Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blush & Bashful

Finishing Joyce's quilt was such a big deal for me. I wanted to take it easy for a bit.
I did not want to start anything new. But a quick finish will be oh so good. So, I picked up the pink (not UFO) blocks that I mentioned here.

Beginning Blocks

There were a total of 81 blocks. I could arrange them 9 by 9, add a border and have a quilt top in no time. Nothing wrong with that.

Initial Layout

But how about I add a little something more to it. Like a few solids. These pink and purple solids were screaming to be used. I agreed to give them a purposeful life.

Solids to add a bit of Oomph!

I added a strip of solid color to each block so that each block went from 4.5" square to a 4.5" by 6.5" rectangle. I fiddled with the arrangement and chose this one.

Final Layout

Once again, as I was piecing the quilt top, I wondered - what shall we call this one? It has a lot of pink. It is very floral too. Bet, it reminds you of spring.

Fresh Snow on top of Stale Snow

But then, when you are in the dead of winter with 6 inches of snow that melts only slightly to refreeze into ice, just about everything reminds you of spring.
Does it  not?
No, I did not want to give it a spring time name.
Spring Tease???
Pink, like blush.
And then, I had this aha moment. I remembered a scene from the movie - Steel Magnolias, where Shelby describes her wedding colors. "Pink is my signature color", she says. Her wedding colors were "Blush and Bashful"

Paul, the Model :-)

That is it. I decided to call this quilt - Blush and Bashful.  I chose this chocolate and pink dotty fabric for the backing.


Bright Pink Border
The finished quilt measures about 40" by 58". I used Warm & Natural Batting. As usual, the binding was done using the super quick - stitch to the back, bring to the  front and stitch down using the squiggly stitch!

All done
A quick finish is so gratifying. I hope it will make some little girl very happy.

Quilt #4 for 2015

This is Quilt#4 for 2015. Looks like it is going to be a great year!!!
How is 2015 going for you?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Squirrel Kisses

As soon as I put away the finished Finger Lakes in a gift bag, Paul's voice taunted me.

Paul: That does not look like Joyce's quilt. Is it?
(Paul knows that I promised Joyce a quilt. He also knows that it is late. Christmas Day Deadline came and went.)
Me: No.
Paul: Aren't you supposed to finish that one.
Me: Yes. I have finished quilting it. 
Paul: Once you finish quilting, is it not finished?
Me: No. After quilting there is binding and labeling, burying the knots etc.
Paul: So why aren't you working on her quilt. 
Me: I had to finish this one for a baby shower at work. Get off my case.
Paul: When are you going to finish Joyce's Quilt?
Me: Valentine's Day. You know that Joyce is the love of my life!!! (It was my turn to taunt him.)

Today is Valentine's Day and here is my 30th quilt (3rd of 2015) finish. Meet Squirrel Kisses. I will be linking to my favorite linky parties (See list on the right).
Squirrel Kisses

Before I talk about Squirrel Kisses and the process, I have to mention Joyce. Joyce is my adopted American Mom. She is also my best friend and confidante. Joyce has been there for me at all significant moments in my life. She was there at my wedding (BTW, she highly approved of my choice). The day I became an American citizen was a very emotional day for me. As I was sobbing uncontrollably, she was there comforting me and later celebrating with me!!! 

Joyce's Colors
When my mother, who lives in India, visited the US she met Joyce. She is happy and thankful that I have someone closer to me for motherly advice. When Joyce asked for a quilt, I said YES, of course. I would love to make you a quilt. What are your favorite colors? How big? Do you have a favorite pattern?

Joyce likes traditional patterns. She almost frowned when I showed her my Coming of Age quilt. Her favorite colors are fall colors. No, not the bright ones like I used in Curry Favor. She prefers a more muted palette. Joyce was definitely clear about one thing - the quilt had to be Queen Size for her bed.
I showed her several patterns. She seemed to lean towards the Log Cabin patterns and finally decided on the Eleanor Burns' Lover's Knot pattern.

My work was cut out. This was going to be a challenging quilt for so many reasons. 
1. This was a HUGE quilt.
2. I did not particularly care for the pattern.
3. I did not like the colors.

I needed a plan of action. 
1. Make the quilt layout. Since the pattern was chosen and the fabrics were bought, I needed a blueprint for the quilt layout, so that I knew exactly how many blocks of each kind were required.

Quilt Layout

Preparing this paper-pencil layout (in a very traditional style) was the best thing I did.
There are two kinds of blocks in the Lover's Knot quilt. I am calling them A and B in the layout.

2. Make the blocks. Based on the layout I needed 63 A blocks and 48 B blocks. I also needed 28 setting triangles and 4 corner triangles. Now, EB has a way of making these blocks. I wanted to deviate just a little bit from her method. The end result would look almost the same, but the process would be a bit more streamlined. Let me explain.

Block B - Construction

In the traditional method, you start with two strips - one black and one green, stitched together and cut into 2.5" segments. Next you stitch the 4.5" long green strip to the right, followed by the 4.5" long brown strip to the bottom. Next you add the 6.5" brown strip to the right followed by the 6.5" yellow strip on the bottom. The 8.5" yellow strip is added last. 
I did this just a bit differently.
  • I stitched together strips of green and black together. Cut them into 2.5" segments (Same as EB)
  • Next I stitched together strips of green and brown and cut them into 4.5" segments (Sew first, cut later). Added this strip set to the right.
  • The third step involved sewing together of brown and yellow strips and cutting those into 6.5" segments. Added this strip set to the bottom.
  • The last step was adding the 8.5" yellow strips to the right (same as EB)

You can see this in the picture above. If this is too confusing, you can skip ahead. I made a total of 111 blocks. WHEW!!!

3. Squaring the Blocks - This was the most tedious part of the whole process. 
Squared Blocks
I would square 10 blocks at a time and then do something else. The fabrics looked dull. I was uninspired.

4. Make the setting triangles - I cut 7 squares of 13" side from the background fabric. Then cut these squares twice along the diagonals to get 28 setting triangles. This method ensured that the outside edges were on the straight of the grain. For the corner triangles, I cut 2 squares of 6.5" side and cut each once on  the diagonal, so the the outer edge was on the straight of the grain.

5. Piecing - Since this quilt pattern has blocks on point, it had to assembled in diagonal rows. At this time, the layout diagram was pure gold!!! I was ready to piece. I placed the blocks (just a few) on the design wall.
Just playing - a fun layout

NO, this is not the layout. This is just me exploring other layouts, trying to get excited about this project. Don't you agree this layout is more exciting than the Lover's Knot? Even Paul agreed, for once.

Sorry, but no. Whatever Joyce wants, Joyce gets. Back to the job at hand.
Piecing in progress

The design wall was important, so that I could make sure that the blocks were oriented correctly to make the "knot". The yellow knots had to be horizontal and the black knots had to be vertical. 

The challenge comes from the fact that the design wall could only accommodate the first few (and the last few) diagonal rows. Here was my strategy - put together the first five rows and stitch them together. Next make and stitch together the middle four rows. Lastly put together and stitch the last 6 rows together.
Setting Triangles added to First Block

First Corner Triangle Pinned

Fold the setting triangle in half and finger press the mid point crease. Pin the crease to the mid pointof the block. It helps to align the setting triangle to the block correctly.

Piecing On the Kitchen Bar

Keeping the rows numbered!!!

The rows in the middle had 11 or 13 blocks and there was no way it would fit on the designwall. I moved them to my kitchen bar. Numbering them helped to keep them in order, most of the time.

There was some ripping and restitching when it came to the setting triangles. Once the top was pieced I felt triumphant. However, that feeling was shortlived. Very short indeed.

6. Basting - This was the HARDEST part.
If I am working on a small quilt, I can baste it on the kitchen bar, in sections.  If the quilt is larger, I can do it  on the floor. Floor, it was.

Yes, that pathetic creature on all fours is ME. I moved all the furniture to the corners. Swept and mopped the floor. Basting just the batting to the flannel backing took a couple of hours. I was perspiring and out of breath. And that was the easy part.

I tried to baste the quilt top to the batting and could not keep it smooth and wrinkle-free.  Paul saw my plight. First, he took some pictures. And then he decided to help me. Gotta love the guy!!!

We, Paul and I, nailed the quilt sandwich to the wall of our dining room. That took an hour, at least with Paul using the hammer/nails and me holding the chair and handing him the nails, as required.

It was my turn to sneakily click a few pictures of him!!! Once the quilt sandwich was basted, I let it stay on the wall for three days. Why? I wanted to admire my handiwork.

I also was busy. The work week was upon me. And most importantly, I had no clue how to quilt this monster of a project!!!

7. Quilting - The quilt sandwich was about 80" wide and 103" long. There was only one way to manage this bulk on my 4120 QDC Janome. Quilt it along the length only. That way the maximum bulk in the neck would be about 40". 
Yes, quilting straight (somewhat) lines in one direction was the only way I could quilt it. This had its own challenges. This meant that the quilting lines would be very long. Whenever I stopped and started, the lines would be anything but smooth.
I took a deep breath (several of them) and wound four bobbins. Told Paul to fend for himself and give me a free pass so that I could concentrate on quilting.
Filled 4 bobbins for one half of the quilt
Quilting Detail
The modified quilting process went like this - stitch one line, move to the right a couple of inches and stitch another straight line. Come back and stitch a gentle curve in between the two lines. Repeat many times. When my shoulders and neck ached, I said aloud - I love you Joyce, I love you Joyce!!! 

Flannel Backing, showing the quilting

It took me 8 bobbins and two days of ignoring all chores to complete the simplest quilting. But I did it. Yay Me!!! Time for a little happy dance. Yes, this was a major accomplishment. The fact that it took less than one spool of Connecting Threads (CT) thread to do all that quilting is simply amazing. On a side note, quilting is not a cheap hobby but CT certainly makes it affordable!!!

8. Binding - This is the easy part. As my Mother would say - the elephant has passed, just the tail remains. I used strips from the brown batik fabric for binding. It took 10 strips. Stitched to the back of the quilt, brought it to the front and stitched it using my favorite squiggly stitch.
Binding Detail
9. Label - Used freezer paper ironed to a fabric rectangle to write the quilt name, recipient's name, my name, year etc. Then stitched it face down with a piece of flannel on all four sides.  Trimmed the corners. Made a slit in the flannel fabric and turned the whole label inside out.

Here are a few pictures describing the process.

I feel that doing this process provides a neat little channel for the stitches when I hand-sew it to the quilt back. Yes, that is the only hand-sewing I do!!!

And that is it. It is done. I finished it. I really did. By golly, this has been the biggest project so far. Here are a few more pictures!!!

When I showed the quilt to a member of my quilt guild, they oohed and aahed. They always do. It is so encouraging. But Julie said the best thing - Your quilting provides a modern touch to this very traditional pattern.  I gave her a big hug!!!

In my front yard

Next time, I make a quilt this size, I will likely ask Julie to quilt it for me on her long-arm machine. I know what you are thinking - why would you ever make it again. It was such a challenge and at every step. You are probably right. I probably won't...unless Joyce asks for it.

After all, it is Valentine's Day and won't you do anything for your loved one?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Finger Lakes

If you are familiar with quilting and quilting-related blogging, then you are also familiar with "Friday Finish". You work diligently on a project the entire week and on Friday, you have a "finish" to share and discuss. YAY!!!

I, on the other hand, never finish anything on a Friday. I finish my work week and my timesheet, but no quilting project ever gets finished on a Friday. Since I work Monday-Friday (UGH!!!), I finish projects on the weekend. Everything exciting in my life happens on weekends.

So here is a glimpse of my exciting weekend - Finger Lakes.

Several months ago, I came across a super-simple pattern from Elizabeth Hartman, called Charm Squares Quilt Redux. It is perfect for a baby shower (that I happen to have several around me).

I did not have to buy any fabrics for this. I had scraps, waiting their turn patiently, to become something.

I've got scraps and you've got scraps
Let's get together and use those scraps.
Let's go....

So, I decided to try out this pattern with  my scraps.  These were the original fabrics - blue green and turquoise. Scraps but still color-coordinated.

The pattern is simple - alternate squares and rectangles and stitch into columns. Add white strips to separate the columns. And you have a quilt top in no time.

I used my favorite Warm & Natural Batting and this cute fabric for the backing. I bought a bolt of this fabric (Good Thinking!) and it has come in handy for all the baby quilts that I make for all the baby showers around me. 

Although the pattern came together effortlessly, I cannot say the same for quilting. It has to be the commonest question - how do I quilt this? Of course, I could just stitch straight lines and be done but where is the fun int hat?

Let us add some gentle curves (that is Jacquie Gering's voice in my head). I quilted the white strips first.   As I was gently moving the quilt sandwich to create the curves, I was thinking - what shall I name this quilt? 
I remember seeing a quilt with a similar pattern and it was called Sea Glass. Did not want to use that name. The column of blue green colors are like fingers (somewhat) and the quilting is like ripples in a lake. The blue-green colors also evoke images of river/lake/sea. Therefore, I decided to call it Finger Lakes.

Did you see, I am getting a tad adventurous with those curves. Looks a little like wood grain effect.

I used a dark blue binding (It is a BOY!!!). Once I folded it in half and ironed it, I folded it into thirds and ironed it again. See the picture below. The raw edge section and the middle section were the same width, but the folded edge section was a bit wider. 

Doing this really helped when I was sewing the binding. The crease provided a guiding line as I stitched the raw edge binding to the quilt back. 

The remaining folds made it easier to bring the binding to the front, where I stitched it using my favorite squiggly stitch.

The finished quilt measures about 40" by 44".

Quilt Labeling
When I first started labeling my quilts, I was using .01 Pigma Micron Pen (based on advice found on a popular blog). Boy, that point is so thin, that it takes a long time to write a simple label. I had to write each letter thrice, at least, for it to be visible. Further, the super-skinny tip and the fabric (even with the freezer paper) did not get along well. It was a long bumpy ride.

Researching other pens, I found this beauty - Pentel Gel Roller for Fabric 1.0. 

Just look at the results. Single stroke writing and it really stands out. No, I am not getting paid for endorsing this or any other product. Just sharing my experience!
Seriously, try this pen once. You will be a convert.

Here are a few more pictures. 

This is Quilt #2 for 2015 and it is for Leah. She is due in April and the shower is on Wednesday, 2/4.  Thanks to Elizabeth Hartman for the pattern and Jacquie Gering (I highly recommend her Craftsy Class) for the quilting inspiration. 

Hope you enjoyed this trip to Finger Lakes :-D  I'd love to hear from you, as always.