Sunday, June 29, 2014

Driven to distraction

I’ve decided there should be no deadlines or "shoulds" in quilting as in, "I should be doing this or that."  This is a good thing for me because I have been going in different directions lately.  You may recall in my last post that I had fallen in love with an English paper piecing project from the most recent issue of Quiltmania.  Here is the completed center of that project and I am well underway with the next round which are stars like the center hexagon.  But more on that later.

One day last week, I undertook the task of cleaning up my fabric stash and donating fabrics and planned projects that I know will never see the light of day.  The reason for this was to help me focus on what I "should" be doing. Well, I did get some reorganizing accomplished but, I also came across a stash of Kaffe Fassett fabrics and a Kim McLean pattern called "Flower Garden" that I purchased last year.  My fabric stack was larger than I remembered but the two shops that I frequent in North Carolina:  The Quilt Shop in Boone, NC and Tennessee Quilts in Jonesborough, TN both carry a large selection of Kaffe Fassett fabrics and I have picked up fat quarters here and there to satisfy my fabric fix.  Some of them are irresistible!  Anyway, I was having my own little "truth or dare" moment.  Was I EVER going to use this fabric or make this pattern or not?  The pattern looks simple enough (until you get to the borders). Take a look: Kim McLean's Flower Garden  What could I do to answer this question but give it a whirl?  And so, I did.

It's a very happy block, don't you think?  For this one, I had the fabrics that were used in the original.  But the next one required some choices of my own.
This one looks very happy too!  As anyone can see, I was driven to distraction!!

Sometimes distractions are good because this one spurred me on to focus on a block that has been waiting for my attention.  If you look at the gallery on this blog, you'll see that I'm working on a large Baltimore Album quilt with blocks I've designed.  I will be teaching two of these blocks at The Kathy Dunigan Academy of Appliqué.  Next up is a wreath of roses.  Here it is with most of the leaves placed and ready to stitch.
The Flower Garden blocks above have a total of 5-7 pieces.  My rose wreath has 54 leaves!!!  I realize I have been facing the same dilemma many quilters are considering these days.  Do I choose detailed, complex, Holy Cow!!! it will take me a month to do this block?  Or do I go for something that is beautiful in its own way but has a shorter time commitment?  I think I can have both, but I will have to use my time wisely.  I love the Baltimore Albums and I have a big commitment to the quilt I'm working on now.  Once that complex, multi-layered blocks is finished, it will really sing!  But sometimes, I really need a break, something simpler, to recharge the batteries. 

And speaking of breaks, the English paper piecing project was supposed to be one of those breaks!  It is very restful to make and stitch together diamonds and hexagons.  Fussy cutting to achieve certain results is also entertaining.

Here are a few tools and tips for successful English paper piecing.
You can get a multitude of papers for piecing from Paper Pieces as well as templates for fussy cutting.  The templates come with a 3/8" seam allowance but, by clicking on the drop down menu, you can choose a 1/4" seam allowance which I prefer.  Use a tiny hole punch to make a hole in your paper pieces.  This gives you a way to grab the paper with tweezers to remove it from the fabric after stitching.  Use a marking pencil with the template for fussy cutting your fabrics. The glue pen and stiletto come in handy when making the fabric pieces.
Use the glue pen to place a line of glue on the paper edge.  Notice that the glue is not right up to the edge of the paper but at the edge of the seam allowance. If you put glue to the very edge of the paper, it makes it harder to remove.
After finger pressing one side of the diamond against the glue, use a stiletto to score the point.  Finger press that edge and then lightly press both turned edges with the iron.
Follow the same procedure for the remaining sides of the diamond.
These clips come in handy to hold pieces together for stitching.  English paper piecing is the perfect complement to watching the World Cup.  Go USA!

Whatever your distractions, embrace and enjoy them!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Spring keeps me busy and not necessarily in terms of stitching.  First, there is strawberry season which has been particularly good this year.  The flavor of the berries is exceptional this year and I've made repeat trips to the fruit truck for boxes of berries.  Then I make jam. Here's a batch just out of the water bath.
A more artistic view of my handiwork:
The garden also keeps me quite busy.  Here it is just after I finished planting a couple of weeks ago.  At this moment, it is perfect: no weeds, no bugs, no fungus.
I also spend quite a bit of time in the Spring cleaning out flower beds, but it pays off with lots of inspiration.

Now it's time for me to focus on stitching!!  I'm planning to begin a block for my Baltimore Album quilt shortly.  The design is ready to go and I'm looking forward to getting started.  The first step in the process is to prepare a background square and this is how I do it.  My blocks will finish 17 - 18 inches, so I use a large 20 1/2" square ruler to cut a perfect square.  Move the ruler to the center line of your block and place a strip of painter's tape along the edge of the ruler.

Move the ruler out of your way and stitch along the edge of the tape in a nice straight line.
Do the same thing on the opposite half of the block.  When finished, you will have perfectly straight registration lines to guide the placement of your appliqué pieces when using an overlay.
This is one of those things in appliqué that may take you a few more minutes but save you time and headaches later on in the process.

While I'm working on my next Baltimore block, I've decided I need something easy to do when I need a break or when I'm watching Wimbledon or the NBA playoffs (GO HEAT!!!).  Here's is "Ring of Roses" in Quiltmania Magazine, issue no. 101.  
I just love it and I'm collecting pink, red, and beige fabrics to get this going ASAP!  I'm going to use some red Daiwabos too.  It should keep me out of trouble.

Don't forget that registration is open for The Kathy Dunigan Academy of Appliqué where I will be teaching, along with many other wonderful teachers, in February 2015.

Hopefully, my next post will be full of photos of work in progress!  Stella is quite tired from all that jam making.