Sunday, December 31, 2017

The First One

Well, I did it! I posted one post each day for the 31 days of December. My goal was to post once a day. That's it. And I met that goal :) I  can't say my posts were anything spectacular, but they were posts. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could write about quilting each day.

See, I love to quilt. I can definitely quilt each day. However, I have struggled in the past to write about quilting. I am even a teacher and I find it hard to write about how to quilt. What I have learned from this process is that it is immensely helpful to have a picture to write about. Not that I wrote a lot, but pictures really help. Of course that makes sense, because we all love to look at quilt pictures right?

My other blog on Simple Living is more of a philosophical blog. I can write thoughts and ideas, things I have done to try to simplify our lives. I always add a picture, but usually they are an afterthought. Here, the pictures were the start of the story.

Below is the quilted wallhanging that is the start of my quilting story.The red appliqued hearts are labeled as quilt #1. I kept a photo book going with all my quilts, #1 through #113 - oh that's an unlucky number isn't it? Oh well. 1999 to 2004. On the back of each one, I wrote the date, the size, where I found the pattern (or if I made it up) and what I did with it (sold it, gave it away, kept it). At that point the book filled up and I kind of quit keeping track. I still took pictures, sometimes of each one, sometimes in groups, but they are less organized. I also kept track of additions/variations. As you can see, I redid this quilt in blue homespun.

About a year or two into my quilting adventure, I saw a sign in the library showcase that you could display your hobby. Well why not, I thought. I love the library - at this time, I was spending many, many hours there with our kids, coming each week to check out books. Once I learned how to quilt, quilting books were part of the regular checkout.

As you can see, my idea was accepted and for one month, my quilts were on display. The heart quilt was even featured next to the book it came from. While I can't say I kept up the same pace each year. I have continued to make quilts. My hope for this blog is to share some inspiration, some quilting tips or ideas, and of course, learn from everyone else in the quilting world. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Little Squares

One day while wandering around a quilt store, I found a piece of fusible fabric with a grid of squares all over it. Happening to have seen something like it before, I bought a couple of yards in case I wanted to use it. Soon after, while talking to the coordinator of our holiday fair at church, she gave me some Christmas fabric that I knew would would perfect with the squares.

The idea is to cut a lot of 2" (or to size) squares and iron them on the fabric. Then you start sewing vertical seams on the pre-printed lines. After sewing the vertical seams, cut a small snip at each point where a horizontal seam would cross. This is easy to identify as you are sewing on the lines. After clipping the intersections, start sewing the horizontal seams, nesting the two seams as you sew across them.

By cutting the Christmas fabric into small pieces, I was able to arrange them in a manner that created the Christmas tree and poinsettia wreath below. I was pleasantly surprised at how good these turned out! In fact, now that I think about it, I have a large piece of floral fabric that might just work in the same manner to make a spring wreath. You can see the fall one I did below, also from fabric donated from church. (All church fabric quilts went right back to their holiday fair).

Somewhere in this process, I found a quilting book at our library called Quick Watercolor Quilts by Dina Papas that was nothing but projects based on small squares fused to the grid. I made this heart shaped wreath from that book. Though a little putsy at times, these are really easy quilts to make and always seem to turn out surprisingly well.

Friday, December 29, 2017

All the Seasons

Seasonal quilts are definitely my thing and I am so happy I have decided to focus on them. One year, I had this great idea to make a seasonal calendar quilt. It is a little hard to see from the picture, but there is a button in the center of the plaid quilt where you can hang a smaller quilted square with a seasonal picture. I made one for each month of the year. This sold to a neighbor before I could even take it to the art fair. While some of the applique designs were from magazines, the internet etc, some were mine as was the sizing.

When I first learned to quilt, I sold small quilt and craft items at a craft store. These simple wallhangings were some of my first seasonal quilts. As we approach the beginning of a new year, it is always fun to look back at where you started and the ideas you had.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Past

Over the years, I have made many Christmas wallhangings, as I am sure every quilter has. Looking through my picture book of quilts, I came across a few that I had completely forgotten about. These were all made to sell, so that is probably why.

In this first picture, the angel was traced from a cookie cutter, and the evergreen trees behind her are a set that I use often. My guess is that the flying Santa was traced from a picture I saw online or in a magazine.

These mantle scarves were made by accident, with no pattern. I had some extra squares left from something, and decided they would look nice on the mantle. Both sold quickly, which means I should think about making some again. Once you set them on point with connecting triangles, the part that goes on the mantle is just a long rectangle. 

The cardinals were paper pieced and made especially for my dad who loves birds. It hung in their house many a Christmas.

This Santa was a pattern from a magazine, and made as a gift for a co-worker. I just love it when I find a quilt gift idea for someone!

Also from a quilt magazine, this nativity scene is kind of cute. All the little pieces are now off my radar, but the applique works :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Quilting for You or Them?

In one of my past posts, I wrote about my struggle to find the "right" quilting path. At one point, I started making more modern looking quilts because I thought that is what "they" would like, "they" being the people who come to our quilt booth.

However, I really didn't like making modern quilts. I don't like working with white fabric (I always stain it) and the designs were just not my thing. After three years of doing this, I finally gave up. And, bonus here, I heard a woman at our booth say "Who makes the modern quilts? I didn't think that was your thing?" Ah ha, the serious buyers were the ones who like our traditional style.

This picture shows my quilts for sale last fall. There are are three that I made for me. Can you spot them? (Snowman, sailboat and hummingbird).

So after this past show, I gave away as many quilts as I could, and had my aunt try to sell a few more at another show. I came home to an empty sewing room. Zero left over quilts. Zero new projects started. A blank slate. Then I let me be me.

Now I have a notebook of ideas that I have been drawing for the last two years. And of course I have lots of folders with patterns I have made, ideas I have collected etc. This time, I asked myself what I like to make: seasonal applique jumped to the top of the list immediately. After a few work arounds, I found and idea I thought would work.

Within a week, I had three designs drawn and one started. The ideas just kept coming and coming, and still are. I have 9 quilts finished since the last week in September - so three months. For me, this is a record. The best part is I just love it!

It's so important to be true to yourself. Big Magic can happen!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Recent Finishes

My recent finishes this month include the Sunflower Quilt, Falling Leaves, and Winter Evergreen.  I had planned on finishing the Pink Flowers, but the more I played around with it, the more I didn't like the background fabric I had. It really needed more of a white background, than tan.

Instead, I returned to a quilt pattern idea I had set aside, and that was of a Winter Evergreen tree. I originally wanted to have a bear in front of the tree, more of a Northwoods type theme, but the proportions of the bear to the tree just didn't work.

A couple of days of playing with this told me that it wasn't going to work. I have learned that when I set something aside that isn't working, later on I will get an idea that fits perfectly. It was the moonlight one night that got me thinking about this quilt, and adding a moon or star.

The star seemed to grab me more, because then I could quilt starlight throughout the quilt before appliqueing the tree on. Once I had the idea, (the tree was already drawn) I quickly added a star, appliqued it, and quilted the lines.

One evening after dinner, I sat down to applique the tree, and before I knew it, I was ready to put the binding on. Fifteen minutes later I was done. I just love the size of these quilts because they are a quick finish. Also, they can be done in short time frames of 15 minutes here or there.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Lights

Each year, retailers come out with some new item to decorate with for the holidays. About ten years ago, it was big, blow up Santas, Snowmen and such that light up in your front yard. Two years ago, the newest thing was a spotlight that had tiny dots of color to project on your house. We came close to getting one, but the expensive price wasn't worth the effect.

When we first bought our house, we started with just plain white lights. One year we added some red lights, but those are now in the backyard. We strung lights around the branches in a large tree, then changed to having them come down to form a tree shape. We had lights in the bushes, on the porch, and across the garage.

The center piece of our lights is a wooden Joy sign that my husband made. It has a nativity scene in the middle of the "O". The tree with the star in the picture has since been cut down, and this year we have some snow in the yard, but our theme has pretty much remained the same.

This year, I noticed a new trend in blue lights as these ones we saw when walking around our Capitol. They too are really pretty. I always love walking around the neighborhood at night and admiring all the different lights.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Capitol Christmas

Last weekend, my husband and I drove about an hour to our state capitol city, Madison Wisconsin, to see the Christmas lights and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. When we are home, we tend to focus too much on the chores we have to do, or projects we want to get done.

While they didn't have snow there, as we did here, it was still a good trip. The sun came out, and the temps were over 30 degrees with little wind. That makes for a great winter day.

Our state capitol building sits in the middle of the square, with roads like wagon wheel spokes spinning out from it. We started by walking around the square, stopped in a bar/restaurant for a drink, and then went into the Capitol for a tour.

Despite growing up in Wisconsin, I had never been in there. Our children have been there on tours, but they must not have done that when I was in grade school. The tour guide explained where all the stone came from - so much of it was from around the world - beautiful marbles, and even fossils in the marble.

The annual Christmas tree was up and decorated, soaring two stories in the center of the rotunda. I had happened to read online that the tree skirt was made by a quilt store a little ways away.  Look closely at the second picture and you can see some people's feet. Gives you an idea of how large this tree is!

(View from second floor)

(View from ground floor)
The leaded glass domes and skylights, the many, many murals - some painted, some made of tiny pieces of glass. The building is truly incredible, especially for being built in 1904. Large pieces of marble were expertly cut in fourths, transported, and placed on the wall seamlessly to create beautiful patterns.

The craftsmanship of the time is truly outstanding and I really don't think I have seen anything like it that was created recently. It took them many years to build this building, and it will hopefully be around for many more years to come.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Calico Quilt

My aunt, who I mention often because she is the only family member or friend that quilts, has been quilting for years, over 30 years. Back in 1986, her quilt group, which included my grandmother, made a quilt to raffle off during the town fair. I can't remember if they had done this before, but this was the farthest back I remember.

My mother bought tickets for the raffle and ended up winning the quilt. Since I was in college at the time, I knew nothing about this. So for my college graduation present that year, she boxed up and gave me the quilt. To me, it was something very special because both my aunt and grandmother had worked on it.

This was way back in the years of calico fabric, and hand sewing. When I look at all the pieces that were hand cut by tracing patterns, and then hand sewn and quilted, I am always amazed. 

The colors are no longer popular, and the blank spaces with no quilting wouldn't pass muster for most quilters as all the quilting was done in the ditch, but I feel proud to own it. We currently use it in the winter as an extra quilt for our bed. I like the fact that it isn't put away and is actually used. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas "Quilt" #6

While not technically quilts, these stockings were made following quilting steps, so that counts in my book! Our family stockings started as plain, red, felt stockings that I ironed a design on and embellished with paint -  90's style.

Once I learned to quilt, they had to go and I created new ones with applique - my favorite quilting technique. The Santa one was an easy yes for me, and the deer for my deer-hunting husband was next.

I had a harder time deciding on the last two for our children. They were young and didn't have defined interests at the time. So to be honest, I really don't know whose is whose. Santa writes a name tag on them each year so they know. 

To make them, I drew a stocking shape, cut the outside fabric, batting and backing to match. I then appliqued the design, quilted the three layers, and sewed the front and back together. I zig-zagged the inside seams to keep them from raveling, and then added binding to the top. They are holding up really well and I enjoy looking at them each year. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Quilts #4 and #5

The final two quilts from my aunt, are patchwork quilts in holiday colors. the first is a beautiful red and cream, log cabin pattern table runner.

If you are like me and admire other's work, this is definitely one of them. I don't usually have the patience to make log cabin quilts, though I really enjoy looking at them, and seeing all the different designs you can make by rearranging the blocks. 

The stipple quilting in the middle of the quilt is an added touch that really dresses it up. It also helps make the center of the quilt seem like one piece, instead of all the log cabin strips it is. I had a hard time finding a place for this quilt. It is a tad too big for this table, but so far, it works best there. 

Another of her quilts, has many, many tiny pieces. The patience to paper piece like this always results in a stunning design. 

While I hate to hide it under the nativity, we really needed something to go under it and protect the surface, so this quilt found a quick home. This nativity set was purchased after we were first married. My grandmother had given us a some money, and we purchased this after Christmas on sale. I always think of her when I set it up. The set didn't include the animals, so when we found the animals in an antique shop, we knew they were the perfect addition. 

Five or six years later, we were again shopping the after Christmas sales and found this nativity set. It came without a building, and the crib was broken. My husband made the rustic barn for it, and we use raffia instead of a crib. We each like one, so we keep both.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Quilt #3

For some reason, of all the birthday/Christmas gifts I received over the years, Santas became my thing. Some people collect snowmen, or nutcrackers, but I collected snowmen. Fabric, ceramic, wood - I have a collection. 

One Santa is fishing, in ode to my husband's past time. Another is skiing - not sure how we got that as neither of us like to ski. However, it fit well with the book our son received on all the things Santa does throughout the year when he isn't delivering presents. 

This quilt is another gift from my aunt, and combines quilting, painting, and embroidery. The words below Santa's beard say: "Jump in bed and cover up your head cause Santa Claus comes tonight." She outlined all the parts of his face in embroidery thread before painting. I think it is just darling!

In addition to quilts, she makes crafty items as well. When my mother saw the Santas below, she bought them for me as a birthday gift (pre-sale, not a leftover, we never accept without offering to purchase first). 

These guys are so cute, and so detailed it is incredible. Every piece of their clothing, hats, sacks, beards and faces (note the noses) were individually put together and stuffed. I just love these guys and they are definitely one of the favorites of my collection. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Quilt #2

My Aunt has gifted me with many quilts. She, like I, just loves to make them and if they don't sell at the craft fairs, gives them away. Otherwise, her home would truly be over run with quilts. With all her wallhangings, mug rugs, and regular size quilts, she easily numbers over a hundred each year. Aren't I feeling lucky when I get one of the leftovers :)

One year after visiting us and seeing my blue and white kitchen (she lives three hours away and I usually go there), a package arrived in the mail around Christmas time. Imagine my delight when I opened this gem!

Unlike me, she also likes embroidery and futzing with little items, such as all the bells she sewed on here for the snowflakes. I love how all the fabrics have snowflakes on them as well. 

I am sure we have had some sort of Advent calendar in our house over the years, but inconsistently. Since receiving this, it has been up every year. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas Quilt #1

Many, many years ago, as a new wife, I was listening to a story of a husband who would come home one day each December and find his entire house decorated for Christmas. Oh, not just the put up a tree and some nick knacks, but everything, from the curtains to dishes were Christmas. I thought this would be a great idea to do also, curtains and all.

Since my birthday is in December, a common gift for me was Christmas decorations - that really helped fuel the desire to decorate the whole house. After a few years, boxes and boxes came out of the basement, were unpacked, repacked with regular items, taken back downstairs and the process was repeated after New Years.

Then the year came, where I had enough. I had enough stuff, I had enough with the packing and unpacking. And the house looked so clean after the holidays. So we purged, and we continue each year to purge what we no longer need or admire.

The first thing I did was to quit changing the blue and white decor in my kitchen to red and green. By accident, even though it is obvious now, I realized that blue and white are great winter/snowflake colors, so the few decorations I now put up match the room, yet give it a little cozy feel for the holidays, like this snowflake quilt. 

This past week, I had all our decorations up in about an hour and a half, excluding the tree that needed to "warm up". This was such a relief compared to the entire day it used to take me. I'll be sharing stories of a few more holiday quilts in the days to come. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

My Fabric Stash

First of all, don't laugh. When you think of "fabric stash" you probably think of a large cabinet full of fabric. Fabric overflowing the shelves and out the cabinet doors. Bins of fabric. Well, that is how my aunt's fabric stash looks anyway.

Mine is very small in comparison. Since I tend to be more on the thrifty side, it is hard for me to buy lots of fabric and have it sit there. Also, I have found that when I do go out and buy a few pieces that I might use, I don't use them. They tend to sit, and sit. The original idea faded away or became unappealing.

Additionally, when I buy fabric with too loud or distinct of a pattern on it, I find it very hard to use. Thus my love of blending batiks. About a year ago, I bought a lot of blue fabric to make a pinwheel quilt. Well, now I am left with a lot of blue fabric that has slightly different variations of color in them. Why I thought they matched was beyond me. I also have a teal blue that I was going to use for a sky - I think. I'm not sure now actually.You can see them above.

My recent idea to make seasonal applique wallhangings really fits in with my preferred style of buying fabric - quarter yards. Fat or regular, they are the perfect amount for applique, and for my seasonal quilts. And you would be surprised how long I have been operating out of this fabric stash.

The plastic bag on the right is full of my homespun fabrics that I don't have an idea for at the moment. I made a pretty star quilt out of it using the last of the reds. I think I have greens and blues homespun left. I also have a lot of regular cotton tans that I am not sure what to do with. I have used all the larger pieces for the quilt backgrounds, and will need to contemplate a new use for them.

Occasionally, I find myself trying to match up fabrics and make a quilt from them. I find this to be frustrating as I need to bend to the fabric. Instead, my ideas work better when I have the quilt idea first, and then find the fabric. Or know which fabric to use.

The pink flower quilt I am currently working on came about that way. I had the idea for a large petal flower, and was pretty sure I had just the fabric for it. Sure enough, there was a quarter yard of dark pink that hadn't been used and was perfect. I quickly found a matching lighter pink and green for the leaves.


Here is the amount of fabric I used - there is still an eighth of a yard of the dark pink left. This does my thrifty self proud.