Thursday, July 31, 2014

81 is BIG!

Today I''ll update you on 81 The Giant Monstrosity and I'll share a helpful tip! This was 81 before the quilting. The diamond border is quilted and I just finished the centre panel which is made up of 81 stars and hexagon rosettes.

The centre panel  measures roughly 40" square. This is what it looks like from the front. The photo doesn't do it justice. One thing I can say is when there is so much quilting and so many different designs, mistakes tend to disappear!

The quilt is BIG! While the quilting goes quickly there is so much of it to do. This is what it looks like from the back. Love it!

Here's a close-up of some of the stars and hexagons in the centre panel.

I spent hours quilting the border so I can trim the quilt and bind it. I've got one side to go! Once it is bound I'll go back and finish the quilting the inner dark stripe border and the outer border. There is still a lot to do so I think there will be at least another week of quilting. I'm taking frequent breaks and doing lots of stretching to keep my neck, back and shoulders happy and healthy! Once I've quilted enough of the border I can bind the quilt and I'll go back and quilt the inner border after it is bound.

There is a ton of thread in this quilt. I think I've already gone through at least a dozen bobbins of Superior's The Bottom Line. On top I am using Gutermann 50wt cotton thread and am on my second 800m spool! Considering how much thread I've used and the density of the quilting, 81 is surprisingly soft. There is no stiffness to it at all!

I thought before I sign off for the day I would share one of my HELPFUL TIPS with you. Sometimes I run out of thread, have a mistake I want to fix or what to know where to start sewing when I come back after a break. To make it easy to find those spots I use two safety pins. One is pinned in the spot I want to mark and the second goes through the pin. When I pick up my quilt and give it a shake the pins jingle making it easy to find the place(s) I'm looking for!

That's it for now. Until I post again, happy sewing and don't forget to stretch!
Karen H

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Another B word or two (or three)

Yesterday I had a bunch of B words for you and I've got a few more today!

The first B word is back as in the back of my quilt. I continue to quilt 81 and thought you might want to see what it looks like on the back! On the left you can see a bit of the centre panel which has stars and hexagon rosettes. Each was outlined with quilting. As I quilted the background I decided that the stars and rosettes needed additional quilting and it made a difference.....a nice difference. On the right you can see the basket border with the appliques outlined with quilting and then the background filled with the same doodling or free form quilting. I just quilt whatever tickles my fancy and will fit in that spot! There are a few spots that I've missed and will have to go back and quilt. As for my thread choices, on top I've used a grey white thread on the centre panel and grey on the baskets but in the bobbin I used the same thread, Superior's The Bottom Line in silver (#623).

In the next picture you can see the difference when the background filler and the extra quilt on the stars and rosettes is added. On the left and centre the filler is quilted. On the right it hasn't been done nor has the extra quilting been added to the stars and rosettes. It is time consuming doing all of this quilting but I think it is worth the effort.

Next I have two B words, backing and bargain! I bought the backing  in the home dec section of my fabric store. It is over 100" wide and it is a soft pale grey tone-on-tone print that almost has the look of a subtle hounds-tooth check. It is 100% cotton and has a lovely silky feel. It was on sale for $12/m. I used it in my Lazy Girl quilt top and on the back of this quilt. I decided that it looks so nice and quilts so beautifully that I should buy more of it. So I went to the store and it was reduced to $9.60/m so I bought all that they had which was 4.5m! What a bargain backing buy! I like to use quilting cotton but I don't limit myself to quilting cotton. It is you quilt so you can do whatever you want!

My last B word is butterflies! Several readers asked how I did the butterflies on the front of 81. I have two fabrics with butterflies on them (by the way both were bargain buys). I cut out the butterflies leaving a seam allowance of somewhere between 1/4" and 1/8" all around the butterfly. I made a clip at the top and bottom toward the body. I did the same at the side where the upper and lower wings met.

In this picture I've turned under the edge of the wings on the left and just finger pressed. I didn't do this to the butterflies for applique on this quilt but I could have. Instead I placed them on my quilt top and tacked them in place with thread. I then turned under the seam allowances for applique. You will notice that a little bit of the background will show where the wings meet but I don't worry about that!

Here you can see a butterfly appliqued to the quilt top before the background is quilted.

I free form quilt the background and when I got close to a butterfly I stitched all around it. Once the background is quilted the butterfly kind of puffs giving it some dimension!

So there you have it - another bunch of B words! Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book, bargain, biting the bullet and border!

Alliteration....when a series of words begin with the same sound or consonant.Today I have a bevy of B words share with you! Beauty, eh?

I got myself a new book, Minimal Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston. Gwen is known for her liberated quiltmaking techniques so her books are about methods rather than providing patterns although there are a couple of pattern in her newest book. I am a huge fan of her work....she has a wonderful colour sense. To those of you not familiar with her methods you should know that liberated quiltmaking does not mean sloppy work. It is just a more liberated method of quilt making. If a point gets cut a triangle it isn't the end of the world. Reading her book Liberated Medallion Quilts was a wonderful eyeopener for me!

In Gwen's latest book the focus is on larger pieces of fabric in solid colours and the real star of the quilts is the quilting either by hand or machine. I've not had time to sit down and read the book but it is in the "to be read" pile. But what I've read so far is interesting, inspirational and it makes me want to sew, sew, sew! Here are some examples of my work that was inspired by the likes of Gwen Marston, Rayna Gillman and Jean Wells. The pieces in my quilts tend to get small and then smaller as you can see in the pictures below. My goal is to one day make a quilt that is comprised of larger pieces with some fabulous quilting!

Jack by Karen H 2013

Darlington by Karen H 2012

Green Beans Several Ways by Karen H 2012

2 Knives, No Fork by Karen H 2014 (not yet quilted)

I got some new fabric from Connecting Threads. I had signed up for their newsletter and sale notices. A couple of weeks back they sent a coupon - buy one yard of their fabric and get a second yard for free. They sell their own fabrics so you won't see them anywhere else and the prices are excellent. The other critical factor for me is that the shipping to Canada is very reasonable. So I decided to take advantage and ordered a yard, got a free yard, ordered two half yard pieces and there were some solids on sale for $3/yd so I bought a one yard length of two oranges!

Biting the Bullet!
I don't know about you but when I get new fabric I want to touch it and admire it. The longer I do that the harder it is to cut it but once you do it somehow gets easier. So I had this lovely new Connecting Threads fabric and decided to bite the bullet. I cut six pieces and made a hexagon rosette that will be a centre for one of the blocks in my quilt Lozagons. If I had fussy cut the patches it would have been a very interesting block!

Although I'm not finished quilting the centre panel in 81 I wanted to try out the thread that I've selected for the inner border. I had two to chose from, a grey with a hint of blue or a dusty navy with a hint of grey. I did a test bit of quilting in the border (big stitches that were FMQed) with each of the two threads and settled on the grey thread with the hint of blue. I removed the test quilting before getting stared on the quilting. I like to do an actual test on the quilt to get a truer picture of how the thread will look. I wrote how and why I do this here. Here's a little sneak peak of how the quilting looks with the grey thread!

Close-up of quilting in 81 The Giant Monstrosity

I was worried that the the thread might look dark on the light stripe and light on the dark stripe but it worked out just fine! I decided to continue with the free form (doodle) quilting motifs in the border.

That's it for today! Until I post again (and in keeping with the B theme), happy sewing and bye bye!
Karen H

Friday, July 25, 2014

Value Proposition - Block 8

Welcome to Block 8 in my Value Proposition Quilt Along (QAL). In this installment I have something very special for you, one of my absolute favourite blocks! My intent with this QAL was to get you to think about value which is the relative lightness or darkness of one fabric when compared to another. Where a Value Proposition Map shows "light" it simply means that the lightest fabric will be placed in that location. In this block my "lights" are darker than cream or ecru however they are still lighter than the medium and dark patches. So where you see "light" on the Map you goal is to have it lighter than the mediums and dark! You can change the look of your block depending on where your light falls in the value range! Have fun and experiment!

Value Proposition Map for Block 8

Value Proposition Recipe for Block 8
  • Cut 18 Light identified as A on Map (6 for Round 2 and 12 for Round 3)
  • Cut 7 Medium identified as B on Map (1 for Center* and 6 for Round 1)
  • Cut 12 Dark identified as C on Map (6 for Round 2 and 6 for Round 3)
* A fussy cut medium fabric would be great for the center.

My Value Proposition Block

I fussy cut the Center and used a single fabric for the balance of Round 1 (B on the Map). 

The 6 Darks (C on the Map) in Round 3 are cut from one fabric. In Round 2 there are also 6 Darks cut from two different fabrics (C on the Map). I cut four from one fabric (they have little dots in the middle) and two from the other fabric. To balance the block I placed these two darks on opposite spokes. It gives a planned and balanced appearance to the block.

The light hexagons (A) are made from scraps. I think that using scraps in this way adds a certain richness to the block and a great deal of visual interest however you can use a single light fabric for all A hexagons! In so doing the block will have a more "elegant" look and feel. 

Whatever you decide to do have fun and experiment with your scraps and value!

I set up a Value Proposition QAL page on Flickr so that you can post pictures of your blocks and also see what others are doing! There are many very different and exciting blocks to see so do drop by and if you have time leave a comment if you see something you like!

If you are looking for previous Block installments of my Value Proposition QAL you will find all of the links under the tab Quilt Alongs by Karen H just under the banner. Enjoy making Block 8. Block 9 will be available on August 9, 2014. We are going to do something a little different with this block! 

I hope you are enjoying this QAL! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I send an email response to every comment so if you don't hear from me it means you are a no-reply blogger and I have no way of contacting you unless you send me your email address.

Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ten minutes too many of quilting and a reader question

ARGHHHHH! It is one of those bad thread days! My Mom (Anne H) has a new African quilt that she has asked me to quilt before she adds her magic embellishments. This is an original design - I love the chickens on the right! Right now the pot appears to float in midair but she will be adding logs under the pot as part of the embellishment. Here is her quilt top before I started quilting.

The quilting should have been a fast, straightforward project. I started off with a rayon variegated thread that has wonderful earthy colours and I wanted to use it for the foreground BUT no matter what I do or which machine I use it on I have problems with it shredding. Tension adjustments don't help. Larger/smaller needles don't help. I've tried it on three different machines with no success and that leads me to believe the problem is with the thread. So after ten minutes of sewing (ten minutes too many) I spent an hour of reverse sewing. ARGHHHH! I switched to a Gutermann 50 wt cotton thread that is variegated dark brown. It quilted the foreground beautifully.

I used a variegated Gutermann thread for the midground and again it worked beautifully. I move on to the background and at the risk of repeating myself.......ARGHHHH! I was using a Sulky variegated 12wt thread and it shredded like crazy. I adjusted the tension to no avail. Switched needles and no change. Rethreaded the machine top and bottom with no change. I would  move up to a topstitch 16 needle but I ran out. ARGHHH yet again.

I'll just persevere and when the thread breaks as it does I'll rethread and start again. It is a wall hanging so it won't be a problem as far as the threads working their way out. I do like the texture this heavy thread is giving to the background but am frustrated. If you have any suggestions I am open to them!

Ventura0404 asked where I buy my fabric. I reply to every comment unless you are a no reply blogger in which case I have no way to contact you unless you include your email address. Since I can't email Ventura0404 I'll answer her question here. I live in a large city but quilt shops have almost all disappeared. There is a local fabric store, Fabricland, that is part of a large Canadian chain. It carries quilting fabric so I often buy my fabric there. Other than that I have to shop online. I have bought from Hancocks's of Paducah, Fabric Shack, Thousands of Bolts, Quilt in a Day, Connecting Threads and eBay. If I am looking for a particular fabric I'll go to where I can search over 200 shops for just the right fabric. What about you'where do you shop?

I'm off to sew with my friends today. Until tomorrow when I post Block 8 in my Value Proposition Hexagon Quilt Along, happy sewing!
Karen H

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

30 Minutes of Quilting

I've been procrastinating. I need to get back to quilting 81 The Giant Monstrosity.

It is registered in my Guild's quilt show in September and time is passing quickly. Instead of working on 81 I've worked on other projects some of which are not as pressing. For example I got the next round of hexagons stitched to Lozagons.

The next component will be little units that look like crowns and I'll make them with a solid faded aqua-turquoise. Each is made of eight hexagons. You can them  in the original quilt which I am sharing with you with the permission of Lorraine at Granny Loz.

I also continue to work on the pattern testing for Missie at Traditional Primitives and am having fun. I can't wait to show you what I am doing! Missie has shared a few tools with me and I am loving them. One of them is her Finger Stiletto. It allows you to prep your applique pieces and protect your finger from that hot iron! Missie sells these stilettos in her online shop.

Another item she sent is a mini bottle of Roxanne Glue-Baste-It. This is a product that I love and use but the mini bottle is so handy! Unlike the larger bottle the applicator doesn't have to be cleaned when I'm finished. I can just screw the top on the little bottle and I am done!

Roxanne Mini Glue-Baste-It

Oopsie - looks like I'm procrastinating again! I started telling you about 81 and was quickly off topic! Here's the problem: 81 is very big. It measures 92" x 95". I had already quilted around all of the hexagons and stars and quilted the border but I need to go back and fill in the background from the middle out. And it is quilting the middle that has been holding me back. I decided maybe if I just parsed the quilting out in manageable chunks of time I would get some quilting done and the task would not be quite so daunting. I set a timer for 30 minutes to see what I could do. I threaded my Juki TL2010Q domestic sewing machine and got going. I also knew that once I got started I would enjoy myself and I would be happy with the results; the Juki quilts like a dream and I am IN LOVE with it! The harp is 9", 2" smaller than my Janome 7700 but there is no problem getting this big quilt under the machine! And it quilts like a dream even over bulky seams like those at the corners of my hexagons.

My plan was to just doodle different shapes and designs and am thrilled with how 81 is shaping up. I had quilted the middle of the rosette hexagons and three of the six star points of each star but as I got going I decided the hexagons would need more quilting so more quilting they shall have! This is what I was able to do in 30 minutes!

Here is a closer look at some of the quilting. I am happy with what I've done so far. So happy that I think I'll set the timer for another 30 minutes of quilting!

I am partial to these pea pods. They are easy to quilt, can be made in any shape and I love they way they add texture!

So many fun and interesting projects and not enough hours in the day! Speaking of fun and interesting projects, Block 8 of my Value Proposition Hexagon Quilt Along will be posted early Friday morning and it is a beauty!

Until I post again, happy 30 minutes of quilting to you all!
Karen H

Monday, July 21, 2014

Laundry Day Smile and answering a reader question

Let'st start with a reader question. Jackie D asked me how much floral fabric I started with in my quilt Mom's Flower Bed quilt. I send an email response to every comment so if you don't hear from me you are a no reply blogger and I have no way to contact you unless you send me your email address.

Jackie, you are a no reply blogger so I'll answer your question in today's post. For this quilt I determined the amount of floral fabric to purchase by measuring the distance between the floral repeats along the selvage edge of the fabric. I needed six diamonds per block so I needed six full repeats of the print along the selvage. If the repeat is every 12 inches then I would need 72" or 2 yards (6 x 12=72) but I would buy a little more just in case and also to have some leftovers for other projects!  All of the pieces were cut quickly from strips of fabric. You can read how I did it here.

Sunday is laundry day for me and my Mom. I was at her house in the late afternoon and saw that her bed had been stripped and the clean sheets and pillowcases were in the laundry basket so being a good daughter I made her bed for her! It feels nice to do something nice for someone and not say anything about it. I figured it would be a pleasant surprise for her when she went to make the bed later in the evening. The next day she asked if it was I that made the bed and she thanked me but......she had just stripped the bed and was going to wash everything! She was surprised but not in the way I thought she would be! I was surprised too!

I periodically like to refold quilts (I fold them on the bias to minimize stress on the fabric and to prevent permanent creases) and I pulled a quilt that hasn't been aired and refolded for a long time. I thought I would share that quilt with you. I made this quilt more than twenty years ago. I hand embroidered, hand appliqued and hand quilted. I do look the love and feel of hand quilting and wish that it wasn't so hard on my fingers! This quilt is not heavily quilted but what there is is good quality!

I saw a picture of an old depression era quilt in a magazine. The quilt was made of of blocks that had kittens in baskets and I thought it was absolutely charming. I drafted a pattern and was off to the races. It is an old-timey kind of quilt! This is my quilt Kittens in Baskets.

I had scraps of old fabrics I had collected and used many of them to make the baskets in which the kittens sat. I also used some modern reproduction fabrics that fit with the theme. The original quilt had black embroidered details on the kittens so I did the same with two strands of black embroidery floss.

And what is on the back of the quilt? A reproduction fabric....naughty little kittens playing with balls of yarn!

Speaking of naughty kittens, here's mine in his basket. Gump is partial to the works of the Group of Seven hence the little print hanging on the wall in his "apartment"!

I hope you enjoyed seeing my Kittens in Baskets quilt and my kitten in his basket!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Saturday, July 19, 2014


I've added another round to the centre medallion of my hexagon quilt. Below is a picture of the original quilt from Lorraine's blog Granny Loz. It consists of a medallion of roses surrounded by two different hexagon snowflake designs. I like to name my quilts because it helps me identify them on my blog but also it helps me keep the project organized when I work on it! For now my working name is Lozagons!

I've made the rose piece for the medallion. Last night I attached the next round which consists of of off-white hexagons with pinks in the corners. The next step is to make six strips of four pink hexagons that will be stitched between the corner pinks. They are cut and basted and ready for stitching.

If you look closely at the  quilt the large snowflakes they consist of a solid in the centre, a round of six hexagons cut from a print, a round of twelve hexagons cut from a solid. There are two more rounds but for now I need to cut a variety of solids. They will be my jumping off point and from there I'll start selecting prints to go with them.

Close-up of block from original quilt courtesy of GrannyLoz 

I've cut 2" strips from solids. I also have a pile of old fabrics that I bought at a yard sale. I might use some of them to give the quilt a vintage feel!

For now I will cut strips of solids and a few prints that I plan on using. From each strip I will cut hexagons. I'll need 12 solids per snowflake block and there are 26 of them in the quilt. I'll pull out my little bags, one for each snowflake and store the hexagons in each. It will make for a nice portable project that I can take with me when I am out and about! I've prepped a little sewing kit that consists of a snowflake block in a bag, needles, small scissors and basting thread. All of this is packed up in the lovely sewing kit that I received from Bunny!

I'm also working on testing a pattern for a fellow blogger, Missie of Traditional Primitives. Missie drew her inspiration for the pattern from a spectacular antique quilt. I'm getting the hang of her method and can't wait until I have permission to share the blocks and quilt with you! If you just can't wait be sure to visit Missie's July 19 post where you can get a sneak peek of some of the blocks. She is also running a little giveaway so be sure to enter!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H