Tuesday, December 9, 2014

At Last! An Afghan!!

It's done!!!!
I'm breaking out my dancing shoes because it's time to do the Happy Dance! It's only taken seven years and two months, but I have finally and at last finished my daughter's afghan!! Woo-hooo!!!!

OK, there are still a few ends from whip-stitching things together to weave in on the back, but does that really count? At this point, I don't think so!

Lots of pieces whip-stitched together
PikaGirl gets home from school soon, and I can't wait to see her expression when she sees it. I also can't wait to share it with my Crafting Bee friends in a couple of days. Without their encouragement and persistent (but gentle!) inquiries, I doubt I would ever have gotten it finished. Thank you so much, ladies!!

Snuggly warm!
The pattern, if you're interested, was the September quilt from the Leisure Arts leaflet #2131, "A Year of Afghans, Book Two: Twelve Designs to Crochet," ©1991. It was crocheted using Caron's Simply Soft, 100% acrylic, worsted weight yarn. It is amazingly soft, delightfully warm, and weighs almost 5 lbs! The only downside is that the yarn is so soft and slippery, the ends of my yarn tails like to un-weave themselves and hang loose after I've woven them in. If anyone knows a solution for this, I'd love it if you could share!

Another bonus to finishing this afghan, is that I will now, finally! get to start the In Bloom knit, felted-wool bag that I've been eyeing in Debbie Stoller's book, "Stitch'n Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics." I bought the yarn, Cascade Yarn's Cascade 220, from my favorite yarn shop, The Knitting Nest in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, two and a half years ago. Really! I've got the receipt to prove it! I promised myself that I could only start it after I finished PG's afghan, and now that time has arrived at last!

The In Bloom bag is ready to go!
I've never knit intarsia before, and this will also be my first time felting wool, but diving into things that I've never done before is why my husband nick-named me Intrepid, right? And, besides, I know that if I need help I'll have Catherine, the Knitting Nest's Yarn Diva, and my friends at Crafting Bee to help out.

The crafting world would be a much smaller place without our good friends to enable -errr- encourage us in our new endeavors!

Getting started on Double Diamonds

This week also saw work continuing on my Baby Grand quilt when Part 2 of Bonnie Hunter's Grand Illusion mystery quilt came out last Friday. She has us making these Double Diamond units this week. Since I'm making my units at half size, these li'l cuties are going to finish at only 2 inches! I've got 14 made so far, but all the rest of my pieces are cut, and my lines have been marked on the backs of my squares, so I'm all ready to sew up the rest.

Dad was a bit of a diamond in the rough too!
The basket in which I'm storing the in-progress pieces and finished units for this step belonged to my dad. He was born in Michigan, so I guess it's pretty appropriate that that I'm using it as I make this quilt that was inspired by that state's historic Grand Hotel. Dear ol' Dad passed away eleven years ago, so it's nice to be able to think of him while I work. Maybe I'll dedicate this quilt to his memory. He loved the outdoors, and I know he'd love the colors and fabrics that I chose for this quilt.

Double Diamonds doing a dance
Double Diamonds and Broken Dishes dancing together

Of course, the finished units don't stay in the basket for too long before I have to take them out and start playing with them again. These Double Diamond blocks are very dynamic, and I can't wait to see how Bonnie has us using them in the finished quilt!

If you want to see want to see the progress that others are making on their Grand Illusion quilts, you can check out the link-up on Bonnie's Quiltville blog here

So, that's all for this week. I hope that you're finding some happy finishes too!

~Intrepid Meredith

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Birth of the Baby Grand

So it's that time of year again when scrap quilter extraordinaire, Bonnie Hunter, begins her annual mystery quilt! This year's quilt is called Grand Illusion, based on Bonnie's stay at the famed Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan. And, just like last year's Celtic Solstice quilt, I'm changing things up again from Bonnie's instructions. This is the color set that Bonnie gave us:

Grass green
Light teal
Geranium pink
Butter yellow
plus black and white.

But my eye was drawn more to the scenery outside my window at the time. Ma Nature was putting on quite a show for us this Fall, and I suddenly realized that, with a little tweaking, I could use these colors for my Grand Illusion.
So here are my colors, all in batik fabrics:
Orange-Yellow of birch and aspen leaves
Yellow-Green of my yellowing lawn and the leaves mid-change on my maple tree
Blue of lake and sky
Red of oak and sumac leaves
Tan of frost-covered cattails and dried meadow grasses
And the deep, dark greens of pines at dusk

9-Patches for Shimmering Birches
So, not too different from Bonnie's colors. But then... 

Earlier this year I got bit by the miniatures bug. First, I started making Edyta Sitar's Shimmering Birches pattern, with it's adorable little 2-1/4" 9-patches:

Tiny T-Birds
Then, the local school was having an art contest: any medium, not bigger than 12" x 12", and with the theme 'Wing-A-Ding!' (that is, anything with wings). I was looking through Civil War Legacies: Quilt Patterns for Reproduction Fabrics by Carol Hopkins at the time, and saw her Darting Birds pattern in the book. Well, the team mascot is the Thunderbird, and the school's colors are orange and black, so I ended up with this:

And I started having fun with 1" hexies and made this 14" x 40" table runner. I used a technique described in Dr. Peggy G. Rhodes and Julia C. Wood's book Quick & Easy Hexie Quilts to make the hexies from folded circles. It's fast, easy, and fun!

Hexagon table runner

The Crafty Quilter's Nordic Mini Quilt Along
Aaaaand then Julie Cefalu, in her The Crafty Quilter blog, began a 4-part Nordic Mini Quilt Along. I've sewn only the Nordic Star blocks so far, but they are so adorable! They'll finish at only 4-1/4".

So can you guess what I'm doing with my Grand Illusion? That's right! I'm making it as a mini!

Yes, this is completely crazy, given that I don't know what the ultimate design is going to be or how small the pieces will end up being. However, nothing in Celtic Solstice finished smaller than 1-1/2", and Bonnie said this year's mystery should be easier than the last couple of mysteries. So I figure there shouldn't be any pieces for me that finish at smaller than 3/4", and that's do-able. (The Shimmering Birches 9-Patch squares finish at 3/4", and the HSTs in my Tiny T-Birds mini finished at 1/2", so I'm already there!)

I figure that, so long as I make the finished size of my units half the finished size of Bonnie's units, everything should still fit together just fine. So, if Bonnie's unit finishes at 4" (cut size 4-1/2"), then my unit will finish at 2" (cut size 2-1/2"). My finished quilt should come out at about 44" x 44". I figure I can either add an extra row of blocks to make a nice lap size, or, alternatively, I can use it as-is or drop a few blocks, and it will still be a nice wall hanging.

And I shall name it the Baby Grand. I love it!

A baby Broken Dish
So when clue #1 came out last week, I was all ready to go. I tweaked Bonnie's instructions and now I have some baby Broken Dishes blocks. Sew Sweet!!

Celtic Solstice, in progress

Oh, and as I'm sewing these together, I'm also getting last year's Celtic Solstice finished. I've got 4/7 of that quilt sewn together, with 14 of the remaining 21 blocks sewn. What's left? Only 26 of those dastardly chevron blocks! I'm using them as leaders and enders on my Baby Grand, and then I'll be able to get that top finished up too!

If you want to see what other people are doing with their Grand Illusion Mystery quilts, you can check out Bonnie's Monday Mystery Link-Up.

My next post, I hope, will be about these Broken Dishes blocks and all the different ways that they can be used in quilts. Once you start looking for them, they show up in a lot of patterns! And then there will be more posts on the Baby Grand as we progress through Bonnie's Grand Illusion Mystery. Won't you join me?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Making Half-Square Triangle (HST) Units

This tutorial shows how to make HST units using the stacked squares method. In this method, you cut one square from each of two fabrics to create two, identical HST units.

Determine the finished size of the HST unit that you want to make. To that measurement, add 7/8”. Using this sum, cut one square from each of your fabrics. In this example, I’m making a HST unit that finishes at 3”, so I’m cutting my two squares at 3-7/8”.

Since we’ll be dealing with a bias seam, I recommend spraying your fabrics with starch before cutting them.

Time saving tip: Layer your fabrics right-sides together when you’re cutting your squares. This way, both fabrics are cut to exactly the same size, and you don’t have to spend time matching edges before you sew.

Here, I’ve layered my fabrics, then cut them into strips that are 3-7/8” wide. Now I’m ready to sub cut my strips into squares.

NOTE: When I measure my fabric, I’m making sure that the edge of my fabric is hitting the outside edge of my measurement line.

Now we’re ready to sew!


Draw a line diagonally across your lighter fabric.

Sew a scant 1/4” away from this line. Note in the right-hand photo, that my drawn (pink) line is directly under the 4-3/4” ruler mark, but my needle is positioned just to the left if the 4-1/2” mark (blue dashed line). My seam is just a little less than 1/4" wide.

(Alternatively, I could have my drawn line just under the 4-1/4” ruler marking, and then sew with my needle just to the right of the 4-1/2” marking.)

You might be able to see this better after the stitching is done. My drawn line is under the 1/2” mark, and my stitching lines are just inside the 1/4” and 3/4” marks.
My seams are a scant 1/4” wide.

Now cut between your stitching lines to separate the two HST units.


After setting my seam, I open my fabrics part way, and then I very gently roll my fingertips over the seam to start pressing it open. After finger pressing one section, I’ll lift my fingers and move them down to gently finger press the rest of the seam. Only then do I press the seam with my iron.

Do not use steam when pressing this seam, and make sure that you are pressing the seam (using an up & down motion with the iron), not ironing it (rubbing back & forth)!

Squaring Up:

I know you want to get on with the rest of your sewing, but don’t skip this important step!

Square up (trim) your HST unit so that it measures your unit’s finished size + 1/2”. In this case, my finished size is 3”, so I’ll trim these at 3-1/2”

Use a ruler with a 45° marking on it. Place the 45° marking on top of the seam line. Make sure that your unit extends just past the desired measurement, and then trim the right and top sides of the unit.

Now turn the unit around 180°. Place the 45° line on the ruler back on top of your seam line. Make sure that the trimmed left and bottom edges come all the way to the outside edges of your ruler markings, and then trim the right and top edges.

You might not trim away much
when you square up your HST unit,
but that little bit can make a big difference!

Sewing with HSTs

One final note to remember: Whenever you sew an HST unit to another unit, the diagonal seam will enter the new seam 1/4" before the raw edge of the new unit. When you square up the new unit, be sure you don't trim off your seam allowance outside the triangle points!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

UFO Spotting

So, it seems to be that time of year again when we make those New Year's resolutions that we oh-so-want to keep. I don't really make resolutions, per se. More like intentions or directions. Such as,
  • I would like to start living a healthier lifestyle by doing a better job watching my portion sizes, going to bed when I'm tired (rather than eating more in an effort to stay awake longer), and getting some form of exercise (be it from vacuuming, riding the exercise bike, or even just doing yoga stretches) on a most-days basis.
  • I would like to procrastinate less. This will involve spending less time on Facebook and other social media. (Great time to have started a blog, huh? Then again, if I spend less time online, I'll have more time to spend on my projects, and so more to blog about. Win!)
  • I want to start fewer new projects, and finish more old projects. 
That last one seems to be very popular with many crafters that I know. I do have a few friends who are very good about only having 2-3 projects going on at one time, and getting one of them done before starting something new. Frankly, I don't know how they do it! I'm like one of those dogs in the Disney/Pixar film 'Up!':

I found that being part of a group on Facebook really helped to keep me focused and working on Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice Mystery Quilt (no, I'm not done yet, but a little more on that later...), and now I've found something for UFOs ─ that's UnFinished Objects ─ too.

Quilter/author Pat Sloan has started her own UFO Busting Challenge on her blog. Her first challenge: find one project that will be an easy, quick finish, and get it done by the end of January. I've got two projects that I'm looking at:

1) My daughter's whole cloth, flannel lap quilt. It's already all layered, although I'll probably have to lay it out for a few days to try to get the wrinkles out. I just need to finalize my quilting pattern ─ nothing too complicated! ─ and then free motion quilt it and bind it. I have a variegated, Sulky 12-wt that I'll used on the solid-color back, and then I'll use either the purple or the black Sulky 12-wt on the heart side.

 With only two weeks left to the month though, this might still be a bit much to cram into my schedule, so I have my back-up...

2) These cute snowman doorknob hangers! This was a free pattern from allpeoplequilt.com. I actually started five of these two years ago, and I still have these last two to finish. There's so little to do, I'm pretty embarrassed that they've ended up sitting for so long. And, if I get them done by the end of January, then I can still give them away as winter gifts!

I know that Pat will have more challenges for us as the year goes on, so I thought this would be a good time to get all of my projects organized. I'm going to list them all here in the hopes that making the skeletons in my quilting closet public will help keep me on track. Ready? Here we go...

Susanna's Friend-Strips
Tops waiting to be quilted (a.k.a.: flimsies in Australia and the U.K.):
─ The Wisconsin Sampler Quilt (my own design. I hope to turn it into a book or at least a pattern for sale, but I need to get it quilted first!)
─ Susanna's Friend-Strips (a pattern I designed for a strip exchange)
The Sulky Sampler Quilt (a.k.a.: Grandma's Quilt)
─ Gizmo's lap quilt (It's his, he sewed it himself!)
─ PikaGirl's whole cloth, flannel lap quilt (mentioned above)

Piecing with Crazy Chicken Pincushion Power!
WIPs (Works In Progress):
─ Celtic Solstice Mystery Quilt (360/533 units done so far!)
─ Maple Leaf (Fons & Porter's Meadow Brook pattern)
─ Little Birches (adapted from Edyta Sitar's Shimmering Birches pattern)
─ PikaGirl's crocheted afghan (the 48th square was finished this week. Now to whipstitch them together and start on the border!)
─ Crocheted spool pin doilies
─ The secret, grey knit (Shhh! It's a surprise!)

The 10-Minute Table Runner. Another quick to finish project.

─ Koi fish fabric One-Block Wonder
─ A Walk Through the Mystery Maze With Mom (Jan Powell's Amazing Mystery Quilt)
─ Wisconsin Turtle Pond (My own design; an ongoing art quilt)
─ The Crazy King (yes, it's a king-size crazy quilt!)
─ Quilt guild crazy quilt blocks for a charity project
─ Bahama Mama hand-pieced quilt (Fons & Porter Half-Yard Challenge)
─ Cross-stitch quilt
─ Strippy placemats
─ 10-Minute table runner/placemats (Watch the YouTube video demo)
─ Snowman door hangers (See the UFO Busting Challenge above)
─ Knit felting experiment

Test Pattern, a lopsided log cabin I designed in Electric Quilt 7
PIGS (Projects In Grocery Sacks - everything's there, ready to go... once I have time!):
─ Test Pattern log cabin quilt
─ Hand quilted pillows (2)
─ Bittersweet Briar from Kim Diehl's 'Simple Graces'
─ Sunflowers wall hanging
Flowers of the Sun lap quilt
─ Embroidered, Purple Sugarplums quilt
─ Love Is All We Need wall hanging
If the Hat Fits witchy Buggy Barn wall hanging
─ Tiger batiks, Fons & Porter Half-Yard Challenge
─ Big Trees quilt
─ Pony fabric One-Block Wonder quilt
─ Floral fabric One-Block Wonder Quilt
─ Wool appliqué wall hanging
─ 'In Bloom' knit, felted, floral tote bag (the from Debbie Stoller's 'Stitch 'n Bitch: Superstar Knitting')

Collecting fabrics for:
─ Me Tarzan, You Jane (Dear Jane quilt)
─ Blue Ridge Mountains lap quilt
─ Australian fabric, White Chocolate quilt (another Fons & Porter pattern)

Fabrics looking for a pattern:
─ Japanese prints (won in a fat quarter drawing ─ woo-hoo!!) (I found one good pattern, but now I can't remember what book it was in ─ waaaahhh!!)
─ Kona solid strips (remember that strip exchange for Susanna's Friend-Strips?) (Someone from the Celtice Solstice Facebook group just posted something that could work... hmmm... need to noodle this a bit more...)

Fabric and Pattern needed:
Quilts of Valor lap quilt

And, when I realize that I've only been quilting for 4-1/2 years, this list becomes rather scary... "Squirrel!!"

I think I'll be limiting myself to thread, backing, and batting at the quilt shops in 2014!

What's on your project list?

Happy sewing!