Monday, January 15, 2018

TEN Down!! - Ninety-ish To Go . . . . .

Do you have stitching goals for 2018?
Are you making progress?
 January is always the easiest month to stay focused on new goals -- at least here in Northeast Ohio.  The weather is a huge help -- we've had some extremely cold days and quite a bit of snow -- so it's easy to stay home and keep at it. 

I've made good progress on my first goal of "executing 10% of my UFO's" in January!! 
I finished the little cherry block into a small wallhanging.
Hard to see the dozens and dozens of bubbles -- what a lot of work!!
And I finished a needlepoint given to me (because you love birds) by a lovely woman many years ago.  For some reason, I don't enjoy making pillow covers but since I couldn't bear to look at it and feel guilty, I bit the bullet and finished it for my couch.
Of course, it didn't take any time at all when I got to it.
Everything I needed -- perfect back fabric, cording, pillow form -- were right there in my studio.
The stripe was left over from a past something and it is uncanny how perfect the colors are with the needlepoint and the vintage fabric bordering it.
How when I see it, I can smile and remember her instead of feeling guilty!
The quilting of the blue and yellow quilt is temporarily stalled.  The center blocks are finished and I'm experimenting with designs for the setting triangles and the border.  I'm confident that I'll figure it out soon and be back at it next week!
I believe this was the last mystery quilt I designed for my local followers -- it brought all of us to our knees.  The cutting and sewing was straightforward -- but the color placement was ridiculous.  I have always intended to quilt it in sections myself but I've decided to hand it off to be long-armed. since I want pretty quilting designs and I'm not confident about my ability to do that.
I'll get the borders onto it and organize the backing this week!

So that's four UFO's sorted!
As I was sorting stacks in the studio earlier this month, I put projects I felt ready to let go into this tub!
Tomorrow, six of them are headed with me for the first sewing get together of my gang
There that's ten projects -- 10% executed!
And since I made such good progress on the UFO assault, I allowed myself to take on two (small) challenges!!
I made this 13" square piece for Curated Quilts minimalist themed challenge.  I won a copy of the current issue of this new publication so I was inspired to participate in the challenge for the next issue. They set up the colors and I applied the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique and lots of matchstick quilting.
Haven't heard about Curated Quilts?  You can check it out HERE.
There were 65 submissions for the challenge and they are all on display at this LINKY.
UPDATE - 1/17/2018 
 I've just learned that the piece has been selected for the next issue of Curated Quilts -- very exciting!!
How about Project Quilting, now in it's 9th "season"? 
I stumbled across it last winter -- it's the brain child of Kim Lapacek.
The first challenge theme was "hometown proud" and my initial reaction was a blank stare.
When I finally left the house last week for a long walk at the closest park, I came home inspired to share this iconic tree. 
It stands along the trail head overlooking the creek and one of my naturalist friends estimates that the tree is between 200 and 250 years old.  In spite of that massive hole (small children fit inside of it), this red oak is still living. 
The valley has a rich natural and local history and the fact that this tree was already growing when white settlement began evokes all sorts of questions about how it has survived.  
It is so much larger that all the other trees, it seems likely that it lived in a meadow for a while and then as people lost interest in farming the valley, it re-planted the forest around it.
Anyone who has ever visited the park has stopped to look at this tree!
While it is not my typical work it is a hybrid of techniques I've learned over the years -- free form cutting to create the landscape, slashing and inserting strips to create the ghost tree in the background, free motion stitching to highlight the trees in the prints, and fusible applique to create the oak itself.
(Don't I have an impressive hoard of "landscape" fabrics?)

There were an impressive 113 submissions for the challenge and you can look them over and vote for your favorites -- up to 10!!  Click HERE to visit the link-up.
The next challenge theme will be revealed on Sunday, January 21 -- you should at least read it -- who knows there might be an inspiration lurking just around the corner for you?!?

 I'm loving all this energy and hope it stays with me all year!!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Finish Along 2018 -- First Quarter Goals

I've been waffling about joining in again this year but here I am at the last minute!
For the first quarter of 2018, I'm going to tackle three projects.

The first is a new quilt that is still taking shape on my design wall -- I'm calling it Lift Off.
It will be a twin size quilt destined to belong to someone who is lifting off -- leaving behind addiction and building a clean life.
I've also decided to focus in on my most ancient UFO's this year -- these are projects I began and just can't seem to let go for one reason or another -- but they aren't doing me or anyone any good laying on a shelf in the studio.  This lovely basket block combines piecing and applique.  It was started as a shop sample back in 1999. 
There is just one block left to applique and then I can piece the border.  Because this is a double size quilt, I'm going to send it out for longarm quilting.  I've put the top in the stack going off to a stitching retreat this weekend -- determined to finish that last block!!
I don't even have to look for a needle!?! 
Finally, I pieced this top over the past couple years -- mostly as leaders and enders.  It has been a great teaching tool for my pineapple workshops using Marti Michell's ruler sets.  But as I step back from teaching, it needs to be finished and I think I know exactly who is going to get it!!  Knowing that is always a good motivator for me! 
By choosing just three projects, it gives me time to get distracted and indulge my whims to take on spontaneous projects on the spur of the moment.
How about you?
Are you setting any goals for this quarter?

Visit the Link-up of all the other goal setters HERE!!

Enjoying the cold weather here in NE Ohio!!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Executing UFO Quilt Projects -- Progress and Strategies

Winter sunshine is so special here along the southern shores of Lake Erie and it's abundant here this morning.  It has warmed things up a bit and we just hit 8F -- well, it was 5 degrees when I got up.
Odd to think that half a world away in Australia, it's 100 degrees warmer???
The extra cold weather this week has been a big help to me personally -- easier to stay focused on tidying up my studio.
An important part of any studio tidy-up, is facing the UFO's!
For the first time in several years (and perhaps the last time), I tallied "how many" are in there.
I'm embarrassed to say I got up to 95 -- there might be a couple more that I haven't rediscovered but I'm going to quit adding at this point and concentrate on subtracting.

The "count" has inspired me to really buckle down on the UFO's for January.  Do you remember when Weight Watchers was encouraging clients to begin by losing 10% of their weight?
Well, I'm going to execute 10% of my UFO's in January!!
Notice I didn't say "finish" -- makes my options too narrow -- they just need to be gone!

To illustrate "gone" in the hope it will inspire your own UFO assault in the New Year, here's some of the strategies I'm using.

My Opal Essence teaching sample has to be ready to hang the first of February, so it's a very high priority.
The top is now finished, the backing is ready, and I plan to layer it up over the weekend! 
Strategy -- establish priorities and  keep stitching.
Did you notice this little piece sitting on top of a pile in my last post?  It's a charming block, about 12" square, from my It's Okay teaching days -- so that's circa 1990?  I've been shifting this around for 25 years?  No more!!  Currently, it's under the needle on my studio machine.  It will be finished soon and it is providing me with an opportunity to practice free motion bubbles which I love to look at but not stitch.  So the small scale of the piece is just enough challenge me to find the rhythm of stitching the design and if I understand it better perhaps I'll use it in future quilts.
Strategy -- use my UFO's to build skills.
Setting the Opal Essence blocks together by machine uses the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique that I teach, but I needed more "sew-offs", so I pulled out this project.  In the process of setting the Opal Essence blocks together, I got a full Rose Star block and a half block for the edge of the quilt done at the same time.  Just two more blocks to piece and it will be ready for setting!
Strategy -- use stalled piecing projects for sew-offs during more interesting/deadline piecing.
This jumble of strips was born in the early 1990's.  My staff and I made a fabulous Lone Star quilt with them for King's Road Imports in 1992 and intended to make a second one for the shop.  Can you see how far that idea got?
I get all these warm and fuzzy emotions about that quilt when I see this pile and so haven't let them go, but I'm also (obviously) not very interested in taking them to their original destination.
They are 2 1/2" strips, so it would be very sensible to put them into that scrap box!!
Then this morning, I woke up thinking yet again about @stephkucera #plusblockqal on Instagram which I really want to do but seriously how can I think about starting one more quilt!!
And then, that desire connected with this pile of strips.
Using her instructions for cutting jelly roll strips into the "plus" pieces, I now have the beginning of 76 blocks which I'll use as a charity quilt project with my gang!!
It's helpful to review UFO's regularly since they can often be repurposed
Strategy -- wait for what you already have to connect with what you want to do!!
 And the ends of the strips went into the 2 1/2" box while lots of low volume strips are coming out of the box to be used for the plus blocks!  Win, win!!
So do you want to do it, too -- HERE are the instructions!
I made a darling quilt using these prints for a friend's grandson but I had grabbed the end of the bolt (owned the shop) and stashed all that were left (in 1984).
Why am I keeping these?
I've noticed one of the habits of modern quilters I follow on Instagram is that every now and then, they destash their leftovers/scraps!?!  I never do that but perhaps I should.
So, if anyone wants these three blocks -- they are on drapery weight cotton, approx. 7" by 10" -- speak up quickly before I change my mind!
Strategy -- Loosen up!!
The studio tidy-up is progressing -- look at all this cutting space!!
I'm feeling very energetic about this UFO assault.
Having a good time certainly makes it easier to move towards my goal of executing 10 UFO's this month!!
I have started a hashtag on my Instagram posts -- #noancientufoquilts
(You can use it, too if you want.)
Stay tuned -- the best is yet to come!!
Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Soooo, what are you doing?
It's a beautiful sunny day here in Northeast Ohio and we have a fresh covering of snow!
Very cheerful view if you overlook the 9 degrees F.
I'm tidying my studio and from the looks of my Instagram feed, I'm in good company.
Apparently, lots of us trashed our stitching space (as usual) in that big push for the holiday gift giving season.  I'll be at it all week.

To begin -- this is going to be a year of eliminating ancient UFO's!!
Okay, so it's going to be "another year" of dealing with UFO's but the number has shrunk steadily over the past few year.  
However, this year I am determined to finish up or throw the oldest ones overboard!
Watch my #noancientUFOquilts hashtag on Instagram in 2018!!

As we speak, my APQS George has this beautiful blue and yellow one under the needle!
I could be binding this during the first weekend of 2018!!
Pieced around 2004?
   I started at the north end of the studio by plowing through the UFO shelves.  I emptied every shelf, reviewed every bundle keeping a tally as I went of just how many are there!!
I'll reveal that number next week . . . . maybe!?!
It looks like I forgot to do the top shelf doesn't it -- argh, what is lurking up there?
The bottom shelf is mostly large cuts of fabric -- first stop when looking for a backing!!
All four shelves were stuffed with UFO's 10 years ago -- progress!!

I sorted out a half dozen projects that have been malingering in the piles -- I'll pass off them off to my gang to re-purpose for donation quilts. 
 I pinned notes to each UFO about what needs to be done -- it's so much easier to pick up one for a fast finish if a quick review of "the note" tells me I need to add 4" borders and piece together the rest of the stack into a 48" by 62" backing.  
My brain says -- "that's all?" and I'm in business!!
On an intellectual level, I understand that working in a tidy space is more comfortable for me, but my inclination to start a new project at the drop of a hat means I'm often leaving a mess in my wake -- "can't put that pile away because I need it for that project".
When I left the studio yesterday, I was 75% finished with the area around my sewing machines so that's where I'll start today.
The original purpose for this little shelf unit was to keep things handy near the machines but it's grown quite a few "layers".  That box lid on the top had all sorts of "treasures".
Funny, I was just thinking about this quilt the other day?  And here it is!?!
Pretty sure it's my oldest UFO!
Started it after I opened my shop (1979) and lost interest in hand piecing when I started teaching machine piecing ala Mary Ellen Hopkins (1982).
It's now in the re-purpose box and will meet my quilting gang later this month to be finished into a useful lap robe for someone!!
The flat surface (known as the cutting table) is too large for my own good.  
When I had a shop, my desk was the catch-all for anything and everything -- someone found a cartoon and left it on my door that pretty much summed it up.
Mother to child -- "I want you to clean off your desk."
Child to mother -- "I have a desk?"
That's my cutting table!!
(This picture has not been edited.)
I'm tidying it in spurts and hoping it gets completely cleared off except for my tools.  It's tricky though because each little pile requires "decisions" about what to do with it or where to put it.  Do you have a decision-making threshold?  I certainly do and I've learned not to try to exceed it!
My incentive/reward for staying focused is to work until I can't make another decision, then I can stitch!!
This is my version of Lorena Uriate's Opal Essence.
I'll finish setting it together this week and prep it for quilting next week.
 It's my annual workshop during the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show in mid-February.
(Interested in joining me?   Details are HERE.)
Time to go back at it!
Here's to a new year of reaching towards our goals!!
Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Best of 2017 Linky Party

                                       grab button for Meadow Mist Designs

In the few days between family Christmas celebrations, I've been looking back through this year's blog posts -- enjoying the comments, pondering why some were so well read, and remembering which ones I enjoyed writing the most!  The motivation for doing this is two fold -- first it will help me plan for the future and second to participate in Meadow Mist Designs annual best of the year link-up HERE!!   After reviewing the stats and some rereading of my 80 posts from 2017, here are some of your favorites and some of my favorites! 

My second post of the year shared a spontaneous project that came about as a result of Kim at Persimon Dreams annual Project Quilting Season 8's Challenge.  It was fun to make this bag (which is now gracing the shoulder of a new mom) and it was fun to finish a project so quickly -- just one week!!  Lots of you visited the post and I "met" more quilters as a result.  My post is HERE.
Kim has announced the start date for Project Quilting Season 9 and you can read all about it HERE.

I wrote several reflective posts during the year with titles like Thoughts on Balancing One's Quilting Act and Goal Pondering.  Some of it might be helpful to my readers, but I enjoy being able to go back and read them over -- re-centering as it were -- and to see photos of unfinished projects that have now been bound and gifted!! 

One of my most popular posts both in visits and comments was about my Birding Vacation to Florida in February -- nothing to do with quilting (obviously) but some great pictures especially for my readers in the wintery north!!  Best sighting of the trip?  Has to be this mob of assorted white birds!!
I'm gratified at the response my birding and gardening posts receive -- I enjoy both so much and appreciate the interest!!

The post that scored the most comments was about a charm quilt that my great-grandmother Lillie Bennett made for her parents' 25th wedding anniversary in 1881.  I think I was off-task that day and didn't have the planned topic ready for writing a post, so it was a quick share!
I included lots of close-ups which you can see HERE of some of the over 650 fabrics used to piece the quilt.
In July, I participated in Emily Breclaw's Adventures in Hexagons book blog tour.
What fun!!  I came away with a finished project, new followers, and lots of encouraging feedback! 
 I shared tips on using the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique which I teach for chain piecing through y-seams -- efficient and accurate!!
And you can purchase my teaching guide through December 31, 2017 for 20% off with the code YSEAMPOWER -- Click HERE to get to my Etsy Shop!!
And I experimented with "modern" quilting motifs!
I've been a quilt making teacher for a long time (40 years) so most of my posts reflect that perspective.  I can hardly talk about quilting without it becoming a "teachable" moment.
This summer I shared how I layer quilts on a table HERE.
Out of the corner of my eye, I can tell the "model quilt" is glaring at me because she is still not quilted!?!
I promise, you are next!!
There are still 5 days left in 2017 . . . . . I'm waiting for design inspiration????
Finally, Tips From a Teacher (HERE) -- if you read it again, can you tell I was a little wound up?
Seemed like most of the comments came from other teachers (who also get a little wound up)!

So there it is, my favs and your favs from 2017!
I'm planning to do some serious studio tidying over the coming week and reread my ponderings from 2017 so that 2018 gets off to the best possible quilty start!

Happy New Year and thank you so much for your encouragement and support!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Y-Seam Power Piecing!!

Last week I left you with a pile of six hexie flowers destined to become hotpads.
I think a set of two is preferable so I needed to cut out enough hexagons for two more earlier this week.
Happily, stitching those hexies into flowers saved me from a fit of frustration a couple days ago.  Stitching by machine is a zen-like experience so I often retreat there when I'm struggling to stay calm and focused.
The holidays tend to unravel me so I was glad to have these ready and waiting.
I love the smooth rhythm of chain-piecing which is why I find the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique so exciting! 
AND if you purchase the downloadable PDF by December 31, 2017, the coupon code YSEAMPOWER will get you a 20% discount on it!
It took a little over an hour to stitch up two more flowers and add diamonds around all the flowers.
The technique is efficient, too!
I wait until the entire flower is assembled to press because it is easier to keep the first and second seams out of the third seam "y"!
Now I had four pairs ready to layer with two layers of cotton batting, a layer of Warm Company's Insul-Bright, and a backing fabric.  
I experimented with the stitching patterns and kept it simple using King Tut cotton thread. 
I like this stitching pattern -- need to keep some pictures of it in my "idea" file for future hexie projects! It is two continuous lines of stitching -- each one moving through three of the hexagons.
It took an hour or so to quilt all of them counting thread changes.
Here are the four sets trimmed and ready to match up binding fabric. 
I cut the binding strips 1 5/8" wide and will use single rather than double fold binding.  Once the machine stitching is finished, the stack will move to the hand-sewing zone for evening stitching.
I have a few days to finish that step. 
Three sets for gifts and one set for me!
Best part is there won't be any UFO's as a result of this project!!

Willie continues to work on his transition to house cat -- doesn't look amused does he?
Actually that ball of yarn can be quite a bit of fun when he's in the mood -- perhaps not as much fun as a mouse or chipmunk, but still fun!!
He's wishing for catnip for Christmas to take off the edge!?!
I wish all of you celebrating during the month of December many blessings.
And a Happy New Year!!
I'll be back at it after the first.
Mary Huey

Friday, December 15, 2017

No UFO's!!

Did that title get your attention?
No UFO's?
Not possible, is it?
Since I'm leaning towards a 2018 goal to finish up/eliminate my most ancient UFO's, it seems like a good sub-goal is not to create any new UFO's as well.

As I shared with you a week ago, I played along with the #xmasfussycuttingsewalong on Instagram and as I finished each hexie flower, I put them up on my design wall which is directly across from my sewing machine so I see it every time I look up.
As the collection grew, I began to envision a new tablerunner for the side table in my dining room.

I selected four of my hexie flowers and added 28 full and 14 half hexagons of background fabric to make this version.  Half-hexies straighten the edges effortlessly and guarantee most of the outer edges are all straight of grain making the binding process easier.

Because I chain piece through y-seams, I divided the runner into three sections so that I could work on all of them simultaneously. This is one of the two end sections and the third section was the center of the runner.
While working through the final seams to join the three sections, I needed something else as my sew-offs between the individual seams to keep the chain-piecing momentum going. 
So this began to happen -- adding diamonds to the other hexie flowers I pieced during the sew-along.  These will become sets of hotpads for little gifts. 
One of the beauties of working with Marti Michell's templates sets is that the right shape in the right size is right at my fingertips! H53 is the diamond that fits the H52A hexagon.
Note: I used H52E to cut the half hexagons for the edges of the piece.
It didn't take long to chop up the scraps and miss-cuts from the tablerunner background into diamonds. 
But you can't shortcut the cutting and leave the points on these diamonds.
Those trims which just take a moment enable perfect quick matching. 
The rhythm of moving from one y-seam to the next has become second nature for me after 5 years of using the Set-In Piecing Simplified technique.  
Off of the runner's seam, onto the hotpad's seam.
And as Bonnie Hunter points out so frequently, chain piecing is an efficient strategy for taming some old UFO's or creating monotonous units for a future quilt.
Here's a strategy from my Set-In Piecing Simplified workshops.
When zigzaging along a long row of short y-seams, skip one and stitch the next one.  
 Now the unfinished seam between is easier to align -- grab both ends of the unstitched seams, lift the piece a bit to shake down all the surrounding patchwork, align the corners and it's ready to stitch!
So I wrestle a bit with one seam and then the next is a snap!
With the top finished and a lunch gathering for 16 hungry birding friends on the calendar for Saturday, I embraced the opportunity to finish the runner (instead of tidying up the living room).  A quick rummage in the stash found a backing fabric and binding, some batting scraps, and a spool of gold metallic thread!
I kept the quilting simple -- edge to edge straight lines -- so I can use the walking foot and not have to tie off too many threads. 
The exception was the six-pointed stars stitched in the gold center hexagons.
And I could not stitch through the chickadee! 
The 60 degree corners are treated much the same as a 90 degree corner for the binding.
Stop stitching at the corner. Take the piece out from under the presser foot.  Fold the binding off the corner to make a straight line with the next side.
Bring the binding strip back onto the quilted piece.  Notice the fold doesn't align with the edge of the piece. 
Here's another view after I stitched it down.  Those two edges by my finger need to be perfectly aligned with each other. 
And here's the back -- hard to see my little miter but it's there. 
And here's the finished piece!!  It's 18" by 27".
Those 30's flowers I'm making with kites would also work in this layout.
I sketched a longer layout to share with you in Electric Quilt (still working with #5, really need to update).  I inserted the dark lines on the right end to illustrated how to shape the end -- did that in Paint.
  I used 1 1/2" hexagons for my flowers so the layout above would be 18" by 39".  Since I wasn't inspired with using all my hexie flowers in the same piece, I shortened it which suits the length of the table better.  If one was using 1" hexagons, this layout would finish at 12" by 26".  To make the runner longer, add groups of three more hexie flowers.  Using 1" hexies would extend it 9" for each set of three and using 1 1/2" hexies would extend the length 13" for each new set. 

Curious about all the ins and outs of chain piecing y-seams -- click on my face up there at the top of the right side column to go to my Etsy shop and order Set-In Piecing Simplified!!

The rest of my hexie flowers are piled up on the sewing table for a snowy afternoon of finishing.
But now I have really have to go tidy up the house for tomorrow's lunch gathering!
Enjoy your weekend!!