I could have stayed in the area longer to catch up with other friends. However, we needed to move on and went to my brother's under-construction home in Prole, got a tour of the house, left quilts with them, and received 10 pounds of popcorn, before heading back to Kansas City.

Happily, I've already received a couple of pictures of the Village quilt with its new owner. This is my great-niece Maddy who helped her mommy choose the "house" quilt from the pictures I posted to Dropbox.

Here's Maddy using the quilt. The quilt on the sofa back is another I made - Love Links, made for Evan and Chelsea's wedding

Knowing that Paintbrush Studio Fabrics is headquartered in Kansas City (there's no PBStudios retail store), I was hoping to find a quilt shop stocking Painter's Palette solids, and did! Quilter's HQ is only a few miles from our daughter's home, so it was easy to visit and see what the shop had to offer. Though not all the Painter's Palette colors were in stock, enough were to give me a broader range of colors to add to stash. 

These 22 pieces came home with me. I didn't want to mess around with small quantities, so every piece is a two or three-yard cut... for a total of 44¾. The odd quantity is because I bought the last amount of three bolts.

Quilting HQ also stocks all colors of 50-weight Aurifil thread, so I restocked two of my used-up spools. 

Quilting HQ has a $4.99 flat-rat shipping fee, and even though the shop's Painter's Palette is $7.25 a yard  - slightly higher than online stores - the low shipping rate probably makes the higher price a wash. In any case, it's nice to know where I can one-stop shop for two of my favorite products. 

While in Kansas City, Curated Quilts arrived at their house. Granddaughter Celina received a copy because this is the "Youth" issue where our jointly-made quilt features in the mini challenge category. Our The Road Between Us quilt is on page 61.

"Celina and her Nana chose the prompt 'distance' because they're 1,200 miles apart. While on FaceTime, with Nana's guidance, Celina improv-cut and pieced the top. When Nana received it, she added hand appliqué, big stitch quilting, and faced binding. The quilt represents rivers, roads, and roundabouts between them." 
10" X 10" The Road Between Us

Car time, and quiet afternoons while the boys were in school, meant handwork time for me. I made several more EPP blocks for my Prudence Quilt, and embroidered this sampler-type design on linen. It will become another flex case.

The embroidery designs I've been stitching are from the ebook Stitch and Sew by Aneela Hoey. I've learned that the best way to turn an embroidery into a pretty pouch or case is to choose the exterior (back) fabric first, and then coordinate embroidery and pearl cotton thread colors with the fabric. 

I was anxious to get to my sewing machine when we got home, so I dug into scrap bins. Mess-making business, but it satisfied an immediate need to sew

Three-quarter log cabin blocks are the result. I wanted to make some since seeing Alex's post about her recent finish. Her scrappy blocks are very pretty on a linen background. I also found a tutorial here from the Emerald Coast MQG, that's somewhat different from how I'm doing it. But of course, any method works. My blocks are 9½" X 12½". I'll play around with the arrangement and possible background fabric options when I've made more blocks. 

Grandson Aesa encouraged me to try a plumcot when we stayed with them. Have you heard of them? A cross between a plum and an apricot. I hadn't but tried one and found it delicious! Sweet and juicy. I ate several while there, and brought one home with me. Our local grocery store produce fellow said they're out of season here, but I'll be watching for them. 

No book recommendation today, but I'm finishing a good one while starting my next Maria Shell style improv quilt. Here's to having fun in the she-cave! Linda

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Quilts Away!

After 15 months of not visiting our family in Kansas City, on September 30 we took our pandemic chances - behaving extremely cautiously! - and drove to Kansas City, spending one overnight in a motel each way. We stayed with our daughter and her family the entire time, I visited (outdoors and wearing masks) my Dad three times, and we went to West Des Moines (Iowa) for a day to handle some personal business. We returned home this afternoon, October 13.

Anticipating that we'd be seeing family, I decided to see if I might give away quilts to family members. So before leaving, I uploaded pictures of quilts to my Dropbox account, added the name and dimensions of each quilt, and then emailed families with the link, inviting them to choose whichever quilt(s) they wanted. I'm happy to say that 14 of them were claimed! 

Four of the quilts were made just this year! Surprisingly, the quilt most-requested was Scrap Snap.
My brother and his wife claimed it first, though their two sons also asked for it! 😂 I decided to let them work that out. 

Four of these quilts were finished just this year! I'm documenting here those quilts I no longer have, listing them more for my own reference than yours. 
  • Grandma's Wonky Logs, 2020
  • Snap Scrap, 2020
  • Village, 2020
  • Jiggle-Joggle-Jee, 2020
  • Ring Me, 2019
  • Broke the Rules: Jewels, 2019
  • Heading Home, 2018
  • Charming Postage Plus, 2018
  • Patriotic Pinwheels, 2017
  • Outer Space, 2017
  • Mod Mini, 2016
  • Urban Abacus, 2014
  • Space Crystals, 2006
  • Mile-a-Minute, 2002
I was sure happy that some of the older quilts were chosen too, though no one picked the one brown quilt I wanted to give away. Brown. Ugh.

After family members had made their initial choices, I invited everyone to take a second look. If they wanted two quilts, or more, I was okay with that. It was my sister-in-law who came through and made a few more selections. It was wonderful to deliver four quilts to Kansas City, and ten quilts to Iowa! My SIL has seven of them! And best of all, we have an empty shelf in our master closet now!

Before leaving home, I got busy putting labels on the quilts I'd missed labeling. Quite a few! I use my MacBook to design labels, and print them on EQ Printables, a plastic-backed fabric.

I couldn't be happier about seeing these quilts go to homes where they will be used and appreciated. Each person - especially my SIL 😄 - expressed their thanks. I have warm gushy feelings about the entire process. I've asked only that I get some pictures of the quilts in use, because all us quilt makers know how wonderful it is to see those. 

As thanks, my brother and SIL gave me five two pound bags of Hy-Vee white popcorn! Dan and I had to laugh because he'd already made a special trip to Hy-Vee to buy three two pound bags to take home.

Along with the popcorn our daughter sent me last month (as thank you for making face masks), I now have 22 POUNDS of white popcorn! Good golly... it's wonderful that they know what I like, but I'll be eating popcorn for at least a year! 
While away, I exercised (power-walked, and weight-lifted) several times, which gave me a chance to finish the audiobook: The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham. This is the second book I've read by this author. I like his style!

The story centers on an investigation by UK detective Alisha Barba. At a school reunion, Ali meets with an estranged school chum, Kate, briefly learns what's happening in Kate's life, and immediately witnesses a car hitting and killing pregnant Kate and her husband. Was the car driving toward them intentionally? Was Kate really pregnant?! Ali's concerns about her friend's death, and the suspicious behavior of Kate's family lead her on a path of discovery that takes her to Amsterdam where she is exposed to sex trafficking, baby brokering, and immigrant exploitation. I didn't see where this was going, so it was an entertaining read.

Linda's score: 4.2/5.0

I've unpacked and put away, and am looking forward to digging into sewing room stuff. I have new fabric to play with! Linda

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A Dress and a Top

I enjoy watching The Sewing Studio (Maitland, Florida) Instagram videos of new fabric arrivals. A recent viewing prompted me to I pulled out a couple patterns and order fabric that arrived the following day!

I used a several-years-old Lisette pattern, Simplicity #1878, to make this dress.

 The cotton print is by QT (Quilting Treasures). Isn't it pretty?

Likewise, when I saw this cotton Art Gallery print, I imagined a top. This is McCalls #3147 that I've previously made, this time adding several inches to the length. 

The top buttons down the back, and this was the first time I used the automatic buttonhole on my Bernina 770QE. Slick! I used the machine's sizing dial to match the button diameter, and positioned the top under the needle. Then, I just pushed the foot control! It automatically made four, same-sized buttonholes. The four-hole buttons are transparent so, they're difficult to see in this picture... but that's just what I wanted. 

Book Recommendation
Leave it to me to choose the sixth book of a nine-book series. Sheesh.(Am I the only one who wishes series titles were also numbered? Isn't that how Nancy Drew books were labeled?) Still, I sure liked this who-done-it story about Joseph O'Loughlin, a British psychologist who is called in by the police give insight about the man who is the prime suspect in the murder of a couple in their home that was also set on fire. This investigation leads to another, and O'Loughlin suspects the murders are tied into a three year-old case of two missing teenage girls - the Bingham (UK) girls. He convinces the police to reopen the case. The story alternately follows O'Loughlin and his thought process, and the suspenseful plight of the girls. I couldn't stop listening. And now I'm listening to another Michael Robotham book - one that's not part of a series. He's an excellent story-teller.

Linda's score: 4.3/5.0

I'm giving you privy to text messages between God and the angel Gabriel.... 

Friday, October 2, 2020


That's exactly how I'm feeling - Jazzed! - about finishing the 43" X 43" improv quilt I started in Maria Shell's @talesofastitcher September 12-13 virtual workshop: "Linear Blocks: Line into Shape."

Do you know that feeling when during the process of making a quilt, something about it feels extra-right? Well, that's exactly how I felt during all the making of Jazzed. 

I've found my improv sweet spot. 

With Maria's guidance, I pieced various "elements" using the guidelines on my rotary cutting mat and a 60 mm rotary cutter to cut fabric strips. As a block or section was completed, I squared-it with a ruler before attaching it to other pieces. The finished quilt is on the square.

I used leftover bits to make the back wide enough, feeling very satisfied about finding the perfect spot for those cute, tiny cross blocks I'd thought to use on the front. I like this vertical strip between two pieces of Kona aqua.

Quilter's Dream Puff batting is my new favorite batt because it gives a quilt lovely dimension. Quilting is a combination of free motion, ruler work, and walking foot quilting on my Bernina 770QE. 

For the second time, I edge-stitched the whole quilt sandwich before quilting... and the quilting came out perfectly flat, again - no scooching as I quilted. I will definitely be taking this extra step from now on.

Once again, I followed this favorite Easy Quilt Facing instruction at We All Sew, to finish the edges. 

While on another recent label-making binge, I even made the label for this quilt... still adding the phrase "during the Coronavirus pandemic." A few decades from now, people will want to know.

Here's my usual, favorite quilt photos spot - Jazzed clamped to a frond of our front yard Bismarck palm. 

Love the palm; love the quilt! I think I need to rearrange or remove a quilt from a wall to make a spot to hang it. I just want to admire it! Linda


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