Monday, March 24, 2014

Allergies or Ennui?

Despite my best laid plans, I didn't participate in the Friday Night Sew-in or work on my Tea Towel Challenge quilt this weekend as planned.   I might be able to attribute my not-great feeling lately to allergies (proof Spring is really here), life's stress at the moment or just plain ennui–I just didn't feel like working on quilts and so ... I just didn't work on them.

Whatever it was, by Sunday afternoon, it had passed and I made some April blocks for the Block Lotto–which I can't share publicly for another week, though some will get a sneak peek later today– and these Briar Patch blocks from Teal scraps for the Rainbow Scraps challenge. 

As I was sewing the paper foundation pieced blocks, I thought about how it was one of those old projects that I would likely never have picked up again if not for the rainbow scraps challenge.  While I don't hate paper-piecing, I don't think I'd ever choose to make a large quilt of paper-pieced blocks.  Making them now, a few blocks each month as part of the challenge, makes them completely do-able and not at all tedious :-)

It has me thinking about how to structure some other golden oldie un-finished projects that I know I'd like finished but don't excite me so much now into manageable bites of time and effort.

This morning, I pulled out the 22 blocks made so far: 4 red ones made in a workshop with Judy Niemeyer, long ago and far away, the rest made so far this year from rainbow scraps.

I'm joining the lists for Judy's Design Wall Monday and Angela's Scrap-Happy Saturday ... even though I didn't get scrappy until Sunday. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Procrastination Project?

My Tea Towel challenge is still on the design wall, unchanged.

Instead of making a decision on that and moving forward, last night I played with the bits and pieces of the rejected black & white border idea.

The blocks are a scrapified version of the Star Chain block, and idea I've wanted to play around with since I made the first blocks for the Block Lotto; the strips and rectangles will be used with the blocks to test an idea I've had for a while ... stay tuned.  I could have made a better choice for the chain fabric, but I don't hate it enough to change it :-)

When I was finished making these pieces for a new project idea, there was a single 2-inch square left.

That's my work-in-progress this Wednesday. See more at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's a good time for a Friday Night Sew In

I don't know if I will have made the decision to go larger with the Tea Towel quilt by the end of the week–I'm still waffling not hat one, pull out some teal scraps for some more Briar Patch blocks, or focus on one of two more barely started projects that I haven't yet blogged about, but ...

I do know that I will be playing along with this month's Friday Night Sew in.  How about you?

You can sign up here.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

But Do I Call It a Border?

My 2014 tea towel challenge quilt project has become larger.  I decided that the piece that I shared a little over a week ago wasn't done yet and that it needed something more.  I had a few ideas for the design of the border:
  • Continuing the gray chains of the Star Chain blocks into a pieced border,
  • Adding a few of the small Ohio Star blocks
  • Using black & white prints to create a dark border to contain the quilt.
I made a couple stars and liked them.  I pieced a couple border sections from black and white prints with gray chains and liked them, but thought the border could use a random sprinkling of squares from the fabrics used for the stars (in colors from the balloon tea towel).  Fully committed to the idea, I cut many strips from black and white fabrics, sewed some strip sets and cut them up into 3-square units ... then I decided that, even with the addition of some colored squares, it was just too dark and constraining for this light, airy quilt.  

How I hate that feeling when you see how something is not working ... and how great is it when, once you edit your ideas and take it in a different direction, one that feels like you, the work seems so much easier/faster/better.

I'm not sure what I've added would correctly be called a border, but it was constructed as rectangle blocks, then long strips, like a border would be.

In addition to the stars, continuation of the chain, random colored squares, a few black and white squares were sprinkled in the borders.

This piece now measures 68 by 80-inches–much larger than I imagined my Tea Towel challenge quilt would be.

It occurred to me that by adding more traditional white, yellow and red borders, it could become bed-sized, but I'm waffling.  I also think it could be "done."

I'll leave it on the design wall for a day and see how I feel about it tomorrow.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Smells Like Spring

My followers on Flickr have noticed that my big, male tabby now goes outside on a leash.  Despite the sounds of birds singing all around, he is usually most interested in tasting the various desert plants growing in my backyard.

Until recently he showed no interest in the evergreen piñon trees.  This morning, he couldn't get enough of it and stood on two legs to get a good whiff.

I figure it must smell like Spring.

Johnny's little calico sister, Grace Hopper, still stays inside, stares out the glass door and complains loudly ... but makes it clear there's no way she's going to wear a harness and doesn't really seem to want to go outside herself.

My own reaction to the near arrival of Spring is thinking about unpacking the summer clothing that is packed away and an attraction to spring-colored and themed fabrics like these–part of the latest giveaway from Spoonflower.  (Follow the link to sign up for your own chance to win this Spring FQ Bundle of Spoonflower fabrics.)

I'm joining the link on the Block Lotto–this month's topic is Let's Blog about Spring (or Fall).

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Snowy, Sleepy, Scrappy Saturday

It's not Spring yet ... I woke up to a gray sky and a frosting of snow ... perhaps the last before Spring?

The snow has since turned to a light rain and washed away the snow ... but the sky is still gray. The cats have joined me in the studio and settled into their morning cat naps on their perch. Seeing them in silhouette in front of the glass doors makes it obvious that Johnny Be Good is the big brother and Grace Hopper, the little sister. They are so alike in many ways ... but size is not one of them.

You can also see the result of some recent mysterious middle-of-the-night catastrophe.  I have no idea how the more desirable, tall perch broke off off from the pole base–I can only imagine that involved both cats claiming ownership before it came tumbling down.   I just came down stairs earlier this week and found it that way.

They settled in and were cat-napping away while I spotted the first bunny of spring hopping within a couple feet of the door.

The tea towel challenge quilt has been my quilting focus for most of the week, but I did make a scrappy teal oak leaf to add to my collection earlier this week.

These leaf blocks are 10 by 15 inches–one of the sizes I didn't originally include in the block pattern ... so I updated it to add the measurements for cutting the squares and rectangles needed for this size as wall as a large 16 by 24 inch leaf that could be make from charm squares.

You can download the updated block pattern here:

Oak Leaf Block Pattern in 6 Sizes

I love how these blocks, made in such unlikely colors for an oak leaf, are turning out.

This weekend, I plan to decide upon and sew borders on the tea towel quilt and play some more with teal scraps.  It's just too wet and gray to be out-and-about and just right to stay inside and put something in the crock pot to cook while I quilt. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Stop Overthinking It!

When I restarted my tea towel challenge with a new tea towel–actually a pair of coordinating tea towels–my mantra was STOP overthinking it.

I won't say that my tendency to think-think-think a project is the only thing that completely blocked me from moving forward with the fairy tale tea towel, but it was definitely a factor ... and since I am being completely honest, I find that I am still (over) thinking about the challenges of working with that one.

The mantra seems to be working for me and, at last, I have some Tea Towel Challenge progress of my own to share.

Followers of the Block Lotto will recognize the Star Chain blocks, which are this month's block for the Lotto, and will also see how the same quilt that inspired the Star Chain block design also inspired the design for this quilt.

I do hope that Céline believes that imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery.  I loved her Maisy quilt and immediately saw design possibilities in it.  Over on the Block Lotto blog, I suggested using large floral prints with the green Star Chain blocks we're making in a similar design, and when I started thinking about what to do with my pair of coordinating hot-air-balloon tea towels, I was clearly still thinking about the Maisy quilt.

Now, I find myself in that place that Laurina blogged about a couple weeks ago and I, too, am asking myself, is it done yet?

I may have fallen into old habits and be overthinking the answer to that question a little too much.  Some considerations are that since itt has turned into a bigger quilt than I imagined–it now measures 56 by 68 inches–maybe I should go for it and make it large enough for a bed?  One practical challenge to making it any larger is that I have all but used up the white-on-white fabric and since I bought the last of the bolt, I won't be able to find/buy more.

I'd love to know what you think: Is it done?  Does it need more and if so, what?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Mod-Mod-March Update

Since I spilled the beans on the Block Lotto about how the January, February and March blocks combine to form the first module of the Mod-Mod quilt, quite a bit of progress has been made, in advance of the usual mid-month-update ... So I went ahead and published it early, yesterday.

Here's my progress.

For my Queen-size quilt, I added some aqua to the mix with these four Star Chain blocks.

Once I combined these with the Double Chevron and Bead-on-a-String blocks to create the first modules, I couldn't resist arranging them on the design wall in an approximation of quilt layout.  


I have already shared my Rainbow Scraps Challenge version of the quilt, which I'm making as a throw-sized quilt made from a total of 9 modules.

There was more playing on the design wall with those, too. I think this will be more fun when there are more blocks than white space ...


If you are beginning to like what you see, it's not too late to grab some fabrics and play along.  You can make a quilt in one of 6 sizes, from a small square (42 inches) to a big king-size bed quilt (105 inches square).  Here are some links on the Block Lotto site to get you started: 

Introduction and January update: It's a Mod-Mod Quilt-Along

While you're there, you can also check out some of the other Mod-Mod quilts in progress.   You'll also find all the block patterns there, as well as on my Free Quilt Block Patterns page.
I'm joining the WIP Wednesday lists on Esther's Blog and Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

What Can't Go on a Pizza?

Last weekend, I felt like pizza, but didn't want to go out in the cold rain.  I had ingredients in the pantry for making crust, but none of the usual toppings–I really need to shop for groceries soon.

That's how this very green pizza happened.

It has pesto, a couple of mushrooms and lots of sliced up Brussels sprouts and green onions.  I had just starting to grate some Parmesan cheese on top before I popped it in the over when I took this photo.  I confess that I was so hungry when it came out again, that I gobbled it up, sans photo.

I didn't know if it was even going to turn out to be edible, but it was surprisingly OK.  It got me thinking about other unexpected things one might put on a pizza.   Any suggestions?

Monday, March 03, 2014

Who Needs an Alarm Clock?

A beautiful sunrise will motivate me to get out of bed and enjoy it more than an alarm clock ever does. Today's was especially brilliant. I was up earlier than ever, and ran downstairs to grab my camera to take some photos before the colors dissolved into daylight.

While standing on the frosty deck, barefoot in my pajamas, trying to capture those brilliant colors and layers, a flock of birds circling to the north caught my eye. Every time I tried to capture them in a photo, they changed direction.

I couldn't figure out what was going on until they dropped from the sky and I zoomed in to find them taking a break on a wire.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Do All Greens Go Together?

It's a cold gray wet weekend in Santa Fe, so I spent Saturday afternoon inside making more of the broken dishes blocks.  I only needed 4 more generically green blocks and I had quite a few green bits and pieces cut and sewn.

I decided to use the existing triangles and half-square triangle units and add aqua and teal to them. The notion of combining all those variations of "green" together reminded me of an appliqué class, taught by the late Patricia Campbell, about 10 years ago, on a cold and snowy January day in Michigan.  Along with teaching us great hand-appliqué technique, she suggested that all greens go together, and invited us to imagine what the view outside the window would be like in spring or summer, when all the different greens found in grass, leaves, stems, trees, shrubs, etc., would create a beautiful landscape.

I remembered that day and suspended disbelief as I put together my four "green" blocks. These are 8-inch blocks (finished size), each made from 16 half-square-triangle units that measure 2 1/2 inches (2 inches finished size when sewn into the block.)

And here they are mixed in with the 17 previously made blocks, which also contain a few teal fabrics, on my design wall.

What do you think?  Can all greens go together or do you have rules about which ones play nicely?

I'm linking up with Angela's Scrap Happy Sunday for the Rainbow Scraps Challenge.  Go see what others have already done with the new colors for March, Aqua and Teal. Then check everyone's  design walls on Judy's Patchwork Times for even more work in progress.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Tea Towel Challenge 2014 - The Show & Tell Linky

Join me for the Tea Towel Challenge 2014As you know, after making ZERO progress on my tea towel quilt, I've decided to do something else, in hopes of priming the creative pump and getting some new insight into my tea towel quilt.  I hope this approach will mean two finished tea towel quilts from me soon ...

I know I'm not alone in my month of tea towel stuckness.  But, while some of us struggle, others have made real progress.  So, for those who are making real progress, here's the Linky for the show & tell for your finished Tea Towel Challenge quilt.

Based on my own stuck February and that of others, I have decided to extend February's Linky for showing your progress and this one, for sharing finished quilts.  These lists are now open as follows:

In-progress:  February 1 - March 31
Show & tell: March 1 - May 31

Please add your links as appropriate for wherever you are in your tea towel journey.  All the Linked lists appear on the Tea Towel Challenge page.

Sewing the Star Chain Block

When I select fabrics to make my blocks for the Block Lotto, I do the opposite of what you might do when making blocks for a quilt–I try to take the fabric guidelines in as many different ways as I can to see if they will still play together nicely and so you will often find me using very old fabrics–like in this blocks which contains two of the oldest fabrics from my stash, new fabrics, solids, batiks, hand dyes in a range of colors.  Usually you'll see examples of low contrast alongside high contrast blocks.

This month, we are making big 14-inch finished size blocks and so the maximum to enter into the drawing for lotto blocks is four.  Here are my very diverse four.

Even though I probably wouldn't have put these fabrics together in a quilt, once they were on my wall, I fell in love with the idea of using this block for the green scrappy quilt I have always wanted to make. I was secretly hoping that the designated color for the Rainbow Scraps Challenge (RSC) would be a more generic green as a reason to make that scrappy quilt now ... but it may happen anyway with no reason other than I want to.

I have made a pair of these blocks in Aquas and Teals for the RSC–they will be part of my Mod-Mod throw.  Here they are with the Blue and Pink blocks made in January and February.

Choosing fabrics may be the most challenging part of making this block–whether you are making it for the Block Lotto and following those guidelines or making it for your own projects.  I strongly suggest making the star center first so you can see all three fabrics together and decide if there's enough contrast for your liking.  One of my four lotto blocks started out looking like this ...  although I loved the fabrics together, I didn't love this, so I used a dark red-violet solid for the star.

For the background, Fat Quarters work well–the 4-patch corners are quickly made from 2 strips that are 20-inches long, approximately the width of a FQ or half a width of fabric (WOF) if you're using yardage.

Once the fabrics are chosen and cut, the block goes together quickly.

The star center is a variation of the Ohio Star block with the chain fabric in the corners.

I started with the large squares cut the exact size needed to make the quarter-square-triangle (QST) units, but a lot of quilters like to cut larger and trim to size.  I think this is a pretty good step-by-step tutorial for making them:

Quarter Square Triangle Tutorial

The author is making larger units–for our block, you’ll be starting with the 3 1/4-inch squares (3 1/2 if you like to cut larger and square-up and trim) for 2 1/2-inch quarter square units (to finish at 2 inches in the sewn block.

The star center is constructed 9-patch fashion, using the 5 small squares and the 4 QST units.

I made the 4-patch corners using the long strips, sewing them together, cutting them into 8 units which became my four 4-patch corners.

If you are working with smaller than half a WOF, you could make a pair of strip sets using 10" long strips or make the 4-patches individually from 2 1/2-inch squares.

The large block is constructed, again, like a 9-patch, adding the large rectangles.  In my mind, as I make the block, I think of the process in two steps: make the small 9-patch (star center), then make the big one (and complete the block.)

You can read more about the inspiration for this block pattern and details for this month's Block Lotto here: 

You can download a copy of my block pattern here: 

It will also be available to download from my Free Block Patterns page soon. 

While I cannot explain why I find it so appealing, I definitely see more of these blocks in my future. 
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