Monday, December 29, 2014

Grand Illusion Week Five

I am incredibly excited to report that not only did I finish this week's step, but I also managed to complete steps one through four this week! This is the first time in the four years I have been participating in Bonnie's mystery quilts that I have actually been caught up!

I am enjoying Bonnie's posts about the Grand Hotel. I have no memory of the decor from my visit there (I think I was four years old at the time) or from watching "Somewhere in Time" a million times when it was on HBO back in the day. I find the colors amusing...and charmingly tacky!  I am anxious to see how all of these pieces come together. They certainly don't look like they belong in the same quilt! I have complete faith in Bonnie, however, and know that it will turn out awesome!

It seems that most everyone is having great success at keeping up with the mystery this year - check out the Monday link-up on Bonnie's blog to see the fantastic progress!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Grand Illusion Week Four

Progress on the Grand Illusion mystery continues... I managed to get a few minutes in the sewing room here and there over the past week and finished a few more blocks from steps one and two before clue four was posted. I am quite confident I would have all three steps completed if it wasn't for the shopping and cooking!  I need to hire a personal assistant! Of course, assistants can be a problem when you are completely OCD like I am.  My husband was on vacation Friday and I asked him and my daughter to take care of getting a Christmas tree. I should have thought that through a little better before asking...first, neither one shares my OCD tendencies. Second, they really, really like a bargain. They were thrilled when they found a tree at Lowe's that was marked down to $4.88.  It didn't matter to them that it was the world's most crooked tree. They decided they felt sorry for it....they knew no one else would want it. I really think they did it just to mess with me.  My daughter posted it on her Facebook page right after they got it in the stand.

I did the best I could....after considerable maneuvering of the position of the trunk in the stand to make the tree appear at least somewhat upright....trying to turn it to find its "best"side....and throwing on a bunch of ornaments and tinsel, we ended up with this. Yep, it's still making me crazy. It's really hard to get good help these days!

I made fairly decent progress on step four over the weekend.  I did all of my cutting at once and even finished my cutting for step three, too. I really hate cutting but it was really nice to have it all ready to sew. I sewed all of my black and white HSTs and then sewed all of the half blocks. I was happy to find that I only sewed three of them the wrong way....not too much rework.  Then I started putting the halves together. Three blocks in I figured out that I was putting the wrong halves a little more rework.  I managed to get half of my blocks completed before breaking to cook dinner last night.

I still have 39 of the second block to finish. I'm hoping to catch up on all four clues while I am off this week.  Of course, the sewing will have to wait until the shopping, wrapping and cookie baking is finished.  I know better than to ask my husband to help....

To see how other Grand Illusion quilters are progressing, check out the Mystery Link-up on Bonnie's blog.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Grand Illusion Week Three

Not much progress to report this week! I went out after work and did a little Christmas shopping on Friday and followed that up with a late dinner at Red Lobster (had to use up a gift certificate from last Christmas!).  Saturday was Wool Club, where I celebrated Christmas with great friends and wonderful food. So I didn't get to the sewing machine until Sunday. This week's clue was definitely an easy one! I finished 40 of the double four patches and have the strip sets ready for 20 more with only a few hours at the machine. My greens are pretty bright....I am really starting to wonder how all these colors will come together!

I don't get much time to sew during the week but have been chipping away at the first two steps every chance I get.  I can't wait until next week when I am on vacation and can catch up!  Bonnie posted that the next couple of steps will be easy like this one so I might actually stand a chance of finishing this one before next November!

Check out the Monday link-up on Bonnie's blog to see how everyone else is doing.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Grand Illusion Week Two

For the first time in what seems like forever I had a completely free place to go and no one to cook for.  I spent nearly the whole weekend in my sewing room!  I made great progress on step two.  I decided to use Bonnie's first method to do my cutting.

This method worked well for me and the best part was that it gave me a use for my duplicate Easy Angle ruler.  (Sadly, I actually have three of them for some reason....)

I really like the look of the double diamond block. I am enjoying these colors - they are definitely different from my norm!

I finished 57 complete blocks and the rest of the halves.  I still need to trim rabbit ears and then can get the rest of the blocks together.

I got a little farther on step one over the course of last week.

And I've made quite a bit of progress on my giant rug:

Okay, now that I look at the picture it really doesn't look like all that much progress, but I do try to work on it pretty much every night.  It's hard to tell from the picture but the section I've hooked is probably two feet long. The rug is 30" x 76" so there's still a long way to go.

I hope I can drag myself away from the sewing machine long enough to get some Christmas shopping done.  Bonnie's mysteries are addicting!

That's my progress report for the week!  Check out how others are progressing on Bonnie's blog.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Grand Illusion Week One

It's that time of year again - let the mystery begin!  I was very excited that I was able to get the last border on my Celtic Solstice top on Wednesday.  My goal was to have it completed before starting Grand Illusion and I made it just in time!

I really should have removed all of the junk from my husband's night stand prior to taking the picture...  I am really happy with the colors and how it turned out.  The challenge now will be finding someone to quilt it. The awesome quilter that I have been relying on for years has decided to retire at the beginning of next year.  Definitely sad news for me!

I got a start on this year's mystery, Grand Illusion, on Friday afternoon.  With a completely open weekend I expected I would be able to finish the first step before returning to work this morning but sadly that wasn't the case.  Too many distractions with the girls at home...lots of shopping and cooking. I'm hoping that I can still find a couple of hours after work this week to finish up before step two is posted.

I don't think that the colors came across all that well in this picture.  I am using Bonnie's colors this year. I was able to pull most from my stash...except the pinks.  I have quite the crazy assortment of fabrics - most of the pinks I am using are Civil War reproductions, while the teals are batiks and an assortment of odds and ends - Fossil Fern, a piece from a Christmas collection a few years back, etc. The other colors are all over the place as well. 

I finished all of my HSTs and assembled 26 of the 100 broken dishes blocks. These are definitely color combinations outside of my norm!  I am a big fan of the Grand Hotel, though, and love the fact that these colors were inspired by the decor there.  I have very vague memories of my parents taking me there when I was young (I think I was three?) and "Somewhere in Time" has always been one of my favorite movies.  Reading all of Bonnie's posts and seeing all of the beautiful pictures makes me want to go back.  I can't wait to see where this goes!

Visit the Mystery Monday Link-Up post on Bonnie Hunter's blog to see how others are progressing with step one. I am so envious of the ladies in Chandler, Arizona - the kick-off party looks like it was a blast!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fall Travels

I've had a busy and incredibly inspiring past couple of weeks!  Houston was phenomenal - by far the best show I've ever seen. Although the special exhibit of 500 traditional quilts was fantastic, the red and white quilts stole the show.  The exhibit was breathtaking!

I have been wanting to make a red and white quilt ever since I saw photos of the exhibit in New York, but after experiencing the Houston display I feel that I absolutely must make one. I am still trying to decide on a pattern. I already have a start on collecting fabric for it, though. We attended a 40th Anniversary Celebration luncheon while at the Festival and were treated to a beautiful room of red and white - white tablecloths topped with squares of a gorgeous red Moda fabric, accented with coordinating Moda fabrics for napkins. Our napkins were ours to keep as a souvenir, and one lucky person at each table won the table topper. I was the lucky winner!  I plan to use both the napkin and the table topper in my red and white project.

Another exhibit I really enjoyed at Houston highlighted Australian quilters. Quilts by Di Ford, Carolyn Koenig and Michelle Yeo were displayed in one section of the show.  They were all beautiful!  All three were available at the exhibit, autographing books and answering questions. Di and Michelle also taught a free broderie perse class at the Craftsy stand.  It was a wonderful and unexpected surprise to get to chat with them and learn their techniques.

There is so much more to tell about Houston - a class with Luixin Newman and a new scanning and cutting toy that I can't wait to try out....But then there was the Birthday Bash at Wooly Woolens over the last weekend. It is always so wonderful to go to Janice's!  The food is terrific, the wool is to die for and the company is always tons of fun.  We sat with Barb from Iowa and Karen from Nebraska. They were great table-mates!  We are hoping that we can all get together again at a class next year.

I started a new rug. This is officially the largest rug I have ever started. And by large I mean huge.  Really huge. Somewhat intimidating, really...  I am making great progress - or so it seems until I take it off the frame and see how much more there is to do.  I am so happy with the colors that I want to work on it every chance I get!

Too bad the new rug excitement always wears off long before the project is complete!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Projects New and Old

Hard to believe that it's been nearly a month since my last post - this year is really flying by!  The past few weeks have been fairly productive - I've made progress on a couple of old projects and started (or prepared to start) a few new ones.  First, a finish - I finally completed my Vines and Flowers rug from Anita's class last November.

My Tulip Cross rug is keeping my frame occupied until I head to Janice's for a workshop next month. I've hooked a little on it but it is tough getting back into a project after a 5+ year hiatus. I really need to stick with it and finish that rug. It is still one of my favorite projects. If only there wasn't SO much border!

I also finished a few more 6" LeMoyne Stars. I am getting very close to having all of these blocks completed.   I'm thinking I should get on a quilter's list for February to force myself to finish up.  I always do better when I have a deadline!

I attended a local retreat a couple of weekends ago and spent all three days working on my Celtic Solstice.  My goal is to have the top finished before the next one begins Nov 28. I am getting very close - the center is together and I started piecing the borders over the weekend. My plan is take over the family room and get the borders on when the hubby heads to Florida.

I've decided to stick with Bonnie's colors for this year's mystery.  I thought I would go Civil War, but I like the colors she went with and seem to have almost everything I need in my stash.  Here's what I have so far:

I need to add a couple more fat quarters of pink and black.  I didn't have much of either in my stash, but I have all of the other colors well covered.  It's always exciting to be able to use up 10+ yards of stash!

I didn't spend my entire weekend in the sewing room.  On Friday night I drove down to Rolla to see Home Free perform.  It was a fantastic show - so much fun!  They are incredibly talented. I'm completely bummed that they won't be coming anywhere close to St. Louis on their Christmas tour.  I would love to see them again!

And speaking of Christmas (shudder!), I started another new project over the weekend - a block of the month tree skirt in wool. I've been wanting to make a tree skirt for years and this pattern is adorable.  It's wool applique, too - much more "do-able" than the Judy Niemeyer pattern I've been considering for years.  Here's the first prepped sewing done yet:

It didn't occur to me until after I had pressed the fusible onto the wool that I forgot to reverse the pattern.  Oh well... No one will ever know, right???

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Baltimore Overload!

I've just about recovered from the past couple of weeks on the road - a little fun, a little work, and a LOT of Baltimore!  Along the way I managed to finish the 24th 12" block for my LeMoyne Star - only one more 12" block and 6 more 6" blocks to go!

The Baltimore immersion began with a trip to the sixth annual Baltimore on the Prairie conference in Nebraska.  I was very fortunate to have two classes with Sue Garman, an absolutely phenomenal teacher.  She is my new quilting hero!  She is so incredibly organized and productive.  She shared a number of fantastic tips with us. After a number of years of taking applique classes it isn't often that you learn anything truly new, but that was not the case with Sue. I learned a number of great new tricks. Now that I am home I will have to work up the courage to applique without lines, one of Sue's time-saving tactics. I just couldn't let go of my lines while in the class....

Sue presented a fantastic program on her quilts at one of the evening gatherings. She is such a talented quilter and a very funny speaker!  I was impressed by the broad range in her quilts - style, fabrics and level of difficulty. You would never guess that all of the quilts she shared were made by the same person. Here are just a few of the ones that we saw:

There were a lot of other incredible quilts shared by other BOTP participants during show and tell.

Following the BOTP conference, I headed to Baltimore, MD for a work-related conference. I allowed a little extra time in my travel plans to see a few quilt-related sites. It was a bit disappointing - you really can't see much unless there is an exhibition or event specifically related to quilts. The DAR Museum was a complete dud....nothing quilt-related at all in their regular exhibits, and of course I was too early for the quilt exhibit that begins there in October.  The Maryland Historical Society Museum did have a few quilts on display, but photos are prohibited. I'm sure that there are many people who don't share my opinion, but I have no interest in museums that don't allow photos. It was nice to see the quilts, but in my opinion not worth the $9 admission.

My trip to Baltimore luckily coincided with the September meeting of the Baltimore Applique Society so I was able to attend my first meeting.  I have been a member for several years and drool over the newsletter every month, wishing I could hear the fabulous programs in person. This month's program was presented by Sue Reich, an expert on World War II quilts.  While the quilts for the most part were not beautiful, the program was excellent. Show and tell was fantastic also - there are some very talented quilters in that group!

My Baltimore adventure culminated with a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum with our TAS group for a private showing of the American Album quilt that is part of their collection. The quilt is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous and is in wonderful condition. It is a bit of a mix of Baltimore styles, but really appealed to me in that it has a wonderful balance between the simpler, Style 2 blocks and the more ornate (but not overly so) Style 1. 

Seeing this quilt was the perfect end to my two week Baltimore adventure.   I'm feeling very inspired....if only I had more time to stitch!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weekend Travels

I just returned from a fabulous weekend of quilt and rug hooking fun and thought I should get in a quick post before heading off to Baltimore on the Prairie. The weekend started with a trip to Bloomington, IL to see Bonnie Hunter.  What an incredible guild!  They have 300+ members and do not meet over the summer, so we were treated to an incredible show & tell prior to Bonnie taking the stage. There were so many beautiful quilts!

Bonnie's lecture was outstanding (no surprise!).  She explained her scrap saver system and shared lots of quilts with us.

While I love them all, I have to say that my favorite quilt is her basket quilt made as an exchange with an overseas friend.  I had a chance to see it up close - it is gorgeous!

I left the lecture ready to start cutting my stash into strips and squares. I love what Bonnie does with her scraps!

On Friday we shop-hopped our way down to the lake, stopping at Peace and Applique in Rochester, IL and then Homestead Hearth in Mexico, MO. I have to say that I was less than impressed by the customer service at the Rochester shop.  I have been there before and never really had an issue other than extremely slow service at the register, but the young lady at the counter on Friday was a complete disappointment. Irritating enough that I have no desire to ever go back.  Homestead Hearth, on the other hand, was wonderful as usual!  We spent quite a bit of time there and definitely did not leave empty-handed.

Saturday we headed over to Warsaw, MO for the Truman Lake Hook-in. It was our second year there and it was so much fun!  There were a lot of different vendors this year and we had a lot of fun visiting with Janice and Jim from Wooly Woolens and learning about an antique sock knitting machine from another vendor.  There were a couple of quilt shops there that I had not heard of before and I learned a new trick for using starch to prep for English paper piecing that I might have to try out.  

As usual, I forgot to take pictures... The picture above shows the booth where the EPP technique was being demonstrated. The quilts were beautiful!

After the hook-in we headed over to Saltbox Primitive Woolens for the open house and found a few more things that had to come home with us.  It is really a nice shop and every time I go it seems that they have added in a little more quilting stuff.

The weekend was filled with great food, excellent events and a lot of shopping. A great warm-up for Baltimore on the Prairie this week!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Kansas Troubles Fun

Let me begin with saying that I am terrible at remembering to take pictures for posts!  I started off strong Tuesday night at our guild meeting but quickly became wrapped up in everything that was going on and just stopped taking them. I didn't take a single picture at the workshop I attended yesterday, either. I really need to do a better job of remembering!

Lynne Hagmeier of Kansas Troubles Quilters spoke at our guild meeting on Tuesday. I have always liked a lot of Kansas Troubles' fabric and the look of her work, but up until recently hadn't really followed her work all that closely. When I was working with her to set up the workshop I began following her blog and reading up on her "layered patchwork" technique. I was on the fence - not sure about the raw edge thing, which I absolutely will not do in applique. I decided to take the workshop, but wasn't convinced I would ever actually do a quilt with her technique.

And then there was the trunk show.  Lynne's quilts were gorgeous!  I absolutely loved the cozy look of those edges and was really impressed by how she makes something that really is primitive look really sophisticated.    Her program was very entertaining - and inspirational, judging by the people that were lined up at her table for the rest of the evening.  Below is a shot of Lynne with some of her wares before the shopping chaos began.

And here is a picture of one of my many favorite quilts she showed in her program. It is on the cover of the current issue of American Patchwork and Quilting magazine. The quilt features her new fabric line coming out in September.  I think I might have to add this one to my list.

The colors aren't really showing well - the mercury-halide lighting in the room where we meet is hard on photos. I love Hunter's Star quilts and was intrigued by how she put this one together.

I worked on the 30-Something pattern from Lynne's latest book in our workshop yesterday. I managed to take a very simple technique and make a mess of it - sewing things upside down and backwards... I spent more time ripping than actually sewing!  It was really a fun technique!  I decided that would prefer a darker thread as Lynne recommended - while it shows up on the neutrals, it seems less pronounced than the lighter threads look on the darks - so I only completed one block. It was a great day of getting to know Lynne and learning more about her business. I did a LOT of shopping - I'm a total KT junkie now - and can't wait to get back to my project.

A quick update on my last post - my pillow is finished.  It should be somewhere at Sauder Village right now. When I took it over to Nola there was another one that was done with the same plaid and it was amazing how different they looked!

I'm not sure what I will do with it but it was fun to do.  My husband didn't seem all that excited by it...when I showed him the finished product his first response was "Do we have to keep it?" Glad to know he's such a fan!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bonnie Hunter Workshop!

I have been wanting to take a class with Bonnie Hunter for years. I've tried on various occasions to get out guild onto her calendar, but she is so incredibly popular that she is booked years in advance. So when I saw her post on Facebook last week about flying into to Bloomington, IL, I checked her calendar to see where she was headed. On a whim, I contacted the host guild in Champaign, IL on Thursday to see if there was any room left in any of Bonnie's workshops and lo and behold there was one spot that had opened up on Saturday due to a cancellation. I  figured it was meant to be! I signed up for the workshop and hit the road.

The workshop was fantastic! It was hosted by the Illini Country Stitchers, an incredibly friendly and welcoming group.  I absolutely loved Bonnie and had such a great time with the group.  I did a lousy job of getting pictures....I was too distracted by sewing (although I can't say that I accomplished a whole lot). Bonnie showed us a different way of strip piecing nine patches.

She also showed us how she creates "bonus" half-square triangles by sewing an extra seam before trimming off excess fabric.

The bonus squares for this project end up 2" (1.5" finished). I'm not convinced that I want to deal with around 300 of those..sounds like a lot of extra work!

I haven't taken any pics of my blocks yet as I didn't really get enough accomplished to warrant a photo.  I am using fabric from my stash - a great roll of mixed reproduction fabrics and batiks that I picked up at The Back Door a few years ago paired with a bunch of neutrals from the stash I was collecting for the all neutral quilt on my "one of these days" list.  I decided to go with scrappy neutrals and a mix of different greens for the star points.  I'm beginning to rethink that decision after seeing these blocks from one of my classmates (picture borrowed from Bonnie's blog).  

I really love the way these look!  I may have to change my plan...or make two!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Home Alone

It seems like ages since I have had a weekend home alone!  It happened this weekend - everyone left except the dog, who occasionally requires more attention than the average toddler...and thinks something is terribly wrong if I haven't gotten out of bed by sunrise...  The solitude made for a fairly productive weekend.  Nothing finished, really, but I did make progress on a couple of projects.

One of the projects I worked is a hooked pillow for a magazine article Nola is writing. I started with a plaid wool and three complimentary pieces.

The idea is to show how different the plaid looks when hooked different ways. 

The top two squares were hooked with the wool cut perpendicular to the selvages (actually vertically in the picture above - in the direction of the colored stripes). The left square was done by sorting the strips by color and hooking a frame with the green strips and filling the center with the red and yellow. The square on the upper right was done by cutting the wool and hooking it in exactly the same order as it was cut from the piece.  The lower right was hooked in the same way - in cutting order - but from wool strips cut parallel to the selvage. The lower right was hooked randomly mainly from a mixture of strips cut in both directions.  This will be finished off as a pillow with the plaid wool on the back. Nola has a bunch of people doing these.  It is very fun to see all of the different effects that people have achieved with the plaids!

I spent some of the weekend catching up (or almost catching up) on prepping my SBOW blocks.  I still need to piece the background for week 7 but have all of the wool pieces cut. Blocks 1-6 are prepped and i am nearly finished stitching block 1. I have a LOT of stitching to do!

I also finally made a start on my first broderie perse section for my Rising Sun. I have been avoiding it - it is definitely not my favorite technique - but I really want to have it in progress to take to Baltimore on the Prairie. I didn't do any is amazing how long it takes just to choose fabrics!  I am about half way through the prep.  I think a couple of the flowers I selected will be a real pain to applique...they may end up being switched out for something easier...but I am going to give it a shot.  I'm kind of liking how it is turning out so far.

I addition to taking several frisbee breaks to keep the puppy happy, I also took a little time out to dispose of some zucchini. 

Sadly, I barely made a dent in the pile on the counter, but the house sure smelled wonderful!