Christmas Tree Wall Hanging

Christmas trees 4Every year when I unpack the Christmas decorations, I wish I had a new quilted wall hanging to put up. I have a few that I’d make years ago, but neither fit my current style. So this year, since we stayed home for Christmas instead of traveling, I decided to finally make a new one.

I wanted to keep it classic, without getting too fussy. After a bit of online research, I found the Lovely Little Forest Quilt pattern at Purl Soho. The pattern was simple enough, and I certainly had the green fabric I needed. So, I got to making trees!

Christmas trees 1It was so much fun picking out the greens from my stash that I couldn’t stop! I made so many trees that my wall hanging ended up being a bit larger than the one in the pattern.

While I liked the simplicity of the design, I wanted mine to be Christmas-ier. I tried adding some red embroidery, but that looked a bit messy compared to the clean lines of the design. Then I decided to check my ribbon stash, and there I found some large red rickrack.

Christmas trees 2I tried putting it in a few places and ended up liking a single length on a few of the trees. The rickrack was so thick that simply folding under the ends wasn’t going to look very clean. So I decided to unsew the side seams of five of the trees, slip in the rickrack, and sew them back up. Easy! Or not, as it turns out. My seam edges got a bit wonky on those trees (not that they were all that great to begin with), but the overall effect was what I wanted.

Christmas trees 3For the quilting, I echoed the shape of the trees, extending the echos into the white spaces. In retrospect, I should have stitched in the ditch to anchor the fabric first. Instead I started at the bottom and worked my way up, which shifted the fabric a bit as I went. So a few puffy spots but nothing too bad.

Christmas tree finalI thought the piece needed a bit more red, so I dug through my very, very small red stash and found a red print that had a solid red backside. I didn’t have much of it, though, so I used the double-sided binding technique from String Quilt Revival and used the red on only the front.

Christmas tree backThe backing fabric is one that I must have bought a million yards of. I used it as the backing on a large quilt a few years ago, and I still had enough for this piece, and the binding, and the corner hanging tabs, and I still have some left.

Christmas trees 5The finished piece measures 18.5 x 25.5 inches. Now that it’s done, I’ll pack it away with the rest of the Christmas decorations. And when I unpack things again next Christmas, I’ll have a new wall hanging to display!

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My Favorite Quilt (So Far)

String quilt 3I think this is it—my most favorite quilt that I’ve made so far. I have loved it since I started piecing it many years ago, and I still love it today, now that it’s finally finished.

The pattern for the quilt is from the book String Quilt Revival by Virginia Baker and Barbara Sanders. (That’s the same book I used to make String Quilt #2.) The blocks are 6.5 inches and include one piece of the four-pointed star surrounded by strings. I used a mesh stabilizer as a foundation for the blocks. It doesn’t add much weight, but it adds a lot of stability when sewing all those thin strips of fabric. (Here’s a link to purchase the stabilizer I used from the book’s authors.)

String quilt quilting

The blocks are then put together to form the stars and the secondary diamonds. I love the shapes in the quilt, so I accentuated them with the quilting. I outlined the stars and added lines to the centers. For the diamonds, I just followed the strings in kind of a modified spiral.

String quilt 4

The quilting really was a hang-up for me, as I’ve had the quilt top done for at least two years. I’ve even had it pinned for most of that time. But I was afraid I might not like the quilting, and then I’d be really sad. Finally, I decided I just wanted the quilt done. So I quilted it. And while it’s nowhere near perfect, I still love it.

String quilt 6

The finished quilt is 59 x 59 inches. The backing I used is just one fabric, a teal that pretty much matches the lighter stars. It’s also the fabric I used as the binding.

For me, this quilt is really a memory quilt—a fabric memory quilt. I love looking at all the little pieces of fabric and remembering the projects I made with each one. Baby quilts for kids who are now in middle school and high school, bags that I’ve worn out, and mug rugs I’ve given as gifts.

We’ll be updating our living room soon, and I hope to hang it in there for easy viewing whenever I want to relive a few memories.

Quilt Show and Mug Rugs

This past weekend, I went with Heather Jones to spend the day manning the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild booth at a quilt show in Louisville. The show asked the guild to contribute some quilts as well as, so between the booth and show, we were very well represented. (Here’s a link to the CMQG blog post about the event with lots of photos of our quilts.)

I contributed my good ol’ String Quilt #2 that I had made last year. And as luck would have it, I was able to show it off to one of the two ladies who inspired the quilt! Virginia Baker, co-author of String Quilt Revival, the book from which I got the pattern for the quilt, just happened to have a booth at the show, too.

Virginia Baker in Louisville

Me and Virginia Baker, co-author of String Quilt Revival.

She spotted me walking the show, and I was so glad she did! It’s always great to catch up with my former authors and see what they’re working on now. In the case of Ginger and her co-author and sister Bobbie, it’s seven new patterns. I love this new one titled Wedged. I just can’t seem to get enough of string quilts.

SONY DSC

While at the booth, I had some time to do a little handwork, so I finished up the binding on two mug rugs I have been working on.

The first one is for my sister Carrie, a librarian, to donate to a library association fundraiser. I found a few fabrics I liked that evoked “library” or at least “words,” and the pattern is one from the book Modern Blocks by Susanne Woods. It measures 11.5″ square.

Comma star mug rug

The second one is an improv block I made after fussy-cutting some teapot fabric. This one measures 8.5″ x 10″. It’ll either be the second mug rug Carrie donates to the fundraiser, or it will be the one I bring to the September CMQG mug rug swap.

teapot mug rug

I’ve got one more mug rug to go by next week, then I’ll need to figure out my next project!

Playing with String Blocks

Watch out. I have string quilts on the brain again. I’ve already made a string quilt wall hanging and a string quilt top. But this weekend, I got string-quilt inspired again, thanks to the Roar charity quilt I made recently. I ended up loving the fabrics in that quilt, and I thought the scraps would make a cute string quilt mug rug.

This time out, I decided to make my own string block pattern. I had a lot of scraps of the No-Show Mesh stabilizer left from the other projects, so I cut out 6 x 6-inch pieces. Next I made marks on the stabilizer with permanent marker as shown below. The wonky triangle at the top would be the same fabric for each block. The line down the center was a guide to make sure that the first piece I placed was straight.

I aligned the first piece of fabric with that center line and sewed it on with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

I pressed the first strip to the right, and I kept adding strips and pressing until the blocks were complete. I then trimmed each of the eight blocks to 6 x 6 inches.

I loved making the blocks—adding each string and seeing how they came out in the end. But once the blocks were done, the REAL fun began. Because once the blocks were done, I could start playing with the arrangement! My first inclination was to keep the triangle fabrics together.

I liked what was going on with the strings in this layout, so I reworked it a bit to make the strings the focus, rather than the triangles.

With a bit more playing, I realized that offsetting the triangles made kind of a cool shape, too.

Finally, I hit upon an arrangement I wasn’t expecting at all. In this one, the triangles form borders to the strings in the center. I kind of love it.

I’m not sure yet which arrangement I’ll go with. I’m not even sure I’ve hit upon all the potential arrangements. I may have to play with my blocks a bit more, just to be sure.

String Quilt #2

And the string quilt #2 wall-hanging top is complete! As I mentioned, my first string quilt used scraps from previous projects. For this one, I wanted to use some of my favorite current fabrics, focusing on the orange and green ones that make up the bulk of my stash. I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Not all of the seams line up perfectly and a few stars are missing their points, but one of the things I love about string quilts is the imperfections are part of the charm. So I just added a few more imperfections of my own.

I’ve decided not to add borders to this string quilt either. To me, there’s so much going on that adding a border seems like just one more thing. Of course, one theory would be that a border could keep the chaos of the strings contained a bit. But I think I’m going to let a turquoise binding serve that task.

So next up is the quilting: the part that usually holds me up for several months…well, more likely several years. Because it is a nice, manageable wall-hanging size, my plan is to quilt it myself using all straight lines. The straight lines will be outside the ditch (because stitching in the ditch isn’t as easy as it sounds), adding to the geometric lines already going on.

Part of my quilting issues come from not having a really good, reliable marking tool. So my ears perked up recently when the women at the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild were talking about the Chaco Liner marking pen from Clover. Several of them have had great success with it, so I purchased one from Lavender Street in Montgomery (a shop dangerously close to my home), and I’m going to give it a try.

To learn how this quilt came to be, you can refer back to this blog post. And to read about some of the quirks of working on this quilt, you can take a look back at this post.

My First String Quilt

I got to work on my green and orange string quilt for several hours this weekend (during a few of those, I was also enjoying my own personal Rob Reiner film festival: This is Spinal Tap and The Princess Bride). The quilt is coming along nicely, but before I post that finished top (hopefully later this week), I wanted to share with you my first string quilt.

Like the green and orange quilt I’m working on, this quilt pattern came from the book String Quilt Revival by Virginia Baker and Barbara Sanders. This pattern is called Diamonds are Forever, and their version is featured on the cover of the book.

I loved the dramatic look of the black stars in the authors’ quilt, but after pulling the very few pieces of black fabric I had in my stash, I realized I’m really not a black fabric gal. So I chose two different blues to be my stars (at some point I ran out of the darker blue and ended up having to dye a new piece to match—as I’ve said before, each project is its own adventure).

The string fabrics I used are truly my scraps. After the quilt top was finished, I was surprised by how many browns and reds were used. But then I remembered the cowboy quilt I made for my nephew, the Spider-Man quilt I made for my husband, and the many redwork quilts I made along the way. Of course, there are still a lot of “my” colors in it, too (greens, orange, pinks, plus yellow and purple thrown in for fun).

I love that this quilt will be a reminder of many fabrics that I loved and used. Just looking at the picture above, I can spot several where the last bits were used in this quilt.

And that’s fitting as it is the origin of string quilts. The first string quilts were often made from the last remaining bits of usable fabric from worn-out clothing. These pieces were often small, which made them perfect for string quilts. In those past quilts, newspaper was used as a stabilizer—the thing onto which all these tiny pieces of fabric were sewn so they didn’t shift around or stretch.

Instead of newspaper, Virginia and Barbara, the authors of String Quilt Revival, recommend using a non-woven, lightweight stabilizer called No-Show Mesh Stabilizer. It has no bias or grain, so it doesn’t stretch—which ends up being very important when you’re lining up so many small pieces—and it’s light enough that you can leave it in the quilt, instead of tearing it out.

So while that product sounded perfect, I, of course, first tried my readily available fusible interfacing. Don’t use fusible interfacing. Believe me. The blocks were a stretchy, sticky mess that I ended up throwing away. Listen to the authors on this one and use the non-woven stabilizer.

I know of two places that carry this particular stabilizer: the authors themselves and Nancy’s Notions. I first purchased a small roll from Nancy’s Notions, but once it became clear I was going to get hooked on string quilts, I purchased a larger roll from the authors. The stabilizer really is the key to having fun making these quilts. Once you purchase the roll, it will go a long way, and you’ll get at least a couple of fabulous string quilts out of it!

Next stop: The completed top of my green and orange string quilt!

String Quilt Observations

This weekend I had a chance to dig back into my latest string quilt. I love going back to a project and getting all excited about it again. I’ve decided to make this piece a wall hanging, 4 stars across by 4 stars down. I have a bit more done than I’m showing here, so I have about 31 triangles left to make.

As I was working on those last 31 triangles, two things struck me about making string quilts.

1. They take a lot of thread. In the past, I sewed so infrequently that it seemed like the thread on spools was infinite. The spools just never seemed to run out. Until I got to making string quilts. I’m sure the spool I was using wasn’t full, but I did run out last night. If nothing else, it feels like a sign of a productive day!

2. They’re a bit messy. When making my last string quilt, my husband and I started noticing little threads all over the house. Upstairs outside the craft room, downstairs in the kitchen, in the TV room, on our clothes. Pretty much all over. When you’re cutting that many strips, then trimming that many strips, you’re bound to get some loose threads. A sharp blade on the rotary cutter will help (and I need to go get a few new blades this week). But this time I’m also trying to control the spread of threads by vacuuming after each sewing session. I’m not a huge fan of vacuuming, but I decided I’d rather frequently vacuum the small space in the craft room rather than vacuum the entire house. Not that I’d really ever vacuum the entire house.

I’m learning that every project has its own quirks (here’s my blog post about the quirks of sewing with knits). Have you noticed that too? I’d love to hear the quirks of projects you’re working on. Just leave a comment below!

Finding the Next Project

Three weeks ago, I was working hard to finish the last of three projects I wanted to take with me on our beach vacation.

Two weeks ago, I was enjoying our beach vacation.

Last week, I kept thinking, “Oh, my. What next?”

When I’m ready to start on a new project, but have nothing specific in mind, I usually start with my books. I plop down on the floor in front of my bookshelf, and I start pulling out my sewing and quilting books. I love my physical craft books, and the act of flipping through the pages, making piles of possibilities, is very much a part of my creating process. This time around, the books that were left off the shelf at the end were Denyse Schmidt Quilts (an old favorite that I use more for inspiration than for actual projects), Fresh Quilting by Malka Dubrawsky (a newer book from which I’ve made a small scarf project for my sister), and String Quilt Revival by Virginia Baker and Barbara Sanders (a book close to my heart, as I acquired it for the publishing company I worked for, working closely with the two wonderful authors who happen to be sisters).

Next, I scooted across the floor to sit in front of my fabric stash. The print fabrics are roughly organized by color, so I went through the stacks, mixing and matching from the piles a few noteworthy combinations but nothing significant enough for a quilt. Then I pulled out my stack of solids. I keep them separate because I think of them differently than I do my prints. Unlike many modern quilts, my quilts usually start with prints, and solids are a bit of an afterthought. But this time I was struck by my collection of green solids.

(As those of you who try to photograph or print greens know, they’re tricky to re-create. This photo mutes the darker shades a bit.)

The combination of greens made me laugh—I liked the variety in addition to the fact that many were so close in tone. These greens got me thinking back to the book String Quilt Revival. I had made a quilt from that book already, and I was surprised by how dark it turned out (more on that in another post). What if I tried a string quilt mixing these greens with only green and orange prints?

I decided to make up a few blocks using the Sack Beauty pattern in the book. In that quilt the authors used a white solid for the “star” portion and strips of feed sacks for the octagons that form once the triangle blocks are put together.

To start, I used the template from the book to cut out six shapes of three different green solids to form the stars. Next I cut some orange and green prints into strips (or strings) in a variety of widths ranging from 1 inch wide to 1.75 inches wide.

And finally, I put together my six test blocks (which in this case are triangles).

Oooh. I’m intrigued! I love the colorful octagons that are forming. I’m not sure yet how I’ll handle the green centers: If I’ll mix all the shade into multi-toned stars or try to keep likes together. But I’m excited to make more and see what happens!

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