The quilt that nobody loved

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The scrap quilt project … rejected by me and sewn by my mother.

This is a sad story with a happy ending.

It began at a quilt retreat about 3 years ago. The project was to create a mystery quilt, which turned out to be a scrap quilt. Instead of getting a kit of brand new fabrics, the quilt shop staff had been asked to donate their scraps. Many of these scraps, we all recognized, were from discount shops and not good quality fabric. Since I’m too much of a control freak to enjoy mystery quilts, I hadn’t planned to do the project anyway. So this sad bag of scraps and instructions found its way where most castoff’s do … to my mother’s house.

Now my mom is a great quilter and she did a wonderful job making the top. But I felt guilty asking her to quilt it, so it made the trek (once again) from Canada to the United States, where it waited for 18 months for me to put it on the longarm machine. I was dreading doing the quilting. I’m a pretty funky quilter and my mom is a traditionalist — plus I really hated the quilt — so I had no idea what to do. Finally I settled on a pretty pantograph of maple leafs, which I thought would add some texture to the design.

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Here’s my husband’s first attempt at un-quilting, as he helped me with a 20-hour rip-out project. Thanks, honey!

I was too embarrassed to take pictures of the pantographs. Let’s just say they were a big mistake. I hadn’t used a pantograph for a couple of years and my lines were atrocious. By the time I was one-third of the way through the quilt, I’d determined that I wasn’t getting any better. With my husband’s help, we spent 20 hours ripping out those darn stitches.

The quilt is now finished and it looks fine. I even sort of like it. I used a star template for the larger white blocks and did a freehand loopy design over the rest of the squares. Hopefully someone will love this quilt, because it’s certainly had a tough beginning!

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Here’s the background. Isn’t it perfect for hiding errors? However, trying to pick out black threads on this background was almost impossible. I guess that’s why you’re supposed to do things right the first time!

The dreaded phonecall

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TKE2Those of you who have kids in college will remember the dreaded phone call. You know the one: “Mom, I want to join a fraternity.”

In our house, the call came a few months ago.

I admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about fraternities, especially since I grew up in Canada and they weren’t that popular. I had, however, watched many movies such as “Animal House” and knew that “fraternity” was synonymous with “excessive drinking.”

I was also very aware of the hazing process. My son took that in stride. “Don’t worry, mom,” he told me. “We had a kid die during the hazing process a few years ago, so my school is very strict about hazing.” That did NOT make me feel better, especially after I did some research and found out how that poor child suffered.

It’s now six months later and, although I can’t say that I love the Greek system, I admit that they provide a lot of great leadership opportunities and do some mighty fine charity work. My son is extremely happy with his new “brothers” and busy volunteering at community events. (I’m sure there’s some partying that’s going on too.)  The organization does seem to be well-run and I’ve gotten over my fears.

All this is a lead-up to my latest quilt project — a fraternity banner. I designed it, but it’s based on the fraternity flag for “Tau Kappa Epsilon.” I actually think that it looks very cool and my son is excited to hang it on the wall in his dorm.

It’s beginning to look a lot like more winter

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On Saturday, as I was quilting this Christmas quilt, it was 50 degrees outside and the first day in months that it felt winter was behind us. I had planned to write a cute post about my unseasonal quilting and how much I felt like working on a quilt that was Spring-themed.

Thankfully, when I got up this morning, it had started snowing again. So I guess my post is now timely, at least here in the Northeast.

This quilt was made using a Moda charm pack for the center. The outside of the squares is made from a layer cake, which I cut into 2.5″ strips. I’m pretty sure that I saw the design somewhere, but I have no idea who made the original quilt and I apologize for copying them without giving them credit.

I was struggling to know what color thread to use on this. I settled on a sage green and it blended beautifully into the front and back of the quilt. I used simple, loopy freestyle quilting to add some texture. Clearly my dogs thought that I did a good job!

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Lancelot (facing camera) and Guinevere enjoying Christmas quilt

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I loved this backing! The colors matched beautifully and it was also very contemporary.

My Hex-ceptional Quilt!

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I have a large stash of black and white fabrics and was trying to figure out a way to use them. Since hex quilts are so popular, I thought I’d give it a try. It’s actually pretty easy, as long as you’re not afraid of “Y” seams.

I began with Darlene Zimmerman’s Hexagon template.

Since this was just a test quilt, I traced each hexagon using a fine-tipped Sharpie so I could see the lines. I then used a ruler and, again using a Sharpie, marked the 1/4″ line around all six sides. (Warning: Not recommended for a show quilt!) The next step was to sew rows together. If you picture the hex’s as a stop sign, I sewed the bottom of Stop Sign #1 to the top of Stop Sign #2. On even rows, I pressed the seams towards the top; on odd rows, I pressed the seams toward the bottom.

Now the fun begins as you sew the rows together. I pinned the right sides of the stop sign in Row 1 to the left side of the stop sign in Row 2. I just sewed along the guidelines. When I got to the intersection of blocks, I kept the needle in the “down” position and moved the seam allowance out of the way.  I actually got into the rhythm and it fairly easy to do. These are 5.5″ blocks, so I imagine it’s a little more challenging as the blocks get smaller. Overall, it was an interesting project and certainly one that builds piecing skills.

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Not according to plan …

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My unfinished sampler quilt!

I have a love-hate relationship with sampler quilts.

I love samplers because it’s a way to develop my skills and try some new techniques. Plus it’s always very fun getting a new pattern and some fabric in the mail!

The downside is when I don’t do the blocks for almost a year and screw up, then recognize it’s too late to contact the shop for more fabric. I think that its some kind of quilting law that you have to do this at least once in a Sampler Quilt. Yesterday was my day.

I’d be planning to finish this quilt for awhile. It was a block of the week from Summer 2013, created by Stitchin’ Heaven Quilt Shop in Texas. My first big problem was that the remaining four blocks require Tri Recs acrylic templates to make the triangles. I knew that I’d purchased these at least twice (probably three times) and could not find a single set in my sewing room. Over the weekend, I was determined to hunt ‘em down and finally found two sets in the drawer under my cutting table.

I love the color of the blocks. The instructions are wonderfully clear and I’ve enjoyed making them. However, I don’t like the directions for half-square triangles. They recommend cutting squares in half on the diagonal, thus creating two right-angle triangles, and then sewing the longest sides together. I prefer to create half-square triangles by sewing two squares together and then cutting them apart along the diagonal. As a result, I make my squares a little bit larger then the instructions suggest and am always mucking around with the directions. The short story is that I screwed up and cut some of the blocks two small.

Although I have a hefty stash, of course I didn’t have any equivalent fabric, so knew I couldn’t complete one of the blocks. I was so frustrated that I decided to change course and do some computer work instead of sewing. So much for my plan to finish the blocks and show them off in today’s blog!

Chevron Quilt (PS: I Designed It Myself!)

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I have been wanting to make a chevron quilt for quite awhile. I had some black fabric and a great pack of Kaufman fat quarters that were perfect for the project. A bonus was that I didn’t have to purchase any new fabric, which carries on my theme from last week of actually making something from my stash. (Don’t worry, those days are passed. I broke down and ordered some new fabric yesterday.)

This quilt is made of finished 5″ squares. I began by cutting 7″ squares and using them to make half-square triangles. The resulting square was trimmed down to 5.5 inches. Each row consists of a light and dark color that were fairly close together in color. (The second row was VERY close in color … they are slightly different shades but it’s hard to see that from the photo.)

Although I’ve done some original quilts, this is my first time creating a pattern that was somewhat complex. It made me appreciate the challenges faced by pattern designers. My major screw-up was pressing all of the seams toward the dark side, and then having to re-press half of them to the other side.

My other screw-up was forgetting to bring the 7th row back to my sewing room. I sewed the strips together and ended with a row that had a big transition between colors. After some ripping and re-stitching, that problem was also fixed.

At first I was really disappointed in the quilt. I felt like the black portion was very overpowering. However, the more I look at it, the more I like it. I’ve got a great idea for the quilting and will share the final result when it’s done.

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A Fun, Frozen Day!

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Yesterday was yet another snow day on Long Island. I decided to treat myself a “Sew Day” and spend the day quilting. When I checked Facebook at lunch, there was a post by awesome quilter Kim Brunner — AND IT FEATURED MY DAUGHTER!!!! I was incredibly surprised to discover that she was featured on BuzzFeed

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Daughter Angela in her Elsa costume from “Frozen.”

I have to say that her costume was worthy of being publicized. It took her more than 250 hours to make and has 100,000+ rhinestones. I can also say (as her proud mother) that I thought her makeup and wig styling were flawless.

Although most of the comments are positive, the negatives focus on the lousy photos. It will be no surprise to my readers that I am the lousy photographer! What people didn’t realize was that the photos were taken the morning following an ice storm. The roads were basically closed. Even if we had hired a photographer, they wouldn’t have been able to make it to the shoot. It’s a shame that she was stuck with me, because a professional photographer and some additional lighting would have made a huge difference.

No fabric was purchased for this quilt!

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There’s something really satisfying about making a quilt top entirely from my stash! I had a half yard of this button fabric and wanted to make a quilt with it.  I managed to find some matching red, grey and white solids, but didn’t have much of them either. What I did  have were two rolls of Kona cotton 2.5 inch strips — one set in black and the other in white. I mixed it all together and came up with this quilt top!

I have to say that I love the look of it. It’s contemporary and kind of fun! I can’t wait to quilt it. I’m also excited to use up a teeny, tiny bit of my fabric stash!

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Inspiration from the Catwalk

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Last month, I had the opportunity to visit the Jean Paul Gaultier: From Sidewalk to Catwalk exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. I have to admit that I am in awe of designers because they work with such a wide range of fabrics (not to mention feathers and sequins), and because they have to fit their creations to a live model.

Jean Paul Gaultier was born in 1952 and received no formal fashion training. Over the last forty years, he’s designed for movies, models and musicians. Some of his creations were truly beautiful and some were rather vulgar. Clearly he has his own vision for his designs!

This exhibit continues at the Brooklyn Museum until February 23, 2014. It is really well set up, and many of the models are on a rotating stage. I apologize for the horrible quality of the photographs. The models were moving and they don’t allow flash photography, so I did the best I could with my iPhone. I wanted to share my trip and make my local readers aware of this exhibit. Thankfully I’m a much better quilter than I am photographer!

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A surprise in the mailbox

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When I got the mail yesterday, I was surprised to see a large envelop addressed to my 16-year-old daughter. It was from my mom’s sister, who is my daughter’s great aunt. Aunt Mary follows my daughter’s sewing adventures online, so knows of her love for historical, women’s fashion.

The surprise was 100 or so pages of Harper’s Bazaar magazines, from 1899 to 1907! How cool! They had been torn out and saved by somebody, just the same way that I tear out pages from my favorite quilting magazines. The pages were a combination of mail order fashions and home making articles. Perhaps my quilt magazine tear-out pages will be an equal treasure for my great-great-great granddaughters in 2114!

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