Mar 30, 2014

9-Patch Pizzazz

Woohoo!! It's done! With March almost gone, I can finally add to my list a design of my own, and I'm so excited with the results!

With sunny days finally around, I was hoping to get a good picture outside, but it was really windy, and I decided to lay the quilt on the lawn...  I'm not sure that's the kind of effect I wanted!  Poor grass, it needs some TLC and lots of sun and rain!! 

I also like the soft effect of the quilting, particularly with all the sharp angles in the piecing.  While putting it together, I kept wondering about the quilting; I knew I wanted a wavy effect, so I thought of big swirls and even feathers, but I thought this would take away from the composition.  Today, I'm still wondering about FMQ possibilities. Who knows!  I may end up making another quilt with lots and lots of negative space, just to experiment - learning is always justified, right?  :)

Here are some close-ups; some of them are right after finishing the quilting. I used a low-loft 100% cotton batting, and I was amazed at how puffy the waves looked.  Finally! Something I made looks close enough to what I had in my mind!


Going back outside, I ended up pinning the quilt to the fence. I only got two sort of decent pictures...  I felt frustrated at the time, but when I blew them up in the computer, there was something kind of romantic about the blurry quilt...  Ha! Maybe the improv techniques just oozed to the pics... 

From the first draft to the finished product...  What do you think?


Now to the next quilt adventure!  Stay blessed  :)

P.S. If you are interested in knowing more about these improvisational techniques, try these Craftsy classes - I'm certain they'll be a source of inspiration for you too!  :)

Mar 18, 2014

9-patch Pizzazz: Almost there...

I'm jumping with excitement!  One of my biggest challenges is taking a ticklish idea and making it happen... 

This time, my crafty bone started thinking of quilts and after an almost failed math session, it's finally coming together!

This is supposed to be a 9-patch quilt, but I did not want it to be anything close to traditional. From the off-center arrangement to the improvisational techniques, this quilt was quite a challenge!

And here it is, getting ready for the quilting...

I knew I wanted some simple quilting that would "soften" all the angles of the composition, without distracting from it... Something like simple wavy lines would suffice...

Using scrap pieces, I started playing with the width and length of some utility stitches, as you can see in the next picture. I found the wavy stitch in the machine (something tells me it has a good, formal, official, stitchy name) and then compared the variations and chose a stitch size I wanted to use in this quilt.

So, just start quilting! Yes, a walking foot became my best friend...  Something to consider when quilting lines (whether straight or wavy) is to quilt in different directions, so plan on how to move the quilt.  If you keep stitching all the time in the same direction, the batting will start shifting and the quilt won't be straight.

Can't wait to share the finished quilt!  It was another great opportunity to use the Scrappy Improv Blocks.  Have you had the chance to try this technique?  Don't forget to share your pictures in the Flickr pool.

Stay blessed!  :)

Mar 14, 2014

Craftsy's Endless Creativity Sale - classes at up to 50% off

Learning is to acquire knowledge and skill, by study, instruction or experience, to grasp, to become acquainted with, to understand, to gain by experience...  There are so many facets to an activity we may take for granted.  Yet, you most certainly have learned something and are in a constant learning experience.

Honestly, is there ever a moment when we stop learning?  I hope we never do!  I often wonder what I would do without the capacity to understand new things and use them; I have been blessed with the ability to learn and am deeply thankful for it.

We are in this whole new era and place with internet that just open up learning possibilities in an almost endless way... Today, I am thrilled to share a bit of my own learning experience with you - it's called CRAFTSY, and they are having a major sale event this weekend.

If you are still wondering what to do, during Spring Break you may want to consider giving CRAFTSY a try!  It's not only a site to get ideas, it's a crafting learning opportunity at the tips of your fingers!

Craftsy has bunches of online classes, ranging from quilting and sewing to gardening and cooking; the best part is that the access does not expire, so you can watch your favorite class over and over and over again, at any time, wherever you have access to the internet. 

But wait! Why not, instead of me telling you about what you can find, go ahead and try it yourself!  You won't regret it  :)  

On this weekend, you can...

Save Up to 50% on All Craftsy Classes!
Don't miss out on Craftsy's Endless Creativity Sale! Get ALL online classes at up to 50% off for a limited time only. You won't see hundreds of classes with prices this low again soon. Hurry, offer expires March 17 at midnight MT.

If you are not familiar with the platform and would like to get acquainted with Craftsy, you could always try one of their FREE mini-classes first... A great option to see what all the buzz is about!


Mar 12, 2014

A 9-Patch Challenge takes shape...

March is going so fast!  Sometimes I wish the days had more hours (especially after forwarding the clocks), but I must say I've enjoyed every one of them.

The 9-Patch Pizzazz Challenge quilt is taking shape. As the name states, the design had to be based on a  9-patch; however, I wanted a twist in my quilt. That's why I decided to include modern elements and an off-centered design.

The focus fabric is Annalee, a beautiful collection from Andover. It is gorgeous!  I really like the colors and how they come alive together!  

These will be the main blocks for the final composition. Both are improvisational and include six of the fabrics in the collection.  I just love how the different elements complement each other so well. 

So, here is the start of the Improv Block...

... and from strips we go to wonky pieces:

Then the wonky pieces and larger scraps go together to form other units.

I wanted the main "patch" to be formed of a large scrappy block, so I kept joining larger units to make it larger and larger...

In the end, I sliced that other unit because I needed some "wiggle room" for the other "patch" areas... Ah! There is a weird sense of relief when slicing a major unit for a main block; the new shape is completely unexpected! It gets divided into several parts with weird angles just to keep the creative process going... 

I ended up with several units large enough to be part of the disappearing 9 patch areas of the quilt, as well as a larger central area.  I promise this will make more sense once the quilt is finished.  :)

Another area of the quilt will have blocks that are made by sewing scraps to larger pieces of a background fabric. It's actually very similar to the improv blocks, but the difference is that larger pieces of white fabric come into play; also, the focus fabric has larger pieces that those in the improv blocks.

So far, it's looking good for the 9-patch quilt.  I can't wait to see it all together!

And how about you? Are you working in a special project? Share your comments and even pictures in the Flicker pool. It would be great to see what we all are working on with this fun technique.

Stay blessed!  :)

Mar 6, 2014

Cheery Mellow: Block 1 - Drunkard's Path Chain

It's ready!  

And just because there is something so rewarding about this little stacks of pinned cuts, here is how all the little pieces of fabric looked before they were stitched together...

I was so excited about getting all the units done that I had to celebrate with my sewing machine, hehe... Goofiness aside, the next picture DOES have an important tip. I hope you can see that the stitch length was set at 1.4. This is really helpful when working on curves; a smaller stitch allows for maneuvering the fabric easier - sometimes, it feels as is the fabric knows where to go and the curved 1/4 inch seam is practically effortless!

Just like with any other block, placement is super important and it doesn't hurt to lay the pieces down to double check where they're supposed to go before starting stitching.

I was wondering if the final effect would be any different if, instead of sewing them in rows, the units were sewn in blocks, like so:

It really didn't make much difference, but we are talking about a block that has several little squares making it up. There are other blocks that require a special construction order, but not this one.

And, just in case you haven't seen my first post about Drunkard's path, I have mentioned before that I used Marti Mitchel's templates. You can click here and here to read more about it. Another good reason why I decided to invest in these templates is that there is practically no squaring needed:

Who wouldn't like using such efficient tools!  And the results are amazingly cute!

One block finished and several more to go... This is a very interesting composition to showcase the Drunkard's units.  

Stay blessed!  :)

Mar 3, 2014

Anyone said 9-patch?

In one of my previous posts I mentioned something about signing up for a quilting challenge. A 9-patch challenge. Something I've never done before - what a better motivation to try something new, right? (Rolling my eyes at myself, for doing it once more to myself...)  Oh! Did I mention it has a deadline?

Instead of going on and on about how I generally stay away from the easy learning path, I'll just share what's been fluttering around in that crafty bone of mine!

This is kind of what I was picturing in my head:

... but when cutting time began, I knew I had an issue.  I could start working on the Improv Blocks I wanted for the focus point, but there's a moment when even those have to have boundaries and a specific size to work in a quilt that has non-improvisational elements.

So, I decided to be a good girl and hunt for graph paper...  By the way, I found this really cool website with hundreds of different papers to print; if you ever need graph, ruled, calligraphy, quilting (!!!:)) or even HEXAGON paper, just visit Printable Paper

After two sketches, I knew I wanted something off center, with different 9-patch elements in each 9-patch area of the main quilt... Like a 9-patch in a 9-patch.  Weird, I know, but my head could see it better than what I was able to put down on paper.

And then, time came to figure out color placement and patch size for the disappearing corners... Please don't even look at all the measurements and all the scratches!!  Well, I think I'm safe because you're not seeing the one that looked more than notes for a math test than quilt design, lol.

Told you!  I was really trying, but the "draft" I liked better is the one you can see on the top... Quite a collection!

So, just because I find it's always somehow necessary to bring on more projects than I could possibly handle in my "sneak in" times when I'm off work, a 9-patch is on the way!

Stay blessed!

Mar 1, 2014

The Prayer Box, by Lisa Wingate

It's been a while since I last read a book that would make me want to visit the place described in it; Hatteras and the Outer Banks had never been as appealing as they are in "The Prayer Box."

Tandi, a mother of two, and a lady that has survived hardships, abuse, abandonment, and other taxing situations, tries to start a new life in Hatteras. When she first arrives in Hatteras, she rents the bungalow of one of the main houses of the island, where Iola lives.  However, Iola passes away and Tandi is charged with the task of setting things in order in Iola's house.

One day, she was starting to clean one bedroom and she came across prayer boxes, each for a year if Iola's life. While her life starts taking shape, Tandi makes time for reading Iola's testimony of hardships and struggles. Even if they never actually meet, Iola becomes a mentor to Tandi, and this is the most precious thing of this book - how God's love and forgiveness can actually change someone's life and give them hope in every situation.

This book is full of wonderful, detailed descriptions that can easily transport the reader to the town of Hatteras in an instant. Despite this, the plot itself seemed too shallow with unsolved pieces that actually made it far from an enjoyable read.

As a big contrast to the wonderful pictorials, there are strong stereotypes in the book as well. There is the handsome, tall, strong surfer that desires every good-looking woman around and desired by them in return. Good morals, responsibility, accountability, kindness and similar adjectives will never be used to describe him. There is also the intelligent, clumsy, kind and undervalued man that no one seems to notice but is actually a better "husband material" than anyone could think; moreover, he is a teacher and is good with kids. I could not help but constantly thing of literary dicotomies like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Whickham, or Ferrars and Brandon, which probably made this book more difficult to read, because it is far from Jane Austen. If I were writing this review as a school assignment, I would definitely go deeper into it, but I would not like to completely spoil (even more) the book for those who are interested in reading it.

This brings me to the fact that I am (obviously) not pleased with the plot of the book. It is a nice, self-discovery journey for Tandi, but hardly enticing. Her insecurities often surface, and there are hints to lack of structure and discipline when she was growing up. This translates in a lack of identity and unawareness of her strengths and skills that allows people to either constantly manipulate or nurture her.

I must emphasize that, to me, the positive side of this book is Tandi's curiosity for Iola's letters, which are full of honest comments, from happiness, anger, anxiety, frustration to rejoicing and even a little mischievousness. Iola's authentic and free relationship with God oozes all over her letters, and this is what sparks in Tandi the new motivation for change. Besides, there are several individuals in the community that strive for living Christian lives and welcome Tandi in an unimaginable, friendly and loving way. 

At moments, this book is more like a modern fairy tale full of stretched circumstances and loose ends. There are some characters that take a major role in Tandi's part, but their relationship with her is hardly solved. I keep feeling that there was really no conclusion, which is not necessarily bad, but leave a bad aftertaste in this case. However, contrary to the wonderful, detailed and long descriptions of the "heroes" in Tandi's life, the undetailed attention to the other side of the coin weakens the story.

I would recommend this book if someone is interested in an easy read. There are some good values depicted in the story, particularly in Iola's letters, that can be used as practical examples for biblical teaching. In this sense, Tandi's transformation is also a token of what God's love and forgiveness do for those who seek Him with all their hearts and with authenticity of motivation, just like Iola did. 

I received a complimentary copy of "The Prayer Box" from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this biased my opinion on the book or author.