Friday, October 26, 2012

It Takes a Village -- Part 2

It's that time again -- Amy has her fall edition of Blogger's Quilt Festival active for a week, starting today.  If ever you wanted to see an encyclopedia of quilt goodness, it's worth taking a stroll through all the submissions.

I am going to submit my "It Takes a Village" because of what it means to me.  I love this quilt.  I love the women it represents.  I love to quilt.  

Seriously -- take a minute and walk through the incredible quilts and stories over at Amy's Creative Side!


I am a scrap hound.  I admit it.  I like it.  I profit from it!

I call this quilt "It Takes a Village" for a very special reason.  Only about 40% of this quilt is from my scraps.  The rest have come from my friends in the village where we lived outside Chicago.  It's all batiks and I haven't done much with batiks in the past few years.   A few of them, however, work mainly in batiks (to my advantage, I'd like to say) and aren't particularly fond of small scraps and using them up (to my advantage, I'd like to say!!!!!).

When we would get together to sew, it was always great fun to find a little baggie of snippets.  Some might be a bit too small to use but many could easily become 1.5" squares or greater.  And there was one particular trash basket at MacQuilts house that was always worth going through if I could get there before the cleaning lady.  My goodness, I've found some great scraps in there.  Tsk!  Tsk! 
Even more touching for me have been the times that a package would show up at my door after we moved to Kentucky and there would be baggies of cute little batik goodness in there.  Hence, the name of this quilt.

I did lots of "cutting" for it but not in the usual sense.  I pulled out all my 1.5" squares, some 1.5" strips,  trimmed up all the donated scraps, and started sewing!  This has been such fun.  Between the fabric and the randomness of it, it really was "grab and go" sewing.

The quilt is modeled after Tonya Ricucci's "Lego" quilt that I found on her site about a year ago.  There are a number of posts where she talks about her process and that led to a plethora of similar quilts being made and enjoyed by other quilters.

Basically, these are 10.5" blocks that are set 6 x 6 so the quilt finishes at 60" square.  As I started to lay it out, I wasn't thrilled with the fairly apparent demarcation where all the blocks were coming together vertically, so I changed the setting a bit.  The first row is six 10" blocks.  The second row starts with a half block followed by five 10" blocks and ends with another half block.  That breaks it up a bit.  You can certainly still see the blocks when you look but it's a bit less obvious. The third row is six 10" blocks and so on.

As I laid the blocks out, I actually looked for places where the "logs" were the same fabric end-to-end -- or at least similar.  This is the first time in my quilting life that I wanted same fabrics touching!  That helped break the lines a bit more.  As you can see in the red piece here in the corner, there are two blocks there but the same fabric is a bit of a fooler unless you look closely.
So -- I love this quilt.  It's really not mine.  I made it but the fabric was from special people who are now in Chicago, Iowa, and the Bluegrass area of Kentucky.  My intention (once I get it labeled and washed) is that it goes to them.  It can travel among MacQuilts, CookingMama, Mom22SmartChix, MyNeicetheQuilter, LogCabinQuilter, and ShirasGram.  They can keep it as long as they want (years!) and then pass it on to the next one.  I certainly don't need it -- I've had my joy in looking at the fabric, playing with them, remembering the person that shared them, and often recalling the project they were used in.  Aren't quilting friends the best?

I would absolutely make this quilt again.  It's a great way to use those 1.5" strips of all sizes and walk down memory lane.  I hope you're finding time to be creative and remember those you enjoy sharing your quilting with!  Jan

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Quilter's Fairy Tale

Once upon a time in a place far far away, lived a woman named Terri who was diagnosed with a terrible-horrible-very bad-no good illness that caused her to think about what was important in her life.  After going through surgery and terrible-horrible-but effective treatments, Terri spent some time deciding what she must do.  She had a strong sense of urgency about everything.  So, Terri decided to make a quilt for her son who she loved so much it hurt.  She learned to do photo transfer on fabric and collected all matter of pictures of this special son, other family members, his infant clothing, his childhood artwork, programs from plays this aspiring performer had starred in, menus and memories from a different land that was also far far away.  She worked and worked and worked -- with a passion and fervor that only women who have had this terrible-horrible-very bad-no good illness can understand.  She worked on her special son's quilt until she got to a place where she wasn't sure what to do.
One day while talking to a woman she had met in a Bible study in her home, she mentioned she was making a quilt and needed help.  This person liked Terri immediately and offered to share what little knowledge she had about quilting. Little did Terri know that this woman periodically transformed into the quilting witch. 

One nite the quilting witch went to see what was needed -- thinking that maybe binding or squaring up or something simple was the next step.  What she found was a big quilt made from all kinds of special fabrics (stars to remind the special son to reach for the stars and he would be a star some day) with all kinds of special pictures and personal information.  It was truly a labor of love.  But -- there were problems that the quilting witch had to address.  

Some of the seams were on the outside of the quilt.  This was a first and very concerning.  Really -- there were seams on the outside of the quilt.  She told Terri those had to be ripped out.

Some of the blocks were barely being held together because of the tension from the sewing machine who had been very cranky part of the time.  She told Terri those had to be ripped out.

Some of the blocks weren't square or had other problems and she told Terri those had to be ripped out.

Terri set about ripping out almost the entire quilt - proving yet again how much she wanted this special quilt to be just right for her son she loved so much that it hurt.  She prayed for him as she ripped and never fussed at the quilting witch.

Over the course of the next few months, Terri sewed, Terri ripped, Terri sewed some more, Terri replaced some pictures, Terri sewed some more-always praying for her special son that she loved so much it hurt.  Then one day -- the quilt top was done!  Terri had done it!  It was square, the seams were on the inside, and it was was going to hold together for all the years ahead.  

So, Terri learned to hand quilt and wrestled that heavy heavy quilt for hours and hours and hours and hours.  Always praying for her very special son and staying focused on the task at hand.  And then, Terri finished the quilt and the binding and it was just perfect.  She had done it!  

Soon after, a sort of terrible thing happened; Terri moved to another land far far away from the quilting witch. But it was good for Terri and she continued to quilt and she met good quilt teachers and bought fabric and learned new techniques.  An Accu-Quilt made it possible to cut fabric since the rotary cutter and her missing lymph nodes did not get along. 

One day, the quilting witch got a picture that made tears come to her eyes.  Terri had made a most complicated quilt and it was glorious.  She had made a double wedding ring -- this is a very very hard quilt that the quilting witch would never have tried to do.  But Terri had not only tried -- she had finished it and it was on her bed.  She had done it again!

Most fairy tales have a happy ending.  This fairy tale has two.  Not only did Terri become an accomplished quilter and go live among a quilting community that loves her, the terrible-horrible-very bad-no good illness knew that it had to leave this most special of quilters.

The end.

Have you had your mammogram or done your breast exam?  DO IT NOW if you are delinquent.  Terri had Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) which is not about lumps --- it's about swelling or redness of the breast and is very aggressive.  It's a really really bad terrible-horrible-very bad-no good breast cancer that many women do not know about.   Now you do!  Make sure others you love know about it too.  If you are a blogger, consider a post this month about breast cancer -- we have to keep this in front of women to remind them to stay current with exams and support each other.  It is a terrible-horrible-very bad-no good disease!

I hope you are as inspired by Terri as I am!

The Quilting Witch

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Flying in Circles

Don't you love these colors? This quilt hangs on a wall in my living room and makes me smile every time I see it.  This is the most recent circle quilt I've made but it's certainly not going to be the last one.  I've fallen in love with this block again.
When I posted the picture of the circles out of our challenge fabric, I had pulled out the templates I bought years ago at the Chicago version of the International Quilt Festival.  They are from Elisa's Back Porch and work like a charm.  There were several of us who bought the templates and packets of 20 FQ of batiks which makes a medium sized quilt.  One of us (logcabinquilting) stayed up until 2am to finish hers that night! One of the reason I love them is that you get a 8.5" block with just two pieces!  How cool and quick is that?
The purple quilt was my first circle quilt from those templates.  Unfortunately I didn't take any close ups when I made the quilt.  But there was sufficient fabric left over from the fat quarters to make a little wallhanging for a co-worker as a thanks for a kindness she provided. I have to say that making the larger circles is a lot more fun than the smaller ones!
This quilt was made for my niece when she graduated from college and got her first apartment.  I loved the colors and I called it "Tequila Sunrise".
I also decided to make one for my son's girlfriend after they had been dating a bit (now my daughter-in-law I'd like to say!).  This is when I decided my stash needed more black and white fabrics to go with the ant fabric I found in Virginia a year or so before.
This had been a "find" since she was working on her PhD and had been studying leaf cutter ants. I grabbed it when I saw it and hoped that there might be an occasion to put in a quilt.  So -- lots of collecting started and the end result was a large lap sized quilt.
And, because she is Canadian, I thought I'd make a special label.  That was not smart.  I made up a pattern of the maple leaf and cut it into pieces in order to paper piece it.  Never again.  This was hard.  I'm reasonably happy with result but some of the teeny-tiny pieces and points made me fidget way too much.  And -- for all our Canadian family and readers -- HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
I was lucky enough to have a few circles and fabric left over to make a Project Linus quilt that ended up being displayed in the Project Linus booth at the Chicago International Quilt Festival.  That was pretty cool!
Which brings us "full circle" to my last circle quilt -- Flying in Circles.  I got the plaid fabric in a swap at a small quilt group I attended in Chicago.  So, using it as a focus fabric I pulled golds, purples, blues, plums, etc.  The border is brick colored and a bit deeper than it shows up here and I used the last of the fabrics to make some flying geese for the border.
I'm looking forward to pulling randomly from the challenge fabrics and seeing how many blocks I can make.  I have no idea when I can get to it -- but they are cut and waiting for me and I can periodically pick up 2 fabrics, sew one seam, and have an 8" (finished) block.  Gotta love that.

I have one quality control trick that I use that ends up creating close to perfect circles and avoids the square not meeting the circle at the end.  I use one pin in these blocks.  I pin at the top to make sure I have the pieces square and lined up.  I then finger press each piece to get the center and cut the tiniest of notches in each (pins fall out somewhere in the process).  All I have to do is slowly sew the pieces (square wedge on top and slowly straightening it as I sew -- but not stretching it).  When I get to the notches and they are "close" I know I'm on track and I keep sewing.  If they are off too much, then I've probably stretched, didn't maintain a 1/4" seam, lost my focus or didn't have them square at the start.  So, I stop and rip.  It's easy enough to go on and maybe compensate for it and end up pretty close at the end.  But, I'd rather rip a few inches and try again.  If the same thing happens again, I've cut badly or notched badly and I rip again and take a deep breath!  I hate for the block to win.  At the end, a pair of tweezers is wonderful to keep the pieces moving through the machine and squared up since squaring at the end is just as important.  

I hope you have been flying in circles in only the best of ways!  Jan