Found Time--and Some Quilt Progress (WIP)

So my eponymous (sigh) hurricane downed our offices server-wise (we're based in Valley Forge, PA), so I ended up with today off. I could've spent the day working on another closet, but I'm a firm believer in "Found Time." When you end up with time you didn't expect to have, you should enjoy it! Thus, off to my sewing machine I went.

If you've been able to listen to the podcast episode I posted right before the storm hit on Monday evening, you'll know I'm working on a challenge project for my guild. If you haven't been able to listen to it yet, you might need to wait a bit. The podcast host servers also seem to be down now so if you didn't download it the night I posted it, you might not be able to for a few days. Sorry about that!

So, to recap for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about--this is the Untouchables Challenge, in which the challenge is to use that fabric that's been on your shelf for a long time and you (1) haven't wanted to cut into it because it's too pretty and you're sure you'll ruin it; (2) it's a tricky fabric and you're just not entirely sure how to use it; or, (3) it's butt-ugly and you can't imagine what you were thinking when you bought it.

Fortunately, my fabric for the challenge falls into categories (1) and (2). It's a McKenna Ryan collection. In my podcast episode, I talk about how I ended up landing on the technique I'm using so I won't go into that here. The nutshell version: It's the 9-Patch Pizzazz technique by Judy Sisneros.

Right now the blocks are all just hanging out on my design wall--I haven't actually figured out my final layout yet. This layout was simply me seeing whether I had enough blocks to work with.

I'll eventually have it in a layout that helps your eye travel more and blends better. It's very low contrast intentionally--sort of a spa feel. I may do something with the border to give it more definition. Or not. Haven't decided yet. I need to let it brew for a bit.

I think the colors blend in person better than they seem to in this picture. Lighting issues.

I made a 9-Patch Pizzazz a few years back. This one is named "Roman Pizzazz." It hangs in my dining room most of the year until I switch it out with a flag quilt that hangs from Memorial Day to Labor Day (or, like this year, until tonight when I realized, "Yeesh--the flag is still up!").

It's named "Roman" because the focus fabric felt very romanesque to me. Other than the border quilting which you can see pretty clearly in this picture, I quilted the rest of it with climbing leaf vines to give it an ancient ruins-kind-of-feel.

Whenever you do listen to my episode, you can probably see what I mean when I referred to some of the fabrics blending *too* well in this quilt--you can't even tell that most of those blocks are 9-patches. But still, I like the colors!

Boy, does it feel good to be making progress on projects again!

WIP: Niece's quilt

Originally uploaded by sandyquiltz
A quick update on my goings-on, as I've been going-around. I was out of town for a few days again this week...last trip until February! Woohoo! But that meant I had to do a little radio silence again as I had very little Internet access while I was gone. I did manage to knock out some more blocks on my niece's Christmas quilt on Sunday afternoon, though, so here's a sneak preview of what we're aiming for.

I hope to get the center pieced tonight, and then borders on tomorrow, so I can get it to Andrea (my fabulous long-arm quilter) early next week.

Jelly roll sampler in progress

This really poor picture is of the only sewing I've gotten done this week so far. And, technically, there's been no sewing involved yet. I'm puttering away at sorting a jelly roll for sampler blocks using the new Jelly Roll Sampler book by Pam and Nicky Lintott. The jelly roll I chose (Fig & Plum by Fig Tree Quilts for Moda) isn't high contrast, so the blocks will be fairly muted. I think the overall effect will be fairly shabby chic or something. If it turns out nicely, it might go well in my aunt-in-law's cottage, but I'm not marrying myself to any particular thoughts of how the end results might be used yet.

So, there's the sum total of my quiltmaking life for the last week. I guess I can cut myself a little slack after finishing up that Serengeti project. Speaking of he is, hanging in her dorm room.

Also living in her dorm room, a lion quilt my mom made her when she was little--maybe 5 or 6. She was a huge Lion King fan most of her childhood, so she's surrounded by lions.

That's what every college girl needs, right?

A Test and a Shop Hop

My daughter's driving test today went swimmingly, despite several indicators to the contrary. Threatening rain, a 90-minute drive to the test site, having already failed one test.... I took the day off from work to focus on getting her through today as successfully as possible. We spent a little time on some last minute practice, then made the drive to the town the test was in, had a relaxed lunch, hung out for a bit. And then--yay! She passed! Only 6 days before leaving for about squeaking it in under the wire!

I took advantage of the fact that the town we had to do her test in is right in the middle of Amish country. Good food, great quilt shops. There's one I particularly like--an Amish family farm where she's set up a fabric shop in a shed in her driveway. It's bigger than that sounds, and she has a lot of nice fabric in there. I had recalled that she had several of the Moda Essential Dots collection last time I was there, and I'm a fan of those. Yep--still there! And more colorways than I recalled! So I bought colors I often use--a yard of each, except the one on the far right. I got three yards of that one because I'm planning on using some of it as sashing for an upcoming project.

After dinner tonight, baby girl took her first solo flight in the car, asking me if I wanted anything from the grocery store. Sure--we can always use another gallon of milk. Off she went! To keep my mind off her being out alone in my car, I spent a little more time prepping for an upcoming project from the Jelly Roll Sampler Quilt. Playing with fabric--the best therapy!

Dang. And It Was Going So Well...

Another evening in, another opportunity to spend a few hours in my sewing room. Companionably, even, since my daughter is sitting on the floor in my sewing room with her computer (a long story having to do with hitchy wireless and ethernet cables), the two dogs are here, and my son's voice is coming to me out of my computer speakers since tonight's his DJ night on campus radio and I was streaming his show.

I was merrily cutting along to my son's music, not always my taste but I generally find it mostly entertaining. Everything was going swimmingly. His show ended just about as I finished up my last cut. I shut off my computer and went back to my cutting table to neatly stack all the pieces inside labeled plastic bags, when I decided to review the pattern instructions to see what I needed to cut next.

Wait....what? TWO 6-1/2" strips?? I had only seen that I was supposed to cut one of each successively longer size rectangle off of each set of 2 1/2" strips. But apparently I was supposed to cut two of one size, and I hadn't caught it.

I had leftovers of all of strips, of course, so at first I didn't think it would be that big a deal. Pull out what I thought had been scraps, trim it to 6 1/2", call it a day. But darn if five of those scraps weren't too short. Several more have some selvage showing at one end but it's not the white part--it's the part that would pretty much blend in, especially considering seam allowances. I could probably get away with it. But those five, there's no help for it. Even steaming the hey out of them wouldn't get them close enough for horseshoes.

So now I have to decide how to problem-solve. I've got some ideas but, frankly, ran out of steam. My daughter's school woke me up way early this morning with a robo-call to tell us school was closed so I'm about ready to head to bed as it is.

As my Dad always used to say, "Get a good night's'll feel better in the morning."

Ok, Dad. Good night.

Log Cabin--Good Enough for Horseshoes

I got the log cabin pieced today, vertigo be darned. Actually, it wasn't too bad--just a couple of hairy moments here and there when I turned from my ironing board back to my sewing machine too fast. Anyway, the "Use It or Lose It Challenge" is now officially done and I can go back to finishing up UFOs.

Here 'tis, with the help of my lovely assistant daughter. Still not keen on the final results due to value issues I already discussed, but it's not bad. It'll make a nice lap quilt for someone, or baby quilt.

So, my assessment of the Marti Michell log cabin rulers may not be entirely fair as I was also testing out pressing all my seams open instead of to one side. So it's hard to tell what caused what.

Here's what I think I can fairly say:

The rulers didn't speed up the process any.

The rulers didn't add to my accuracy. I think that was for two reasons:  (1) because I'd decided to follow the directions in the pattern book exactly as part of the test, and because I didn't want to spend a long time on this, I was cutting 8 layers at once as per the directions, which is always a little dangerous. If I did it again, I'd only do 4 layers, at most. (2) The way you have to hold the rulers to cut the strips into sections is awkward and I never felt confident I was holding them exactly straight and still because of that.

The rulers saved me from having to do math. That's always a bonus.

Michell (among others) is a huge advocate of cutting on the lengthwise grain--IOW, length of fabric, not WOF. I tried it, although I was using fat quarters so I wasn't dealing with bulk of fabric, which I'd think would be tricky. I know logically it should make a difference but, frankly, it really didn't feel like it did in this case. I've made log cabins before and I don't think I had any better or worse results this time because of using the lengthwise grain. I'm not ready to make a judgment call on this one because I've only really done it this once. Jury is still out.

So, my final verdict on the rulers? I'll hang onto them and try them again at a later point. I'm not 100% sold, but I'm also not ready to give up on them.

In terms of pressing seams open? I am so NOT doing that again. I've read several articles lately extolling the wonders of pressing open rather than to one side. I do press my binding seams open since it makes them lay more evenly around the quilt, but I haven't done a whole block that way. I did this entire log cabin open and found it more frustrating than useful.
1.) It takes a heck of a lot longer. A LOT longer.
2.) I suspect my need to finger-press the seams first stretched things just a hair.
3.) It was alot harder to get my seams to match when putting block to block. I like being able to nest seams more.

There are some circumstances in which pressing open is definitely the way to go, but I'm not going to adopt it as my general operating procedure. I just found it annoying and not particularly useful in the long run.

BTW, here's the "behind the scenes" picture with my other lovely, albeit doofussy, assistant.

"Hey, where'd you go?"