I love a good challenge…..

Every year our quilt guild does two challenges with one being due at the December meeting which was this past Tuesday. My long-time method for these challenges is to start out with tons and tons of ideas, slowly winnow them down over the 3 or 4 months that I have to do the challenge, and then finally settle on an idea and get to work on the Friday before the Tuesday meeting and normally finish it with minutes to spare. My friend Sheila calls this the “Frances Method”!!! This challenge was no different.

The rules were to make a quilt, of any size, that featured a Silhouette in black or white. The challenge was to make the background be the exciting part of the quilt.

Now, I LOVE a good sunset and immediately started thinking about several photos that we had taken in Australia and India…..

Then I found this photo…..

This is my husband, Michael, sailing in Canyon Lake in Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is at the base of the Texas Panhandle and is known for it’s wind, which made owning this Banshee racing boat a LOT of fun, but it is not known for it’s large bodies of water. This small, man-made lake was filled with treated sewer water!!! You were not allowed to swim but could ski or sail.

Obviously there is not a sunset anywhere in this photo, but I loved the idea of using the silhouette and the idea was born.

First step was to draw a basic design and I googled how to paint a sunset to get my starting point…..

I then covered the pattern with a super lightweight fusible interfacing and started adding fabrics…..

Most of the fabrics came from my scrap bin of pieces that were too small to sub-cut into usable sizes…..

I cut each piece in a wavy pattern…..

….and added it to the background, trying to overlap them slightly…..

I really liked the bit of yellow that shows thru in the pink and decided to mirror that “break through” in the blue…..

After I finished with the water, I carefully ironed all of the pieces to the fusible interfacing and then went back in and glued down the pieces that were overlapping and not touching the interfacing…..

I decided that it needed a few more highlights on the ocean waves and originally planned to use fabric snippets, but after cutting a few out, I decided that paint would be easier. I also added an aura around the sun so that it would stand out more…..

I always try to do something new with each challenge and this time I wanted to add tulle over the top and then do the quilting over the tulle. We had seen a bunch of quilts done this way at Houston and it looked like an easier way to handle raw edge applique. After I pinned it in place, I decided that it needed some stitching to hold it in place….

Then I basted it and started quilting!! The problem with the tulle is that you can’t easily rip out stitching so I tried to make every stitch count. I did have to rip out a small amount and it was HARD to take out the stitches without catching the tulle in the seam ripper. Most of it was done from the back but there were a few stubborn stitches that I had to do from the front. It was nerve-wracking!!

I did change to a smaller needle and used Bobbin Thread in the back and I think that helped some with the quilting.

I normally use a facing on my landscape quilts but was concerned that the thickness of all of the layers (backing, batting, interfacing, overlaid fabric, and tulle) would make it hard to turn to the back. Instead I planned to make a binding where the colors shifted as it moved around the piece. Unfortunately, because I had done this quilt using the “Frances Method”, I was completely out of time and didn’t want to play with doing the binding. So, a good old plain binding was attached!! In the long run, I think that the binding is a nice frame around the quilt……

I called this “Dreaming of Sunsets” and I am very pleased with how it turned out. The jury is still out about the use of tulle which is concerning because that was how I was planning to finish my Henna Girl portrait so I need to do some thinking now!! I didn’t use the finest quality of tulle and I think that was part of the problem. I will definitely look for “wedding quality” the next time.

So I can mark that challenge off of my list and now get back to the portrait….

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Sash-shaying around

A couple of months ago my “Cre-8” group issued a new challenge to use quilt sashes in a new way AND to include a fair amount of this fabric…….

When we received the fabric it was folded to the lighter side and several of us didn’t realize that and started planning a quilt using the “wrong” side of the fabric!!

I kept coming back to the idea of a lattice so, as is my normal way of working, I started a search for any photos showing lattice work. After drawing out several sashing designs from lattice patterns (and not liking any of them), I started thinking about making the entire quilt one big lattice…..

Now the problem was figuring out exactly how to piece this design. I really wanted the woven look to hold up so I realized that there were going to be a LOT of partial seams!!

I pulled out some scrap fabrics and started practicing the piecing process…..

The piecing worked, but I didn’t like the proportion of lattice slats to blocks.

I tried again…..

This time I liked the proportion better but didn’t get the feeling of a wooden weaving.

Then my eyes fell on this stack of fabric……

….and the top fabric in particular. The color seemed a bit intense, so I turned it over and found that the back was perfect…..

It even looked like weathered wood!!!.

So I started piecing…..using the BACK of the lattice slat fabric and both the front and back of the grey fabric. It is so ingrained in me to always sew with the right sides of the fabric together and I ended up ripping several seams out before I was through. It was apparent that I needed this meme……

Got to have your wits about you.

As I started sewing, I realized just how important it was to keep my seams perfect or else the whole top would be skewed in one direction. (It is amazing how much difference a small sliver makes.) This was good thinking, but not so easy to do, especially as I came to the end of the stitching line……

Oops!!! After I fixed a couple of these, I switched to a different foot that would keep a perfect 1/4 inch seam. It made a huge difference to my piecing…..

Once I got into a groove, I realized that I could piece 4 patches together before I added them onto the quilt top…..

This made it a little bit easier to keep track of where I was on the quilt. I finally started putting a mark on the pattern for each block group that I added……

I also got tired of trying to remember which was top and bottom of the quilt top so a strategically placed flower pin reminded me where the bottom was.

As I mentioned earlier, there were TONS of partial seams…..

….and I quickly tired of sewing thru a scrap fabric between each one.

Now, I LOVE technology and have always wanted to make each piece of equipment do whatever it can to make my life easier, but I have never used the thread cutter on my machine. For some reason, I had in my head that the next seam wouldn’t sew correctly if I had cut the threads so close to the edge. But, this little scissor button…

……worked perfectly and made my life SO much easier!!!! I can DEFINITELY get used to using it!!!

In a relatively short time the top was finished (but not trimmed down to the final size)…….

Now the question is “what am I going to hang on my trellis????” Interestingly, as I was working on this, I was watching an episode of “Quilting Arts” where Susan Brubaker Knapp was demonstrating the making of free-form flowers……..

Maybe that was divine providence????

But, the fabric that I was waiting on has arrived so I can get back to my Color wheel quilt….providence will have to wait!!!!

When you see a tree — part 2

At this point I wasn’t sure exactly what to do next. I finally decided that wanted to go ahead and layer the quilt and do some of the tree branch quilting. Since I couldn’t decide what to do about borders I decided to leave lots of room on the outer edges so that I can”flip and sew” the borders later.

I like to use a fusible batting and was surprised to find out that the stabilizer that I had ironed to back of the sky fabric wouldn’t adhere to the batting so I had to revert to safety pins.

The next step was to add some larger leaves, all completely attached to the top.   Then, continuing the layering effect, I added the tree branches over the top…..

I did have to switch to a close toed darning foot to attach the felted branches so that the foot wouldn’t get caught in the looser fibers from the needle felting.

Now it was time to insert the bird nest. I picked some light browns that might work for the nest and added Wonder Under to the back. As an aside, if you ever have trouble getting the paper off of the Wonder Under, you can pop it into your freezer for about 10 seconds and the paper will peel right off. Don’t know why….guess it is magic!!!

I sliced a bunch of tiny “twigs”

….and now it is time to play!!

I debated about using needle felting to make the nest but thought that it needed something that is a different texture from the tree bark.

The nest needed to be fairly small and I was afraid that I would make it too big, so I put a transparent pressing cloth over the quilt so that I could hopefully get it into perspective. I started with a few bare bones…..

….and kept adding “twigs” until it was the shape that I wanted…..

The next step was to add some color to the “inside” twigs to give it some depth.

I felt that the entire tree needed a bit more depth so added some more leaves, this time only sewing down the middle and leaving the edges free. They left wonderful shadows across the surface……

I had recently purchased a new “quilting”tool….a Carpenter’s Laser Square and I enjoyed using it to ensure that the borders formed a 90 degree angle. You can see the laser beam following along both sides of the corner……

I also used it to square up the outside edges of the quilt.

Finally, I tried something new when sewing on the facing. Previously, I had just sewn it on with measuring and then whacked it off at the end but this time I meticulously measured the strips agains the middle of the quilt and applied it as I would a border….pinning at each corner, in the middle, and several places inbetween. I believe that it helped to keep the quilt edges square!!

I was super happy with the finished product…..

….especially the new techniques that I had used, including stamping and needle felting. I also felt good about the finishing techniques that I had employed and felt that I had made a piece that was technically better than any I had before.

Having said that, I was completely blown away by the other entries in this challenge…..

I am DEFINITELY going to have to “up”my game further to compete with these talented ladies…..but a little “ootz” from the competition is never a bad thing!!!

The Cre-8’s Have Done It Again!!

Back in September I posted a blog called “Handwork is Fun…..Who Knew”.  In it I talked about our “Creative Eight” groups latest project…..a handwork round robin challenge.

We each brought our own design, gave a few ideas of what we were thinking about our piece, and then started passing it around the group for each to add their own personal touch.   Back in December the pieces were returned to their respective owners and most of them were completed and entered into our upcoming guild show.

Here is our work……

Brenda gave us each a lovely crazy quilt block…..

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…..we all added our embellishments and the final quilt ended up like this…..

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Cleo’s colorful offering started like this…..

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Although not yet finished, this is where it is right now…..

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Fay gave us a simple, preprinted flower panel  that turned into this……

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Denise started with a piece of brightly colored fabric…..

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that we happily turned into a marshland…..

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Linda provided a campground…IMG_5277It came to life as it passed among us…..

Murray Home in Where You Park It 703

Deb gave us “Henrietta”……

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….and we sent her out on a grand adventure……

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Ruhanna had this wonderful pumpkin….

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…..that we happily embellished

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And finally, I provided this wall…..

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….which came back well embellished, but I forgot to take a picture at that point!!    However, I continued adding flowers and foliage and am super happy with the finish….

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I think that, although we had apprehensions about the project, we all REALLY enjoyed the process and the final results.  If nothing else, it helped me to remember that I enjoy doing handwork and am looking forward to doing more in the future!!!