Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Leap of Faith

In early October, I started a 6-month quilting journey with my friend Marianne (who actually signed me up for this!)....called the "Prairie Women's Sewing Circle".  Basically, this is a history/quilting project hosted by a fabric shop called Material Rewards in Dansville, NY.  Each month, for 6 months, we learn a little bit of history in reference to the prairie/pioneer women from the 1840 - 1900 era.

I really enjoy "history"....and this group is so nice in that it is hosted completely on-line which allows anyone to participate no matter where you are located.  Our instruction kits are mailed to us at the beginning of each month and we have the opportunity to post photos, share our progress, ask questions, etc., on a blog set up strictly for the participants of the "journey".

I've always said that "sewing" is very soothing for me....it is my "therapy"....so you'll understand why I got a chuckle as I read through the history lesson that accompanied this first project....

     "Sewing was so ingrained into the culture of this era that it was said to be "essential to a woman's happiness, no less than her usefulness in accomplishing the mission of her life".  Sewing perpetuated "modesty", "quiet and retiring manners", and had a "soothing and sedative effect, and was a corrective for the little irritations in life".

I just LOVE the last little part of that last sentence (underlined). LOLOLOLOL  It appears that women of all  time periods had rough days....I'm not the only one!!!!  :)

This first project is called "Leap of Faith" because it truly was a leap of faith for these families to give up everything they had....homes, family, friends, luxuries of civilization, basically EVERYTHING in order to head off into the unknown, to homestead the prairies of young America.

The main emphasis of our lesson was to teach us about using "make-do" fabrics within the construction of our quilts.  Needless to say, our prairie/pioneer sisters did not have the luxury of making a quick trip to the local fabric shop whenever she wanted to start a new project, or if she suddenly realized that she was just a tad bit short on a particular piece of fabric needed....no....she had to make-do with whatever she could get her hands on.

In our kit for October, we were supplied a small piece of blue fabric to use as our "make-do" fabric for this first miniature quilt top.  We were instructed to use this swatch of fabric in just a few of the triangles in the construction of our star blocks.

Can you see the difference?  I only incorporated the "make-do" fabric in a couple of the star blocks...not all of them.

I'm starting to fall in love with the Prairie and Civil War reproduction fabrics.  I've been a big fan of 1930's and WWI - WWII reproduction fabrics for several years now....but I'm REALLY liking these fabrics!!!! :)

I probably should have hand-quilted this little quilt....but I didn't. LOL  In fact, as I was looking through my stash of supplies, I found an embroidery quilt motif called "Prairie Rose" that I thought was perfect for this quilt.  I used my machine's embroidery accessory to "quilt" this motif in each of the light colored blocks.  (See first photo at top of blog post.)

I then used the "stitch-in-the-ditch" technique to outline each of the blue stars....then I did a simple meandering on the borders.

Maybe you can see the quilting better from the back side of the quilt....

I readily admit that as much as I love the history behind the quilts...I'm glad it is HISTORY and that I am living TODAY!  I'm not cut out to be a pioneer woman....no way....no how!!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Unplanned Steeler Quilt for Ray

This is one of those quilts that happened accidentally.  I tend to have days (the older I get, the more often they come) where I just need something to do to keep me from going crazy.  Sewing is very good "therapy" for me....much better activity than wringing someones neck! :) :) :)

On really bad days....I cope so much better if I can just sit and sew at the machine for hours.  The constant hum of the motor is very soothing.  On days like this....I just need to sew, and sew, and sew....mindlessly sew, and sew, and sew....without having to think and plan and cut, etc.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Quite a few weeks ago, one of these days popped up so I decided to experiment using a pattern/idea shared with me by my friend Marianne.

The photo above shows a stack of fabric strips - 40 strips that were 2 1/2" wide by 44" long.  I sewed these 40 strips of fabric together....end to end....sewn on the diagonal (the same way you would sew strips together when making binding).

After sewing the strips together, which means I had one continuous strip of fabric that measured approximately 1,600 inches (instructions say to clip off approx. 12" - 18" from the beginning of the long strip to make sure your other seams end up at the right spots during the construction of the quilt top)..... I took the end of the strip and brought it up to meet the beginning of the strip  (basically folding the strip in half) and started sewing them together.

I so enjoyed sewing one long continuous seam that equaled approximately 800 inches!!!! (Seriously!!!)  At the end of the seam, where the "fold" was....I simply cut the fabric across the fold line.

As before, I took the end of the now double wide strip, folded it in half and brought the end up to meet the beginning of the double wide strip and proceeded to sew them together.  This next continuous seam was approximately 400 inches long and 4 strips wide.....do you see the concept of what I'm doing now?

I just kept doing this over and over until I ended up with a lap size quilt top equaling approximately 56" x 75" (my mind just went blank so I can't remember the exact measurement at the moment).

It's different....but I really like it.  Granted....now that I've actually used this "pattern"....I have figured out how to get a better layout based on the order in which I sew the strips.  Of course, I'm NOT about to rip this quilt top apart and start all over....NO WAY!!!!  :) :)

The more I looked at this quilt top, the more I realized that the colors reminded me of the Pittsburgh Steeler colors....my husband and daughters' favorite NFL team.  This wasn't planned.  The 40 strips of fabric used just happened to be in yellow/golds, grays, white and black.

It needed a border to pull it together...

Yep....I decided to use a solid black as the border to frame my "Steeler" quilt.

Now what do I use on the back of the quilt?  Well....if I'm going to call it a "Steeler" quilt...then I need to go all the way with that theme.  A quick shopping trip later and I've found the perfect fabric to use as the backing.

I know, I know....maybe I've gone just a tad bit over the top here...but oh well....it makes me happy! :) :)

Now time for more experimenting.  I'm still trying to practice and develop my free-motion quilting skills.  I have used my regular sewing machine in the past to "stitch-in-the-ditch".... to outline the blocks using 1/4" seams....to free motion a meandering design and even use my embroidery attachment to quilt more elaborate designs....but I need to learn MORE!

After watching a few Youtube videos online showing some different (supposedly easy) techniques....I decide to give it a go.  This quilt is staying here regardless...so why not experiment with it! :) :)

Okay....it's not perfect....but it's not terrible either. :)  It doesn't quite look like what the lady on the video tutorial was teaching....but it's in the same vicinity I guess.  It took me about one week to finish quilting this.  It's hard on the shoulders, arms and back so I had to take LOTS of breaks.

Maybe you can see the design on the back side, against the black fabric a little better....or maybe not... LOL

I used the same solid black border fabric to make my binding.

After I had completely finished it....I proudly handed it to Ray during this past Sunday's Steeler game (thank goodness they won this time LOL).  He likes it and has placed it by his side of the bed and says that the next time I steal all the covers during the night, then he will grab his own quilt and cover up with it. :) :) :)  Sounds like a good plan to me!