17 May 2019

Always Happy To Finish Another Adhoc. Improv. Quilt!

My Red is a Neutral quilt is finished! I've written all about it over at my blog. It's such a wordy post, I've almost bored with it myself. The post, not the quilt! I'll be having a hard time giving this quilt away though. It turned out so much better than I expected!
Lattice Quilt
Just wanted to pop in over here and give a shout out to Kaja and Ann. They always come up with the most interesting challenges!

15 May 2019

Red is Neutral in Octagons with Y-seams

For the UandUQAL organised by Sujata Shah I am reproducing the Overlapping Octagons quilt from Roderick Kirakofe's book, "Unconventional and Unexpected". I haven't done much to it over the last few months; this is the present state of this lap quilt.

I have made octagons with red centres, corresponding to the AHIQ red is neutral challenge, and surrounded them by predominantly dark blue strings.  With this choice I aimed to use up most of my blue and red Civil War reproduction fabrics, and with the red I succeeded and have added more modern reds, but the blue were all so dark I soon started introducing flashes of other colours.

At present they're not overlapping, but I have more red squares cut, and here I've positioned them where red squares will go in the final design.

I am pleased that the overlapping octagons have now emerged.

The octagon blocks have Y-seams at each corner, and inserting the second set of red centre blocks will involve more Y-seams. I wasn't happy about this at the beginning, and so tried making hourglass blocks in the corners, as shown here:

This is one of two hourglass blocks I retained, before I gave up on them. At each of  the corners of this hourglass block five fabrics come together making very bulky seams which I couldn't get to lie flat.

Doing Y-seams, however, means joining only three, which will lie much more easily, especially if the last string in the side panel continues into the corner triangle, as here below.

Sorry about the fuzziness!
In this corner above, one of the four string sets ends in a separate triangle; this is one of the string sets I originally joined to an hourglass block. I rejected that method because of the lack of continuity between the string set and its triangular ending as well as the bulkiness of the join.

There was only one thing for it: Y-seams. I dreaded the thought! Now I'm becoming an expert! Practice makes perfect, they say, and I've had a lot of practice! The secret lies in:
  1. starting sewing the seam at the opposite end to the Y-join,
  2. stopping two stitches before the point of the join and backtracking a couple of stitches. That unsewn space gives you some room to manoeuvre.
  3. starting each seam four stitch lengths further than the join, stitching back two stitches to fix the seam and then stitching the seam further until two stitch lengths before the point and backtracking two to fix the seam.
The mistake I made when I first tried Y-seams was to start at the point where everything came together. It's very crowded there! Much easier to keep your distance from everyone else at the party. Approach slowly and stand still when you're close enough. After following a tutorial from Mary Huey on sewing tumbling blocks, it was plain sailing for me! Mary illustrates the process with lots of excellent, clear photos.

I'm not really sure any more if this really fits the challenge "improv", as I'm working from a photo of an early 20th Century quilt; not exactly a pattern, but an example. I am, however, working it out as I go along, which is a characteristic of improv.

If you think I shouldn't post this here, I apologise.

Happy sewing


10 May 2019

Oh, the guilt!

I am feeling a bit guilty about not posting in such a long while. Or reading in weeks. Or commenting on anything I have read. But I try to keep guilt at bay. Life is tough enough at times without adding to the difficulties. So the guilt is really not that bad.

Anyway, I've finally put together some idea of what I could be doing with the Red Is a Neutral challenge. It's taken me a while to get here, but now that I'm on my way, I'm enjoying the challenge. My traditional quilt guild is working on a block of the month sampler quilt. I tried to go a couple of different ways with it: scrappy, then controlled scrappy. Nothing working. Then I ruined the couple of blocks I had made when I power-washed the studio. I figured it was a sign.

That's when it (finally!) occurred to me that I could combine the sampler and the challenge into one awesome project. These blocks are the first five of what I think will be 18. Each month two or three guild sisters present a block for the sampler quilt. We get to see a finished block, get show and tell instruction on how to make it, and get written instructions to take home. The following month we should return with, you guessed it, two or three completed blocks. We started in January. We should finish in July. The quilts are supposed to hang in our guild show in September. Everyone laughs when I say this out loud. Why?

I think I have enough red for a complete quilt. I know there is not enough of this gray and black, but I plan to add more of those colors as needed. I also plan to wait before sewing the blocks together so that I can mix them up enough that the grays and blacks look like they all belong.

The blocks are 12" square except this last one. It's 15" because I messed with the instructions. Nonetheless, this block will be in the quilt. As my mom loved to say, "Somehow. Someway." I guess I'll just figure it out as I go along. Momma used to say that, too.

More about the beginning of this project on my blog, Fleur de Lis Quilts.

30 April 2019

Red is a Neutral

Since I'm not doing much actual sewing I thought I'd keep my blogging muscles working by doing a quick post reflecting on the Red is a Neutral challenge.

This is where I got to in the end.
Sadly it seems to be a difficult top to photograph and the bright sun here has washed out the colours too much.  I'll try again when it's cloudier.  In real life there are a pale green and a lovely lemon-y yellow which are virtually indistinguishable in this picture (though you can get a better idea here).

It's been an interesting exercise for me but I think on balance I'm happy that I met the brief.  There is a lot of red in this quilt but for me it works to enhance the blues, greens and yellows rather than demanding to be the centre of attention.  It's a useful notion to have up one's sleeve - that red can be used instead of, say, low volume options. 

I have also learned that if I stick with the same block for too long I get bored, then I kind of lose the will to sew at all, so if I want to work along these lines again I will need to build in variety, either by making more than one block or by changing scale or some other jiggery-pokery.

23 April 2019

Red, Two Blocks, and Chinese Coins Mashup

The border of the Square Deal is finally done. I hope. After a few months in time out, I changed a few blocks in the outer border to get better definition. Now they move from crips delineation at the bottom left to more diffusion at the top right. {EDIT: I retook and replaced the photo. This one is better but now a bit cooler than real life. Sigh.}

The Square Deal quilt top

The center mixed some Chinese Coins that just didn't make it as a quilt with HSTs in every shade of solid red/peach/pink in the stash. The triangles are all ruler cut although {if I'd been thinking} free-hand might have looked better.

The crosses are Sujata's Lattice design from Cultural Fusion Quilts and they were scissor cut. My crosses widen with each set. The first ones were so narrow that the seams overlap after pressing but the last few are superhighways!

Does that mean I finished three improv invitations at once?
  1. Chinese Coins {because those were the original units for the striped triangles} 
  2. Two Blocks
  3. Red is a Neutral (because I played with several fabrics before deciding red looked best with those striped triangles}
"Red" stretches it a bit. These reds all read as foreground rather than background. Must {and will} try again.

Also posted on my blog.

22 March 2019

Finally! Chinese Coins finish

I worked on a Chinese coins quilt way back when we were challenged to do so. It seems so long ago. I have six granddaughters, which really means that I have a great deal of pink fabric. Pink of all types and shades and prints. It's almost wrong, except that I still sew for said granddaughters which leaves me with lots of scraps. I decided at some point to put them to good use. We were working on Chinese coins at the time, so why not?

This is what I came up with. I added the teal just because it was there and I liked the contrast. I discovered this pretty pink flowered linen in mom's stash and decided that it was the perfect backing. That despite the fact that it wasn't quite long enough. A strip of hot pink added to the top and bottom fixed that.

Naturally I wrote a post on this little quilt. You can find it here if you're interested.

17 March 2019

Hello! from Debra of Debra Dixon Design

Hello Happy Quilters!

I've decided to join you here!  My blog is Debra Dixon Design and you are welcome to stop by!

My first improvisational quilt was sewn in college from corduroy scraps I bought from a factory.  This was in 1973 while I was at the University of Oklahoma getting a home economics degree.  Up to that point I had been primarily a dressmaker.  I started sewing clothes in the 3rd grade while attending an after school program but it wasn't until junior high when I took over the main task of sewing my own clothes.

In the early 1990s I discovered thrift shopping where I could buy all the clothes I wanted at a ridiculous price. My focus moved away from dressmaking to quilting.  I had already been dabbling in quilting from the mid 1980s; just about the time Olfa rotary cutters and mats showed up on the market.  My 2 influences at the time were Nancy Crow & Yvonne Porcella.  Armed with my trusty rotary cutter I set out to try to figure out strip piecing.  I poured over their books for hours.  I eventually got the hang of what to do & my work was displayed in a local art gallery.

Around 2004 I discovered the internet had opportunities for like-minded people to hang out together.  About.com was a friendly quilt forum and I made a lot of friends I still have to this date while there.  Blogging came along almost immediately.  I formed a nucleus of quilters who wanted to blog and together we designed blogs and linked up through web rings.  It was great fun!  For almost 10 years we spent a lot of time visiting each other's studios through our blogs.

My quilting is mainly improvisational.  I've gone through a lot of phases, stages and styles but I always return to the idea of letting the machines do the work.  I've done some major embroidery work through crazy quilting but presently, I am enjoying the machine work more.  I have an APQS Millennium longarm, a 6 spool Babylock embroidery machine and a few Janome sewing machines.  My stash is unbelievable.  I recently inherited another quilter's huge stash when she decided to start over and give all her current stash away.  I am also a huge clothing thifter so a good percentage of my quilts use reclaimed fabrics in them.  Right now I am sewing improv quilts with thrifted knit clothes.

I currently maintain a studio where I concentrate on commissioned work, art markets and donating quilts to various service organizations.  This year I am focusing on the children of Angel Tree.  I hope to have plenty of quilts to give children during the Christmas season through my church's ministry with Prison Fellowship.

I look forward to your friendships!