New Orleans House Project

Monday, April 16, 2018

More Flamingo Hexies

I've been in a hand-stitching frame of mind for the past two weeks.  My stack of prepared hexie pieces was calling out to me, so I got busy with needle and thread.  I managed to finish most of the blocks I had prepped back in October of last year.

My method is to choose a fabric from the flamingo hexie stash and cut as many variations as possible before I put the fabric away.  These blocks are two of the variations I've made from the paisley fabric.

Two variations from the green batik (sunburst) fabric.

Abstract orange flowers (?) on a fuschia background.

Flamingo admiration society?

This current batch of hexies will get added to the pile.  The project was inspired by Barb Vedder's Hex Vex pattern.  I still need quite a few more finished hexies, but if I keep taking small bites I'll get there eventually!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Start with Some Gold Scraps

The first Saturday in April means it's time to focus on Rainbow Scrap Challenge projects.  This month's challenge is to use scraps in shades of yellow and gold.  Not all my current RSC projects need yellow or gold, but I'll have fun digging through the scrap bins anyway.

I started with the 49-patch blocks - a project I started last year.  I had one yellow block already made, so I added another yellow block and a gold block.  Since my Rainbow Scrap projects tend to focus on bright colors, the gold scraps are usually neglected.  I was happy to use a few of them for this block.  Maybe I should make another gold block just so this one doesn't feel like the odd man out!

I also pulled some chunks from the repro fabric bin and made these quarter square log cabin blocks.  I did some math ahead of time when I started making these blocks, so I know I need at least 5 of each RSC color in order to get a decent-sized quilt at the end of the year.

From the "You Never Know What Will Happen" department:  I volunteered to attend a work-related event this morning (you know - making brownie points by working on a Saturday 😇) and met a group of quilters by happy accident!  The quilters were utilizing another meeting room down the hall from where my work event was taking place.  I happened to walk past their room, and of course, when I saw sewing machines being set up I had to investigate.  Turns out they meet there every month, bring a pot-luck lunch and spend all day sewing.  When they found out I was also a quilter, they invited me to join them next month.  I'll be looking forward to that, for sure!

For more scrappy yellow and gold inspiration, check out the Rainbow Scrap Challenge link-up.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Machine Appliqué with a Vintage Twist

I guess 2018 is turning out to be my Year of Machine Appliqué!

I finished the first block - Sweet Cherry - in the Gathered Harvest BOM sponsored by my LQS, Quilted Owl.  The patterns are from Fresh Picked by Blackbird Designs.  

I prepped all the appliqué pieces using freezer paper and starch.  Next I laid the pieces out on the background fabric, so I could figure out the order to stitch each piece.  I worked in sections, using fabric glue to adhere the pieces to the background for sewing.  Using invisible nylon thread on top and Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin, I stitched each piece with a very narrow zigzag stitch.  

I have started the prep work for block number 2 - Fresh Pineapple.  I'm only two months behind on the BOM process, but I'd be even farther behind if I were stitching each block by hand!

Since I've been experimenting with different machine appliqué techniques this year, I decided it was time to experiment with a different sewing machine as well.  I've had this vintage Singer sewing machine for years, but it was neglected in favor of other vintage machines.  Unlike all the other vintage sewing machines in my flock, this machine can do zigzag stitching (and more).

The machine is a Singer 503A - which was a new design, introduced in 1961.  The 503A and its cousin the 500A, are also known as the Rocketeer - at least among sewing machine enthusiasts.  It's definitely got that mid-century space age vibe going!  The two Rocketeer machines were the last of the all-metal gear Singer machines.

The 503A sews several different stitches in addition to straight stitch and zigzag.  By changing the cams included with the machine, sewists can create a variety of decorative stitches.  The cams (Singer called them Fashion Discs) drop into the round opening to the right of the thread holders.  

The needle placement can be changed using the triangular knob.  The stitch width adjustment, to the left of the needle placement knob, allows for different widths on the zigzag and other decorative stitches.  The stitch length lever allows for forward and reverse stitching.  There's also a light under the Singer logo.

Probably the best reason to use this machine for appliqué is the slant needle feature.  Singer slant needle machines have a needle bar that is slanted forward, which allows for much easier visualization of the stitching area.  The only thing that would make the appliqué stitching a little easier here would be an open-toe presser foot - which can be purchased online for a few dollars.

So - how did the Rocketeer handle appliqué with invisible thread?  Like a champ!  I used Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin and a polyester invisible thread on top.  I needed to loosen the upper thread tension a good bit, but the machine handled the poly thread just fine.  Going forward, I'll use a finer gauge needle (the machine uses standard 15x1 sewing machine needles) and I'm going to order an open toe foot attachment.  I'm going to keep the Rocketeer at our camp, so I can still do machine appliqué when we're there for the weekend.

I stitched up two more appliqué baskets yesterday to work out the process.  

This may become a project after all!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Scrappy Building Blocks

It's a new month and a new color for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  This month we are challenged to use our light green and lime green scraps.  I have plenty of scraps in that fit the description, so I got to work!

I had enough 1.5" strips to make two 49-patch blocks.  I'll keep making these 7 inch blocks for the rest of the year - maybe I'll have enough for a quilt at the end of the year!

A few more scraps made some HSTs to go in the border I'm planning for the Windblown Wishes quilt.

I made this light green Burgoyne Surrounded block last year.  I looked through the scrap stash and nothing in the lime green family jumped out at me, so I'll wait until we do dark green scraps to create another green Burgoyne block.

All of these pinwheel blocks were an RSC project last year.  I finished assembling them into 9-patches earlier this week.  Next up:  sashing and cornerstones (more pinwheel blocks!).  

For more scrappy inspiration, check out the linky party for the RSC 2018!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Machine Appliqué: Trying New Techniques

Back in January, I wrote about trying different machine appliqué techniques this year.  My plan was to use machine appliqué to complete a BOM being offered by my LQS, Quilted Owl.  Since that blog entry, I have been playing with different methods of preparing templates and the fabric appliqué shapes.

I started my experimentation by following a tutorial by Julie Baird, from her website Generations Quilt Patterns.  Her method involves using water soluble stabilizer to create templates for the appliqué shapes.  Julie's instructions are great and I can't do them justice in just a sentence or two, so if you're interested, go check out her technique.  
I had the pattern Julie used for her tutorial - Trick or Treat Baskets from When the Cold Wind Blows, and I went ahead and used that pattern for some practice pieces.  I didn't have any of the water soluble stabilizers recommended in the tutorial, so I tried what I had on hand.  The Pellon stabilizer worked fine for the template preparation technique, but after washing, the appliqué shapes remained very stiff and inflexible.  I'll try this technique again after I've got one of Julie's recommended stabilizers on hand.

Next, I used my "tried and true" method of appliqué prep: freezer paper templates and starch.   After prepping the baskets, I used a tiny bit of fabric glue to hold the pieces in place and commenced to sew.  

I used YLI Invisible Nylon Monofilament thread for the appliqué.  I already had the thread on hand, and it performed beautifully in my sewing machine.  I set my machine for zigzag stitching and adjusted the stitch length to 1 and the stitch width to 1.  It's a very narrow stitch and it mimics hand appliqué very closely.  I used Aurifil 50 weight thread in the bobbin.  I didn't need to adjust my tension, but your mileage may vary.  I tried taking a close-up of the actual stitching, but my camera is lousy for that. 

I heard about another prep method - this one used by quilt designer Kim Diehl.  In her book, Simple Appliqué, she describes several techniques, but the one I tried involved using freezer paper in a different manner.  The freezer paper is glued to the wrong side of the fabric for the appliqué shape, then the sticky side of the freezer paper is used to adhere the seam allowance AND adhere the appliqué shape to the background fabric.  

The appliqué shape is then machine-stitched to the background, using the same narrow zig-zag stitch and invisible thread.  When the stitching is complete, the background fabric is cut open or cut away, and the freezer paper removed (the above picture shows the back of the appliqué after removing the freezer paper).

I didn't dislike this technique, but I found it difficult to remove the freezer paper.  Even though the appliqué stitch was narrow, it still caught the edges of the paper, and it took careful manipulation to remove the paper.  I can see where it might come in handy for large or simple shapes, but it was akward for the baskets.

Now that I've started making the appliqué basket blocks, I can't seem to stop!  I have no plans to make the original quilt from When the Cold Wind Blows - it requires almost 300 blocks - but I will probably keep making these just for fun!

And...with that said, I've finally finished all the freezer paper and starch prep for my first Gathered Harvest block.  I need to make a few more bits of bias tape for the stems, but otherwise, everything is ready to be glued in place and machine appliquéd.  It will be an interesting week for Fabric Therapy!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Playing with Scrappy Pinwheels

I've pretty much wrapped up all my purple projects for this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge.  I was inspired to make a second Burgoyne block with some purple and green scraps, but now I'm just waiting for the announcement of the March color.

This Burgoyne definitely has me thinking of Spring!  It appears spring weather may be fleeting here in South Louisiana - we've had a week of temperatures in the low 80s already.  I don't care for really cold weather, but I do feel cheated when we jump straight from winter weather to summer temps!

I have no shortage of projects to work on, but I needed something fairly simple to take to the camp this weekend.  I did some prep cutting earlier in the week so I could start assembling the pinwheel blocks I made for last year's RSC.
The pinwheels are assembled into 9-patch blocks.  They will ultimately have plain alternate blocks, but for now I've just laid them out for admiring.  The colors look kind of drab in the picture, but they look much happier in person.

I've had plenty of fun playing with purple scraps this month, but I'm ready for the next color challenge!  Be sure to check out the RSC weekly link-up for more scrappy inspiration.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

String Star Memory Quilt Update

For the past 8 years I've been using my late father's collection of plaid and striped shirts to make memory quilts for family members.  I've managed to use up a good bit of the shirt fabric over the years, but lots of strips and strings remained.  To use up those scraps, I chose to make a version of the Spring Clean Quilt, which features stars made from strings.

Earlier this year, I finished making all the string blocks needed for the quilt - 144 blocks, to be exact.  Since my design wall was empty this week, I decided it was time to start assembling the star blocks.  The 144 individual blocks get assembled in sets of 16 to form a star.  So far I've completed 4 blocks - leaving 5 to go!

Each star block is 32 inches, making it difficult to photograph them on the design wall.  Instead, I spread them out on my dining room floor.  BTW, not every fabric in my string blocks is shirt fabric - I also used some novelty fabrics related to my dad's hobbies, etc.

Of course, once you put quilts on the floor, the dogs have to come and help out!  My golden retriever/English lab mix McKenzie was the best helper; Bailey, the black lab mix, was a little less enthusiastic about helping!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Purple Repro Crosses and an RSC Finish

I'm still focused on the color purple for this month's Rainbow Scrap Challenge.

A horrible picture (it's so hard to photograph dark purple fabrics!) of quarter-square log cabin blocks in purple reproduction fabrics.  These blocks are quick and fun to make; I already did the math for the finished quilt, so I'm looking forward to making 5 blocks in each RSC color this year.

In other news, I was finally able to get pictures of a finished RSC quilt.
The Carpenter's Wheel (some call it Carpenter's Star) block had been on my bucket list for years.  I decided to use it for a Rainbow Scrap project in 2014.  After experimenting with different methods of block construction, I settled on a plan to use HSTs for the blocks - thereby avoiding the dreaded set-in seams.  

I made eight blocks in the bright rainbow hues, and finished with a ninth, multi-color block.

As usual, my longarm quilter, Cindy Braiwick, did a fantastic job.  

I have gifted many of my RSC quilts - but I think I'll keep this one for myself!

More Rainbow Scrap inspiration can be found at the weekly RSC link-up.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Burgoyne Goes Purple

After seeing all the mistakes I had made in previous Burgoyne Surrounded blocks, I wanted to take my time with the next block and make sure I put all the parts together correctly!  I worked slowly and deliberately on this block today and managed to assemble all the parts without having to rip.  Yay!

I've been trying to incorporate at least 2 colors into my Burgoyne blocks, but the purple fabrics for this version practically jumped out of the stash at me.  I'm sure there will be other purple-themed blocks in the finished quilt, but I'm happy with this one for now.

In other news, I also made some scrappy HSTs for the border on my Windblown Wishes quilt.  Whatever doesn't get used in the border can go into the Parts Department basket.

That's the limit of my scrappy stitching today.  I'm looking forward to checking out the RSC link-up for lots of wonderful purple scrappy ideas!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Finished Flimsy: Treadle On Origami Bow-Tie Blocks

I finished machine-stitching the appliqué border on my Origami Bow-Tie blocks this week.  Once I started the machine stitching, I kind of got into a rhythm and just kept working at it until it was finished.  I don't have any solid plans for the quilting yet; I'm just happy to have the finished flimsy!

I used Soft Fuse to hold the appliqué shapes in place (fabric glue for the vines), then machine-stitched a blanket stitch edging on all the shapes.  The border design is from Fons and Porter's Quick Quilts from the Heart.  The stitching was not difficult, but I did find I needed to be careful to use good posture, remember to breathe (!) and take frequent breaks to stretch and rest my wrists and hands.

The Origami or 3-D Bow-Tie blocks were from an exchange among antique and vintage sewing machine users from the Treadle On mail list.  The exchange requirements included using reproduction quilting fabric and stitching the blocks on a pre-1900 people-powered sewing machine.  

These blocks will always have a special place in my heart because I received them during my exile from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  My son and I were living with my sister's family in Florida so my son could continue to attend high school - his school had taken on over 12 feet of water and was in no shape for classes.  My husband had gone back to New Orleans to work, because his hospital was one of the only functioning hospitals in the metro area.  I looked for a job in Florida, but although folks were sympathetic, they weren't interested in hiring a temporary employee.  I didn't have any access to Fabric Therapy, so I spent my days reading and trying not to watch television coverage about the flooding in New Orleans.  When my package of blocks arrived in the mail, it was a harbinger that life might eventually return to "normal".  Not long after that, we learned electricity had been restored to our neighborhood, my son's school had arranged for classes to be held at an alternate location and we would be able to go home!