Tuesday, March 30, 2021

A Low-Volume Hand-Quilted Finish!


A bundle of low-volume Japanese imports are the basis for this quilt, with a couple of additional fabrics from my stash.  It is backed with an Art Gallery fabric (so soft and slidey), batted with wool, and hand-quilted with Nol. 8 Perle Cotton.  

 I started quilting this February 19 and just finished it March 29.  It takes 6 - 8 weeks to quilt something like this.  It is 70" x 80".  

As I started quilting with an off-center spiral and did a couple of rounds, I decided to throw quilter's caution to the wind and just quilt this willy-nilly, changing directions whenever I wanted.  I like this sort of random quilting.

Occasionally I used a strand of a dark grey - for no particular reason.  

Without measuring, my rows are about 1" apart.  I have had to mark quilt lines, like for a Baptist Fan.  But this quilting just is.  

My guild has had an on-line discussion about wool batting.  And it is my favorite, especially for hand quilting.  The picture below is after washing and drying the quilt normally - no special soaps or temperatures.  I love how the texture has deepened, and the one-inch spacing between my rows become little pockets of puffiness.  

I used to make quilts and figure out the quilting when I was finished.  This new phase of my quilting means creating quilts and knowing exactly how I want to hand-quilt them.  Quite a change for me!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Sewing but not blogging? What's up with that?

For the past year I've been part of a small little bee within my guild.  I've always heard of bees but have never been a part of one.  There are only 9 of us, led by Bill Keller.  Every 6 weeks one of us becomes the bee queen and directs others what to do.  Look at the #chimodbee for some examples of what we've done.  When it was my turn, I asked my bee mates for tuning forks that were either 5.5" wide or 10.5".  The length didn't matter.  And I asked for dark forks against a low-volume background.  As these began to arrive, I slapped them up on the design wall.  I love these forks, even the bright green one and the one with a dotted pink background.  And then I took a tip from "Macbeth" and was bloody, bold, and resolute as I began to attach them to one another.  I am thrilled with the final product and am eager to hand quilt it.  I'm almost ready for it.


While I was dithering away at the design wall I did have a couple of Sew Powerful purses going.  The stack of fabric for future purses is getting bigger and bigger.  I'm learning that this little purse need a big impact fabric on the front, and I love these dots.  Wait until you see the additional fabrics I have!  In fact, look at this pile of fabrics below:

Years ago Mary Radnor came to the Chicago Modern Quilt Guild meetings.  She was a librarian working at the University of Chicago and living in Hyde Park.  We got together a few times and forged a nice friendship, despite the difference in our ages.  Mary was from Kansas and decided to move back to her home town.  A few years later John and I were doing our "presidential library tour" (Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower), and Mary drove from Hayes, KS to Abilene and met us for lunch.  So much fun to see her!

 Since that lunch, Mary has gotten married and is deciding she's done with quilting (she's a fabulous knitter).  That pile of fabrics above?  That's what she sent me.  Most are at least 2 yards! Sew Powerful purse makers know that the girls especially love oranges and purples ad brights.  These fabrics are perfect for purse making.  Knowing that Mary spent a small fortune shipping these fabrics and being appreciative of the quality and quantity, I asked her which fabrics were the hardest to let go of.  And she pointed out the ones with the bright pinks.  

These bags went into the mail this morning.  I think they are kind of perfect for knitted things.  

Friday, February 26, 2021

QuiltCon 2021 - Together, Virtual - and What I'm Learning


QuiltCon Together, 2021, wasn't awful and it wasn't fabulous.  While the social component was missing, the content was awfully good.  And it's an absolute luxury to listen to a lecture/workshop at your own time and own pace while doing something purposeful with your hands!

It was a lot of screen time, and most of it was so well done.  This picture oh Heidi Parkes hows how most of the presentations were done - little dot on the screen with the presenter and big screen for demos and handouts.  

For QuiltCon 2020, which I had to miss (broken wrist), I signed up for the Bojagi workshop.  Sarah Evans went in my stead.  And she showed me what she learned.  But...  So I signed up again for Daisy Aschehaug's Bojagi-style workshop.  Simply, Bojagi is a Korean method of joining 2 fabrics with the seam totally encased.  (note:  this is also referred to a flat felled seam - think seams on blue jeans). Daisy uses this method to make linen napkins and disht towels and for on-the-go sewing.  Above is my sample using some leftover shot cottons.  The lower left shows my attempt at following this method. It relies on whip stitching and some serious folding and clipping.  As I made my way though this first piece, I realized something I already knew:  I do not like whip stitching.  I like running stitches.  So I tried a few pieces using running stitches.  Daisy's stitches are almost invisible.  But I like being able to see big stitches.  And in the interest of getting a sample piece to a point where I could put it away, I tried using the machine.  Again, highly visible stitches.  Daisy also taught us how to do a curved piece.  I think  will use whatever leftover bits I have to continue making this sample piece.  So, here's my takeaway.  Bojagi isn't necessarily for me.  I may use this method if I decide to do a light-weight single layered quilt using peppered shot cottons or OakShot cottons, something with a bit of heft.  I'm glad to have this technique in my repertoire.

As I started listening to my other workshop - Improv Instructional Quilt:  Exploring Art Concepts by Heidi Parkes, I quickly realized this wasn't the quilt I wanted to start or even work on.  But I was happy to listen while working on the above.  Heidi mentioned representation in connection to fabric.  And the lightbulb went on:  I've been saving a bag of bits of fabric that I have loved and I have been wanting to use them in a pattern by Yoshiko Jinzenji, Abstract Pathways.  So while listening to Heidi talk about line and texture and unity and balance, I worked my way through the above.  Unity?  Yes, I have had this project in mind since my first QuiltCon!  There's a lot of negative space which will be perfect for hand-quilting, something I learned in my first QuiltCon workshop with Maura Ambrose, @FolkFibers.  

Here's the big thing I am learning:  modern quilting offers such a variety of techniques and aesthetics.  As I slowly find my own way, I know I don't have to do it all.  I don't have to struggle with things I don't find pleasant, like whip-stitching.  I need to keep looking for new things and then adapt them for my hands and my eyes.  This is a nice stage at which to be!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Falling In and Out and In Love again with Projects


Last spring, when I was recovering from my shattered wrist and accompanying surgeries, I started a simple project using foundation piecing and selvages.  I couldn't be very precise because of limited ability, but I was very happy doing these.  And then I put these 30 blocks away.  I unearthed them and have been deciding what to do with them.  Because they are already Foundation pieced, I wondered if I could just add a backing and not do batting.  And while that's possible, it just doesn't feel right.  

I've been doing a lot of quilting lately and have been using a roll of wool batting.  Suddenly I'm aware of how much leftover batting bits I have.  And how much leftover muslin bits are laying around.  And that I only have one hand-quilting project lined up once I finish my current one.  So...

I pieced together muslin scraps to make 12" squares

"Frankenbatted" my leftover wool batting bits with a simple zig zag 

and basted the three layers together with a zig zag stitch.

Now all 30 blocks are back on the shelf and will need some simple hand-quilting before the blocks are attached to one another, in a quilt-as-you-go fashion,  (see index for reversible quilting).   As I was laying out these blocks, I was struck by how much I like this project.  I mean, really like this project!  I will happily return to it in warmer weather.  

2021 Sew Powerful Purses


Here are my first seven purses for Sew Powerful's 2021 goal.  A guild mate gave me a terrific but odd piece of Marimekko fabric, perfect for straps (each one is 4" x 55" - that's a lot of fabric) and the purse back and fronts.  I have had a couple of odd fabrics that haven't played with anything else in my stash - maybe because I bought them in Kenya - but they love this Marimekko print.  I think these are gorgeous.

My purse rhythm is changing.  Last year I devoted 2 months to doing a purse a day, the last one being December.  So I started off 2021 by mailing in 31 purses in early January.  But these purses above?  Although I did seven of them in 7 days, I only worked at the beginning of the day, getting each one to a certain point.  And then I worked on my other projects.  I kind of like this - sewing for SewPowerful at the beginning of the day and then switching over to my own project.  

So I think I'll do more batch sewing but perhaps not for an entire month.  We'll see...but I must quickly say I am more devoted to Sew Powerful than ever.  What a purposeful way to use my sewing skills.  

Friday, February 5, 2021


I thought February might be a purse a day month, but it’s not - the end of the month will be QuiltCon 2021 - virtually.  But still - QUILTCON!  I have signed up for two classes and a ton of lectures.  Meanwhile I do have 7 purses in process.  Guild mate Ellen gave me a 60” square of an odd ombré-ish fabric which pairs so nicely with two other odd bits I’ve  had in my stash.  There are 7 straps (4” x 60” x 7 straps), 7 purse front, back, and pocket linings. Below you’ll see the flaps for each one of these.  Last night I found 7 lining fabrics and pockets.  So today I can start assembling the purses.

The baby quilt for my doctor is pictured below.  It’s assembled, but now needs batting and backing.  My new rhythm is to work on the set outse goal for the day before going on to my own projects.  So far this is working!

And it’s really cold out. Perfect quilting weather. 


Friday, January 29, 2021

Quilting. Literally...


While I’m working on current projects, I’m always scheming future ones. These fabrics are a Japanese linen - I’m not sure how they will quilt and wash.  Their feel is so much different from the meaty softness of peppered shot cottons.   But the colors...I love them.

During 2019 I participated in a one block a week sew-a-long with the Canadian Quilters Association - #52blocks52weeks.  The weekly instructions were all in greyscale, which suited my scrap stash perfectly.  At the beginning of 2020, with a couple of extra blocks, I put what I had into a layout with generous sashing to make a napping quilt - 60” x 80”.  The quilting is simple, it’s batted with wool, and the backing is a wonderful soft muslin.  I like how it turned out.  And I may have a buyer. 

The other quilt I just finished quilting is from a charm pack of Zen Chic’s new line Quotation.  I love the other fabric lines she has, and playing with a charm pack lets me see all the fabrics without a huge financial investment.  This pattern was a fun one to do: cut each charm in half, mix up the halves, and insert a one-inch strip.  I think I will add some more border quilting based on what I’m seeing.  

While quilting at my Brother 1500 straight-stitch machine (which I lovingly refer to as my fake Juki), I worked at my Husqvarna on a paper-piecing project for Laura, one of my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild bee mates. I’m not crazy about paper-piecing, but you just cannot get more precise than with paper-piecing.  Speaking of bee projects, here’s a tentative layout of my tuning forks quilt - still missing blocks from a couple of mates...

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Some Political Peace

 I know our nation is not yet out of the woods. The contrast of the capitol attack on January 6 with the normalcy of the January 20 Inauguration of Biden and Harris is stark.  The majesty of all the events on Inauguration Day gives me great hope and some political peace.  The last four years with Trump at our nation’s helm - and those Republicans who enabled him - have been a shit storm.  Disregard for convention has been rampant.  But the three days of the Biden presidency point to a return to political sanity.  So still I sew, but with a deep sense of optimism.  

This quilt has been batted with wool and is incredibly soft.  It’s 60” x 80”.  

And of course more masks.  Still.

Combined with my sense of a growing political peace, my heart is rejoicing for two new lives coming into this world.  And for the baby quilts I’ll be making.  This one is an exclamation point quilt - Get Happy! - for my doctor’s second baby.  

The days are getting longer.  The sun shines more.  It’s still cold, and there are winter storms still to come. But in the paraphrased words of Keats, can Spring be far behind? 


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Hand-Quilting Tools: What Works For Me


This quilt has been my nightly companion since December 11.  I think in another two weeks it will be finished.  I am loving the texture.  I am loving the sound of the thread being pulled through the three layers.  It's only been the past 6 years that I've been hand-quilting, and now it seems my day is missing something if I don't hand-quilt for a bit.  Let me share with you what I have found works for me.  I am left-handed and do things differently from others.  

My thread of choice is No 8 Perle Cotton.  JoAnn's is not a bad place to get the basic colors.  And you have to be careful because sometimes the No 8's and No 5's get mixed up.  No 5 is, in my humber opinion, just too thick to pull through the three layers.  These are usually $2.99 a ball.

There are fabulous colors of No 8 available, but going on-line has worked best for me.  See that cone of variegated red?  Evans brought that back from QuiltCon for me, and I do love it.  It specifically says Sashiko on it.  The way I learned to quilt was with beige Sashiko thread - think thin butcher's twine.  It's perfect for a primitive look, but it doesn't come in colors.

On to needles.  And Jen BB gave me the best tip:  No 5 Milliner's needles.  They are longish so that you can load 4 or 5 stitches on them.  The eye is just the right size for threading - I've become of master of this, with a lot of patience.  But they are hard to find.  Ordering from Amazon works best.  The packets at Joann's contain sizes from 3 (too large) to 9 (too small).  4, 5, and 6 are all compatible with my hands and skill set.  

On to finger protection.  By trial and error, I have learned that I need to keep something strong on my thumb for pushing and something grippy on my index finger for pulling.  Since my thumb both pushes and pulls, the protection has to be firm but also pliable.  My protection of choice are the black leather cap thimbles (Joann's) used in conjunction with the pink finger grips.  I keep one grip on my index finger and layer a pink grip and a black thimble on my thumb.  It is what works for me.  
Depending on the thickness and the layers, I may also add some little stick-em dots.  For the hand that is under the quilt helping with the tension, I wear nothing.  I have however developed a callous on my middle finger, the one that feels whether the needle has gone through all the layers.

Last but not least, bandaids.  Sometimes for gripping. Sometimes for stopping bleeds.  All I'm saying is keep them handy!  Next time?  maybe we'll talk about the actual process!

Happily Plugging Away

I love jelly rolls.  They are a reasonable way to place with a fabric collection, like this one - “quotation” by Zen Chic.  These colors are not one I gravitate towards, but I really like how this quilt turned out. It’s 60” x 80” and will be looking for its owner once it’s quilted.  And this will not be hand-quilted because the whites are all sort of heavy,  ot the kind of fabric I want to needle.  So I’ll baste this and put it in the “needs to be quilted”

I’m part of a little bee group in my Chicago Modern Quilt Guild, and December was my turn to be Queen Bee.  I asked my bee mates to make tuning fork blocks for my “Piano Tuner’s Daughter” quilt.  And these are finally starting to come in - these blocks are from 3 of us.  I asked for blocks that are 5.5”or 10.5” wide.  And that clever little Laura Hartrich also sent some that are 2.5” wide.  I love these and think the layout will be more interesting with this third size added.  To be continued as more blocks arrive.

And I’m still making masks.  

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Starting 2021 with a Big List of Unfinished Projects

I have a love affair with peppered shot cottons going on.  These are the leftovers from Cristina's quilt.  I couldn't bear to cut them up, so here's this terrific 80" x 80" quilt which I am hand-quilting. It will go to Ann Arbor and my niece Jen.  She went to Fordham and danced professionally in NYC for several years.  Now she is raising her children in a beautifully inclusive way.  This quilt will be perfect for their house.  And I love the touch of this quilt and the sound made as the needle pulls the No. 8 Perle cotton through the layers.  Look at the backing - I bought it years ago, probably because it was on sale, not knowing how I would want to use it.  This quilt?  Perfect. I'm two-thirds of the way through, which means I need to line up my next hand quilting project!
This has been long armed and just needs binding.
This 60” x 80” Chevron just needs quilting and binding.

This is the quilt of blocks made with the Canadian Quilters Association Sew-A-Long in 2019.  Blocks have all been connected, but the quilt needs quilting.

But this is my next hand-quilting project.  Just lots of low volume with a wall batting and an AGF backing.  It will be perfect to hold and fondle as soon as the first quilt above is complete.