Day 28 Flowers for the Fiesta

I’m having a hard time keeping up! I have about five blog posts to share with you, once I get the chance to write them. My hundred-day project has me hopping and my imagination burning brightly with ideas to try next. My granddaughter graduates from high school in a few days, and times a’wastin’ on getting her gift quilt done. There are guild duties in arrears, people to see, places to go. And it’s finally SPRING!! Nice enough to enjoy being outside a bit.

Alrighty, that little breathless whinefest done, I’ll move on to showing you my latest work on the 100 Day Project. As mentioned before, I have set aside a few weeks (100 days) to experiment with my quilting. There is one actual THING (the graduation quilt) to make in that time. But mostly, I am just trying stuff. My intention is to learn to be a better storyteller with my quilts. They, at their best, should evoke a story for the viewer, or at least for their owner. Though stories don’t have to be told with either words or pictures, there is some efficiency to that. One way to add pictures to quilts is with appliqué, so that is the method I am working on most. There are a lot of different appliqué techniques, and each one has strategies that contribute to success. Since I haven’t done a lot of appliqué, each method I try requires working through the process to learn some of those strategies.

Here is another lesson. I took a perfectly good quilt top and decided to add some decoration. A couple of weeks ago I showed you Fiesta!

I liked it. It was fun, it was easy, it was quick. But in truth, the great big green setting triangles? A little much. I wanted them broken, or something. I wanted them to not look like a baseball field. Seemed like this was a worthy subject for more experimenting.

There were two reasons I named it Fiesta! One, the bright colors are happy, like a party. Two, the colors remind me of Fiestaware dishes. Both the party and the dishes are casual, and any relief from the green had to be casual, as well. I sketched a couple of designs and decided to start with one, and maybe add the other.

While investigating methods of machine appliqué, I stumbled on a Fons & Porter video with McKenna Ryan. Ryan demonstrates how to assemble the components of a complex block. Her wall-hanging quilt uses raw-edge appliqué and has tiny details. My Fiesta! is intended as a lap quilt and needs to be washable; raw-edge appliqué isn’t appropriate, but a lot of the method worked just fine for me. Please see her video for an easy explanation of her methods.

In my own process of creating and attaching the appliqué motifs, I found these tips (learned now and in other work) helpful.
* For larger components, cut the center out of the fusible web prior to adhering it to the fabric. Leave about a quarter inch of web inside the drawn line. This will make the shape less stiff when stitched to the fabric.
* When you cut the fabric into shapes with fusible web adhered, turn the fabric rather than turning the scissors.
* If you have small pieces that are completely on top of larger pieces, like my flower centers, adhere them and stitch them to the larger piece before assembling.
* Assemble overlapped components prior to placing them on the quilt surface. You can use a Teflon pressing sheet as shown in the video, or you can use parchment paper just as well. Once the components are joined and cooled, you can peel them off your pressing sheet and move it as one unit to the fabric.
* For ease of stitching, appliqué the motif to the smallest piece of quilt top fabric you can. In other words, stitching my flower sets to my quilt top would have been far easier if I’d stitched it first to the green setting triangles, and then set the center and finished assembling the top. As it was, my quilt top is about 62″ square, and it was okay for fitting through my sewing machine arm. Any larger would have been pretty hard to work with. Smaller would have been much easier to work with!
* When stitching down the whole motif, do the elements that are underneath first, so the stitching on the upper pieces covers their starting points.
* Switch to straight stitch (from the satin stitch I used) to travel from one place to another. Then cover that straight stitch with your newly started line of satin.
* If you need to work on stitching over several sessions, make a note or take a picture of your machine settings so the stitches are consistent each time. (My machine doesn’t have a save function for that.)

I created my flower sets, and adhered them and stitched them to my quilt top one at a time, so manipulating the top wouldn’t loosen the motifs prior to being stitched down.

I tried a variety of stitches and stitch lengths, settling on a narrow satin stitch. I also tried different presser feet and various thread types. Though my 50 wt piecing thread, Superior’s So Fine, works well for weight, there is no sheen to it. A spool of something shinier in red was much prettier. The very-shiny tri-lobal Glide thread I used for one of the blue flowers was a bit hard to manage.

The addition of flowers on this quilt top helps break up the wide fields of green. On the whole, the design is not great for multiple reasons. One of those is that there are NO OTHER flowers on the quilt, so it doesn’t suit completely. However, the appliqué helps soften the sharp lines of the center, and I like it better now than I did before. It is done now. 🙂

This was a great lesson for me, both in how much I learned and in being pleased enough with the outcome.


Day 21 Rooster

Here I am three weeks into the Green Man project. When I told 7-year-old grandson Isaac that I was giving myself 100 days to work on it, he thought that was a long time. It’s funny about perception of time, though, isn’t it? The first three weeks have rushed by and I feel like I’ve hardly started.

I’m still waiting for delivery of supplies. (I would not do well in “the good old days” of waiting many months for delivery of a sewing needle, as in this post from a year ago.) In the meantime I persist with other efforts. Last week I started on a rooster project, conceived long before the Green Man was proposed.

My rooster began its life as a hen. I guess that makes it a trans-rooster. A magazine advertisement with a rough drawing of a hen was the starting point. I traced the basic shape, which was about 7″ tall. Using the old-fashioned grid system, I increased the hen’s size, at the same time elongating its neck.

Here is a photo of the rooster sketch. You can see I inserted leg extensions near the bottom of the picture. The fluffy feathery part of the rooster legs is what I call “pantaloons.” Surely there is a correct word for that. 🙂 I taped the drawing to a big window to create a light box effect. 

I do still have some fusible web but of a slightly heavier weight than preferred. After pulling out lots of “maybe” fabrics to cover the rooster, I started out appliquéing on muslin. This is what comes from inexperience.

It’s a reasonably good start, but I had no intention of finishing it on muslin. ??? Okay, moving on from there…

These pieces of fabric are not fused down yet. They’re just placed on top of the tracing paper sketch, which is stitched down to the background I’ll actually use. Again, procedurally, I have things to learn. But it’s coming.

My intention with the 100 Day Project was to spend at least 20 minutes every day on it. In truth, I manage far more than 20 minutes most days, and there have been a handful on which I probably haven’t spent that long. At this point I’m still exploring ideas and technique and materials. I watch videos and look up product specifications. I sort through my stash (again) and prep fabrics. I flip through books on appliqué and story quilts. I google photos for inspiration.

It feels very much like a lot of prep work and not much progress. A lot of thinking and not much doing. However, there is a lot I’m learning, though it isn’t very visible yet. What’s the hardest part? Maybe patience. That, also, is a good thing to practice.

The Kitty Economy Block Quilt

More than four years ago, I published a post on making an economy block. One aspect of quilting many struggle with is the math. The linked post outlines all the math in steps, and also provides a cheat sheet for a number of block sizes.

To show the steps, I fussy-cut a kitty from a bit of fabric and surrounded her with corners of a lively pink and yellow print. Those were set again with a bright pink and white gingham.

This block measures 7″ finished! Just as I wanted.

Cute block, huh? But with the quilts I make, not very easy to use. After all, the finished size is only 7″. For a block quilt, I’d need a lot more blocks (in pinks! or other pastels!) to make it useful. For a medallion quilt, 7″ is pretty small for a center.

When I started prepping for my February retreat, I dug through my drawer with orphan blocks and other parts. This block called to me, so I pulled it out and considered how to use it. By framing it with the yellow floral print, I enlarged the center, and the striped border extended it visually even more.

As I said in the linked retreat post, “One thing I enjoyed while cutting these pieces is completely finishing a few of these fabrics, aside from small scraps. That amazing stripe? That’s all there is of it. And the dainty but whimsical floral on yellow background? Gone. I’ve loved having them and using them, but as mentioned, I don’t make many quilts in pastels and twee prints. It won’t hurt to use them up.”

And use them up I did. Here is the finished quilt.

A Kitty for Charlotte. 39″ x 39″. Finished April 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

From a design standpoint, the small center block is okay, given the size of the quilt. One reason it works is because the 4-patches with pink gingham point at the center, directing the eye there. Also, there is not a lot of other “design” to distract from it.

Using the powder blue frames and other blue patches helps moderate the warmth (and monotony) of the pinks and yellows. The dark pink gingham repeats the dark pink in the kitty’s dress and bonnet. Also it provides some value contrast to the paler pastels. Spreading the gingham out across the quilt, and binding it with the same, helps provide balance.

Jim and I have friends with a baby girl named Charlotte, whom we have not yet met. The family lives just around the corner from us. This quilt seems like a good way to welcome Charlotte to the neighborhood.

Day 15 100daygreenmanproject

As it turns out, not making is hard. I like to make, which is one of the reasons this 100 day project is important to me. MAKING sometimes gets in the way of ASKING “what if?” and TRYING something to find out. The 100 Day Project, for me, is about trying, and about asking. But making is very satisfying! I like the sense of product as much as I like the sense of process.

Last week on Day 7, I took a six-hour workshop and tried (see, TRYING!) working quickly and intensely, without time for hesitation. The technique was different for me, with gluing colorful scraps onto a background and then freely stitching them down. I haven’t done a lot of appliqué of any kind, and none of that before. I also used fusible web to appliqué a word.

Later that week, still infused with enthusiasm, I tried (TRYING!) designing a Claddagh ring emblem. I used fusible web for it, as well. There are other things I will try on it, including weaving leaves around the ring and machine stitching the appliqué down. However, I ran out of fusible, and I had no stabilizer.

Our local JoAnn Fabric store is moving and the current location is in liquidation. The store is quickly emptying and they were out of the products I need. The only other local places to buy these supplies are a Hobby Lobby (I don’t shop there) and a WalMart (rarely shop there, either.) Instead, I ordered the items online, along with new pins (Dritz Super-Fine Sharp pins!) and machine needles. It will be a few days until they show up.


The Green Man project has been in slow-mo for the last week, but he hasn’t been abandoned. I reviewed my fabrics and found them wanting. A trip to the best shop around here for what I want will wait a few more days. I pulled out all my books on story quilts so I can page through them. I spend a lot of time thinking about him.

However, not making is hard. Sunday I decided to make.

Do you have orphan blocks? Orphan blocks are single blocks (or occasionally sets of them) from projects that have been abandoned. Sometimes they are test blocks, used to try out a technique or pattern. You might create an orphan block by signing up for a block-of-the-month and then deciding not to continue. Or maybe you made one great block out of twelve for a block quilt, but you found you didn’t enjoy the process.

I don’t have a lot of orphans but I’ll admit to a few. (And no, I don’t count single blocks as UFOs. They are not projects. They are just another resource like other kinds of fabric. There is no shame attached to them.) One of them came from a workshop I took about a year ago. The workshop was to learn to create a particular pieced block. (I won’t do that again. For me, workshops can be valuable for learning how to do something new, or practice techniques or skills, not for learning to create a particular teacher’s pattern with traditional piecing.)

Ahem… One of my few orphans was from that workshop. I liked it — bright, colorful, strong contrast, you know, all the characteristics I like. But I was not about to make more.

Sunday morning I pulled fabrics to make that orphan into a medallion quilt top. The block is the center within the narrow red-line border.

Fiesta! Unquilted top. Approximately 62″ x 62″. April 17, 2018.

This was easy and quick. I finished the top a whole 48 hours after starting. There was almost no math involved. (See my post on setting a block on point.) ANYONE can do this type of medallion. No, it’s not my most spectacular, but it’s gonna be a heckuva lap quilt for someone.

The piano keys border was cut from scraps. I cut them widths between 1.5″ and 2″, depending on what the scrap could give me. I cut them to 5″ long, or left them in long segments if they were long enough, to be trimmed up later. When I finished assembling the sides of piano keys, I cut each border segment to 4.5″ wide, to finish at 4″. Trimming both sides of the border gave me an even edge to stitch.

The bright gold setting points happened partly because I had enough of that fabric. The other things I had didn’t suit, because they were too dull or just the wrong color. The green setting triangles and border were chosen for similar reason.

The great striped border? I bought a yard of that recently when I visited my sister.

It’s called Fiesta! It was fun to make. One of the reasons it was fun was because I didn’t hesitate on decisions. I used what I had and what worked. The construction was simple with hardly any piecing.

I have three yards of another green print to use on the back. It’s not enough, so I’ll use most of the rest of the top’s green to add a strip. And guess what! I have a length of binding from the same fabric that should be long enough to finish this. If it’s not, I’ll cobble together binding strip remnants of reds, blues, and greens.

And tomorrow I’ll start on the Green Man again. This time, I’ll work on a chicken. Yeah, that’s the lovely thing about how I defined my project: even a chicken counts. 🙂

Day 10 Claddagh Ring

In case you wonder how a Claddagh ring fits into my #100daygreenmanproject, it does perfectly. Some of the things I do over the next 90 days will directly be part of the quilt. Others won’t be as directly connected, but ultimately it is all intended to teach me how to tell better stories with my quilts.

Today I didn’t want to work on the Green Man quilt, but I did want to make. After filing our taxes and starting a corned beef and talking with our son, I finally got busy putting things away from Monday’s workshop. And I decided to make something simple with appliqué, to not lose the enthusiasm I felt from the workshop.

There are A LOT of appliqué projects I want to do. One is an interpretation of a grade school art project my son made, long long ago. I searched the computer for a photo of it, and drat! I could not find it. I’m pretty sure I know where the real thing is, downstairs. But even it is a bit more complex than I wanted to tackle today. Plus, I am down to tidbits of WonderUnder left.

Instead I decided to interpret a Claddagh ring. The traditional Irish symbol represents love (heart,) loyalty (crown,) and friendship (hands.)

The pretty heart in the middle was printed like that from fabric I bought eleven years ago. I drew the hands and crown from the basic Claddagh ring symbol. And then I encircled it with a ring of batik. It is all on a black Kona cotton background.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. Perhaps I’ll make it into a small wedding gift for Son and his fiancee. Both of them have plenty of Irish heritage, so it would suit their backgrounds.