22 March 2015

"Skill-Sets": My Set In Seams Extravaganza!

I have been working on this for a few weeks...maybe a month.  It's called "Smitten" from Jen Kingwell. I am calling it "Skill-sets" since I wanted to make it as a way to become very comfortable with set-in, or 'y' seams. After making this quilt I no longer have any reservations about sewing them anymore!

I wanted to use fabrics that were in my stash, and I am blessed to have a collection 1930's prints. Many are Marcus Brothers brand fabrics from the 'Aunt Grace' lines by Judie Rothermel. I had been saving these prints for years. The look of this quilt is far from my 'comfort zone' and, truth be told, it is just a bit too "cute" to be 'my' style. Vintage 30's prints have always appealed to me though - with their happy colors and  whimsical designs. They make happy to look at. I just have never used them much in my quilts.
What I discovered in working with these prints is that there are not many high contrast fabrics in 1930's reproductions. They are mostly medium to light values. Of course, I had to use some of the brightest, and perhaps darkest, that I could find in my stash. I still struggle with the 'low volume' look I guess. 
I came close to trashing this quilt as it hung on my "decision" wall. I played endlessly with the placement of the pieces until I found what I thought was a decent balance of color and density, but I still was not impressed and I felt sure that I would be burying this quilt under a pile of tops. DH said that he thought I would like it when it was done. I hated to waste the effort and so I hung in there as I stitched it all together. When it was put together I had to decide on the set-in sides pieces. Nothing worked to my satisfaction until I held up black! The black magically settled the busy-ness of the quilt and brought the eye in and provided a resting place. I was so much happier with it. I may keep it after all. 
I managed to pair rainboots and umbrellas. Cats on aqua with hula-hoops, black cats with Halloween pumpkins on a cream background. Pairing these happy prints was great fun. All in all, I am happy that I carried on and finished this quilt. It was more colorful, in the end than I had thought it would be, I no longer fear set-in seams at all, and I did some decent problem solving along the way. This quilt provided a great many lessons - perseverance (I DID get bored of those set-in seams!), patience, problem-solving and the need to carry on despite ennui and dislike all were good lessons!

  • How do you carry on when you are working on something that is not coming as you had hoped it would?
  • Do you generally complete projects or do move on to something more pleasurable? 
  • Do you try to find ways to make a "ho-hum project better?

15 March 2015

Snippets and Another Catch Up!

"The Smitten Quilt" blocks by Jen Kingwell

Here we go again. Another chunk of time has flown by leaving me in the dust wondering how it can be that hummingbirds are returning and it is just about Saint Ptrick's Day. Have you ever felt tht you are standing still in the midst of a whirlwind? That's how I feel about time lately. The less of it I have the faster it flies by!

My life has been devoted to sewing every day and I hve to confess that it feels good. I have, however, been in the midst of a bit of color confusion lately.

We have already enjoyed our annual quilting retreat at fabulous Camp Burton on beautiful Vashon Island where we enjoyed stellar, warm, sunny weather. The bad news is that our beloved "Island Quilter" (home of the largest Kaffe Fassett collection anywhere!) has to move because their building has been sold. They may have to move off of the island and that could inpact local business' as well as possbi;y our wanting to return next year. Enjoing trips to this amazing quilt shop is an everday highlight of time on Vashon Island each year!

I have been working on "Smitten" by Jen Kingwell. The blocks in the top photo above are all from the pattern. All of the blocks are completed and I am putting the rows together today. The pattern and pieces are available from one of my favorite vendors- Paper Pieces, but I used the Marti Michelle Template Pack "H" and made this pattern by machine althpugh it lends itself brilliantly as  hand project.  I am a big fan of templates and I use them whenever I can find them for a pattern. They make my life happier! I made this quilt to conquer my lingering fears about 'set in', or 'Y' seams. Let me tell you - making this pattern will teach you to banish that fear in a hurry! I also wanted to use what I had on hand and that happens to include a large stock of 30's reproduction prints. Although I love the happiness of the 30's prints they did not offer much use of contrast and I found myself longing to add some stronger colors - which have not have worked in the least! I told DH that I was not too happy about this quilt but I will finish it. I plan to spice it up a bit by adding a border. He thinks that I will end up liking it (he decided tht he liked it after looking at it for while), but I am unconvinced at the moment.
I have also been doing a lot of hand work. This is the 'La Passacaglia' quilt from "Millefiori Quilts" by Willyne Hammerstein (at this time it it on sale). It is an English Paper Pieced project and both the book as well as a set of acrylic templates and all of the paper pieces that you would need for this project are available from Paper Pieces. There are scads of images bout this intricate quilt on the net. FaceBook has a great, inspirational group and Instagram offers a wealth of photos too.
This is an idea of how two of the rosettes will interact. I have a long way to go! Oddly enough I find that I am enjoying the fussy cutting that seems to go hand in hand with making this pattern. It's quite fun to see the possibilities in even 'boring' fabric designs! I think that, in the long run, I will be happy with this effect, but it has left me longing for  brighter colors!
I chose to use reproduction fabrics for this quilt for several reasons:

1.  I had  these fabrics on hand and did not want to spend more on more fabric.
2.  I was thinking that if I used my normal, more punchy pallette, the quilt, 
     when complete,would be  bit overpowering with nowhere for the eye to rest.
     I am rethinking this a bit now,  but I am loathe to start all over again!
3.  I just could not decide on a focal fabric!
This image of the cover of Willyne Hammerstein's book, ' Millifiore Quilts',
 is from the website of thewonderful Linda Franz' 

My need for more vibrant color?! Enter the wonderful world of Katja Marak's 'The New Hexagon'. Once again Paper Pieces is in the forefront of this new quilt experience. They offer the templates and paper pieces for this fun Quilt Along hosted by Katja. Katja owns a quilt shop in Kamloops, BC. She has a FaceBook Group for the quilt along and each month she releases a new 'rosette' pattern  which is a combination of blocks from the book (the rosette patterns are available, if desired, as a 'block-of-the-month' from Paper Pieces).
The beginning of my first rosette. This then, is my "lack of color" antidote! I am playing as much as I want on this one so, in the end, I will have a muted paper pieced quilt as well as a vibrant one
I have to admit that when I first got this book I thought that it was a bit 'ho-hum'. That was before I saw what amazing, colorful, rosettes were being made. Each month a new rosette is released and each rosette is composed of different combinations of the hexagons in the book - hence you need to have the book in order to play. People are making some amazing things from this. Again, many images can be found on FaceBook and Instagram.

I continue my fascination with monthly embroidered circlets. I use simple embroidery stitches with wool and cotton threads worked on a wool base. This was my very first attempt to add a shisha mirror. They are fun to do !

I have a nagging feeling that I am not accomplishing much despite sewing lot. I think it is partially the usual slump that seems to fall upon me at this tangential part of the year. Not quite Spring but I can feel it coming. As I said the hummingbirds sound as if they are arriving in force and I will be adding several more quart feders within the next couple of days I think!

Share your thoughts!
  • How do you manage this time of year?
  • Do you experience somewhat regular "slump times"? 
  • Do you have barren "art mind" times? What are you stratagies for breaking out of them?

Happy sewing! Happy Creating! Happy Spring!

20 February 2015

Catching Up In Bits and Pieces

I am astounded to see that my last post was written on January 31st. I feel like I am in a space and time continuum. It's as though I am standing still and time moves all around me and yet I remain fixed. Very strange. Very frightening at times! I also seem to be pulling away from social media a bit. The more I see the less I think that I have to contribute.

Anyway. I am keeping up - or ahead- of myself and these small circular wool embroideries. March is actually almost done. I taught myself how to add shisha mirrors, but I found that it was difficult to find real shisha mirrors! These days thin sheets of mylar cut into circles and squares and triangles are labeled 'shisha' but they really don't cut it. Thankfully, I found the 'real deal' at a belly dancing supply store! Phew!
I had been on the hunt for this book by Willyne Hammerstein. It is a bi-lingual book published in France by Quilt Mania and was very difficult to locate here in the States. Thankfully, Paper Pieces has begun to carry it...and they also offer paper pieces in a packet for the quilt that I was interested in making - "La Passacaglia".
The book is beautifully done and richly illustrated. it is a much more lovely book than I had thought it would be. It is presented in both French (on the left) and English (on the right). This delights me since it helps bring back a soupcon of my lost ability to communicate in French. 
 I will be posting more about this project soon. It will be a long term hand project.....
 The diagrams are VERY well done and they are easy to follow. A blessing!
I started this project from Elizabeth Hartman's  great book, "Patchwork City", but I think that it will be left alone for awhile. I just have not come up with the right 'formula' for a combination of fabrics that will not be boring, but that will also play well together and not be blinding to the eye. No background that I have tried seems to work (I tried, white, cream, black, grey, grellow etc). It will take a careful combination to pull this off the way I want it to look and perhaps a coordinated fabric line might be useful...I just have not decided on what to do or how to proceed. In this particular quilt each 'block' is composed of three separate blocks. Each one is sort of 'stand-alone' entity, but they all need to work together. I know what I want I just have to figure out how to get there!

Valentine's Day brought me two orchids to try to raise with love and light. This time I bought a plant light to see if it will help my normally dismal attempts at growing healthy orchids. I love them, but seem to have problems raising them successfully. I am hoping to turn the tables this time with more light and a once a week ice cube watering with diluted orchid food.
I finished my "Organized Chaos" (thanks to Sujata Shah's blog). Without the black inner border - or a black border in general - it was overwhelming busy and bright. The black pulled it all together and calmed the chaos. The red outer border brought my eye outside again and seemed to work. It turned out to be 76" X 88". Next is a simple back (more red I think!)  I am quite happy with the result.
So - that's a quick synopsis of what I have been doing..not all but some. I should take my photos! I hope that I will be organized in my next post and that it will not be as long in between!

  • Do you ever lose track of time too?
  • Does it get away from you?
  • Have you thought of any 'remedy'?!

31 January 2015


An irrestible face - but I can't bring myself to put pins in it!
Never one to resist a cute owl face I just had to make this pincushion pattern! Of course, now that it is made, I cannot bring myslef to stick pins in it! Maybe in the future I will be able to but for now it is just a cute addition to my sewing table.  This pattern is called Edgar Owl and Poe and it is from Heather Bailey. 

The sewing was surprisingly easy and the instructions are very well done.  In the not too distant past I had to write project instructions and I realized how difficult it can be to make them clear. Now I am always considering what I feel are well written instructions and which I think need work. These are great!
I am in love with these fabrics. They are from Fig Tree and the collection is called Somerset. The link goes to one of my more favorite online emporiums - The Fat Quarter Shop. They offer great service, great selection and good pricing with a low limit for free shipping. No affiliation etc etc...

The pincushion below is my new favorite. I had never used a wrist pincushion before, but now that have discovered them they are such an amazing help! WoW! I noticed a somewhat similar pincushioin in a friends shop and asked what she had used for the band. She said a slap-watch. I had never heard of Slap Watches but a quick Google search explained it all to me. Now I want to buy set of slap-watch bands and make some more of these.

As luck would have it I found a few Slap Watches in a local shop at half price. The bands were not the most attractive but I forked out a hefty (now that I know more about them and where to buy them) $15.00 for this band. 
The band is made from soft silicone and fits all sizes. It's very comfortable and just "slaps" around your wrist. I often forget that I have it on.

When I got my new 'treasure' home, I popped out the watch face (I don't even know if it works and it is still sitting inthe bottom of my bag), whipped up a felted ball of luscious wool and then glued it in. Voila - the most perfect pincushion ever! 

The caveat was the glue. Because the band is made of silicone you have to use a silicone glue (available in many iterations at your local hardware store as well) or it will not work...ask my how I know this! I tried hot glue, 'regular' glues in several varieties, but the felted ball kept popping out. Once I got the silicone glue it worked like charm. I want to get more bands and make these as gifts perhaps.

Wrist pincushions just make so much sense and I would never have considered using one had I not looked at the one in my frined's shop.... kismet on a small scale.

25 January 2015

Circlets Of 2015 : January

One blog that I enjoy visiting is Woman With Wings. Her interests seem to align well with mine and I find a lot of inspriation from her thougts. One of the things that she did last year was to create a series of "Moondalas". These embroidered circles intrigued me. I have always been a fan of circles and they seem to have always been a metaphor for my life. I begin a circle/cyle, then seemingly leave it, only to find that the wheel of fortune has once more turned, and I am back where I began many years later - albeit with a different reference point. 

I used to think that this was a bad thing - that one should break away from the circles in one's life. Now, however, I look upon it as a good thing, and an opportunity to revisit things with a (hopefully) more mature, or at least different, mindset. It's like granting myself new eyes. 

I wanted to make my own circles, but where to begin? I loved the concept of honoring the moon, but Woman With Wings had done that already and I did not want to encroach or purloin her concept. The other problem was embroidery. I have done very little of it in my life. Never one to shy away from experimentation, however, I decided to make like Nike and "just do it".

I am using 4.25" squares of wool felt with a 2" diameter circle (also wool) along with a lot of size 8 perle cotton. This thread is larger than I usually like to work with (12wt thread being my favorite), but since it fits the cloth well in this case, I will learn to use it along with thicker and thinner as the mood strikes. This is my opportunity to learn about embroidery and these circles will serve as my own "self-taught" embroidery class.

My intention is to make one circlet for each month (to honor the way I feel about that month). These will be a meditative tool and I will teach myself stitches as I go with no plan in mind as I stitch.

The other day I was watching the news on television. The scene was outdoors and, for some moments, I thought that the image was being transmitted in black and white. It showed grey, gray and more grey. Then I noticed the news person's scarf and realized with a start that it was a live feed in color - it was the world that had gone grey! No wonder I feel the need for vibrance and warmth!

This then, is my January Circlet.  January and February are always my lowest months and I find myself yearning for bright colors and vibrating saturations.  

Do you find yourself at a low ebb at a certain times of the year? When?

How to do you like to learn something new? do you :
   Watch podcasts? 
   Books (that's me)?

Have you ever done a project once every month? What was it and how did it turn out?

some of the books that I am using to learn embrodery are:

"Modern Hand Stitching" by Ruth Chandler
"Creative Stitching" by Sue Spargo

if you want to suggest other books please do!