Still Climbing Mountains

Last year I had fun making a medallion using big prints. (If you click on the photo, it will open in a new tab.)

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The Mountain. 60″ square. November 2015. Made from stash. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

It was a challenge for me, because big prints tend to mute contrast. I like strong contrast and the sharp edges it reveals. I named the quilt “The Mountain.” In the linked post, I said this about the name, “I am not sure why the name came to me, other than that I have been climbing and climbing, mentally and physically and emotionally and artistically, and now I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere, though of course I’ll never reach the peak.” To see more about the design process, click here.

Early this year I saw a quilt top on this site that also merged big prints, but in a completely different way. (I didn’t link the quilt top itself, because the photos disappear when she has sold the tops. And I won’t copy her picture, because it is her picture. However, as of writing this, the top appears in the set of tops over $100.)

I thought about how to make a similar quilt and make it my own. This was the result:

Zigzag

Still Climbing Mountains. 57″ x 64″. August 2016. Made from stash. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The name, “Still Climbing Mountains,” is for three reasons. First and most importantly, the block style used is called “Delectable Mountains.” Second, I am still climbing! And third, it reminds me of The Mountain because of the big prints.

In truth, though, there are all kinds of fabrics in this quilt. They range from solids and tone-on-tone, to very large prints. There are batiks and traditionally printed fabrics, ethnic-ish designs and geometrics and Civil War repros. The fabrics were purchased over many years from local quilt shops and large retailers. Browns, teals, rusts, olives, and tans, I just kept pulling fabrics from stash until I had enough.

There are 48 blocks in a 6 x 8 layout. If you look at the photo above, they are arranged by value. The first column (left to right) is very dark and medium dark. Column 2 is medium dark and medium light. Column 3 is medium light and medium dark. Columns 4-6 reverse the order to finish with very dark.

Construction was amazingly simple. I began by making 48 half-square triangles that would finish at 9.5″. That is a weird number, but the unfinished size is 10″. (I cut squares of fabric at 10 3/8″. I cut them on the diagonal and then stitched HST from them. If you cut oversized and then trim, you would trim to 10″, so a finished HST would be 9.5″.)

Each HST then was sliced into 4 segments of 2.5″ by 10″. The segments are rearranged and sewn back together. The new block finishes at 8″ x 9.5″.

hst sliced rearranged

The coolest thing was how each block transformed as it was rearranged.
Del Mtn blocks in process

Assembling the top was easy, too. I assembled each of the six columns, being careful to match them in the one place where the jags fit together. When sewing the columns together, you only need to match the block corners, because that is the only place where contrast shows. In fact, though I’m usually pretty careful in my construction, this was a really forgiving quilt top! My blocks were not all exactly sized and my within-block seams didn’t match up, and believe me, there is no way to see any of that! It was fun and fast — the hardest part was picking the fabrics, and I’m not kidding.

This is one of four quilts I finished in August. September will be a lot lower output for me, so it was nice to mark some finishes.

One Lovely Blog Award and Some Things You Didn’t Know About Me

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This week I was honored to be nominated for One Lovely Blog Award, by my new blog friend Sola of Alice Samuel’s Quilt Co. Thanks, Sola!

Please take a look at her blog. She is a new quilter doing impressive things in a challenging quilters’ environment. As a Nigerian, she doesn’t have an abundance of resources some of us enjoy, like local quilt shops, library shelves full of quilting books, or even many other quilters around. Occasionally she even deals with the challenge of electrical black-outs, making it tough to either quilt or blog.

Check out her most recent quilt top. As a medallion quilter, my heart filled with happiness to see this beautiful piece!

Sola says the award rules are the following:

The Rules:
  • Thank the person who nominated you, and give a link to his/her blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Display the image of the award on your post.
  • List seven facts about yourself.
  • Nominate (up to) 15 bloggers for this award, and notify them to let them know you have nominated them.

I’ve been nominated for awards in the past and truly appreciate the props. However, I don’t blog for awards. My rewards come from having the venue to express myself, the opportunity to get acquainted with others in the bigger world, and the chance to share some information and inspiration.

Here are few facts about me, for those who are interested.

  1. The things I think about most, other than my family, are quilting, writing, hiking, and politics, not necessarily in that order.
  2. I don’t have pets. I really like cats, but I’m allergic to them, and to the responsibilities of caring for them, especially while traveling.
  3. Cooking! And eating! I should add cooking and eating to #1 above, things I think about most!
  4. I (not-so-secretly) wish to live in a much smaller home than I currently live in. At the same time, I have no desire to move for a few more years.
  5. My academic and career background is in finance and economics. If you wonder about my analytical bent in my quilting, consider that.
  6. I usually make a quilt from start to finish in a relatively short time. This habit probably comes from being goal-oriented in quilting for my first few years. If I was making a quilt, it was for a specific purpose, often with some kind of a deadline (even if an artificial one.) It’s a good habit for me, though, and leaves me with very few UFOs.
  7. If you want to know even more about me, you could look at this post from early 2014. Some things in my life have changed since then, but the core of me has not.

Thanks again to Sola for nominating me! Thanks to you for taking a look at her blog, and also for reading here.

A Delectable Idea

The other day I showed you the photos below. They show a sequence of steps to creating a block, which is a variation of a block called “Delectable Mountains.” The variation is in using two fabrics (the teal blue and the stripe) for one half of the block.
hst
sliced
rearranged

This method to create the block uses a large half-square triangle. Once the HST is sewn, it is sliced into four equal-width segments. The segments are rearranged and sewn back together. My block uses a HST at 10″ (unfinished.) Each slice is 2.5″ wide. The finished dimension of the block is 9.5″ x 8″.

Here are a few HST and transformed Delectable Mountain blocks I made recently. Cool, huh?
Del Mtn blocks in process

I used the idea at the top with multi-fabric HST halves again. This time I edged my triangles on both sides, with a much narrower strip. You can see the paprika color is edged with a pale gold, and the mid-brown is edged with black. The four blocks are built but not sewn together yet. I plan to add turquoise to the center, using a stitch-and-flip method for each of the four blocks.
nav mtn blocks

I’m playing, experimenting, designing as I go. Though I have an idea of where this is going, I’m ready to be surprised.

Making, Not Blogging

Sometimes I feel like a helium balloon, tethered on a very long string. I drift and float and bob along, feeling increasingly disconnected from anything solid. I have to hope the mooring holds, as I’m powerless on my own. I have to hope someone will reel me back.

The busyness of making reins me in, as well as my continuing connection with Jim. Occasionally, like this evening, I hold tight to him. “Am I too close?” I joke, knowing he’ll say “no.” I explain my feeling of disconnect, that it’s harder to listen to him, almost harder to hear him. But the ongoing political farce, and heartbreaking news items, drag me farther and farther away.

The busyness of making. I depend on it. And I’ve been making, not blogging. It’s too hard to write, to form words into sentences that aren’t filled with exclamations, with curses, with lamentations for the meanness of those who would claim to be “good” people, even people of faith.

Making. Today I finished three quilts. Each needed binding, applied and finished by machine. Fast. Too fast? What shall I do next?

Next, clean up. Do you clean up between projects? I do to some extent — I like to vacuum and wipe surfaces — but I’m not always as thorough as I should be at the rest of the job. As I began an experiment this evening, I remembered to change my needle, abused after binding the quilts, as well as longer-than-optimal service with piecing. And with that I decided to clean the lint mess from under the needle plate. Good thing, too, as the space was fuzzier than the slices of bread I discarded recently. (Homemade bread gets moldy quickly.)

fuzzy machine
clean machine

And hey, as long as I was at it, I changed my rotary cutter blade. When I discard needles, pins, and blades, I put them in an old yogurt cup. I’ve had this thing for years and it’s only half full. They don’t take up much space, do they?

sharps cup

As to the experiment, I wanted to try something with a half-square triangle. I used HST to make my Delectable Mountains quilt (blog post still to come, photo in here.) I wondered what would happen if one half had two different fabrics in it. Here is an idea of what that does.

hst sliced rearranged

So, huh. Interesting, I think. Worth pursuing with a bigger idea.

And the projects I finished today? Funny enough, they are of three different formats. One is a strip quilt (blog post to come); one is a block quilt (blog post to come); and one is a medallion. Here are two of the three.
projects on floor

There now, I’ve used up all my words.

Green Quilting

Over the years Jim and I have changed our living style to reduce our ecological footprint. We’ve made small changes over time, incrementally improving as we learn how to do things better. It’s meant buying less, recycling more, and upgrading to lower-energy lights and appliances, among other things.

Aside from basic daily living, my biggest environmental impact may be created by my quilting. Quilting has a cozy, natural image that belies the modern truth. From cotton production and fabric distribution, to all the steps we consumers take to complete a quilt, we make our mark when we quilt.

Cotton production uses enormous quantities of highly toxic chemicals, vast areas of land with undiversified agriculture, and fuel-guzzling machinery to plant and harvest. Post-harvest, only about 20% of US-grown cotton is processed by US textile mills. About 65% of US cotton is shipped overseas to be processed and made into something like clothing, bedding, or quilting fabric. One cargo ship, fully loaded, can carry about a million bales of cotton. The equivalent of about 11 fully loaded cargo ships will cross the seas with cotton from the US every year, one way. Much of that will be shipped back as finished products. A loaded cargo ship uses 86,000 gallons or more of highly-polluting fuel per day at sea. Then the cotton goes through incredibly toxic processing, sometimes in countries that have minimal worker-safety standards and poverty-level wages. Then it gets shipped back to me.

See my previous posts about cotton fabric production.
Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?
Cotton — What Happens After Harvest?
Cotton — Weaving Fabric
Cotton — Batik Production
Cotton — Printing Designs

Frankly, this is very disheartening to know. I have long realized that my need to quilt is a luxury that the world might not be able to afford. For now I will continue. But I will choose to find ways to reduce my footprint on the consumer end.

Here are some tips on reducing your carbon footprint of quilting.

Fabric acquisition and use:
* Use stash you already have before heading to the store or ordering online — save on delivery costs of fuel, road and vehicle use, gasoline, etc. If you need help with that, unsubscribe to all the ad emails you get. If you want something, you know where to find it anyway, right?
* Trade yardage and scraps with friends or guild members.
* Consider acquiring fabric in the form of used clothing, rather than as new yardage.
* Use your scraps in projects. More variety lends more richness and interest, anyway. Consider piecing same-fabric scraps together if you need somewhat bigger pieces. I’ve done this in a number of projects and believe me, it’s not like anyone will ever see the seams.
* Save selvage edges to use as you would heavy string or twine. I give mine to my husband, and he uses them in the garden to tie plants up.
* Consider buying American-made quilting fabric (assuming you are in the US.) There are only two brands that pop out. One is American Made Brand fabric, in 75 solids. One is Made In America cotton from JoAnn Fabrics. For all I know, they may be the same company.
* Consider buying fabric made from organically-grown cotton. These will have lower environmental impact because of less pesticide and herbicide use on the crop. In addition, other parts of fabric production have strict standards for impact. See this article on sewmamasew for more details.
* Use your own tote bags for shopping; decline plastic bags, or any bags, at the quilt shop or the chain fabric/craft store.

Books, magazines, paper patterns, and other stuff:
* Buy new (to you) books and stuff thoughtfully. Is it something you already have but can’t find? Is there a different solution than buying new? Most of my book purchases the last few years have been used ones. Can you borrow the specialty tool from a friend?
* Subscribe to digital editions of magazines.
* Unsubscribe from paper catalogs; ask all the junk mailers to take you off their lists.
* Download patterns when you have a choice. Store the pdf on your computer or a back-up drive rather than printing out.
* Recycle quilty stuff by first seeing if others will use them — donations, free table at guild meeting, friends and those in your small group, free-cycle, craigslist, paperback exchange, consignment stores, used book stores, your library. Only then recycle by putting in the bin. Last resort is to throw these items in the trash.

In your studio:
* Unplug your iron so it doesn’t continue to draw current while you’re out of the room.
* Turn off lights and TVs and audiobooks and other electrical devices when you walk away.
* Switch to LEDs. An LED lightbulb will last about 20 times as long as an incandescent and about three times as long as a CFL. They also are less expensive to operate, meaning their energy use (and your cost for it) is much lower. See the interesting chart on this page to compare. I’ve added LED lighting in my studio and am so glad I did. I have an enormous amount of light at a bare increase in energy used.
* Put your computer to sleep when you walk away for awhile. Power usage drops to about a third while in stand-by or sleep mode.
*Prewashing fabrics? I can’t tell you the impact there. I prewash, not post, so I am not washing and drying batting. On the other hand, I do iron my fabrics before use. My habits on this won’t change, regardless. I prewash partly because the sizing and other chemicals in new fabric bother me.

And what about batting?
Wow, this is a tough one, too. Polyester has the benefit of not being cotton; instead it is made from petroleum. Cotton has the benefit of not being polyester… Wool requires sheep, at about one sheep per twin-bed batt, depending on breed. And sheep require acreage, too, up to a half acre each. Compare that to cotton output of about 249 sheets per bale of cotton, and depending on location, about one bale per acre. So the number of cotton battings per acre must be many times the number of wool battings per acre, though otherwise the environmental damage is different, as well.

We also have other options. Bamboo is environmentally friendly and can grow prolifically without fertilizers or pesticides. Quilters Dream Green batting is made from recycled plastic bottles.

Without being able to do a more granular analysis, I’m not able to tell you what kind is a winner. I haven’t tried Quilters Dream Green, but it sounds like it’s worth trying. Other than that, I’ll probably continue to choose batting for each project based on that project’s needs and what I have easily available.

Do you have tips or ideas for green quilting? Please share in comments.