Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Best of 2017 Linky Party

                                       grab button for Meadow Mist Designs

In the few days between family Christmas celebrations, I've been looking back through this year's blog posts -- enjoying the comments, pondering why some were so well read, and remembering which ones I enjoyed writing the most!  The motivation for doing this is two fold -- first it will help me plan for the future and second to participate in Meadow Mist Designs annual best of the year link-up HERE!!   After reviewing the stats and some rereading of my 80 posts from 2017, here are some of your favorites and some of my favorites! 

My second post of the year shared a spontaneous project that came about as a result of Kim at Persimon Dreams annual Project Quilting Season 8's Challenge.  It was fun to make this bag (which is now gracing the shoulder of a new mom) and it was fun to finish a project so quickly -- just one week!!  Lots of you visited the post and I "met" more quilters as a result.  My post is HERE.
Kim has announced the start date for Project Quilting Season 9 and you can read all about it HERE.

I wrote several reflective posts during the year with titles like Thoughts on Balancing One's Quilting Act and Goal Pondering.  Some of it might be helpful to my readers, but I enjoy being able to go back and read them over -- re-centering as it were -- and to see photos of unfinished projects that have now been bound and gifted!! 

One of my most popular posts both in visits and comments was about my Birding Vacation to Florida in February -- nothing to do with quilting (obviously) but some great pictures especially for my readers in the wintery north!!  Best sighting of the trip?  Has to be this mob of assorted white birds!!
I'm gratified at the response my birding and gardening posts receive -- I enjoy both so much and appreciate the interest!!

The post that scored the most comments was about a charm quilt that my great-grandmother Lillie Bennett made for her parents' 25th wedding anniversary in 1881.  I think I was off-task that day and didn't have the planned topic ready for writing a post, so it was a quick share!
I included lots of close-ups which you can see HERE of some of the over 650 fabrics used to piece the quilt.
In July, I participated in Emily Breclaw's Adventures in Hexagons book blog tour.
What fun!!  I came away with a finished project, new followers, and lots of encouraging feedback! 
 I shared tips on using the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique which I teach for chain piecing through y-seams -- efficient and accurate!!
And you can purchase my teaching guide through December 31, 2017 for 20% off with the code YSEAMPOWER -- Click HERE to get to my Etsy Shop!!
And I experimented with "modern" quilting motifs!
I've been a quilt making teacher for a long time (40 years) so most of my posts reflect that perspective.  I can hardly talk about quilting without it becoming a "teachable" moment.
This summer I shared how I layer quilts on a table HERE.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can tell the "model quilt" is glaring at me because she is still not quilted!?!
I promise, you are next!!
There are still 5 days left in 2017 . . . . . I'm waiting for design inspiration????
Finally, Tips From a Teacher (HERE) -- if you read it again, can you tell I was a little wound up?
Seemed like most of the comments came from other teachers (who also get a little wound up)!

So there it is, my favs and your favs from 2017!
I'm planning to do some serious studio tidying over the coming week and reread my ponderings from 2017 so that 2018 gets off to the best possible quilty start!

Happy New Year and thank you so much for your encouragement and support!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Y-Seam Power Piecing!!

Last week I left you with a pile of six hexie flowers destined to become hotpads.
I think a set of two is preferable so I needed to cut out enough hexagons for two more earlier this week.
Happily, stitching those hexies into flowers saved me from a fit of frustration a couple days ago.  Stitching by machine is a zen-like experience so I often retreat there when I'm struggling to stay calm and focused.
The holidays tend to unravel me so I was glad to have these ready and waiting.
I love the smooth rhythm of chain-piecing which is why I find the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique so exciting! 
AND if you purchase the downloadable PDF by December 31, 2017, the coupon code YSEAMPOWER will get you a 20% discount on it!
It took a little over an hour to stitch up two more flowers and add diamonds around all the flowers.
The technique is efficient, too!
I wait until the entire flower is assembled to press because it is easier to keep the first and second seams out of the third seam "y"!
Now I had four pairs ready to layer with two layers of cotton batting, a layer of Warm Company's Insul-Bright, and a backing fabric.  
I experimented with the stitching patterns and kept it simple using King Tut cotton thread. 
I like this stitching pattern -- need to keep some pictures of it in my "idea" file for future hexie projects! It is two continuous lines of stitching -- each one moving through three of the hexagons.
It took an hour or so to quilt all of them counting thread changes.
Here are the four sets trimmed and ready to match up binding fabric. 
I cut the binding strips 1 5/8" wide and will use single rather than double fold binding.  Once the machine stitching is finished, the stack will move to the hand-sewing zone for evening stitching.
I have a few days to finish that step. 
Three sets for gifts and one set for me!
Best part is there won't be any UFO's as a result of this project!!

Willie continues to work on his transition to house cat -- doesn't look amused does he?
Actually that ball of yarn can be quite a bit of fun when he's in the mood -- perhaps not as much fun as a mouse or chipmunk, but still fun!!
He's wishing for catnip for Christmas to take off the edge!?!
I wish all of you celebrating during the month of December many blessings.
And a Happy New Year!!
I'll be back at it after the first.
Mary Huey

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!!