Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Happy Daze!

Whee!!!  It's almost Halloween - and I LOVE silliness, so here I am, working on one of my latest quilts.  By the time you finish reading this blog, you may think this is a real picture of me, though!  I've been sewing up a storm.


To begin with, I finished my Afternoon Delight quilt and took it over to Quakertown for a photo shoot.  For various reasons, I "lost" the wall I used at home for taking photos.  Below you can see Pat Forke (Quakertown's owner) cranking up her camera with sidekick Vickie, whom many of you may know. 

With the pictures done, Afternoon Delight will next go onto my longarm machine sometime this month.  Quakertown Quilts (www.quakertownquilts.com) is already taking pre-orders and will begin offering Afternoon Delight as a block-of-the-month starting in November.  If you would like your own local quilt shop to carry the pattern, put them in touch with Quakertown.  This quilt was such fun to make -- simple enough to make fairly quickly, but with enough details that it looks complicated.  Here's her beauty shot:


Some time back, several friends and I agreed to do a block challenge.  We selected a block and I drafted a pattern.  Each of us then modified the pattern, selected our own unique fabrics, and made a quilt.  The variety of the results was amazing - even to us!  Now that the challenge is history, we have decided to repeat the process.  We each brought samples of what we thought would make a good challenge block to our last bee (called the UFO bee because we are started that bee with the intent of FINISHING quilts, not creating NEW ones... go figure!).  The block below, from a non-quilt book called Victorian Patterns and Designs, was the design we chose for our quilt block challenge.  I want to note that this is a copyright-free design.
It's now my job to draw up the block that we will each use as our "pattern."  And everyone will modify it as they see fit - from fabric colors to block size to variations in the motifs.  Wait until you see what I have up my sleeve for this one...  Here's the initial drafting of the pattern.  You can see that I use a light box, erasers, tape, markers, my copier (which I use to enlarge and shrink motifs), and much more. 

And below is a rough draft of the final drawing of the block.  It looks quite different compared to the original design, but when we choose a design, it must be an executable one.  Next, I'll put it into pattern form and ship it off to the gals in the bee.  I can't wait to see what they come up with!


In the meantime... my good friend Jerrianne came over a day or two ago with a quilt top.  It's probably from the 1940s or 50s... and not too evenly made.  It doesn't quite lie flat.  But you see, it was made by the stepmother of her hairdresser, Kenneth, and he donated about 10 quilt tops to our guild.  We put three of them in the guild auction... and set aside the remaining ones for next year and the year after.  I told Jerrianne that in thanks for Kenneth's generosity, I'd love to quilt a top for him.  Well... he'd set aside his favorites and gave one to Jerrianne for me to quilt.  This is it:


The fabrics are clearly scrappy -- I believe some of them were from men's shirts or a lady's dress.  But together, they are all oddly beautiful.  And all of the quilts this woman made were sewn by hand.  Look at this -- such even, straight stitches:


Oh my!  This quilt will be a bit of a challenge to quilt, but it will be quilted with joy because Kenneth was so generous.  But also because.... WOW!  Kenneth, in thanks to ME, gave ME yet another of the quilt tops from his step-mother!  So this quirky quilt below is now mine, mine, MINE!  Some of you may think it's just a little garish and bizarre... but that's what I love about it!  Who would put these colors together?  Who made this pattern up?  It's wonderful!  So this quilt, too, will get in line to be quilted on my longarm.  I can't wait.


Here's a closeup of one of the blocks.  Don't you just love the weird combinations of colors? 

It makes me smile to see this quilt!

Another thing that has been making me smile lately is the border-on-border quilt that I'm making in the class by Winnie Fleming.  In each class, we are given instructions for three options - the first class gave us the option of a lone star center block or two other blocks.  I chose the lone star block.  I actually made two of them.  Here was the first:


But did you know that you can invert the "diamonds" and turn the color scheme inside-out?  Yes!  So here is the same star with the diamonds turned inside out.  I chose the one below as the center of my border quilt -- I like having dark tips on my lone star blocks - it makes them stand out more. 


Next... we had to set the block on point and then add a flloater and a border of half-square triangles in either a wonky arrangement, a structured arrangement, or a flying geese arrangement.  I dipped into the box of fabrics I'd gathered for this quilt -- I always pull all the fabrics I might use in a quilt and set them aside before I start sewing; this makes choosing fabrics SO much easier later on.  So here's my box of options:

And here's my block, set on point with not just one, but SEVERAL floaters (floaters are small, unpieced, narrow border strips).

But I was really having trouble figuring out what border design I wanted to use - or even the colors and fabrics to use.  I don't like mystery quilts and not knowing what is coming next -- and I didn't want to put a lot of time into making a border that might not look good or that could have looked better.  I went online and looked at the pictures of Winnie's quilts that had been entered in our quilt show, so I had a good idea of what the next border options would be.  A ha!  So... one of the borders was 4-inch sawtooth stars set on point... and the final border was actually small half-lone-star blocks (or two other options that were not as appealing to me, personally).  Based on that "research," I decided that I needed to do a mockup of my quilt and the choices I was considering, using the Electric Quilt program.  I use EQ a lot to draft my patterns - not so much for developing my designs, but instead, for determining the sizes of blocks and borders and floaters so that the units will fit together and the finished quilt size will be reasonable.  So... here was the design I developed -- not just one, but TWO rows of sawtooth star blocks outside of a set of flying geese and 4-patch borders and requisite floaters.  I just LOVE the notion of adding TWO rows of those sawtooth stars!  I've already started making them... though the class hasn't gotten that far yet.  But at least, for now, I have a plan and know that it will all work out VERY nicely!


And below is the flying geese border, added to my quilt center.  It's not the classic flying geese border with flying geese circling the quilt center.  These flying geese are facing inward instead of sideways.  Sweeeeeeeet, I say!  My floaters are big (at least the green one) because I felt like I needed something to keep the flying geese from "crowding" the center.  That's part of what I can "see" when I use EQ to "test" a design idea.


So now that I know I need to make 64 sawtooth star blocks, how do I get those done most efficiently?  I make nearly all of my pieced blocks with foundation papers.  I use the Draw function within Word and draw up paper foundations, print them out, and start stitching away.  The Draw function is easy to use -- and lets me make paper foundations for just about anything with straight lines!  Here are my foundations, along with some fabric, ready to start stitching on.

And I take all of my fabric and precut it so that it is stacked and ready to start sewing.  This step eliminates the starts and stops that would otherwise be required for each block. 


And once I have a stack sewn, it's time to trim the block units, remove the paper...


And sew the units together!  So here I am, just a few hours into it, and I already have a dozen blocks finished.  Only 52 left to make.  Ha!


I'll keep you posted on my progress on the Winnie border quilt...  and in the meantime, what else have I been working on?  Here's a clue...


Can you figure it out?  How about now?


Yep - I've been making more and more and many more 8-inch (finished size) star blocks.  Here's part of the array.

I'm using all of my plaids - starting with blue plaids and tan/off-white background fabric.  The basic design is a sawtooth star block - but to vary the results and give the set some visual interest, I took the inside 4-inch square...

... and turned some of them into pinwheels...


... or square in squares...


or broken dishes...


And once I finished making 50 blue plaid blocks, I started making red and tan blocks.

I have made over a hundred red blocks.  How do I get so many done so fast?  Easy!  I stack my precut pieces for each block, together with the paper foundations... and just start working my way down through the stacks, one at a time.


So now I have 50 blue plaid stars, 110 red plaid and red/tan stars, 24 bright print stars, and I do not have a CLUE as to what I'm going to do with all of these stars! 

But what I can say is that, finally, my plaids have been whittled down to a reasonable supply.  I am the first to admit that I have more fabric than I can use in a lifetime, and making blocks is one way for me to manage my stash -- productively.  I have made a commitment to myself to NOT buy fabric because it's pretty.  I can only buy it if I have NOTHING in my stash that I can use.  That's a tall order... but I'm determined to get my stash back down to what it was a few years ago - when I KNEW what I had in my closet.  Today, there is so much that I can't even FIND much of what I could use.

I also have a supply of blocks that I can pick up and put together when I need to throw a quilt together quickly.  It feels good! 

And something else that feels good is coming up with a new quilt design.  You saw the beginnings of my new design last month -- a block that I keep calling "twirly balls" when I'm with my friends.  Here's one that's done:

I just LOVE these blocks!  And I have been wanting to make a quilt that uses my 1930s/Aunt Grace reproduction fabrics, and this was the perfect quilt for 30s fabrics -- I had not used them for a number of years, and I'd forgotten how "happy" and how "fun" they are to work with.  You can't help but smile when you are stitching 30s fabrics together!  So now... this past month I finished the nine center blocks and added a few borders.  But I'm not done yet!


I will be adding yet another border -- of half-dresden plates.  I have the units all sewn and am now in the process of appliqueing them onto border strips.  Stay tuned for the finished quilt top next month.  I'm calling it Happy Daze - a perfect name for this quilt!


And so now... back to the beginning!  Here I am, after a whirlwind month of stitching my way through the days.  But at least I sure look happy - and I definitely am!

Before I close, let me mention that I read every comment I get.  I haven't answered them in this post, but I will next time... your thoughts and questions are very important to me.
Happy quilting, everyone -- until next month!
Sue Garman

(c)2012 Susan H. Garman


  1. Wow what a lovely blog post with so much eye candy to inspire. Thanks also for sharing how you progress with designing your quilts. I'm starting to design my own and really appreciate the hints you provide.
    Hugs from Australia

  2. I love your bog. Thanks so much for all the inspiration!

  3. Great post Sue and as always much eye candy, inspiration and information to go away with and have a try at and ponder. Can't wait for next months blog post.

  4. I am also trying to whittle my stash down to a reasonable size. I do have one question however, what kind of paper do you use for your paper piecing?

  5. Looks like you are working yourself to the bone. LOL I wish I had as much luck with getting things done as you do. Have fun with it. Chris

  6. A couple of you have asked about my paper foundations. In the next couple of weeks (if I find the time!), I'll post something about how I create them, the process I use for sewing them, etc. Stay tuned!!!
    Sue Garman

  7. Bahaha!!! The boots on the skeleton make the whole shot. :D Thanks for the great chuckle this morning. "Happy Daze" is really fantastic.

  8. I always look forward to your post...they are filled with such inspiration and I always marvel at what you get done every month. Afternoon Delight turned out so fantastic and Twirly Balls looks really fun as well. And I love the boots on the skeleton!

    In stitches,
    Teresa :o)

  9. Sue this has nothing to do about the above blog. But when you stab stitch hand quilt what thread and needle do you use. I am giving it a try and could use some pointers.

  10. In answer to the question about what needle/thread I use for my stab stitching... I just use a regular old needle - whatever is handy, from my favorite size 10 embroidery needle from www.redworkplus.com (it has a thin shaft and a long eye) to a Piecemakers or Clover size 10 applique needle... and regular hand quilting thread. The key, for me, is to work in a frame that holds the quilt layers tautly and hold it (if it's not on a stand) absolutely parallel to the floor so that as I push the needle up or down, I know that I must aim it absolutely perpendicular to the floor so that my stitches are even. It takes practice, but once you learn how to do stab stitching, it's hard to do any other kind of quilting because you can quilt in any direction and through multiple layers without distorting the stitch sizes. I love it!
    Sue Garman

  11. Avon asked about the kind of paper I use for my paper foundations. I use regular 20-pound copy paper from the office supply store - what we used to call "typing paper" in the old days. Today it's just called multipurpose paper or copy paper and comes in various shades of white to bright white. I know some people like using special paper meant for paper foundations, but I like using what is easily available and at-hand, which is why I use copy paper. It's less expensive than specialty paper and works just as well, as long as you use a VERY SHORT stitch length -- short enough to allow you to remove the paper without tugging much at all.
    Sue Garman

  12. Wow! I just found you through Barbara Brackman's blog.....and I can't believe how wonderful all of your projects are! Wow! I'm stunned! Gorgeous, every last one of them! And you are so SO smart making all those star blocks up, ready to go when you need them! I love that! I'm going to DO that! Thank you for so much inspiration today! It was the kick in pants I needed! :o)

  13. I am SO glad to hear that another person (you) makes blocks just to make them. They are fast to pull when designing a quilt. Love your blog and awesome pictures.