Quilt tops

These are more of the wonky star block that I love making. I love the jive of the colors, and even some that when they come together I think I don’t like, they grow on me after a while.

I finished the tops in November. There was a trip to Venice, Slovenia, Montenegro, Croatia and Greece, and then Christmas, and then finally I got three of them quilted and bound, one is still on the sewing machine.

These are the unquilted tops:

To you, they may all look the same, but to me, usually one color dominates. I have a lot of fun practicing quilting skills, when I can find enough time in one chunk to quilt. Meanwhile, I have all the reciprocals – dark stars with light backgrounds – to piece and assemble for the next batch. I have a friend who is struggling with a grave enemy, cancer, and it seems it will take a while to battle, more than a year. I think I will make him one of these to cheer him on.

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Colors of Kuwait: A Quilt Series

It all started with a conversation about a baby quilt. My sweet young Kuwait friend is having a baby, and I asked her what she thought about a quilt in ‘the colors of Kuwait’. “What colors of Kuwait?” she responded. “When I think of Kuwait, I think of black and white.”

That got me started. I found Kuwait rich in color. I never knew the desert could be so flat, and that in the beige-y-ness, there could be so many variations. All the flat white-to-beige-to-grey and a thousand variations, and with such a neutral background, any color at all made a splash. I thought of how very green a palm tree looked against the flat beige hard-packed soil, how a turquoise dome stood out; I thought of the colors in the souks, and oh, the colors of the Arabian Gulf.

I knew exactly how I wanted to proceed for her baby, but I also thought of her, a reader, a Kuwaiti now living in a cold country. I thought she also needed a quilt, a quilt big enough to wrap her and her two little boys as they read stories on a cold winter’s day.

I decided to do another Wild Stars series, use the best Kuwait colored blocks for her new baby and use the leftover blocks for a children’s charity my small quilting group has identified for the coming year.

Note to self: No. No, you cannot cut through 25 layers of cloth. You were mistaken. You can cut through 13, but not 25. So, good! Learned a lesson right off the top!

This time, by piecing every square exactly the same way, they all came out around 15 1/2 inches. I had to add a thin strip to two squares, but out of 25, that’s not bad.

Loved the color combinations, how they came together, and loved them so much I used the same fabrics for my friend’s quilt, with a little of the Gulf thrown in. This is the quilt for my friend, a Kaleidoscope of Kuwait colors, which came out to be about 65″ x 65″:

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For her new son, Colors of Kuwait in wild stars:
00ColorsOfKuwaitAziz

Squares made with leftover blocks:
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Last quilt, a rectangle, still 32″ x 46:
00ColorsOfKuwaitRectangle

Some Updated Thoughts on Sloppy Stars

I’ve done a lot of different kinds of quilts, but there are some quilt patterns I am drawn back to doing, maybe doing in new ways, maybe refining. I always love quilts with motion, like Kaleidoscope (click on Kaleidoscope in Categories to see instructions and variations) and another is Sloppy Stars.

 

It’s the hot, humid steamy season in Pensacola. It’s like winter in Alaska, it’s a good time to stay inside with your sewing machine and fabric except for when you need groceries, or to meet up with friends, or go to church, or even exercise – those are the exceptions. When it is steamy, it’s a great time to quilt.

 

One reason I love Sloppy Stars is that it makes such economical use of fabrics. You cut fat quarters – actually I cut mine to something like 18 inches square now – and slice, and then seam – no excess, except at the end when you trim as little as you have to on the outside, to make the blocks a uniform size. My goal is 15″ finished squares and now I am pretty good at getting them. My favorite part is picking out the fabrics. I don’t know exactly how they will look in the end, but that is part of the fun – getting fabrics that will jive and thrive, with a little bit of drama 🙂

The original instructions for Sloppy Stars are here; these are just refinements I have come up with after doing so many of them. My stars have gotten bigger and bigger; it’s a dramatic cut and I like the efficiency of using a 15″ block. I have two different patterns I use, one is fairly straight, and one is very slanted and wonky. I find I am more drawn to the wonky one, guess I am a wonky one, too. These are drafted on 16″ graph paper I find in books at JoAnne Fabrics.

 

Because I ran short on freezer paper, I only had enough for two identical copies instead of four. I should’ve gone to the store for freezer paper – cutting 25 layers of fabric was more than my cutter could handle. I got some truly jaggy edges. If you are going for the 50 blocks (25 light 25 dark), do two cuts for each set; 12/13 is enough of a challenge for your rotary cutter. I will never try to cut 25 layers again. Never.

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I never string piece this block. I have learned from BAD experiences! I keep all the pieces flat; and the two sets (I do one with dark background light stars and one with light background dark stars) are kept separate. I always do one block at a time; each block takes about 12 minutes, I take it slow. It goes together fast, so it pays to go slow so you don’t mix up pieces. Keep away from cats! If a cat jumps up and upsets your pieces, you are out of luck! (Or maybe you will have a highly original quilt 🙂  )

 

Although the instructions tell you which pieces to put together, I have my own way of doing it (LOL, I no longer follow my own instructions!) and I tend to start with the bottom three pieces in the photo below – star point to the left piece, and then to the right. I then go to the two pieces in the upper right sector, sewing from the straight line to the outer edge.

00StarsAssembly

 

By taking your time and lining things up (it comes easier with practice) you get the interior lines to match up and end up with a fairly straight line. The fairly straight line makes joining the components easier when you sew the major three blocks together.00StarsFirstSection

 

Next, I do the central three blocks, and when I finish them, I line up the star point seams and sew the small sector to the larger central sector. With any luck at all, you’ll have a nice join and the appearance of a straight line. Then you sew the last three pieces (upper left sector) together, focusing on making the interior seam the straight seam.

 

Because of the way these stars are cut, you are only very rarely ever going to get the last piece to line up at both parts of the center star, so focus on lining up the seam so that you get one straight seam with the join giving you a straight line at the upper right.

00StarsAddLastSection

 

Things don’t always work out. Don’t worry. Wonky blocks are part of the charm of this technique. Two straight lines is great; three straight lines are awesome but all in all – are you having fun? No one is going to nit-pick this quilt, there are too many distractions! (Below is a wonky block I will truly use, but I wanted to show you that no matter how hard I try to be perfect, I am a miserable failure who sometimes doesn’t even manage two straight lines. I am a miserable failure who is having a lot of fun putting these stars together, though 🙂

00Stars2Straight2WonkyLines

 

This star comes pretty close to the goal – Four pretty good straight lines, almost five. That fifth just isn’t ever going to happen.

00Star3StraightLines

 

But, even though they are all cut the same way, and I do my best to stitch them the same way, for no apparent reason, now and then one star goes wild. The truth is, no one but you will ever know, but this is why I save my leftover strips after I have trimmed the stars down before slicing.

00WonkyStarRepair

 

I even took this one apart and restitched it, but no matter what I did, it was dangerously out of whack. I added a one inch strip to the wackiest side, and was able to even everything up within reason, but this will never be a star that gives me satisfaction. It may, however, be one of those blocks that gives a quilt “character.” (When the blocks are sewn together, that addition will disappear . . . you just don’t see it in the wildness of all the diferent patterns and shapes.)

 

There are a lot of different ways to quilt these stars. In the African series, I used more angular quilting, and I liked it, it looked good with the African fabrics. In some of these quilts, I use a spiral out of the center block, and then elongated squiggles from the central star piece radiating out to the star tips. The background I stipple.

Stars of Sossusvlei

I am not doing such a hot job of record-keeping here; I finish something and it is out the door before I enter it. Oh aarrgh.

I did another Sloppy Stars demo several months ago with African fabrics (I still have a lot in my stash, so you will probably see yet more . . . ) and had enough for two bed-sized quilts for one of our bee projects . . . I still have one more chance to photograph them before they disappear, but they are not with me.

Meanwhile, with the blocks I had left, I did a wall hanging quilt for us. I don’t do a lot of those, but this one contains some fabric I love and bought thirty-something years ago in Tunisia. I don’t even know if Tunisia even produces fabrics any more.

This is the hanging:

00NamibianDesertStars

Sossusvlei is an area in the Namibian desert, where the ambient light is non-existent and you can see the rings on Saturn, the red-ness of Mars, and a million stars you never even knew were there. The sight is awe-inspiring and breathtaking. We were at the CCAfrica Lodge, now called And Beyond; it was so much fun. One of my best memories was riding ATV’s to the top of a mountainous rust-red sand dune for sundowners. 🙂

Update: Our bee has a project every year to benefit a local charity. This year we made quilts for one of the Waterfront Mission recovery houses. These are two more of the Sossussvlei quilts made for them. Actually, these are the original quilts and the one I am keeping for us is made with left over blocks from these. One of these is made with “light” background and one with “dark” background, all things being relative 🙂

00LtDesertStars

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This is my backing on the dark Sossussvlei Stars quilt”

00BackDkAfricaStars

Lining Up Projects

I have a lot to do, Christmas coming, a baby coming and a wedding coming, and at least one house guest coming, so I need to be organized and methodical in my approach.

I know what I want to do for the wedding bags, so I have cut out the tops and linings, so that they are ready to go:

I am washing the fabrics for the baby quilt, and I have figured out how to cut the pieces so that all the cat tails will interlock 🙂

Meanwhile, I have a quilt part-quilted, and I need to clear that one out of the way before I head into these next two projects:

I keep it out where I have to look at it every day so I will get busy and DO it. So far, not so good, but I am building up to finishing it.

I miss my huge old quilting room. 😦

KTAA Annual Exhibition

There were some totally fabulous entries, and the grand winner – who could argue! Shyamala Rao just knocked the socks off everyone with her fabulous quilt.

Mine were much more modest.

Ursa Major was the most fun. I don’t normally like mysteries, but this one gave me a lot of control. Every step had suggestions, and measurements, but you had a lot of latitude within the instructions. Mine shows the great North Star in the center of the quilt, and the Big Bear, endlessly circling the North Star.

Kathi Ewan’s instructions were just fun! I felt so free! I knew the fabrics I wanted to use, and the quilt kind of made itself. Normally, I start out knowing where a quilt is going, but this one, with each step, I rested and reflected before making the next round, and I got more and more excited about the quilt with each step, ending with the silvery little salmon circling on the penultimate border – a bear’s gotta eat!

00UrsaMajor

At one point in the quilt, I tried some low-contrast piecing, the star has two kinds of white. I wasn’t happy, and was going to change to higher contrast when LeAnn Aldulrahim said no, to go with the white on white and try the quilting technique Paramjeet taught us two years ago with the zig-zag stitch. “Hmmm,” I thought, and went home and did it in silver, and oh – what fun. The bear tracks circling the quilt, the 45°angled borders around the center medallion and again at the last border – just fun. I had a great time with this quilt. It’s icing on the cake that it won the Children’s Choice award. I made it for the child within!

Another joyful, childish quilt – The Stars that Dance in Southern France (in their underpants) was started to use up some of the provincial French fabrics I gathered so lovingly for so many years, but found myself thinking I was turning into Gollum with his precious, if all I did was look at them now and then and say “someday . . . ”

My husband added the part about the underpants, and I just let it stand. I thought it was a hoot.
Stars that Dance

It took third in the Traditional Pieced category. It makes me smile when I look at it.

Last but not least, KaleidoStars is a baby quilt for a new baby on the way, sex unknown, but I loved these Indian batik fabrics we found down in the souks, and couldn’t wait to get my hands going on something that would show them off and let the lines and dots sing and move around the quilt. It’s all about the motion:

00KaleidoStars

They’re all packed away now, except for KaleidoStars, which I need to mail soon, very soon. We are moving back to Qatar at the end of the month, and just today I finished packing up (AAARRGHHH!) the quilt room.

Sloppy Stars

These are the quilts demo’d at the Q8Quilters Hands-On meeting today:

Sloppy Stars

January 2008

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These stars ARE sloppy, and the original design, in which the star blocks were something like 9 x 14 were conceived by Evelyn Sloppy. I wanted a more square star, so I re-drafted it  and . . . it worked!

Although your pattern will be cut 16.25 inches (DO NOT FORGET TO ADD .25 INCH TO THE OUTSIDE BORDER OR YOU WILL LOSE STAR TIPS!) your finished block will measure approximately 13”.

sloppystardiagram.jpg

Make yourself a master copy, a copy you swear you will never cut. When you want to make this quilt, make copies on freezer paper from your master copy.

If you want alternating backgrounds (some stars light on dark, some stars dark on light) then you will need:

13 light fat quarters

12 dark fat quarters.

1.  Starch, iron and stack all the lights together, and starch, iron and stack all the darks together.

2.  Make two copies of the master chart on freezer paper. Iron one on to the top of the lights stack, and iron one onto the top fat quarter from the dark stack. Be sure to iron the freezer paper onto one side of the fat quarters so there will be plenty of leftover fabric for fixing up blocks, if you need it.

3. Put a fresh blade in your rotary cutter.

4.  Holding your piles steady, make cuts in the order shown.

5.  When both piles are cut, first on the light stack, we do the background pieces first:

start with A1 – take the top piece and put it on the bottom of the A1 pile.

Go to B1, take the top two pieces and put them at the bottom of the pile of B1’s.

B3, take the top three pieces.

D1, take the top four pieces.

A3 – do nothing! Now do the same process on the dark stack.

Now do the same with the star pieces in each pile:

C1 – take the top piece and put it on the bottom

B2- take the top 2 pieces

D2 – take the top 3 pieces

C3 – take the top 4 pieces

A2 – take the top five pieces

C2 – do nothing

Now take all the light background pieces and switch them to the dark star stack. Take the dark background pieces and switch them to the light star stack.

6.  Piecing

Leave everything stacked.

Do not string piece;  the stars get confused. I suggest you stitch all the pieces to each star at the same time. It takes a little longer, but it is worth it.

Stitch A3 to A2, and then stitch A1 to A2.

Stitch B2 to B3, then stitch B1 to B2.

Stitch C1 to C2, then stitch C3 to C2

Stitch D1 to D2.

Stitch the D Sections to the C section (trim the edges which will join so that they are even)

Your pieces will not have lined up exactly. With each star, trim the inner joining lines. Don’t worry about the outside, we will trim these blocks up when the blocks are finished.

As you stitch the sections together, the intersections will not be where they were on the pattern. Don’t worry. They don’t have to. Your stars will all work out. These are SLOPPY stars.

Stitch the A section to the CD section.

Stitch the ACD section to the B section.

I will tell you honestly at this point, my stars looked AWFUL – lots of wobbles because of the bias edges.

Press your stars, use a little starch, and then measure the smallest star. Trim your blocks to that size. Alternatively, if your smallest star is too small, you can use some of that leftover fabric to put a small border where you need it. Honestly, we do this all the time.

Arrange the blocks, 5 x 5, and sew them together. Put on a border, if you wish. The quilt, without a border, will be about 55 inches  – but this is not a precise technique, and your results may be slightly different.

Quilting will take care of the wobbles.

ALTERNATE:

I did two quilts at the same time, because I wanted an all dark background and an all light background.

You need:

25 dark fat quarters

25 light fat quarters

When all your blocks are completed, use all the ones with dark background for one quilt and all the ones with light background for the second quilt. Keep one and give the other as a gift!

I did these in Christmas colors, but I have also seen them done in blues and whites, reds and whites, and once, fantastically, in rainbow colors.