Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Energizer

Just finished the quilt top sample of Ohio Stars for our Retreat. My objective was to show how changing the center or the corners of a simple block can completely change the look. I have a few blocks that I made but didn't use. This will serve it's purpose quite well.

Then I hit my usual slump that always follows completing any project. I always rather stumble around for a period of time trying to decide what I will work on next. I generally, begrudgingly, drag out a UFO, and try to inspire myself to work on it. Usually, something will stimulate my imagination shortly, and I'm off and running again.

Last night, my quilt group got together, and Roseanna brought along a bunch of old quilting magazines she had been given. We were browsing through them, and BINGO!! I found a "buzzer". It's from the J/F 2000 Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting, called, "Kitty Corner". It's just four patches assembled with plain squares in a 9-patch set to create a block. The blocks in the sample are set to create a diagonal reminiscent of an Irish chain. I thought about it the rest of the evening, thinking of my scrap drawers, and what type color theme to use. The quilt pictured in the article made one think of 30's reproductions. I had gone to bed, and was just about to drift off, when a neutral fabric in my stash popped into my mind as the perfect complement to my stash of scraps. I should probably have just gone downstairs and pulled the fabric to start cutting. I didn't sleep very well . . . every time I turned over, I saw that fabric in a finished quilt top. I went to the office, and when I came home for lunch, I made a bee-line for the basement and grabbed the fabric working on my mind so intently. I cut a couple strips, and started pulling scraps to cut into 2" squares. Whittled down a zip-loc of pinks in fairly short order. Then, it was time to return to work. I was about 2 blocks from the parking garage, and I thought about my stash of Benartex squares, including some "quilter's candies" that they gave out in Paducah for several years. Couldn't remember if they were two-inches or less, so my mind was once again obsessed until I could get home and check on those. Lucky me . . . they are precisely two-inches, so I have probably 200 two-inch squares ready to start making blocks. Because it is so simply pieced, it is a wonderful candidate for Bonnie Hunter's leaders and enders technique . . . if I can keep myself from just sewing madly on only it.

I've asked my friends who wanted to make a scrap quilt sample for Camp to make at least nine blocks so one can see the interaction of the blocks together. (So far, none of them have been able to stop at 9 blocks!) I see 9 blocks . . . at least . . . in my immediate future!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Maple Leaf Rag

One of the tops in my "quilt top collection" is a queen-sized Maple Leaf. I plan to dub it "The Charm of Autumn", because no two leaves are the same. I used the EZ Angle to cut each block, including a bias stem. And, don't ask me why, but I hand appliqued each bias stem before assembling the block. I do like how it turned out. It has a tiny yellow piping betwen the blocks and the border, which doesn't show well in the picture. And, it is so large, I can only show a quarter of it here. I have a lovely yellow fabric to back it, and a nice wool batting for it, too. I'm determined to finish a quilt that has been in my frame long enough to have had anniversaries . . . we won't say how many! Perhaps this one will be the next one up for attention. It would be nice to get it into the frame early this fall, and work on it through the winter.

Perhaps I shall inventory my collection here, if you all promise not to count! I used to be able to trim the stash down annually, when I took something to the Quilt America Yes M'am auction. Since the demise of that show, I haven't diminished the stack one bit.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More than meets the eye

Looking over my postings, one would think that I do nothing but work on designs and patterns for my Guild Retreat. Since I have been quilt making since 1977, that's not an accurate viewpoint.

My very first bed-sized quilt was a Sampler, which my DS took to college and on to grad school, and loved it to shreds. The second, made from a Quilters Newsletter pattern in 1981, called, "Buds and Blossoms", resides on my guest room bed. My, what I have learned since those efforts!

I'm definitely addicted to applique, although my favorite pieces are combinations of piecing with applique. Hanging behind my DH's chair in the living room is a quilt I made for him several years ago called, "Calendar for a Hoosier Teacher". It features an Apple a month. One can tell it is a Hoosier calendar because the May apple is made from brick fabric, and the leaf from black and white checks to represent the Indianapolis 500.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sputter, Gasp, Whizz, Whir . . . Hummmmm!

I don't know if I should love it, or hate it when my mind kicks out an idea. It seems to be rather like the sounds of the machine in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the classic with Gene Wilder) that belches out the Everlasting Gobstopper. There it is on "the plate", and I can't wait to try it.

One of the ideas stewing in the back of my head for Guild Retreat is an Ohio Star block as a base, and to reflect the many ways a simple alteration can change the original block. I wasn't quite looking forward, however, to making multiple quilt tops to illustrate this factor. I was just about to settle for a few plain blocks on a fleece wall, with many alternate loose corner and center pieces. I'm still inclined to do that to encourage "hands-on" play. But my ultimate sample will be "The Star Family Album". Top row will have Mom and Pop Star in each corner, with the title in the center (fun lettering, like the many examples that Laura uses). The next row will represent the "kiddies". One will have a snowball center; the next a four-patch center; the next a half-square triangle center, and so on. Successive rows will have both center and four corners with alternate piecing in those positions. Maybe it should be "multi-generational" to effect these changes!

I have also been playing with a simple piecing method for another fun scrap block. I've seen a couple different patterns for a taffy block. Both had very awkward piecing. So, I just made up my own, using the hour glass block for the twisties on each end. The center of the block can be scaled to fit the scrap available. In honor of our Guild Retreat, it has been dubbed, "Old Tippe Taffy". And, to reinforce the concept of the snowball block, the theme block for our "snowbound" retreat, there is a companion candy, "Hoosier Hard Candy".

To some, it may appear that I have launched more projects, but really, these are just class samples for Retreat. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quilt Blocks and Quilt Shows

Test "drove" my four-patch grid based Nosegay block. The tulips are real easy to piece, but I haven't come up with an easy way to rotary cut the vase. I thought perhaps the Tri-Recs ruler would work; it's great for the background pieces, but the angle isn't right for the vase. (I tried to upload my drawing from EQ5, but it vanished into cyberspace.) My next approach will be to mark the center of two sides, and angle a ruler from a corner to a point 1/4 inch from the marked center. One advantage would be there is only one vase for each complete block. With an 8-inch block, that wouldn't be too encouraging if a king-sized quilt were the objective. I will include a rotary cutting table for at least three sizes in the hand-outs for Guild Retreat.

Went to Columbus, Ohio, to the NQA show. It has a completely different atmosphere from the AQS show. It is not a juried show, so that is a contributing factor. I'm always amazed at the number of quilts made identical to commercial patterns, or straight out of a book. I might display my effort at the local Guild show, but it would never occur to me to enter a national competition with someone else's design. There was an exact duplicate of one of Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville postings. I think half the hall would have been emptied, if all the duplicates were removed.

There were some great vendors, and I collected a few fabrics for a couple projects. Planning a pineapple star for my granddaughter and a "Surveyor's" Compass for one of the land surveyors that I work with on a regular basis. He's an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and I found a Moda "cheater" panel, Northwoods Crossing, to incorporate, probably as corners in the borders. I picked out earth tones, a rich dark red, deep blue, and dark green for points of the compass. It's hard to refrain from rushing into new projects. I have so many others going that I'm trying to be "good"!

While I was gone, my DH went to an auction. He found a neat maple sugar bucket style sewing box on three legs. I've got a similar one in my studio. Actually, I have wooden sewing boxes all over the house. For a long time, he was convinced that I was acquiring them for refinishing projects for him. It's only recently that I have admitted to collecting them! For several summers, when Quilt America was still being held in Indianapolis each summer, he would refinish one that was in good condition, and donate it to the auction to raise funds for mammograms for low-income women at Indiana University Medical Center. They always brought more than $100 each time. Sure miss that show, and more than that, the class opportunities it brought. I participated in some wonderful classes by some wonderful instructors . . . Elly Sienkiewicz, Nancy Pearson, Pat Campbell, Jeanna Kimball, Philomena Duncan, John Flynn, Doreen Speckman, Marianne Fons, Nancy Johnson Srebro, Anita Shackelford, Susan Cleveland . . . a regular who's who in quiltmaking.

Now I'm inspired to go finish my postage stamp baskets, and cut the neutral I need to finish my perfume bottles. Then on to nosegays! All are projects for Retreat samples.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Brain in Overdrive!

Working away on block choices and themes for Guild Retreat. I always have more material than there is time for . . . unless we can work out a three-week event. Probably cost prohibitive, and would require rental of a trailer to haul supplies.

The title of this year's event is "Snowbound", with a focus on scrap quilts . . . what one might make using only the fabrics on hand. An expanded focus will be making a larger quilt with a minimum number of blocks by the addition of the snowball block, and it's lesser known "cousin", the flowering snowball. Humor always makes a subject more memorable, so the blocks introduced will be separated into "strippers" and "squares", followed by "crumb piecing".

I recruited the gals in my group to make at least nine blocks of a scrap pattern, so we will have more to display. At first, they thought they would be assigned a pattern that I selected. But, there wouldn't be any fun in that. I encouraged them to select something that each found intriquing, and interesting to make by their own choices. I think we will get a better mix that way.

For my own contribution, I've got some variations on variable stars planned. Illustrating the different looks by adding simple piecing in the corner squares or center square is the focus. A four-patch in each corner can create a diagonal interest, emphasized by a square-in-a-square in the center block. Half-squares in the center and two corners can create a very dramatic split color block. Chevron style piecing in gradated colors in each corner make another look entirely. A fleece board with many option squares will give Campers an opportunity to play at arrangements, until a design emerges that will send them running to get started. This approach will be for the "explorers" in the group.

For those who prefer to operate with a complete plan in mind at the outset will have plenty of classic choices. My sister-in-law, Jan, works from this focus, and always requires plenty of "visuals". She's a tough critic, so if a plan is functional for her, it will work for others, too.

EQ5 is a wonderful tool in generating some of the necessary information. A drafted or selected block can be colored, and a snapshot lifted to Word, to create a cutting table in multiple sizes. I've always wanted to make a Nosegay quilt, but dreaded the odd-shaped pieces, and inset seams. So, I drafted a modified version with pieced tulips based in a four-patch grid. The set-up is three tulips, and the last quadrant is the green kite-shaped piece. I think it can be easily rotary cut with the Tri-Recs ruler. I've got to practice cutting the shape before making the final decision to include it in Retreat options.