Christmas Placemats

Since December is getting closer, the placemat project is back. It started with fabric I won, and I got as far as making the tree blocks before I set it aside for other projects. (I shift projects like you shift chairs in the game of Musical Chairs.) Back in August or September there was no need to rush, right?

Here are two of the tree variations, ready to be quilted.

I curved the corners so I’d not have to fuss with making them square. I can see I need to improve my freehand cutting or else make a template. Here are the other two tree variations, waiting for their turn at being completed.

Because some of the fabric had black background, I thought perhaps some of it on the tree was in order. Of the four, I like 2 and 3 the best. All the variations have the star fabric for the top square–gotta have a star on top of the tree.

I’d intended on plain green and red backs, but miscalculated and used some of the red for another project, so had to piece two backs.

If you were in a hurry, I think the stripes would make a fine set of placemats. Or if you were in a bigger hurry, a sngle fabric on each sides and another print napkin would also work.

Linking up with WiP Wed before I get back to stitching.



Filed under Holidays, quilting

Holiday Doll Quilt Time

The time for doll and teddy bear quilts for the Fire Fighters Toy and Joy program has rolled around again. Last year I made around a dozen in November/December and thought to work more steadily during this year instead of all in the last month. Um hmm. Another good intention down the drain. So here I am with four finished and hoping to make ten or twelve.

These two are the quick ones, the way I usually make them: a simple block and border sewn to a back, then minimally quilted.

Star quilt

20 x 20

A friend gave me the novelty fabric and I thought it needed multicolor points. The pinwheels are from the “bonus” triangles left from the star points.

25-patch toy quilt

16 x 16

The size was determined by the width of the piece of red cuddle fabric–I had originally planned another plain yellow border. The squares came from a welcome packet at a recent guild retreat (Alas, I’ve forgotten the fabric line and the label is gone–if you recognize it, add it in the comments please.) Looking at the finished product, I see much better color distributions were possible. No matter how much I play with arrangements, I always see something in the final product that I wish I’d placed differently.

The next two have needed more work than I usually do on toy items. But it has been good practice.

These started with blocks already quilted.  I’d made them for Soy Amado (now concluded); however, my 12 1/2-inch blocks shrank when I quilted them and were no longer usable in that project.They are quilted more densely than I’d normally do, but it was good FMQ practice. And it was nice to quilt such small pieces. The ladders came from Leah Day’s website and seemed perfect for a firetruck block. The flowers on the black print were an attempt at extending the fabric design into the quilting.

I’d watched several YouTube tutorials on assembling the pieces. The process is simple enough, but tedious. And even the 12 1/2 inch side under the machine harp made it difficult to keep the topstitching line straight on the final seam on my Featherweight–currently my only machine. If I’m going to wrestle a piece anyway, I may as well FMQ it whole and wrestle there without the tedium.

I have a couple of these prequilted blocks yet to do, then I can get back to the simpler method.

I’ll be linking with Link a Finish Friday, TGIFF, and Finish it Up Friday (as soon as the links are available). It’s always fun to see other peoples’ finishes, but more fun when I have one too.

ETA: links


Filed under quilting

Leaders and Enders Progress

Leaders and Enders projects are not a source of instant gratification. As you might imagine, they can last a long time, especially when I find ways to make the primary project be its own leader/ender.

But even chain piecing and leap frogging have ends, so yes,I have a continuing “real” leader/ender project. This one started a couple years ago when I saw this on Quilters Gallery. This project was perfect for several reasons, the most important being that I liked it. Secondly, I had 1 1/2-inch pieces already. (Although I thought I had used up all my 1 1/2-inch squares and made more to finish Fading Charms, I found another box of samples.) Thirdly, it took few light neutrals.

Now I love quilts where there are equal pieces of light neutrals and darker prints. However, I never seem to have that many light neutral scraps–or new yardage, for that matter. Until I take on Bonnie Hunter’s quest of used shirts for fabric, I need something mostly dark.

A Quilting Chick is starting a linky to encourage leaders and enders–and she explains the concept, so if it is new to you, check the button on the sidebar. I’ll be playing–how about you? If you do leaders and enders, add your say on the third ThursdayTuesday of each month. I  decided to take inventory for starters.

3 finishedI just had to see the finished look, so did these three one day long ago. One upper right rectangle had a redo–needed some color to contrast with the triangle. Here’s what I have to show for a couple years.

A pile of squares, rectangles and triangles. Forty-two 9-patch blocks waiting to have their 2 rectangles pressed along with five that have been pressed. Nine in the next round along with five-sashing-plus-cornerstone, both waiting to be pressed. One with triangle attached.  As you can see, leaders and enders require patience and preparation.

The first round for this pattern is easy: sew a light and dark 1 1/2-inch square together. I can do that without preplanning, need only a little digging–once the squares were sorted light, medium and dark, but they are hopelessly mixed now. Then comes a choice. Random 9-patches or light and dark pattern?  I go with pattern, so a little planning is needed. When I have a pile of threes to combine, I pause a while to plan and pin them so they are at the ready in the stand beside my sewing machine where I keep the project in a drawer. Or I can attach the first two neutral rectangles to a 9-patch mindlessly, then later plan and pin the ones with squares for the corners. Likewise I plan the triangles.

Of course  scraps have to be cut, and even leaders and enders have to be pressed and sometimes trimmed. Sometimes the primary project doesn’t allow the luxury of that extra time, so I do the mindless steps.

When I do have extra time I press. Or I cut more 1 1/2 x 3 1/2-rectangles and corner triangles. I keep meaning to spend 15 minutes each day cutting scraps so that they are always ready, but that has gone where most of my good intentions go.

I suppose the size of this leader-and-ender quilt will be determined either by my scraps running out (slim chance) or by my attention shifting to another project.

I know some of my readers have a leader-ender style of working; I hope you will join the linky (button in sidebar) this ThursdayTuesday and share your leader and ender projects too. I’m eager to see them.

ETA: Today is the first Leaders and Enders Link up–come see!



Filed under quilting

Urban Chickens–Top Finished

finished top

60 x 48

The top is together. I managed to maintain the chosen layout.

Realizing that the bottom row and the left most row will not be seen, given the angle of my bed in the room, I’d not wanted any favorite blocks there. However, a friend pointed out that I could alternate the way the quilt lay on the bed.

If I make another, I may limit the palette more; however, my bedroom needs all this brightness. The pattern works very well with prints as well as solids. And I’m wondering if it could go totally scrappy? I’m starting to save scraps in bunches of 4 blocks (3 1/2 square) so I can try it. Maybe a degree scrappier yet with totally miscellaneous scraps, not trying for groups of four. And I’ll probably select fabrics in closer values. The ones with very light and very dark confused the light-to-dark arrangement–which to count them? They always seemed the opposite of where they had been put. Or with a more limited palette, maybe I’d not be trying for value gradation arrangement.

I love having the “chickens” pointing every which way with an occasional block surrounded; however, now I notice that the surrounding creates a lot of emphasis. Next time I’ll select more carefully which blocks get that treatment.

I have no idea how to quilt it. Suggestions? Or whether to quilt it myself. I had enough trouble with bulk when I sewed the last seam connecting the two halves to reconsider.

ETA link to pattern so you can have it without viewing the whole history of the quilt.

Linking with Link a Finish Friday and Needle and Thread Thursday.


Filed under design, quilting

November Sketch Time

Sketchtime for the MasterClass has rolled around again; this time we were given three photos as starters. Here is the one I chose to work with.

Class photo

I was immediately struck by old white  iron fence posts, secondarily by the way they disappeared under the walkway with its fence. So I started sketching. I’ll spare you the first 4-5 dismal failures. I finally had a progression of three that might work with tweaking, and I presented them in what I thought was least to best.

sketch 1

Sketch 1

sketch 2

Sketch 2

Sketch 3

Sketch 3

Here was my thinking. Sketch 1 had an intruding curving shape (meant to be abstracted from the various roads in the photo) plus a confusing mass of perspective/non perspective–I needed to go one way or the other and chose non-perspective. In sketch 2 I decided to add details from the buildings that had increasingly interested me as I looked at the photo over and over. It ended up a little too formally balanced for my taste. On to sketch 3 where I thought I had nailed it. I kept one of the buildings I had liked, realized it stood alone and added the three pillars on the left.

Interestingly, the comments were the reverse of my judgments. The curve shape made the first more interesting by contrasting to other straight lines; repeating triangles in sketch 2 was a good move, and in the third one, the right side object was unrelated.

This would not be the first time I’ve stumbled on contrast-for-interest Vs. intrusive-and-unrelated. And not only in art, but in writing. I’d come up with one theory: don’t introduce difference without repeating it somewhere else. Obviously, that isn’t a complete answer. I did notice some curving lines in Sketch 1 that were almost accidental; perhaps they keep the big curved shape from standing alone and intruding? And I am beginning to like Sketch 1 more.

So what I’m wondering is how others deal with creating contrast for interest without intruding something unrelated. My current hypothesis is that the difference between an artist and a wanna-be is the intuitive recognition of the difference.

Inviting comments and linking with Off the Wall Friday in hopes of insight.


Filed under design

Lan Su Chinese Garden–November 1

I missed an October visit by a day. Still, there was more green than fall color, and only one tree had dropped its leaves. There was more color in the penjing than in the larger plants.

However, there was some color among the larger trees.

view of lotus, willow and orange tree

Although the lotus seem past their season, the lotus boat was still out amidst some lush yellow.

lotus boat

And then there is my favorite view of the day.

photo showing layers with orange tree

This four layered view showing how the illusion of space is created for the one-city-block size garden. To the left is the Lake Tai rock sculpture that is formed naturally in the water currents over the soft stone in the lake.

November’s feature is potted mums placed all around the garden. Since it is the very beginning of the month there are more buds than full flowers, but there was a very good preview.

And yes, the red rose is still blooming. I wonder which four months it does not bloom.

red roseAnd finally, the land boat view.

landboat and  persimmonsNote the almost ripe persimmons, upper left.  A sign said they weren’t really ready till December and asked visitors to leave them for future visitors. This is the first I’ve seen them ripe on the tree. Come December there will still be a few clinging.


Filed under nature, Portland OR

Classic Meets Modern BOM–Flying Geese

It’s still October in the Pacific Northwest, so my BOM is on time. October’s challenge was to do a modern version of Flying Geese.

Flying Geese

Independent Geese

This started out as slice and insert flying geese of various sizes. At first all were pointed up and the orange ones were flying straight. The only decisions I had started with were that the angles were not to parallel the yellow print “goose,” and the orange ones were farther away.

Relative size is one way to show distance, so is chopping off part of the distant ones traveling “under” the closer–so be assured that the partial orange geese are done purposefully. The upper blue one is purposefully partial too: I think there is more motion when they enter stage left.

As I played with angles, it seemed fun to make the orange geese be a little disorderly; it was an easy step from that to turning the blue ones in the opposite direction.

And for once, a title came easily, Independent Geese.

ETA: Flashback to the 70s. This block is somewhat traditional in the fabric choices. Then white background was a given. One chose the print then two solids that went with it. Probably not so bold as these, however.  And for the record, in this case I chose the read-as-solids first, wanted a yellow that wasn’t too pale and came to this print. (In the 70s, if we wanted read-as-solids, we used pin dots.)

You might want to check out what others have done with this traditional block at Sew At Home Mummy’s Classic Meets Modern. Come Monday I’ll be linking with BOMs Away  and Anything Goes Monday (buttons to the right).


Filed under design, quilting