Friday, November 17, 2017

Going to the chapel

Hi all, and happy Friday!  I hope you've had a good week.  Mine was seriously busy, but I did get a lot done.  I have several non-sewing projects going on, all of which are really important, and all of which are due at the same time.  My brain is working over time.  And of course my computer updated right in the middle of everything, too.  I really dislike when that happens, don't you?

I did finish up my little free-pieced chapel quilt, though!  Here's one of the few good pictures I managed to get:

I love this!  And you know what?  It really looks like Joan of Arc chapel!  It's kind of a blurred or softened version of the chapel, though.  I think quilting will add some really necessary details, like the fretwork on the upper window and the panels on the doors, not to mention the separations between the stones.

I had a lot of fun making this little chapel quilt.  It was all free-pieced with no pattern using the techniques in Julie's book Build A Barn, No Pattern Construction.  The book describes barns, but the techniques can be translated to any building.  When choosing a building, though, I recommend that you choose one you don't have a deep personal or emotional connection with.  The only thing that was hard about this piece was the feelings I had about the real chapel, which made me scared to mess up the quilt.  Yeah, feelings are complicated and often get in the way of things.

I learned a lot from making this, and I will definitely make another one.  I'd like to make a seasonal sampler with four different churches or chapels in the different seasons.  I've already identified two possibilities--that I have no emotional connection to!--and am looking for a couple others. These are semi-historic churches with clean lines and interesting details, and I think they'll look good together.

Morning sun bleaches everything!

A few things I learned:
      --Free piecing takes more fabric than you think.  Have a lot on hand.  I ended up piecing the sky more than I wanted to because I ran out of big pieces.
     --Cut with abandon.  If you need to cut from the center, cut from the center.  If you're making something, you're not wasting the fabric.
     --Cut larger and don't trim until you're absolutely sure that you have things stitched the way you want them.
    --Always keep a straight stitching edge.  The unstitched part can be pieced and ragged, but if you're stitching a seam, you'll need to keep it straight.  This will make life easier. 
     --Make use of your seam ripper.
     --Patience is key.  Take as much time as you need to think it out and strategize.
     --Finally, realize that you are making an interpretation, not a copy.  You don't have to include every single detail. There are ways to make copies, of course, but if that's what you're going for this is probably not the technique you want.

So there we go, that's the chapel!  I can't wait to quilt it up.  Sadly, I have to finish these other things first.  Don't they know I have sewing to do? 

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  Our relatives are arriving Sunday.  I better buy some turkey!

Sharing at Finished or Not Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, and crazymomquilts.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Orphans, leftovers, and failed experiments

Hi everyone!  How is your week going?  Do you realize that we are in the middle of November and Thanksgiving is *next week*?  Yikes!  I'd better get to planning for that, especially since we're having relatives coming from Wisconsin for the holiday.  Hmmm, what do you think we should have for dinner?

I've been really busy and really, really stressed, and I haven't had a ton of time for stitching, so of course I started a new project this week.  No, I'm not kidding!  To be fair, the two that I've been working on are just about done and this one is another in the same vein-- no pattern, just kind of winging it.  Here's what I've started:

Well, that looks a mess, doesn't it?  These are most of my orphan blocks, leftovers, blocks I liked enough but don't want to make a whole quilt from, failed blocks, and various other bits of finished projects.  I see a rejected block  from the Constellations quilt, a leftover block from the Celtic Solstice quilt, a leftover elephant from the Mutant Elephants quilt, and some minis from the Classic Stitches quilt along.  So, yep, these have been in a box for a while!  I did save out some of the smallest ones for coasters and what not, but why not put all of these together into a quilt?

These are all different sizes, so how to make them all fit together?  Well, like this:

I plan to add strings to bring the blocks all to the same height and make them into rows.  The larger blocks, of course, won't need strings but will be surrounded by them as sashing. Then I can join the rows into a quilt top without weird pieces hanging off.  This isn't an original idea-- I think I got it from Cynthia at Quilting is more fun than housework, and was also inspired by Julie at Me and My Quilts, Exploring the Possibilities. Looking at the first few blocks, I'm liking it, but I wonder if I shouldn't have put a dark frame around each block so they don't get lost.  Maybe a white frame? What do you think?

Gosh, I hope I have enough!

Anyway, this is another quilt with no rules!  What is happening to me?  Is the stress frying my brain?  I don't know, but I'm having fun!  And that is the point, after all!


This afternoon, just before I pushed the button to publish this post, I learned of the death of sewing pioneer Nancy Zieman.  I am so deeply saddened by this.  It's like losing a friend.  I know that anything I say can never approach the well-deserved tributes from her friends and other sewing greats, but I do have a story:

It happens that Nancy's Notions was founded in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and was not so far from our home there.  Every May, they had a huge Warehouse Sale, and some friends and I would go every year.  It was so much fun!  They would literally open the warehouse and sell everything, and you could get screaming deals on fabric like you wouldn't believe.  It was very festive, almost like a party or at least a church picnic. (Now it's more of an "industry event," which is fine, but nothing like it was back then.) We would show up at the opening, spend way too much, stand in a dozen lines, and have lunch at Larson's Family Restaurant, which is gone now, too.  Through the whole sale you could find Nancy on the sales floor, taking pictures of the awesome projects displayed, teaching some demonstrations, and making sure the whole thing ran like clockwork.  We got to meet her several times, the last time at our 15th sale, after she had sold the company. She was very gracious to the many, many people who stopped her, and would gladly point out where the restrooms were (for what I'm sure was the 300th time every day) and answer all questions. In between sales we would sometimes get together to watch her shows on tape, along with some nice wine, of course.  We learned so much! Nancy, may you rest in peace.  Thank you for the lessons, the inspiration, and most of all for the fun and the memories.  We will miss you terribly.


And now I'm tearing up! There's a fun finish coming up on Friday, I promise. Hope you get some happier stitches in this week!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social and Oh Scrap!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Garden blocks

Hi everyone!  That is an imaginative post title, isn't it?  Sorry, just not feeling witty today, but I certainly am feeling chilly!  It's getting pretty cold, and we may have our first freeze this week, which can come and kill off the nasty bugs and allergens any time it wants to.  Sometimes I miss the real cold, which does a great job of getting rid of the things that make me sneeze.

This week I've been working on the Steps to the Garden blocks again.  I started these at the beginning of this year as a project for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, but somewhere I fell out of the habit of making them.  When Preeti was over this weekend I pulled them out to show her and looking at all of them again made me excited about this quilt again.  I was going to hold off and finish them between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I should strike while the iron is hot, right? Here are the newest blocks:

Don't they look good on those leaves?  I took this picture this morning because it rained and rained yesterday, so it's a little washed out in the morning sunshine.  I'll take the sun, though, even at the expense of over-exposed pictures. For some reason, these blocks are easiest to make in pairs, so I managed to make four of them.  I've picked out some pieces for the next few blocks, too.  Here are the rest of what I have so far:

Yep, the new ones will fit right in!  I'm planning 30 blocks for a nice-sized throw quilt, so I'm just over halfway there.  I'm hoping to get this done this year yet, too, so keep your fingers crossed.

And that's what's up in my sewing room right now.  I've really been feeling like I'm failing at it because of everything else that's going on in my life right now, but making these somehow made me more energized.  I've got to remember that!

Finally, just because this is a short post, here are a couple of fall pictures from our property:

Hope all is well out there in blog land!  Stay warm-- winter is coming!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social and soscrappy for RSC17.

Friday, November 3, 2017


Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Constellations quilt!  We are heading to the finish quickly-- this is our last section! This month's color is "dark," and I've chosen black for this block, which seems like it would be difficult to incorporate into the quilt, but this one fits in just fine.  It turns out that there are actual black stars, too, but they might be only theoretical.  I don't really understand the ins and outs of quantum gravity. In any case, this is our block for the month:

This is a variation of Rolling Star, a Ladies' Art Company block from at least 1895.  In fact, it's number 4 in the first Ladies' Art Company catalogue.  This block is a variation because the original block was really created to be made by hand, with diamonds and set-in seams and just a bunch of really complicated piecing.  I've redrafted it to use simpler piecing methods while preserving the original effect of the block.  I think it works okay, and it certainly looks good in our quilt.

For your fabric this month, any black or brown or similar dark color will work, but I think it looks best if there is some color in the fabric as well.  Choose an accent color that complements the colors in the main fabric.  I used an apple green, but any color would work.

Let's make a block!


From the background, cut:

1 2-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch strip
4 2-1/2 by 4-1/2 rectangles
8 2-1/2 inch squares

From the black, cut:

1 4-1/2 inch square
8 2-1/2 inch squares

From the accent color, cut:

1 2-1/2 by 10-1/2 inch strip
4 4-1/2 inch squares

To finish this quilt section, cut from the background:

1 2-1/2 by 12-1/2 inch strip
1 2-1/2 by 14-1/2 inch strip


First, take the 10-1/2 inch strips of the background and the accent color and stitch them together lengthwise.  Press to the background, then cut into 4 2-1/2 inch units. (There will be a little extra fabric in the strip in case you need to straighten an edge.)  These units should measure 2-1/2 by 4-1/2 inches.

Next, add the 2-1/2 by 4-1/2 inch strips of background to the left side of the 4 units you just made.  Press to the new background strip.  These should now measure 4-1/2 inches square.

Next, take all of the 2-1/2 inch squares of the background and the black fabric and draw lines from corner to corner on the back of each one.  We'll be using these and the 4-1/2 inch accent squares to make simplified square in a square units.

Add the 2-1/2 inch squares of the background and the black square to the corners of the accent squares by stitching directly on the drawn lines.  Trim the corner and press the remaining triangle up.  Add 2 background and 2 black squares to each accent square to make square in a square units with the background triangles on one side of the square and the black triangles on the other.  Make 4.

That's it for the units!  Really! On to assembly. . .


Arrange the units as shown, including the 4-1/2 inch black square for the center.  Join the units into rows and the rows into a finished block.  Match the points on the square in a square units to the seam between the green and the background so that the star seems to be rolling.  Give it a good press, stand back, and admire! Our last block is finished!

Completing this quilt section:

To finish off this section of the quilt, add a 2-1/2 by 12-1/2 inch background strip to the bottom of the block.  Press well, then add the 2-1/2 by 14-1/2 inch strip to the right side of the block.  Press well.

Join this section to the right side of the orange section. That's the last row!

To add this section to the rest of the quilt, first measure the larger quilt and the last row.  If the measurements are not the same, adjust the last row at the seam between the orange and black sections.

Fold both the larger quilt and the last row in half and mark the centers with a pin or chalk.  Fold each of the side edges to the center and mark the folds formed the same way.  Since the seams will not match, this is important to make the row fit the larger quilt properly.

Mark at the arrows with pins, then match the pins to stitch the rows together.

Join the row to the larger quilt, matching all of your markings and the seams at the outer edges of the quilt.  Clip your threads, press well, and admire!

I have got to get a better camera. . .

And just like that, our quilt center is finished!  Notice that the outer edges form a small border, so at this point you could just quilt it up as-is and have a lovely galaxy quilt to keep you warm very quickly.  If you want it to be bigger, you could add in any borders you like.  Next month I'll give directions for the borders I've made for this quilt.  As a sneak peek, here's my concept sketch for the border:

Hope your quilts are coming together well!  See you December 5 for the big finale!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social and soscrappy for RSC17!

Monday, October 30, 2017

A few more rounds

Hi everyone!  Hope you are all feeling well and healthy today!  So, I got a flu shot about a week ago, and I had a bad sort of reaction to it.  This happens to me every few years.  A flu shot can't give you the flu, but it certainly can cause a reaction.  That's what happened this year-- I spent the last week feeling achy and tired, with no motivation to do anything.  Not even stitch something!  It seems to have run it's course, though, and I am happy to kick it to the curb.  Now to catch up on everything, including the dishes and the laundry.

All I have to show today is a few more rounds on the medallion quilt.  Here is it's current state:

Gosh, I like this.  I guess I've added four rounds since I last posted it-- a round of squares, then plain white, then the triangles, and finally another round of black and white.  I've had no plan for this, just making it up as I go along.

The triangles were fun to make and were made by just cutting triangles with the TriRecs ruler and piecing them together in opposite directions.  This took a lot more triangles than I anticipated, but I do love how it came out. The rows of triangles did get pretty stretchy, too, so I had to use a bunch of Magic Sizing on them to get them to behave.

I wasn't sure what to do for the corners of the triangle round. I considered using a square in a square block, and also hsts, but in the end I drew out and paper pieced small "ray" shapes:

These were really easy and I think they look a lot better than something else in the corners. 

I think my next round here will be the flying geese, then another solid and then one more element before it's finished.  I'm sure I have enough scraps to fill out those rounds, and after that it should be a decent size and ready to finish.  Any suggestions for the last element? 

This has been a really fun project to work on, and playing with those happy colors certainly made me feel a bit better.  Hope you are all feeling good and enjoying the fall weather.  Happy Halloween-ing, too!

Sharing at Linky Tuesday, Let's Bee Social, and Oh Scrap!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ready for landscaping

Hi all, and welcome to the end of another week in 2017.  Doesn't it feel like it's going way too fast?  We're almost to November, for heaven's sake! It's getting to be pretty chilly at night, too, and Halloween is just around the corner.  Can Christmas be far behind? Yikes!

Once again, we are at a Friday and I have no finish. Oh, well!  I don't feel too bad about it, though. Why put pressure on myself?  I had a tough week and sewing is supposed to be fun.  So for fun and relaxation I worked some more on my chapel quilt:

Holy cow, that's starting to look like Joan of Arc chapel!  No one is more surprised by this than me, really.  All along I wasn't super sure it would work out, but apparently it has!

The chapel building itself is pretty much done, except that it needs some details, like the big stone window on the front.  It's circular, so I'll have to cut it out and applique it on.  Then it's just a matter of finishing off the landscaping.  The real chapel is beautifully landscaped and makes a real oasis on campus, so I can't hope to actually reproduce it exactly, but I have a floral panel that I plan to cut up for some flowers and whatnot.

I spent some time making the limestone details on the sides and roof lines of the chapel:

Doesn't that look great?  I'm just a little proud of it. In the spirit of free piecing, I just kind of laid out the pieces and stitched them together into a slanted line, without measuring.  It was a little scary.  It's a subtle detail, but in person it makes all the difference in the building.  I'll enhance it with some quilting stitches when the time comes.

The trees that I have in the background here were cut from one of those Van Gogh-type impressionist pieces.  I did a kind of "half applique" for the trees.  That is, I cut them out and lined them up on the sky pieces, then stitched the raw edges into the seams, leaving the tops free to be appliqued down.  (Did that make sense?)  I messed up on one of them and ended up with a hard edge:

That looks very non-treelike!  I think I'll have to open up that seam again and add in another piece to bridge the gap over to the other side of the seam.  It will bother me forever if I don't fix it.

So that's where I am on this project!  I'm actually pretty thrilled with it.  It "feels" right, you know?  Once I figure out how to do the window and where to put the flowers, it won't take long to finish this up.  Probably the fussy cutting will take longer than the stitching. 

If you'd like to make your own copy of any building, check out Julie's book, Build a Barn, No Pattern Construction. It's very, very helpful.  And when it says "don't trim," really-- don't trim.  Don't ask me how I know!

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  I'll be out looking at furniture, which I find incredibly boring.  I know exactly what I want, why doesn't anyone sell it?  Yet another mystery of the universe!

Sharing at Confessions of a Fabric Addict and Finished or Not Friday. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

A start instead of a finish

Hi everyone, and a happy Friday the 13th to you all!  Fun fact--several of my brothers and sisters and I all got married in October, and today is my brother's 16th anniversary, and another brother had a 26th yesterday.  (Others coming up, too, believe it or not.) Ours was last week (not saying how many decades) and we went on a small trip to go hiking and generally get away.  I didn't cook for four whole days!  What can I say--he knows the way to my heart! (A really pretty picture from our hike is at the end of this post.)

I know Fridays are supposed to be for finishes, but I didn't make that rule, so this week instead of finishing something I went ahead and started something new:

Yikes, that's a little busier than originally expected! This is the start of a new medallion quilt, which I started with an orphan block that has been laying around here for quite some time.  The quilt group I used to belong to made Tula Pink's 100 blocks from her book City Sampler, 100 Modern Quilt Blocks in the summer of 2013. Yes, I made all 100 blocks, and then some!  The center block here is actually four copies of her block #49, which were left over from a failed experiment.  Some day I'll show off the Tula quilts, but for today it looks great as a medallion center.

I have no real plan for this quilt right now except to make it colorful, use up some scraps, and have some fun with it.  There are three rounds here right now-- a first round with a pale yellow border and squares at the corners, a round of quarter square triangles, and a plain border of a black and white print just to break it up a small bit.  It measures 24-1/2 inches square right now.

Round one!

I'm not too sure how I feel about the rounds so far.  I feel like the first round should have been non-pieced in order to make the quarter squares stand out a little more.  I made the interior quarters of the squares all out of a (different) black and white print, but I think that gets lost a bit.  Maybe I'll try changing the first round, or maybe I'll just leave it until I've finished a few more rounds.

Speaking of which, what should I do for the next round? Flying geese? Birds in the air? Teeny half-square triangles? The good part is that there is no way I can fail at this, so it will just be fun.  If you look at antique medallion quilts, they're all over the place in terms of rounds and spacing and blank space, so there really are no rules.

And here's the picture from our weekend:

This was a waterfall near the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania.  It was a very overcast day, but we hiked up anyway and it turned out to be great. We had a wonderful time!

Hope you all have a great weekend.  If it doesn't rain, there is more yardwork in my future.  All the vegetables are out, but the flowers still need to be cleaned up, and everything else too.  I'm finding myself somewhat anxious for the first frost--to kill off the bugs! Know what I mean?

(I updated this post Friday morning to add in better photos.)

Sharing at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Finished or Not Friday, and Oh Scrap!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Flinging some strings

Hi everyone! How was your week?  Okay, so I said last Friday that it was the last gasp of summer, but today I have the very last of the summer quilts to show off.  I'm so happy to have these done, and they're just in time for cooler weather, too.  Plus they're both scrap quilts, so they got a bunch of pieces out of my sewing room, which is always a win in my book.

This summer I made not one, but *two,* string quilts from Amanda Jean Nyberg's book No Scrap Left Behind, and now they're both finished!  Here they are:

Don't they look happy together?  Both are made from different leftovers of floral fabrics, which I am happy to tell you are now all used up.  Glad to have those old pieces used up!  I also used bindings from the basket of bindings that I've made from leftovers and the cutoffs from old backings, so every bit of these quilts are scrappy.

The first quilt is called Start of Summer, and was made from the Scrap Happy Rails pattern.  This quilt was really easy to make.  The pattern in the book is for a queen quilt, but it's very easy to adjust the size if you want to.  It uses a *lot* of strings, so be ready if you want to make this one.

I call the second quilt Crosswalks, and it is made from the June quilt pattern, which is also in the book and was a quilt along hosted by Amanda Jean on crazymomquilts.  This one is kind of hard to photograph because the colors are so light.  They are softer florals than the Start of Summer quilt, but in person they are just perfect.  If you look in the bottom right corner, I appliqued in a little bird that was left over from another project, too.

Both of these quilts make me really happy.  I'm so pleased with how they turned out, and I'm sending them off to two of my nieces, who will love them and use them, I'm sure.

Another reason to be really happy about these quilts is that they were quilted by my friend Diane Minkley, who has a new quilting business! Diane does beautiful quilting!  She's done a lot of quilts for me and her work is just great.  Her prices are really reasonable and she does both pantos and custom quilting.  Congratulations on the new business, Diane!  I'm so excited for you!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!  This weekend is our anniversary, so you know what that means-- no cooking for me!

Sharing at Finished or Not Friday, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, crazymomquilts, and Oh Scrap!.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Constellations quilt!  We are almost done-- this is our second-to-last block!  The color for this month is pink, which is one of my favorite colors, so I've got a lot of pink scraps.  I've got a granddaughter on the way, too, so there is sure to be lots more pink in my future.  Here is our block:

This is one of the more modern variations of a block called Clay's Choice, which dates back to the 1920s.  It makes beautiful sparkling stars that are very easy to construct.  This month's block would also be a good place to use up some of the leftover small pieces of background fabric that I'm sure you have floating around. 

Let's make some stars!


For this quilt section, we need to make 4 6-inch stars.  The first column gives the cutting directions for one star, and the second column is for 4 stars in case you are using one fabric for all four.  An alternate method for making the diamonds is given in the instructions but not included in the cutting directions.

From the background, cut:

For one star:                                                       For 4 stars:

8 2-inch squares                                                    32 2-inch squares
4 2 inch by 3-1/2 inch rectangles                        16 2 inch by 3-1/2 inch squares

From the pink, cut:

4 2 inch by 3-1/2 inch rectangles                         16  2 inch by 3-1/2 inch rectangles

To complete this quilt section, cut from the background:

2 4-1/2 by 6-1/2 inch rectangles
1 2-1/2 by 12-1/2 inch strip
1 2-1/2 by 18-1/4 inch strip
1 2 by 14-1/2 inch strip

On to construction!


There is just one unit to make for these stars, a diamond-shaped unit.  Making the diamonds the way I've described here is easy and quick and saves time and seams, but there is an alternate method given at the end of these instructions if you want a different way to make them using half-square triangles.  If you want to try this method but are nervous about it, cut everything 1/4 to 1/2 inch larger and trim down to the correct size at the end.

First, take all of the 2-inch background squares and draw one line from corner to corner on the back:

Take one of these squares and place it on a 2 by 3-1/2 inch rectangle, right sides together.  Be sure that one end of the line on the background square is in the upper right corner of the pink rectangle.  Stitch on the line, then flip the resulting triangle up and press.

To complete the diamond, place another triangle on the bottom of the same pink rectangle, making sure to match the angle of the top triangle.  This means that the end of the line on the background square should be in the bottom left of the pink rectangle. 

Stitch on the line, flip down the triangle, and press.  These should measure 2 by 3-1/2 inches.

That's it--your diamonds are done!

Alternate method:

Cut a 4-3/4 inch square from both the background and the pink fabric for each star, then use these squares to make 8 half-square triangles using the Magic 8 method.  Arrange the hsts to make a diamond shape, then stitch the center seam to join them.   These should measure 2 by 3-1/2 inches.


Take the 2 by 3-1/2 inch background rectangles and join them to the right sides of the diamond units you just made:

Press to the background.

Lay out these units as shown:

Join into rows and the rows into a block, making sure that the  pink points meet in the center.  And just like that, we have a star!

Give it a good press, stand back, and admire!

Make 4 stars, then let's put them together into our second-to-last quilt section.  Onward--

To complete this quilt section:

Gather the background pieces from the cutting step.  To start, choose two of the stars and stitch them together, matching the seams as necessary.

Take this two-star unit and add the 2-1/2 by 12-1/2 inch to the left side.  Press to the background strip.

Halfway there!  Take the remaining two stars and add the 4-1/2 by 6-1/2 inch rectangles to one side of each.  Press to the background pieces.

Stitch the two units you just made together at the center, putting the large background piece to the left on the top and the right on the bottom so that one star will be separated from the three others.  None of the seams will match, so don't stress over that.

Join the two sections and press well in either direction, then add the 2-1/2 by 18-1/4 inch strip to the bottom of the block.  Press to the background strip.  Finally, add the 2 by 14-1/2 inch strip to the right side of the section.  Press well, stand back, and admire!

This section should measure 14-1/2 by 19-1/2. Add this section to the orange section completed last month to add to the final row.

Wahoo!  We have just one more section to go before the quilt center is complete.  Here is how the center is looking so far:

This is going to be a great quilt!  I hope yours is coming along well.  Some people have expressed a desire to have the quilt completed for Christmas, but the first Tuesday in November isn't until the 7th.  To help with this, I'll post the final block on Wednesday, November 1, instead of the 7th.  Meet back here then for the last block and section!

Sharing at Let's Bee Social and soscrappy for RSC17.