Friday, December 12, 2014

Remembering Bandit (2002-2014)

Two women’s best friend died this week. Bandit brought joy to our lives, especially to my daughter and me.
Andrée and daughter with Bandit
Adopting Bandit

Bandit was a rescue dog from Florida. Apparently there are a lot of cocker spaniels in Florida and so older dogs have more difficulty getting adopted. Bandit obviously had some wonderful owners in Florida. He was generally well trained and confident…sometimes a little too much!

Bandit's two moms
Two mothers
This is my daughter and I adopting Bandit in January 2012. We got him from a wonderful foster mom. Thanks Margaret for all of your support! Although I had a dog growing up, he wasn't my responsibility so it was a steep learning curve. We also had a good coach in Jane Madigan of Inspired K9s.

Bandit in Northern Ontario
Bandit in Northern Ontario
Within a month of moving in, Bandit went on his first road trip to Northern Ontario to my grandmother’s funeral. For a Florida dog, he sure loved snow, especially when he discovered that he could eat it all! He had no problems adapting to the cold and the snow. He was also wonderful in the hotel room. A perfect gentleman.
A confident Bandit on his pink and brown quilt
A confident Bandit on his pink and brown quilt

Of course as soon he moved in he got his first quilt. He would lie down on the couch on his pink and brown quilt. No doubt about it, he was a confident cocker!

Bandit and Twix on the quilt
Bandit and Twix

Bandit on his new quilt
Bandit has his own quilt
Bandit was often in my room when I was quilting. Here he is with his cousin Twix (my brother’s dog). They both wanted to be there as I was binding the quilt before my brother and his family moved to Denmark.

Finally, Bandit got a quilt made just for him. I had a great time shopping for fabric in Philadelphia last fall. I also got to practice my free motion quilting.

Last Christmas I made mug rugs for my colleagues. Since I worked late into the evening, Bandit made himself at home in my Christmas stash. What a sweetheart.
Bandit nesting in the Christmas fabric stash
Bandit in the Christmas stash

This is one of the last photos of Bandit. He was quite sick and lost a lot of weight. He still loved to hang around with me when I was quilting. I think that one evening he decided that he wanted attention – lying down on my sewing machine pedal did the trick!

Thank you so much Bandit for your love. You are truly missed.

Bandit sleeping on my sewing machine pedal
Bandit wants attention
What I learned:
  • It turns out that having a healthy pancreas is important :-(
  • Unconditional love is rare and precious.
  • It's almost more upsetting that it hurts less as time goes by.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Projects Update

December is here! Somehow it always sneaks up on me. Today it feels like fall is finished and winter is on its way. That’s tough because I haven't started my winter door hanging yet…. Although it feels like there is never enough time to quilt, I did get ahead on a few projects, and even managed to finish one!
Orange Peel update

Orange Peel Quilt-along Update

In my last Orange Peel related post, I had finished 29 of my original 36 peels. I had purchased more Tula Pink fabrics and needed more background fabric. Since I wasn't sure which “white” fabric I was using, I ordered a meter of two whites and one neutral. For the record, I’m using the Kona White. Of course, I've now used up my meter and ordered more at Mad About Patchwork…. Got it yesterday. It’ll be in the wash tonight!

Three weeks late, I added an update to the bottom of my original post. By then, I had started cutting and preparing more peels, from both the original and the new Tula Pink fabrics.

Peel chart
Here are the latest numbers:
  • 68 finished peel blocks
  • 21 basted peels
  • 14 peels ready to baste (I got energetic after I took the picture
Now that I have 144 peels to complete (instead of 36), I’ve prepared a charts to keep me on track and motivated. I get to add a check mark whenever I finish a peel block.

What I've learned:
  • Might be a good idea to plan ahead…..does that sound familiar? It’s not a lesson I’ve assimilated yet!
  • My second batch of peels weren’t as precise as the first batch (i.e. the points aren’t as pointy!) I’m now being more careful about the points. They are much better this time around.
Re-quilting a Batik Runner

A few years ago I fell in love with a pattern for a runner. It was from 'tis the Season by Mount Redoubt Designs. In my head, I had a vision of a beautiful runner in batiks. I completed the runner (without the appliqués) but wasn't really impressed with the result. I used beautiful batiks but it just didn't do anything for me. At the time, I was also very new at machine quilting so the runner had very little quilting.

Centre quilting to highlight the flowers
Centre quilting to highlight the flowers
Since I've been re-quilting various projects, when I last came upon the runner in my linen closet, I took it out. I finally got around to FMQ it. What a difference it makes! I thought I had taken a picture of it when I originally finished it, but I guess I was so disappointed that I didn't.

I started by stitching each seam in the ditch. That was actually a real improvement. I had created this runner around the middle fabric – which has daisy shapes painted on in different colours. I was able to quilt around the daisy shapes and make them stand out. I left the pink blocks around them un-quilted to highlight the daisy blocks.

A rounded feather for a corner triangle
A rounded feather for a corner triangle
I FMQ the light fabric at the ends of the runner with a feathered heart. I wasn't quite brave enough to quilt it free-hand so I drew it on and then sort of followed the pattern. The pattern comes from Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs Volume 4 - Full-Size Patterns for Blocks and Borders by Mary M. Covey. It’s the Rounded Feather for a corner triangle.

For the light blue squares near the end, I FMQ flower designs within 4 squares and then quilted a smaller flower in the two remaining squares. The large flower pattern is from Eva A. Larkin's Free-Motion Quilting Made Easy. The design is a diagonal double loop. I used a simple design since anything fancy would not have shown against the batik background.
Finished re-quilted table runner
Finished re-quilted table runner

In the four on-point red squares next to the light blue squares, I just followed some of the lines that are within the fabric. Finally for the dark blue batik squares surrounding the centre piece, I FMQ a continuous-line lotus flower in each block.

I'm really happy with the result. FMQ has turned a drab table runner into one with pizzazz!

What I learned:

  • The second feathered heart came out much better than the first. I should have practiced it before quilting it on the runner.
  • When I FMQ free-hand, I always practice beforehand. However, when I use stencils or follow hand-drawn patterns, I tend to just “wing it” instead of practicing these new patterns. Invariably, my quilting always gets better with practice.
  • I really need to prepare some sandwiched fabric pieces to practice these patterns. I’ve used up all of my good practice sandwiches. I’ve learned that it’s important to use dull fabrics, otherwise I can’t see the FMQ on the busy fabrics. Let’s face it, the real problem is that I don’t want to use any of my fabric to practice on!
This post is linked to Fabric Tuesday - Quilt StoryAnything Goes Mondays and Needle and Thread Thursday. Check out these links.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Better Late Than Never! A Fall Door Hanging

I seem to be running behind on my seasons! I just finished my fall door hanging....and just put it up last night. It was too dark to see but I'm sure it'll be awesome in the daylight :-) I guess I'm not that late since there is still no snow on the ground and many of the Canada Geese are still hanging around.
The two foundation paper pieced blocks

I love these door hanging projects because I tend to create them from different blocks and then I challenge myself by putting them together, hopefully into a cohesive whole. They are also perfect for practicing my free motion quilting (FMQ).

This project is made up of four primary blocks:

  • two are foundation paper pieced; 
  • one is an appliqué; and 
  • the other is pieced.

The pieced basket
Appliquéd oak leaf
The two foundation paper pieced blocks are from a miniature collection that I've received through the Quilting by the Square's newsletter (both are from Month #4). I was intrigued by the Twisted Log Cabin. I love the mouvement within it. I couldn't make a fall project without some red maple leaves in it to represent Canada! I love the contrast between the bright yellow and the red.

The appliquéd oak leaf is a block from "Turning Leaves", from the September/October 2002 issue of Quiltmaker. I really wanted to incorporate the black leaf fabric but didn't want it to overwhelm the hanging. I think that it contrasts well with the basket weave type fabric in the other half of the block.

I also found some tiny bits of apple fabric that I had to somehow incorporate. I thought that the basket block would be the best place for it. The basket comes from "Bounty of Baskets" quilt by Betsy Chutchian. The quilt is in the June 2012 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting. I also wanted to add something within the basket. The free motion quilted plant looks better in person than on the photo. I added some emphasis by quilting several times within some parts of it. The design is from Mary M. Covey's Follow-the-Line Quilting Designs, Volume 4.

Fall Door Hanging
Since the door hanging represents fall, I included flying geese borders that are heading both south and east. Even if the Canada Geese are still here, they are bound to leave soon. I love the sound of they make in the spring, but I find it sad in the fall!

I had a great time quilting the project. As Cindy Needham's Design it, Quilt it: Free-Form Techniques suggests in , I "stitched in the ditch most of the stinking seams". That helps me get into the groove of FMQ and stabilizes the project at the same time. Since I wanted some consistency within the quilting, I chose to use an oak leaf with a nut in most of the brown solid spaces. As Cindy suggests, I let my quilted design go outside of the area. This gives the quilt more depth.
I added mouvement to the quilt by emphasizing the direction of the flying geese with some dot-to-dot quilting. That helps the eyes follow the direction of the blocks.

This door hanging is less densely quilted than my spring and summer door hangings. This was done intentionally to highlight the leaf and nut FMQ. I really like the balance of empty space and quilted space.

On the door before the snow!
What I learned:
  • I keep forgetting that stitching-in-the-ditch is really effective and almost invisible when done with thread that blends in, such as Superior Thread's Bottom Line. I almost always use this in the bobbin when FMQ but I forget how versatile it is. 
  • I bought some shiny light Madeira polyester thread (Polyneon No. 40) last week. It's more than eye candy - I used three shades of gold/brown on the FMQ of the oak leaf with a nut pattern. I then used a couple of shades of green on the plant within the basket.
  • My other two door hangings had our family name embroidered within it. I prefer more anonymity so my daughter suggested I add the house number instead. What a great idea.
  • What's next? Should I make a winter and/or Christmas door hanging before spring?
I've linked my post to a couple of websites. Have a look at what everyone else is doing!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Appliquéd in China

I'm back from an amazing 24 days in China - what a trip! It was wonderful, exotic and exhausting.

Orange Peel Quilt-along
I had brought two projects with me to work on. The first one, that I wrote about in my last post, didn't get touched. Maybe it was the heat that made working with wool totally uninteresting. I did however bring an appliqué project that was perfect for the trip, even if I only got to it a few times. Just before leaving, I joined Julie's Orange Peel Quilt-Along at Button Button.

From Tula Pink's Fox Field collection
Since I had a million things to organize before leaving, I chose coordinating fabrics from Tula Pink's Fox Field. I originally bought a package of fat quarters at our guild's quilt show at the Mad about Patchwork booth. I fell in love with the large pink polka dots with random bunnies.

The background fabric is one of the white's from Kona Cottons. Before I left on my trip, I ordered more fabric from the Fox Field collection - in case I decided to make a larger quilt. I'm not sure which white I used as the background, so I guess I'll have to order a variety and keep the others for future projects.

Julie's instructions are clear and contain some good hints. Since the appliqué pieces would be travelling, I followed her instructions by cutting the orange peels from freezer paper templates and adding the 1\4 inch seam allowance. I ironed the seam allowance before leaving and then as soon as I got to Beijing, I basted each of the orange peels. This ensured that each peel was ready to appliqué, even if they got battered a little in my luggage.

The peels are quite large, so it was really nice to appliqué.  After appliquéing a few, I figured out that for me, it worked best when I was sewing counter-clockwise.

I posted a picture of my fabrics before I left for China but wasn't able to access anything other than email while on my trip. I took a picture of my work-in-progress while cruising on the Yangtze River. I posted my progress on the second check-in, once I returned.

I originally prepared 36 orange peels to make a wall quilt, but I definitely want to make a larger quilt, now that I have the "orange peel bug". Of the 36 peels, I only have 7 more to appliqué. After that, I'll have to order more white Kona fabric and start cutting more orange peels from the left over fat quarters and from the two new fabrics I got from the collection.

Taken on the Yangtze River Cruise
What I learned:

  • I thought I would be able to appliqué while on the plane or the bus, but that didn't work out. It was just too cramped.
  • Basting and appliquéing in the evenings, when not too tired, worked out well, especially when relaxing during the cruise.
  • The project traveled really well and required only the fabric, scissors, needles, a couple of pins and the thread.
  • I love the size of the orange peels. They are large enough that it makes the appliquéing quite easy. Who knows, maybe one day I'll be brave enough to tackle smaller projects!
  • I really missed sewing and quilting during my trip. Twenty four days is a long time to go without. I was glad to have this project with me since lugging a sewing machine across China just wasn't feasible!
  • It's great to be home :-) Travelling makes me very grateful for all that I have.

Update - November 13, 2014
Adding to the fabrics

I have started cutting and preparing more appliques to make a larger quilt. I have added two more fabrics from Tula Pink's fabric line. They are so cool!!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Travelling with an UnFinished Object (UFO)

This summer didn't yield as many finished projects as I would have hoped, but it sure was a creative one based on the projects that I started and worked on.

One revived UFO was an art quilt that I started in 2010. I took a class at Quilty Pleasures on creating an art quilt. When the teacher saw the picture that I wanted my project to be based on, her comment was:"That is very ambitious". That really should have been my first clue!
Photo of Lightning at Ayers Rock From Time Nature's Wonders

Since that photo was what I had brought, it's what I worked on. The photo is of Ayers Rock in Australia. It reminded me of the south-west of the US, which we had recently visited. Since I'm the author of my project, it's now the South-West Rock art quilt.

Creating the sky and the rock itself wasn't really difficult. The ambitious part is all of the scruffy landscape in front of it. I started working on it but it was beyond my ability, so I left it. However, every time that I would see embroideries or art quilts that resembled my foreground; I took mental notes of how I could accomplish this.

Four years later, I'm back at it. Since the beginning of the project, I've learned a few things:

  • When working on an art quilt, you want to start with the back and move forward so that you can layer and add to it;
  • You don't have to add one blade of grass, bush or flower at a time. It's possible, and probably best to give the illusion of many blades of grass etc. This is where the couching stitch comes in handy. It's essentially tacking on a thicker thread (like wool) with another thread. If you use interesting wool, it can look like many bushes or patches of vegetation.

I took out the project because I wanted embroidery work to do during very long car trips. It's amazing how quickly time flies when you embroider! Actually the first time I embroidered in the car, we were heading to North and South Dakota. It's great that this project is a result of those wonderful car trips and that I'm working on it on other trips.

I got about half of the foreground completed going back and forth to Northern Ontario this summer. I'll be working on it during my next trip - which is to China! Between the 15 hour flight and the various buses, I'm hoping to have the project finished by the time I come home.

South-West Rock Art Quilt - only the foreground and lightning to finish!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Re-quilting a Door Hanging

About 3 years ago I made my first door hanging. I wanted something on the door that wasn't a wreath - it was either make something or repaint the door (in other words, a no-brainer!) I started with four different panels and incorporated various elements from magazines etc. I found some lovely appliqué of flowers and a Canada goose, so I decided to work around these.

Since the hanging would be used in the summer, I chose a white background and lighter colours. The bottom-left panel had the flowers appliqué while the top-right had the Canada goose. I made a block for each of the other panels. The bottom panel had a basket block with flower fabric while the top block was a star with evening colours. I added a star above the goose and embroidered our last name underneath it (I didn't want anyone leaving with it!)

Original quilting
Original quilting
That was the extent of my door hanging. I had very little experience machine quilting so I did a little bit of stitch in the ditch and a few wavy lines here and there and called it done.

When I made that first door hanging, my intention was to have one for each season. This summer I finished my second, spring door hanging. I had learned many lessons about door hangings by then, so it wasn't white, but rather bright pink, green and orange. Nothing calm about that one!

As I've mentioned in my last post, the quilting I do depends a lot on the amount of energy I have in the evenings and on weekends. Low energy this summer has meant that I have watched many Craftsy courses. The one that has inspired me the most lately has been Cindy Needham's Design it, Quilt it: Free-Form Techniques. Since I'm always looking for projects to practice my free motion quilting (FMQ) on, I took out that first door hanging. I had nothing to loose. That door hanging had served me well for two years, so if I messed it up, it wasn't the end of the world.
Stencil for the basket
Stencil for the basket

I really wish I had taken a before picture. In the photo above, the lines represent roughly the original quilting. As you can see, it was pretty sparse - I just didn't know what to quilt.

In the re-quilting, I started with stencils. I used a border flower stencil for the bottom-left side. I added a flower stencil on the basket and then a sun, two stars, a fleur-de-lys and a diamond pattern in the top-right.

Here is some of the FMQ I did:
FMQ using stencils, lines, echoing and swirls
FMQ using stencils, lines, echoing and swirls

  • I added echoing around the flowers, dragonfly, the Canada goose and the star. They had already been bordered but the echoing is much more effective. 
  • I worked with the original straight lines above the flowers and added more. 
  • Swirls were added around the basket as well as to the left of the Canada goose.
  • I scribbled in the white triangles and squares within the basket as well as around the embroidery. That provided lovely contrast.

That filled in most of the space. I really didn't know what to do with the rest of the background, so I watched the Background chapter of Cindy Needham's video once more. I figured out that I had to block off the areas that were still blank and work each one separately. Breaking down the area really helped.
FMQ pebbles within S curves and Dot-to-Dot quilting
FMQ pebbles within S curves and Dot-to-Dot quilting

I also practiced drawing the swirls and the pebbles a lot, so that by the time I started FMQ, my hand muscles knew exactly what to do. As Cindy suggested, I also used my fingertips to guide the FMQ - that was extremely helpful.

For the star block on the top-left, I used that trusty dot-to-dot from Angela Walter's Dot-to-Dot quilting technique. I didn't want to distract from the design, especially for the windmill in the middle of the block.
Re-quilted door hanging
Re-quilted door hanging

What I learned:

  • I thought that I would really dislike making repetitive designs such as swirls and pebbles. It was very tedious before I got the motion down, but after that, it was really enjoyable and very Zen. Not at all what I was expecting!
  • A WHITE door hanging is NOT a good idea. I knew that it would be subject to the elements, but I didn't realise that it might blow away and land in the garden. Darker or brighter colours are much better suited to door hangings.
  • I am very happy with the results. The only thing I would do differently the next time is to plan out the stencils a little more. Most were fine, but I overdid it in the top-right panel.   
  • Cindy Needham says that we should have movement, depth, and light and shadow in our quilting. I think I'm getting there.
I shared this post at Sarah's blog, Confessions of a Fabric Addict for her Whoop Whoop party! and Link-A-Finish Friday with Richard and Tanya Quilts. Check out the fun.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Advancing a Low Energy Project

Isn't it frustrating when life gets in the way of quilting, especially when it's... the work part of your life? At those time, I have to remind myself that:
  • quilting is not a competition or a race; 
  • if I don't have the energy to quilt, it's best not to (cause then I spend my  time "unsewing"!); and
  • sometimes work can even be creative and rewarding! 
Anyone who knows me will probably think that I'm being sarcastic in the last point, but I'm not! In my other life, I occasionally get to be creative and this week was the launch of an elearning tool I developed. It's still in "pilot" mode, but it's my baby out there - as much as all the quilts I create are my babies!
New E-Learning Tool

This project has a lot of similarities to many of my quilting projects: I started it over a year ago; it's evolved in so many ways; at times I didn't think I would ever work through the challenges, or would ever get it "right or good enough"; but it's finally out there!

Just for the heck of it, here's a picture of the tool, even if I've removed our organisational identifiers. If anyone is interested in learning more about the design part of the project (and what I learned), I'll be writing a post about it in my Learning & Design blog.When it's done, I'll link to it.

So, all of this intro to say that I did get a little bit of quilting done, but not as much as I would have liked. Here's a WIP (work in progress) that I want to post for Needle and Thread Thursday at Kelly's My Quilt Infatuation. Check out the lovely quilts linked to her blog.

When my energy is low, I can sew simple things together. This is what I did!
How I cut the stips

I started this project about 2 years ago. It was the other half of my Scrap Happy Quilt project. When I started it, the only way my mind could get around creating the triangles required for this quilt was to create a square of strip fabrics and then cut the square into 4 triangles (just like you do to make half or quarter triangles - see picture). I now realise that I could have made strip rectangles  and then used a triangle-ruler to cut the strips. I just wasn't getting the concept at the time, so I made enough squares for two quilts!

The first quilt I made with these blocks were for my brother and his family. It's now in Denmark, on my niece's bed. As I re-read my post on that quilt, I could feel the frantic pace of getting the quilt finished before they left. Am I an amazing writer or was it just re-feeling the stress of trying to get it finished on time? (rhetorical question)
First Scrap Happy Quilt
First Scrap Happy Quilt 

Latest Scrap Happy Quilt
Latest Scrap Happy Quilt
So, a year after the first quilt made it to Denmark, I went back to the second quilt. You'll notice that the pattern is very different from the first one because in the first quilt, I used the vertical strips to make the blocks while in this quilt, the horizontal strips form the pattern for the block.

The second quilt is also a little bigger. I wanted it to fit on our double bed in the spare bedroom. After adding the three strips for the border, I tried it on the bed. Too bad it's not quilted, because it's the perfect size and it would have stayed there! 

Eventually a Lovely Warm Bed Quilt
I've decided to quilt this project using heavier batting. Generally I prefer very light weight batting - mostly because most of my quilts are lap quilts and they don't really need a lot of added weight or warmth. This quilt will be in the basement bedroom, where it's always a little cooler, perfect for a warmer and slightly heavier quilt to snuggle under.

What I learned:
  • I'm glad that I made two quilts out of these blocks, but it's not necessary and now that I know how to use a triangle ruler, it'll make creating these blocks much simpler.
  • The first quilt had a lovely backing, but it look a while longer to make. Since I would like to have this quilt on the bed before winter, I'm going to keep the backing and quilting simple so that I can quilt it quickly, without needing a huge amount of energy to tackle it!
  • Projects requiring low energy are fun and can also be lovely!
Linking party
I am linking this post to Sarah Goer Quilts' Show Me Something with Stripes. It would seem that this is the only striped quilt or piece that I've made!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Dropping off a quilt in Vancouver

I had the most amazing weekend. At the last minute my husband decided to visit his sick brother and so we flew from Ottawa to Vancouver for a long weekend. As you can imagine, my brother-in-law was so happy to see him. We were last there about 5 or 6 years ago with our children. This time it was a short and sweet visit with loved ones. We had a wonderful time reconnecting.
Jewel Tone Quilt after sewing-in-the-ditch

Several months ago, I decided that one of the quilts I've been working on would go to my brother-in-law and his family; Rob, Simone and Maddie. When I asked Simone a few years back about her quilt preferences, she mentioned jewel tones. This winter, as I'm getting ready to start quilting this piece that I had started in the winter of 2011, I realised that it was in jewel tones and the perfect quilt for them.

I had just emailed Simone that I would be finishing the quilt shortly and mailing it when we decided to visit. Thank goodness I only had to finish binding it!
Nine Patch Blocks
Nine Patch Blocks

As usual, this piece was quilted as a learning project for Cindy Needham's Design it, Quilt it: Free-Form Techniques course on Craftsy. I started quilting it as she advised - "stitch every stinking seam" and stitched most of the seams except for the 9 patch blocks. (See MakingProgress post.) I knew that I would be using a template to quilt motifs within them. Before taking Cindy's course, I would never have used a 7 inch template on a 6 inch square but the pattern going out of the square adds depth (and I didn't have to quilt the sashing!!!).

Details of the feathers and loops
Details of the feathers and loops

Quilt back
I considered quilting the border but since we ended up leaving for Vancouver (and honestly, after quilting 30 blocks, I was tired!) the borders are just stitched-in-the-ditch. Thank goodness for all that pre-work before the final quilting.

I love the feathers in this motif - even if I didn't realise that they were feathers until I was almost done. After I finished, I watched Cindy's next lesson on quilting feathers....I sure wish I had watched it BEFORE I quilted these. It would of helped.

The look on Maddie's face as she examined the quilt was priceless. She slept with the quilt while we were there. I had to make her promise that she would share the quilt with her mother and father, at least a little bit!

What I learned:

  • I had a little bit of tension problems with my red and blue threads. I changed my bobbin, needle and thread as well as adjusting the tension. I got it down to an acceptable level but I'm thinking that it might be time for a machine tune-up and cleaning. I've put a lot of mileage on my Jag since I got her.
  • Cindy has some great ideas for working on feathers - I can't wait to practice them.
  • It's very cool to quilt outside the box (of nine-patch)!
  • There is nothing in the world more wonderful to a quilter than giving a quilt that is going to be loved. Thanks Maddie!
This was posted on Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story. See what others are working on!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Trying new things

I'm not sure if other quilters feel this way, but I tend to stick to things that I know and feel comfortable making. Although I love to try new techniques, I often need extra energy and courage to start.

Block 2 - Amethyst
For example, most of the blocks that I've made to date for my Grandmother'sChoice quilt are pieced. For you non-quilters, a pieced block generally means that we cut the various pieces of fabric we need and then sew them together. The pieces are generally rectangles, squares or triangles in different sizes. We sew them together to make a specific pattern or block. If the pieces are other shapes, then we can trace the shape and make a template (although there are now fancy rulers to replace many templates).

Quilters will often have strong opinions about using templates. Until recently, as soon as I saw a template in a pattern, I skipped it! I was sure that cutting rectangles, squares or triangles was just much easier. Now I'm not so sure.
Block 33 - Contrary Husband

In my Grandmother's Choice quilt I consciously stayed away from anything with a template. However, there were a few blocks that I wanted to make that required templates, such as block 48 representing Canadian suffrage. So, I gave the template blocks a try. After all, they're only 8 inch blocks - if they don't turn out, I don't have to use them in the final quilt!

In my lastblog about Grandmother's Choice blocks, quite a few of the blocks were made using techniques other than straight piecing. Here are the blocks that I made using templates:
  • block 2 - Amethyst 
  • block 33 - Contrary Husband 
  • block 34 - Coffee Cup 
  • block 48 - Fair Play

Block 34 - Coffee Cup
Block 48 - Fair Play
They mostly turned out well. My favourites are the Amethyst and the Contrary Husband blocks. The Coffee Cup didn't turn out as well as I had hoped but it had nothing to do with the template but rather my choice of fabric. (I really have to listen to my instinct when I do these!)

The Fair Play block, representing Canadian suffrage, went well even if it had two challenges - templates and curves. I know I shouldn't be intimidated by curves since I've been sewing sleeves on clothing most of my life - but it's a little more intimidating on a block (mistakes show up more!)
Block 7 Alice's Flag

Another technique is the appliqué block. To date I've only done a few of these: 
  • block 7 - Alice's Flag 
  • block 21 - Parasol 
  • block 36 - Sunbonnet Sue

These blocks are more or less fine. Appliqué is just not my forte, but I will keep trying to get better! The good thing about appliqued blocks is that they will be quilted over, so that will help hide any little problems and keep them attached.
Block 36 - Sunbonnet Sue
Block 21 - Parasol

Since I LOVE paper piecing, I decided to see if I could convert a template block into a paper pieced block. First of all, I read a couple of articles by Carol Doak, the queen of paper piecing. The first article is Piecingon Paper - Converting Traditional Designs to Paper-Foundation Patterns. The second article is Piecing onPaper - Designing Your Own Blocks. Between these two articles and experience paper piecing, it was simple enough to do.
These are the two blocks that I converted to paper piecing
  • block 11 - Little Red Schoolhouse 
  • block 17 - Mother's Delight

Block 17 - Mother's Delight
For the Little Red Schoolhouse block, converting it to paper piecing was mostly a matter of figuring out where to separate the sections. The only adjustments I had to make were to cut up the side section of the sky into two parts.
Block 11 - Little Red Schoolhouse

I also had to add a border around the block since it was more like 7 inches. That was an error in photocopying the pattern.
Block 17 pattern and sample piece
Block 11 Paper Piecing Pattern
The Mother's Delight block looked easy enough but turned out to be very tricky to sew together. As you can see, I made a sample piece using scraps before trying the real thing. The tricky part was connecting the top part (A&B) to the bottom part (1,2,3,4). It involved what can either be called an inset or "Y" seam.

Those can be difficult to sew, but when I googled Y seam to make sure that this is what it's called; I found a great tutorial by JennyBeyer. I may go back and redo this block - it'll depend on how ambitious I feel when I get back to this project.

What I learned: 
  • Templates are not always difficult to use. I'll try to be a little more open to doing projects with them from now on. 
  • Appliques are still difficult! I guess I need more practice. 
  • I was really happy to convert those two blocks to foundation paper piecing. I think that for pieced blocks with many small pieces, paper piecing is a good option when possible. It was a good experience - now I know that I can do it. 
  • Next time, I might want to check out the internet tutorial BEFORE I finish the block.