Friday, December 15, 2017

No UFO's!!

Did that title get your attention?
No UFO's?
Not possible, is it?
Since I'm leaning towards a 2018 goal to finish up/eliminate my most ancient UFO's, it seems like a good sub-goal is not to create any new UFO's as well.

As I shared with you a week ago, I played along with the #xmasfussycuttingsewalong on Instagram and as I finished each hexie flower, I put them up on my design wall which is directly across from my sewing machine so I see it every time I look up.
As the collection grew, I began to envision a new tablerunner for the side table in my dining room.

I selected four of my hexie flowers and added 28 full and 14 half hexagons of background fabric to make this version.  Half-hexies straighten the edges effortlessly and guarantee most of the outer edges are all straight of grain making the binding process easier.

Because I chain piece through y-seams, I divided the runner into three sections so that I could work on all of them simultaneously. This is one of the two end sections and the third section was the center of the runner.
While working through the final seams to join the three sections, I needed something else as my sew-offs between the individual seams to keep the chain-piecing momentum going. 
So this began to happen -- adding diamonds to the other hexie flowers I pieced during the sew-along.  These will become sets of hotpads for little gifts. 
One of the beauties of working with Marti Michell's templates sets is that the right shape in the right size is right at my fingertips! H53 is the diamond that fits the H52A hexagon.
Note: I used H52E to cut the half hexagons for the edges of the piece.
It didn't take long to chop up the scraps and miss-cuts from the tablerunner background into diamonds. 
But you can't shortcut the cutting and leave the points on these diamonds.
Those trims which just take a moment enable perfect quick matching. 
The rhythm of moving from one y-seam to the next has become second nature for me after 5 years of using the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique.  
Off of the runner's seam, onto the hotpad's seam.
And as Bonnie Hunter points out so frequently, chain piecing is an efficient strategy for taming some old UFO's or creating monotonous units for a future quilt.
Here's a strategy from my Set-In Piecing Simplified workshops.
When zigzaging along a long row of short y-seams, skip one and stitch the next one.  
 Now the unfinished seam between is easier to align -- grab both ends of the unstitched seams, lift the piece a bit to shake down all the surrounding patchwork, align the corners and it's ready to stitch!
So I wrestle a bit with one seam and then the next is a snap!
With the top finished and a lunch gathering for 16 hungry birding friends on the calendar for Saturday, I embraced the opportunity to finish the runner (instead of tidying up the living room).  A quick rummage in the stash found a backing fabric and binding, some batting scraps, and a spool of gold metallic thread!
I kept the quilting simple -- edge to edge straight lines -- so I can use the walking foot and not have to tie off too many threads. 
The exception was the six-pointed stars stitched in the gold center hexagons.
And I could not stitch through the chickadee! 
The 60 degree corners are treated much the same as a 90 degree corner for the binding.
Stop stitching at the corner. Take the piece out from under the presser foot.  Fold the binding off the corner to make a straight line with the next side.
Bring the binding strip back onto the quilted piece.  Notice the fold doesn't align with the edge of the piece. 
Here's another view after I stitched it down.  Those two edges by my finger need to be perfectly aligned with each other. 
And here's the back -- hard to see my little miter but it's there. 
And here's the finished piece!!  It's 18" by 27".
Those 30's flowers I'm making with kites would also work in this layout.
I sketched a longer layout to share with you in Electric Quilt (still working with #5, really need to update).  I inserted the dark lines on the right end to illustrated how to shape the end -- did that in Paint.
  I used 1 1/2" hexagons for my flowers so the layout above would be 18" by 39".  Since I wasn't inspired with using all my hexie flowers in the same piece, I shortened it which suits the length of the table better.  If one was using 1" hexagons, this layout would finish at 12" by 26".  To make the runner longer, add groups of three more hexie flowers.  Using 1" hexies would extend it 9" for each set of three and using 1 1/2" hexies would extend the length 13" for each new set. 

Curious about all the ins and outs of chain piecing y-seams -- click on my face up there at the top of the right side column to go to my Etsy shop and order Set-In Piecing Simplified!!

The rest of my hexie flowers are piled up on the sewing table for a snowy afternoon of finishing.
But now I have really have to go tidy up the house for tomorrow's lunch gathering!
Enjoy your weekend!!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Sharing Time!

Each Christmas for the past 8 or 9 years, a group of friends and I have 
 shared small lap quilts for young children with local charities.  We have a stash of unwanted fabric cast-off by friends from which we meet the challenge of creating pretty quilts.  It lives in the (someday) laundry room off my kitchen and my annual goal is to empty that top shelf where the finished quilts go at least twice a year.
This huge piece of fabric (10 yards?) came from a friend and created quite a stir in the group but it backed (so far) 4 small quilts that are going to be prized by little boys plus some of the bags that one of our members assembles.  We use the bags as a "gift wrap" since most of the children getting the quilts are in transition destined to move sometime in the next year.
(Thanks, Dianne -- we're glad you never got around to decorating David's room!!)
This year, we have 18 quilts to share thanks in large part to Mary Ann's efforts during our summer sewing break.  She never stopped!  When we returned to work in September, there she was with 7 of these scrappy tops that she has pieced over the summer.
Each one is cheerful! 
Believe it or not, this one is made mostly from Christmas fabric scraps! 
I bound the last two quilts today and they are in the washing machine right now.
Once they are dried and matched up with a bag, they'll join the rest of the stack in my car for delivery later this week!
George and I are still working on Long Time Gone!!
Two more days of quilting and then binding!!
I'm going to be finished with this in plenty of time!!
Perhaps I'll start something else?!?

Friday, December 8, 2017

It's Quilting Frenzy Time!!

When I was finishing my version of Jen Kingwell's Long Time Gone earlier this year as part of the international sew along, I decided who I was going to give it to when it was finished not expecting that the opportunity would arrive quite so soon. 

It's a very cheerful quilt and it is perfect for my new daughter-in-law (as of 3 weeks ago) but there is a family superstition that I've scared off a couple women in my son's past by gifting them with a quilt too soon.  They became engaged in July and I was expecting a spring wedding but surprise, they turned their engagement party into a wedding!!
So I can give it to her for Christmas!!
It just needs to be quilted.
So I layered it up a couple weeks ago while layering up several small charity quilts.
When I arrived at the machine the next day, I realized that I had buried two already-layered quilts so I decided to quilt one of them before beginning Long Time Gone.
I finished the binding a couple days ago and with the winter sunshine today, I rushed to get some pictures before the clouds roll back into town.
I set up my photography studio -- 😉
Climbed up carefully and took "flat" photos so I can share my finish!
I learned that trick from a professional -- well, not the climbing up on a chair part.  He had a sophisticated overhead set up so that he could photograph things completely flat.
I'm happy with this photo.
This is a crib size version of my Sandstone Revisited Quilt Pattern (listed here on Etsy).
I used this stacked swirly sort-of Baptist fan motif and variegated shades of aqua King Tut thread. 
The backing is this fun dot (don't get excited -- it's at least 12 years old) for the backing and a black mini-dot for the binding. 
Brings me to a total of 3 finished quilts for my fourth quarter list of goals for this year's Finish-A-Long -- yea!!  There's one more layered and ready to quilt (HERE) so if I finish Long Time Gone before Christmas, I'll have an entire week to try for a perfect four!!

As I was quilting on Long Time Gone this morning, I was reflecting on how much easier machine quilting is becoming for me.  Part of it is having a larger scale machine and table that makes it easier to manage more bulk.  

But another important aspect is the confidence I'm building through more consistent work.   The stop/start areas of my stitching are becoming more uniform and harder to pick out once the quilt is done -- that only happens through repetition!  My stitch length is becoming more consistent -- another result of quilting more frequently and getting more comfortable with the operation of the foot pedal and how fast/slow I move the quilt around under the needle.

Probably the two most important factors contributing to these changes are working with simpler designs and recognizing that 30 minute sessions are the best approach to moving forward steadily.   I can push to 45 minutes before my arthritis starts to make me uncomfortable but stopping sooner is wiser -- those last 10 or 15 minutes when I push myself aren't worth it.  My work becomes sloppy as my shoulders begin to fuss and I recognize that my wrists are tired.  If I still feel good when I stand up from the machine, I'm more likely to come back later in the day and get in another productive 30 minutes!

So maybe 2018 will be a year of machine quilting and I'll morph into a quilter with no ancient UFO's?!?  

Willie sends his greetings! 
 He is learning to be an indoor cat (after three trips to the vet in 5 weeks for significant fighting injuries) and how to enjoy indoor sun puddles!
They can be just as relaxing as that cozy nest of leaves under the spice bush on the south side of house!!
Here's to all of us having a productive and pleasant weekend!!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Focus?? What's that?

Welcome to the world headquarters of Mary Huey Quilts!!
The available cutting space on my 36" by 72" mat just keeps getting smaller and smaller.
Probably time to clear the table off completely?!?
Maybe tomorrow?
There's lots of energy in my head right now which is difficult to manage.
This teaching sample of Opal Essence needs to be finished by the end of January.
I'm staying caught up with the ZenChic/Bernina sew along.
Then I woke up with this idea in my head one morning last week.
Of course, I had to start it right away!!
Too early to share, but it's exciting!!
It has a purpose and at this point, it's just about ready to quilt??
Perhaps if I'd quit surfing Instagram first thing in the morning, I could finish two things before pulling out another stack of the stash to start some new fun?
I still have a quilt to finish and 3 more pairs of socks to knit before Christmas!!
This one is short term -- only 12 days and I can use the piecing as sew-offs for more pressing work?
It's the #xmasfussycutsewalong led by @naomialicec on Instagram.
Every day there is a new prompt for another hexie flower.
Most are doing EPP, but I'm machine piecing it (of course) using the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique and a 1 1/2" hexagon from Marti Michell's Set H.

First there were Christmas trees.
Used the last scraps of an old Alexander Henry print that I've been rationing out for over 10 years.
Next up were "decorations".
Not sure "bubble lights" are strictly decorations, but don't we all love them??
Then robins (or birds).  
Naomi is a Brit and the English robin is a popular Christmas symbol.
Now I have lots of Christmas bird fabric but it's all cardinals or chickadees -- the popular USA Christmas birds.
And then Monday morning, it was "matching" trees -- yikes??
After a suitable amount of time feeling guilty about not having any more "trees" I forged ahead with this female cardinal that is in a tree?
Fortunately, I had seen a tutorial about cutting for this approach a few weeks ago.
But I couldn't find it so bumbled through cutting one hexagon at a time.
I did have the good sense to test my matching after cutting the second hexagon and before cutting any more.  Good thing!!  I was off by a 1/4" -- unstitch and recut!
I was able to get all seven hexagons from two full motifs and a partial one!
TA-DA -- that worked better than I expected.  Most of the seams disappear??
I'm still wondering why one would go through all this?
To prove it can be done?  Perhaps?
But sometimes it's just fun to show off, isn't it?

Time to get back to the machine quilting and the sock knitting!!
I hope you are moving through your holiday sewing projects in a straighter line than I am!!