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Friday, January 31, 2014

Catching up...Talk about HSTs..and a quick tutorial too

Hi everyone,
Trying to catch up with all my ambitious quilty plans and of course life is meddling in, happening as I go etc. etc. ... Ha, I am sure you know what I mean.
In the meantime, my darling daughter worked hard on finishing that quilt I showed you in the last post, and she did! She practiced a little some free motion quilting on a scrap-sandwich and than bravely jumped right in to quilt her quilt - I am so proud of her! Take a look:



I really love her choice of fabric for binding and she did such a great job (her first binding too!). Oh by the way, as I wasn't home when she was binding this quilt, she used my tutorial for guidance (yay!) - you can find it HERE

I laid her quilt down next to one of the first quilts I ever made, this scrappy Christmas throw, quilted oh-not-so-spectacularly at the time... What a difference between her first and my first! Did I mention I am so proud of her? He he, maybe few times... :)



Oh and the best part - she is already planning her next quilt! Hoorayy! :)

As for me, I am really playing catch-up this month, just because I want to do so much... But that's ok. Can't show you the January quilt just yet, but I am also working on several monthly fun things. 
I haven't done a QAL or BOM in quite some time and this one just appealed to me. Blocks will be representing cities from all over the world - just fun!
Sew....I was picking and picking fabrics that I would use and nothing was quite clicking 'till it hit me - Globetrotting! DUH. I have fabrics from all over the world! My daughter travels for work and she was bringing me fabrics from wherever she went, Africa, Nepal, Bangladesh.... What could be better than using these!?

Light and dark gray fabric are American, and they will be a "mainstay" ones, used throughout the project and then all others are my beautiful, "globetrotting" fabrics that so far I didn't dare touch. I am so excited! On to making the first block, representing Washington DC! The piecing unit in this block is a Half-Square Triangle, good old HST! Here is where a somewhat tutorial part of this post comes in.

We all know how many different ways there are to make these favorite blocks, right? Gazillion! I figured I will show you mine - I love Thangles!! It is a paper product and yes, we also know there are many of those out there too. As I love trying new things, love learning new ways to make things and love exploring ever better ways to teach my students - I try everything. Despite that, Thangles remain my GO-TO way of making HSTs. So before I go into showing you how I do it, here is what I like and don't like and why I go to these little strips of paper:
Comparing Thangles with regular "lines on the back of fabric" method:
                                                             Thangles                                         regular
Cutting fabric                    strips in "common" sizes                         odd, (dreaded) 7/8" measuring
                                           (ex. 3 1/2" strip for 3" HST)
Drawing lines                    all done for you!                                      need to draw on the back
Squaring up after             no need, they are perfect size!                 my least favorite step!
Pressing                             paper is there for stability                       need to be careful of that bias!
                                            (so you can't mess up!)
Additional cost                 YES (but at $5/package of hundreds     not in money but yes in my time!
                                            it is SO worth it!)

Oh and let me just say - I am definitely NOT involved with Thangles company or anything like that, not an advertisement, just a tutorial of what I like.

OK, on to what I did here...

1. What was needed for this block are 3" finished HSTs. So I cut 3 1/2" strips (across the width of fabric) in needed colors (squares in this photo are to complete the block, not for HSTs)


2. Put two strips right sides together and pin the Thangles paper on the top. If you want to press towards the darker fabric later, make sure your lighter color strip is on the top (next to the paper). I use a whole length strip to pin Thangles, then cut them apart between papers (less cumbersome to sew)

3. You can see dashed lines and solid lines on the paper - dashed are for stitching, solid for cutting (just like always). Once I am ready to stitch (use a bit shorter stitch length!), I actually chain-piece two or three paper strips - stitch first dashed line of one, then continue on the other...

See what I mean? I like this because after I am done, I can cut my solid lines several at the time, like here:
Quickly cut threads in between:

Then cut he rest of the solid lines:
And a whole bunch of HSTs are done! But don't tear that paper just yet! It is helpful to keep it until you are finished with pressing - paper is a great stabilizer, so even if you are beginner you can't stretch your squares out of shape! Just turn them all so that fabric is on top (paper on the bottom), lift the top fabric and press! (see photos below)

Once all are pressed, you can clip that "dog ear" little triangle you got:
And pull the paper - this is easiest done by placing your thumb very close to the seam, in the middle, on the shorter side of paper and then quickly pulling the other (larger) part of the paper with your other hand - is just comes off! (that is where using the smaller stitch length on your machine helps A LOT! My regular is 2.5, here I use 1.5)

And that is IT!
So pulling the paper off is the extra step that this way of making HSTs requires but I preffer that to squaring up. I just don't like squaring up (but I do it in other cases of course, because it is important for accuracy!), and if I can substitute it with something else, I will. Hey, I can do this in front of a movie or while chatting with my hubby by the fireplace...works for me! :)

I didn't measure time very precisely but I know that to make ALL of the HSTs needed for this block (40 of them!) it took me approximately an hour - from cutting strips to laying out this block! Not bad, right?
Here is a partial layout of my Washington DC block - it is a big one (24") so you only see little more than a half here (light gray squares are the middle of the block)

Now where is the finished block, you may ask?
HA! That is where "catching-up" part comes with a vengeance... I am still to finish this one TONIGHT! Right under the buzzer, right? But that is just my life... :)
It is almost all sewn but not pressed, together with another fun thing I am doing every month - Aurifil Block of the Month! It is sort of a mystery - each month one of the Aurifil designers will present a block and tutorial for it. You can make a block but also participate in a fun drawing for a great prize (Aurifil thread, of course!) if you post the picture of your block on their Flickr album. If you pick one fabric of background and several fun prints to go with it - you will have enough blocks for a quilt at the end of the year. Here is what I picked:

I just LOVE these Oval Elements from Art Gallery Fabrics - had them for a while and finally cutting into it!
So stay tuned, pictures of all this coming soon - tomorrow! :)
Let me know if you joined any of these and how you like it, what fabric are you playing with and - how about Thangles? Do you use them too? Want to give them a try?
Have a wonderful Friday,

Marija

PS - I actually have to apologize for some of the photos here not being very good! Took them with iPad while I worked and...either I am not doing something right or iPad is not really taking pictures good enough for my liking...Will go back to my trusty camera next time!


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Blizzard...real and quilting one!

Hi everyone!

It seems that no matter where you are in US, weather was and might still be an issue these days!
No surprise, here in Buffalo - a BLIZZARD warning! We didn't have one in last 20 years! Major highways were closed, every single school, business, institution and...you guessed it, no work for me yesterday either! Since my kids are grown, I did not enjoy a snow day in a long time...forgot how much fun that is, if you have no pressing issues and can relax at home.
Yeah - see that "haze" out the widow? No, it's not a bad photo, it is how much one could really see...Even my snow dog wasn't too keen on staying outside longer than 5 minutes!
 But brave little cardinals were out there, just ready to go down to the bird feeder! Isn't it amazing what wild animals are adapted to?
Of course Marley had to go see what cardinal was doing and of course - I was taking all these photos from the INSIDE, ha, ha!
So with all this, what is one to do? Be bored at home? Well, of course not - if you are a quilter, right? :)
I was cooking, baking...  and sewing too!
See, yesterday (Jan 7th) was also a Serbian Orthodox Christmas, so mother nature kinda gave me a gift here... :)
I had leisurely time to talk to my mom, aunt, mother-in-law...Skype and chat, wish them Merry Christmas (or traditionally in Serbia, we say Hristos se Rodi (Christ is born) and the other person would respond Voistinu se Rodi (Indeed is born)), we exchanged menus for the day... - what a treasure! A real gift, if you will. :)
I made traditional Christmas bread - all with the coin inside! Bread is broken (not cut!) by everyone at the table and who finds the lucky coin will have extra luck this year. Well...finding the coin prove to be not so easy - we "demolished" this prety bread, but at the end - it tasted really good and it was our daughter-in-law who found it - yay! With the baby on the way, she sure needs all extra luck there is!
I also made one extra bread for the young family (our son and daughter-in-law) to take home - all with their initials (B is for "baby" since they didn't pick the name yet).

To keep in traditon, I also made an "apple pie" - Serbian style. You see, if we translate literally, "pie" in Serbian is anything made out of FILO dough. Quite different than here!
So here is my apple pie, Serbian-style:
On a three layered sheets of filo, you spread a tablespoon of vegetable oil first, then a tablespoon of breadcrumbs, then about a snowball size amount of shredded apples, (all liquid squeezed out of them!) and then a tablespoon of sugar-cinnamon mix (I added a vanilla-sugar and a dash of ground cloves too). You fold the short sides over a bit and roll those 3 sheets of filo. Then repeat!
(NOTE: dark brown you see above is actually shredded QUINCE - another variant of mine. We found some quince to buy locally, made some preserves but also shredded some and froze - they do go brown VERY quickly - but they add a bit of tartness and wonderful aroma too)
Once all rolls are in, you need to brush it all on top with vegetable oil, otherwise filo will get way too dry. Sprinkle some sugar/cinnamon mix on top and - into the oven! Bake at 350F for about 45 min or until nicely golden brown:
Needless to say - it is ALL gone already! :)
In Serbia, they put all kinds of filling this way - from savory (feta/cottage/eggs mix - my hubby is a master of this one!), to sweet (cherries, shredded pumpkin, nuts and raisins...).
Do you ever use FILO dough? Let me know what you make?
I find that in US it's really not used that much - or at least not as much as in Serbia.

OK - enough about food!

Believe it or not, I was quilting and sewing these days too - so much to share with you, I will have to divide it into few posts!
Lets start from something I finished even before the holidays, but just never had a chance to show you. It is another one of those easy and fun woven quilts (talked about them a bit in THIS post).
I used two half-yards of two different ombre fabrics (in this case, MODA Ombre Dots - lovely, vivid colors! Have them almost all, he he), ended up with a woven piece that was about 18"x42" that needed some applique...
These fresh colors made me think spring, so...out come some modern flowers and lovely birds... Spent one evening on my bed, watching TV and cutting all the flowers from a fat-quarter of pre-fused lovely floral:
I used Mistyfuse for the fusible - I really, really love it! I think lot of quilters are a bit intimidated (including myself, before) with it, since it doesn't have the paper backing. Frankly, I had it for a long time but used it seldom, because I would always have to look for paper to use... well, NO MORE! At a big quilt show, visiting Misyfuse boot I saw their Goddess Sheet demonstrated and - I was sold on the spot. I finally took it out and used it for this project - just LOVE it!! I didn't think of taking photos as I was working with it, but I might do that next time.
Do you use Misyfuse? What do you think?
For me - the lightness of it is amazing (fabric feels almost as if nothing is on it) and potential for so many uses is very inspiring - more ideas to play with!
Back to my project - once flowers were cut out, it was time to play:
This initial "toss" just didn't look right... Too much and kinda without a flow. Took out few flowers:
Now it looked a bit better but this lower right section just felt wrong again - kinda all in one vertical line? So I moved them a bit to have a more diagonal flow:
Now I liked it so much better! Time to fuse it all down, get some backing for it and QUILT!!

Here it is all ready for quilting. I even choose ombre fabric for backing! I love these fabrics so much and have so many of them by now - it was really a time to just stop being stingy and use them more! :)
Now for the next palette - THREAD of course!
By now you all know how much I love Aurifil thread and the vast, beautiful palette of colors they have! Just so much fun! Here are my choices of 50wt Aufil for this project:
 Such yummy colors!! Oh yeah - in the background was my latte with real whip cream - that is how I roll, ha, ha! Hey, I walk a lot with my buddy Marley and I need my quilting energy too, so don't blame me!
Off we go to have some quilting fun:


 Almost done, but adding few more colors of thread...
 Some sunshine yellow in flowers...

And - voila! I know you can't quite see in these photos, but I did use all those beautiful Aurifil colors. What I wanted is to change the hue and color value of the thread as the fabric changes in color - to preserve that color gradation effect. Here is where I used different colors:

Here it is - all done:
Lots of swirls, leaves, flower doodles, some almost straight lines (now that is a tough one for me, ha ha). Now looking at it, this photo above is somewhat bad...colors are kinda exaggerated? Tried some outside shots too:



I guess Marley approves too. Hey anything to get me out in the snow, so we can play a bit - he is all for it! :)
Here is the back:


  I didn't do a traditional binding on this one, made facing instead. Just felt that binding was not fitting.
Do you do facings sometimes?

This quilt is right now hanging in one of my local quilt shops - Pine Grove Quilt Shop, as a sample for the class I will be teaching at their coveted Spring Seminar, in April. So if you are close by - come join me for some fun!
That wasn't all the fun I had lately (didn't I say "blizzard" of quilts in the title? :) ). Last weekend my daughter and I had a really fun day sewing together. Well, she was sewing mostly and I was cleaning my studio, re-organizing, lining up all the projects I want to do, BOMs and Quilt-a-Longs I want to participate in (more about that later!) and so on... Well, wait - I did sew a bit too, but because I have such a smart, smart daughter - she told me to set a timer, do cleaning/organizing for 30 min. and then do 30 min of something more fun - like sewing! Then some cleaning again...that way, you don't feel at the end of it all like you just cleaned or whatever and didn't have any fun...First I thought that was just too complicated, even wanted to just continue cleaning as timer went off - but she wouldn't let me! Ha ha! At the end - she was so right! I did do a lot of cleaning/organizing, but I also made progress on a quilt I was working on, so  - HOORAYYY!! It felt so much better! I just LOVE my smart, beautiful girl... 
Try it if you are like I was before - it is really so much better way to do things!
So here is what Jelena was working on - colorful pinwheels, almost all done, just to press few more seams:
 And TA-DAH!!!
It will be a cute cuddle quilt for her friends - young couple with a first baby! Also - this is the first quilt she did completely by herself - from picking fabrics, to cutting and sewing and now - she will quilt it by herself too! Stay tuned, this proud mother is sure to blog about that! :)

OK - I think I smothered you enough for today... :)  
But I will be back very soon to tell you about all other fun stuff I am working on. Hope you are all warm and out of the path of "Polar Vortex" (now that is a new one to learn!), having some creative fun while winter is upon us.
Have a wonderful Wednesday,
Marija