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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Western Kaleidoscope

I finished the first of the memory quilts made from my grandfather's western shirts this afternoon.   This quilt will go to my Dad, and I could not be happier with the way it turned out.  When my mom first mentioned that my grandmother wanted me to make quilts out of western shirts, my immediate thought was "how am I going to make it cute??"  Although I'm not a typical girly-girl, western plaids are certainly not fabrics I've ever attempted.  That being said, I knew it was important to her, and that my Dad and uncles would really appreciate these mementos of their father.

Like I said, I am so pleased with the way it turned out, that I couldn't resist a little bit of cheesiness in the photos, and pulled out my extremely old cowboy boots for the photo-op.  They look right at home next to this quilt, and I'm totally embracing the cheese.

I backed the quilt with Kona Coal and put a wide stripe of chambray through the middle.  I stippled the quilt with tan thread to blend with the sashing (Kona Parchment) on the front, but gave a nice contrast on the back.  I have to say that this wasn't the easiest to quilt.  Although these look like all flannels, they aren't.  They are men's dress shirt fabric.  Some of these shirts were very soft and thin, so it made it tougher to quilt (and now that we're on the subject, a real pain to piece too).  I chose Kona Rich Red for the binding, and I think it just sets the whole thing off.

*by the way, I opted not to use any of the shirt pockets on this quilt.  When I laid them out, it just took too much away from the kaleidoscope illusion.

It was difficult to find the right wording for the label of this quilt, and I'm still not sure I succeeded.  It was tricky because even though I made the quilt, it is a gift to my Dad from my grandmother, and made from his Daddy's shirts.  That's three people on one quilt label!  Here's what I came up with-

For Wes-
a gift from your Mother
handmade with love from
your Daddy's shirts
by your daughter, Kelly
June 2013
(when I made the label, I didn't think I'd get it finished before June.  May 30th is close enough, ha!)

Frankly, it's all stitched down and quilted through, so at this point, it is what it is.  I played around with lots of different ways to word it, and I honestly don't think there is a less wordy way to get all of that on there.

I love that I've had the opportunity to make this quilt for my Dad (and by proxy, my grandmother), and I hope he really loves the manliness of it.  I know he'll appreciate the memento of his father for years to come.  And, although I won't pretend that my grandfather was the greatest communicator, I'd like to think that if he were himself, he would approve of what I've done and be proud.

I'm calling this quilt Western Kaleidoscope.

I'm entering this in Quilting Gallery's weekly Quilter's Show and Tell.  The theme this week is Memory Quilts, so I thought it would fit right in!  Starting tomorrow (5/31), swing by and vote for my quilt.  At the time I entered the quilt, I had not yet decided on a name, so it is titled "PaPa's Western Shirts" in the Show and Tell.

Here's the link-  Quilter's Show and Tell.  My quilt is titled "PaPa's Western Shirts" there, since I hadn't decided on the name yet.  :)

                                                   Quilters’ Show and Tell

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Manly-Man's Quilt

As I mentioned in my last post, at my grandmother's request, I am making four memory quilts from my grandfather's western shirts for each of their sons.  He is in the end stages of Alzheimer's and I know it will mean a lot to my Dad and uncles to have a special keepsake that reminds them of the father they knew that is technically still here in body, even as he isn't in mind.  I just finished the first one and it will be my Dad's.

Here is the top all finished.  It measures 60 x 60 inches.  It is appropriately manly, don't you think?  Made from manly shirts, and paired with manly colors (Kona Parchment and Kona Coal).  And, just in case you were wondering- I hereby decree that kaleidoscope quilts can be manly as well!

Manly?...yes.  Quick and simple?...absolutely not.  Cutting and piecing this kaleidoscope quilt was by far one of the least simple patterns I've done.  I'm not saying it was incredibly difficult, but it just required more careful attention than many other patterns.

One thing that helped immensely was my wise purchase of a kaleidoscope ruler-

I don't know if the picture shows it well, but it creates a template for the main triangle pieces, as well as the corner pieces, and it's adjustable for different block sizes.  It really helped with the cutting, but the nature of the cuts still meant that it was a bit time consuming.

The ruler also came with a set of instructions for piecing the block, and they were really helpful.  Apparently it's important to piece the triangles and corners in a particular order, because I accidentally got out of order once with unfortunate results.  Again, not a pattern you can throw together mindlessly (sometimes we all need those!).

All that said, I really am happy with the resulting quilt top, and I hope my Dad loves it too.  I'm planning to back it in the same Kona Coal in the border, and I may play around with appliqueing some of the western pockets somewhere on the quilt.

I'm entering this in Quilting Gallery's weekly Quilter's Show and Tell.  The theme this week is Memory Quilts, so I thought it would fit right in!  Starting on Friday, swing by and vote for my quilt!

                                                  Quilters’ Show and Tell

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Big Pile of Western Shirts

While I was in Baton Rouge visiting my family this weekend, I took the opportunity to visit my grandfather, who was recently put in a nursing home and is in the end stages of Alzheimer's.  Although he had absolutely no idea who I was and couldn't hold a real conversation, I knew it was important to take the time to see him.

I also knew that this might be the only memory that my wild thing has of his great-grandfather.  As it is, we haven't lived in Baton Rouge at all during his lifetime, and haven't always gotten to see my grandparents on every single visit.  So, I'm fairly certain that this will probably be the memory of him that sticks.

In talking with my grandmother about the goings-on of my life, inevitably the conversation turned to my love of quilting.  She asked if I would take some of my grandfather's old western shirts and make four quilts- one for each of their sons (including my dad) as keepsakes.

Except during the time he was working, my grandfather wore a western shirt, jeans, and boots pretty much every single day of his life; and to know my grandparents is to know that they absolutely do not throw things away.  This means that there were closets and closets full of shirts from which to choose, and frankly, it all got a little overwhelming considering I had no idea what I was even going to do with them once I got home.  My grandmother helped me choose shirts that were his favorites to make the quilt as special as possible, and of course I tried to get a little color variety as well.

Here's what I pulled out-

I decided to start with just one quilt, and so I only left with 12 shirts.  That will keep the project manageable, and I know that my Mom will get more for me when I'm ready for them.  I've (finally) decided on a scrappy kaleidoscope quilt with Kona Parchment (a warm tan) as the background, and I'm planning to applique some of the western pocket flaps in the center of the blocks.

I've never made this kind of quilt before, so I bought a kaleidoscope ruler, and I'm just crossing my fingers that I get it right!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coins on the Sidewalk

Today was the last day of school for the kiddos, and y'all- I am exhausted!  Trying to keep some semblance of order during the last few days of school is like trying to herd cats.  You can run around in circles and never get anywhere (and I say that with all the love in my heart).  Of course, I have to work tomorrow to finish all of the odds and ends to close out the school year, but somehow, doing all of that without kids in the room doesn't seem nearly as taxing.  Hmmmm...wonder why?  ;)  I am so ready to have the summer to spend with my wild thing at the pool, and baseball field, and to be able to sew until all hours of the night without repercussions (not serious ones, anyway).

Speaking of repercussions, I stayed up waaaayyy too late finishing up the stippling on this quilt last night, which just might account for a smidge of my lack of energy today (but just a smidge- it's mostly because of the kids I tell ya!).  For once, I actually had a good reason for doing this, rather than just my obsession with all things quilty.  My Mom and Dad live six hours away, so they hardly ever get to see my quilts in person before they're sent to their new homes.  It so happens that we're heading to visit on Saturday morning, so I wanted to have it finished to make the trip with us.  That's a good enough reason in my book!

I just finished putting the binding on this quilt (Kona Clover), and I have to say without a doubt- I love the way this quilt turned out! The use of the Kona Iron as my sashing was a bold choice (for me).  Ordinarily, I would have picked the much more traditional white sashing, but I think that the gray gives it a little bit of the unexpected, and makes the colors really stand out.  I think it also makes it look a little more grown up.

For the back, I chose Kona Ice Frappe- what a dreamy color.  It's so easy on the eyes, I could just stare at it!  With the darker sashing, and colorful coin explosion on the front, a softer color was in order for the backing.  But I did include a row of coins to give it a little pizzazz.  Something about this gray, aqua, and green color combo feels very fresh, and just makes me happy!

I quilted with gray thread to blend with the sashing on the front, and the contrast of the gray on aqua backing looks pretty cool.  I was pretty worried while quilting, because there's no way to hide little crossovers or thread nests, or any other mistakes that can happen when doing FMQ.  It all turned out okay though- actually better than I expected.

I've named this one "Coins on the Sidewalk", because the Kona Iron sashing reminds me of concrete- and I think it sounds catchy, ha!

I'm also entering this in Stitched in Color's String Fever Festival of Strings

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I like big blocks... (and I cannot lie)

You other quilters can't deny...

Okay, I won't further subject you to the 4:00am ramblings of my brain.  But admit it, you're singing along.  Don't deny it!

That's not entirely true though.  I actually love the way that tiny pieces look in finished quilts- like postage stamps or scrappy trips, but again, my lack of patience and desire for instant gratification means that I make larger blocks more often.

Anyway, I fell asleep last night thinking about the unspeakable tragedy that Oklahoma is dealing with right now, and so, when I heard a large clap of thunder, I couldn't help myself.  I had to get up, check the weather, check on my wild thing, and say another prayer for all of those who have lost loved ones.  As a parent and a 3rd grade teacher it literally brings tears to my eyes to think of those parents who can only stare at an empty bed tonight.

So, I did what I always do when I need to clear my mind.  I headed to my sewing machine.  To work on turning this-

into this-

By the way, I hardly ever remember to take pictures at the beginning of a project, so that pile of coins is already greatly diminished from its beginning number of 240 (teeny, tiny pieces- for me anyway).  

I opted not to do strip piecing for a couple of reasons- first, I wanted a totally random look, and secondly, some of my scraps were too small. So sewing the individual coins into rows took awhile.  Longer than usual for me- not to mention the all of the pressing and cutting. 

and this evening, I turned them into this-

I used a soft gray sashing (Kona Iron) to really make the colors stand out, and turned the short stacks of blocks in alternate directions to add a little interest.  I'm thinking about putting aqua on the back and binding in a shade of green (maybe Kelly green?), and I have a row of coins to go across the back.

This began as a scrap quilt, (the coins are made from over 60 different fabrics) but I ended up cutting into some of my fat quarters to balance out my colors. I don't know if that makes me particular or a little insane.  And really, sometimes, who can tell the difference?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Finish, and a MQG Meeting

I've been hoping that the Memphis area would get a Modern Quilt Guild chapter for a few months now to meet other quilters around me and share ideas.  Don't get me wrong, I love the online quilting community and am happy to be a part of it.  I also know that without it, I would never have been brave enough to tackle FMQ, or some of the other challenges I've mastered recently.  For that, I'm really grateful.  Still though, I wanted to be able to have fun with other quilters, talk face to face, and share modern quilting techniques and fabrics.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was looking at the national MQG website, and lamenting the fact that Memphis doesn't have a chapter, when I clicked on the "find a chapter" button on a whim.  I was absolutely thrilled to find that Memphis quilters had just formed a chapter- yay!!

I attended my first meeting this afternoon.  It was a "sew-in"- FUN!  I just finished the stippling on the Raspberry Limeade Chevron Quilt quilt yesterday, so I prepared the binding (Kona Berry), and took it to work on at the meeting.  I also took the Carnaby Street quilt for the show and tell portion.

What a great experience!  I got to take a peek into the creative process of several talented ladies, all with varying levels of experience, and I got to finish up a quilt of my own- bonus!!

Here are a few pictures of the finished Raspberry Limeade quilt-

                                                         A close-up of the stippling

The label and backing fabric

My mitered corners are getting better!!

All finished!

Now...what to make next?  ;)

Linking up to Quilt Story's Fabric Tuesday, and Sew Cute Tuesday at Better Off Thread!  Check out my Link Party page for buttons!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Raspberry Limeade Chevron Quilt

Chevrons are everywhere these days, and with good reason- they are so cute!  Well, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and finally make a chevron quilt.  I pulled fabrics from a few lines, including Art Gallery Poetica and Michael Miller Secret Garden.  I'm not usually a pink person, but I managed to find these fabrics on clearance, and I'm surprised at how much I actually like the way the top came out.

One reason that I haven't made a chevron quilt before now is my complete aversion to HST's.  All of the tracing lines and trimming up provides just enough annoyance that I have avoided certain patterns that use lots of them.  However, I have to say that using the HST tutorial at That Girl...That Quilt made these a snap.  I used the first method shown, which creates four HST's from two larger squares.  To determine the correct size of my two beginning squares, I used the HST Math Chart at Blossom Heart Quilts-  and they were perfect!  I'll never make HST's another way again!    

I will say this though, if you use this method, spray the heck out of your blocks with spray starch to add some stability to those bias edges, and press very carefully!  I did both of these things and I didn't have a bit of trouble though.  So, it was well worth that tiny bit of care.

I'm planning to back it in a lime colored fabric with white polka dots, and bind in that great raspberry color!  Can't wait to get it quilted!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Birthday Boy Quilt- Sailing at Sunset

Well, I finished my wild thing's birthday quilt.  As I mentioned in my last post, he and my wonderful husband were heading out of town for an overnight trip, and I jumped on the opportunity to make a quilt for him without his knowledge.  Yes...yes...  I could have just worked on it for nights on end after he went to bed, and cleaned up all evidence every night before going to bed myself, but hey- that's just not how I roll.  Of course, that means that I had to sew like a mad-woman to get it pieced, quilted, and bound within the span of less than 36 hours (sleep optional)- 
even if I did choose a really simple pattern.  

Here it is all finished!  I'm calling it Sailing at Sunset, since the colors remind me of the ocean when it is most beautiful, and because there are a few nautical-themed fabrics mixed in.

Marathon sewing aside, I'm really proud of this quilt for a few reasons.  

1.  I've been quilting off and on for almost 15 years, but before this quilt, I have never done a pieced backing.  It's not that I don't know how to do one, it's just that by the time the top is all finished, I'm ready to get on with the quilting part and get it done.  After seeing lots of awesome pieced backings all over the blogosphere (thanks for the inspiration!), I decided to take the plunge and do one myself.  
The backing-

 2.  Until this quilt, I've never done a binding.  What's that you say?  No binding?  How did I finish the edges of my quilts?  Well, I used the method used by my grandmother, which is called "back over binding."  This method involves leaving the backing a couple of inches wider than the quilt top all the way around, and you simply fold it over, tuck the raw edge, and stitch it down, either by hand or machine.  This works great if you've chosen a backing that isn't too busy and will look great against the pattern of the quilt top.  Alas, the backing I wanted to do would not have looked good on the front side, so I had to learn a new skill!  All in all, I'm happy with it, even though my corners don't look perfect- darn that mitering!

3.  My FMQ is getting so much better.  I didn't have a single crossover in my stippling on this quilt (yay!  personal victory!), and I felt really relaxed while quilting.  Usually, I feel tense while quilting, and as a result I don't think my curves are as smooth as they should be.  I know I've mentioned that FMQ is still a new skill I'm working to perfect, and I've had one or two crossovers in each of my last quilts.  In this one- not a single one.  I'm also working on more even spacing of my meandering lines.  It's hard to take a picture of all this, but here's my best shot (no pun intended, lol!).

Check out the label I added to the back.  You can see the quilting pretty well in this picture too.  To apply the label, I used spray basting to hold it in place, and then appliqued it to the backing after basting, but before quilting (so the stitches wouldn't show on the front of the quilt) with a zig-zag stitch.  Have I mentioned that I really dislike hand sewing?  I find it tedious, and I don't think that my stitches are as strong as machine stitching.  Believe me, if I can find a way to do something on the machine, I will NEVER choose to do it by hand.  

and because I can't help it, I'm going to include a picture of my Boxer Beau, who takes every opportunity to visit me and forces me to take breaks.  He's pretty persistent!  :)

I actually managed to finish this quilt (from cut pieces to finished quilt) in about 18 hours!  Well before my husband and wild thing are due to arrive home.  Now, we'll have to see if I can actually make it to June 8th before giving the quilt to him.  I'm not a great secret keeper, and I love giving gifts that I know will be loved, so it's going to be tough!  I can't wait to see him snuggled up with it!  I love that even though he's almost nine, he still loves Mommy's quilts.  :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Someone's Birthday is Coming Up Soon!

June is coming up pretty quickly, and it is a very important month in our house.  My son and I almost share a birthday- my wild thing's birthday is on the 8th.  He will be nine!  Even thinking that sentence just sounds plain wrong.  How did that happen?  Where did the years go?  My birthday is the day before, on the 7th and I'll be 36.  How did that happen?  Where did the years go?

Considering all of the things that my big nine year old thinks he's too old for or too cool for, oddly enough, (and blessedly) a quilt from his Mommy isn't one of them.  He does already have a quilt that I made for him several years ago-

It's made from all of his jeans and overalls that I saved from his babyhood (I even cut off the tiny pockets!), along with red and white ticking and wide, snuggly corduroy.  It's backed in the corduroy and all tied up with red embroidery floss.  He absolutely loves it, but it's really too heavy for him to drag down the stairs when he wants to cover up while watching TV or reading.  I'm always afraid that he'll trip over it and take a tumble down the stairs.

So, I've decided to make another quilt for him- one that is easily dragged around, and one that will make a good cape or tent (because apparently, he's not too old for that either).  It's tough to keep a quilt a secret from someone living in the same house, but I'm determined to do it.  I'm gearing up for some marathon sewing this weekend, because my husband's grandmother is celebrating her 95th birthday, and he and the wild thing are going out of town to be there.  I can't go for other reasons, but my sewing machine and I will get along just fine.

Here are the fabrics that I've pulled for his quilt.  The shades of aqua, navy, gray and red-orange feel so summery and almost nautical to me.  I'm going to do a simple brick path variation, with differing brick lengths.  

About to get a jump start and go press and cut fabrics now!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Carnaby Street...Complete!

I have what some (most vocally, my husband) might call a "one-track mind."  Seriously- I am not kidding.  I have a real problem.  When I get engrossed in a quilt, I simply cannot think of anything else.  As luck would have it, I had to take my son to the doctor today- he's not sick, or else I would never consider that lucky.  Even more lucky, was that his appointment was smack in the middle of the day, so I had to take the whole day off.  Darn!  I'm sure you can guess what I decided to do with that extra time before and after his appointment.  Yep, you guessed it!  I finished the Carnaby Street quilt.  Yay!

After finding the most perfect backing fabric ever yesterday afternoon (check out the picture below), there was no stopping me.  Usually I'm an old-fashioned safety pin basting kinda girl, but I took advantage of the dry weather and decided to recruit my husband to help me try spray basting for the very first time (more on that little misadventure another time).  Suffice it to say that although it was dry, it was a little breezy, and that made things very interesting.  We did however, manage somehow to get the quilt basted successfully without the unwelcome additions of leaf bits and dirt- though not very efficiently.  Ha!

I decided to quilt it with a simple meandering, since the recipient of this quilt has told me before that it's her favorite kind of quilting.  Truthfully, it's really my favorite too.  I love how it makes the quilt all crinkly, and how it doesn't compete with the fabrics.  By the way- I don't think I can call my quilting "stippling" just yet, since my stitching pattern is very random and not always evenly spaced.  FMQ is still new for me;  I've only been doing it since January.  Other examples of stippling that I've seen have very regular curved lines.  I'm in awe of people who can do that on their regular home machines, and I'm continuously trying to reach that standard.  I don't know if you can see what I mean in the picture below-

The most perfect backing- tone on tone chevrons in the most perfect shade of aqua
(picture taken in the most imperfect lighting)-

So anyway, here's the finished quilt (fyi- the dark color in the quilt looks black, but it's navy blue)-

Again, my complete lack of patience will simply not allow me to wait until it is daylight to take a better picture.  Hope you like it!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Swinging 60's Chic

The second I saw the Carnaby Street fabrics (Pat Bravo, Art Gallery Fabrics) I knew that I wanted them.  The prints are 1960's Mod with a psychedelic vibe- London in the Swinging 60's!  (Is that the Austin Powers music I hear in my head...yeah baby!).  Although the whole daisies and peace signs hippie thing can be fun, I think this is a much more chic and sophisticated version of the 60's.  Check out the fabrics-

It took me awhile to decide what kind of quilt I wanted to make with such large scale, busy prints.  I eventually went with one of my favorite go-to patterns- Square in Square.  I felt like this would showcase the fabrics without cutting them too much, and without adding busy-ness (that's a word, right?) to an already busy quilt.  I also knew that the pattern I chose would have to fit the mod feel of the prints.

To cut the fabric, I used the Stack and Whack method found at Cluck Cluck Sew, but I modified so that my blocks finished at 9 inches.  If you haven't used this cutting method, I highly recommend it.  It's so simple!  Here are the blocks, all pressed and ready to go!

After that, the quilt top went together in a snap!  
I finally got a picture of the fabric in the sunshine and I think it really makes a difference in how the colors show up!

Now here comes a tricky part- finding the backing.  I'm off to the fabric store to search for a backing that is just right.  I have no idea what color family I'm looking for, I'll just have to see what grabs me.  Any suggestions?

I'm linking to the new blog linky party at Marcia's Crafty Sewing! and to 
Made By You Monday at Skip to My Lou!

Friday, May 3, 2013

This String Quilt Took Muscles!

I just finished my string quilt the other day, and wow!  It is the heaviest quilt I have ever made.  Rather than paper piecing, I sewed the strings to Kona White, thinking that would make it be nice and heavy.  Boy, was I right!  This thing is a monster!  It took some real arm strength to get it quilted.  I love heavy quilts, but next time, I'll probably sew to something more lightweight.

My stack of blocks-

All sewn to Kona White  (my blocks are 9 inches finished)-

Finished!  It is 81 x 90 inches finished- whew!  One of the biggest I've ever made!  I used a yellow and gray polka-dot on the backing.  It was tough to choose a backing that didn't scream "baby quilt!"

I have always loved string quilts, but since I usually choose more large scale, modern prints, I always feel like I shouldn't cut them into little bitty strings.  So, I thought that my stack of 1930's reproduction fabrics would be perfect!  I love how it turned out.  I had hoped to get a picture of the quilt outside in the sunshine, but it has been raining here for two days, so I guess that's just the way it goes. 

(**updated- finally got some good pictures outside in the sunshine, so I changed the pictures just in time for the String Fever Festival of Strings at Stitched in Color) 

I'm linking this to Finish it Up Friday at

Scrap Attack {String Fever}

and linking to String Fever at Stitched in Color at the end of May!

A Disclaimer

There's something you should know.  I'm sure I don't always quilt the "right" way.  In fact, I've never taken a quilting class in my life.  Over the years, I have taught myself to quilt (with some frantic, long distance calls to my grandmother), and have figured out what works best for me.  After years of straight-line quilting only, I have recently discovered the quilt blogging world, and plucked up the courage to dive into free-motion quilting.  I'm fairly certain that a professional quilter would be appalled at some of my methods, but oh well.  There's my disclaimer, now- enjoy!  :)
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