Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Venus de Hilo is on the move...

Liv Friis-larsen -
Aloha everyone, I'm waving "see ya" -- to Blogger, that is. Venus de Hilo now has a site of her own, and I'll be blogging over there from now on.

A zillion thanks to the handful of kindred spirits who have been following the VdeH thing here; it's made my day every time I see someone else has joined up. My heartfelt apologies to those of you who discovered me so recently through the Blockapalooza thing. I hope you will forgive me for asking you to click on over to the new site and follow me there so soon after you went to the trouble to do so here.

I'd have moved you all over myself if I could, but that's beyond my technical skill and patience at surfing google and the WordPress forums for solutions. For your convenience I've set up Google Friend Connect in the sidebar at the new place, where you'll also see an RSS feed thingie up in the header for those who prefer that.

I've decided not to move these archives over, but I will be reposting pics of my fave projects and of course updating you on all the as-yet-unfinished stuff as I make progress on the WIPs/UFOs. There's room, too, for the handbags and home decor that occasionally amble out of the sewing room, and when I sew up something new to wear I'll show that off as well. Do expect more quilting, though, and less of the other stuff, than you've seen here if you've been following me for a while.

First up, Blockapalooza Block 15, which I made two ways. You can read all about that here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quilted Bark

Yesterday I finally got all set up (i.e., cleaned up the awful mess on my sewing table) and started to quilt the monochrome project for the Modern Quilt Guild challenge. Got all three "tree trunk" sections done in a free-motion pointy-swoopy kind of thing that I hope looks at least a little bit like tree bark:
Took these shots early this morning. At 7am the sun this time of year the sun shines straight in my office window from a low angle, which I thought would light things up so you can see the stitching. That's a section of the front on the left; stitching shows up better on the back (right)... glad I thought to snap that one, too.

It's taken me a long time to:
1) Get back into quiltmaking after a decade of focus on other things
2) Get a few tops from idea into "finished top" mode and ready to quilt
3) Try my hand at free-motion quilting

I won't claim to be any kind of master at this... what you can't see (I hope) in the pics is how unable I am to maintain anything approximating a regular stitch length. Moving the fabric under the needle, though, visualizing where I want the stitching to go and getting pretty-darned-close to the effect I'm aiming for... that's going better than I'd imagined. I feel like I have a knack for this, even if my skill level on the technical side is a long way from expert.

Next up, I'll do the upper edge, which is intended to imply a leafy canopy. Have some ideas for how to quilt that, but will need to do some playing around on a practice piece to try them out.

In the meantime, I'm haunting the 'palooza flickr page waiting for Block 15 to turn up, and have a significant heap of admin-type tasks piled up on the desk. Being self-employed is wonderful, but I've given a few too many hours to sewing and not enough to paper piles the past week or so. Today I need to stay out of the sewing room and keep my butt planted in my desk chair until I've been in business mode long enough to get some stuff done.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Block 12-ishes and a UFO

More blocks, variations on 'palooza block 12, for my planned 9-block top. This pair features back-to-back corner geese units:
I love the blue-yellow combo in these. The resulting star and large diamond really pop.

And for this last pair I placed the "geese" facing out:
The very dark accent fabric is actually a lovely small-print tonal brown.

I've had so much fun making these, and look forward to putting them all together into a top. I have ambitious visions (still somewhat vague) for sashing and bordering these. I will play with ideas as I finish up some other projects on more urgent timeframes. These blocks are about to go into a "works theoretically still in progress but temporarily on the back burner" bin while I quilt the monochrome forest, finish up the OBW borders, and maybe even get this little cutie quilted up:
This is a not-very-large "confetti" wall-hanging I made early last summer to play around with the method and my tiny scraps drawer. I liked it enough to add a border. The border and light blue background both are leftovers from making curtains for our bedroom, so I'm planning to hang it in there. I set it aside at this stage because I did not yet have the extension-table thingie that makes machine quilting so much easier. This morning I sandwiched it up with a backing fabric and got it pinned and ready to go. Best part is it's small enough I was able to do that on the kitchen counter instead of crawling around on the floor. I won't get to this immediately (the monochrome project is a higher priority), but do hope to get it quilted very soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Block 14... not feelin' it

Sorry dude, but Block 14 is not inspiring me. It's not a bad block. I can see a few things I'd change to do it my way, and it might be fun to play around with on its own. But in my 'palooza context (which at this point is fairly far off the main track) it's so obviously destined to sit on the sidelines of the design wall that I've decided not to bother with it. (Besides, if you're going to contribute a block to something as public as this quilt-along, lighten up about claiming copyright and just let people have fun with it!)

In the meantime I've been making more of my versions of what was originally Block 12, which of course I did not render exactly as per the instructions, so it's not really "Block 12" anymore. I liked the way my first two turned out so much I decided to expand on the theme and make a separate 9-block top from them. I've been puttering along on this all week, cutting a few new fabrics here, sewing up a few goose units there, shuffled some bits from block to block, and at last have a WIP I'm happy with. Here are a few of the new ones (more to come in another post, later).

This is a sister-block to the first one I made:
I used different fabrics for the on-point squares, the 4-patch, and half the geese, and the purple solid is a slightly different shade, but overall I kept it a fairly close match... but diferent enough to be interesting.

Same approach with this one, which is a fraternal (but not identical) twin to the second one, also here:
This one's a singleton, planned for the center of what will be nine in a grid layout:
For this one I placed the "geese" nose-to-nose, instead of in flight formation or back-to-back.

There are two more pairs to show off, as soon as the stragglers are ready for a public appearance, and I've rephotographed one. My camera is overly fond of yellow, apparently, and reluctant to properly portray blues. Indoors, outdoors, flash, no flash: the blues hardly ever come out looking like they should, even when all the other colors are right.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Plans, slightly disrupted

Monochrome teaser... ready for basting:
Returned from errands the other day with over 5 yards of unbleached organic cotton batting, so no excuses for not finishing up a few projects now! Cut and prewashed batting  (soak in the sink, spin in the machine, through the dryer on medium heat) for the monochrome wall-hanging, and wow, was it soft and light and scrumptious when it came out of the dryer!

Laid it all out on the hall floor yesterday afternoon during a brief window of opportunity (one cat asleep, the other outside), to start basting. Got up to the pin stage before the one cat woke up and the other came in and both plopped themselves down on the quilt sandwich and stuck their paws and noses in the pin bowl. No real mess done, although there are a couple small claw holes in one spot... nothing that won't disappear during quilting.

Had hoped to start quilting this morning, but we had some distractions overnight, in the form of the civil defense sirens going off every hour until after 3 am... hard to get a good night's sleep while under a tsunami warning! The best part was the 4.5 earthquake here while we were glued to the tube at 11pm hoping for updates! That's big enough to give the house a good shake, but nothing too serious. We get a lot of smallish rattles here, so no biggie, especially compared to what happened in Japan. Fortunately the high water has not had much affect in Hilo, although downtown is still closed. Once again I am so glad we moved up out of the tsunami zone two years ago (and this is one reason we moved!).

Anyway, all is well in my little corner of Hawaii, but I do not function well without sleep. Still feeling groggy and mentally not very sharp halfway through the larger-than-usual pot of coffee brewed up this morning. So, instead of embarking on quilting with a batting I haven't used before, which is likely to mean at least some testing and tension adjustments, I think I'll go do something mindless like sew up more bits from the scrap drawer, like these:
My "very small" scraps drawer has a lot of bits in it that are 2.5" wide but less than square. A couple days ago I used some extra minutes in the sewing room to put these strips together. No specific use in mind yet, but they will come in handy one of these days for a pillow border, or block sashing on a scrap project, or something else fun. 

Haven't started 'palooza Block 14 yet, so I might feel inspired to pick fabrics for that and get the cutting done today, too. I doubt I'll have the brainpower for much desk work today, so that means lots of time in the sewing room. (Time I really should use to clean up the kitchen, vaccuum the house, or do laundry... it could happen.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 13 (twice)

Block 13 (from Camp Follower) is a nice one, with tons of potential for color play. Which is kind of funny, because the original is so pale and subtle (qualities rarely used to describe my fabric choices).

I started with this one...
... because I've been wanting to use the red (in the corners) and brown colorways of "Asian Circles" together in something, and the turquoise and orange are so nice together I wanted to use them again, too. I like the detail of the floating nine-patch in the center, but that teeny little 1/8" border around it was something of a pain to produce. I said I wasn't going to do that again.

But I did. This morning I finally emailed all our tax info (there's a lot of it: we own two home-based businesses) off to our accountant, and rewarded myself with some time in the sewing room, producing this version:
I like this one even better. My original thought was to make a smaller nine-patch and frame it with a 1/4" border, but once I got going I figured "1/4", 1/8" might as well do the skinny one as the other." That purple and brown batik is a hibiscus print and one of my favorite fabrics. It sneaks into a lot of things I make. And I've been itching to use that Phillip Jacobs "coral" print in good-sized pieces somewhere. Here it is even better in the corners than I'd hoped.

Did you notice that little snippet of red leafy print in the very center? Yup, it's the other colorway of that "little green leafy" I've been including in each block. I've had the red on reserve for use in sashing/setting in some way when all the blocks are done, but couldn't resist sneaking a tidbit in here.

There are several 'palooza blocks that I like so much I want to make an entire quilt out of them. This is one of them. The temptation to exclude these blocks (and a few others) from the 'palooza quilt (whatever that turns out to be) so I can do something else with them is a strong one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two out of three...

... borders are on the Amy Butler "One Block Wonder" quilt top:
It's a crappy day for photos here, very gloomy and rainy, but let up just a enough for a little brightness in our south-facing kitchen so I rushed to drape this over the counter for a quick shot.

Another round of sawtooth triangles will be added before calling this top "done." Those triangles are still in small units on my design wall, hope to get the final border on before next weekend. I cut the print border as wide as possible (which was about 10.5") to showcase the original fabric. I wasn't sure at all, until I got this far, that I would like the sawtooth thing; concern was it might be too circus-tent-y. But I'm liking it a lot. It adds that little bit of unexpected whimsy that I like to think is part of my "style." Without it, this is a bit more over-the-top floral than even I can stand.

Anyway, bad light, not quite done top... couldn't stop my impulse to show off in-process.

I haven't made a final backing decision yet, am waffling on binding options, and have no idea yet how I will quilt this. Lots to ponder as I sew a gazillion more little triangles together...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 12, mostly

I made Block 12 twice, because it's nice. As usual, I did not exactly follow the original design (sorry, Jennifer, don't take it personally, it's just how I am.)
For this one, instead of using two geese back-to-back in the center position of each side, I cut large squares from a bold Kaffe Fassett print and set them on point. I also rotated the corner geese squares so they are flying in from the edges. That lovely tonal red/orange print, BTW, is from a piece that has been in my stash since before I moved to Hawaii (in 1999). I am very, very choosy about where I use it (it began as a half-yard, and there is so little left!), and it is just right here.

I had a little bit of a bright green print loitering on the sewing table, left over from piecing a back for the monochrome project. It wanted to romp with Kaffe's "henna" in "duck egg", which has been in the "potential future block use" pile for some time:
I made on-point squares again, and paired them with teal/red/orange. This time I used the back-to-back geese idea from the original layout, and put them in the corners. The four-patch center is from the pile of extra 2.5" bits in the 'palooza fabric bin.

Although I couldn't resist cutting large squares to feature a couple of the many lovely fabrics that want a chance to shine in this project, I also really like the paired goose squares in close tones/values. This block is going to stay up on my design wall for a bit, as I think about what else I might make with back-to-back geese like this.

Today it's back to OBW borders (just as soon as I get enough desk stuff done to earn sewing time). I am very eager to get that top done so I can start quilting. Not that I've figured out how to quilt it yet. I'm weighing options. The monochrome top and back are ready to go, but I have no batting on hand (that stash went into the lap quilts project), so it's on hold until I get to my local quilt shop for supplies.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


This is my design wall today:
About 2/3 of the gazillion little 60-degree triangles that will frame a wider border for the Amy Butler OBW quilt. These are mostly sewn into 4-10-piece strips, and there's a pile of paired-up pieces out of frame for filling in any gaps. They're "darks" and "lights" of lots of different shades of mostly purples and greens, with a little pink and blue in the mix. I'm using the design wall to make sure I've adequately randomized the colors as I put the border strips together.

The four long strips are ready for final seaming, and will frame the center of the quilt top. Then there will be a border of the original fabric (width unknown: I have yet to face the quilt math of border length-width options vs. available yardage) and another row of sawtooth along the outside.

The little piles of cut fabric on the sewing machine deck, visible in the lower left corner of the pic above, are ready to be sewn up into 'palooza Block 12. A few blocks ago the task of figuring out what was or was not a "new" solid color to include in each block drove me to make these (with index cards and a gluestick):
In my mind, I'd used a lot of purple in this project, but according to these cards, I've been picking other solids instead, with the exception of a couple lavenders. So Block 12 will feature an intense imperial purple. I do have lots of solids to pick from, thanks to some FQ Kona packs acquired shortly before the 'palooza thing took off. Nevertheless, I'm running out of available favorites for the remaining blocks.

I've got more 'must-do' desk work awaiting attention today (I earned this short blogging break by getting certain items crossed off the task list). As soon as that's done I'll go put Block 12 together. Pics and a post will probably happen tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 11

This one, from Fat Quarterly, was fun. It's a lot like Block 3 (one of my faves from the entire project), with the larger pieces in that block subdivided into new shapes.
As usual, I didn't exactly follow the original in terms of fabric placement, using my solid in the corners, and making all my geese from the same fabric pair.

I've been eyeing that orange Kaffe Fassett "Persimmons" for a while, and with this block its time had come to make an appearance. The focus here, though, is on the purple pinwheel in the center, so I played up those colors in the corners, too, and muted the orange by pairing it with the green leafy print. The hot pink solid is from the one small piece (about 4"x10") left after making this quilt. Cosmo and I are both very fond of that quilt, and I enjoyed including some of the pink here.

I really like how this block turned out, and am tempted to make another, but doubt I'll have time before Block 12 posts on Thursday.

In between 'palooza blocks I've been stitching away on some other projects. The monochrome top is either done or almost done, depending on whether or not I decide to add some applique, the pieced border for the One Block Wonder is creeping along, and I've got growing piles of stitched bits for a couple of long-term scrap projects. I keep a supply of cut scraps on the sewing table to use as "betweeners" and to sew up when I have a few minutes of time but insufficient energy or brainpower for anything requiring close attention or design decisions. One of these scrap projects is getting close to the point where I'll put the assembled units up on the design wall and take some pics to show you how it's shaping up.

March sewing goals:
1) Finish the monochrome project by the 3/31 Modern Quilt Guild Challenge deadline
2) Get the borders done and applied to the OBW center, and the whole thing layered and pin-basted for quilting
3) Keep up with the remaining 'palooza blocks, and decide on a layout (yes, a specific layout will be provided by the 'palooza team when the blocks are all done; chances I'll use that arrangement are slim)
4) Finish the blocks for the farthest-along scrap project, and get that up on the design wall so I can play with the layout

I have not abandoned garment sewing, although it might appear that way. Sooner or later I'll need something new to wear, and I'll start cutting up my quilting stash for new skirts or warm-weather dresses. Until then, I'm focused on quilting-type fun.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 10

I love this one so much I'm squeaking! By now you will not be surprised to see that I changed things up just a little bit, using six fabrics:

Thanks, Amy Ellis! And Philip Jacobs, who created the charming bird in the middle. I have a measly FQ of this fabric*, and almost couldn't bear to cut into it. 

These colors together are so delicious, I want to make a whole quilt from them. There was a time when I  thought grey was always and forever boring, but I'm learning to love it with the right playmates.

* What's that? You remember seeing a very similar print here in a fabric post somewhen? Ahem, yes, I do have more than two yards of "summer tree" in the turquoise colorway. So it's not like I'm starving for it. Today, though, I am grooving on the grey version, and I want more.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Block-a-palooza Block 9

Block 9, from Scott at Blue Nickel Studios, is called "Lemonade Stand" and it's a doozy. I cringed when I saw those tiny geese in the center, but it's worth playing with the teeny pieces:
Rummaging around in the scrap piles (my large scraps used to be in a bin, but are now in heaps all over my sewing room; these blocks keep coming before I can clean up), I found a piece of Heather Bailey print perfect for fussy cutting corners. Once I committed to that, throwing the other HB candy-colored prints in the mix was a must.

The geese got into quite a state at all the excitement and insisted on fleeing the scene, so they are facing out, rather than swirling around the center. I don't blame them. I'm calling this one "explosion at the candy factory."

My inner four-year-old loves these prints, but they are so young and sugary sweet they've never fit in well with the rest of my stash. This block was fun to throw together, but it's making my teeth ache. If I'm going to go over-the-top/off-the-deep-end (as has been known to happen) I prefer a more grown-up goofiness.

Like this:

This is the "by the rules one," planned around using the last of an old Kaffe Fassett charm pack for those corner squares. I'd already trimmed these long ago to 4" for something they never got used for (don't remember what), so reducing them to 3.5 didn't seem like a big deal. I hadn't used the dots in a few blocks, and they were feeling neglected, so they got to join in the fun, too.

I wish now that I'd squared up the 9-patch center unit before adding the sides, as it is clearly not square, but I was tired and hungry and impatient and just wanted to get it done. No chance I'll go back and redo it, so I'm crossing my fingers it will look fine once quilted.

BTW: I made all the geese for these two blocks the "wasteful" way: sewing a diagonal across 1.5" squares on top of a 1.5"x2" rectangle and trimming the extra. Which is way too tiny to make HSTs from, and a few square inches of fabric, total, so hardly a big waste. No way I was going to follow the instructions, which assumed a higher tolerance for lining up and sewing (accurately! without stretching!) little bias edges than I will ever have. The squares were so small I didn't even bother penciling in the seam lines, just eye-balled it.

Block-a-Palooza Block 8

It's in the mosaics, but I forgot to post a bigger pic of my completed 'palooza Block 8, a basket of geese by Angela Yosten (originally, as usual I took some liberties). Mine looks like this:

The center basket is machine appliqued using "wonder-under" fusible to hold everything in place. This was my first time doing machine applique, which just happens to be an item on my "new sewing things to try in 2011" list, so it was fun to get to do that on a 'palooza block.

Angela's block uses bigger "geese" for the handle. I cut mine in half, and used more of them. I also added the little circle at center top, and the little red feet for the basket. I also used a very small zigzag stitch instead of a blanket stitch to nail all the applique bits in place. My machine's blanket stitch, which I have not used before, and tested on a scrap, is a doubled stitch that looks impressively like a (very tidy) stitch hand-sewn with perle cotton. It's a nice effect, and I look forward to using it on a future project someday, but was not the look I wanted here.

The hardest part of this block was peeling the *&$^#%@! paper backing off the fused wonder-under. I have fingernails and know how to use them. Usually I am the person who can coax a stubborn backing off something when all others around me have failed. But not this time.

I followed the Pellon instructions to press the rough side of the fusible onto the backside of the fabric "for 5-8 seconds with a hot, dry iron." My sister, when I moaned about the peel-off hassle to her, said that sounded like way longer than necessary. It's also possible that Pellon had in mind sewists using cheap-o, wimpy irons, not a super-dang-duper high-tech iron, which is what I roll with. Mine gets really hot. Next time I will fuse as briefly as possible, on a lower setting, and hope the paper puts up less of a fight.

I used a total of 4 new prints in this block, and expect they will all make repeat appeances before the 'palooza fun is over.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Block 7 how-to

Here's a quickie tute for anyone who wants to make their own alternative 'palooza Block 7, like this one:

First, select five fabrics from your stash. You will need:
  • 1 MEDIUM PRINT with low contrast for the edge pieces: 4 8.5" x 2.5" pieces
  • 2 PRINTS for the "geese"; one DARK, one LIGHT. From each print: 4 2.5" squares; 4 4.5" x 2.5" rectangles
  • 2 contrasting SOLIDS for the corners that pick up colors from the prints. From each solid: 4 2-7/8" squares

Pair up the solids and make your corner half-square triangles by drawing a diagonal line (I use a mechanical pencil) and sewing 1/4" on either side:
Cut apart along the pencil line, and press your seams. I always press my seams open (the seams lie flatter than way, and it's much easier to match up points), but if you're a side-presser do it your way. Set your HSTs aside while you prepare the Geese units.
Take 2 of your LIGHT print 4.5"x2.5" rectangles and pair up with 4 of the DARK print 2.5" squares. Pair 2 of the DARK print 4.5"x2.5" rectangles with 4 of the LIGHT print 2.5" squares. Make these sets into four Flying Geese units by sewing on the square's diagonal, just as you have for previous blocks.
BTW: If you are making little extra HSTs out of the goose trimmings, sew 1/2" away from the first seam (toward the outside corner) and cut between the two seam lines. It's easier to make those little HSTs now than to pair up and sew tiny triangles later. I draw the second seam line at the same time I do the first one, and sew them both then snip apart before doing the other side of the goose.

Finish up your four goose units. The extra four rectangles go together to make the center. Place your 2 LIGHT rectangles face down and measure in 2" from each corner on one side and mark that spot with a pencil. Then draw a diagonal line to the farther corner from each mark. You'll make a little "X" at the center of one side where the seam lines cross:
Pair up your LIGHT and DARK rectangles right sides together and sew ONE corner seam on each pair (sew two right corners or two left ones, doesn't matter, but be sure to sew the SAME corner on each pair). Trim and press. Make two of these:
Now place these units right sides together, matching the seams. (It's a good idea to use pins here, to keep everything nicely lined up. I rarely pin anything, but you might want to.) With your ruler, line up on the light-side pencil line and extend it across the dark end. Sew up that seam, and trim the corners. (Somehow I did not manage a pic of that step, sorry). Press open.You'll end up with a quarter-square triangle unit for the center of the block:
Yes, you could just cut a larger square of each fabric, slice on the diagonal, sew up and trim... but then you wouldn't have more little extra HSTs like the ones you make from the other geese to add to the pile, which is entirely why I did mine this way.

Okay, all the bits are done, now we just have to sew them together. Add a goose unit to each side of the center (light to dark, or dark to light, doesn't matter), and a HST unit to each side of the other two geese units. Line them all up in orderwith an edge piece on either side, and sew the seams:
Sew the other HST units to either end of the other two sides (make sure you get the colors in the right place), and sew up those seams and you're done.

Keep in mind it's easier to get sharp points and neatly aligned corners if you press your seams open. Here I'm adding one of the the side geese to the center unit, using my 1/4" foot. With the seam pressed open I can see exactly where the tip of the goose is, no guessing:
The best thing you can do for your sewing is to invest in a really good iron. Good heat and a lot of steam will help those bulky seam allowances stay open. (And if you prewash all your fabric, as I do, you can press with as much heat and steam as you want or need, without concern that the fabric might shrink.)


'Palooza Mid-Way RoundUp & a Sneak Peak

We're halfway through the Block-a-Palooza quilt-along. Here are all the blocks I've made so far. Way more than the requried 8, 'cause I couldn't resist making more than one of some of them:
Half-way-point giveaway chances have been promised to all who post proof they've been diligently sewing along, so I figured it was time to find out how to make these cool photo mosaics. Turns out it's easy-peasy right here. Just link to your Flickr acct and insert your pics.
This is the core group of blocks. They each feature the little green leaf print, a different solid (or two), and at least one print not seen in previous blocks. My original plan was to use these for the "real" 'palooza quilt, and do something else with the others. But anything could happen. I may mix and match when the time comes. Chances that I will follow the prescribed 'palooza layout (as yet unknown) are slim, given that my brain thinks "instructions" are mere suggestions to be modified, embellished, or discarded at will.

In addition to quilt-along fun, I've also been working on a semi-secret project. This is for the Modern Quilt Guild Monochrome Challenge, and I won't be ready to show it off for a while yet, but here's a teeny preview. It started out with a whole lot of this, because I happen to have a lot of greens in the stash:
And now features a lot of this:
The brighter parts are all done. This weekend I'll be getting as much of the darker sections completed as I can. I'm making it up as I go along, so it's hard to say how much more work/time will go into it, but I think I'm on-track to make the March 31 deadline without too much stress.

This may be too "art-quilty" by the time it's done to appeal to a "modern" judge, but I like how it's turning out enough to finish it, regardless of how modern it does or doesn't look, or whether or not making the deadline remains feasible.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Own 'Palooza Block 7

I'm sure there are Block-a-Palooza participants grateful for Heather's easy, simple Block 7, but it was too easy and simple to interest me. So I used it as the basis to design my own block.

Starting with Heather's concept of a large 9-patch with 4-patches in the corners and center...
I then,
1) removed the center 4-patch:
2) added corner-to-corner diagonals:
3) added flying geese around the center:
4) removed a couple of seams from each side:
Selected fabrics following my rules and voila, a new 'palooza block that's all me. Or as much "all me" as any grid-based block design can be. There are a zillion and one variations on this kind of block, and they've all be done by someone, somewhen. Shouldn't stop you from playing around on your own, though, because it's fun.

If you'd like specific instructions on how to make this block for yourself, let me know in the comments, and I'll share my constructions notes and some pics in a new post.

* * * * * *
UPDATE: Instructions for this block are now available here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 6

Block 6 joins the fun courtesy of the Happy Zombie. My first rendition adheres to my self-imposed fabric guidelines (new solid and one new print each block; repeat the green leaf print in every block), and turned out very well:
That's the last of the purple stripe, BTW, so I'll have to come up with something equally fun (from stash, of course) for the next ones. Now that I've got six blocks done from these guidelines, the blocks are starting to look more cohesive. This one, especially, helps the first two blocks play well with the others.

Meanwhile, the pile of "outliers" (anything goes versions, not required to socialize unless they want to) is growing. I made two extras of this block, because I wanted to experiment with light vs. dark backgrounds. I did a dark-background one first, with pleasing though not spectacular result:
I've been itching to include a piece of that butterfly fabric somewhere, but with dark b'flies on an ivory background it's a tricky fabric to use. It's okay here, but will be better in larger pieces somewhere else.

This light background one might be my favorite, in spite of my needing a couple time-outs during construction. I repeated the background fabric around the center so the "arrows" would pop more:
This one gave me more trouble than all my other 'palooza blocks combined. Partly due to user error: I sewed in one big unit backwards. Twice. Plus, in spite of what I thought was my usual care in cutting and seaming, nothing about this block wanted to stay square or line up. The fact that it turned out square in the end, and most (not all) points seem compliant, is due to forceful and repeated use of a hot steam iron and an uncharacteristic (for me) willingness to rip out and redo a few inches of seam here and there as necessary. I even used a  pin in one spot! Folks, when I resort to using a pin, even just one, you know things are in a bad way .

I'm very glad it's only early afternoon on Saturday, because I need a day off before the next block goes "live" on Monday.

Plus, I have a secret project up on the design wall that I'd like to work on this afternoon. Don't worry, it won't be a secret forever. I'll show it off in a few weeks when it's further along. I'm also working on a pieced border for the purple and green OBW. That doesn't look like anything but a huge pile of scraps right now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 5

That's a lot of little geese:
This block is all about the border, so for the central 9-patch I choose a "light" and "dark" with similar medium tones that blur the seam lines a little. The dark squares look almost fussy cut, but are not: I cut them from scraps left over from fussy cutting my first Block 3, and did not fuss over them.

Wanted to incorporate a solid light blue, and discovered I had 4 FQ or smaller pieces of very close but slightly different blues, so I used all of them.

My rows of border geese turn at the edges of the 9-patch, rather than at the edges of the block, as patterned. I made half the geese from the little green leaf print I'm using in every block, and then picked three other prints (repeated from this Block 4) for the rest of the flock. I wanted the magenta geese to be at the head of their row on each side, but didn't like the effect of having them out at the edge. Here they keep movement in the block turning around the center, instead of flying off the edges.

Miss Print did a lovely job designing this block, but I think one of this one will do for me. For now.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I won!

... the January Amy Butler Style Stitches Sew Along fabric giveaway!

Seems only fitting that I use these for future AmyB sewalong projects if I can match these prints (AmyB Geisha Fans, and Alexander Henry Abstract) to good bag choices:

The Alex.Henry abstract will be a challenge, but I'm up for it. As soon as I've earned a longer break by getting some "real work" (vs. fabric fondling) done, I'm going to make a cup of tea and sit down with the book and daydream about the possibilities.

Thanks SewAlong organizer Bree, and Jan. sponsor SewSweetness!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Block-a-Palooza Block 3 Revisited

Better camera luck today. Here are the two new versions of 'palooza Block 3 I sewed up yesterday. I love the bluey-greeny deliciousness of this one...

... and the pow! factor of this one: 

They both go well with Block 4, version 1. Here are my 'palooza "outliers" so far:

Block 5 goes "live" tomorrow. Maybe I'll get another outlier from that one, too.

Block-a-Palooza Block 4

I'm happy to report that my machine is back from the spa and purring along "like buttah." I sat down yesterday to sew up some of the piece sets I'd cut earlier in the week. Here's Block-a-palooza Block 4. (Design by the talented Cherri at Cherry House Quilts)
This pinwheel block features my current favorite fabric, the lime on white batik, which I've had since last year sometime, a more recent purchase (the Philip Jacobs coral print framing strips) and a Bird of Paradise print that's been in my stash for at least five years. The corner squares are all Kaffe Fassett prints from the scrap drawer. I love how this block turned out. It's very "me."

I haven't entirely given up, though, on following the tone set by Blocks 1&2 and the fabric guidelines I came up with to (fingers crossed) ensure some kind of balance between variation and consistency across the 16 blocks I'll end up with by the end of this journey.

Block 4 above does repeat a couple prints from earlier blocks (in the corners), and bring new ones in, but does not include a solid. And, as you know, I've earmarked a certain purple stripe for more "geese" (or, in this case, their close cousin, the pinwheel). Plus, I'm really liking the little green leaf print I've used in all 3 previous blocks, so I've added "include the little green leaf print in every block" to my 'palooza self-challenge.

So I made a second Block 4:
I'm not as excited by this one, but since I was aiming for a transition block (in terms of color intensity and style) between Blocks 1&2 and Block 3, it turned out perfectly. It does a very good job of pulling this set of blocks together. With Block 4 in the picture, Block 3 (upper right) feels more like a member of the family:
I also made a couple more Block 3s just for fun (including my wildest block yet!), but they refused to be photographed yesterday, so I'll have to try again in a little bit when the light is better.

My sister rightly asked "how many 'palooza quilts are you making?" to which the answer is still "one." Probably. I do expect to collect extra blocks along the way, but it's too soon to say what I'll do with them. I might have enough for a second quilt top, or they might end up as pillows.