Friday, January 26, 2018

Here We Go Again, Folks: Spinning My Wheels Between Projects, With Fits of Indecision Interspersed With Flu Hallucinations

Well, first off, I'm in a funk because I should be at choir rehearsal right now and I'm NOT.  All because of some obnoxious virus that decided to attack me at the back of my throat with what started out as a bothersome itchiness, progressed to feeling like I'd swallowed a mouthful of broken glass, and ended up as evil laryngitis teetering on the brink of bronchitis -- complete with that lovely barking cough.  I've been canceling everything all week, taking antibiotics and narcotic cough syrup that is supposedly potentially addictive but tastes like snot (WHO COULD POSSIBLY GET ADDICTED TO COUGH SYRUP THAT TASTES LIKE BOOGERS?!!!)...  Did I catch the flu from my son Lars, or is this some other wicked illness?  The doctor said I was too late for antiviral meds to do any good by the time I saw her, but she prescribed the Z-pack as a precaution due to my history of any and all upper respiratory ick turning into bronchitis and laryngitis.  Ugh, ugh, and ugh.  No fever, no vomiting -- THOSE I can deal with!  Instead, I'm like the poor Little Mermaid.  Ursula the Flu Virus has stolen my voice!  

Ursula the Flu Virus Has Stolen My Voice!
And yet, through the Theraflu and narcotic prescription cough syrup induced haze, I somehow managed to start another paper pieced pineapple block, just for YOU, COLLEEN!!  Colleen is one of my readers, and she recently wrote to tell me that she is "very, very old" and she's afraid she might die before she ever gets to see my finished pineapple log cabin quilt.  I have no idea how old "very old" is and whether or not Colleen has reason to believe her days on earth are numbered.  For all I know, Colleen just turned 40 and her friends threw her a mean "over the hill" birthday party.  And yet, I am so susceptible to her artful quilt guilt that I started another block.  You know, just in case.  ;-)

In One Hour, I Sewed 17 Pieces on This Block.  Only 80 More Pieces to Go!
Despite being close to finishing the blocks for this quilt, it's not a top priority for me right now because I want to work on my longarm quilting skills before I quilt this one.  So I decided to set a timer and spend just one hour working on it and see how far I got.  Not very impressive, is it?!  In one hour, I got 17 patches sewn onto this block.  Each block requires 97 strips of fabric sewn down, pressed and trimmed, so that means each one of these blocks takes something like 6 hours for me to make.  Seriously?!  That's discouraging!!  

Maybe I will die first, and Colleen will end up finishing this quilt FOR me!  When it's done, it will be California King size and it will look something like this:

Mockup of Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt Courtesy of EQ Software
Meanwhile, my longarm frame is empty and I need to get something easy on it before I forget everything I learned so far.  Which brings me back to those Tabby Mountain triangles.

Tabby Mountain On My Wall, Perplexing Me With Strange Piecing Instructions
This was supposed to be a "quick and easy" quilt top so I could focus on the longarm quilting, remember?  Then I had the delay when I decided I couldn't live with a couple of the fabric prints and had to swap them out, but once I finally got ready to start piecing the top I saw THIS in the directions, and what with the fog of illness and whatnot, it was just too much for my tired little brain to deal with:

What Kind Of Instruction Is "Jog the Ends Slightly?!"
"Jog the ends slightly" sounds ominous to me.  I had visions of sewing triangles together and ripping them apart to resew them over and over again, trying to ascertain the appropriate amount of edge-jogging required to get the straight edges aligned with a triangle point 1/4" away from the raw edges.  Ugh.  There MUST be a way to line these pieces up properly for the sewing machine so they come out right the first time!

Have I Jogged My Triangles Enough, Or Have I Jogged Them Too Much?
I tried drawing the seam line 1/4" in to try to visualize better how things will line up, but I still think that trial and error is going to be involved.  There is no "jogged edges" marking on any of my quilting rulers, and I am NOT going to be happy with jagged rows and chopped off triangle points!  Which brings me to the next item of concern: The Tabby Mountain pattern instructions tell me to press all of these seams OPEN.  Why???  Am I missing something?  It is so difficult to keep seam intersections from shifting out of alignment if you can't nest opposing seam allowances.  So I'm scrutinizing this pattern, wondering if my flu-addled brain is missing a real reason why these seams should be pressed open, or if I can just disregard that instruction and press all of the even rows to the right and all the odd rows to the left.  Those of you who are NOT sick and DO have your wits about you, please share your opinions in the comments!  

And also meanwhile, despite my resolve to prioritize my projects according to an overall goal of building up my longarm quilting skills -- a goal which DOES require starting new projects, since I don't have a stack of quilt tops waiting to be quilted, but it requires SIMPLE new projects that sew up quickly so I can focus on quilting them...  I committed to starting this applique BOM (Block of the Month) designed by Esther Aliu, and probably bit off more than I can chew.  

Queen's Garden BOM, Designed by Esther Aliu
Since this is a current BOM just beginning this month, I am going to see a lot of different versions of this popping up in the dark corners of the Internet that I frequent -- you know, the places where all the scary applique chicks hang out (hah!).  I'm sure mine won't be the prettiest or most masterfully stitched version of this quilt, but I do want mine to be DIFFERENT so I know it's mine, you know?  I spent a LOT of time perusing Pinterest and contemplating color schemes, brainstorming and browsing and boring my husband to tears with discussions about the elusive, magical background fabric my mind envisions for this quilt...

Behold, My Blueberry Applique Background Fabric!!
And, eureka!!  This is it, folks.  It's neither the typical white nor the common alternate, black.  It's not a print, which would be interesting, but also something that I've seen in a lot of other applique quilts.  I wanted a colored background, something tame enough not to upstage the bright, splashy prints I'm planning to use in my applique, but with its own personality and "something special."  So I ended up choosing Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton in Blueberry, pictured above with a few KF fat quarters in bright colors that may or may not be chopped up into applique pieces.  See how they just glow against the muted purply background fabric?  LOVE!!!

Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton in Blueberry
You can see the subtle iridescence of this fabric in the photo above, which is due to different yarn colors used for the warp and weft.  So it will be crucial to make sure that all of the blocks are oriented in the same direction on this quilt, or else they will appear to be different colors.  That's Challenge Number One, easily overcome by marking the Top of each block with a contrasting thread color tailor tack.

Next Challenge: This Stuff Is Pretty Flimsy!
Next challenge: The Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton isn't like a regular quilting cotton.  It's almost like a cotton lawn.  It's semi-sheer, even in a dark color, when held up to the light, and it doesn't have much body at all.  It's kind of filmy and floaty. These are not ideal characteristics of an applique background fabric that has to support all of those stitches and other fabrics without distortion.  Yet the designer in me has her heart set on this background fabric, and she will not yield to reason.  So...  Can I starch or size this fabric into submission, or do I need to fuse each block background to a really lightweight fusible interfacing before I begin?  I do not want a stiff finished quilt.  

The other quandary is whether I am going to stitch this project by hand or by machine.  I'm definitely doing a turned edge technique rather than fusible, because the soft, dimensional quality is what I love most about applique.  My personal preference, that's all.  This is not a difficult project per se because they are 16" blocks and the applique shapes are huge.  It's the tiny shapes that are the most difficult to execute well with turned edge applique.  However, as I discovered with my 6-hour hand stitched binding marathon this week, hand stitching is a SLOW process.  It is the OPPOSITE of the "quick and easy, get it on the frame so I can quilt it" mantra that is supposed to be guiding my project selections right now. 

On the Facebook group for this BOM I've seen several quilters posting photos of beautifully done machine stitched applique for the center block, and I'm considering going that route.  And I can't make up my mind.

Hand Stitched Block On the Left vs. Machine Stitched Block On the Right

  • I am already up to my armpits with WIP projects that are unbelievably time consuming and take years to complete, including a needle-turned applique project that is languishing and not being worked on at all.  That hand stitched applique block on the left in the above photo is a UFO/WIP/Whatever that is 5 or 6 years old and still not finished...
  • Can I even keep up with the BOM schedule while also getting in adequate longarm quilting practice and keeping up with all my other commitments, such as work, family, staying on top of the music for my various choirs, etc.?
  • Jeanne Sullivan has instructions for machine stitched turned edge applique in her Simply Successful Applique book, as does Harriet Hargrave in her Mastering Machine Applique book.  I even took a class on this technique with Harriet, and she uses the exact same machine as me (Bernina 750QEE) and I wrote down her tried-and-true machine settings for invisible machine applique.  It CAN be done well, and there's no reason I can't do it...
  • These oversized applique shapes that would take an eternity to stitch by hand with neat little hand stitches spaced 1/16th of an inch apart would be a lot faster to stitch down by machine, and because the shapes are so big they would probably be a good first project for putting those machine applique lessons into practice.  


  • Oh, how I loathed machine applique when I took that class!  I have so much more control when I'm hand stitching.  Even going slowly, I still have stitches where the needle didn't land exactly where I wanted it to.  When a hand stitch looks bad, you can pull out just that one stitch for a do-over.  With machine stitches it's not so easy!  It was stressful.  There was profanity.  That one little tulip block in the photo above was the class sample that I made 5 years ago, and that is is the only thing I have ever done using this method.  You can read all about it here.
  • The flimsy background fabric may pose more of a problem with machine stitched applique, which requires stabilizer anyway.  I don't want a puckering, distorted mess.
  • I am bored with my Frankenwhiggish Rose hand applique project and feel like playing with different color schemes during my slow stitching spells. But wait, is that a reason to applique by hand, or a reason to applique by machine so I finish the project before I get bored with it???

Ever Have One Of Those Days?
And, needless to say, nothing is getting sewn while I agonize over these decisions.  Nothing, that is, except those 17 strips of fabric that got sewn to a pineapple log cabin block this morning, and that's all thanks to Colleen and her artfully executed quilt guilt.  So, THANK YOU, Colleen, because without you this day would be a total waste!

My fellow quilters, I think it's time for an intervention.  Don't wait for me to hit rock bottom and end up on 60 minutes, screeching like a hyena and chasing people around with my rotary cutter!!  If you've never commented before, TODAY IS YOUR DAY.  HELP ME!!!

  1. Any advice on how to piece those triangles quickly and accurately, or the best way to press those seam allowances in my Tabby Mountain quilt?
  2. Will starching my flimsy applique background be enough, or will it need to be interfaced as well?
  3. Should I applique by hand, by machine, or (gulp!), should I not start this project at all right now?
My Theraflu has worn off and my throat feels like sandpaper again.  I am now slinking out of the studio with my (invisible) tail between my legs and going downstairs to huddle in blankets on the sofa, in front of the TV.  Maybe tomorrow I will be healthy enough and brave enough to make something pretty.


Melody A. said...

Hello I am sorry to hear you are ill, it must be able to go through the computer to many of us! LOL I have some bug that has left me feeling like my head is a 20 lb bowling ball today! so I am not sure I can give good advice. the triangles really do come down to eye balling it to some extent but if you are off you will not lose a point at the top of the triangle where you will on the bottom, so lean that direction. the one I am doing wanted all the seams pressed open too but I think your method would work fine. Love starting new quilts, but would applique by machine and maybe fuse the shot cotton. It is going to be beautiful!! Look forward to seeing your machine quilting. Take care and get well from Iowa

June D said...

First time to your blig. Cant remember what blog you commented on and i clicked here to meet you. You gad said you had heard of one month gosl but fidnt want anither thing you fidnt finish.

Im on phone now do couldnt get all the detsils of this pist but ill read sfsin one home.

For thise pretty tabby dpikes check out deb tucker. She has ruler that might help. Your photo on this has really pretty fabrics.

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I wouldn't fuse the cotton if you are going to hand stitch that would make it stiffer to get your needle through in my opinion. I would hand stitch of course as I only lasted about 15 minutes trying to learn machine applique before I was critiquing the piece so badly that my husband asked why was I even doing it by machine when I knew I would not be relaxed and enjoy it. But I know you do not have all the time on your hands that I do and need to do more of your work by hand.
Now why do they want your to press your seams open on the triangles - maybe so the seams are not as thick where your rows join up? I actually press my seams open a lot more than I used to do for that reason. I don't think I have ever read a pattern that says "jog the ends slightly" and I'm not sure exactly what she means by that.
I'm with Colleen I want to see the Pineapple Quilt finished as you have been at it a long time I am 65 years old and time is flying by for me LOL - by you want a California King and it will take awhile I guess I will just need to hang on for awhile! I too have a scratchy throat but feel pretty well over all so I hope to cold or flu is developing this is going on the second day of the throat not being right. Get well soon.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

BUmmer to be so sick. You deserve The Best Title Writer award-I giggled just from the title! You write so well and so compellingly, I'm laughing through all of your pain-talk about evil! If this is what you get done when you're

As to your questions, I am unqualified to speak to number 1 or 3, but one thought for 2 is Pellon Bi-Stretch Lite, a fusible interfacing that barely alters the hand of the fabric. I use it on my flimsy silks and it works beautifully. It's available at JoAnn's and I always have a full bolt at-the-ready. I love Kaffe's shot cottons, but never work with them due to their flimsy nature. Why does he put such glorious color on icky fabric?

I hope you are back at it soon-this is simply unacceptable to be sick, and besides, readers die when you are not productive!! How can you be so selfish?

Frog Quilter said...

Your post had me grinning... As for the new project on that purple fabric, I would find some light weight fuse able stabilizer to beef it up. My personal preference is hand applique. It's slow but soothing and it's not a race. ENJOY!

Get well soon.

Lakegaldonna said...

Dear Rebecca
Sorry to hear you are sick with the creeping crud.
(Apologies ahead of time as this is a long comment.)
I love reading your blog posts!!! You are a wordsmith and I love the tangles you get yourself in to in your quilting.
Before I forget, I have a flawless machine binding word document to send you if you can let me know your email. You had mentioned it in a previous post.
Those pesky Tabby mountain triangles. I cannot believe those printed instructions! Really?
I hate hate hate to press seams open. Although I am backpedaling on that and I'll tell you why. I am in my own mess of insanity quilt wise. I'm working on a Panama Pyramid quilt. Google it if you wish, it's out there on the internet and I am pressing seams open, gasp, and it needs it. Well, with a little help from a gadget.
Do you remember the little tool that you use when wallpapering? You use it to seal the seams of two pieces of wallpaper after you put it up. It's like a little round wood wheel with a handle.
After sewing a seam I flip the piece over and on a hard surface press down hard and open those seams, mash them. After the whole triangle block is made it is so easy to then press open and truly flat with an iron. So I'd recommend that little tool.
I took a class awhile ago on mariners compass and that's what the teacher used. You have to careful though on some of the rollers is that you have to press with the handle vertical rather than at a slant which feels more normal to do. Some of the rollers are flimsy. At an AQS show recently some vendor was selling a beefed up version of the same roller so that you can press real hard with the handle slanty.
Clover brand also sells a bit smaller but quite adequate one that is blue. The whole handle is plastic and can withstand the slanty angle of pressing. I think it's called a seam roller in Nancy's Notions.
Applique by hand or machine? Wellllll I have to say that at quilt shows of all sizes applique quilts catch my eye. Then while walking up to it I see that it is machine appliqued and I keep on walking. Sorry that I'm so opinionated. It's just me. I can say that machine appliqued quilts are neat in the way that the maker is skilled at choosing just the right color and executing it but in my opinion is just not that skilled. I'm sorry again for the strong words and hope anyone reading this does not take offense.
Ok, nuff said. While I was looking for your email address on your blog, to send you the machine binding instructions, I clicked on the 'about me' tab. You said somewhere on that tab, anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Hoping you feel better soon!

Pam said...

Dear Cheeky...I loved your drug induced intricate post listing your quilting dilemmas. I personally have sworn off triangles, will never even look at them again, after making the triangular Sweet Surrender. OMG! And those were fairly large triangles-yours are narrow-gives me nightmares. So I have no advice for you on that (except to run fast as you can).

The KF fabric loves the purple background fabric. Being a singer, you would recognize when there is singing amongst the fabrics. This will be an awesome and individual version of Esther's pattern. Love that pattern. I have never used such a finely woven fabric as a base for applique. Some commenters recommended a light interfacing. I don't know?? I think you might need to interface for sure if you are going to machine applique.

As to the war between hand and machine applique, you know I stand on the side of hand applique but I am retired and can spend 9 months on a single quilt. You have to ask yourself what is the purpose of the quilt. Is it an art quilt which you will enter into competitions? Are you making it for the joy of the beautiful fabrics while you work on other quilts plus learning machine quilting? If a person gets to bogged down in shoulds and oughts, then nothing gets done. I think it is possible to have a lovely quilt with machine applique. It will just be different from one which is hand appliqued.

I liked your Math is Beautiful quilt and your intelligent little sons.

Barb said...

A quick note Rebecca Grace, and I'm short for time so I can't read through the comments right now. I completed a triangle quilt recently. What I did was make sure when I sewed each triangle to the next was to make certain the needle started exactly so there was a 1/4 inch. And then the same thing at the end. This will leave a little jog top and bottom, really kind of tiny. I used my Bernina 97 foot with the guide and a straight stitch plate and a 70 micro needle. Everything came together beautifully. I only had a couple of slight mishaps at the points and could live with it probably from the cutting. I try to handle all the bias edges very carefully. As for pressing. Each row was in pressed opposite directions to nest. After sewn, the rows were pressed open. I use my wood clapper to get nice flat as possible seams. Next time I do a triangle quiltbi might try pressing differently. But I will say it worked. The top looks nice and flat and there were no problems machine quilting with my sit-down Sweet Sixteen.

Barb said...

Rebecca Grace I should mention that I love triangles. They nudge something deep within me like circles appeal to others. I love your triangle quilt and may try that too. Please get well!

the momma said...

I am sorry that you are sick. YUCK! I have always been amazed at people getting addicted to oxy-drugs. I HATE the way I feel the few times I have had to take them. So much so that after my c-sections, the only drug I would take is ibuprofen.

I love the background fabric you chose ~ starch gets my vote. I made a t-shirt quilt using starch instead of interfacing and it worked fabulously.

As far as quick quilts for longarm practice - maybe you could just draw some quilts? use washable markers to draw (what would be) piecing lines onto solid fabric? I don't have a longarm, but I did that once so I could practice before tackling my real quilt ( My quilt was based on a 2 inch grid, so I just marked lines horizontally and vertically every 2 inches with a hera marker, then used those lines as a guide to draw quilt blocks. Panels would also be a good, quick way to get a quilt on the longarm.

get well quick!

Kate said...

I hope you've started to feel better and have your voice back. I felt much better by early last week thankfully and the cough is now almost completely gone. I'm absolutely no help with any of your questions. I don't do applique - ever. But I love your project ideas. Hope you get enough info to determine your next steps.

Lynette said...

Sorry if I missed this in another post - which way did you decide to go for the Queen's Garden applique? "Loathe" is the perfect word to describe my reaction to prepping turned-under applique for machine piecing, but that is the method I'm going with for my QG - too many other projects are already in my hand-applique arena.