I'm too sexy for my quilt

/ Wednesday 27 April 2011 /
Miss March
To be fair, I think my quilt is too sexy for me - introducing Miss March!
Miss March
I made this quilt as part of the Modern Tradition Quilt Bee last year.
Miss March
Blocks for this quilt were made by women all over North America and the UK.
Corner block - Miss March
I used as a model the traditional block Granny's Flower Garden from Quilter's Cache, but I encouraged everyone to use the dimensions as engraved in stone, but to go wild in how they used fabric to create the 14" block.
Miss March detail
Sometimes people used individual 2.5" squares, sometimes they used strips.  One person made mini-four-patches that measured 2.5".  I made one block entirely from HSTs, and another that was pieced in crazy-quilt style..
Miss March
Red flower -  Miss March
I used Essex linen-cotton blend for the setting blocks.  It was fine to piece, but it stretched like crazy in the quilting.  There are definitely some bumpy bits.
Miss March detail
I am proud of this quilt because this is the first time I was courageous enough to break out of my stippling rut in my FMQ work.  It was a real chore to quilt this because it was so heavy!  But I'm very happy with it.
Miss March detail
The back is a nice Tina Givens print that I think goes perfectly.  The batting is a bamboo/cotton blend.
Tina Givens print on back of Miss March
Here she is in all her glory!  I call her Miss March because that was my month in the bee.  I think she's sexier than any centrefold!  Many, many thanks to Melissa, Lydia, Greta, Sherri, Sandra, Heather, Norma, Rachel, and Leanne!  You are all so creative and it was such a pleasure to work with you!
Introducing Miss March!
Because I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred has been running through my head ever since I wrote the title of this post, I'm determined to share the pain with you.  Remember this one-hit wonder from the early 90s?  He is definitely not sexy enough for Miss March!

Edited to link this up to Amy's Friday Sew-n-tell and Lynne's Fresh Sewing Day!

Getting started!

/ /
Time to begin our quiltalong!  At the end of the post I'll set out the schedule that I hope to maintain.  I hope you've had a chance to think about the fabrics you'd like to use for your ogees.  I wanted to make a few observations about fabric and how it works with this pattern.  When I made my first ogee quilt, I pulled a whole bunch of fabrics for consideration.  I started with a fat quarter bundle of Sugar Pop in the pink/orange/purple colourway, which comprised eight different prints, and I pulled from my stash to supplement those.  Here are the eight Sugar Pop prints.

You can see that on balance, they are all pretty light, so I went looking for some darker ones.  Here is a photo of my selection process.

I tried to get a range of values from light to dark.  A black and white photo helped me ignore the actual colours and see the values more clearly.  Overall, I think I did an okay job picking fabrics.  I'm not trained in art of any kind, so I really learn as I go and, unfortunately, too many of the lessons are learned after the fact!  Here's what I learned in making this quilt.
First, directional fabrics.  Unless you are possessed of amazing spatial sense and intense determination, you will likely get directional fabrics oriented every which way.  I knew this would happen to me, so I limited my directional fabrics to small prints, like this one.  See how the lines in this print are perpendicular to each other, rather than all going the same direction?  I am okay with that since the print is small - I would be annoyed if it were bigger.
I was also surprised when I realized that some prints were actually directional, when I didn't realize they were.  For example, this Hope Valley.  See how the diamonds point east-west in part of the ogee but north-south in another?
Even this one is directional, although it doesn't show so well in this photo.  But the name of the print is Oval Elements, so that is enough to tell you that it is directional.
Second, large-scale prints.  Strictly speaking, these are also directional, but I think the important design element here is how sparse the main figures are; this has a bearing on how coherent the ogees look.  For example, here are two ogees where the print is quite dense - I think this obscures the joins where the parts of the ogee come together and makes them look quite tight and coherent.
On the other hand, here are a couple of examples where the main figures on the prints are quite sparse.  I think that, with these prints, the way the pattern is broken up makes the joins in the different parts of the ogees more obvious, and it looks less tight and coherent.
Third, solids.  In my initial fabric pull, I had included a Kona solid purple, but a number of readers commented that it didn't look right to have a single solid in with all the prints.  I agreed that something didn't look quite right.  I replaced it with two fabrics that were looked like hand-dyed solids.  They weren't, but they had a bit of visual texture while retaining the essence of a solid.  This gave them enough action that they went well with the prints, while the Kona solid was too flat all by itself.  I think they looked fantastic.  I didn't take individual photos of these, but you can see the orange solid at the left of the first photo below, and the purple solid that was the poverty piece in the second photo.  (As to that poverty piece, this is what happens when you don't ensure your fat quarter is big enough, as I mentioned in my previous post.)
Poverty piece 1
I am picking on individual prints here, and showing you individual ogees to make my points.  So here is the whole quilt again, so you can see what I mean when I talk about "more" and "less" coherent, tight or successful ogees.  Go and look at other quilts made using this pattern to see if these principles also apply here, here and here - I think they do.  I lack the technical vocabulary, so I hope this all makes sense.  When I look at the quilt as a whole, and I consider my fabric choices, I feel that I was still a bit heavy on the lights, and I could have used another dark or two.  This is descending to the level of the ultimate picayune, as my mother would say, because on balance I think the quilt works very well and I love it dearly.

So!  The schedule!   Here's what I have planned.
Finish cutting by Friday, May 6 (I will have a very short cutting post for you later today, so I suggest you wait for that - I made a cutting error that led me to another poverty patch when I made this pattern the first time.)
Decide on layout and prepare work sheet (for those of you who do not have permanent design walls, like me) by the following week, ending May 13
Practice sewing curves on scraps, week ending May 20 (I may have a plan for a mini-project based on your successful scrap curves - stay tuned.)
Piecing frenzy for two weeks, ending June 3 with a completed quilt top!!!

I'm excited!  Don't forget to join the Flickr group and post your fabric for us to ooh and ahh over and to provide advice if desired.  And, of course, you can join the QAL at any time.

Recent events

/ Tuesday 26 April 2011 /
I am a terrible hostess, I'm afraid, to start up a quiltalong and then vanish from the scene.  I managed to draw the winners for the pattern giveaway and then notify the winners and post their names, but behind the scenes I was frantically involved in sad family affairs.  Let me back up, though.  On April 11, my husband and I celebrated our silver anniversary.  Here is a photo of us on our wedding day.  We are neither as slim nor as young today as we were then, alas!
Stuart and Lesly married
But it was not the only silver anniversary that I celebrated that day.  I also marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of my relationship with this woman, shown here on her wedding day in 1948.  My mother-in-law, Freda.  A widow for 23 years, Freda was greatly loved by all her knew her.  She was a tiny woman, probably 90 lbs soaking wet, but full of life and always youthful in her outlook and understanding, a model of generosity and compassion.
Freda as bride, 1948
Freda passed away a few days ago, at the age of 84.  I mention this on my blog because I want to tell two stories.  The first story is more on the order of a public service announcement.  Freda ended up in hospital because we observed in her an extremely rapid cognitive decline.  Ten weeks ago, she was a woman who was living alone, driving, managing capably in an independent capacity, maintaining active friendships, and with sharp awareness of world events, current movies, etc.  Over that time, she showed increasingly accelerated confusion, with memory loss and anxiety.  She forgot how to work her radio and television.  She could not remember what her medications were.  She repeated herself over and over.  Of course, we thought it was Alzheimers or another kind of dementia.  Now, although age-related dementia is not uncommon in the elderly, it does not typically progress with such speed.  I won't tell you all the ins and outs of our medical odyssey, but to say this: a week ago yesterday we took her to emergency, and the result of their assessments showed that her sodium and potassium levels were very low.  Apparently her blood pressure medication, hydrochlorothiazide, had leached these chemicals from her blood.  And one consequence of low sodium can be cognitive impairment.  As they adjusted the sodium and potassium levels, we saw our dear mother, mother-in-law and grandmother begin to return to us, and we saw her personality and spirit return.  Alas, other medical issues coalesced to cause her to falter and fail, and we lost her.  I am not a medical doctor, so any advice I give on this topic is worth as much as any other rambling on the internet, but I will say this anyway: what I learned from this is that old age may cause mental decline, but mental decline is not necessarily due to simple old age, and I would urge those of you with elderly parents to keep this in mind and keep an eye on their blood pressure meds.

When I re-started my quilting career after my 15 year hiatus, the first thing I did was to finish a project my mother had left in progress when she passed in 2008.  The second thing I did was make this lap quilt for Freda.  Here she is when I gave it to her.  She loved bright colours.
The second story I want to tell is about something that happened at her funeral on Sunday.  Shortly before the actual service, my daughter and I made a quick trip to the washroom - we thought we should do that before people began to arrive.  We left my husband alone and promised we would be right back. As we were leaving the washroom, an elderly woman entered, holding the door open to admit an even older woman, moving very slowly with the aid of a walker - neither of these women were known to me.  The first woman asked me if I was there for Freda's funeral, and I said I was.  She said she was concerned about her children who were driving to Montreal from Toronto, had I seen them yet?  She was flustered, and she asked me to take care of her friend while she went to see if they had arrived.  Without waiting for an answer, she left.  I checked that the disabled stall was free, and I helped the second lady off with her coat.  She moved slowly into the stall.  I checked my watch.  I realized that, unless Lady #1 returned, I would need to wait until Lady #2 was finished to help her with her coat, etc.  I was concerned about leaving my husband, who has no brothers or sisters, to receive the mourners on his own, but I felt obliged to remain.  And it soon became clear that she needed even more assistance from me.  As I helped this stranger with her undergarments, I found myself becoming furious at Lady #1.  How dare she burden me with this woman, when my place was by my husband helping him?  All the while Lady #2 was telling me I was a nice lady, a good lady, to help her.  I made meaningless replies. "It's my pleasure," I said, checking my watch surreptitiously.  She needed a new pair of Depends.  I got one out of her bag and looked for a place to dispose of the old ones. "Again I'll say you're a nice lady."  Anyone would help, I said, deflecting her thanks.  "Don't say that," she replied, "they wouldn't.  I'll tell you one thing: Freda would have helped."  It stopped me in my tracks; I felt humbled and grateful for the comparison, and guilty for my grudging heart.  At that moment, nothing was more important to me than giving chesed, or lovingkindness, to this stranger.  "How did you know Freda?" she asked.  "I'm her daughter-in-law," I said, already in tears.  "I should have known," she smiled at me. As I was helping her out of the stall, Lady #1 returned to claim her friend and I rushed to return to my husband.  While I smile now at the odd situation I found myself in, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to perform that small mitzvah, and the fact that a stranger deemed me worthy of being classed with my dear Freda, may she rest in peace, will always be a great comfort to me.

My next post - soon - will be about the quiltalong.  And if it is ever good weather again, I will show you photos of the completed Miss March, which is as beautiful as any centrefold!

Ogee/Curlicue Pattern Winners!

/ Saturday 23 April 2011 /
We have three winners for the Ogee/Curlicue pattern for the QAL kickoff!  Congratulations to Deb, Janet and two hippos!  I have sent your emails to Rebecca, the pattern designer, and she will let you know the process of downloading the pattern.

Even if you didn't win a copy of the pattern from me, I hope you'll still consider investing $10 (no shipping charges since it is a download from Rebecca's shop) and quilting along.  I thought I would close this post by showing you a photo of the photos I am going to be using.  I am making this quilt for a friend, who wants to give it to her daughter when she goes away to university in the fall.  She chose a bundle of Kona cotton solids in the Hot Spice colourway.  I took this photo inside so the colours look a bit wonky.  I'll try for a better shot soon.
If you are thinking about using a bundle of precut fabric, here is an important tip:  Measure your fat quarters so you know how careful you have to be.  The layout in the pattern will give you a mere 1/2" of waste on the short side.  In other words, if the short side of your FQ is 18"precisely, as is the case with the Kona solids bundle, then I suggest you do not prewash your fabric, as it could conceivably shrink too much, if you also need to trim slightly to square up the fabric.  When I made my first one, I did not measure, I prewashed, and I cut too generously to true up the fabric before cutting the pieces.  I ended up having to be creative and patch with a different fabric.  I was used to ordering from a shop that cut FQs generously, and I just blithely sailed in thinking I would have loads.  Just a word to the wise!

Ogee/Curlicue Quiltalong and Pattern Giveaway!

/ Thursday 14 April 2011 /
I’m excited that people want to quilt along with me to make an Ogee (aka Curlicue) quilt!  The first step in quilting along is to acquire the pattern; you won't be able to follow along without it.  As I mentioned last time, I know that lots of folks may already have it (although I haven't seen many quilts made up from it yet - I have been given permission to show the two I have seen - besides Rebecca's original and mine - here in this post).
Curlicue Crush
Rebecca Johnson's original
If not, you can buy it for a very reasonable price at Rebecca’s online shop.  For me, the best thing about buying from her shop is that the pattern is available via download – it comes in a .pdf file that you can print out, or just read on your iPad immediately, with no need to watch the mailbox.

Made by Penny at sewtakeahike.

Because she is the sweetest lady in the southern hemisphere, Rebecca is donating three copies of the pattern for a giveaway to inaugurate the quiltalong!  She is excited to see all the new versions of her quilt that we will be creating!  I'll leave the giveaway open until April 22, when the Passover seders are over, then I'll draw the names of the winners.  In the meantime, think about what fabrics you want to use!

I am walking on air because I managed to create my very own button for the QAL - you can find it over on the right panel of my blog, and I am attempting to embed it in this post, as well.  Html and I are only nodding acquaintances at the very best, so I'm counting this as a real victory.  You can grab the code if you would like to add the button to your blog.  I also started a Flickr group, where we can post photos of fabric selection and ongoing progress. etc.  So if you are going to quilt along, go over and join the Flickr group.
Kaffe Curlicue Crush
Made by quiltjane

I am going to use about six weeks to conduct the quiltalong.  Of course you can join at any time and progress at your own pace, but I am trying to get mine completed before high school graduation.   I am going to lead you along the path that worked for me when I made the pattern the first time, and I will point out some errors that I made, to save you from falling in those particular pits.  Of course, I can't promise we won't discover new ones!  Here is a rough outline:

Week 1  Materials needed, thoughts of fabric selection, things to consider in fabric layout (e.g., what counts as directional fabric - you will be surprised)
Week 2  Cutting - fun adventures with templates
Week 3  How to keep track of what pieces go with what if you don't have a design wall (I don't)
Week 4  Practice week for curves - sewing scraps both with pins and without pins (my favourite)
Week 5 Piecing frenzy!
Week 6 Piecing frenzy concludes with finished quilt top
Throughout:  Plenty of encouragement and camaraderie!

So without further ado, let's proceed to the giveaway!  To qualify for a chance at one of the patterns, leave me a comment telling me what fabric line or colours you would choose for this quilt.  I will choose three winners at random on April 22.   I can't emphasize strongly enough that if you are a no-reply blogger, I probably cannot contact you if you are a winner.  (I really blame Blogger for not making this clear to people - I am sure most no-reply bloggers think they are not, since they have to enter their email address whenever they leave a comment.)  Also, if you are a blogger intending to quilt along, please leave your blog title in the comment and I will assemble a blog roll for the sidebar.  

Care to Quilt Along?

/ Sunday 10 April 2011 /
Remember this quilt?
I had a great time making it, so much fun that I agreed to make it again.  This time it's going to be for a friend's daughter who will be starting university in the fall; she wants her daughter to have a cuddly quilt to keep her warm in her new home in Toronto.  I'm going to be making it in solids, this time.  I'm using the Kauffman Kona Solids bundle in Hot Spice.

Want to quilt along with me?  The quilt is made from the pattern Curlicue by Rebecca Johnson of Chasing Cottons.  I know that many recent giveaways have featured this quilt, and I think it was a signing bonus with Fat Quarterly a few months ago.  I figure there may be a few folks out there who have bought or won the pattern, but haven't worked up the courage to venture into Curved Seams Land.  If that's you, maybe you want to come along with me as I make this quilt for the second time.  It's really much, much easier than it looks.

Here are some things you might want to know before you make up your mind to quilt along:
You would have to buy the pattern from Rebecca at her website - it is a downloadable .pdf so no waiting for the mailman!
The pattern requires 20 fat quarters (plus fabric for the backing and binding).
The quilt finishes at 48" x 55", but you could add a border, if you wanted it to be larger, I suppose.
Although I have a special presser foot for curves, you really don't need one.
I plan to start this quiltalong, if there is any interest, in two or three weeks, once Passover is behind us.

What do you think?  Any takers?

One step closer and a plug

/ /
I've taken one step closer to completing these giant Dresden plates that are part of Lynne's QAL.  The large circles are pieced into the yellow background, and the purple circles are pieced into the centre of the wheels.
I was a bit apprehensive about how that was going to work out, but it seemed to go pretty well.  More or less - I've got to be truthful and say that these large squares - 30" - are just as floppy as all get-out.  The technique that we're using for this QAL is quilt-as-you-go, so I'm hoping that the wonkiness can be beaten into submission in the quilting process.
I don't know if I would do Dresdens again with this method, but I am enjoying it pretty well this go-round.
Someone on Flickr said this photo looked like big, googly owl eyes - I completely agree!
Back view
My other project this weekend is quilting Miss March.  Do you remember this quilt?  It was pieced about a year ago, as my month in the Modern Tradition Quilt Bee, and I'm finally getting around to quilting it.  As it appears that spring may actually be here, it will soon be time to take the down duvet off the bed.  The quilts that we have been using on our own bed are showing their age, and I have always planned this one as a replacement.
Miss March
I'm branching out from the all-over loopy quilting that I usually do, and challenging myself to try something a bit different.  I'm doing a kind of flower motif on each of the blocks.
It's not perfect by any means, but I figured I need to break out of the rut and start to develop some better FMQ skills.  This quilt may not have been the very best to practice on, since it is so big and bulky, but those blank spots formed by the linen strips really called out for some kind of fancy-pants quilting.  And is it ever HEAVY!  That linen really weighs a ton.  And it is a bit stretchy, so that has been another quilting challenge.  Oh well.  As always, I place my faith in the magic of washing and drying to hide the multitude of sins.

Chasing Cottons

And now time for the plug: Rebecca over at Chasing Cottons is running a 12-week series called Quilt Class 101.  Rebecca is the designer of some great patterns, including the one I used to make I Dream of Ogeenie.  She is a very enthusiastic and supportive, and if any of my readers are new to quilting, I think this would be a good series of blog posts to keep track of and follow along.  She's also having lots of giveaways because she has some great sponsors.  Rebecca is very enthusiastic and supportive, and I think her program is going to be a lot of fun.    I'm going to be following along, since there are always new tips to learn!  I'm a bit late in posting this, so get over there right now and sneak in under the wire for the Week 1 giveaway.
The structure of the series is as follows:

Week 1 - Fabric - Choosing fabric, fabric designers, fabric bundles, Fat Quarters, jelly Rolls etc, Where to buy fabric locally or online overseas, shipping costs.. My favourite online shops etc.
Week 2 - Design - 'Sew as you go' OR the Designer - Using a graph book and planning, no rules.. Books/ blogs/ flickr... all the online sources or inspiration..
Week 3 - Cutting - Tools I use, how to cut your material properly, to wash or not to wash, incorporating seam allowances etc.
Week 4 - Sewing - Your machine, threads, needles, 1/4" foot, seam allowances, joinging seams accurately, pins, 
Week 5 - Constructing your Quilt Top - sections etc
Week 6 - Borders - adding borders the correct way, 
Week 7 - Batting - The different types and what each one is used for..
Week 8 - Basteing - how to Baste your quilt, spray? Pins? Types of pins? Tape etc..
Week 9 - Quilting by machine - Straight line Quilting, using a guide, free motion quilting, stitching in the ditch etc..
Week 10 - Quilting by hand - Cottons to use, technique, needles, hoops...
Week 11 - Binding - By machine or by hand.. or both.
Week 12 - Quilt block techniques.... This last tutorial will prob run over another 6 week period where i will teach the basics to make various  traditional and modern quilt blocks. Sewing curves, 9 Patch, Star/ diamonds, Stack and Slash, Raw edge applique, Needle turn applique, paper piecing, log cabin, spiderblock, 1/2 square triangle etc... 

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