Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm Getting There!

I decided I really needed to rig up a design wall for the Gettysburg Battle Flag blocks.  I usually tack a piece of cotton batting up above one set of my closet doors (the down side of having window-filled studio space - lack of wall space!) but since these are on paper foundations ... the blocks won't "stick".  Normally the cotton fabrics will grab the batting well enough to stay up long enough for me to play around with the blocks and visualize everything coming together - but not paper!  I couldn't come up with a better way to see my blocks together, though, so I just pinned them up.  Here's what I have so far:

IMG_2850 Gettysburg Battle Flag quilt

I'm totally excited!!! It's really starting to come together.

Having the blocks up where I can see them will help me chose the "right" layout, get a handle on what fabs may or may not be dominating the quilt, and know what size "extras" I should add to keep a good balance. I'm so excited!!!

Trace asked another great question. Have I told you all how much I love questions?  I do.  I have a couple more I'll get to, also, but Trace asked, "Y seams?" Why not?  LOL.  Sorry.  I had to write that. Y seams, or inset seams, are basically where 3 seams meet. Like mitered corners (picture a frame). Many people (like whoever wrote the info at this link) will tell you it's simple to do, just mark well, take your time, blah, blah, blah - but really: they're evil. Especially if the "frame" part is pieced like the equilateral triangle border I put around that one flag. And in semi-miniature.  Like so:

IMG_2812 Gettysburg Battle Flag quilt block
What was I thinking?!?!?!

All the seams involved in the border didn't help, either, but now that I've done it... it's done.  Won't do it again any time soon.  And I mean it.

Thanks for asking, Trace!  And thank YOU for reading!

PS:  And many, many thanks for the kind comments left here, emailed and posted on FaceBook about the Flying Geese and Booter!  He was one very special pup-friend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Flying Geese

I made great progress in the Studio yesterday - completed one block in the Gettysburg Battle Flags quilt AND did some over-due cleaning.  Yea!  Today I thought I'd follow up on the Flying Geese block.  I had promised to show you some pix of the Flying Geese quilt I've made.  Here's a look:

DSCN1748 Miniature Flying Geese

I dyed the background fabric - it's sort of mottled greys and blues, to replicate the Kansas sky in Fall/Winter. The geese are all bright colors, representing the sun hitting their lovely feathers and making them shimmer and shine.

I even added a half-square triangle sawtooth border:

DSCN1745 Miniature Flying Geese

Here's the kicker ...

DSCN1747  Miniature Flying Geese

Did I mention I used to do a LOT of miniatures? This one may have pushed me a tiny bit beyond sane limits, but I really loved doing it.

DSCN1743 Miniature Flying Geese

And here's the back:

DSCN1746 Miniature Flying Geese

And here's the story behind it, for those who are interested...

Booter  1987-2001
In July of '88, my husband, our two Siberians Lucky and Jesse, and I adopted an 8-month old Australian Shepherd/Lab mix named Booter.  Booter came to us with some behavioral "quirks" - distrust of men, the desire to jump into any tub full of water he saw, and ... as I found out one Fall day, a fear of geese.  We were all standing out in front of our house; my husband had the girls with him on their leashes and I had Booter.  I think we heard and saw the geese at the same time - a low flyover with lots of honking!  The instant I began to marvel at the beauty, I had a 50-pound dog jump straight up and into my arms!  Clearly he was scared, and clearly there was some reason behind it.  I know his former owner tried to turn him into a hunting dog.  You have to understand that Boots was a perfect mix of his breeds - and while the Lab in him was so very eager to please and thrilled to retrieve, the Aussie in him wanted to protect.  And bark.  With respect to hunting, his instinct (from what I pieced together) was to protect the flock of geese ("Look out!  He's got a gun and he's willing to use it!") and I have no doubt this tried the former owner's patience.  I am certain there were some unpleasant eruptions from the former owner - and that all led to Booter connecting honking geese with ... eruptions.  I can't tell you how touched I was that he trusted ME enough our first Fall together to seek comfort in my arms!

We eventually worked through it all with him - and seeing geese fly overhead remind me to this day of my sweet Booter, his ability to overcome his fear and the trust he showed.  The Winter we lost him (to cancer), there seemed to be more geese in our skies than normal.  Maybe I was just tuned in to them a bit more - but it seemed like they were paying tribute to him - like a military flyover.  The Miniature Flying Geese - Flyover quilt represents all those dear memories.  And that is why the Flying Geese block is so special to me!

Thank you for reading!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Battle Rages On

Yeah, I know.  I couldn't come up with a good title for the post and I'm way behind on showing you where I am with the Gettysburg Battle Flags quilt.  This is going to be photo-heavy and hopefully not-too-wordy. You heard it here first!

I've kind of lost track what block I'm on, so here are some snippets, suggestions and comments.  For one of the blocks, I decided it would be a good idea to paper piece a sawtooth border.

DSCN1725 Paper piecing

Paper piecers! Do you have one of those little wooden irons?

DSCN1726 Paper Piecing

They are great for pressing down the tiny pieces of your paper pieced blocks - so you don't have to keep popping up and running over to your iron. They can be used right or left-handed (THANK YOU!!!) and just have such a nice feel to them!

DSCN1727 paper piecing

Highly recommended. Use one, and before you know it, you'll have a nice little line of saw...teeth?

IMG_2752 paper piecing

I did a couple rows and put them with this artillery flag:

DSCN1729 sawtooth border

I moved on to some simpler things after that.

DSCN1732 MESS!!!

Yes, like totally trashing my sewing table!  Exactly.  I need to find a way to put the blocks up on a design wall of some sort.  Quickly.

My overall aim is to use fabrics and blocks historically accurate to the Civil War era. Well... reproduction fabs, but you know what I mean! I decided to toss in an Indian Hatchet, so to speak.

IMG_2780 Indian Hatchet block

I showed the block to my husband and asked him (with no hinting) to guess the name of the block. He came up with "Battle Axe", so I think it must be pretty well-named! I also made some little Cannon Ball blocks...

IMG_2795 Cannon Ball blocks

and incorporated them into a block with one of the artillery battery guidons.

IMG_2796 Block

Get it?  An Artillery guidon with Cannon Ball blocks? Call it "quilt humor meets Army wife/brat humor".

Since the sawtooth border came out so well, I thought I should try my hand at equilateral triangles:

IMG_2797 Equilateral Triangles

Not a bad idea, per se ... but then I thought I should turn the corner with them. Here's a look at the completed block they live in:


See the upper-right corner?  That's as close of a look as you're going to get.  I ripped it out three times before deciding to leave it.  As I posted to FaceBook, three things to remember:  the Alamo, to be careful with food processor blades and to avoid inset Y-seams at all cost.  What was I THINKING?!?!?  Yeah, OK, it looks pretty cool, though.  From a galloping horse.  And at least I haven't forgotten the Alamo.

Today's goal - a small Ohio Star to put with ... something.  And to come up with a design wall.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back to Gettysburg

Or at least to the battle flags!

Block 4.5 that you saw yesterday is now completed and has therefore become Block 5.  Here's a look:

IMG_2745 Gettysburg Battle Flag Quilt

I'm very pleased with how it came out.  My goal is to have it scrappy (check) and to break up most of the blocks into smaller sub-blocks (check).  Very happy with this one!

Trace asked what Flying Geese are - great question!  See the red triangles in Block 5 (above)?  That quilt block is called "Flying Geese" - a very popular pattern that has been around since the 1800s.  You can imagine looking up at the sky and seeing the "V" formation - or does one triangle represent the wings of one goose?  I'm not sure, but I think the block was aptly named.  I've made a note to shoot pix of the Flying Geese quilt I made a few years ago; will share that soon.

Adding fabric around one of the larger battle flags resulted in this:

IMG_2748 Gettysburg Battle Flag Quilt

See the bird by the lowest red stripe? That sort of thing just cracks me up. No, I didn't plan that, but YES I'm leaving it in! I ... have to!

I've been researching the flags as I put this quilt together and hope to have a short synopsis of what unit each flag represents and maybe a little history by the time I'm done.  I love doing that sort of "work"!

Here's what I had as of close of business yesterday:

IMG_2749 Gettysburg Battle Flag Quilt

Blocks 1-7!  This isn't how they'll be arranged for the final wall-hanging; it's just so I can see my progress!  Right now, the plan is to go with 6 blocks across and 3 down.  (That's why I turned 19 battle flags into 18 blocks!)

Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Progress Report

I'm humming right along on those Gettysburg Battle Flag Quilt blocks!  Well, not really, but I have made some progress!  Here's what I accomplished by Monday evening:

IMG_2695 Gettysburg Battle Flag Quilt

The first four blocks - using 5 of the battle flags.  There are a total of 19 flags on the panel I cut up, so I put two together in the same block. I'd rather deal with a layout of 18 than 19.  

I still don't have a plan, but over-all, I'm adding in little pieces of traditional quilt blocks that were popular during the Civil War - or I'm centering the battle flags within a block - like in Block 3.  Look down in the lower left-hand corner - the 1st Engineer flag.  I built a Log Cabin block using that flag as the center.  
Yesterday, I made some mini "Flying Geese" to incorporate into one of the blocks; the block is only half-done, but here's a look:

IMG_2738 Gettysburg Battle Flag Quilt

Ummmm... yes!  I decided to use paper foundations.  Oh, I KNOW!  But since I really don't have a game plan, it's making it easier; I'm just adding until I fill the 9" squares.  This was not the best idea I've ever had, but it's not the worst, either.  I mean - it's not going to be a huge quilt... so paper removal won't be a major issue.

This leads me to a great question Trace asked:  "Don't you get little bits of paper stuck in the stitching?"  Yes, you certainly can - and that makes it harder to remove - and harder to remove without damaging your stitches!  When using a paper foundation, it's really important to decrease your stitch length.  That helps prevent the paper from getting stuck - since it's a tiny, tiny space! - and acts almost like perforations, making the paper easier to tear off.   The key is actually remembering to decrease the stitch size.  Ahem.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 20, 2011

To Wash!

I know I should finish a few things first... but I can't help it.  I started a new project.  ☺

I got some fabric in for a special project I'm making for my husband - a wall-hanging using small, reprinted battle flags from the Battle of Gettysburg.  (Key battle in the US Civil War, for my international readers!)  One of the fabrics is a large panel of the battle flags - and I also bought some coordinating Civil War reproduction prints in a "layer cake" -- 10" square pre-cuts.  My plan was to cut the battle flags out separately and turn them into quilt blocks to then sew back together.  I decided to throw the flag fab in the wash.  Then I thought... with as unevenly as things shrink, I really needed to wash those layer cakes, too.  I wasn't choosing a pattern that called for precise 10" squares anyway (actually, I'm not using a pattern, I'm making it up as I go along ... but that's our secret!) so I really thought it would be wise to wash the squares.  Best to have everything in the quilt either pre-washed or not pre-washed -- not to mix!

I threw the layer cakes into a little mesh bag, ran it through the washer and dryer, then took it down to the Studio to iron it all.  Remember the post I wrote not long ago entitled "To Wash Or Not To Wash"?  These two squares both measured exactly 10" prior to washing:

IMG_2598 2 10" squares after washing
"To Wash!" is the answer!

Imagine what that kind of shrinkage differential would do to a quilt!  Yikes!

I put my first block together yesterday afternoon after I finished removing all the paper from the Frenzy Quilt!!!  (I'm halfway done with Season 2 of The Rat Patrol, in case anyone is interested!)  All of the blocks will be different, but here's Block 1:

IMG_2659 Gettysburg Battle Flag Quilt Block

I thought it only fitting I would start with J.E.B. Stuart's flag, as the first high school I attended (of three) was named in his honor!  LOL!  Also, this is the longest of the flags; I want to do the longest and the tallest first.  I'll keep you posted!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Paper Foundations

This would be the downside of paper foundation piecing:

IMG_2596 The downside of paper foundations
Pick, pick, pick!

Yepperz... that's where I am. And where I have been. And where I'll be. And what was in my dreams last night...  LOL!  It's kind of addictive, though - sort of like popping bubbles on bubble wrap.  "Just one more block, then I'll go make dinner..."  ☺  I've been watching episodes of "The Rat Patrol" on Netflix to stay entertained.  It's not supposed to be a comedy... but... well... it is.  And it helps pass the time.  Of course, the process would also be going faster if not for an encounter with the blade of my food processor... but hey, things happen.

I've received some great questions about the paper foundations - mostly "why?"  Paper foundation piecing does a couple things for you.  First, it stabilizes your fabrics - so depending on what block you're creating, you can get crisp points, sharp, straight lines ... or basically stops your fabs from swimming around.  The center piece of each of my Frenzy blocks is a chunk of BDU fabric from my husband's old uniforms - the summer weight kind.  It has a life of its own and moves around as you touch it.  Starch can help, but so can a foundation.  Basically, sewing it to a piece of paper holds it still.  That was one of the key reasons I chose to use foundations for this project.

In traditional paper foundation piecing, you can make intricate designs that would be incredibly tricky otherwise - for a good explanation of that, please check this link.  I didn't have a pattern... just a method... so that wasn't really a factor for me here. Bear with me!

The other big benefit of using paper foundations, and the chief reason I used them for the Frenzy quilt, is that you don't have to stop and measure.  Most of the time, quilting is a very precise process - one which totally appeals to me as a "Type A" personality.  Some blocks, however, are very forgiving, freeing, and can just be "squared up" before you sew block-to-block.  See this link, for example!  I have baskets of scraps - again, being a Type A, they are organized; basket one starts with 3/4" strips (I used to make mostly minis!) and going up by increments of 1/4", the last basket holds 3" strips.  This is a great way to use a BUNCH of them.  I just grabbed fabric strips from all baskets that fit with a Patriotic theme (I had to have some unifying factor) and started going into a frenzy.  So to speak.  You can see how the blocks are constructed at this link.  I just rough cut (if necessary) a strip to about the right length... and sewed.  No measuring, no muss, no fuss... just whack it about right and go.  That really sped up the piecing process!  Once the phone book page was covered, I squared the block to 6.5" - and I was good to go.  Everything neat and tidy.

Why the phone book?  Well, they make all kinds of foundation papers - lots pre-printed (as was the case with my Pineapple Log Cabin), some to go through your computer printer, some quite translucent so you can trace a pattern ... but I didn't need a pattern, other than the 6.5" square.  A friend recommended cutting up my phone book - the paper is very lightweight, so easily tears off ... and they're free!  ☺  What beats free? Besides... along the way you see things like this:

IMG_2554 paper foundation piecing

My Siberian Huskies appreciated the page heading as much as I did!  

I hope that made things a little clearer!  Please keep the questions coming - I just love them!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pineapple Log Cabin

I spent an hour or so in the Studio yesterday, but all I did was sew about 1/8 of an inch in, all around the Frenzy Quilt (as per a very helpful suggestion by Desi!) just to secure things a little better -- then started picking paper off.  Not much to show you, just a bag full of "schnitzers" as my Grandma would have said, so today I'll follow up on that promise to show you my Pineapple Log Cabin quilt.  Interestingly enough, this was paper-pieced, too!

DSCN1686 Pineapple Log Cabin

I think I remember swearing I wouldn't do a full-sized quilt using paper foundations after this one ... but I jumped in again with the Frenzy quilt, didn't I? Oh, well.

Here's a look at one block:

DSCN1688 Pineapple Log Cabin

This one does have a reddish center - can you see how it's a log cabin?

I also love how that close-up shows how horrid some of the fabrics are.  I mean REALLY bad, dated prints ... but they all come together to make a great scrappy pineapple!

Doesn't the swirl-y quilting just "make" it?!!?

DSCN1690 Pineapple Log Cabin

My friend Kris did the quilting for me!  I like the combination of the sharpness of the pineapples with the soft swirls of her quilting!

Here's the label:

DSCN1692 Pineapple Log Cabin

Yes, there's quite a lag time and a whole continent between when I pieced it and when it was finished. What can I say?

The back is scrappy, too:

DSCN1694 Pineapple Log Cabin

So is the binding; can you tell from this shot?

DSCN1693 Pineapple Log Cabin

I mean ... if you're going to go scrappy, why not go scrappy?!?

Thanks for reading!

PS:  I will put a post together to answer some of the great questions you all asked about the Frenzy Quilt!  Please stay tuned!

Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm Done!

With the piecing, anyway!!!

I had limited time to work in the Studio yesterday, so I wasn't sure I was going to make my self-imposed deadline of having the Frenzy top pieced by dinner time.  I had my doubts when I was right about here:

IMG_2572 Frenzy quilt

I think that's 32-sies into 64-sies. Can someone tell me why phone book pages are so small? I mean ... 6.5" blocks just don't go real far real fast, if you know what I mean!

I kept plugging along, though ... and before I knew it ...

DSCN1657 Frenzy Quilt

I love how it came out!  All that's left is to remove a billion tiny pieces of paper, then to quilt and bind it! I can definitely see using this method of piecing again.  Perhaps using something for the foundation that doesn't have to be removed... but I enjoyed the "free-form" feel to it all!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back to the Frenzy!

I thought I'd give you an update on the Frenzy Quilt I mentioned in my last post.  Here is a look at one block:

IMG_2483 Frenzy block

I'm using phone book pages cut to 6.5 inches as my foundations - then I just pieced in a scrappy, free-form style on those - started with a center piece of BDU fabric, added scraps of various patriotic fabrics, and trimmed them even. Very fun. Except perhaps for picking all the paper out ... but that can be sort of cathartic, in its own way.

I sewed them into "two-sies" and went through sewing the "two-sies" into "four-sies", except for the last row, which is sewn into "three-sies". I have a total of 110 blocks, so ... well ... they have to be grouped just right to fit the final layout. Does that make sense to everyone?

Here I am, sewing the "two-sies" into "four-sies":

IMG_2502 Frenzy blocks

This is like the framing stage of building a house - you can see lots of progress! I love this part!

IMG_2505 Frenzy blocks
Go, Frenzy!!!

I did lay the blocks out on the floor at one point yesterday, so I could match "four-sies" together - and put "six-ies" (that last row) together with other "six-ies". Here's a look:

IMG_2565 Frenzy Quilt in progress

Hopefully by late this afternoon, I'll have the whole top together. Did I mention I'm NOT putting borders on this baby?

Thanks for reading!