Sunday, February 25, 2024

Project Quilting 15.4 - Hourglass

'Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives'  This was the opening line of the soap opera Days of Our Lives.  When I was growing up, my grandmother was a big fan of that show, and always made sure that she was home to watch it.  I never saw the reason why - missing one episode never seemed to make much difference, since the next one invariably showed much of the same content!   

Anyway, I was originally going to write about the fact that soap operas like Days of Our Lives have disappeared from TV, then link that to the Disappearing Hourglass baby quilt that I made for this week's challenge.

But when I googled 'Days of Our Lives' to get more info, I was shocked to see that it is STILL being produced!  So much for that take on the PQ 15.4 theme!  The show is no longer broadcast on NBC,  but it is available on their Peacock paid subscription service.  Wow.  My grandmother would be thrilled.

I guess that I could wax philosophical and talk about how time flies and seems to disappear and .... nah.  I'm not in the mood to be morbid. Instead, I'm just going to ramble a bit about disappearing blocks. Skip to the end if you just want to see my Hourglass project. 

A disappearing block is made when you make a traditional block, cut it up into pieces, rearrange the pieces and sew them back together to make a new block. So the original block has 'disappeared'. 

The first disappearing block quilt that I remember seeing was a disappearing nine patch, which is made by cutting a nine patch block in half both ways.  That gives you four blocks which you can then rearrange in different ways.  But since the four blocks are identical, many of  those arrangements look the same. You can make the variations look different by using different fabrics in different positions, but the basic structure is still the same.  

Since the original disappearing nine patch, some very creative people have started cutting up other traditional blocks.  For instance, instead of turning a nine patch block into a four patch block, why not turn a four patch block into a nine patch?  Many of the simple traditional blocks are essentially four patch blocks. When you cut them into nine pieces, the resulting pieces aren't identical, so you can rearrange them into many, many more variations than what is possible with only four identical pieces. 

Brita Nelson is one of those very creative people who has been playing around with the concept of disappearing blocks. She calls herself 'The Questioning Quilter'. She's turned traditional blocks like Hourglass and Pinwheel into hundreds of different Disappearing blocks.  Plus, she's done all the math!  Check out her blog post here and prepare to be amazed. 

Now back to the challenge! 

single Hourglass block

Disappearing Hourglass variation

Last year, I made a baby quilt for PQ 14.1 using the dark squares from a Fisher-Price themed layer cake and a white background.  This week's challenge was the perfect opportunity to use up most of the rest of the layer cake by using the light squares and some navy blue solid from my stash. I made 12 hourglass blocks, then cut each one into nine pieces and rearranged them into one of the Disappearing Hourglass variations. 

I tried a few different quilt layouts to see which one that I liked the best.

I was tempted to use this layout, because I really like the look of it. But  when I viewed it from a distance it didn't look balanced.  I think that it would work better as a square quilt rather than a rectangular one.

I ultimately chose this layout because look at those cute little hourglasses that form where the blocks meet!

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Project Quilting 15.3 - Inside Out

Thanks to my daughter, I knew what the title of my project for PQ 15.3 was going to be on Sunday afternoon.  It just took me awhile to decide what form the project was going to take.

As I was reading the blog post about the theme, my daughter walked into the room.  Now, in order to understand why that is important,  you have to realize that my daughter is a pop culture nerd.  More specifically, she is a Disney nerd.  

I was scratching my head and trying to figure out how I could make something quilted that was inside out.  Batting on the outside?  Seams on the outside?  Neither seemed to be a great idea for a quilt.  So I read the post to my daughter and she said - Oh, that's easy!  Memory Balls!    

Huh? Memory Balls?  What the heck are Memory Balls?  She reminded me about the Disney Pixar film from a few years ago called Inside Out. I remembered the film, but I had never seen it. So of course, I had to look it up. The film is about a little girl who moves to a new city and a new school. Her personified emotions are color coded in the film, and so are her memories, which are stored as colored balls in a place in her brain called Long Term Memory. The color of the balls is reflective of the emotion associated with it.  Yellow is joy, blue is sadness, green is disgust, purple is fear and red is anger.

One of the characters in the film in Long Term Memory
 with the Memory Balls  

So I knew right away that I was going to do something with colored circles in a grid.  I thought about using the Drunkard's Path block to make colored circles for a baby quilt, but I wasn't sure that I would have enough time to get it done. 

I settled on appliqued circles to represent the Memory Balls.  I'm not a big fan of applique, but I thought that it would be easier than doing curved piecing.   I heard about an applique technique that uses fusible interfacing to make the turned under edges, so I thought that I'd try it.  The one thing about these challenges is that they encourage me to try new techniques!  

The fusible interfacing technique involves sewing the fusible side of the interfacing and the right side of the fabric together all along the edge of the shape. Then you cut out the shape with a small seam allowance, slit the interfacing and turn it right side out.  That means that the right side of the fabric and the fusible side of the interfacing are now on the outside.  You iron the applique in place, then stitch around the edges however you want.  

I made a bunch of circles using solid fabrics and fusible interfacing, then arranged them in a grid on a solid navy blue background.  I chose to use the blanket stitch on my machine.  Note to self - you need more practice with machine blanket stitching!

And since I was playing with new techniques, I decide to try using the alphabet stitches that are built in to my Bernina B590.  I programmed in the phrase "Long-Term Memories" and proceeded to stitch that phrase around the outside of the grid of circles.  Another note to self - don't try to go too fast.  The letters get misshapen if you pull the fabric or if you try to stitch too fast.

My Inside Out knitting bag

I ended up making an 8 X 11 inch zippered bag for my knitting. So not only was the project inspired by the movie Inside Out, I also used two inside out techniques - the fusible interfacing applique and the bag both needed to be turned inside out in order to finish them.  WooHoo - a three-fer!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Project Quilting 15.2 - Sky Color

The theme for the second challenge of 2024 is Sky Color.  But we can't use the typical sky color - blue!  Well, we can use blue, but it has to be less than 10% of the colors in the project.  This time of year, 'less than 10% blue' accurately describes the sky in my area most of the time! We actually get fewer sunny days here than they do in the Pacific Northwest, which is known for it's rain.  I definitely don't want a gray, dreary project! So sunrise/sunset colors, or night sky colors seemed to be my options.

When I did my entry for the "Silhouette" challenge in 2022 (PQ 13.2), I used the colors of the sunrise.  (Well, for me it was more like sunset, since I am hardly ever up in time to see the sunrise ^.^!)  Even though I love those colors, I didn't want to repeat that color scheme in another project.  Instead, I decided to do a night sky with northern lights.

The question was, of course, what to make, and how to incorporate those colors.  When I was searching for images of the Northern lights, I discovered that the aurora are most commonly green, but there are variations depending on the intensity of the solar winds, the composition of the charged particles in the magnetosphere and the altitude at which the charged particles react with the atmosphere.

Image courtesy of

What struck me in all the images was the flowing ribbons of greens, blues, violets and even reds and pinks! It reminded me of a bargello quilt, so that's what I decided to make.

I've never made a bargello quilt, so that lead to another bout of internet surfing. I found a few sites that had instructions, so I figured that it might be pretty easy to pull off a small one in a week.   

I decided early on that I would only use fabrics in my stash for my PQ projects.  I have a medium size bin of solids that was given to me, so I decided to use those.  The only drawback was that I didn't have enough of the clear vivid colors that I've come to associate with the aurora borealis.  I did have pastels, so that is what I used. I reasoned that maybe not all northern lights are vivid, but the vivid ones make the best photos, so that is what you usually see on the web.   I also had some midnight blue and inky black, which I used to represent the night sky.

I used the tube method, where you sew all your strips together, then sew the first strip to the last one. Then you flatten the tube on your cutting table and cut across into varying widths.  This gives you a bunch of fabric strips that are sewn into a circle.  

You then use your seam ripper to remove the thread between two of the segments of the circle, which turns it into a strip.  Each time, you move up or down one segment so that the colors shift when you sew them together.  I'm sure that I'm not explaining the technique very well, so if you want to try it, search the web for Free Bargello Quilt patterns.  Missouri Star Quilt Company has a video tutorial on You Tube, as does Sewing with Abeygale.

Since this was my first time with bargello, I made some mistakes and it didn't quite turn out the way that I first envisioned.  For example. I should have used a few more strips, because my end result was somewhat too long and not quite wide enough.  I solved that problem by piecing an extra column from the scraps. All in all, though, I think that it turned out OK.

Since the aurora is mostly green, I used a variegated green thread to quilt wavy lines to simulate the the flowing ribbons of color.  

Pastel Northern Lights Bargello

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Project Quilting 15.1 - Bird House

Bird House?  I have to admit that I wasn't exactly inspired by the theme.  But then again, not everyone has to like every theme.  I toyed with the idea of making an actual 3 dimensional bird house and using it for a tissue box cover, but I really wasn't excited about the idea. 

I then thought about doing an online search for bird house blocks.  Again, no excitement.  

When I first started quilting, I bought a number of resource books - yes, the real physical, hard copy hold-them-in-your-hands books.  They mostly sit on my shelves gathering dust, so I decided that it was time to start using them again.  

I found a block called 'Wren House' in Better Homes and Garden's 505 Quilt Blocks book, which was published in January 2003.  This book has a lot of what I'd call pictorial blocks.  I'm not sure that's the correct word, but what I mean is that most of the blocks are images of things (houses, flowers, animals, etc.) instead of traditional quilt blocks that are based on shapes.  

I don't want this to turn into a book review, but if you decide to look for the book, I want you to be aware of a few things.  On the plus side, there are lots and lots of good blocks. The down side is that the book doesn't really give instructions for making the blocks. It has general quilt making information, but it doesn't give dimensions for the blocks or for the pieces thereof.  It does number and letter the parts of each block so that you can figure out what in what order to piece or applique them. Also, all of the illustrations are about 4 inches square. That's not really a problem, as long as you can figure out how to increase the blocks if you want them larger.  

My printer/copier doesn't have the capability to resize, so I grabbed a pad of graph paper and a ruler and played around with proportions.  I managed to make a decent looking representation of the Wren House block that is about 8 inches across.  I added a little length because I wanted the house to look like it was high enough off the ground to keep a cat from jumping up onto it ;>.

I decided that, like many of my prior PQ projects, this was going to be a potholder.  

I dug into my scrap bin and found a cute blackbird print that I used for the house.  A mottled blue print for the background and black Kona cotton for the roof, pole and the entrance and I was done.  I quilted it with a simple straight lines because I like potholders to bend easily. The binding is more black Kona cotton.

Another PQ project done!

Friday, June 2, 2023

Once a nerd.....

OK, I just have to share this with someone! I am feeling ridiculously proud of myself. A little background - I have been following Karen Montgomery on the Nine Patch A Day group on Facebook. She occasionally designs a quilt and shares the pattern with the group. Back in July, 2022 she posted the directions for a Lottery Quilt. It is an easy, scrappy quilt made out of rectangles. The idea is that you use the daily lottery number to decide what color fabric to put where. Each number 0 - 9 is assigned to a color. For example, if number 3 is assigned to red, 7 assigned to blue and 9 assigned to purple, then the number 379 would be represented by a block with a red, a blue and a purple strip, in that order.

The actual directions use a 5 digit daily number, and either 1 1/2 x 5, 2 x 8 or 2 1/2 x 10 1/2 inch strips, depending on how big you want to finished quilt to be.

It looked like a great way to use up some scraps, so I decided to play along. I opened my scrap bin and cut a bunch of various colored 2 x 8 inch strips.

I made the first block on July 1st, made the second block on July 2nd, and so on for about the first week. Then I missed a day for one reason or another. 'No worries, I'll catch up', I thought ..... Well, months later and I am waaaay behind. Once I fell behind, it just felt too overwhelming to go back and find all the numbers, write them down, convert them to the correct color, figure out how many strips I needed, etc. So the lottery quilt languished on the back-burner. But I don't want another UFO, so I am determined to finish it.

Today, while I was trying to figure out a quick and easy way to organize the numbers and convert them to the correct colors, it hit me! I could make a spreadsheet! I used to use spreadsheets all the time when I was working, but I haven't had an occasion to use my skills since I retired. I wasn't sure that I'd remember how, but everything came back pretty quickly. I opened the lottery website and found the history page. This is a cool feature that lets you see the numbers for any given period of time. Since I had already made the blocks for the first couple of weeks of July, 2022, I decided to continue where I left off.

I copied the dates and corresponding numbers to the clipboard, opened Excel, and imported the numbers into a new spreadsheet using the 'convert text to columns wizard' to make sure that each number pasted into it's own column. Then I used conditional formatting to make each number into the appropriate color. TA-DA! Now all I have to do is is glance at the spreadsheet to know which color to sew where!

Yep, once a nerd, always a nerd!

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Project Quilting 14.6 - Conquer a Fear

 The challenge this week has to involve conquering something that scares you.  

"You see, to grow you must face fears. It’s the way to achieve and succeed. If you only do what’s safe and comfy, you’ll stagnate and grow soft. The way forward is always by finding and following a new path. Growth. So this week, you will confront something you fear. Your project must be about growing through exploring the unknown. 

That all sounds very philosophical and, to tell the truth, pretty vague.  I really prefer a concrete topic for the challenges.  But I guess that is why they call them 'challenges'!

I thought long and hard and realized that I really am not truly afraid of anything.  I have healthy respect for some things, especially those that could hurt me,  but I don't have any irrational fears.  But the challenge seems to be about more than actual fear.  The words worry and anxiety are also used.  So the challenge can be interpreted to mean doing something that makes you uncomfortable, and growing through that. 

When it comes to quilting, I am game for pretty much anything.  I may not enjoy some techniques, but I am willing to try them.  Foundation paper piecing, for example.  I have tried it half a dozen times,  and I honestly just don't like it.  And life is too short to do things that you don't like if there are alternatives!

So where does that leave me for this week's challenge?   One of the examples of an anxiety to be overcome that was given as an example is using curved piecing in a project.  Since I haven't done much curved piecing I started thinking that that would be a possibility for my challenge this week.  It  would definitely be a growth opportunity.

Then, as I was reading through my email on Monday, I came across the Bernina "WeAllSew" newsletter.  One of the articles was on curved piecing.  But it was the picture in the article that really caught my eye:

I'm seeing a pattern here! Curved piecing it is!

The last time I did any curved piecing, it was in a workshop where the result was SUPPOSED to be wonky.  So I decided that for this challenge, I would attempt to do a block that requires precision piecing. 

I chose the Drunkard's Path block because there is only one curve in each block, and you can make some really cool patterns with it. 

After cutting out the pieces, I remembered why I haven't done more curved piecing.  It's not the sewing, it's the cutting!  Unlike blocks with straight lines, which you can cut in almost infinite sizes with a ruler, you need a separate template for each size of Drunkard's Path block.  

I only have one ruler that allows me to cut out Drunkard's Path blocks and I didn't want to draft my own templates.  I made a couple blocks to see how they would turn out.  The test blocks ended up finishing at a really weird size - 3 3/4 inches.  If I wanted to finish my project within the week, there was no way that I could finish a baby quilt like I had originally planned.  So, plan B again! 

I decided to make another placemat for my guild's charity project.  Once I had cut out 4 sets of 4 matching blocks, I got very tired of cutting around the curves.  So I decided that whatever project I made was going to use 16 blocks!  

Sewing them together was surprisingly not too difficult.  I pinned the heck out of the first few, then just pinned the center for the rest.  Once I had them done, I started playing with the layout.  My favorite was a 4 x 4 grid because it emphasized the circle in the center.  Then I remembered that I was making a placemat.  Hmmm..... the placemats are ideally supposed to be 13 X 17 inches,  but when I laid the blocks out to make a rectangle, it was 11 3/4 inches by 18 3/4 inches,  And then I had an extra block, and I just couldn't find a layout that I liked.

OK, plan C?  I decided to use my favorite  4 x 4 grid.   The grid finishes at 15 inches square, which is too small for a table topper and too large for a potholder.... so it became a pillow cover! 

I found that I am not afraid of curves, I'm just not particularly fond of them.  I would do them again, given the right project. I also realized that the biggest anxiety that I experienced this week was the fear that I wouldn't finish on time!!

Project Quilting is successfully completed for another year.  Looking forward to season 15!

Sunday, March 5, 2023

When Harry met...Jane?

 Project Quilting 14.4 continued

I had decided to use the Harry’s Star block for the 4th Project Quilting Challenge this year.  The theme was “A Novel Project”, and the challenge was to use a novel that you had read as inspiration.  After many frustrating attempts, I gave up and made a potholder.  If you are interested, you can read about that fiasco a couple of posts back.  It's titled "Project Quilting 14.4 or How Harry Potter became The Last Unicorn."

Harry's Star block

Even though I was tempted to wad up the blocks and throw them in a corner,  at the end of the week I had cooled down a little.  I didn’t want to just abandon the blocks, but  also didn’t want to add to my pile of UFOs, so I continued to work on the blocks in the week between challenges.  Since the next challenge week was super busy again, I made another quick project and then got back to Harry, as I had started calling it.  

By the time I had all the blocks finished, I realized that there were 28 blocks, not 24 like I had originally calculated.  Harry was definitely a problem child!  The fat eight bundle that I used was called "Hello Jane" by Allison Harris, and it must have had more fat eights than I originally thought.  I had set aside two of the fat eights to cut up for the binding, and just made blocks out of the rest. In all the confusion and stress with trying to finish in time to use Harry as my entry for 14.4, I didn't realize that I would have more blocks than I needed if I used all the fat eights. 

After mulling it over,  I realized that having the extra blocks was a good thing. I had originally thought that I would have to cobble an extra block together out of the left overs from the other blocks in order to have my planned 40 inch square quilt.  Now that I had 28, that problem was solved. Having more blocks to play with actually worked out quite well. 

I arranged the blocks in a 5 x 5 straight set on my design wall.  During the next few days, every time I walked by, I would check to see if I liked the layout.  If two side by side blocks were too similar for my taste, or if  similar colors were too close together, I  switched blocks around, sometimes substituting one of the extras.  I wouldn't have been able to do that as well without the extras.

Once I was satisfied, I sewed the blocks together and considered what to do with the extras.  I could always throw them into my orphan block bin, but ultimately decided to use them on the back.  I pieced them into the backing in a diagonal row down the middle, then did a simple straight line diagonal quilting pattern.  The batting that I used says that you can quilt up to eight inches apart.  By starting a quilting line in every other square, the resulting diamonds are eight inches, point to point!  Harry was starting to behave! 

I cut each of the two set-aside fat eights into 4 strips, 2 1/4" x ~21" each, to use for the binding.   I sewed sets of matching strips together to make four binding pieces 2 1/4 X ~ 41".  Since Harry is 40" on each side, this was going to be tight!    I planned to use one piece on each side,  putting one color on the top and bottom and the other on the sides.  However, once I laid out the binding, I realized that there wouldn't be enough of an overlap at the corners to do the mitering.  Instead, I placed the color changes at the midpoints, and used straight seams instead of diagonal ones to join the binding strips so that the color change happens right at the centers.    It's easier to see what I mean on the back of the quilt.  If you look at the center top, you'll see that the binding changes color.  Likewise at the bottom, and on both sides.

Extra blocks set diagonally on the back 

'Harry', using Hello Jane fabrics by Allison Harris for Cluck Cluck Sew, Windham Fabrics

I've become quite fond of Harry.  Sometimes it is the 'problem children' that become the favorites, maybe because of all the trouble that they give us.  I think that Harry falls into that category!