Jul 26, 2013

Playing with scraps

After "abandoning" my FMQ Adventures for a while, I decided it was about time to give a try, but this time in a serious project - and that's why this one is made out of a bunch of scraps!  I got a box of little pieces left from a previous experiment (WAY too experimental to be posted in any decent blog) and the Drunkard's path runner I finished about a month ago.  

My crafty bone started tickling with new piecing techniques and FMQ ideas, particularly after watching two Craftsy classes.  The scraps from my Drunkard's path runner would give me the great opportunity to try Improv Pods, a composition by Elizabeth Hartman, which you can see in Craftsy class, Inspired Modern Quilts. Angela Walter's Craftsy class, How to Machine Quilt Negative Space, was the second source of my inspiration for this quilt. 

When it comes to the quilting itself, something that really stood out for me was the texture of the quilting.  So far, I had only FMQed by using a contrasting thread, as you can see in previous posts, but this time, I had to try and see first hand how blending thread would look.  So... (drum roll, please) here is the result!

I'm really pleased with the finished look, but I also like how the back looks.  It's a great way to see the finished texture.  Also, I still haven't decided if it will end up as a runner; I thought it could be a pretty wall hanging, so I also sewed folded fabric squares to the back, just in case...

And the pictures started rolling... In here, you can really appreciate the unbalanced effect, by having a chunky blue frame at the bottom and a wider negative space at the top.  Also, I have seen here and there some quilts with a binding that has little piece of a different fabric than the main part of the binding.  I like the way that looks and decided to put some of the green away from the chunkiest blue to help balance the composition.

And here is a close up of the quilting. Another big idea I learned from the class is that the quilting can emphasize the piecing, so I tried to do so by quilting lines on the "frames" of the end pods. I micro-stippled the connecting strips and the frame of the middle pod. The inside of the blocks (excepting for the solid blue pieces of fabric) has a looser meander (or larger stipple).

And just because the wood looked so cute after the rain, here is another angle of the finished runner.


I hope you enjoyed this post; I will probably make another scrap pod runner soon and I will be taking pictures of the process, so don't forget to stop by and see what's going on here at the Hill!!

Jul 22, 2013

When God Intervenes, by Dabney Hedegard

When Dabney and Jason thought that their marriage would fall apart, they had pretty concerning and happy news: growing in Dabney’s body, there were a tumor and a baby…  The diagnosis kicks off a rollercoaster of events so drastic that often seem impossible to bear; so much pain and hope mixed together and the story of a woman who refused to give up and chose to grow closer to God along with her husband, despite the most dreadful and challenging circumstances. In a nutshell, this book is Dabney’s memoir of ten years in and out of life-threatening episodes and her personal struggle with financial crisis, infertility, long-term hospitalization, no house, adoption and even social rejection. 

I must say that I have been having issues completing this review.  I just cannot seem to find the right words to describe the amazing way in which God intervened in Dabney’s life.  Dabney went from a person who liked control and frequently sought other people's approval to complete surrender and freedom. It all started when a woman told her: "...there's nothing you can do to change your circumstances," she said. "There is only one person in control.  It's not you. Once you realize this, life gets a lot easier." (page 82). The pain, the illnesses and even separation from her kids were horrible and I cannot imagine going through what Dabney went through, but the transformation in her and her husband's heart and the way her restored faith and strengthened life has blessed mine is a precious encouragement and a reminder that God is sovereign and cares for us in every circumstance.

This brings me to the fact that, although this book focuses on Dabney's point of view, her husband also goes through a marvelous reassurance of his relationship with Christ.  His care for Dabney and their kids reflects an authentic love, reminding us of God's love for His church.  In this sense, the book is also a strong evidence of the relevance -and need- of a God-centered marriage in our society.

Regarding her technique, Dabney has a very easy, friendly way of writing.  Reading this book felt like having a conversation with an old friend.  It is all just plain honest, the good, the bad, the struggle, the disbelief and the faith, all rolled together in a tight ball that keeps rolling and rolling and rolling…  

This is a highly recommendable book that will encourage those in need of comfort during hard times, whatever these could be.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  This has not influenced my opinion on the book or on the author.

Jul 14, 2013

Going along a Drunkard's Path!

No, I didn't start drinking of anything of the sort... Drunkard's Path is the name of a curve unit of a quilting block. It is made up of two pieces of fabric with one round edge that can be arranged into a bunch of different shapes and figures. Just to give you and idea, type Drunkard's Path quilt pattern, and you'll see what I mean.

A very interesting fact of this quilt, it that it has been linked to the Underground Railroad and the Women's Temperance movement. Kimberly Wulfert has a very interesting article about the Drunkard's Path on her blog.

Let's get to the sewing part... Start with a bunch of squares; mine were 3.5". Remember to use fabric combinations that will allow you to showcase the drunkard's path unit. You can either use print/solid fabric, or even play with value. In this case, I chose cotton prints and a neutral linen fabric. Later on, because of all the bias edges and curves, I sort of regretted using linen; I had to be super careful when handling the units because of the linen open weave.  You don't want to distort any of the pieces. 

Using a template, you need to cut the squares into shapes that look like pie slices.  I used Marti Mitchell's Drunkard's Path templates because they are thick, last longer and are super accurate. There is no need for trimming, which makes the process even easier.  And almost as everything else I buy, I got these at a very good price, so what could be better?  :)  You can also look up free templates to download.  This will give you the chance to experiment and find out if you like this shape so much that you would actually consider buying an acrylic template.

These templates come in different sizes. I used sizes C and B to form 3.5" Drunkard path units. The green fabric was a strip, and I you can change the template orientation to have a minimum amount of waste - which is another feature of these templates.  I guess that I'm trying to make a point and say that these are a good investment.  They also come with a guide to form different patterns, and if you visit the webpage, you can even download practice pages that you can use for coloring and experimenting.

Anyway, once you've cut the squares, you'll have two different pieces, one that looks like a funky "L" and one that looks like a pie slice. 

Find the center of each piece and, right sides together, take an itty bitty pin pinch in the center.  Take the sides of the "L" and pin them to the edges of the pie slice.

Take the piece in between your fingers and place two or more pins in between the first three pins you used.  Although it looks weird at the beginning, you can actually match the edges because of the bias cut.  Also, and maybe because of the warmth in your fingers, the fabric sort of sets into each other.  Once you have the fabrics lined up, stitch a 1/4" seam.  A little trick is to reduce your stitch length - this helps with round edges.  You can also try sewing slower than you usually do. Once this is done, press to the side that you want to emphasize.  In this case, I chose to press to the linen, and you can see it sort of seems to be on top of the print/color fabric.

Once you have the number of units you need for your design, stitch them in rows and columns, so that you can form the block of your choice.

But I just could not stop there. These little units are SOOOO addictive and fun to make, that I ended up with two more blocks, one to each side of the previous one. I also added a linen paper-striped border; I made it using the same technique for the paper pieced strip blocks.

And voilà!

Somehow I ended up with a super funky, modern Drunkard's Path runner!!! It's only pieced and patiently waiting to be quilted.  I still have not decided on a pattern for this runner.  I would like the quilting to enhance the piecing, not to distract from it. Of course, I'll be stitching in the ditch to emphasize the diagonal lines and give it a little bit more of body for the actual quilting. I also thought of echoing the shape once inside and once outside the diagonals to "frame" them.  Don't know yet... I will probably print a picture and start doodling on top of it, just to get an idea of what it would look like.

I actually thought of making it as a sort of runner to drape over a cart we have at the entrance. It would make things look cleaner and will also hide any unsightly views. With this in mind, it ended being very long and difficult to photograph - just keep in mind it's a tad over 50" long...  

It sound crazy because I'm all undecided about the quilting, but a part of me wants to have it ready to be draped on that cart...  I know it will be really cute there. The best part is that it can also be used as a table runner, so the possibilities are endless with such a versatile piece!!

So... the woman on the hill scores another "Yiya" with the first time making something!!!  Woohooo!!  (Remember the part where I said that I just got these templates?).  And with so many arrays, I wish I didn't have to do anything else so that I could quilt all the time... lol

I just thank God for the creativity and ability to work on such beautiful projects.  Now to ponder - how will this be used to glorify Him?

I guess it's time to go from practice pieces to blessing pieces... Who knows! :)

Doodling cards for FMQ

Doodling and FMQ?  Something might not seem right, but there is a whole lot going on here...  Remember when I mentioned in a previous post that learning FMQ is very similar to learning how to write?  There are all kinds of strokes that must be learned in order to know how to complete the letter.  I recall those exercises where I was supposed to draw swans in the first line of the page, just to end up with a bunch of "S" by the end.  

Well, FMQ also has a lot of strokes, and because it is done with a sewing machine, we don't have the chance to stop and erase, redo, start at another point or white out.  That is why every single opportunity to practice is needed to achieve an understanding of where the lines (thread) have to go next.  

While watching videos or reading books about FMQ, instead of going to the instructions, I would grab a piece of paper and started following the designs.  That's how it all started.  Then it happened when I was on the phone; instead of random doodles, I was sketching the quilting designs I had seen in a picture, here and there.

With time, I just thought I was wasting precious time, ink and paper to practice, so - once again - I decided I had to do something pretty and useful with my practice pieces.  And the perfect opportunity came when I was unable to find a card.  None of the ones I found really expressed what I wanted to say, so I decided to use Canson universal paper and a felt-tip liner.  That's when I ended up with the following:

All of the designs I used in these cards are based on Angela Walter's Craftsy class Machine Quilting Negative Space.  She is a super skilled long arm quilter who likes quilting designs that blend into the background fabric, or negative space, so that texture becomes complimentary to the main design of a quilt.

Swirls, leaves and circles


Swirls, circles and breaking up space with brackets and lines

Playing with scale, depth and emphasis
I folded the paper in three parts, and folded the inside to make a sort of flap.  I repeated the design on the flap, but I also changed it a bit so that I could use the blank space to write the person's name.

I just opened the paper and wrote the note in the middle part, on the inside.  It was so nice to see the person tracing the design with her finger - she liked her card very much!  :)

And there you have it... another idea for turning practice pieces into something beautiful and useful that you can share with others.

The fact that you made it yourself adds a unique touch!  

See you next post!

Adventures in FMQ ... Continued

Well, remember my first post about Free Motion Quilting?  I have another practice piece now, and I must confess it's been finished for a while; I just have to reorganize my time and post more often.  I am so thankful for the comments about my "crafty bones," so I decided to set time aside and at least try to catch up with my projects.  And here it is:

And just because it's as cute as the front, here is the back:

 And here is a close-up of the section I like the most of this piece:

Like my previous practice pieces, this practice has designs by Leah Day; you can find a link to her blog here.

And as I have mentioned some time before, I can't stand wasting fabric, so I had to do something useful with these FMQ practice pieces - they are now happily living with my pots and pans, making sure that nothing gets scratched...

Mr. Fuzzband got this particular set because he thought the color fits us: chocolate...  Are any explanations actually needed?  I think that these choco-set needed something special to go with.  And I even get to do some FMQ in the process!

I am now thinking of making more practice pieces and turning them into baskets for organizing, or even drawer liners.  I haven't made up my mind yet, but be sure that their picture will sometime end up here, for everyone to enjoy!  
Have a wonderful day and stay blessed!  :)