Sunday, January 31, 2016

Scrap the Stash Quilting

Blocks 9 - 34

A month after I started my "Scrap Buster" quilt, I am still feeling seriously out of my element and comfort zone, but I am enjoying the process with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. To date, there are 34 completed blocks.

At the outset of this project, I set 3 goals for myself.
1. Use up scraps and reduce the stash.
2. Allow myself freedom to play and experiment with improv quilting.
3. Make a block a day within a 30 minute time limit.

How am I doing re: scrap busting?

1. Only scraps and remnants have been used to this point. In order not to create even more waste, I have been trying to use the pre-cut shapes and pieces as they are, with as little trimming as possible. When a piece needs to be re-cut, I try to cut it in such a way that the off-cut can still be used somewhere else. Many of the scraps are 2 1/2" strip lengths left over from previous projects. Sometimes I can use the whole width to re-cut another shape. But because I am using 1" strips as sashing between the pieces in the rectangular blocks, I need a lot of strips cut into 1" wide lengths leaving a lot of 1 1/2" wide lengths left-over.

A 2 1/2" strip has been re-cut into 2 lengths: 1" wide and 1 1/2"wide.

The majority of the blocks are 4 1/2" x 10 1/2", and to give them a little more definition and consistency, I am separating the pieces with the 1" strips of sashing  (1/2" finished).

1/2" finished strips of sashing have been set between the pieces.

But that created the problem of what to do with all of the left over 1 1/2 " strips.  When I stitched these together into a basic 9 patch,  and added an additional row, they were the perfect fit for the 4 1/2" wide block. Voila!

The 3 rows of 1" squares were made with the 1 1/2" strips. The paper pieced triangles on the bottom left are pre-pieced remnants from a prior project.

After completing 34 blocks using only fabrics from the scrap bag, there has not been a significant reduction in the scrap stash, but it's a start. No fear of running out of scraps any time too soon!

2. How am I doing re: the "improv" thing?

 I'm not familiar or comfortable enough with the term to know if it applies. Mine is more of an experiment with scrap quilting; making it work with only what you've got, like our grandmothers used to do. Monica over at Lakeview Stitching describes the process very well. She uses the term "organic" to describe the technique; letting the materials at hand determine the design. I like that term and feel it could apply to my little experiment. My scrap quilt feels chaotic and out of my control, where as Monica has reigned in the chaos and is creating a well balanced order from the disorder of the fabrics at hand. Check out here quilt here.

In my quilt, two types of blocks seem to be developing: an 8 1/2" x 8 1/2" square block, and a 4 1/2" x 10 1/2" rectangular block. Other then the log cabin block with the photo, upper right hand corner, most of the pieces below were used with minimal, if any, re-cutting. Trying to make a more consistent, traditional log cabin block created too much waste and completely defeated the point of this exercise. In the photo block at the bottom left, the pieces were used basically as they had been cut, with only minimal time and trimming required and I quite prefer that block anyway.

For every square block, I am making 2 rectangular blocks.

More examples of blocks that just sort of fell into place with little recutting.

In the scrap bag, there are a number of pre-pieced remnants from previous projects. These are examples of how I work them in.

Playing with colour. I like the monochromatic greens in these blocks with a more subtle sashing.

At this point I find that the more thought that goes into the block and the more I try to compose it, the less happy I am with the outcome. Just letting it happen seems to be faster with more successful results. We'll work on the "chaos thing".

3. How is the 30 minute per day time plan going?

So far, it just ain't happening! Because set up itself takes a while, instead of spending 30 minutes every day, I take half a day several times a week to get in my quota of 7 blocks per week.  I also have to admit that stopping myself has become a bit of a problem. It seems I get into a bit of a frenzy looking for just one last piece, and then let's see how it would look next to that other piece over there. And while we're at it, let's just stitch them together. It's a tad addictive. And fun! Who knew?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tidying Up Those Loose Threads

Finished and Unfinished Bits of Boutis and Embroidery

Because of other plans and obligations, I realized in early November that there would be limited, if any, time to quilt before Christmas. That certainly proved to be the case. I had set out a few hand stitching goals for myself during this time, some of which were met, others not, plus a new, unplanned project was added.

The first projects that were completed were the two star embroideries for my grand daughter. When I made her quilt last year, "Catch a Falling Star", I made the label on the back into a pocket into which I will add a little star with a wish for her every year. For this year's star I borrowed a small piece of my precious yellow boutis batiste cotton (precious because I am having difficulty sourcing it) and proceeded with some easy embroidery stitches. Beads were added to give it a touch of sparkle.

Staying with the star theme, the little tree ornament below was embroidered onto antique white linen using silk thread with a basic stem stitch for the hearts and a padded satin stitch for the center star. A gold metallic thread was then woven in and out of the stitches to give it a little more "pizzazz". This was the first time I had used silk thread for satin stitching. Even though I had padded the center star with cotton floss before satin stitching, I was disappointed with the result, likely due to my inexperience with the silk thread.

And then, much to my surprise, (and delight) after our trip to Hawaii before Christmas, I came home with yet another new hand stitching project. After taking a class in traditional Hawaiian quilting, I fell in love all over again with applique. It seems like forever since I had done any and it was such a delight to be stitching on these bright, cheerful colours that I couldn't leave it alone until I had finished it.

"Kanani O Ka Home" (Beauty of Home) Design by John Serrao

With my fingers itching to work on a second Hawaiian applique, I have prepped another, but it will have to wait in the wings until some of my other projects have been tended to.

"Pupu O Ke Kai" (Shells of the Sea), another pattern by John Serrao

One of the projects on my November list that didn't get finished were the monogrammed cocktail napkins for my husband. I chose a burnished gold floss to match the rich amber colour of his favourite scotch. His initials with the surrounding shamrock were to be done in raised satin stitch. After the under pad stitching had been completed on all 4 napkins, I decided that I really didn't like either the colour or the design. (Why didn't I admit that after the first one?) Needless to say, they did not find their way under the tree. Lucky for me, I have more of the same antique linen napkins for a second set, and a preferable, possibly easier design idea percolating. Maybe they'll end up under the tree next Christmas!

There was a little time to pick up one or another of my boutis pieces now and then, although none of them were finished. I did however, finally manage to put a simple frame around the cicadas below. These two little guys were my first boutis design, and even with their imperfections, it's satisfying to see them framed.

But alas, this poor golden rose window boutis below is still waiting for a purpose. Inspiration is bound to come one day!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Hawaiian Applique Quilting

While on a family vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii just before Christmas, my daughter and I managed to squeeze in a class teaching the basics of traditional Hawaiian quilting. At the end of the class, we both had a 22" x 22" cushion size Hawaiian Applique quilt ready to stitch.

The coral coloured "Ulu" pattern below is my daughter's project.  Traditionally, the ulu is the first quilt made for the home to ensure that there will always be food on the table.

The "Ulu" (Breadfruit) pattern,
designed by John Serrao.

It's the designs of these applique quilts that make Hawaiian quilts unique. Each pattern is individual to the maker of the quilt and symbolizes who they are. Although many of the patterns use a similar motif or symbol, (for example the "Ulu" pattern), when adapted by the quilter, it becomes personal to that quilter and unlike any other version. Ideally, each quilter should create her own design, but beginner's are given a bit of a break.

"Kanani O Ka Home" (Beauty of Home), also designed by John.
This is symbolic of strong family ties and for the love of home.

Just as with "boutis", (from southern France), celebrating the beauty of the land and the traditions of the culture is integral to the design of the Hawaiian quilt. Sharing this tradition with all who are interested to learn about Hawaii's rich arts and culture became the mission of Poakalani Serrao.

For 35 years, Poakalani (an accomplished Hawaiian quilter) and her husband John Serrao (designer of traditional quilting patterns) conducted workshops and held exhibitions both in Hawaii and internationally, teaching the technique and the unique style of Hawaiian applique quilting. Two of their daughters, Raelene and Cissy, worked along side their parents, and since Poakalani's passing in 2012, they, along with their father, are committed to carry on the tradition their mother started. If you happen to be vacationing in Honolulu any time soon, it's a great way to spend a Saturday morning. You will receive a very warm welcome from the Serrao family while learning this craft from those steeped in the tradition. Check out their website.

Seated from left to right are John and his daughters; 
Raelene Correia, Cissy Serrao and John Serrao

While Cissy and Rae teach newcomers the basics of Hawaiian quilting, John (below)  will sit down with one of the regular students and help them create their own unique, personal design. To the left of John's arm (right side of photo) is the pattern he constructed that morning with one very fortunate quilter.

John is signing one of the pattern books that I purchased. 

These are the 3 pattern books that I purchased. All are patterns created by John and Poakalani Serrao. Two of them are patterns intended for cushion sized quilts, while the patterns in the "Hawaiian Quilt: The Tradition Continues" can be adapted to a larger quilt if desired.

Below I have outlined the basic steps involved in getting a piece ready for applique.  2 pieces of fabric are required, the white is my background and the aqua (a Michael Miller "Krystal") is for the applique. Both have been cut into a 22" square.

Next, the background fabric is folded into 1/4s and finger pressed so that the 1/4 markings will be visible when the fabric is opened. The contrasting fabric is then folded into 1/8s, making sure that there is only a single fold at the bias.  The pattern is pinned onto the aqua fabric at this point and cut out.

For my second piece, I am using another of John's patterns, 
"Pupu O Ke Kai"  (Shells of the Sea).

Here the pattern has been cut out and placed on the background, ready to open like a snowflake.

You may have noticed that I opened it from the right side to the wrong side.  It should have been reversed, wrong side to right side.  Since this is just a small pattern, it was easy to flip and correct the wrong. It would be more of a problem with a larger pattern.

Once opened, (the right way), the applique is pinned into place and basted 1/4" away from the edge, all around the perimeter.

The applique is now ready to be stitched. The basting line, 1/4 of an inch away from the edge, makes it very convenient to needle turn applique into place. The turned under edge is consistent throughout, and there are not hundreds of little applique pin pricks to contend with.

The final step is to sandwich and hand quilt with echoing lines. But that is for another day!

This last little pineapple project was a kit that my sister brought back from Hawaii many years ago for my mom. Mom and I made a deal that I would applique and she would hand quilt. She was an excellent, prolific hand quilter. To honour her love of all things needle work, I will finish this one day.

Monday, January 11, 2016

"Scrap the Stash" Quilting 365

Scrap Buster 365:
Blocks 1 - 8

Good intentions are seldom a problem for most people, however, carrying them out takes commitment first, then time and focus. I find that time can become available with some re-direction of focus and prioritizing. Simplifying and being realistic are crucial to this exercise.

With that in mind, I have set 3 major quilt related goals for myself in 2016.

1. A new quilt/bedspread for our queen size bed.
2. Focus on boutis
3. Reduce the stash and clean up partially finished projects. The recommended daily dose for this is 30 minutes.

This last goal of "stash quilting" can accomplish several objectives. The obvious, of course, is that the "collection" will be reduced and scraps will be re-purposed. It will also allow me to experiment with improv quilting and with colour play. And 30 minutes should not interfere too much with the rest of my day.

Much of my fabric is stored in these IKEA acrylic boxes. There are 13 of these units full of fabrics. To the brim! A few are filled with scraps and rejects. This is the first box of scraps to be dealt with.

Several sorts and resorts  resulted in these scraps being categorized by colour, similar shapes (strips, triangles, squares) and similar weights (not all are quilting fabrics), and by pre-cuts, pre-pieced and pre-prepped (trims, bindings, etc.).

Left over bindings and trims.

These golds, greens and beiges made the final sort for the first scrap buster project.

In this mix are a number of pieced blocks left over from previous quilts.

These pre-pieced units came together quite quickly and easily as a simple 8 1/2 inch block (8 1/2 ish; I'm not going to worry too much about the exact size for now). Starting with this simple block allowed me to set some general parameters as to the size and shape that would work with the scraps I have. Evolution of the blocks will likely be an on-going process.

I left a few pieces of eggplant coloured fabrics in the palette. The verdict's not in on that yet but I'm inclined to think "no".

Below are the first 4 blocks completed by the trial and error method. And yes, it was a trial and there is certainly error. Top right hand corner is a serious "no-go". What was I thinking?!? The other 3 could possibly be worked into something.

After the first block, bottom left, I played around with the log cabin setting. Other then the upper right hand corner, I think that this pattern could work.

But since I am still experimenting with the type of block that will suit my purposes best, I decided to switch it up and move into a long setting for blocks 5 - 8. I quite preferred making these. There was less waste and they came together much faster.

Below I'm playing around with a layout possibility using both square and rectangular units.

So, after the first 8 days, I am finding that I quite like playing in the improv  playground. There is much I need to learn about this type of "less defined" quilting and it's exciting to experiment with it. The 30 minute a day time limit is a bit more of a problem. I find that once I get going on the blocks, I can't stop myself. The freedom of this exploration is too much fun! Who knew?