Thursday, April 28, 2011

Glinda, the Good Witch of the North

This is the quilt top I recently spent time quilting for my friend, (blogless) Lola. It's Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, from "The Wizard of Oz" movie.

It wasn't easy to come up with appropriate quilting designs. I'm a huge fan of feathers, and love to quilt them in my quilts, but feathers just didn't suit the theme of this 33" X 33" wall hanging.

Inspiration came in dribs and drabs.

First, I cross-hatched Glinda's bubble. That was followed by some swirly designs in the dark and medium pink areas. They don't show up at all. 

Next, what to do in the four pink fairy frost triangles? After searching for ideas in my quilting design books, perusing blogs, and reading about Glinda herself, Lola and I came up with a rough concept of "bubbles."

From parchment paper, I cut a shape exactly the size of the fabric triangle. Then I start pencil drawing, not hesitating to use my big eraser! I traced some of the larger circles using my set of 1/8"-thick acrylic nested circles. They're my most often-used templates. I completed the design by drawing a 1" grid that mimicked the 1/2" diagonal grid quilted in Glinda's bubble.

Once the swirls, curves, circles and grid were the the way I liked, I folded the paper and traced the mirror image on the other half of the paper. 

From Golden Threads Quilting Paper, I cut four triangles slightly larger than the area to be quilted. 
I pinned them together with my parchment paper drawing on top. Then at my unthreaded sewing machine, following the pencil design, I quilted through all five layers of paper. At this point, you're just stitching perforations (like hanging chads) that you'll need to see for real quilting with thread! (Though I took a photo, it's impossible to see the perforations.) Quilting without thread is also a good way to practice your design. 

I took one piece of the now-perforated Golden Threads paper and straight-pinned it to one triangle corner of the quilt. 

With beige-colored YLI silk thread in my machine, I began quilting using the perforations as my guide.

The quilted Golden Threads paper looked like this when I was finished.

Then followed the task of removing the paper. This is a job best done with a wastebasket at hand, and expecting to run the vacuum cleaner afterward. Ideally, you have a handy, agreeable husband or child who could take on this fun project. Ever heard about the way Tom Sawyer got his friends to whitewash a fence?! Yes, it's that much fun!

Keep tweezers handy to remove any bits of paper that catch under the quilting threads. 

Once the quilting paper is gone the reveal is almost as good as "move that bus!"


Gorgeous Glinda, surrounded by scroll-y, frothy bubbles!

The outside quilting pattern repeats two elements in the Glinda panel: her own bubble; and the vague shape of Glinda's crown.

This photo, taken with a flash, highlights the glistening fairy frost. I can't wait to see the finished quilt.

Lola isn't just adding binding! She's going for glitz! Glinda will be glammed-up with a sequined and beaded gown, maybe a pearl necklace, and some sparkly stuff in her crown. Those frothy bubbles might get something extra too! Won't it be something?

Even though I'm hugely happy with this quilting effort, figuring out what to quilt will always be a process for me. But I'm determined to persevere, expecting that choosing designs will become easier with frequency. If you're just getting into free motion quilting yourself, here are a few of my thoughts.
  • Choose quilting patterns that suit the theme of the quilt. Look for cues in the "topic" of the quilt, or related to the fabrics themselves.
  • Take time to consider and create your quilting pattern(s) before plunging into the quilting. I didn't mention how much un-quilting I did before I stopped to draw and plan the design. Maybe spontaneity will come with more experience. (Though from the way this post sounds, you'd think this was my first free motion quilting project, and it assuredly isn't!)
  • My fall-back quilting approach is: Quilt curves on linear shapes (piecing). Quilt linear shapes on curves (curved piecing and applique). This is advice I received about 15 years ago, and it has never let me down.
  • If all else fails, quilt an all over design, challenging yourself to do something other than stippling or meandering. Many other pretty options are available.
This is the first time I've quilted with silk thread. At $7 to $8 a spool, I probably won't be doing that often, but I found that silk thread is very forgiving when you need to travel over a previously quilted path. My favorite machine quilting thread is 50-weight Aurifil.

Thanks for attending Glinda's debut! I'm sure we haven't seen the last of her, and next time, she'll be royally attired. Hmm, how appropriate is that on the eve of William and Kate's royal wedding!? Linda

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kansas Again

Last week we spent three days in Kansas, visiting our daughter Jill and family on the occasion of Jill's 35th birthday. Even though it was just April 3 when we last visited, the little boys are changing. Aesa, at 5-1/2 months is longer than his older brother was at that age. He's a brown-eyed cutie with a ready grin and frequent "ghhh" burbles.
Aesa, 5-1/2 months
Big brother Tay, at 19 months is still the talker (he learned "helicopter" while I was visiting) and is so busy. He's always got something important to do, often running to do it. His favorite place to get "sum-sing" is the kitchen utility drawer. (Only safe items are kept there.)
Tay, 19 months
Nephew Evan's pet store is now open for business.
Olathe Pet Shop
16651 West 151st Street (corner of Mur-Len)
Olathe, Kansas 66062

We stopped by to wish him well and make a few purchases for Hogan.

Dan and Tay
My 81 year-old dad enjoyed the chance to see his great-granchildren.

Here, my dad shows 12 year-old Celina the lop-eared rabbits that are for sale.

The proud proprietor, Evan, waits on a customer.

Evan encouraged everyone to look at and touch a snake.

Celina was the only family member who held the snake, and her face is a good indication of her reaction to that!

Tay was enchanted by the fish.

But he was more enamored with the rabbits, giggling aloud while looking at them.

After purchasing treats for Hogan we thought we'd encourage the growing familiarity and friendship that's developing between Hogan and Tay. You may remember that last August, we had problems with the two of them together. We are all very heartened to see this relationship.

Hogan seems pretty comfortable in his home away-from-home.
Celina and Hogan
Here's our birthday girl.
Jill's 35th birthday
A moment of father-son recognition and bonding.
Maher and Aesa
Our visit wasn't all play. Dan helped replace screens that had been damaged and torn in their April 3 hailstorm, and helped assemble a piece of exercise equipment. This is what I did. Oh my, but didn't I feel like I had an important job!

It's always difficult to say good-bye and return home, but it's nice that we get to visit often. That three-and-a-half hour stretch of interstate (very short, when compared to the 25-30 hour trip to visit them when they lived in Australia!) is productive passenger time! I've always got another hand embroidering block to stitch for the  "Snowmen A to Zzz" project. This trip allowed me to stitch "Icicles." "J" for "Jingle Bells" is already prepped for the next trip.

Easter Sunday morning Dan and I were up very early. Since I sing in one of the church choirs, we were asked to be at church by 5:40 AM to rehearse before the 6:21 AM sunrise service! The rest of Easter Sunday was quietly spent with sewing, and the weekend wrap-up of watching favorite BBC programs on public television: "Lark Rise to Candleford;" "Upstairs, Downstairs;" and "MI5."

I hope you had a blessed Easter. Alleluia! He is risen!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Finished with Unfinishing

I'd hope to share a picture of my Supernova quilt, pinned to my umbrella clothesline... gently waving in the wind. Ha! Iowa hasn't yet heard that spring is supposed to be here. We've had endless days of dreariness, strong winds, rain, cold (36F/2C this morning) and no sunshine. It's downright depressing.

Dare I be honest and tell you how many times I re-made blocks for the Supernova quilt? No. You don't want to know that a quilter with 35 years of experience re-made blocks that many times! The latest iteration is the last. I swear it.

I completely removed a dark green block that didn't suit and made a yellow block (upper right) to replace it. Then, I changed fabrics on two blocks, completely removing brown prints. Even now, as I study this, I don't like the green center block that makes my eye stop with its abrupt change from dark green outer patches to different colors in adjacent blocks.
62" X 62" Supernova quilt top
The rejected dark green block has been sewn into the backing.
Supernova backing
This backing fabric was 25 percent off at my LQS. That isn't much of a discount when I can remember $6 to $7 a yard quilting cotton that could be bought half price. I heard recently that cotton prices are stabilizing and I hope that's true.

Though the Supernova quilt is ready to sandwich and pin-baste, I can't baste it just yet. Believe it or not, almost all my safety pins are in this 80" X 80" "Snowflake Medallion" quilt.... and they've been in the quilt since last June! How sad is that?
Pretty darned sad, I'd say. It's not that I don't want to quilt it. It's that I don't know what to quilt! It's my same old problem. And I've surely set myself up for failure too because I want the quilting in this one to be knock-your-socks-off awesome. Though I've been looking for, studying, and drawing quilting designs seen on blogs, I'm just not confident in my ability to choose the "right design." There must be a trick to it. Advice eagerly accepted, please!

I find it much easier to sew and piece. Even resewing 120 HST for the "Roll Roll Cotton Boll" quilt wasn't too bad. How nice to have the blocks sewn together now. 
"Roll Roll Cotton Boll" 11" X 11" unfinished block
These 30 blocks are ready to be joined to string-pieced blocks to make the quilt center. Yay!
30 "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll" blocks
I've made a little quilting progress on "Glinda." Oh how I adore those ruby slippers. I found an interesting picture of the real ones here.

Now, what shall I quilt in the next triangular shaped sections? Lola (whose "Glinda" quilt it is) and I are thinking yellow brick road, kinda like this. One of Glinda the Good Witch's lines in the Wizard of Oz movie is, "Just follow the yellow brick road." Maybe bricks quilted with yellow silk thread? 

"Inspiration. Do come for a nice long visit," says Linda.

Have a blessed Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

This, That, the Other, and the Other

My hands have been in a mish-mash of sewing projects past week. It seems that every time I open a bin looking for an item needed for the project I have my hands on, I see another project that needs attention. UFO overload! I feel terribly guilty.

So what do I do? I work on something for someone else. Makes complete sense. Especially when the someone else is a dear friend, (blogless) Linda to whom I gifted for her birthday free motion quilting on this 36" X 36" wall hanging of "Glinda" the good witch from The Wizard of Oz. I'd given Linda (So many "Lindas," I know! When more than two Lindas are together, she's "Lola.") the Glinda panel, and the ruby slippers fabric too. Lola sewed them up with pink Fairy Frost to make this cute thing. The rest of the "magic" is up to me!

Wanting to try curved cross-hatching, as Quilter Extraordinaire Wendy of Ivory Spring blogged about here, I ordered the curved ruler to give it a try on Lola's quilt. I like how the ruler works; it just didn't work for this quilt. I purchased the small, 6-1/2"-long ruler, but for the curve size I needed, I should have had the larger, 10" curve. 

So instead, I straight-line cross-hatched Glinda's bubble. For the first time, and also following Quilter Extraordinaire Wendy's example, I stitched with silk thread on top (awesome stuff!) and Bottom Line in the bobbin. Very nice. I'll be doing that again for sure.
Lola's given her approval, thus far. Next, I must come up with a design for the triangles areas, the ones with the ruby slippers print. Then, those pink Fairy Frost triangles will be filled with cyclonic-like swirls surrounded with more feathery-type swirls. Maybe you can tell that I struggle much more with what to quilt, rather than the mechanics of domestic machine quilting. If you ask me to pick the right design for the space, we're in trouble! But gosh, just tell me the design you want and I'll come through for you.

Another ongoing project is RRCB - "Roll, Roll Cotton Boll" - the quilt along that Bonnie Hunter offered in December. I thought I was making good progress until I started sewing the strips of five HST to the block centers. They didn't fit; they didn't even come close! Turns out that because I'd sewn the HST strips on one sewing machine, and the block centers on another sewing machine, the quarter-inch seams were not the same. Argh.

Not that I'm counting or anything, but those 120 strips of HSTs each have four seams that have to be resewn.

I'm resewing each seam, stitching deeper than the first time, and removing the stitching that's nearest the raw edge. For this tedious stuff I'm putting in IPod ear buds and listening to a book - "The Secret," by Beverly Lewis.

During the last car trip to Kansas City, I stitched most of this block. I forgot to take along floss for the border, so this is a recent finish in my on-going "Snowmen A to Zzzz" embroidery project. The letter "I" is prepped for the next time we hit the road.

My Florida trip in March was the last time I hand-pieced. Since I'd sewed up all the patches I traveled with, I needed to cut more. This time, I added 150-grit sandpaper to the back of the acrylic cutting template (see the red pieces), and that greatly improved my ability to rotary cut without template slippage. I bought the package of 4-1/2" square, adhesive-backed sandpaper from the local home improvement store and used scissors to cut small shapes.

While in Florida, I hand-pieced 36 "Starfish" blocks and have enough of the colorful print for only 9 more blocks. I'm hoping that with the connector fabric between each starfish, I'll end up with a decent-sized quilt. I have no clue how to go about calculating those dimensions!

I'd planned to use the white tone-on-tone print (see lower left) as the connector, but at commentors' suggestions, I'm auditioning solids. From the bottom to the top they are Kona: caramel, palm, charcoal, ash, and snow. With 219 Kaufman Kona solid colors to choose from, with names like: ocean, Carribbean blue, Pacific, lagoon, clouds, champagne, and sand - they all fit with starfish - I don't know how I'll ever decide!

There's one last makeover to address. A kind-hearted quilter pointed out that this block really doesn't fit my Supernova quilt layout. She's right.

So, the green will be out and yellow/turquoise will be in. 

Thursday night the Batting Buds (Not baseball related, but like quilt batting. It's what's on the inside that's the most important part of buddies.) got together. We had a great evening, though they might complain about the "torture" I put them through, teaching them to hand-piece apple core blocks.

Linda (yet another blogless Linda with the nickname "Bug") showed us this "New Life" quilt she made with scraps.

Every print seems to go with the others, though Bug included a full color range of scraps in the 4" X 4" (finished) blocks. Her choice of beige sashing and burgundy cornerstones really pulls it together.

She longarmed it and will add binding next. Bug plans to take this quilt with her, to give away when she goes on a Lutheran Church of Hope mission trip to South Africa in June. Good on you, Bug!

Thanks for sticking around to read through lotsa this, that, the other, and the other. I should stay busy for a while. Linda (the Linda with no nickname!)


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