Monday, September 28, 2015

Struggling with Christmas Fabrics

It’s that time of year again – I’m making another attempt to “use up” the Christmas fabrics that live in a basket on the bottom shelf.  It seems that I’ve fallen for it again – the belief that somehow, somewhere there is a pattern with which I can use all these reds and greens to make a beautiful Christmas quilt!
I’m trying to be analytical about it.  Just WHY is this such a problem for me?
So I took a good hard look at the fabrics in that basket.  Here are some samples of what I found:
fabric collage

There are red fabrics with green on them.
Green fabrics with red
Black with red and green
White with green and red,
And on and on, with all the combinations of red/green/black/white/gold (and a bit of blue).

The large Santa prints have been weeded out, but I still have angels and Christmas trees and baubles and wreaths and stars and holly – lots of holly!  Most of these fabrics have been in my basket for a long time!  In fact, looking at dates on selvedges, I see that some of them are easily old enough to vote!

But all those red and greens (and blacks and blues) look pretty much the same.  One sees a medium-dark value when one squints at them just so.  The white and gold gives a bit of contrast.  When the fabric has red/green/black only, it looks really dark.  When some white/gold is added to lighten it up, it looks blotchy!  The light fabrics are the ones are mostly white/gold with red/green/black/blue figures on them.  Overall these are lighter than the ones with the darker base colours, but they are still very, very busy! 

Any of these fabrics will work well on its own.  It will make cute stockings and bibs and placemats and tree skirts and all the other things we lovingly sew at Christmas time.  But I’m a quilter.  A scrappy quilter.  I am happiest when I put lots of little pieces of many different fabrics together.  And these fabrics don’t play nicely that way!

To use more than one Christmas fabric at a time I’ve usually resorted to adding a lot of something fairly solid – white or gold or brown or black.  But this doesn’t make me very happy, and the project ends up either unfinished or quite small!  Here are some previous efforts:
project collage

So here is my plan.  This time I will keep the fabrics in fairly big pieces.  I have in mind a Disappearing Four-Patch pattern that starts with 6” squares.  I will put each dark fabric with something lighter, and I’ll add in some non-Christmas lights if I must.  Then I will put all the blocks together getting the nicest contrast that I can, and when it is finished I will put this quilt in a sale to raise funds for A Good Cause.  I doubt that the basket will  be empty at that point (sigh!), but surely I will be able to see that it is not quite as full as when I began??
Christmas four patch

Sunday, September 13, 2015

More scrappy rail fence blocks

These are the blocks on my design wall today.  Not sure yet just how they will be set.  On-point, perhaps?  It will be a donation quilt.

rail fence scrappy

Choosing fabrics can be a lot more difficult when we use scraps than it is when we work with a more limited palette. For this project I was working with fabrics in blues, browns, greens – “guy colours”. All I needed to do was make a pile of 2” strips. It took me most of the day, and I must say, it was the arguing that almost did me in!

Maybe this piece?

But I bought that to use for something special.

How long ago was that?

I bought it in that store that closed back in the 1990s.

And no project has been special enough in all that time?

I need to find the perfect fabrics to go with it.

Haven’t found anything that works YET??

Maybe I could use some for this project, but then I might not have enough when the special project comes along.

But hasn’t it already been waiting for years and years?

Well, I could use just a bit.


How about this piece?

But that’s a 2 ½” strip.

Then cut it narrower.

And WASTE a half inch???

How long it been sitting here?

It’s left over from the baby quilt I made for Johnny.

Isn’t Johnny in college now? USE it, for goodness sake!

But then I won’t have it if I need it for something else.

Like there isn’t any more fabric in the cupboard?

Not that exact colour…..

You can see the problem, I’m sure! I finally finished the job, then sat down with a cup of coffee and phoned a friend for a chat. Sometimes a person just gets tired of the sound of her own voice!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Cut from the same cloth

Recently I attended a family get-together.  Eight sisters/cousins/daughters/nieces gathered for a week. We live in far-flung places around the globe so this opportunity to be together was a special treat.  We spent time sharing family stories, especially about the set of grand-parents we have in common.  We took walks, gathered pebbles on the shore, ate wonderful meals, laughed a lot, and spent time sharing textile-related activities –  exploring with wool and with cotton, stitching, weaving, experimenting with colours. 
778 small

We found a surprising range of colour and value in  “ordinary” beach pebbles.

For the occasion I made a series of quilt blocks, one for each participant.  I used a common set of fabrics for all of them.  I wanted to finish the blocks separately, but rather than handle them individually – borders, batting, backing, quilting – I saved a few steps by joining the blocks with wide sashings, then I quilted the resulting larger pieces.  After quilting I cut them apart and the sashing strips became borders. 
blocks in group

Block 1
Completed block.  Bound with the feature fabric. 
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rail Fence quilt

Recently I pulled out my collection of fabrics from Africa.  I had some yardage pieces, plus the scraps that I blogged about here.  (Was that really three years ago?!)
A few of the bits have found their way into small projects such as the International Birds in this post.  But there was still a good selection and it felt like the time had come to actually USE some of these precious pieces.
African Rails block diagram
After some experimenting with Electric Quilt software and a few trial blocks I decided that this 8” block would make best use of my fabrics.  Larger pieces of fabric would be featured in the rail pieces, and smaller pieces could be used in the triangles.  Solid black was used for the alternating triangles and for the small accent strip.  I found a gorgeous piece of Moda fabric for the constant fabric and borders. 

With that plan in mind I got to work and made half a dozen blocks.  I put them up on the wall – and thought, Oh no!  The word “cacophony” came to mind -- all those exuberant prints seemed to fight with one another.  I left them on the wall and went away for a while.  When I came back they seemed much happier together.  I made more, then enough for an entire quilt top.  Each time I put blocks up on the wall I wondered just what I was thinking when I planned this.  Each time I took another look and realized it DID work! 
I added borders of the constant fabric, then a narrow inset border using more of the African prints.  I used some of the smallest pieces in this 1” border, not wanting to waste anything.  African border detail

African quilt back
The quilt is backed with another African fabric that I had set aside thinking it might some day become a garment.  I think the quilt is much happier wearing those flowers than I would ever be!

Quilting was done with more-or-less straight, pretty close to parallel lines, about 1” (give or take a little) apart.  
Every time I try to take a picture of this quilt the wind is blowing.  Those fabrics just want to dance!
African Rails
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer Citrus





I must have had oranges and lemons and limes on my mind when I pulled fabrics for this baby quilt.



Citrus colours baby quilt

A quilt had been requested that was “gender neutral” and I think I achieved that by keeping to the orange side of the reds and by emphasizing the greens in the border and binding. 

The blocks worked up quickly using two-inch strips cut from the citrus fabrics and from the crisp white used for the background.

Now I need a glass of lemonade!

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Random Rails -- finished!

Nearly two years ago I made a quilt top that has been just sitting there, patiently waiting, ever since.  I blogged about it here.

Recently I needed a baby quilt.  I pulled out that Random Rails top and decided the colours were perfect, but the top wasn't quite big enough.  I added a couple of borders -- more random strips for the inner border and blue for the outer one.

A Bubbles pattern was perfect for the quilting and orange binding finished it off.

The result makes me very happy.  I liked the top, but I love the finished product!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Little quilts

The stack of blocks made as "leaders and enders" never seems to go down!  It is always fun to try to use some of them up, though.

I took some  9-patch blocks and some spool blocks and made them into two doll-sized quilts.

Three-inch 9-patch blocks with half-square triangles and plain blocks

Three-inch spool blocks with borders

These went together quickly  -- it is easy when the blocks are already made!  I quilted them simply and they are ready for wrapping around some beloved dolls or stuffed animal friends.