Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Celebration Pinwheels

The May UFO is finished, and I named it "Celebration Pinwheels." I thought of calling it something like "Imperfection" or "Anomalies," but really it is about celebrating those people in life that make us uncomfortable because they are different in an irritating kind of way. I know this is hard to understand because it's just a quilt, but I decided to make pinwheels out of all my six inch squares last year, and I used them all, indiscriminately. The result is that there are a couple of pinwheels in this quilt that stand out like a sore thumb. Well there they are, they are not going away and like the irritating people in our lives, they remind us that we, too, are imperfect.
When this quilt came up as the May UFO, I was unsure what I would do to finish it. The original pinwheels were arranged on point (with the pinwheels as diamonds instead of squares), and the sides were filled out with partial pinwheels in dark neutral shades. Now that I know how to operate a longarm machine, I was able to finish a larger quilt, so I added the light neutral pinwheels around the border to make it blanket sized. I took it to the longarm rental last week and finished it in short order using a free-motion swirly pattern.

Monday, May 16, 2016


March and April are over and I did not finish the designated UFOs. I thought about simplifying my list, but decided not to and to just keep going. Maybe I'll finish them this year. But the May UFO is coming along and I think it will be finished this month, because all I have to do is sew down the binding. (The May UFO is the first quilt in this post.)

I learned how to use a longarm machine so that I could finish many charity quilts. The first day I rented, I finished two in three hours. Next I signed up for four hours, and decided to enlarge my May UFO and quilt it on the longarm. In this picture you can see my usual free-form style but with regulated stitches.
The final step in progress. The backing fabric was a steal at the thrift shop.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Scrap quilt tops for the Power of the Quilt Project

In my spare time (sarcasm) I coordinate the Power of the Quilt Project, a joint project of the Unitarian Universalist Area Church at First Parish in Sherborn and the Rhododendron Needler's Quilt Guild. We are a group of volunteers who make quilts for cancer patients and children in need of comfort. We used to have a policy of never taking scrap fabric donations. But when I inherited the project, the inventory included two large bins of scraps, so I assume the policy was abandoned in practice. So recently, I've been cutting the scraps into useful shapes, and one of those shapes is the 3 1/2 by 6 1/2 inch rectangle. These are perfect for the tatami-mat inspired designs in Successful Scrap Quilts from Simple Rectangles by Judy Turner and Margaret Rolfe, which was published in 2002 and is still in print. It's one of my go-to books for inspiration.

This arrangement of blue and green uses the same pattern as my pastel scrap quilt from 2011. There are 32 dark rectangles and 38 light rectangles.
This is the pattern on the cover of the book, rendered in pink and red. I hope to have both of these tops made into quilts before the end of the fiscal year in June.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Plain Trip Around the World (February 2016 UFO)

I'm keeping this image small because it was dark when I took the picture, and it's grainy. This is the February UFO for this year. It's finished according to my definition. There are still a few things to be done to it - wash out the markings, add a sleeve and a label, and maybe put a line of quilting between the border and the inside. But once I have the binding on and I can take a picture of it, I call it done.

Thanks to bygone astronomers for adding an extra day to February this year.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Home Deco

I made these large pillows over the weekend. I fell in love with the fabric when we reupholstered the sofa (the one in the picture). I bought enough for a few pillows but left it at the store for about a year, eventually picking it up last summer. I cut it into triangles that I sewed together to get the square pattern.
It's hard to see the actual color in this picture - the back is a fine grayish-brown corduroy. It was maddening to sew it to the squares, because it would crawl in the direction of the nap. The corduroy fibers were like thousands of little ratchets. Any movement would slide the back in one direction only. So I had to fight with it.
Eventually I prevailed. I didn't put a zipper in the back - I sewed together two half backs closely near the edges and loosely in the middle, and pressed the seam open. Then after I sewed the front to the back, I removed the loose stitching, inserted the pillow, and sewed it shut by hand. I love these pillows but I caught myself repeating "The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good" many times. But it's true, these are good pillows with a few imperfections.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 2016 UFO - Finished!

Two years ago we had our floors sanded, and when I put the boxes back on the shelves in the sewing room, I was unhappy. Too many odds and ends were simply being collected, and the boxes weren't beautiful to look at. So I made large and small quilt tops out of all the three inch strips and everything in the box labeled "large squares and triangles." This is one of the latter. I had saved all the triangles from the mitered corners of the borders of many quilts, and I had some other large triangles left over from bias bindings.

The layout of this quilt was insanely complicated. It's not hard to find ways to fit five squares into a rectangle when the two smaller ones are the same size. It's just a matter of arithmetic. There is always a gap in the middle that is filled with another rectangle or a square. There are four such rectangles in this layout. The difficulty is in fitting 20 pinwheels into four rectangles so that the four rectangles fill a larger rectangle with no space along the sides. I had to use a spreadsheet and run through all the possibilities by hand to figure out which combination of smaller rectangles would fit into a large rectangle. There were only two or three ways to do this, and this is the way that looked the best.

I broke a few rules with this quilt. First of all, because triangles trimmed from borders come in eights, I have pairs of same pinwheels. This is a compositional faux pas! You are supposed to have odd numbers of same things. So sorry. Next, I don't normally use a fabric for the binding that is as striking as this. My old teacher Kathleen Weinheimer taught us that we don't want the viewer staring at the binding. But I liked this, it matched the colors, and it was from a piece of fabric that I used to make the binding for my dad's quilt. Also it was easy to cut and prepare. So, win win win. And it looks great. I already know what I'm doing in February, and there's no chance of breaking rules. So you can all rest easy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Almost to full rows

Normally I wait until I've finished something before putting it in a post. But this project is going to take a long time to piece, and I work on it every day. Well almost every day. My goal is to sew two stacks together every day. In this picture, I am down to four stacks. So in two days I will have two stacks, and in three days I will have exactly 57 rows. Then I'll start sewing the rows together. But I did miss a day. I had to work late a week ago to finish the books for the thrift shop. I am the new bookkeeper, and the books are due on Wednesday morning. So I thought, what could it hurt, if I don't sew two stacks together, just once? Well the result was, I didn't want to continue. The next day, when it was time to sew the usual two stacks, I had so much resistance, it was scary. But I did what I needed to do and have struggled to sew my quota every day since. I even made up the day that I missed by sewing extra over the weekend. So that is the real reason for working on something daily, other than that it gets done. Momentum occurs. It does seem a little rigid, I suppose, to insist that I sew together two stacks every day, but I've come a long way, and it's going to be a stunning piece of work. I was going to lay it out when I got to this point. I tried laying out the stack at the top. It was a lot of work, and I don't think it'll be any harder to lay out when I get to two stacks in two days. So I'll wait until then. I've already seen a square that I might want to turn before I start sewing the rows together.