Monday, January 15, 2018

Gentle Winter Mornings

I'm already reading it online - people yearning for the arrival of spring. It seems each year as soon as Christmas and New Years have passed there is a general feeling that winter should be over. I find I enjoy the fragile wintertime mornings when the sun shines with a gentleness not found during the other seasons of the year.

Quiet tablescape

In my sewing loft I have been quilting away on the green & blue Faith Circle log cabin quilt - and making good progress, too! Every time I get to the point of actually quilting something I remember how much fun it is to free motion quilt, but it's also quite a workout for the arms and shoulders. To take a break from the quilting I wanted to do a little sewing, but didn't want to begin something new and add to the already robust collection of unfinished projects. I went through my various stacks and bags and came across this small mat I had begun using fabric from a mini charm pack I'd received as part of a swap.

Basting the small mat onto a batting scrap

When I first received the mini charm pack I had no quick ideas of what to do with it, so it sat on my shelf for quite a while. Then, while online one day I came across a photograph (which I can't locate now!) showing a layout similar to this where the fabric colors flow from one to another giving the illusion of merging squares. The mini charms would be perfect since there were a good variety of colors and shades within the package. Then it sat unfinished for just over 2-1/2 years. Last night I pinned the mat top onto a batting scrap and basted around it. Then the extra batting was trimmed away.

Mat pinned face down onto backing fabric

Next this was pinned, face down, onto a fat quarter that was to be the backing. I stitched around the shape again using a quarter inch seam. I left a three inch opening to feed through so it could be turned right-side out.

Small opening to turn piece right-side out

I carefully clipped all of the points and corners and used a pointy stick to get them all turned nicely. Them I ironed both the front and back so it would flatten out nicely. Finally, I top stitched all the way around to secure the top and bottom layers, and close up the opening.

Completed table mat

The soft, gentle colors in this mat remind me of the fragile winter sun in the early morning. Quiet, peaceful, contemplative. Let's not rush headlong into spring and miss this opportunity to enjoy this special time of year.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Formulating a Quilting Plan

In my last post I made reference to joining in with Aby Quilts to complete an unfinished quilt each quarter. I'm actually hoping to complete three this first quarter - all of them for the Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches. Last year, with moving to our new home, I was able to coordinate the planning of these quilts from my circle, but not able to pull off getting them completed. Now that the new year is upon us I will be coordinating two quilts in 2018, so I need to get myself in gear and finish the 2017 quilts.

First up is the green and blue improv log cabin quilt. I am thrilled with how saturated the colors are in this quilt top. Yesterday I got it pin basted using a nice open space on the basement floor. It just took a little over an hour to baste this 48" square quilt. The challenge was to keep our dog from walking back and forth on it while I was working. At one point she even decided to lay down on it. Maybe that means it's snuggle worthy?

Sandwiching the quilt
All smoothed out and ready to pin baste

As it was spread out on the floor I mulled over how I'd like to quilt it. Options considered include:
  • Edge to edge straight line quilting using painters tape as a guide
  • Grid quilting using painters tape as a guide
  • All over meander/stipple and possibly include loops
  • Flame/wood grain quilting the individual squares
It's been a while since I've done any free-motion quilting so I think it's time to give it some practice again. As I've written about before, I have a pretty small Janome domestic sewing machine. It can be a challenge to use it for quilting; however, for the most part I've been pretty happy with what I've been able to do with this machine. I decided to try the flame/wood grain design in each individual square. This saves me from having to feed large sections of the quilt through my machine as I will only be working on one square at a time. I'll start by stitching-in-the-ditch along the seams where the blocks are joined. This will stabilize the quilt sandwich, and allow me to stitch along this same line as I work back and forth in the wood grain design. 

Planning out the quilting design
Searching for quilting options in my reference books

I have a couple of great books I've written about before that are so helpful with learning about developing the skills needed with free-motion quilting. I pulled them out along with an old composition book (left over from my son's schooling days!) and practiced sketching out the design.

Practicing my quilting design
Sketching out the wood grain design

I'm thinking I will alternate the direction of the wood grain stitching from block to block. I also plan to use up various shades of blue and green thread I was gifted from a friend whose mother used to quilt. Here's to a good plan, now wish me luck as I get started! 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Scrap Busting

At the start of Christmas break off school I decided I wanted to do a little bit of "just because" sewing using my scraps (no surprise there!) I like to make sure my scraps don't exceed their storage space and several of the colors are getting pretty overstuffed. Here's a picture of how I store my scraps:

Scrap storage
Over-the-door shoe organizer/scrap storage

I've used this shoe organizer for several years now. It's been a great way for me to corral scraps without taking up floor or shelf space in my small sewing area. Granted this storage method would not work for someone who does a high volume of sewing.

I pulled out Christmas fabrics left over from previous projects with the intention of making placemats. It's been on my mind to make another set of scrappy plus placemats similar to this set I made a few years ago. Over the course of my time off school I was able to get the tops sewn for a set of four mats. It's fun to mingle the various fabrics together!

Plus block placemat tops
Plus block tops for placemats

Now I'm going to decide if I want to leave them as rectangles or trim them into a wedge shape. As you can see we have an oval table which makes standard shaped placemats a little less than desirable. Several years ago I purchased a set of wedge mats specifically made for round tables from Improvements Catalog. I love the shape, however, they are just a bit smaller than I'd prefer. See how nicely they fit a round/oval table:

Wedge mats from Improvements Catalog

I've got time before next Christmas to make my decision. In the meantime I've decided to join in with Aby of Aby Quilts and try to complete one unfinished project each quarter this year. First up are the three charity quilts for Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches. The tops are complete and ready to be sandwiched and quilted. I'm excited to get started!

How about you? Do you have any unfinished projects ready to queue up? Why don't you join us!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year of the Quiet Craft Room

Reflection is something I do more in my head than on paper (or in this case on a screen), and yet I always enjoy going back and reading them, so here goes:  2017 has been a year like no other for my family as it seems the whole of it was consumed with moving. I wonder to myself how people can move all the time and make it look so easy. For us it has been an all consuming occurrence. As such, it was an unusually uncrafty year for me as I completed just five projects the whole year:

The Mostly Harmless crochet shawl by Kaylie Dawn on Ravelry is my most recent finish. I made this from three skeins of Lion Brand Amazing yarn in the Wild Flowers colorway. I have to say I am a self-confessed variegated yarn addict 😀 If I was forced to choose just one crafty outlet it would have to be crochet - it's my native crafting language.

Mostly Harmless Crochet Shawl
Mostly Harmless crochet shawl

Next up is the Simple Little Pouch designed by Anita of Bloomin' Workshop. Anita posted this tutorial last year and I knew right away I wanted to make one. The opportunity presented itself when I was putting together a Christmas gift for my future daughter-in-law. She likes to knit and I just knew this fun pouch would be perfect to corral knitting needles.

Simple Little Pouch by Bloomin' Workshop
Simple Little Pouch

Over the summer, to take a break from unpacking, I was able to stitch up a fun little Patchwork Pineapple pillow to gift as a birthday present for my bestie, M. I always enjoy making things for her because she is just about one of the sweetest, most giving people I know. M is blessed with the gift of hospitality so a pineapple is just perfect for her. This tutorial comes from Sassafras Lane Designs. I enjoy little projects like this because they let me indulge in my love of scraps :o) I did my favorite grid quilting on this using painters tape as my guide.

Patchwork Pineapple Pillow for a friend
Patchwork Pineapple pillow

Early in the spring I made this sweet tall ships baby quilt for my great nephew. The inspiration for this quilt came from a picture of a quilt called The Fleet Is In from an old quilt book. The image of the tall ship with waves underneath served as inspiration, but I used my usual half-square triangle technique instead of the construction method featured in the book. I just love how this turned out with the watery fabric in the background.

Tall Ships baby quilt

The first finish of the year does not belong to just me, but instead to the Faith Circle of do. Good Stitches. I was the assigned pattern selector/quilter for this beautiful Quilt of Valor that was gifted in March to a deserving veteran of our armed forces. You can read all about this quilt here.

Quilt of Valor - October 2016 Faith Circle Quilt
Quilt of Valor

Perhaps my greatest finish of the year was getting our family settled in our new home. We are absolutely loving it! Sometimes it still seems surreal that we are actually moved in after so many years of dreaming, saving, planning, and building.

Our snowy home on the mountain
Cabin on the mountain

Welcome in from the snow

Christmas Greetings
A snowy Christmas greeting

The home we left was this sweet little split-foyer. This was our home for the last 29+ years of our lives and it was the location of many milestones for our family. Little house - you served us well.

Farewell to our little home

Won't it be fun to see where 2018 takes us? We won't have to wait long to find out! Happy New Year friends!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Vol. 16 Road Rally Tour

Welcome friends! You have arrived in an area known as the Ridge and Valley Region of the East Coast just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I feel like I already know so many of you as you've stopped by to visit Shadows of the Blue Ridge during previous 100 Block's Tours and Rallies. It's a joy to welcome new visitors, as well! I'm so glad you are here.

November in the mountains makes me happy...because it's a beautiful time of year with the changing of the leaves...because yummy pumpkin flavors can be found everywhere...because Thanksgiving arrives with all it's fabulous decadence. Well, yes, but it also brings with it the fall issue of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, and this year Vol. 16 really takes the pie...I mean cake! 😆

I'm happy to introduce my newest block, Puzzled Geese. As you can see it has plenty of geese in it :o) Puzzled Geese is a compilation of elements from a couple of antique blocks: Dutchman's Puzzle, and Wild Goose Chase. Mashing them together lead to my design. Construction tip: when I have this many flying geese to make I usually use the Fast Flying Geese method shown on the Techniques pages in each issue of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks.

Puzzled Geese quilt block

When I design blocks my method is to put myself into the shoes of quilters who lived maybe 100-200 years before me. I try to imagine them pulling out their precious scraps and combining them to invent layouts that document special events in their lives. My block, Puzzled Geese, is a tribute to my sweet mom. One of the things I fondly remember about my mom is that every fall, when the Canadian Geese were migrating, she would happily go outside to watch the V-formation fly overhead. We would listen to the encouraging honks and watch the geese fly through the gray November skies until they were out of sight. Puzzled Geese documents this cherished memory.

Puzzled Geese top assembled with sashing and cornerstones

To create my quilt top mock-up I inserted a picture of my block into Google Drawings and then used copy/paste to create the look of a completed top. It's a pretty easy way to get an idea of what a quilt will look like if you don't have access to design software. As I was moving the pictures around I decided that Puzzled Geese would look great with sashing and cornerstones. To accomplish this I simply used the drawing shapes to add the large black square, and the smaller gray cornerstones. Using the "order" command allows them to be layered over and under my pictures.

Another option is to make a table topper by using just four blocks. If the color placement is changed up it creates a friendship star in the center.

Puzzled Geese table topper

Now it's time for a couple of giveaways! The editors of Quiltmaker's are generously giving one of my blog readers a free issue of 100 Blocks, Volume 16. Don't you love how they've varied the sizes of the block images on the cover? It reminds me of a modern sampler quilt.

Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks, Vol. 16

In addition to the magazine drawing, I'm going to give away this little fall-inspired scrap bundle. It's made up from scraps pulled from my stash (various sizes).

Scrap bundle

For a chance to win either the magazine, or the scrap bundle, leave a comment telling me about something that provided the inspiration for a quilt (or some other project) that you've made. I'll draw two random winners on Sunday morning, Nov. 18. Note: If you suspect you may be a "no reply" blogger please make sure to include your email address in your comment.

Well friends, thanks so much for stopping by and letting me tell you all about Puzzled Geese.  I'd love to see you back here again. If you'd like regular updates from Shadows of the Blue Ridge consider signing up for an email subscription (top right of your screen), or you can follow me on Bloglovin'. You can also find me on Instagram

I hope you soak in a lot of inspiration as you motor on through the blogs on the Road Rally tour. You can read about the tour and find links to the featured blogs on Quiltmaker's blog, Quilty Pleasures

PS. Honk if you like Puzzled Geese 😁

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fruits of a Productive Day

This past weekend my local quilt group met for a sew-in day. Wow! It's it's not often I have such a productive day. I knew this would be a great opportunity to join together blocks for the Faith Circle (do. Good Stitches) quilts I sponsored this year. I had set the blocks aside during our moving/unpacking journey, but now is the time to get these three quilt tops finished.

First I assembled tops from improve log cabin blocks. I asked the ladies to contribute blue/green blocks for a boy quilt and pink/orange blocks for a girl quilt. They did such a great job making the blocks fun and bright.

Improve log cabin blocks for boy quilt

I had enough blocks to make a 36" x 48" top for a boy quilt. I may add borders to the sides of this one to make it just a bit wider.

Pink/orange improve log cabin blocks for girl quilt

There were more of the pink/orange blocks, so this top measures out at 48" square. This will be a nice size for a young girl.

Finally, I joined the Scrappy Pine Forest blocks. I have to admit this is probably one of my favorite quilt tops. It turned out exactly as I was hoping, cozy and peaceful :o)

Scrappy Pine Forest quilt top

How fun to have a quilt holder to help with this picture! My son and future daughter-in-law just happened to arrive while I was taking pictures and she asked if I needed some help. How wonderful she is ;o)

These three tops will be quilted up and then set aside to go to a Royal Family Kids Camp this coming summer. These camps are for children in the foster care system who often have little to no things of their very own. My local quilt group has committed to donating 40 quilts to be distributed to the children. I think it's a blessing that both my online quilt group (Faith Circle) and my local quilt group (Winchester Modern Quilters) are combined into this effort.

Now to keep the momentum going and get them sandwiched and quilted. Wish me luck!

As a side note: I'm trying to identify good photo locations in our new home. Log homes are interesting because all of the wood makes the lighting have golden undertones. These are my first efforts at photographing quilts indoors. I'll keep working with lighting and camera settings to see how to best take indoor pictures.

Wishing you a happy, warm, and productive weekend!