#laterblog: Log-a-Rhythm

I realized the other day that I had never blogged about this finish from 2013… Why, you ask? Well, it was a block swap project and I promised not to share until the Big Reveal. The Big Reveal was supposed to be in February of last year, but that didn’t happen… It ended up being last summer, and by then it had been so long since I finished it that I forgot to share it

Anyway, our Block Swap was a bit industrious… Each of the 11 of us participating bought a roll of 2.5″ strips and several grab bags of Cherrywood Fabrics, which are spectacular hand-dyed fabrics. They are cotton, but they appear to be sueded (even though they’re not). Delicious to work with… I have pawed them every time I’ve gone to a big quilt show but I had never actually bought any before.

We were tasked with making 70 9.5-inch unfinished “wonky log cabin” blocks that we would then swap at a get-together in the late summer of 2013.

Making the blocks took a while.

Seriously. It took a lot longer to make the blocks than any of us anticipated, and we were each making 77. Some made more. Cool result, sure. But hooboy. A lot of work for a swap.

After we swapped them out, I immediately went home and trimmed all of the blocks to largest size that I could get that allowed me to “wonk” some of the less-wonky ones — here in a city of engineers, some of the participants found the freedom a little paralyzing so some of the log cabins weren’t very wonky at all. I tilted them to make them more wonky and then they fit better with the setting I had chosen for my blocks. The less wonky ones definitely stood out in the diagonal set until I skewed them– which meant I had to cut EVERY block smaller. I played with adding sashings to settle things down (and we joked about naming the quilt “Serenity” or “Meditation”), but ultimately just decided to let the blocks stand center stage with no additions.

IMG_1848

 

I tossed them up on the design wall and rearranged a few, but Jerry said I should just sew them together the way they landed and not overthink it. WHAT?! ME, OVERTHINKING? HOW DARE Y—-Oh. True. I do that. Fair enough.

So I just sewed them together. I used all 70 of the blocks I received in the swap, plus the 7 that I made for myself.

IMG_1844

Some were cut in half and some were cut into quarters, but they all got used. I was really proud of that.

Jerry requested that I finish it in time for his company’s holiday party, because he wanted to hang it in his office. So I layered it at a retreat (with other people involved in the swap, who gave me the side-eye for getting it done so quickly).

IMG_1746

To be fair, most of them were adding sashings, appliqued shapes, making more blocks… I was the only one in the 11 of us that only used the blocks and nothing more, but I really (really!) didn’t want to purchase any more of the fabrics.

I just quilted it with “organic” straight lines in a yell0w-gold Aurifil thread. I wanted the thread to show and blend well, but not detract from the blocks.

IMG_1482

 

I bound it in a dark chocolate Cherrywood fabric that I had purchased expressly for that purpose.

IMG_1572

It turned out to be a great choice in thread color, and I did finish the quilt in time to hang in my husband’s office.

IMG_1484

 

And then the holiday party was at another venue. Harumph.

Here are the other quilt tops that were done at what was the originally-scheduled Big Reveal, in February of 2014. Mine was the only one that was finished at that point, though many of them were ready to be quilted. These pictures are grainy because they were taken inside with poor lighting, but you can see how very similar blocks do result in a wide variety of quilts, depending on how they’re set. It was really a great thing to see them all together.

This one is Lisa’s. She made a lot (!!) more blocks, and then set them in poppy red and chocolate brown 1895 Hoffman Batiks to make a King-sized quilt for her bed.

12450675795_bb212e1a12_o

This is Teresa’s. She was going to add more pineapples to the blue borders but had run out of greens.

12451171134_6dc66ea4dd_o

Peggy added sashing and cornerstones:

12450668195_a84b8ab3f3_o

Judy’s used the Quarter-Cabins that Nonda’s blocks were and featured them in the center.

12451164284_313a0d6cae_o

 

I don’t remember whose this was… I’ll have to go look at my notes again but I’ll add her name when I find it again.

12451161914_69f3c2800e_o

And here’s Meg’s… This was from this past September, when she was almost finish binding it after hand-quilting it. She made every block bigger and added some grays.

IMG_8911

She named it… Are you ready for this?

“Fifty Shades of Wonky.”

I have funny friends.

All in all, I’m very glad I participated in the swap. And it’s one of Jerry’s favorite quilts that I’ve made.

And I named mine…. “Log-A-Rhythm.” Because I’m such a nerd. I’m not sorry, either.

 

 

 

 

Last Two Finishes for 2013

I realized that I had started 16 new quilts in 2013 (not counting the one I abandoned and threw away), but had only finished 15. THAT CANNOT HAPPEN.

So. I finished two more yesterday. My fingers hurt but now I have a net positive of ONE QUILT for the year. Go me.

 

Anyway.

 

The first one was from the “Christmas Favorites” pattern booklet by Nancy Halvorsen. I signed up for the Block of the Month with Fat Quarter Shop so that I could get the complete set of fabrics and embellishments, and not have to run out to get this and that to finish the quilt, since it was the first time I had ever done something so whimsical and I didn’t know if I’d ever finish it if I had to go hunt for stuff. The first month shipped in September of 2012 — right when we were moving back into the house. Obviously I didn’t get to it right away.

 

Progress was slow, because fusible applique and the blanket stitching, particularly around words, is not a fast process.

Blanket stitching
Blanket stitching

 

I started working on it at a retreat in February, and was discouraged when I realized how long this was actually going to take me to complete. And then for Lent I decided to give up buying new fabrics and taking on new projects. Since this one was already started, you see, it was a legal project to work on during Lent. So during episodes of Downton Abbey I traced every single shape to be fused onto fusible web, even for the months that hadn’t been shipped yet. Then I cut them out. Then I fused them to the correct fabric for the months that had been shipped, and had the rest stored in bags with the correct pages of the pattern. Yes, I was compulsive. I even made all of the 3D embellishments during Lent — the ones that would be attached after the quilt was completed — like the poinsettia leaves, Santa’s mustache, etc.

 

By the end of Lent, I was caught up with all of the months that had been sent, and I was a little ahead on other months because Fat Quarter Shop is so good about sending extra fabric each month. When I could work ahead, I did.

Everything I had been sent through the end of March
Everything I had been sent through the end of March

 

Santa’s block took the longest, because of all of the letters. Letters were a pain. But I got really good at doing a machine blanket stitch, so I guess that’s a valuable skill to have, right?

 

At retreats this summer, I finished making the top and adding the borders, and then decided to continue in the spirit of no-new-fabrics and made a backing out of the leftover pieces of fabric that remained at the end of the project. Turns out I had much more than I anticipated!

Trash Backing!
Trash Backing!

 

I love this approach to making quilt backs — using up fabrics from the front of the quilt. It does slow me down, of course, but in many ways that’s a good thing. And it’s economical. And it’s entertaining — to me, anyway.

 

So after the quilt show this October, I started quilting this one. I decided to quilt the dickens out of the backgrounds, which is something I’m enjoying right now for some reason, and match the thread to the background fabrics. At some point I had purchased all of the correct threads for this — I guess when I signed up for the project during the summer of 2012? — because I didn’t have to buy any thread.

Here are what each of the blocks look like up close:

Reindeer blockPoinsettia BlockStocking BlockSanta BlockPresents and Believe BlocksMistletoe BlockCandy Canes and Ornaments blocksCandies

I really love what the three-dimensional embellishments add to the quilt, and I know that I never would have bothered with those on my own.

 

Here’s the whole quilt on the back fence, and then on the wall in our dining room.

On the back fence
On the back fence
In the Dining Room
In the Dining Room

I followed the pattern book exactly, except that I did change Santa’s eyes so they weren’t as lopsided as her pattern showed because Jerry really didn’t like them super crooked. I will let this hang in our dining room for about a week before packing it away for next year. I’m so glad I finished it before New Year’s because otherwise I think it would have languished in the “almost finished” pile for another year, making me feel guilty. I’m so happy to have that one finished. It was fun, but it was much more involved than I had anticipated when I signed up for it. It was also a very big challenge for me to do since it is so outside of my usual style. Fantastic learning experience.

 

And then I also finished this small Cross quilt yesterday, a commission for a friend. It’s 27″x33″.

Cross #3Cross #3 closeupFrom the side

Variegated feathers! A first!
Variegated feathers! A first for me!
I liked how these hand-dyed fabrics also formed a cross, which is why I laid it out this way.
I liked how these hand-dyed fabrics on the back also formed a cross.

 

2013 Quilts, a retrospective

I worked on a lot of stuff this year. Several have asked me “how long does it take” to complete a quilt, and since I don’t work on them in a linear (i.e. one-at-a-time) fashion, that question is always hard to answer. I work on one until I get bored or hit a trouble spot, and then move to something else while my subconscious works through the obstacle. While this approach wouldn’t work for everyone (and admittedly I do have too many going at once), it does work pretty well for me.

So, here are the ones that I worked on this year and a little information about each one. I count 27 quilts, 15 of which are finished and 2 more of which will probably be finished before midnight on the 31st. One was abandoned and thrown away without guilt. This list does not include quilts that I have not worked on in 2013 but are still unfinished, nor does it include other items I made this year (like bags, doll clothes, clothes for myself, napkins, tea towels, tiny schedule mini-quilts for teachers at school, etc.).


1. Scrappy Trip Around the World #1
Scrappy Trip using Pat Bravo's "Indie" fabric line

I got sucked into the madness of the ScrappyTripalong on Instagram and Flickr, and this was the first one I made.
Started: December 30, 2012
Current Status: Finished on January 8, 2013.
Size: 60″x72″, which is a great sofa quilt for one person.
Current Location: In a closet downstairs
I posted about it here.


2. Scrappy Trip Around the World #2

Scrappy Trip Around the World #2, using Amy Butler's "Love" fabric line

Started: January 2013.
Current Status: Layered and waiting for quilting
Current Location: on the quilting machine table and the thread is loaded and the binding is made. So it’s next in the queue. I’m not allowing myself to do that until I’ve finished the last two for the year, though.


3. Scrappy Trip Around the World #3

Scrappy Trip Around the World #3, using Basic Grey's "Figgy Pudding" fabric line by Moda

Started: February 2013
Current Status: completed quilt top, waiting to be layered
Current Location: in the closet in my sewing room


4. Something Out of Nothing

Something Out of Nothing, string quilt using batik scraps destined for the trash

Started: April 2012
Current Status: Finished, January 2013
Size: 51″ square.
Current Location: in the closet in my sewing room, waiting to be hung in the gallery over the stairs when I have a few more completed and ready for that purpose.
I posted about it here.


5. Helen’s Bed Quilt

Helen's Bed Quilt, using Amy Butler's "Soul Blossoms" fabric line

Started: 2011
Current Status: Finished, January 2013
Size: Twin bed quilt
Current Location: On Helen’s Bed
I posted about it here.


6. Alice By the Numbers

Alice's Bed Quilt, using sized-down "Swoon" block designed by Camille Roskelley

Started: 2012
Current Status: Finished, February 2013
Size: Twin bed quilt
Current Location: On Alice’s Bed
I posted about it here.


7. Oops

I was trying to clean my sewing room and I got distracted

Started: January 2013
Current Status: Finished, Lent 2013
Size: 20″ square
Current Location: hanging in my classroom at school


8. Secret Garden King-sized Quilt

King Bed Quilt using Sandi Henderson's "Secret Garden" fabric line

Started: Summer 2012
Current Status: Finished, Lent 2013 (long-arm machine quilting done by Lisa Marshall)
Size: King-sized Bed Quilt
Current Location: in a closet in my sewing room because elderly cat thinks that quilts are an acceptable substitute for litterboxes


9. FLiQs#2 Swap Quilt

My design: 32-pointed star, foundation pieced and set in Essex Linen

Started: April 2013
Current Status: Finished, April 2013
Size: 24″ square
Current Location: with my swap partner from the FLiQS#2 (Fab Little Quilt Swap) on Flickr


10. Improv Pieced Study in Brown
Used Rayna Gillman's Improv Piecing approach -- very freeing!

Started: April 2013
Current Status: Completed quilt top, waiting to be layered and quilted
Current Location: in a closet in my sewing room


11. Red Sky at Night: the $35 Experiment

Red Sky at Night: The $35 Experiment. I had a question about parallel lines and this answered it.

Started: January 2013
Current Status: Finished, May 2013
Size: 33.5″x 54.5″ (the golden mean! and almost Fibonacci numbers!)
Current Location: on the wall in my classroom at school
I posted about it here.


12. Sparks

Another example of me being almost totally incapable of following a pattern

Started: Thanksgiving 2012
Current Status: Finished, May 2013
Size: 51″ square
Current Location: in the front hall, under the presser foot of the 1938 Singer featherweight sewing machine in the cabinet that serves as our entry table.


13. Cross #1: Easter 2013

First in a series because I kept having buyers

Started: April 2013
Current Status: Finished, Summer 2013
Size: 27″x33″
Current Location: purchased by a friend in Atlanta as a wedding gift for some friends


14. Cross #2: For God So Loved the World

I made this one for our church's annual silent auction

Started: Summer 2013
Current Status: Finished, November 2013
Size: 27″x33″
Current Location: purchased in the silent auction by Sam Barnett, as a Christmas gift for his mother, Sally Barnett


15: Cross #3: The Light in the Darkness

Commission for a friend's daughter

Started: Summer 2013
Current Status: waiting for hand-sewing the binding to the back, label, and hanging sleeve
Size: 27″x33″
Current Location: on the sewing table


16. Champagne Friday

Commissioned by Chrissie Bannister as a gift for Mark for their 30th Anniversary

Started: Summer 2013
Current Status: Finished, December 2013
Size: 24″x45″
Current Location: on the wall at the Bannisters’ house


17. Christa’s Quilt: I’m glad [you] happened to be awake

2012 Fat Quarter Shop Designer Mystery Quilt

Started: Summer 2012
Current Status: Finished, Summer 2013
Size: Queen sized (almost)
Current Location: in the private collection of Christa Reaves


18. Wonky Town: Not Up To Code

Wonky Town: Not Up to Code

Started: 2010 (!!!)
Current Status: Finished, Summer 2013
Size: 80″x108″
Current Location: in a closet downstairs


19. Entropy

Made with Oakshott Cottons

Started: September 2013
Current Status: completed quilt top, needs backing, waiting to be layered and quilted
Current Location: on my ironing table


20. Log-A-Rhythm

I'll tell you about this one in February.

Started: April 2013
Current Status: Finished, Fall 2013
Size: 62″x75″ I think
Current Location: on the wall in Jerry’s office downtown


21. Farmer’s Wife Quilt

Farmer's Wife Blocks from a book Jerry gave me several Christmases ago

Started: Summer 2013
Current Status: 17 blocks made, many to go
Current Location: in a zip-top baggie in closet in my sewing room


22. Scrap Vomit

Another one where I was sucked into the madness on Instagram

Started: Fall 2013
Current Status: finished quilt top
Current Location: in a closet in my sewing room


23. Partial Seam Nightmare

I had a question. This answered it. No more exploration needed.

Started: Summer 2013
Current Status: abandoned and thrown away. I had the idea during a faculty meeting so I explored it with one block, and decided that it wasn’t an idea that needed any more of my attention. I threw the block away so that it wouldn’t make me feel guilty. Liberating!


24. Fibonacci Revisited

I did this once on the back of a quilt, so I decided it merited further exploration.

Started: November 2013
Current Status: layered and marked and waiting to be quilted
Current Location: folded up next to the quilting machine


25. Holiday Favorites Block of the Month

Christmas Favorites Pattern by Nancy Halvorsen, another Fat Quarter Shop block of the month

Started: Summer 2012
Current Status: binding almost sewn on; needs 3D embellishments, hanging sleeve, and label
Current Location: on sewing table
This one will get its own post when I’m finished. It’s probably the first time in a very long time that I have followed a pattern exactly.


26. Bonnie Hunter’s Celtic Solstice Mystery

Bonnie Hunter's Holiday Mystery Quilt for 2013

Started: December 2013
Current Status: Currently on step 5. Step 6 will be revealed on Friday, January 3. I don’t know how many steps there are but by my estimation, probably less than 3 more.
Current Location: pinned and stacked and next to my sewing machine


27. Peacock Quilt
20131229-215100.jpg
Started: April 2012
Current Status: Quilt top complete in 2013, waiting for backing to be made, layering, quilting, etc.
Current Location: in a closet in my sewing room

“I’m glad [you] happened to be awake.”

If you don’t know that line, it’s from Jane Eyre, and it was posted on Facebook on the morning of March 19, 2012 by my dear friend, Christa.

You see, the night before, she had been house-sitting for us when the smoke alarms went off. She rescued all four of our geriatric animals from our house before the fire department arrived. She ran back into the building again — in bare feet — and opened the front door so that the firefighters wouldn’t break it down. And she threw a quilt onto the fire, which horrified me at the time but ultimately probably kept the fire from reaching the ceiling and attic. She saved our house from being more damaged than it was, and I had been uncertain about how to repay heroism like that. Jokingly I had told her “I’m going to make you a superhero cape,” but decided that would be a little silly. And not really practical. We live in Alabama, after all. People would stare.

In any case, we saw her once after the fire, after the house had been fully gutted but before any real work had been done to put it back together again. We took her out to dinner, and that was all we had done to say thank you. It bothered me for a year, really — I wanted to do something more tangible than just thanking her, you know? But how do you really say thank you?

And then in May of this year, it hit me. I was pressing the final block in a Block-of-the-Month program from the Fat Quarter Shop that I had signed up for last summer. Suddenly, I knew who that project had been for the entire time and why I had been so driven to stay caught up with it. Even the colors were right — Christa’s favorite color is red. She also likes green, but not usually those two colors together because her birthday is really close to Christmas. I know this because I asked her last winter, casually, what her favorite colors were so I could start formulating a plan for a quilt for her. I was going to do library books on a shelf — she’s a graduate student in English Literature, after all — but that felt kind of cheesy, somehow.

… To tell this story right, I have to go back to last summer.

Last summer was REALLY hot here. And it was really hot very early, too. There was a week in June that it was 106F for the whole week, and that was the week Helen was at Camp McDowell without any air conditioning. That was also the week that Alice and I were trapped inside with all of the blinds down and closed in the rental house because the air conditioning didn’t work. We had managed to get the house functional, but I was very frustrated that I didn’t have a design wall and yet the summer was stretched out in front of me and I needed to sew for the therapy.

Fat Quarter Shop had a new Designer Mystery Block of the Month, and so I signed up for it. I wasn’t familiar with the fabric line that they were using, but several of my local friends had done the FQS BOM in the past and had raved about the quality of the instructions and the amount of fabric you were sent each month. If you were really careful with your cutting, they said, you could actually get TWO blocks cut from the supplies sent each month, and have enough for two quilts at the end of the year. So I signed up. I decided that it would be good “prescription sewing” — the fabric and instructions would tell me exactly what to do each month — and the lack of a design wall wouldn’t be a problem.

The first month’s fabric and instructions came, and I made one block, some extra pinwheels and half-square triangles, and I still had fabric left over. Not quite enough of the white to make a second block, but almost. I did go find more white locally and make the second block, though. Couldn’t stand it.

Month One

As the months went on, I was able to make two blocks every time:

Through Month Three

And extras:

Extras

And then school started and Jerry got hurt and we moved and I got a little behind. But I caught up again at a retreat in February:

Through Month Eight

and again during Lent:

Through Month Ten

and then the end of school ate up all of my free time from mid-April until the end of May. But in May, I finished the last two blocks. And that’s when I realized that this quilt had been for Christa the whole time.

So I had 24 blocks. I could set them 4×6 and it would have been 58″ wide and 84″ long before borders, which just seemed like a weird size to give to a person. Then I realized that if I made one more block, it could be 72″ square for a straight setting before borders, or about 80″ square if I set them on point. I tried them on point, and LOVED the look — they were beautiful blocks before, but they just SANG when on point.

So I made a house block to go in the center, and tossed them up on the design wall, which I finally had again:

Twenty-Five Blocks and a HOUSE

In the house block I used some of those extra pinwheel blocks that I had been making from the cuttings the whole time:

house block

And then I added solid sashings and setting triangles to make it square again. Oh, and a cat. Always the cat.

Finished Quilt Top

Once I knew who the quilt was for, I couldn’t WAIT to get it finished for her. While Jerry was on his scuba trip in June, I layered the quilt and basted it, and started quilting it from the center.

House block, quilted

In the window, I quilted a cat to symbolize the four animals she saved: Emily, Tango, Linus, and Logic.
In the door, I quilted the panels that she had protected.
In the rear right of the roof, I quilted flames. And there are smoke puffs all around the house on the ground.

Helen wanted me to quilt “THANK YOU, CHRISTA-SAVE-THE-HOUSE” (which is her name, of course) around the house, but I told Helen that this needed to be, first and foremost, a quilt. To Christa, it can have more meaning, but she shouldn’t have to explain why she has it unless she really wants to. So I wanted all of the symbolism to be subtle.

And then I just had a wonderful time quilting it. The whole machine quilting process took me less than a week, which is just insane for a quilt this size. But I kept the plan manageable so the quilt will be soft to snuggle under.

Friday interfered as much as possible.

Friday on the quilt

sashing quilting

I used my grandmother’s lampshade to get the curve for the swags in the setting triangles… Took a while to find a curve that was the right size for that space. If Jerry had been here he would have said, “Use a MIXING BOWL!” like he did when I shared this with him the night he got home. But he wasn’t home, so I used a lampshade.

swag

And then I put the binding on it. This simple act gave me a huge sense of closure, actually.

Binding going on

And then it was DONE!

Finished quilt

from the side

more swag

draped

folded

Today, I gave it to her. She wasn’t expecting a present, which made it even more fun. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry when giving it to her, either. That’s completely weird for me. I cry very easily, and would have expected that. But I didn’t.

Christa with her quilt

label

So thank you again, Christa. I’m glad you happened to be awake, too. (And I did write that on the label after I took the picture… Decided that phrase needed to be there too.)