Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Quilt Project Journals

As this blog drags on into the second month of "cleaning my studio", you may get a realistic idea of how much attention it needed! This weekend, I did some sewing, but I also continued sorting through existing projects. Laura has always encouraged us to journal our quilts. My first attempt was in our Dear Jane group. Six of us decided to swap blocks, so each month, we made one of those adorable/frustrating 4 1/2 inch blocks . . . six times . . . well, actually, seven, because we decided to donate some to the Quilt America Yes Mam Auction . . . but I digress. Anyway, I began keeping a page showing details of each block, a copy of the pattern, and noting which fabrics I used for each of my co-conspirators blocks. It was encouraging to look back at what I had accomplished, and notes I made on construction of each of the blocks.

I'm not sure what quilt I decided to maintain a journal for next, but as I always have several projects in progress, I really began to appreciate the fact that I had made note of lay-out plans, yardage of fabrics required/acquired, rotary cutting measurements, and any additional thoughts that I considered and cast aside for one reason or another. The value of these little journals became more apparent as I went through projects that I had put aside which did NOT have any journals or notes in them. Over the past weekend, I actually launched a number of new journals to accompany those projects, so that when I pick them up again, I know how many blocks are already made, what needs to be done next, or even worse, what I have to fix before I can move on! In this first month, having all that information at hand for five of my unfinished projects has moved them quickly to the nearly completed stack. One just needs to have the bias binding made before it is ready to start quilting. Another has notes that answer the questions of whether I have adequate fabric to complete the piecing, and use those two fabrics in the borders . . . I do, and all calculations are noted in my journal which accompanies the quilt.

The journals are not anything really fancy . . . more in the cute or whimsical category, and all came from Michael's crafts, from the little bins at the front of the store with $1 items in them. I usually check each time I go in, and pick out one or two for my stash. As I added journals to my aging projects, I tried to pick one that fit the theme of the quilt, such as Christmas, or coordinating colors. I have an abandoned, but not unloved Lone Star, and had a journal with bandannas, and boots, a perfect combo. An ancient project with completed blocks, and applique "floats" for the on-point set now has a journal in companion colors, and includes a count of the blocks, a lay-out plan, and the story of the origin of my applique border for it, an enlarged embroidery test pattern . . . a sweet little morning glory and bud, with one two-pieced leaf, and a small amount of embroidery.

I've found it entertaining to read back through my notes, and hope that someday, my grandchildren may find it interesting to see how I planned a particular quilt, and proceeded through its construction.

Give this a try with your creative passion. It doesn't have to be a "job", but just a note or two about progess . . . some of my entries are short and sweet. "Two blocks done; eight to go."

That's it from my soapbox today! Next post will be lots of pictures, I promise!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Progress . . . great and small!

Still fooling around with the stuff in my studio. I pick up a few things and put them away, and then my attention is drawn to the stacks of projects. I'm making tremendous in-roads in those! On my lunch hour Wednesday, I laid out the Kansas Troubles blocks, to prepare them in setting order, using the "iron elbow" technique . . . ready to sew at our Miss Mary's retreat. After dinner, I thought I could just sew them in one direction, so the blocks would be linked and in position for the final assembly. Since they were in that position, I just kept going, and have a full top, ready for pressing, measuring and border application.

Earlier in the week, I finished an applique project begun in a Lori Smith class on making your own folk art quilts. I'm delighted with the way it turned out. So, to apply my friend, Laura's analysis . . . if you like it, it's folk art; if you don't, it's primitive . . . it must be folk art!

Currently under the presser foot, a Snail's Trail, in orange, bright yellow, and black. I cut more blocks, and will have enough for a finished piece approximately 48 X 54. I have all the pieces cut, so it's fun to see the colors gradually spiral into a block as I add triangles to the four patch center. I need to cut more black triangles, but decided to keep sewing until I ran out, so I can determine how many more EXACTLY will be needed. The border fabric I have is black with tiny yellow and orange flowers all over. When I drew it up in EQ, I found that exact fabric in the fabric library, so I'm sure I'm right on target as to how it will actually look.

Test drove the Contrary Wife blocks set with a blue and white half-square triangle. It was interesting, but didn't really set the blocks up with any "punch". Second choice was blue and white quarter square triangles, and it is perfect. Each contrary wife block appears to be framed by either blue or white, and the use of the quarter square block makes it appear that the blocks were framed as an on-point square in a square set. The fabrics are washed, and if I ever get my studio more tidy, I can cut the triangles to make the setting blocks!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Love those scraps!

Gee . . . where to start . . . had a wonderful Christmas in Virginia. The kids are healthy and bright, and growing. Very entertaining little people . . . especially Ben, the 4-year-old. He's the family entertainer, for sure. I've got an airline ticket to use, and I asked him if he would pick me up at the airport. He said, "Of course . . . it's close to Target"! He loves to go to Target. We took them shopping there before Christmas, and he was to pick out something for his parents. As soon as we walked in the door, he descended upon a DVD of the Simpson's movie, and tried to tell me that his "Mom and Dad always wanted this!" We settled on Shrek Third, because the family does a lot of movie viewing together, and I knew they had the first two versions.

We were blessed with good weather on our trip out, and back home. The most snow we saw was in our own yard when we left. I managed to visit a couple quilt shops and yarn shops, and refrained from going completely nuts. I got some sale fabrics at Rachel's, in Staunton, Virginia, and a few fat quarters at Cottonwood, in Charlottesville.

Since returning home, I have been slogging through the stuff in my studio. I need one of those little Bobcats to go in and just scoop it all out. I have most projects in individual containers, so the first thing I did was pull all of those out of the stacks in corners. I began to review them to see what each project needed. One just needed the outside border to be attached, so I did that New Year's Day. The next was a group of Kansas Trouble blocks, with all the components cut, and 12 of the 20 blocks assembled. So, I sat down and put those together in a couple days.

Next up was some Contrary Wife blocks cut from scraps of blues and neutrals. All the half-square triangle units were assembled and pressed, and even paired with a set of blue squares for each box. I made 12 of those one evening . . . and 52 the next day! Sat down with EQ5 on Sunday evening, and played with a setting block. I have 85 Contrary Wife blocks; of the setting blocks I dabbled with, I liked the hourglass block best. I have the fabric to make those. Might be a project to take to Miss Mary's Quilting Cottage at the end of the month, if I don't get it going sooner.

Presently whizzing through the machine, (again, most of the components cut) is a Snail's Trail with a black background, and deep yellow and orange "snails". Eighteen were assembled, so I made six more with the cut pieces, and laid them out for a preview. Calculated that I could cut 24 additional blocks, and have a nice sized finished piece. It was late at night when I made this decision, and it didn't occur to me until I started sewing last night that the additional cutting will actually make 48 additional blocks, because only one unit of the color components are used in each block, but two units of black. Fortunately, I have an adequate supply of the black fabric . . . but I need to do some cutting! And, it will be an even nicer sized finished piece.

Looking into the drawers, I found an applique piece I barely remember making, and it needs only an outside border. In that case, I remember wrestling with an idea for the border, but I think the concept that was a stumbling block will be ditched in favor of a basic border, but with some piping for interest.

Scouting around the internet, I stumbled onto a designer who is new to me. Her name is Sindy Rodenmayer, and she has a wonderful selection of patterns. I was bowled over by her new Block of the Month, Blatimore Blues. Among the dozens of things I dream of making is a blue and yellow quilt. I rumbled casually through my stash, and pulled out my collection of Benartex squares from Mr. B's Fabric Club. There were packets from three fabric lines which fit the color palette, and other individual pieces from other collections that will suit, so I tucked them all in a container, started a journal, cut the templates. The background is one that I found on sale, and bought the remainder on the bolt, about eleven yards. I had already selected it to use with the Contrary Wife blocks, but it will be perfect as the neutral for this quilt. Anyway, I needed another project . . . after all, I have emptied three project containers!

This morning, I was glancing at my friends' blogs. I almost hyperventilated when I read in Laura's blog that she is tidying up her studio, and THROWING AWAY anything smaller than 6 x 6 inches. That seems HUGE to me. I go through my scraps, and keep anything that I can cut into a 2" half-square triangle. Have nearly a shoe box full, and when it "grows up", it will be a scrappy Ocean Wave.

It's a very gloomy day, rainy, and in fact, some of the county schools have had to close because roads are flooding. It seems like a perfect day to continue going through my studio. Need to try to get it more presentable before my sister-in-law arrives from Texas in two weeks. Actually, seeing it tidy will be more of a shock than seeing it in its present state of disarray!