Monthly Archives: December 2011

Project 2001-52: Candle Mat

This small candle mat was made from a left-over block from a quilt I made for a young cousin’s wedding quilt.  I have had in mind for a while to make a candle mat for our dining table.  We typically have a table runner on it, with a glass bell jar on top.  It looks nice when it is arranged nicely.  However, at least twice a day, someone comes to shove aside the arrangement as the individual does a Sudoku puzzle or a crossword puzzle or reads the paper.  The table runner ends up folded back on itself and looks terrible.  My thought is that a smaller candle mat might not need to be moved aside to leave room for the activity.  We’ll see!  This is how it looks on the table.

Goal Status:  52 projects complete by today, December 31st.  I’m very pleased to have met my goal to finish one project per week for the entire year.    I am happy to have these projects done and thrilled that my flimsie cupboard is now empty.  I still have Works in Progress that I need to finish, but the completed flimsies are now all done!  Yee Haw!

Now I will take a few days off as we celebrate New Years at the cottage with all of our wonderful neighbours.  It starts with a Pig roast at Ivan and Encela’s  place, drinks later at Jean’s house and then lakeside fireworks at midnight at Andy and Leanne’s cottage. It will be fun!

A few days out of the sewing room will give me time to ponder my goals for 2012.  Without the flimsies pressing on my conscience, I can be very creative and enjoy creating new masterpieces!

Project 2011-51: Autumn Prairie Braid

??????????This Prairie  Braid quilt was begun after a color workshop with Heather Stewart of near London Ontario.  You can learn more about Heather at her website at   Heather is a wonderful teacher and I thoroughly enjoyed the color workshop.  The biggest take-away from the workshop was recognizing the difference between brown-based fabrics and white-based fabrics.  It was something I knew subconsciously, but Heather brought it very firmly into my active  consciousness.  This quilt was made as a visual reminder of that lesson.  All of the fabrics in this quilt are brown-based fabrics.

I love Prairie Braid Quilts and like to keep a stash of strips cut and ready to make when inspiration strikes.  My preferred strip size is small -1.5 inches by 4.5 inches, with the braid finishing at 1 inch by approx 3 inches when assembled and trimmed.

The key is to separate the lights from the darks to make it easy to sew lights to one side and alternating darks to the other side.  This photo shows one way I separate them with a tray.

Because this quilt requires pressing after the addition of every strip, I often will lay out the darks and lights on my ironing board, which I keep close at hand. The strips shown below are for a second Prairie Braid quilt I started this summer.  It is not yet finished, but will be during 2012.

I find Prairie Braid to be a good portable project since it does not require a large workspace.  I tend to cut the strips when I am cutting up scraps, so I always have the strips on hand for the next quilt.  Although I have a wonderful sewing room at home, I tend to do a lot of piecing at our summer cottage where I have a small corner of the living room – just enough space to set up a sewing machine and ironing board.   Using trays, it is easy to keep the project confined within a small space and then easy to pack up when company arrives.

Once the strips are assembled and trimmed, I lay them out on the floor and everyone gives me their opinion on the color distribution.  My husband is good at noticing where there is more density of color and suggesting alternate layouts.  After laying this out, I decided it would be too small and opted to add four more braids.  Now it is big! Finished size is 94″ by 96″.

When it came to adding borders, I was amazed to find I had absolutely nothing in my stash that would work for this quilt.  It is rare when I go to a fabric store to purchase for a specific project, but that is what I did for this one.  I went looking for a dark olive green fabric which I was convinced would be the right choice.  I live in the heart of Ontario’s quilting country – an area with many quilting stores and an extensive selection of fabrics.  I could not find any olive green that worked with this quilt.  I took the top with me and in most stores, the staff got highly involved, giving opinions and pulling bolts.  Despite all of their recommendations, I ended up choosing a brown fabric.  The print resembles a roughed-up suede and has a bit of green, gold and dark red mottled tones mixed with the brown.   I am pleased with how well it complements the top, providing a negative space to rest the eyes from the busy centre of the quilt.  I am also surprised that the borders ended up to be brown rather than green.  Sometimes the quilt just tells us what it needs!

This quilt was quilted with a dense meander in the center.  Because it is so busy, there is no point in doing an intricate design.  It would never be seen.  In fact, quilting it was very difficult because the tan thread blended so well with the lights, I could hardly see where I had already quilted.  I chose the tan because it blended both with the dark fabrics and with the light fabrics.    The plain borders are a better canvas for custom quilting, so here I quilted a fern leaf pattern, in keeping with the woodsy autumn colours of the quilt.

Because the strips all have bias edges, keeping the quilt square is a something I need to be constantly checking.  Using pins and rulers, I focus on keeping the borders square and then work in any excess fullness in the center where I meander.  One of my favorite tools is my laser level which I use to check the square of the quilt while it is still on the frame.

The border was done freehand, using the chalked markings as a guide.

Removing the markings is fairly easy.  I just use my Art Gum eraser and a lint brush.

The quilt will be bound by hand since this quilt will likely be entered into a fall fair competition.  For the purposes of my goal accomplishment tally, I am considering this quilt done, even without the binding.  I will finish the binding over the next week while I am a passenger on several long drives and while waiting for relatives at an airport.  I can hand bind a quilt at 48″ per hour, so I figure this one will be done with about 9 hours of hand sewing.

Goal Summary:  51 projects complete and one more to go to reach my goal of 52 done.  One thing I have learned while completing my last few projects is that my body is not designed for extended stand-up quilting.  The final project will be something small, something I can complete while sitting in a chair!

Update – Fall 2012:  I did enter this quilt in a few local fall fairs.  It won Grand Champion, Machine Quilting at the 2012 Drayton Fair, Grand Champion, Machine Quilting at the 2012 Arthur Fall Fair and Best of Show at the 2012 Fergus Fall Fair.  It went on to OAAS District 7 competition where it won first place.  It now goes on to the OAAS provincial competition in Toronto at the  February 2013 OAAS convention.

Project 2011-50: Xmas Triangles Quilt

During the years from 2002 to 2006, I sporadically collected 6 inch charm squares.  I generally put aside the red and green charms with the idea of making a red and green triangle quilt.  I once had a goal to make a Christmas quilt for every bed in my house.  This one is the first! In 2010, I started assembling the triangles.  As I completed the triangles, I safety pinned them together in groups of 10.  I did not have enough red and green charms collected to complete the quilt, so only worked on the triangles when I had enough fabric squares prepared.  This year, I decided to cut all of my scraps into usable pieces, making a point of ensuring I had enough red and green squares to complete this quilt.   I assembled most of the top in November and finished it yesterday.

The borders  which came from my stash are a cute Alexander Henry print of Santa Dressing.  The colours were perfect for this quilt.  The quilting is done in white cotton covered poly on top and a white bottom line in the bobbin.  The design is Circle Lord Swirlz, my current favorite pattern.  The binding of red and white striped shirting gives a candy cane finish to the quilt.

I love the wide backing fabric.  It is not a Christmas design, but the colors work well.  I bought the fabric at a night market in Cairo, Egypt.  The quality is very good and I was quite taken by the large roses.

I found it quite fascinating that the fabric manufacturer has printed the company name on the material.  I like to see this because it will always bring back great memories of my visit to Egypt and the exhilarating  night market where I bought this fabric.

Goal Status: 50 projects complete and two more to go to get to complete my goal of 52 projects finished by December 31st.  Yikes!  That is tomorrow!  At this point, I am very glad that I have some flimsies waiting for quilting.  I still have time to get one or two on the frame and get them quilted by tomorrow night.  Will my New Year’s Eve hostess mind if I bring some hand binding with me to the party?  She is a wonderful woman and would likely get a chuckle out of it!  Hopefully I do not have to do that!

Project 2011-49: Plaid Flannel Squares

This quilt started when a friend gave me a box of die cut flannel squares.  They appeared to be die cuts pulled from a sales reps fabric sample book.  I laid out the squares on my design wall to get the longest continual run possible from each flannel pattern.  This is the result!

The quilt top was assembled with my serger because the edges of the samples were pinked.  I added borders of blue flannel, pulled from my stash.  The backing is a medium blue cotton.  The quilting is comprised of a small meander in the center and a new-to-me freehand shell motif in the borders.  I like to try out new patterns on small donation quilts as it frees me up to experiment without the pressure of having to have a specific result.

The binding used up two pieces of left-over binding from my scrap binding shoebox.  As with most of my utility quilts, it was attached to the back and top stitched to the front.  The finished dimension of the quilt is 38″ by 45″ .

Goal Status: 49 projects complete and three more to go.  I’m heading back into my sewing room to see if I can get borders added to another quilt top and then mount it, quilt it and bind it before my head hits the pillow tonight.  I am determined to meet my goal of 52 completed projects by Dec 31st!


Project 2011-48: Denim and Chintz Quilt

This Denim and Chintz quilt was fun to make.  There was no specific pattern. The design block is a random combination of squares and rectangles that make up a 10 inch square.  Each smaller component is joined with a 1 inch trip, which finished at 1/2 inch.  My original intention was to make all of the blocks with this method, but I lost interest in making the blocks after half of them were complete.   The project sat on a UFO tray in my sewing room for about 6 months, until I made a design decision that made finishing it simpler.  Rather than making more pieced blocks, I decided to add some plain blocks to complement the pieced ones.  That made finishing faster and much more likely to happen.

Because the quilt is made of denim and chintz, it will be durable and heavy.  The batting is polyester.  The backing is a medium blue cotton shirting.  It was quilted with a feather meander in a medium blue cotton covered poly thread.  The binding, made of the same fabric as the joining strips, was applied to the back and top stitched to the front.  Finished size is 50 ” by 70″.

Goal Status: 48 projects complete and 4 more to complete by December 31 to reach my goal.    That is four quilts to complete within three days.  I might be a little busy until New Year’s Eve!   I am glad I took a break over the holidays even though now I need to focus intently to get the rest done.  It will be like  a mini quilting retreat- a marthon of quilting to meet my goals.

Project 2011-47: Christmas Place Mats

Last year, Carmela, one of my former coworkers was refinishing her basement and in the process, had to clean out her sewing room.  I was the lucky recipient of a large box of fabric which including a stash of three different kinds of pre-quilted hexagon shaped place mats that she had cut out, but never finished.    These Christmas place mats came from that box of fabric.

I find pre-quilted fabric to be a bit limp for place mats so I opted to load  a heavy black cotton twill on the long arm and use another layer of medium weight twill as a batting before adding the quilted fabric on top.    I used a gold “Heavy Metal” thread on top and a black poly in the bobbin to create a design that looks a bit like sparkles or stars on the surface of the place mat.  Here is a closeup photo of the quilting detail:


I planned to bind them with bias binding, so opted to trim the placemats to an oval shape – partly because they are easier to bind without corners to turn, but also because I prefer oval over the hexagon shape.  The double fold bias binding was made from a high quality textured cotton.   I applied it to the back, brought it to the front and top-stiched it from the front of the place mat.  One of the great advantages of having a stiffer placemat is the ease with which the binding folds over and lays down on the top surface.  It was a dream to apply the binding.

The finished place mats look great and feel dense.  They lay very flat on the table, will protect the table from hot plates and will muffle any sound from plates and silverware.

I’m pleased with how the mats turned out.  Even my husband said he liked them!  He does not normally show much reaction beyond a quiet “Looks nice” when I show him a completed project.  I think perhaps his enthusiasm is worn down by the multitude of projects that come out of my sewing room.  LOL!

We will use these place mats for our nuclear family’s quiet early supper on Christmas Eve before the my husband’s extended family comes for the huge party with Santa and then again on Christmas morning for breakfast before my family arrives for Christmas dinner.   I’m sure the food will taste much better with these lovely place mats on the table!

Goal Status:  47 projects complete, 5 more to go to reach my target of 52 completed projects by December 31.

Project 2011-46: Drunkards Path

There was a time when I was worried I might not have enough quilt tops ready for gift giving, so I made a foray into eBay to buy some flimsies.  Long story short, the tops did not turn out to be exactly what I expected.  Embarrassed by my less-than-prudent purchases, I stuffed them into my flimsie cupboard to hide their shameful existence.  To ensure I am never again tempted to purchase tops without seeing, touching, verifying quality of fabric and construction techniques, I am firmly encouraging myself to quilt all of the tops.  In the process of   fixing and finishing,  I have discovered a silver lining to this experience.  I have learned a great deal about turning challenged flimsies into presentable tops.  I know much more about straightening borders, quilting in extra fullness,  and keeping tops square and flat.   Quilt Rescue skills, I call them!

This Drunkard’s Path was one of the dozen or so tops I purchased.   It was the best top of the entire lot.   The hand-stitched top was quite old, but the fabric was in very good shape and the seams were finely stitched.

This top required some repair to several seams and four of the blocks were assembled incorrectly, making the pattern a bit off.  I removed the wonky blocks, reassembled them correctly and then put them back into the top.  I also had to make some seam adjustments on the sides, nipping in the seams till opposite sides  measured the same length.  Once straight and square, I added the printed inner border and the wider tone on tone outer border to finish it off.

The center of the quilt did not lie completely flat, so I quilted it with a dense meander that helped to draw in the excess.  The low-loft cotton batting  has a bit of an old-fashioned look to the finished quilt.  The borders are quilted with very narrow horizontal lines, resulting in a densely quilted firm border.  I used a mushroom colored thread in the center, which seemed to blend with both the dark and lights and a dark teal thread in the borders and a Bottom Line thread in the bobbin.

The binding, which matches the inner border, is  applied to the back and top stitched to the front.  Finished size is 84″ by 98″.

I’m quite pleased with the resulting quilt.  It turned out significantly better than I anticipated.  In fact, I can stop feeling embarrassed and be proud of how I rescued this top from oblivion.

Goal Status:  46 quilt projects complete and 6 more to go to get to my goal of 52 completed projects by December 31st.    Two weeks to go!  Can I accomplish what I set out to do?  The next week will be quite busy, but I am still feeling I will manage to complete my goal.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Project 2011-45: Violet Baby Bits Quilt

After a steady diet of finishing UFOs, I had a strong desire to start something new.   But I have learned to avoid creating UFOs, so I opted for a small baby quilt that I could start and finish quickly.  The inspiration for this baby quilt came from a pile of small bits that were left over from a Chinese Coins quilt I have in progress and a bunch of flowered strips that came in a bag of scraps from a friend in my quilt guild.  The flowered strips and the pastel bits looked like they belonged together.

It was very quick to sew up the top and add the pink coping strips on the sides and the wider lilac outer border.   The quilting design is a very old pantograph called “Fleurs”, which seemed to fit the pastel flowered mood of this baby quilt.     The binding is a violet and white stripe which adds a bit of interest to the edge.   Finished size is 38″ by 49″.

The batting is a light weight poly. After I took this off the machine, I realized that I normally use a dense design with a poly batting as I like a flat look to quilts.  A dense quilting design tends to flatten the loft.    My preferred batting is normally cotton, which provides the low loft look of well-worn quilts.  This quilt is a bit puffier than I like, but I am sure some new mother will love this for her baby.

Goal Status:  45 projects complete and 7 more to go to reach my goal of 52 complete by Dec 31, 2011.

Project 2011-44: Blue Butterfly Quilt

About a decade ago, my young teen daughter began a quilt from a McCall’s Quick Quilts magazine called “Strawberry Shortcake”.  Except that she decided to make it in blue.  Then after making all of the four patch blocks, she abandoned the project.   Now grown and living in her own apartment, it is pretty safe to assume she will never finish it.  Since it lived in my sewing room, I decided to finish it.  I considered giving it to her as a Christmas gift, but since blue is no longer one of her preferred colors, I know she would not appreciate it as much as something in the green/brown palette.

To me, the blue and white was a bit too plain and boring, so I added a blue/pink/yellow and white butterfly print from my stash.  Of course, my version of this quilt does not even vaguely resemble the original design.  The four patches are the same, but not much else is.  I changed the block layout, then added sashing and corner squares.  I finished the centerof the quilt in 2006, and then set it aside while I pondered what borders to add.

The border tends to be my little stumbling block that gets in the way of a quilt being finished.  I rarely know what the border will be when I start a quilt. Once the center is assembled,  I tend to audition a few ideas.   When the layout does not immediately convince me of its rightness, I let the options marinate through my consciousness.  In this case, a small amount of the butterfly fabric remained from the center.  Since I prefer to bust stash and avoid leftovers, I felt I ought to use it as narrow second inner border.  No matter what I tried, it did not seem right.   This summer, when showing the layout I was considering to Cindy, my cottage neighbor, she pointed out to me that the butterfly border was not going to work.  I took it away from the layout and saw immediately that she was right.    That took away all of the border stress.  I had been trying to force a fabric that did not belong.  So the resulting border is comprised of a wide pink solid that coordinates with the pink butterflies in the print and a narrow inner border of a blue and maroon striped shirting.  The binding is the same as the narrow inner border. Finished size is 88″ by 103″.    I’m sure I will figure out another way to use the remaining 3/4 yard of butterfly fabric!

The borders went on last week and I quilted it  with the Circle Lord Swirlz template using a white polyester thread on top and white Bottom Line in the bobbin.  The backing is a wide width cotton I bought from Ashram Dyers in Cairo, Egypt.  Great quality backing!  The binding is applied to the back by machine and top stitched on the front.  It makes a nice binding for a quilt that is simple and not destined to be a show quilt.

This quilt goes into my wedding stash.   Typically, I  invite the bride and groom to my home to select their favorite quilt rather than make the choice myself.  It is fascinating to see how widely tastes differ.   I try to make a variety of quilt styles and colors to have on hand to increase the odds that the couple will find a quilt they will love.  My children and I take bets on which quilt the bride will choose before they arrive.  So far, I have only predicted one selection correctly!  To me, this is one of the greatest quilting mysteries.  Matching the right quilt to the right person intrigues me and appeals to my research tendencies.  I’m sure that our emotional and nostalgic reactions to quilt designs, colors and textures would be very difficult to tie down in a controlled research study.

Goal Status:  44 quilts completed and 8 more to go to reach my goal of 52 completed projects before December 31st.  With good time management, I feel I will make the target.  Having worked on borders over the past week, I now have  some flimsies waiting to be quilted and then blogged and counted as complete.   Although this past week has been very social with parties, dinners, quilt guild, and gift shopping, all of which I enjoyed, I have felt a bit wistful at having to leave my quilting projects.  When I have had a spare 15 minutes or half-hour, I have continued working on projects, moving them all closer to finished status.  I still like things to be done!  Knowing I still have quite a bit to do to accomplish my goal of 52 completed projects, I am seeking more efficiencies in my quilting, my household management and in my business work.   It amazes me at how quickly I can do routine work and what I can delegate to others when I really want to be in my sewing room!

Project 2011-43: Pinwale Cord Lap Quilt

Last Monday, I had a lovely afternoon visit with a friend from my guild.  She is also Peggy and is fun to be around.  While giving me a tour of her sewing room, Peggy gave me a plastic bin of pre-cut squares.    It looked like the squares were die-cut fabric samples, mostly cotton flannels and pin-wale cord squares.    I sorted them into little piles by type of fabric.

This quilt was made of the pin-wale cord squares.  I had just enough to make this small lap quilt.  Finished size is 36 by 42 inches.  I laid out the squares into a pleasing fashion with a goal of using all of the squares.  Then I assembled the squares with my serger, pressed the top flat and added a coordinating border of a cotton flannel plaid.

Using a tan colored thread, I stippled the center part and did a freehand leaf patterned border.  I simply divided up the border into units approximately 4 inches wide and made a small mark with a piece of white chalk.  When quilting the border, I simply aimed to fit the freehand leaf diagonally within the 4 inch section.  It turned out quite well.    This quilt will be a donation quilt with the final destination decided through the quilt guild outreach program.

Goal Status:  43 complete, 9 more to go to reach my goal of 52 quilting projects completed by December 31st.  Wow!  Single digits remaining.  Nine seems like such a small number in contrast to the double digit numbers I have been facing up till now.  If I can ignore the call of my schedule and Christmas decorations waiting to be put up, I think I will make my goal!