Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chinese Coins II: Inner Border

One of the issues with waiting a while to take the next step is that you become accustomed to the {unfinished} look. It happens with houses as well as quilts. I've dawdled so long that I started to think this quilt needed dark on the outside. Not what I wanted.

So I finally started making an inner border for Chinese Coins II using hourglass instructions from Cultural Fusion Quilts by Sujata Shah. I cut my squares a bit smaller though. Even at this stage they lighten this quilt beautifully.

Adding an hourglass border to Chinese Coins II

The next big surprise is how much fabric it takes. I rarely have large amounts of any fabric but cutting five or six-inch squares uses it up quickly. Consequently, almost every side is composed of different fabrics.

After trimming a few squares I realized only the height needs consistency. The width can be anything. So I started trimming one direction 4.5" but kept as much as possible in the other. Don't get excited; at most this is a quarter-inch. Every little bit helps.

Sujata recently posted photos from a class where many students used the same simple hourglass shape in their medallions. Take a look here.

Enjoy the day,  Ann

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Surprise Baby Quilt

DH forgot to tell me one of his co-workers was expecting... He forgot for about nine months. The surprise was on me when he mentioned the birth. Fortunately one last log cabin top remained.

It only took a couple of days to quilt and bind this charmer. The larger light areas occur because some of the log cabins are entirely light fabrics rather than half light/half dark.

Half-inch logs in lights and darks create this scrappy quilt
Log Cabin baby quilt

Given all the tiny pieces and the fact that baby quilts must be washed frequently, each log is secured by quilting. I alternated groups of straight line with wavy lines. {It's a multistitch zig zag choice on my machine.}

Quilting and binding on Log Cabin baby quilt
The green insert was needed to complete the back. It's bound, separately, with the same seahorse fabric as the back.

Quilt Details
Size: 44" x 44"
Design: Log Cabin variation
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100% cotton
Thread: Guterman grey cotton
Quilting: Straight and zig-zag lines with walking foot

DH and I went to see Hamilton for our anniversary.

Orpheum Theater in San Francisco
Wonderful show with excellent cast. The stage was this single set throughout with the cast moving additional items in and out as needed. The curtains never rose or fell.

Hamilton stage set
Dinner included a view of the Bay Bridge as the sun set.

View of the Bay Bridge from Perry's
The next day we enjoyed fish tacos at the Woodhouse Fish Co.

Woodhouse Fish Co.

I loved our seat in the corner of this vintage cafe.

Charming decor in the Woodhouse Fish Co.

Enjoy the day,  Ann

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Chinese Coins IV: Every Last Scrap

There was a childhood story about a magic pot that made porridge. Like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, the lazy child started the process but couldn't stop it. Porridge bubbled out of the pot, filled the house, and ran down the street until the cook came home and said the magic words.

That's exactly what my scrap bag feels like. It's only an old zippered, clear plastic bag that once held a set of twin sheets. Twin; not king size. {The small size and zipper pleased me enormously.} So how can it still have fabric? Will it ever empty?

Chinese Coins IV: Medallion in progress

When I finished CCIII many of these strip sets were sewn and it looked like enough for another quilt. So I pulled out the other half of that Alexander Henry fabric and started again. This one has more dark blue in the center.

I'm obsessively clearing these strings but decided to see if I could finish a top while finally emptying the scrap bag. Because choices are very limited, the coins are grouped by length rather than any artistic merit. The sides of each border are different lengths from necessity but add more interest.

Pinning that outer dark border on the wall suddenly darkened the entire quilt. What a difference from left side to right side.

Dark outer border makes a dark quilt

After sewing the first border and half the dark, the center looked awkwardly long. So I folded it up, took a photo, and went to lunch. I do enjoy the bit of orange extending through two borders at the bottom.

What if the center was shorter?

After the break I still like the shorter version. It seemed unsewing would be my afternoon lot until... Epiphany. These borders are no particular size. And the center is just a single piece of fabric. I unsewed a bit of the side borders and cut along the seam line. Then I trimmed the center down and resewed everything. About twenty minutes. I fiddled with the side borders to avoid a common seam but it was fairly easy.
Preparing to shorten the center

By the end of the day CCIV emerged. These aren't Roman numerals. So not 204, thank goodness! It's Chinese Coins, version 4. This could be a baby quilt; it's now about 41" by 46".

Piano Keys borders of Chinese Coins surround a whole cloth center
Chinese Coins IV: Medallion quilt top

Other than a dusting of lint the scrap bag is empty... for the moment. Color me peaceful.

I've been possessed. What is my compulsion to use up every last scrap? Despite nodding as friends talk about tossing these bits, I hate throwing good fabric away. {Did I just throw good thread and irreplaceable time away though?}

Many of the brighter fabrics went to the Mini Trip and the previous Coins. As you can imagine the remnants became successively duller although many light-colored fabrics remained. I think those were the impetus to make these two medallions. I'm attracted to lighter-colored quilts these days so making the outer borders light pleases me.

I've never used a whole cloth approach before; the center makes me slightly uneasy. It could be beaded or embellished; applique flowers and leaves are another idea. In fact, rotating the quilt might turn those white flowers into part of an appliqued vase with stems. And the Coin border could ground lots of applique. Possibilities...

These tops might be a good place to pursue future, new techniques. On the other hand, extra tops and quilts are always useful for unexpected gifts and donations.

Fern Royce recently posted a much livelier coin medallion quilt made with solids. Love the way she turned the corners of the borders. More information on her blog here.

Enjoy the day,  Ann

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chinese Coins Retrospective to Date

CCIII: Medallion is finished for now. The inner border contains many of the lightest lights while the outer border is more colorful. I like the subtle difference between the two.

Chinese Coins III: Medallion

This top will be a good toddler quilt, currently 51" by 60".

Before Kaja and I started this invitation, I didn't think there were many variations of Chinese Coins, even with an extended definition. How many ways have I interpreted them now? Besides this medallion, I've made two columnar Chinese Coins: the red/aqua Coins

Improv Chinese Coins

and the Pflugerville Coins, which was my first #AHIQChinese Coins.

Pflugerville Chinese Coins

The leftover from the first morphed into a Rail Fence.

Rail Fence variation from Chinese Coin remnants

I'm working on Stacked Coins, CCII.

Stacked Coins variation of Chinese Coins, in progress
Obviously, scrap quilts still have my heart and this idea is an easy way to use up leftover fabric. Other quilters have made much more original variations that truly push the boundaries. For example, Paula interpreted seed growth while Marly used coins as the background for a delightful tree. Meanwhile, Patty created a value study in grey tones that I return to look at again and again. I enjoy reading how people take a germ of an idea and develop their own vision.

For more examples browse through the links here and here. Color, design, ideas abound. So many ways to speak with our own voice even when starting from a single point.

Enjoy the day,


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Chinese Coins III: Working Around the Medallion

My sewing room is a wreck. Fabric everywhere and as usual, the scrap bag is a swash zone of leftovers/rejects. On one hand is an urge to toss it while on the other hand, perhaps there's one more quilt in it. It's impossible to get anything else out so I can't start another quilt till I sew up or clear out this mess.

Most of the remaining strings are dark or light. Boring, but they might make a good string/piano keys/Chinese Coin medallion.

Originally I thought of Gwen Marston's quilt in this style. Lucy Mingo of Gee's Bend made Bible Story which is now owned by Bill Volkening. He wrote an amusing article about Lucy signing this quilt for him. Both quilts are made of solids but Gwen's has a single fabric center while Lucy's is a large nine-patch.

I planned a few Broken Dishes for my center until this old Alexander Henry remnant caught my eye. Although a tiny bit went into my Propeller quilt, {I recognize the cut-out shape. Ha!} the rest has been moldering in the scrap bag. It's a big print and {sort of} blends with {some of} the strings.

Starting a medallion quilt of Chinese Coin strips

The narrow light inner border looks quite nice. Except for the dark blue flower in the lower right. How did that happen? I may change it but...

Working on the third border

The dark border is getting too bright for the center. These strings are still the swash zone, but there are quite a few reds since I actively excluded most from Stacked Coins. Oddly, there were few rust/peach-colored strings.

Linked to Let's Bee Social.

Enjoy the day,  Ann

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kaleidoscope of Butterflies 17 and Spiderweb Finish

Can you believe the number of caterpillars here? They extended for several yards along the Cumbres-Toltec rail line. I'm not sure if they were trying to migrate south or just emerged from eggs right there. What a swarm. How many will become butterflies? {Or moths.}

Caterpillars along the Cumbres-Toltec rail line

I was sick during the show but finally found a way to take a photo of the entire Spiderweb quilt with decent colors. {The colors are the top are more accurate than those at the bottom.}

Multi-colored spiderwebs on pale blue background with vine applique, toile, and sawtooth borders.
Spiderweb quilt 

Each spiderweb contains fabric in mostly one color. Although there are other scraps, the outer row is a {fairly} uniform color to enhance the shape. They have simple webbed quilting which was actually quite difficult on a home machine in the center of the quilt.

Multi-color spiderwebs with pale blue star background
Spiderweb details

The borders were the most fun. I just let loose with triangles, vines, and cardinals. One sawtooth border wasn't enough. At the top and bottom there's a smaller sawtooth border inside the larger ones.
It makes a good transition from the smaller leaves to the larger triangles. Now I think it looks like fallen leaves.

Mulit-color spiderwebs with pale blue background enhanced with vine applique and sawtooth borders
Border details on Spiderweb quilt

One border mixed toile with vines. Why? There wasn't enough of either background fabric. What a fortuitous event.

Mulit-color spiderwebs with pale blue background enhanced with vine applique and sawtooth borders
Border details on Spiderweb quilt

The final outer triangles were simply outline stitched a quarter-inch from the seam lines in a darker green. The light green used elsewhere was too pale for these stronger colors.

The light green binding with purple dots looks good. There are so many details this quilt needed a very soft binding that almost disappears into the rest of the quilt. But I love the fresh look it adds with its variety of greens and purples.

Sawtooth border and feather quilting details

Just when I thought I was done, I noticed a small cut in one of the border triangles. No idea when it happened - before or after sewing. Fortunately, Stephie at Dawn Chorus Studio sent a scrap of print with some darling birds. I used Lara's method from her book, Crafted Applique,  to prep and sew it over the cut. Shh. It's our little secret.

Applique bird covers a small tear

I started this scrap quilt three years ago. This fall it was finally time to have some fun bordering and quilting. It's one I plan to keep for myself.

Quilt Details
Size: 95" x 99"
Design: Spiderweb
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100%cotton
Thread: Aurifil 50/2, Guterman, YLI Invisible Nylon
Quilting: Walking foot and freemotion quilting, various designs

Previous posts:
1. Beginning
2. Working on the center
3. Center finished
4. Choosing a background for applique border
5. Toile and applique border plan
6. Drafting cardinals
7. Applique complete
8. Improv sawtooth border
9. Second sawtooth border
10. First sawtooth border attached
11. Overview of border choices
12. Ditch quilting with invisible thread
13. Outlining the stars
14. Spiderweb quilting 1
15. FMQ in the stars
16. Border quilting

My friend Joni made her own spiderweb quilt in blues and reds. Love the glorious colors and the charming kite with tail. It looks like her niece does, too.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Piecing a Back

Quilt backs are great places to use leftover fabrics. Quite a bit has been lurking in my stash. Today's the day to move it out. The trouble is, "I might need this someday." What I need right now, though, is room. So let's be ruthless.

Because I liked the medallion style back of my Polka Dot quilt, I started by pulling a couple of large rectangles for a center. Blue and brown.

There's less blue so it goes in the center. If the brown is cut lengthwise, it will almost frame two sides.

Laying out excess yardage for a back
Because it was getting pretty dark, I pulled some lighter blues. The two black and white strips are leftover from the Polka Dot quilt while the brown floral at the bottom is the last of the Thirty Year Sampler fabric.

Late in the day I snapped two quick photos to decide whether to leave the skinny light blue strip in or not. Colors are off but here's the comparison.

With or without?
In looks better to me because it balances the light blue at the bottom. So the next day I sewed the final two seams.

Back for Scrappy Mini Trip quilt

This step is done. Basting comes next. After a trip to Massachusetts to visit my grandson... and his parents. Hooray.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

AHIQ 21 - Two Block Quilt Progress

I've been thinking about a second block for CCII. Oddly alternating choruses: Slow down versus move it along; try something new versus repeat something I can create with ease.

I thought this quilt would look more like Nettie's Stacked Bricks. Instead it's taking on a bright "Freddy Moran-vintage" feel. Like our children, we have many plans for their future but, to be truly successful, they make their own choices.

Stacked Bricks center

Whenever I go to a show or meeting, I think, "If a natural disaster strikes, which one will I save?" Not steal. But I could only carry one. There are so many quilts {and parts of quilts} I admire. Among my favorite quilts are ones with nuance and depth to their work that still appear handmade and touchable. These are the quilts I would save from natural disaster. A trivialization of Sophie's Choice if you will.

What does this have to do with anything? I don't want to copy but rather to let ideas percolate and metamorphose until I find a way to incorporate aspects I admire. Like the suns in Kaja's Little Bird which also remind me of my Cowboy Fireworks made using Sujata Shah's Cultural Fusion Quilts. Kaja's are rectangular and I think she individually cut her rays. How would it work with a stack of fabric instead?

Cowboy Fireworks quilt

What if I made star points instead of sun rays? I have some paper pieced New York Beauties in progress for years. Yes. I still think they're beautiful, still like the colors, and still plan to finish. I don't want to start a second one now. {I can't keep up with the papers already.}

Paper pieced New York Beauty blocks, still in progress

Several years ago, Tim Latimer made a Suspension Bridge quilt. {His post also includes photos of a housetop quilt in progress and Kaja's been using that block. Hey. It's the circle of life, or at least the circle of coincidence.} What charming awkwardness of the points. He didn't paper piece. But he did write a post about his process: Tim's Suspension Bridge piecing.

So... How improvisational do I want to be? What method will work best for me?

How about you? I'm setting aside a couple of afternoons to read all the posts in detail. Be sure to check in with Kaja for more insight into two-block quilts.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Spring Cleaning

Perhaps because of all the pollen this year, I've taken to spring cleaning with a vengeance. All the pillows have been washed; furniture moved, dusted, and polished; drawers are being emptied, sorted, and restocked. I've even reorganized my fabric boxes. And look what I found: a collection of squares cut for a class last year with Sujata Shah. That was when my family life went to pieces so I didn't take take the class and forgot about them. An easy project to sew this week and part of my plan to build a Parts Department a la Freddy and Gwen.

Fabric for Crossroads blocks

By the end of the day I had these completed.

Crossroads blocks

#AHIQtwoblocks continues Tuesday. CCII/Stacked Bricks needs a border. Might these work?

Possible Crossroads border on CCII
 The Xs aren't beefy enough to suit; they look wimpy compared to the stars. But the lighter backgrounds give me some ideas. Although these blocks don't work here, more fabric choices have emerged.

I pulled out my stash and set each piece on the top. This is my go-to method to ensure every possibility is tried. Purple is a possibility or perhaps blue?

After a couple of hours, here are the best choices so far.

Fabric possibilities for the next round

Some fabrics might be good colors but are the wrong print. For example, that whale fabric is a wonderful color but the print doesn't work with this quilt. Well, perhaps I'm wrong. {Won't be the first time.} Think seastars rather than celestial stars. There are starfish on that print that could match the red stars.

Testing some light fabrics.
Lavender and white print choices
None of these makes my heart beat faster when placed against the center. I'm going to try more lights tomorrow. If nothing works, a shopping trip may be required.

Enjoy the day,

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Enlarged Mini Trip Around the World

Twelve more blocks finished and the top sewn together. The quilt will be six by seven blocks or approximately 72" by 84". Here it is.

Red, orange, pink, and yellow squares form diagonals on this scrappy mini trip quilt

Here was the planned layout on the floor. Somehow the blocks became reversed while sewing. {Who did that?} It still looks good; one of the joys of scrap quilts. The colors are a bit brighter in this photo than the previous. The real colors are somewhere between these two.

Enlarged Mini Trip Around the World 
When I last laid these out, the blocks seemed a bit too bright/dark. So for the final twelve I used fewer dark and bright strips. Just to tone it down a bit.

Finishing this quilt doesn't take long when many of the blocks are strip pieced. I also learned some finer points from this exercise. For example, since I like strong diagonals I made sure a red/orange/yellow strip occurred every seventh or eighth strip. Then I opened the tube at that fabric so they made most of the main diagonals.

Note: If you strictly make your preferred color on the main diagonal, you'll have a larger "square" where four blocks meet at the corners. If you alternate seventh and eighth locations you get more of an Irish Chain style. Does this make sense?

Of course, you can be completely random, too.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Chinese Coins II Moving Along

I got busy with this top and forgot to take process photos. While I liked the red sashing better, I didn't want the sashing to be the focal point.

Stacked Bricks, a Chinese Coin quilt variation sets Coins vertically
Chinese Coins II with green sashing and star posts

On the other hand, the green sashing blended into the blocks too much. {Here's the photo from last time to compare.} Also, everything here was too squared up.

Posts without stars
I considered appliqueing flowers over the posts again but really wanted some red and pink here. You can see how circumspect I was adding tiny bits of red Coins.

Star points were cut from more squares the size of the posts. They were sew-and-flipped to the sashing then pressed. That let me use the sashing as a guide to again square up the sashing.

Many of the coins were hand cut. Of course, some were rotary cut scraps from previous projects. If they were already a decent width I left them as is. I overlapped the the light and dark coin sets before rotary cutting that seam line without a ruler, both to add individuality and to keep as much length as possible. But I squared up the final coin set pairs and cut the sashing with rotary and ruler. I liked the combination of free and sharp this gives.

Several quilters combine these techniques, including Freddy Moran, Gwen Marston, and Sujata Shah. Look at Sujata's Windmills quilt as an example. Free cuts within the block but block perimeter is squared up.

There wasn't enough green to complete the outer sashing either. Fortunately a half-yard of this navy print waited in my stash. Even it wasn't enough so a fat quarter remnant fills out the top and bottom.


I've been thinking about two-block quilts. Several ideas are running through my head for future quilts but  a second block might make a good border here.  Improv quilts are a learning experience for me - at least, I want them to be. There are many techniques to be tried: non-paper-pieced curves and perhaps another bout of applique.

This is the year to be fearless; to push myself to learn new skills; to create more textured quilts. So I'm mulling inspiration from Kaja and Audrey's beautiful quilts.

Enjoy the day,

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sashing Chinese Coins II

Trying to salvage Retro Mama sashing. Is there a way to sneakily add some green to the sashing or posts? What if I appliqued simple flowers over the posts? It uses blues, reds, and greens but it's not doing anything for me.

Flower posts
Monica suggested adding brown or gold sashing which might look good with the plaid. But the few bits I had did nothing when these Coins are added. I will reserve that idea for a future quilt. Ha.

I bit the bullet and tried other sashing colors. Reds, pinks, and two shades of green. While I like the red, there's not enough of any of them. In fact, none of these fabrics is sufficient to sash the whole quilt. Of course, Nettie's quilt uses a variety of sashing fabrics. But they are secondary elements that add a frame/resting place for the eyes. These just "slap me up the side of the head."

Sewing these strings into value blocks created a sea change in this top. Some of the subtle aspects of Nettie's quilt will not work with them now. Time to figure out a new narrative.

Various sashing plans

I like this green with red posts although it's a bit too quiet. Funny. Red sashing is too dominant; green sashing is too recessive.

Green sashing with red posts
More thinking ahead.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Revisiting Chinese Coins II

Without progress on my Chinese Coins II for the past month, they came off the wall to work on the Mini Trip Around the World (TOW.) And look what happened.

Chinese Coin layout
While I didn't like the red boxes together, This arrangement alternating red boxes with slightly longer blue coins has possibilities. The sashing is a small scrap of dark olive that sets off the bright colors well. I was sure more fabric about this color lurked in the stash boxes... but I was wrong.

Although this plan didn't work out, it broke the drought and I sewed several sets of Coins. Many of my coins measured from six to eight-inches long. I haven't made a Coin top laid out vertically so they are purposely set to get my mind thinking the right direction.

Monica at Lakeview Stitching and I are both inspired by Nettie Young's Stack Bricks. Like both of them, I'm planning wide sashing. It's interesting to see the variations we each bring to this design. Monica recut some hourglass blocks into several improv blocks but she retained the tall rectangular outline of the block.

Chinese Coin sets

Mine are turned ninety degrees; wider than they are high. Without really planning, I ended up with a light side and a dark side. Originally I laid them all with the dark on top. That made too strong a horizontal. Now they alternate. They almost look square as they float behind the sashing.

Because these strip sets had lots of blues and pinks, I was absolutely certain my second choice for sashing would be perfect. {First choices was a remnant here.} So I cut several strips. Wrong-o. Again.

I was amused to note my sashing has the same colors as Monica's. She planned her colors better; the browns and tans, fit the cornflower blues. {Someone in the States didn't keep her eye on the scraps.} Somehow my coins became greener. The quiet color saturation of both these sashings attracts me but doesn't work with the stronger, {more acidic?} strings. This sashing won't make the grade either. It looks like Retro Mama meets the Groovy Gal.

Plaid sashing for Chinese Coins II
Back to the drawing board.

Enjoy the day, Ann