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?