Monday, December 29, 2014

Amish Baby: Is Black the New Pastel?

I know I said yesterday that I wasn't going to start any new projects until I finished my paper pieced pineapple log cabin quilt, but I may have lied.  I feel like taking a quick break and making a small, not-so-complicated "quickie" quilt.  So today I have been trying to design a baby quilt in EQ7 for a boy, and for some reason all of my favorite ideas are predominantly black.  And no, this is not for an Amish baby:

Storm At Sea Baby

See?  I tried it in so many different color combinations, but I didn't really love it until I used black.  Here's the other idea:

Fifty-Four Forty Or Fight Baby

Again, I was incredibly bored with this until the background was black.  I'm not sure what's up with that, but what do you think?  Is black too harsh and gloomy for a baby quilt no matter what, or is it okay as long as I use it with bright and cheerful colors? 

Naturally, there is not one single fabric in my stash that would work for either of these quilts.  Such a shame.  But the quilt shop is open tomorrow...

I'm linking up with Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.  Happy New Year, everyone!

In Which Rowenta Loses Bladder Control, and Pees All Over My Ironing Board

How Can I Potty Train My Leaky Steam Iron?!
Good Monday Morning, and Happy 5th Day of Christmas!  As you can see above, the offending Rowenta is not a family member (thankfully!), but rather the latest in a string of household irons to have failed and disappointed me.  She was expensive, but she was German-engineered, she came highly recommended, and she was supposed to be worth it.  I followed her instruction manual to a T, emptying her tank between uses and filling her only with fresh water from the tap.  I have never dropped her.  I have never abused her for Craftsy DIY purposes for which she was never intended, and I haven't had her for even a full year.  And yet she has started intermittently peeing on my ironing board, and worse, all over my projects -- currently paper piecing.  Now, paper is pretty strong when it is dry, but not when it is wet!  Today, this caused a tear in my paper foundation that was fortunately near enough to the edge of an almost completed block, so it didn't result in ruined work.  Next time, I may not be so lucky.  I keep making excuses for Rowenta, like "I should have let her heat up before I refilled her tank," or "I must have tipped her sideways when the cord got caught on the ironing board," but deep down, I know her days are numbered.  Considering that her little sister, the Rowenta travel iron, nearly started an electrical fire a couple of months ago, I am no longer feeling the warm fuzzies about this brand!  If anyone has a recommendation for a reliable, potty-trained steam iron for quilters, please share that with me in the comments.

But it's Design Wall Monday, isn't it?  So enough about leaky irons -- let's check out that design wall:

Design Wall on Monday, December 29th, 2014: Pineapple Log Cabin

The biggest change to the wall since the last photo I posted is that I have taken down all of the bear paw blocks and the applique block so I can focus on just this one pineapple log cabin project until it is finished.  Now that I have 12 finished blocks I am officially a third of the way finished, if I stick with the original plan to make a California King sized quilt (6 x 6 layout of 17 3/4" finished blocks, about 106" before quilting and laundering shrinkage).  However, currently we have a Queen bed and my 6'8" husband is not 100% on board with the idea of getting a bigger bed, even though his feet stick out at the bottom of our bed like that Ned dude in the Dr. Seuss books:
Unlike Bernie, Ned Does NOT Like His Little Bed

A California King bed is 12" wider than a Queen, as well as 4" longer to accommodate those feet that have been sticking out from the end of the bed all these years!  Bernie's objection to the King bed is that "he likes to snuggle," but snuggling is not nearly as nice when one of the snugglers has a raging, sweaty fever and is a swarming flu hatchery.  I know I promised to be there "in sickness and in health," but scooting 12" away from a sick person gives you a fighting chance to stay healthy enough to take care of Mr. Sickie.  Plenty of couples who are smaller than we are manage to share a King sized bed without growing estranged from long distance!  Have you ever heard the saying, "If you build it, they will come?"  That's my philosophy with this quilt.  I'm making it California King sized, and once I've spent a thousand hours or so piecing and quilting it, I'm pretty sure the California King bed will come.  ;-)

Back to the main topic of this post, which was supposed to be the design process: I read somewhere online recently where a quilter said she "didn't like scrappy quilts."  I don't understand that at all.  I have certainly seen a lot of scrappy quilts that I did not like, but what I didn't like about them was the color or value choices (light/medium/dark, not morals!) made by the quilt maker, or something about the overall design of the quilt that didn't appeal to me.  I admire many quilts with more limited palettes than what I typically use, but I can't imagine making a whole bed sized quilt using only a few fabrics.  I would get so bored without the constant design decisions that happen throughout the entire piecing process with a "scrappy" quilt.  With my pineapple log cabin blocks, the paper piecing process is so smooth and easy that I can carry on conversations with my family, supervise homework, or listen to cartoons on television (Anders' favorites are the old Tom & Jerry cartoons) while I'm piecing without worrying about making mistakes.  What keeps the process interesting for me is the challenge of combining all of these different fabrics in a way that creates a unified look for the quilt as a whole even though every single block is unique. 

12th Block Completed

Each of these pineapple log cabin blocks contains 97 patches cut from 37 different fabric strips, and I have used a total of over 150 different fabrics so far for the twelve blocks that I have completed.  I have other fabrics waiting "in the wings" to be sliced into strips if needed.  ("Need" is when I look at the strips I have already cut and none of them look exciting, not when I run out of strips that have already been cut).  I select each fabric strip individually as I add it to the block, checking my design wall to make sure my new block doesn't look too much like any of the ones I've already finished.  The process of making the quilt is much more enjoyable for me when I'm using many different fabrics, and I love that the blocks make a dramatic impact from a distance, but there so many details to notice up close due to the interplay of so many different fabrics.  Anyway, that's enough blogging for today -- on to Block 13 of 36!

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times and Esther's WOW: WIPs on Wednesday.  Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I Found the Perfect Christmas Tree Skirt!

"Holy Night" Appliqued Christmas Tree Skirt, available from Novica
I found the perfect Christmas tree skirt!  I know, I had planned to make one myself, but when I saw this "Holy Night" appliqued Christmas tree skirt on Novica's web site, it was exactly what I was looking for in so many ways.  Novica is fair trade organization with ties to National Geographic and Unicef that works to create opportunities for economically disadvantaged artisans around the world to sell their handmade goods for fair prices.  A Peruvian artisan named Balvina Huaytalla created this predominantly blue "Holy Night" tree skirt, which is perfect for tying in the blue star on my kitchen Christmas tree, and the folk art style of the dimensional stuffed applique complements the kiddo-themed ornaments on that tree as well (toys, sweets, and handmade ornaments going back to the boys' preschool years).  More importantly, I love that this tree skirt depicts the nativity, a reminder that the gift of our Redeemer's birth trumps any other gift we might find beneath the tree.  My parents used to set up a nativity scene beneath our Christmas tree, but when I tried that a couple years ago baby Jesus was abducted by our dog...  Since this holy family is stitched securely to the tree skirt, they should be safe from Lulu the Treacherous!

So, here's the Kitchen Christmas tree with the new tree skirt:
Kitchen Kiddo Tree with Nativity Tree Skirt
See how the blue at the bottom of the tree helps the blue star look less out of place?
Isn't it beautiful?
The Holy Family, Safe from Wicked Dogs

Could I have made my own version of this tree skirt instead?  Sure, but it would have taken a long time and I might not have finished it in time for Christmas this year.  Moreover, ripping off the artist's design instead of buying her tree skirt is really the OPPOSITE of fair trade, isn't it?

So, back to my pineapple log cabin quilt!  Happy Hannukah to all of my Jewish friends, and Happy Advent and Merry Christmas to my Christian friends and family.  May we all experience God's presence and peace this holiday season.

Monday, December 8, 2014

My Son Lars, Designer of Festive Holiday Decor

Remember how my 13-year-old son Lars took the Advanced Drawing EQ7 software class with Barb Vlack at Quilt Week over the summer?  Well, we need a new tree skirt for one of our Christmas trees, and I asked Lars to design one for me in EQ7.  This is what he came up with:

48" Diameter Christmas Tree Skirt, Designed by Lars

Hmmm...  Joy to the world, anyone????  I think it looks like that German Krampus devil that supposedly comes to punish all the bad kids who ended up on Santa's Naughty List:

See the resemblance?  Anyway, back to the drawing board, because that creepy dude is NOT going under my Christmas tree!

This is more of what I had in mind:
48" Diameter Tree Skirt, Designed by Mom

The fabrics are not to scale and the color is a little off since they are snapshots taken with my phone rather than scanned images, but you get the general idea.  I wonder if this is too ambitious to try to make before Christmas?  It's for the Christmas tree in my kitchen, which is decorated with ornaments that look like candy, gingerbread men, toys, and brightly colored balls.  It has a blue star on top.  I have novelty print fabrics with Christmas cookies, peppermint candies, hot chocolate, and some pretty blue fabrics with snowflakes, as well as a red, green and pink stripe fabric that reminds me of peppermint sticks that I'm planning for the binding. 

Now that I drew this lovely tree skirt on the computer, I wonder if I can figure out how to actually MAKE it?

I'm going to link up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times and with Anything Goes Monday at Stitch By Stitch.

Monday, December 1, 2014

FrankenWhiggish Rose Quilt Design Continues to Evolve

FrankenWhiggish Rose, Current Fave Design
Ah, EQ7, my virtual design wall -- how do I love thee?!  You may remember that I posted a photo of my first completed FrankenWhiggish Rose needle turned applique block back in mid October.  I did not have an entire quilt in mind when I started on that block -- I combined several different applique patterns to come up with a block that would be suitable for learning needle turn applique, incorporating different sizes and shapes of inside and outside points, curves, bias stems, reverse applique, and stuffed berries.  I knew I would be spending a lot of time hand stitching the block, so I put in the time up front to ensure that the design would appeal to me aesthetically.  The applique itself was a technical challenge for me, but I threw in a design challenge as well -- I wanted to create something with a country French vibe that would tie in with the mood and color scheme of my kitchen and family room drapery fabric:
Monado by Vervain, Havana colorway
This is the finished applique block:
Completed 16" FrankenWhiggish Rose Applique Block
I was really pleased with how the first block came out, and decided to make "some more of them" for a lap quilt that would live in the family room for sofa snuggling.  I cut out lots of yellow petals and I have been appliqueing them to coral red petals, assembly line style, for the past few weeks, still having no idea how I was going to use these blocks.

So today I fired up the EQ7 software and started playing around with different layouts.  I primarily wanted to figure out how many FrankenWhiggish Rose blocks I would need to prevent myself from wasting time making too many petals!

In these designs, I am using an imported photo of my one finished applique block and combining that with the sashing, border and block designs in the EQ7 software in order to preview some of the different quilts I could create using this block.  This is the second runner up:
Second Runner Up Design

...And this is my current favorite:
Favorite!  (Click to make the photo larger)

This quilt would finish at 74 1/4" x 74 1/4", which is on the generous side for a couch throw quilt but still okay, I think.  Those measurements would be BEFORE quilting and laundering, so the real quilt would finish a bit smaller.  The border blocks would be 7 1/4" square, so I should be able to do those pieced blocks without too much trouble.  Why do I like this design better than the first one?  I can't say for sure.  I really like the repeated Xs and plusses in the applique block, sashing posts and pieced border blocks.  I spent an hour or two playing around with different layouts and alternate blocks before I came up with this design, and I will probably play around with it some more before I commit to it 100%, but this will be the basic idea.

So that means I need a total of nine appliqued blocks (one down, eight more to go) and twenty of those pieced border blocks for this quilt.  I'm even more excited to make them now that I have a plan!

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times as well as Anything Goes Monday at Stitch By Stitch.  Have a great week, everyone!