15 Sep

Zigeuner Quilt

Last we saw this quilt was in February of 2009 when it was just blocks on my floor. I pieced the blocks and decided that it looked like a gypsy’s tablecloth and thus needed a lace edging. I put the top away until I could find something appropriate. Two and a half years later, not having found lace I liked, but in a fit of wanting to finish things, I pulled out the top and sewed it to a backing. I planned on hand crocheting a lace edge later.

Zigeuner Quilt

But then I went to New York, and I found a crocheted lace I liked. So, I spent some time un-sewing and then re-sewed the top and back with the lace in the seam. But the corners (and there are many) looked like crap. I contemplated just letting it be, but then I knew I’d never use the quilt. I considered cutting all the points off and making the thing a plain rectangle. I considered filling in the spaces between the points and making a larger rectangle.

Zigeuner Quilt detail

I bit the bullet and un-sewed the seams with the lace, bought new backing and sewed it on, and then stitched the lace on top. They say the third time is the charm, and in this case it was. It was absolutely worth all the tedium of un-sewing and re-doing. Now it looks right. I am happy with my gypsy’s tablecloth, and even happier that I can finally call it finished!

Zigeuner Quilt

In Germany we loved steak or schnitzel “Zigeuner Art,” or Gypsy Style, made with red peppers and a bit of a bite.

06 Sep

Is it That Time of Year Already?

We’re less than a week away from my son’s birthday (12 — yikes!) which is my signal that not only do I need to think about a few gifts and a party for him, but I need to think about the birthdays and holidays that will now follow in quick succession.

Sewing Calendar

And just to drive home the point that it’s time to think about those handmade gifts, this calendar showed up in the mail. It’s the 2011 Sewing Calendar and it’s chock full of sewing projects from all over blogland. There are wonderful, and very accessible projects in here — and I’m not just saying that because November 10 — 13 are dedicated to my Mod Log Table Runners!

Fliegenpilz Table Runner

What you might also notice is that the calendar shows a table runner I have not yet shared here. I was thinking Christmas red and green reinterpreted, so now seems as good a time as any to share it and maybe spark someone else to create a light, mushroomy, holiday.

Fliegenpilz Table Runner

Of course, if one is more inspired by say, the Three Kings, then there’s another version conjured up to use those bits and pieces of cloth painted, foiled, rubbed, etc. in the excitement of the newest issue of one’s favorite art quilt magazine(s).

Gold Frankincense and Myrrh Table Runner

I call this one “Gold Frankincense and Myrrh.”

Gold Frankincense and Myrrh Table Runner

I have two copies of the Sewing Calendar, and while I’m keeping one for myself, I’d love to share the other with someone ready for some pre-holiday project planning (who am I kidding, we’re not ready to actually start the projects yet, are we?). So, leave a comment and maybe even tell me if you’re planning on making some handmade gifts this year or if you’ve got a plan or list already and I’ll randomly choose a winner to receive the 2011 Sewing Calendar. Make your comment by midnight Hawaii time September 10th (Friday) and I’ll announce the winner as soon as I recover from the birthday party on the 12th.


08 Jul

Acting Ugly

I’ve had the most confounding experience (stitch-wise) the last few days.

I am planning on teaching a beginning quilting class at my local park again in August. This time, instead of a sampler quilt, we’re going to make three smaller projects. I’m making class samples now.

Ugly + Aqua

While in Spokane, WA for my MIL’s wedding (congratulations lovebirds!), I bought some really ugly fabric that was on sale and screamed for me to take it home and make it sing. Aqua was all it needed. Then I tried grey and white in an uncharacteristic moment of fashionable-ness. I liked both, so I sewed up two table runner tops. No problem.

Ugly + Grey

But when it came time to quilt the first runner, the thread broke. This surprised me because I was using a “golden retriever” thread (a term coined by Superior Thread Bar Tender Cindy for threads that are very easy to use) and quilting in straight lines. I adjusted all my tension options to no avail. Then I changed to a fresher topstitch needle. Nope. I changed spools of thread, and it broke too (so it wasn’t a bad spool). I changed to a smaller, sharper microtex needle. Nope. Then I put in a brand spanking new topstitch (easy on the thread) needle and still the thread broke. I switched to a different type of thread and it broke too. All the while, I was noticing that the needle seemed to be struggling to get through the ugly fabric. I admitted defeat and picked out all my stitching attempts. I figured that the ugly fabric must have been on sale for more than just it’s aesthetic value and re-sandwiched my table runner top with a different backing (since I had so much ugly fabric, and I thought it was so bad it was cool, I used it front and back). I tried stitching the table runner  in cross-wise straight lines, but even with the new backing, the thread broke. Then, I only stitched on the non-ugly fabric parts — and it worked! I got brave and did a little stitching on the borders (ugly fabric) where I could take it out and it would still look OK. It worked and I didn’t have t remove any stitches! One table runner done.

Mod Log Cabin Table Runner

After sleeping on my fabric problem, I had the brilliant idea to put a new back on table runner two and stitch it from the back, hopefully avoiding, in a way, the problematic ugly fabric. I had hoped to stitch in the ditch of my wonky log cabins, extending the lines out into the border, but that wouldn’t work from the back where there’s no lines to follow. Serpentine stitch is quite popular right now, and would look good with the simple piecing, but I really wanted to do something different. Since I was working from the back and couldn’t follow what was going on on the front, I figured I could take that all the way and do something completely in contrast to the piecing. I decided that since the piecing is tweaked traditional, the quilting should be too — simple feathers in a loose arrangement. I had no problems sewing the feathers, but since I’m not a great machine quilter, and my arcs were pretty large, I just wasn’t happy with them. So, I picked them out.

Feather Quilting

Again, I admitted defeat, and opted for the serpentine stitch. I wanted to make sure it was oriented relatively straight on the table runner though. I crossed my fingers and hoped that I could stitch one line from the front and then align the rest off that from the back. Guess what? No problem! So I sewed the next line on the front. No problem. So I completed table runner number two without further incident.

Final Quilting

In the end, I have no idea what was making my thread break. Perhaps it was that two layers of ugly fabric was too much. I considered that it was the batting, but Runner 1 used scraps from a batting I had used successfully on another quilt, and Runner 2 used a completely different batting (which I don’t like, but not for stitchability issues). Perhaps it was some magical combination of the fabric and the angle at which I was stitching it (straight was bad, serpentine or free-motion met the fabric in an acceptable way). Perhaps it was the alignment of the planets and by day two things were back to normal. I don’t know. I do know that I won’t be using the ugly fabric for my other two class samples which are next on my to-do list.

19 Feb

Me Versus the Scrap Bin

It was touch and go for a while, but I think I have the better of the scrap bin. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to know where to look to find things.

I think that’s what was bugging me about the scrap bin. It was so full and compressed that I never knew what might surface. My stash busting log cabin blocks have definitely made a dent in the scraps, but now that the bin contents are no longer compressed, it’s still pretty full in there. I have a Plan B though.

Plan A was for log cabin blocks on point. In the Amish quilt I saw (from the exhibit “Diamonds and Rows: Quilts from the Schlumberger Collection,” sorry, no picture of the actual quilt) the logs were pretty plain and the centers stood out in vertical rows. I had hoped maybe that would happen with my scrap quilt as the green centers were the only constant. It didn’t. But that’s OK. In retrospect, I think every other log cabin may have had a non-contrasting center in the original (by Kathy Lapp, circa 1920).

Things I noticed while making my scrap quilt:

More is definitely more. When the blocks were small with only one or two rounds of logs, they looked hideous. You noticed all the clashing colors and patterns. With four or five go rounds, it all blends together into scrappy goodness.

I had a lot more red scraps than I remembered. This was a fortuitous because I think all the red looks great with the green centers (complimentary colors all you color wheel-phobes out there).

The centers (or negative space if it’s a spiderweb quilt) need to be STRONG to not get lost amongst all the varied scraps. Red is a classic scrap quilt puller-together, but I think this green works well too, as would a bright cobalt or aqua or orange!

This is not a project for the faint of heart (see the need for strong color above) or those who like control and matchy-matchyness. I went nearly completely random here. The only time I’d swap out strips was if the length was too short and I could see a smaller block within the next few down the line, or if the same fabrics ended up right next to each other (same fabrics on different sides of a block, or with a log or two in between was perfectly acceptable). I made no attempt to organize by darks and lights, by colors, or to make a concentric pattern.

I laid all my blocks out last night and saw a gypsy tablecloth, or skirt, or drapes, or something. So that’s what it will be. I’m not even going to make corner or setting triangles — this will have the zig-zag edge you see in the photo. I might try to find some picot/lace edging though. I have to research a little on the ins and outs (pun intended) of finishing off this kind of shape.

Plan B: I think that my stuffed drawer of decent sized pieces of purple fabric is the answer to the scrap bin of now quite tiny pieces. I really enjoyed the liberated stars I made for my Brushfire Quilt project blocks, so while I’m on a roll, I think I will cut a bunch of purples into small squares and make scrappy stars with (hopefully a lot) of the lighter bits still in the scrap bin.

13 Aug

Mod Log Cabin Table Runner

Two years ago for Christmas I made table runners for many of our friends and family. Thursday and Friday I was able to free some projects from their plastic bags (the lice are all gone!!) and finish a table runner for a friend who is willing to trade handmade stationery products (yippee!).

Mod Log Table Runner

I’ve named this the Mod Log Table Runner. I’ve had instructions for it on my website for a while now, but when I decided to post this one, I also decided that it was time to tackle the larger project of making the tutorials I’ve shown on my blog and the website instructions into more professional-looking PDF files to download. This table runner is my own design, but wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to make it, so I don’t feel as if I’m giving away any proprietary trade secret of mine when I share the how-to. I’m just making it easier for everyone to have what I think is a cool and adaptable design. And I’m giving back to the generous craft-blogging community.
Now, when you click the “Patterns” tab on the blog or website you’ll go to a page where you can, hopefully, click to download the PDFs for this and two lovely hand bags. I’ve changed the links in the sidebar as well so that they also open the appropriate PDF.

I assume everyone will let me know if I’ve linked anything incorrectly, or if something doesn’t work.