Thursday, March 21, 2019

Switch-A-Roo

Last week, I started on a journey to create a table topper from four of the bird blocks from The FLOCK.

I think I left off having finished adding borders to the four bird blocks I chose. I continued on to create four triangular corners and a center made from the print fabric and some cream fabric. The top is done! And . . .


Table topper quilt made from bird quilt blocks


Then I was distracted. You've been there, right? The 'squirrel' in the sewing room. The UFO (UnFinished Object), the PhD (Project Half Done) . . . . called me to come to its 'rescue.'

In this case, my 'shiny new object' isn't really new. I've been working on this stylized hummingbird cross stitch piece (the pattern found on at Danceneedle on Etsy) for several months now, on and off.

I think I was inspired by the washing experiment I did on a quilted/cross stitched piece a couple weeks ago. Or perhaps I just got on a tear. Or needed some bright colors in my life after a gloomy, rainy, snowy week.

Mix in a fair bit of couch-potato sewing time in front a couple MCU movies over the weekend. And the  stitchery is finished.


cross stitched hummingbird quilted wall hanging


So now what?

I found this fun geometric print in my stash that goes perfectly with the thread colors in the stitching. So I used the applique technique I've been playing with and talking about, for the last month or so, to add a border all in one piece. With this technique, the border has no seams, so the geometric pattern isn't broken.

I've had a few requests for more details on this technique I'm creating, I hear you, and I promise I'll tell you all the nitty gritty soon. I think it's pretty slick, and I'm anxious to share, not quite yet though. I need to get a little more confident with it, first.

I cut a piece of the print about fat-quarter size and appliqued it in place on the cross stitch.

Then layered and pin-basted the quilt to prepare it for quilting.


cross stitched hummingbird quilted wall hanging


Because the linen/cross-stitch element has a pretty low thread count compared to the quilting cotton, I added an extra layer of fabric to the quilt sandwich:

  • Top
  • Solid Cream fabric
  • Batting (I like wool)
  • Backing


cross stitched hummingbird quilted wall hanging


That extra layer of fabric (among other things) made me think this piece should be machine quilted.

I followed the lines in the print to quilt the borders. . . .


cross stitched hummingbird quilted wall hanging



. . . That left me with a pretty puffy center. Yeah, one might argue that I shoulda quilted the center first.

I didn't.

I'm like that sometimes.


cross stitched hummingbird quilted wall hanging


I outlined the the bird with some machine stitching.

And this is where things fell apart a bit. I tried some free motion quilting to fill in the negative space on the linen.

Yuk. (I didn't make a photographic record, but trust me, it didn't work!)

I picked out those stitches and. . .

. . . Scratched my head a bit.


cross stitched hummingbird quilted wall hanging






Then I caught a view of this book from the corner of my eye, Joyful Stitching (aff.) by Laura Wasilowski. I bought it from Laura last fall.

I think I might find some inspiration here to fill in that negative space and de-puffify it a bit.


Joyful Stitching book by Laura Wasilowski #quiltinspiration


Sometimes, it's nice to justify a little chaos in the sewing room - things don't grab your attention when everything is put away neatly! (*wink!*)

I can't wait to thumb through the pages and get inspired.

Stay tuned! . . So many balls in the air! Or quilts on deck, as it were.

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Table Tease

You know, I keep talking about these bird blocks from The FLOCK, and they're really cool (I think they are, anyway), but they're even cooler when they become something.

This week, I decided to do just that - make something from four of the blocks from The FLOCK.


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


Now, before you say, 'oh, boy' here we go again with all The FLOCK stuff. (I realize that I can go on and on all day about these birdies - by now, you must know I'm kinda bird crazy!) HOWEVER, what I'm doing here could be applied to ANY 8" (finished-size) four-block collection.

I started out, not really knowing where I was going to end up. (I love those kinds of journeys!)



So I went to my stash, and picked out a focus print and four, make that five - I keep forgetting the cream - solid-reading fabrics that coordinate with the focus.


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


I kinda think that part (the fabric selection) is pretty key. Generally speaking, yes, the focus print goes with the four bird blocks that I selected. But I kinda ignored the birds when I pulled the fabrics. Another important factor, I chose a print that was 'noisy' but not so noisy as to steal the thunder from my detailed pieced blocks.

My mindset for the fabric pull: birds go with whatever environment they fly into. Sure, some blend into their surroundings, but not all (think cardinal on a winter day). If I were making this with non-bird blocks, I might pay a little more attention to the block coloring, but maybe not.

As stated, I'm not really sure where I'm going to end up, so my choices may wind up being a mistake. But I don't think so.

I want to keep the construction pretty simple. So I'm adding some skinny borders to the four blocks.

I pulled out my BlocLoc Log Cabin trimmers - the 1/2" and 1" trimmer and the 3/4" and 1-1/2" trimmer. While they aren't necessary for making this project, these are fun to use, and I like to have fun when I making stuff.


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


I've used these tools before on the cruise quilt I created last year called Water Logged. And I used the smallest size trimmer for my holiday card-stuffers in 2017.

What I like about these log cabin trimmers - they have that same seam allowance groove on the bottom of the ruler that the BlocLoc Half-Square Triangle trimmer has (my favoritest HST trimming tool)


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


To use the log cabin trimmer, I cut the strips a little larger than needed. For a 1-inch finished border or log, I cut the strip 1-5/8" wide instead of 1-1/2". And maybe about 1/2" longer than needed to have a little extra on each end.

Then I centered and sewed the strip to the block as normal. (I'm a serious pinner when adding strips to things)


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


Next, I pressed the seam toward the newly added strip. Chose the tool and the side of the tool that to trim to the desired measurement. Each trimmer trims two different sized logs.

I trimmed the end (on the right in the picture below). . .


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


.  . . then across the top. Nice thing here is that the ruler is shorter than the block, but that doesn't matter, I just slid the ruler along the seam, making sure the groove continues to lock in to the seam allowance lump.

Slide and trim, slide and trim, until I reached the end.

(Yah, ignore the fact that I put the rotary cutter down with the blade open - bad! bad! bad!)


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


Then I rotated the block so I'm not cutting at an unnatural angle, and trimmed that last bit on the end.


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


I kept adding strips until all the blocks had three borders, an inner one that finishes to 3/4" wide, a middle 1/2" finished border and an outer 1" finished border. I alternated the solid fabric with the focus print on each block, and I used a different solid on each block.

I like the way the print fabric almost feels layered.


Pieced bird quilt blocks and fabric for a table topper


And that's as far as I got. . . More to come as it develops. Stay tuned!

Happy Stitching!
Joan 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Wishy, Washy

Last week I showed the steps I took to turn this cross-stitched daisy on linen into a non-conforming sized pillow. At the end of the article, I questioned, pensively how this might survive a washing.

This week, I decided to put my speculation to a test.


Daisy Cross stitch embroidery Pillow


Several years ago, I made a wall-hanging quilt from a cross-stitched piece that featured tulips. I finished the stitchin, added quilting cotton borders, quilted the piece by hand and hung it up.

About a year ago, two gregarious conures (birds) joined our household, and their cage was placed nearby.


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


Woodstock and Doodle (the conures) have lots of chew-toys to keep them busy, but hey prefer to chew things other than their toys, sometimes, like quilts.  That little nibble on the back of the quilt is their handiwork.

I took the quilt down, and laid it nearby where it got dirty. but I've been afraid to wash it because (1) the chew spot, and (2) since this was made from linen/quilting fabrics, I wasn't sure how it would survive a toss in the drink! 

With the pillow raising similar questions, I decided that I found my test case.

First, I washed the quilt as I would one of my hand-made wool sweaters. Filled the basin with cold water and mild detergent (I used Soak Wash, in this case). Let the quilt sit in the cold water for a bit, to let the Soak Wash do its thing, rinsed a couple times with clear, cold water, then threw it in the washer for the spin cycle.


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


Hmm. Pretty good!

The quilt crumpled a little, but I was really expecting the linen to react differently, more specifically, to shrink at a significantly different rate than the rest of the quilt.

That didn't happen.

Excellent!


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


But not done.

What if this was high-traffic quilt like a child's quilt that would get used a lot. Nobody wants to hand wash a kid-quilt, even if it's a special one, I'd guess.

With wild abandon, I threw the quilt straight in the washing machine for Test #2.


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


I treated this like I would treat any other hand-quilted quilt that I've made. Added regular laundry detergent. Set the machine to the delicate cycle and one rinse.

For its first washing, for almost any quilt, I add a color-catching cloth. I was pretty confident that the DMC threads used for the stitching was colorfast, but I threw in the cloth anyway for this inaugural wash.

And then I hit 'go'


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


When I came back, to my delighted surprise, the quilt was in just as good condition as after the hand-washing.

Better in fact, because some of the dirt didn't come completely off with the hand washing and it did with the machine bath.

It laid flat with a little reshaping, but, it was still wet, It went through the spin cycle, but not the dryer. . .


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


As long as I was on a roll, if this was going to be a true test, the quilt had to go in the dryer.

Again, I used settings that wouldn't be unusual for me to use on any of my quilts. Low temperature, and about 20 minutes for this size. If it was a larger quilt, I'd probably set the timer for a longer amount of time, 30-45 minute intervals, checking the quilt in between.


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


And this is where things fell apart. . . . sorta. 

Although not 100% crispy dry, the quilt was still just a hair damp, but it was really wrinkly.

However, on closer inspection, the linen really didn't shrink. The quilt did have that crinkly texture that is pretty typical of a just-washed quilt.



How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


Since this is a small piece, I put it face down on my big board ironing surface and gave it a quick, lightly steamed pressing.

And it was just like new. Maybe a little bit out of shape, but not noticeably so. Certainly not unevenly 'shrunk.'

The chewed spot frayed a little, but since it's on the back, no one would ever see it hanging on the wall.


How to wash a quilt with cross stitch embroidery on linen


A couple additional observations/recommendations:


  • I enjoy doing stitching sometimes, but I really enjoy when I can turn those stitcheries into something besides framed work. As a quilter, turning the stitchery into quilts is a really nice option for me, and I like that it seemed to survive washing quite well.
  • Granted, I didn't put this to a rigorous test, like hot water wash and dry. But then, I would never hot water wash and dry any quilt. So this felt like a reasonable test, but not a rigorous one. If I were to gift this to someone, I might include washing instructions on the label to ensure a better chance for laundering success if this piece were to leave my hands.
  • DMC thread has a reputation to be colorfast, however, I think I would still take the precaution of adding a color catching sheet in the washer. I'd be much more leery about washing a piece that incorporates hand-dyed threads without testing the thread for colorfast-ness.
  • Linen is a lower thread count than quilting cotton, so I take a couple of extra precautions when I make a quilt with stitchery in the mix. First, if I'm piecing the linen into the quilt (like the tulips), I trim the stitchery anticipating using a regular 1/4" seam, but each seam involving the stitching has a zig-zag stitch added to the seam allowance before the seam is pressed. In the case of the pillow, since the quilting cotton was appliqued onto the linen, I left the entire linen fabric in tact including the zigzag I placed around the perimeter of the linen at the beginning of the stitching to keep it (the linen) from fraying. Additionally, especially if this quilt has higher use potential, I add another layer of a neutral fabric (matching the linen color) between the stitchery later and the batting to keep the batting from migrating/bearding over use and multiple washing.

I like that this test gives me a bit more confidence and few more options when incorporating stitching on linen into quilts.

 . . . And I was entirely prepared that my tulip quilt would be ruined as a result of this test. I'm glad it wasn't. I consider that a bonus!

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Daisy, Daisy . . .

Months ago, like last summer, I started this daisy cross stitch that I found in a magazine. (June 2018 issue of Just Cross Stitch)

The stitching was a little more challenging than the average bear - there are several different (but similar) whites that make up the petals. Likewise with the greens for the leaves and stem.


Daisy cross stitch embroidery pillow


Once it was finished I set it aside, but not too far aside, on my work table to wait for inspiration.

The thing with cross stitch, for me, anyway, is that I enjoy the stitching, but it seems the common conclusion to many a cross-stitch piece is to frame it and hang it on the wall.

As a quilter, I have recently been looking for ways to finish these pieces in ways that combine both loves - stitchy and quilty.

The Daisy finally answered, and 'whispered to me' that it wanted to become a throw pillow.

I could have just slapped a fabric border on it, but I've been working on a technique to border some of my cross stitch pieces with both fabric and stitching.

The stitchy border is added first, involving a bit of math so the daisy is centered within the border, and the border actually connects nicely.

At this point (shown), it's apparent that all the math and counted stitching actually paid off as the nearly-sewn border on the left matches the stitchy start point on the bottom.


Daisy cross stitch embroidery pillow


The next steps involve a fairly detailed process to baste a full piece of fabric to the top of the stitchery, then cut away the fabric to expose both the daisy and the border. I haven't quite perfected the process, and made a critical error that had to be fixed with a quick patch-up job.

Once the borders are appliqued onto the stitchery, I added a layer of neutral fabric directly underneath the stitching and as backing, then added batting in between the two neutral fabric layers. I then pin-basted and did a little machine quilting.

I suppose I could have skipped the backing, since this pillow is odd-shaped and won't have a pillow form inside.


Daisy cross stitch embroidery pillow


I added the layer of fabric between the stitchery and batting because the linen is not a high-enough thread count, I feared, to keep the batting inside over its life.

Then, I machine quilted the pillow top, and trimmed the edge about 3" away from the stitchery border all the way around the perimeter.


Daisy cross stitch embroidery pillow


The beauty of both the pillow top border fabric and the pillow backing is that the size was perfect for a couple of fat quarters. My stash appreciated the tiny fabric savings withdrawal.

You know the rest of this drill, right? Pillow top, backing placed right sides together and pinned around the perimeter.


Daisy cross stitch embroidery pillow


Then sewn, leaving an opening, about 3-4" long, at the bottom of the pillow.


Next, I turned the pillow right side out, and stuffed it to the gizzards with fiber fill.


Daisy cross stitch embroidery pillow


All that remains is to close the opening with some ladder stitches.



And Ta-DA!

The pillow is complete. Can you tell where my boo-boo patch is?

Betcha can't!



Daisy cross stitch quilted pillow


I wonder how well this will survive laundering. Must do more testing, but maybe not with this detailed daisy stitchery! At least not right away. 

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A Syracuse Classic

Earlier this week, I headed out for an evening meeting in Liverpool, NY - just the other side of town from my home.

I got busy on a project at my desk and didn't have time to fix a quick dinner before the meeting. On the way, I thought, all I really want is a hot dog and BANG! There was the solution. Heid's!



Every small town or city in America has one of those classic restaurants - that city's claim-to-fame. And around here, that's Heid's. At least for me it is.

Sure, we have world-famous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and Pastabilities with their delicious Hot Tomato Oil (aka Hot Tom) sauce that you can now buy in the grocery store. But when I was a kid, a quick family meal often meant a trip to Heid's, any time of year, but especially in the summer time.

Not so much this time of year, but all summer long, you know it's meal time because there's a line out the door at Heid's.

The sidewalk at the entrance tells you exactly where to stand and wait patiently for your turn to order.




In the summer, you can skip the 'tube steaks' and head over to the ice cream bar, if you wish! Long lines there, too!

Just inside the door, you place your order for the extras, like soft drinks, chips or fries, and salads. And chocolate milk! I know that may sound yucky, but chocolate milk and a Heid's Hot Dog *screams* comfort food and good memories to me!



You move on down the counter and place your grill order. That grill hasn't changed one bit since the place opened in 1917! I swear that that there's grease on the grill from opening day - which is what makes the perfectly-cooked Franks and Coney's taste so good, in my humble opinion!



Don't look for hamburgers, Heid's is all about the Hoffman German Franks and spicy Coneys. Yeah, they have other things like chicken fingers and grilled steak sandwiches. But Heid's and Hot Dogs are synonymous! Hot dogs and Coneys (also known as white hots in some places)

My order is up almost immediately - my favorite is the mixed double - one of each, a Frank and a Coney - in a miniature-loaf-of-bread roll.

Further down the counter, you can add your favorite condiments. I like sweet relish and ketchup - but for Heid's purists, this is an absolute no-no!



Back in the day (this is going back quite a few 'days'), ketchup was no where to be found at Heid's! If you wanted it, you had to bring your own, and eat in the car--did that plenty of times! Over the years, the ketchup has been added to the condiment selection, and it's standard fare.

When you place your order, short hand is written in grease pencil on your paper plate/wrapper. MD=Mixed Double, DF=Double Frank, etc.

Those grease-pencil letters are kinda where the experience starts. . .and ends as memories disappear into your tummy!



Why ramble on and get excited over a couple of hot dogs? . . . You know, sometimes it's not about the food (although it helps!), it's the experience. Just like with quilts - it's not about the quilt - it's about the joy of making and creating and giving that really makes a quilt different from a ready-made store-bought blanket. 

As I looked around Heid's small dining room while I gulped fast so I wasn't late for my meeting, I saw diverse families talking, laughing, and enjoying a simple old-fashioned meal - and it made me smile. 

What is your town's classic comfort food that brings back memories for you?

Happy Stitching!
Joan

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Stitchin' Workin' Creatin'

I've been a busy bee this week. It has been cold outside, so the motivation to find an indoor sport has been pretty strong. Stitching has made it to the top of that short list!

Just before heading out for the quilt cruise a couple weeks ago, I spent the day with some friends in Florida; we made a stop at the Cross Stitch Cupboard in Fort Lauderdale.


A really cute little store! I picked up this Elephant Biscornu pattern by Jody Rice of Satsuma Street and floss while at the shop. I started stitching the biscornu panels on board the ship during some quiet time between classes or as I settled in for the evening. I finished the side stitching to put it all together a couple days ago. Cute, huh?

I'm also working on this cross stitch pattern series by Erica Michaels. Each small panel (about 4" square) features a letter of the alphabet. As you can see, I have 25 letters left. Rather than make this completely stitchy, I'm attempting to cross over with a quilty-stitchy project when all is said and done.



But, as I say, there are quite a few letters between today and done. Tally ho!

I used the same border technique on the little Valentine-y wall hanging that I showed you last week and that now hangs in my front entry way for February. The center stitching was inspired by this book (affiliate). The rose wreath is one tiny section of a larger floral pattern in the book.




And in the sewing room, I'm doing Facebook Live videos roughly once a week with FLOCK sewing tips for members of The FLOCK Quilters group - you have to be a member of The FLOCK or The FLOCK Lite to be in the group.

This small ad hoc wall-hanging project features the September bird kit - the European Robin - and a  Pine Cone machine applique pattern (a past FLOCK bonus pattern/kit). It was this week's featured project.



Individual FLOCK block kits are now available to purchase HERE. Much better deal if you join The FLOCK and get access to member pricing on current and past block kits and lots of extras. You can learn more about joining The FLOCK HERE.

Back in the office - it's not all fun and stitches around here - I'm fighting hard to reacquaint myself with the surface of my desk. But that means first working on some accounting (it's tax season, after all) and some new creative projects including upcoming bird blocks and quilt cruise patterns.

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!

That's my week in a nutshell! What about you? Are you tangled happily in threads this week?

Happy Stitching!
Joan



Thursday, February 7, 2019

Stitchin' of the Sea

As you may be aware, I was out of town last week. I joined the Stitchin Heaven Travel crew to teach on a quilt cruise to the Western Caribbean. It was incredibly fortuitous timing to be floating around in the Caribbean when the temperatures reached record lows back home. Sometimes this job can be pretty darn excellent!



Once on board the Royal Caribbean ship, Harmony of the Seas, it seemed like hints of quilts were everywhere.

Is it me, or is that the beginning of a double wedding ring quilt in the hallway carpet pattern?



We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I opted to stay in my room and have mine delivered. Fresh fruit pastries anyone?


Quite the morning view as we arrive in our first port - Labadee, Haiti.



Labadee is purely a beach stop. Local Haitians have some small pop-up crafty shops on the island, but the best bet is to pull up a lounge chair in the sun or the shade, enjoy a barbeque lunch, and relax. . . .


The view from my lounge chair! Sweet!



Back on the ship, I elected to have some fresh pasta from the pasta bar in one of the ship's dining facilities. Steaming, delicious pasta with an ocean view. Can't beat that. . . .



And it's very important to stay well hydrated when you are away from home!



Tons of excursions offer the sights, sounds, and tastes of each country we visit. If you opt out of the excursions or have a little extra time before getting back on board, exquisite and unique shopping opportunities are available, too! Falmouth, Jamaica, and Cozumel, Mexico shops offered color, tradition, and a little something for Super Bowl fans as the big game approached.



 


The whole point of a quilt cruise is that we actually do some QUILTING! The conference room is all ours for the duration of the cruise. I stepped in as a replacement for a teacher who had a scheduling conflict. And you know that I took the opportunity to turn a matchy-matchy quilt pattern into something scrappy-scrappy! A special Welcome to the folks from the cruise who are now reading this edition of Good Migrations!






Back in my cabin, my cabin mate settled in with a bit of TV while I was off teaching quilt classes.

(Hey! Those look a lot like MY sunglasses!).




After teaching class, and in between port stops, I took advantage of some stitching opportunities. This little Valentine's cross stitch piece (only about 8" square with borders) is something different I'm trying - to incorporate two of my stitchy loves - charted stitching (cross stitch, in this case) and quilting.



All too soon, the sun sets on our travels and we're headed back to port and back home to the deep chill.



Just a reminder, I've got another cruise on the calendar with Quilt Retreat at Sea! I'm headed to Hawaii  in April 2020, and I'm creating a brand new quilt project just for the trip. Space is limited and it's filling up.

Do you want these to be your quilty vacation photos next year? Sign up (call 210-858-6399 or click here) and join me at the port in Seattle! We'll head out to Hawaii from there and have a marvelous time! I promise!

Happy Stitching!
Joan