Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Quilters’ Wild Weekend

Well, I can’t promise risque photos, but I can assure you that 20 plus quilters ate a lot of chocolate and laughed loud enough that many hotel guests stopped by our sewing room to see what was up at my guild sponsored getaway in Ohio’s Amish country.  Our hotel didn’t allow smoking or drinking (you signed a pledge when you checked in) so the rooms were blissfully quiet at night with no late night revelers returning to their rooms.  All I heard were crickets through the open window.  Yes, the hotel had windows that actually opened!

I have to hand it to the Amish.  While their way of living is from another century, they sure know how to make their livings from it.  Furniture places, cheese stores, bulk food stores, kitschy gift shops, restaurants, lodgings, etc., are all available and seem to be popular.  Members of our guild made reservations at a restaurant for 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday night.  When we arrived we were directed to a very long line of people waiting to be seated.  Apparently having a reservation cut no ice.

Of course, there were forays to area fabric shops, some of them on farms.  No one stood out to me as extra special, but I did limit my trips to save money.  I’ve found the fabric choices are usually traditional, which isn’t the type of fabric I now buy.  I did pick up some solid pastels for a baby quilt I’m making.

Here’s a few highlights – a sewing themed pajama top (I think it was made by the wearer’s sister), a kit for handsewn hexies, and the start of a layout.

The getaway was so successful we’ve already booked the hotel for next year.

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Oooh, Baby, Baby

Occasionally family events, joyous and otherwise, lead me to create a gift quilt.  Recently I started to work on a baby quilt for my nephew and his wife, who are expecting their first child in early 2013.

I’m using a design by Elizabeth Hartman that she calls Baby Roller Rink.


I began with the gender-neutral color scheme of yellow and green, and combed through my 2.5 inch square scrap pile for such bits.  Then I sewed 27 units of nine seven (I goofed and did too many) like colored squares, mostly prints, together end to end.  These will be bordered in one inch strips (finished) of solid yellow and green.  The setting will alternate the yellow and green units.

Since I began this project I’ve discovered the expected baby will be a girl.  The expectant parents threw one of those parties at which the baby’s sex is revealed by displaying the sonogram.  I wonder if there are ever any surprises in the delivery room.  To cover the girl thing I’ve put a purple/pink-purple square in each string of squares.  It’s not so girly that a color obsessed parent wouldn’t use it for a boy.

Just this morning I realized that if I made up the quilt with nine square strings it would be 60 inches, not 48 inches, long.  So I looked at Baby Roller Rink again and did a more accurate count. Actually, I think it was the cryptic notes I took that threw me off.  That leaves me with 54 extra squares to return to my 2.5 inch square stash.  And I was trying to reduce that stash.

In future forays to fabric stores I’ll shop for a soft backing fabric.  I like to back baby quilts with fleece or heavy flannel and skip the batting.  That way it’s easier to wrap the baby in the quilt and the soft side can be next to the baby’s skin.  I think I’ll keep the quilting minimal as lots of quilting can make a quilt feel stiff.

I like the greater contrasts in Elizabeth’s quilt, but I decided that a softer color scheme would be more appealing to the recipients of this quilt.


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Update on Thread Bared

Since I wrote about thread choices in a previous post, I ran across this post on another blog, Fresh Off the Spool, about the differences in threads used in free motion quilting.  The quilter went to the trouble of trying out six different threads on a sampler to see which she, personally, preferred.  You can read Danielle’s conclusions here.  I feel her pain in dealing with store staff.  And I like that she stresses the thread you use is a matter of personal preference.

Here’s her sampler.

I wanted to let you know that choosing thread is not as simple as we always thought it was.  Seems like it pays to try out different threads before quilting your whole project.  Of course, there are certain practical difficulties, such as buying a bunch of thread you end up not using.

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I’m Seeing Red (And I’m Glad)

My latest round of dyeing featured blue violet, golden yellow, and strongest RED.  It also involved experiments with tapioca resist dyeing, shaving cream dyeing, and lace painting.

And here’s my first red.  This was done by rubber banding my gathered up fabric in four or five places and then soaking it in strongest red dye for about 22 hours.  It kind of looks like a spider web on top of the fabric.

I’m calling my tapioca resist experiment a total failure.  Maybe overdyeing can rescue these squares.  You can see the pattern a bit on the right hand fabric, but this technique is messy and not worth repeating.  There are bits of blue violet tapioca in my grass where I hosed off these fabrics.

My favorites I’ve saved until last.  First up is a blue violet folded arrangement on a piece of old damask tablecloth.  I’ve found this cloth doesn’t give crisp dye lines but its woven pattern can interact nicely with dye.

And here’s the result of stacking blue violet and strongest red.  I have no idea how the crystalline shapes occurred, but I like them.  With this technique, you put a bit of dye into a container, scrunch up part of your fabric into the dye until it’s absorbed, then scrunch more fabric into the container, and pour on another dye color or colors.  Sometimes the colors merge and form a third color.  At the edges of this piece the colors blended into a lovely deep purple.

My dyeing buddies were busy painting bits of lace with dyes, and then rinsing the lace off to make the colors delicate pastels.  Maybe they’ll take picture of their results so I can post them.

I don’t know what my next dyeing adventure will be.  I have some yardage I want to overdye, and would like to try more resists and possibly sun dyeing.  So many choices, and that’s great.

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Quilt Shop of My Dreams

Some quilt shops make me want to say, “give me a yard of everything.”  Here’s some pix of the Island Quilter store in Vashon, Washington.  It’s definitely one of those.  Apparently it’s on an island (duh, look at the name, SQ) as the website has a link to the ferry schedule.

And this is just their Kaffe Fassett area!

I’m looking forward to the opening of a new local quilt shop, called Sew Deja Vu, at the end of September.  Here’s hoping the owner is stocking up on contemporary fabrics.  UPDATE:  The shop is scheduled to open at the end of October, and has a website:

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A Mind of Its Own

Sometimes I actually plan a project – draw a sketch, figure out yardage, audition fabric – and think putting it together will be a slam dunk.  Well….hah! I’m wrong on my latest effort.  To back up, I was taken by a subtly colored circle quilt called Whisper in “Transparency Quilts” by Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle.  Recently I’ve had a serious thing about circle quilts and have collected several patterns and ideas for making a few.  I even own a book on circle quilts and some strange pop out plastic forms for making drunkards path blocks.

Here’s one I love called Gellato Circles.

And here’s one that was shown at the 2012 Cincinnati International Quilt Festival.

Kerr and Weeks used lovely Cherrywood solid fabrics.  I planned to use batiks I’d been setting aside for some months.  Mine was going to be less subtle than theirs, but my taste in colors is usually not subtle.  You may have gathered that already from the pictures above.  I laid out all my fabrics and started eliminating ones I didn’t think would work.  I was left with a blue/green and magenta palette.  So far, so good. Then I made templates of the half circles needed and started cutting out the fabric.  Again, things were going along swimmingly.

Then the wheels came off.  My original plan was to have my darkest background colors on the outside and have the background become lighter towards the inside.  The circle colors were to do just the opposite, with the lightest on the outside and the darkest on the inside.  I laid out my cut pieces and it just didn’t look right.  The color gradation wasn’t graded enough and my circles (made up of 2 half circles) had too much contrast.

What to do?  Throw out all that planning and start moving pieces around was my solution.  The top is now a lot smaller and is actually subtly colored, for me.  I’ll be fussing with it this coming week.

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My DIY Shop Hop

My dyeing buddies and I hit the roads of northeast Ohio recently to seek out quilting enlightenment and embellishments.  With the help of a GPS we managed to stay on course except for one around the block trip.  In the course of visiting five quilt shops we found we had inadvertently crashed the Charming Quilt Shop Tour.  Each time we walked into a store we were asked if we were doing the tour.  Well, no, as it cost $2 to participate, and after all I could buy two yards of ribbon with that.  Of course I wasn’t eligible for any of the drawings, but given my luck with such things it was a safe bet I wouldn’t have won anything even if I had paid my $2.

Four of the five shops carried mostly traditional quilting fabric.  One, Olive Grace, which bills itself as an eccentric quilt shop, carries all sorts of contemporary and modern fabric lines plus coordinating embellishments.  Another, Quilter’s Fancy, has lots of ribbons, trims, buttons, and beads; and offers several hand embellishing classes. My travel buds signed up for one of these.

I was intrigued that a smallish Ohio town, Cortland (population about 6800 in 2000), had three quilt shops.  My assumption that it was a well-to-do town with lots of quilters in possession of discretionary income was totally unfounded.  Frankly, the place really needs paint stores more than quilt shops.  Its big attraction for non quilters seems to be Mosquito Lake.

File:Mosquito Creek Reservoir Ohio northward.jpg

We didn’t explore the lake as the closest we got to fishing was the angler fabric I bought.  However, we did check out a local eatery – the 4 Star Diner on North Mecca Street.  This place has been recently renovated, and offers 10% off the bill for seniors.  We ordered off the daily specials list.  My beer batter fried cod sandwich was good.  I think my trip mates were pleased with their meals as well.

This trip triggered some reflection on the state of independent quilt shops in this internet shopping age.  Frankly, I was amazed that some of the stores we visited were still in business.  My gut feeling is that a successful store needs to offer some combination of the following: great prices, unique merchandise, fabulous classes, extremely knowledgeable staff. or extra services.  When I see the staff hand writing my bill I can’t help but wonder if that store will be open in a year.  I can but hope.

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Yellow and Green, but No Red

What happens when 3 dyers get together in a garage?  A lot of colorful stuff and bad jokes about “when shall we three meet again?”  The inaugural dyeing colors were turquoise, orange, boysenberry and grape.  Three of those sound like popsicle flavors.  This time we mixed lime green and tried sun yellow.

I had interesting effects with the sun yellow when I overdyed on boysenberry after folding my already dyed cloth in various patterns.

I overdyed my turquoise cloth with the green, which added a subtle richness but didn’t really do anything dramatic. I had hoped the outline of the CDs (yes, CDs) I folded my cloth around would be more distinct, but I think the colors were too similar.

Then I poured green dye over a folded silk scarf and was surprised to see how differently the green came out on silk compared with cotton.  I’ll be overdyeing the scarf to take advantage of all that white space left.

Next dyeing session I hope to move on to red.  I feel the need to complete that classic trio well known to motorists.  Our instructor gave us a recipe for making a tomato red dye with boysenberry and yellow.  Sounds like it’s right up my alley.

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The Many Sides of Hexagons

My Modern Quilt Guild picked hexagons as our September challenge – different ways to make and arrange them.  Luckily for me, I was already working on a project that could pass for hexagonal.  Since my mantra is KISS,  my top is a lot simpler than those 1/2 inch English-paper-pieced-decades-long projects beloved of masochists. I suspect this gentleman started his quilt when he was in his twenties.

In fact, mine has no paper patterns or set in seams and, if you squint at it, does indeed look as if it’s composed of hexagons.  Here’s the kind of hexie quilt I’m NOT making.

I felt somewhat guilty about my painless challenge solution, so I started to explore another way to do “real” hexagons.  After reading tutorials that lost me at the hand basting part, I decided to adapt a method I was taught for making circles that are then appliqued.  The secret ingredient is non fusible lightweight interfacing.

I dug out a specialty hexagon ruler I bought at a quilters’ rummage sale, and managed to cut some hexagons with it after I decided to ignore the totally confusing instructions.  (I mean, the instructions say to flip the ruler so the hexagon shapes are on the right side, and the picture shows them on the left.) Then I created a card stock template and used that to cut out hexies from my interfacing.  I slapped the interfacing hexies on the right side of the fabric hexies and sewed them together.  Then, I cut an X (carefully) in the interfacing and turned the hexies inside out.  This gave me a finished edge and no paper to remove.  I plan to sew these hexies onto my top using some sort of decorative stitching.

Here’s the effect I’m going for.  Note this quilt by Reanna Lily uses large hexies that aren’t attached to each other.  I may slide my hexies around a bit to make them off center.

If I had real hexagonal ambition here’s the kind of hexie quilt I’d dream of making.  This quilt by Isabelle Etienne-Bugnot was assembled by hand.  Oh my.


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It’s An Unwrap

After waiting for the dyes to arrive and gathering all the supplies, I was finally ready to actually dye cloth.  And I found the process has a distressing similarity to painting a room.  You spend more time on the set up and take down than you do on the actual process.  But, nothing daunted, a friend and I mixed up four dye colors – grape, turquoise, orange, and boysenberry – and got down to it.  We used lots of rubber bands, plexiglass, bubble wrap, different folding techniques, shelf liner, sticks, and I don’t know what all to create patterns.

And here’s what my cloth looked like before the wraps came off.

I waited patiently for 24 hours for the dye to batch, and I don’t think I’ve been so excited about unwrapping stuff since I was 9 years old.  Let me tell you how tricky it is to take off rubber bands when you’re wearing those yellow gloves.  However, eventually they all got removed and I was left with the following finished products.  I’m particularly taken with the patterns produced in the flag folded and accordiance pleated fabric.

And here’s how my overdyeing of old linen towels came out.

And finally I overdyed my old attempt at batiking.  My son is now 22 years old, so I don’t think he’s interested in a batiked dinosaur.

I was surprised at how light the dyes seemed to turn out, given how intense they looked before the rinse process.  In the case of my repurposed fabric I suspect it may be that the towels are linen and the batiked cloth is a heavy cotton.

However, I’m glad they turned out light so I can experiment with overdyeing in different colors.  I’m set to try it out this coming week.  Stay tuned.

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