Piecing with Patty

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Here’s the thing.  There really are rules to follow.  And there really are rules to be broken.

To me, one of the wonderful aspects of any art or craft is taking the wildness of creativity and mixing it with the rules of skill.  Notice I did not say taming it with the rules of skill.

Understanding the medium, the tools used, and the variety of desired outcomes means knowing how to bend all of those to the will of creativity.  One may begin by bending inspiration to skill in the process of learning, but eventually, the goal can be the other way around.

Enter Patty Murphy, author of recently released Piecing Makeover: Simple Tricks to Fine-Tune Your Patchwork from C&T Publishing.  This book is an excellent source for everyone from less experienced quilters to those who have been around the block a few times.  It addresses basic construction as well as how to deal with precision issues.  In other words, it gives all the rules, which in the end, gives all the freedom.

Speaking of freedom, how about a bit of improvisational quilting with Patty?  No, I am not confused.  Yes, I did just talk all about rules and block construction and avoiding issues, and yes, it does lead to improv.

I am really excited to host Patty at The Green Apricot Studio on December 3, 2016 for a workshop on her quilt, “Yes Ma’am!”  We’ll be exploring both improv and precision piecing, and talking about how to have quilt tops that extend into boarders.  We’ll discuss some of the pitfalls and how to avoid them.  And best of all, we’ll bust some of our stash while we are at it.

And we’ll find out the story behind the name of this quilt.  Because I really want to know.

Click here to register for “Yes Ma’am” with Patty Murphy, 12/3/16, 9am- 4pm.

From Piecing Makeover:  “Patty Murphy has been sewing since she was six years old.  The first thing she recalls making is a pink-and-white seersucker pillow with the word Dad crudely embroidered on it as a gift for her father on Father’s Day.  Fortunately for everyone, her sewing and quilting have greatly improved since then, and so has her gift giving.

Patty loves to share her craft with anyone that will listen, and she teaches regularly at Intown Quilters in Decatur, Georgia, so she can share her knowledge and support her fabric obsession.  Her work has been featured in several books, on the websites of major fabric manufacturers, on blogs, and in magazines, including an original quilt design for Intown Quilters that was featured on the cover of the Spring 2007 Quilt Sampler magazine.”

Computerized quilting is not real quilting.

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It’s totally true.  If you use a computerized longarm quilting machine, your quilt will not actually be quilted.  And even if it looks like it’s quilted, it is not near as good as it would have been if it had been hand guided.  And fo sho it don’t take no skilz.

Kind of like how umpteen years ago if you quilted a quilt on your domestic machine it was not really quilted.  And even if it looked like it was quilted, it wasn’t near as good as it would have been if it had been hand quilted.  And fo sho it don’t take no skilz.

I suppose dishes also are not clean unless washed by hand in the sink.  Using lye.

I still maintain that piecing and quilting by hand is easier.  Don’t get me wrong- it totally takes skill and practice, and let’s face it, a lot of time.  But, because it is less technical, it is more forgiving.  I love hand work as much as I love machine work.  I think there is a time and a place for all of the creative processes in quilting.  I don’t think there is a time or a place for snobbery.  Whatever process a maker is using to create their work is a part of who they are, as well as a part of the piece they are working on.  And quite frankly, you’re a jerk if you can’t appreciate that.

This is a customer quilt that Juan and I tackled together.  I learned a few things, as I do on every project.  The results are often very similar, regardless of what I learn, but what is different is the way the quilting is approached.  I am constantly learning ways to express the idea that the quilt is evoking, as well as how to approach the project more efficiently.  It’s very similar to graphic design.  I get an idea of what the quilt wants, then I search through Juan’s library for designs that I can manipulate into what I have in my brain.  I have always been a problem solver when it comes to technology.  I want a final result.  I don’t know how to get exactly what I want.  So I take what I do know, and usually fool the computer into doing what I want it to do.  I also usually end up finding out there was an easier way, and if I had just made a phone call, or oh, I dunno, read the manual or watched the training videos, I would have saved myself a lot of time and effort.  Along these lines, I went to a gathering of Statler owners at Joan Knight’s home this last weekend, and was astounded at how many things I could have done to make this quilt easier.  Having said that, I’m still pretty pleased I pulled off what I did.  Even if it did take a long time.

Here are some examples-

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This was especially difficult.  Before you start judging, I am aware it isn’t perfect.  But I still am pleased with the outcome.  The maker of this quilt spent a lot of time on the piecing, and that’s what was standing out to me throughout the quilt.  So, I made a real effort to keep the quilting minimal on the prints.  You will see in other photos that the white space (negative or background space) was generally quilted more densely than the other areas.  In this case, the drunkard’s path wanted to pop.  I needed to outline those stitch lines, but I did not know how to do the curves.  I ended up chopping up an already designed circle into the pieces that I needed, fit them into the right places along the path, then stitched them.  Then I went back and did the straight line quilting, and kind of connected the dots between the curves. I learned this past weekend that I could have laid out the design on the computer, connected the curves with the straight lines, and Juan would have stitched it out in one fell swoop.  But he didn’t share that info with me.

This was a mistake I made that had to be ripped out and quilted again.  These two blocks were in complimentary locations on the quilt, and required being quilted similarly.  As I mentioned before, it seemed that the quilting needed to truly emphasize the piecing, so the quilting in these two blocks needed to be in the “background.”  In order to do this, I have to program Juan to skip over portions of the area that he is stitching, which normally works well, but in this case, didn’t.  The area that I am pointing at in the fourth photo should not have been quilted.  I didn’t get a picture of the corrected block, but I did take it out and restitch it.

The background of this block was a grid or crosshatch, and as I mentioned before, I programed Juan to skip around the pieced and appliqued part of the block.  for some reason, the computer chose to stitch the cross lines in the area between the bloom and the stem on one side of the block, but not on the other.  I believe it’s because of the size of the space, but I honestly don’t know for sure.  I went back in with Juan to stitch in the missing lines after the background was complete.

This one made me cringe for a minute.  Can you see what’s wrong in the first photo?  How about the second?  Maybe the third?  Or how about the fourth?  At this point in the process, I was pretty far along with the quilt, and I was a bit miffed when Juan started skipping stitches.  I mean really.  What the what.  But, it was easily rectified.  Just needed a new needle.  I quilt pretty heavily most of the time, so it is not uncommon on a quilt this large, and this densely quilted, to go through more than one needle.  Just because the common practice is a new needle for a new project, sometimes you need more than one new needle for each new project.

I felt like the end result was pleasing, and it really was pretty much the way I envisioned it finishing.  The maker created a beautiful canvas on which to work, and she was pleased with the outcome.  I was grateful that Juan and I could be a part of it.

Quilt pattern: Unkown;  Fabric: Unknown, 1930’s reproduction; Digitized quilt patterns: Multiple designers; Thread: King Tut #960, Morning Sky by Superior Threads.

Hmmmmm. Green Apricots. And Sarah. Who knew?

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Well, as the story goes, my husband loves green apricots.  With salt.  In late spring he would climb the trees that grew on his family’s property and eat his fill.  He looked forward to it every year as a boy, but he hasn’t eaten any green apricots in a very long time.

This year we happened to have the opportunity to be in southern Utah in late spring.  We were visiting family and taking care of some business, and while we were in town we looked for some green apricots.  And we found them.

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I have actually never eaten an apricot.  Except dried.  And maybe canned.  So this was going to be a new thing for me.  I was surprised at how small they were.  And by how much Jeff enjoyed eating the really, really green ones.

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So I tried them.  A green one.  A not-so-green one.  A ripe one.  I was starting to feel like Goldilocks.  Turns out that when it comes to apricots, I’m a Momma Bear kind of girl.  The green ones were way too firm and tart for me, and the ripe ones seemed to be lacking in flavor a bit.  The right kind were a pretty shade of orange, with just tinges of green.  Right texture.  Right flavor.  Just right.  Like a banana with just a bit of green still left on the skin.

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But all of that is only part of the story.  The trees that Jeff used to climb are no longer in the family, so his brother hooked us up with a sweet friend named Sarah who owns these trees.  Sarah is a character.  Sarah is 92.  Sarah is a smart cookie.

As we were taking pictures, eating apricots, and other such shenanigans in the orchard, Sarah came out and asked why we were so very interested in her apricot trees.  My sister-in-law explained a bit about The Green Apricot, and Sarah wanted to talk to me.  So we chatted for a minute.  Turns out Sarah’s a retired quilter, if you will.  She asked if I had one of those big quilting machines.  I told her I did not yet.  Then she looked at me earnestly with those clear, blue eyes and said, “Well, you should get one.”

Then she said “I want to show you something.  Come on in the house.”

I dutifully followed her inside, where I met her pup and descended into the coolness of a sitting room.  We were surrounded by plants and paintings.  She began to dig through piles of pictures, looking for just the right one.  As she dug, she told of a flood relief effort she had been involved in in the 1990’s.  A phone call here, a smile there, a good natured push in the right direction and this woman had gathered materials and man power to make enough quilts to cover the floor of the Dixie College sports arena.  Six times over.  And, as if that wasn’t enough, found a way to have them all delivered to the correct distribution spot with the Red Cross.  She carefully controlled the slight curl in her nose as she expressed her gratitude for the yards and yards of cotton-poly blend fabric donated for the backing of the quilts.  She told of logistics miracles, and then the pictures started to emerge.  Photos of a woman 22 years younger, with a grin almost as large as the stack of quilts she was standing with.  Who knew?

A few minutes later we said our good-byes, and she looked at me with those eyes and said “Get you one of those machines.”

Well.

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And Sew It Begins . . .

Yummy, don't you think?  This is the fabulous color combo picked by a savvy soon-to-be mom of twins!  She's having one of each, and this is going to be one knock-out nursery.

Yummy, don’t you think? This is the fabulous color combo picked by a savvy soon-to-be mom of twins! She’s having one of each, and this is going to be one knock-out nursery.


We actually picked the pattern, "Houndstooth" by V and Co., before we chose fabrics, so that played a part in why we went with solids.  As you can see, the pattern is intended to be two colors, and obviously we have more than that.  Here's where my craziness enters.  Why follow directions when you can make yourself nuts making up new directions?  We wanted the colors to alternate in the houndstooth pattern, with a consistent background color to tie it all together.  This meant making a lot of notes on the pattern to figure out how much to cut of each color to get the appropriate number of strips to in turn get the correct color pattern.  Confused yet?

We actually picked the pattern, “Houndstooth” by V and Co., before we chose fabrics, so that played a part in why we went with solids. As you can see, the pattern is intended to be two colors, and obviously we have more than that. Here’s where my craziness enters. Why follow directions when you can make yourself nuts making up new directions? We wanted the colors to alternate in the houndstooth pattern, with a consistent background color to tie it all together. This meant making a lot of notes on the pattern to figure out how much to cut of each color to get the appropriate number of strips to in turn get the correct color pattern. Confused yet?


This pattern has multiple sizes included in the instructions, and the baby quilt calls for 1 1/2" strips.  I determined how many strips I needed of each color and laid them out for sewing.  I began by sewing the strips into groups of two, carefully following the color lay out.  When I do things like this, I do not do mass sewing.  In other words, I do not go ahead and sew together all of the sets of two.  I actually only sew enough together to make my first set of blocks, in this case, a white to a light grey, and a white to a dark grey.

This pattern has multiple sizes included in the instructions, and the baby quilt calls for 1 1/2″ strips. I determined how many strips I needed of each color and laid them out for sewing. I began by sewing the strips into groups of two, carefully following the color lay out. When I do things like this, I do not do mass sewing. In other words, I do not go ahead and sew together all of the sets of two. I actually only sew enough together to make my first set of blocks, in this case, a white to a light grey, and a white to a dark grey.


It may seem like a good idea to speed through this part, but really, it isn't.  Especially when working with 1 1/2" strips.  I try to slow it down to prevent sliding and inaccurate seam allowances.  1/8" is a lot to lose when you only have 1 1/2" to work with.

It may seem like a good idea to speed through this part, but really, it isn’t. Especially when working with 1 1/2″ strips. I try to slow it down to prevent sliding and inaccurate seam allowances. 1/8″ is a lot to lose when you only have 1 1/2″ to work with.


Okay, maybe not THAT slow.  I was starting to want to punch somebody.

Okay, maybe not THAT slow. I was starting to want to punch somebody.

Koen’s Cars

Okay, so while I rarely make the same quilt twice, I do get stuck on a theme!  I love the chevron/ zigzag trend that is out right now.  The graphic nature of it appeals to me, and I love that while there are rules to follow, that means there are rules to be broken.  I am still following most of the rules at this point, but don't count on that lasting.

Okay, so while I rarely make the same quilt twice, I do get stuck on a theme! I love the chevron/ zigzag trend that is out right now. The graphic nature of it appeals to me, and I love that while there are rules to follow, that means there are rules to be broken. I am still following most of the rules at this point, but don’t count on that lasting.

I like to combine patterns, as well as change them.  I used two patterns in this quilt, "Peak Hour" by Don't Look Now and "Little Quilts 4 Little Kids" by Anka's Treasures.

I like to combine patterns, as well as change them. I used two patterns in this quilt, “Peak Hour” by Don’t Look Now and “Little Quilts 4 Little Kids” by Anka’s Treasures.

It begins with sewing strips together, but be careful to keep strips in the correct order if you would like the chevron look.  This pattern uses two different sizes of strips, and again, it is important to keep them in the right order.  Having said that, I cannot wait to do this again with varying sized strips and without regard to order!

It begins with sewing strips together, but be careful to keep strips in the correct order if you would like the chevron look. This pattern uses two different sizes of strips, and again, it is important to keep them in the right order. Having said that, I cannot wait to do this again with varying sized strips and without regard to order!

"Little Quilts 4 Little Kids" gives excellent instructions on how to cut your strip sets correctly to get these "wedges."

“Little Quilts 4 Little Kids” gives excellent instructions on how to cut your strip sets correctly to get these “wedges.”

Depending on which set of wedges you are working with, you add a triangle to each end- one that looks like this . . .

Depending on which set of wedges you are working with, you add a triangle to each end- one that looks like this . . .

and one that looks like this!

and one that looks like this!

Viola!

Viola!

When stitching together strip sets like this, I like to use fork pins.  The old fashioned way was to put a pin on either side of a set of matching seams.  Fork pins do the same job, but with only one pin.

When stitching together strip sets like this, I like to use fork pins. The old fashioned way was to put a pin on either side of a set of matching seams. Fork pins do the same job, but with only one pin.

At this point, most of my sections are sewn together.  Notice that the color pattern is a mirror image from the top to the bottom, but that the actual pattern of the chevron is not.  "Little Quilts 4 Little Kids" gives excellent directions on how to achieve this look.  Again, I look forward to playing with it a little!

At this point, most of my sections are sewn together. Notice that the color pattern is a mirror image from the top to the bottom, but that the actual pattern of the chevron is not. “Little Quilts 4 Little Kids” gives excellent directions on how to achieve this look. Again, I look forward to playing with it a little!

Whew, sections sewn together on each row, and rows laid out and ready for the applique'.  This is where I implemented a new pattern- "Peak Hour."  I wasn't sure how I wanted to lay out my cars, so I used paper pieces to try it out.  Like this . . .

Whew, sections sewn together on each row, and rows laid out and ready for the applique’. This is where I implemented a new pattern- “Peak Hour.” I wasn’t sure how I wanted to lay out my cars, so I used paper pieces to try it out. Like this . . .

or like this?

or like this?

Fusing and cutting!  The fun part, and maybe the scary part, is you don't really know what it is going to look like when you put all of these little pieces together!  It helps to take your time to choose which fabrics you want for your applique'.  But remember, this isn't brain surgery, and no one will die if it isn't perfect.  Not only that, but you certainly can try again if the first shot doesn't work out the way you planned.

Fusing and cutting! The fun part, and maybe the scary part, is you don’t really know what it is going to look like when you put all of these little pieces together! It helps to take your time to choose which fabrics you want for your applique’. But remember, this isn’t brain surgery, and no one will die if it isn’t perfect. Not only that, but you certainly can try again if the first shot doesn’t work out the way you planned.

Laying out the cars!  I have to admit, this sometimes isn't my strong point when I am digressing from a pattern.  Sometimes my applique' can look like it is floating in outer space without any connection to anything, and without any flow.  I used to do this when I was making scrapbook pages as well.  This time the final product was pleasing, although I would have liked to tweak the positioning a little more.  Remember once you have fused it to your background, it is pretty much a done deal, so feel good about it before you hit it with the iron!

Laying out the cars! I have to admit, this sometimes isn’t my strong point when I am digressing from a pattern. Sometimes my applique’ can look like it is floating in outer space without any connection to anything, and without any flow. I used to do this when I was making scrapbook pages as well. This time the final product was pleasing, although I would have liked to tweak the positioning a little more. Remember once you have fused it to your background, it is pretty much a done deal, so feel good about it before you hit it with the iron!

I love this machine button hole stitch for this type of project.  I like to play with my stitch length and width to get the size that is most pleasing for the applique'.  My friend Sherrie taught me how to do this, including leaving long threads so that I can easily finish of the stitches by hand.

I love this machine button hole stitch for this type of project. I like to play with my stitch length and width to get the size that is most pleasing for the applique’. My friend Sherrie taught me how to do this, including leaving long threads so that I can easily finish of the stitches by hand.

Ready to go!  Beep, beep!

Ready to go! Beep, beep!

Don't Look Now not only designs patterns, but fabric as well.  It turns out I was able to get the coordinating fabric that had the exact same car pattern as the applique' pattern I used, and I simply fussy cut the fabric into a fabulous border.  Unfortunately, I knew something just wasn't right.  It was missing the "umpf" that I normally love.  I had to leave it on the design wall for a few days so that I could mull it over in my sleep.  Yes, I literally dream about quilting.

Don’t Look Now not only designs patterns, but fabric as well. It turns out I was able to get the coordinating fabric that had the exact same car pattern as the applique’ pattern I used, and I simply fussy cut the fabric into a fabulous border. Unfortunately, I knew something just wasn’t right. It was missing the “umpf” that I normally love. I had to leave it on the design wall for a few days so that I could mull it over in my sleep. Yes, I literally dream about quilting.

The answer came, like a ton of bricks!  I think this was my favorite part of the whole process.  I needed just a tiny something to add a little pop and define the edges of the quilt.  So, I started with cutting 1" strips of black.

The answer came, like a ton of bricks! I think this was my favorite part of the whole process. I needed just a tiny something to add a little pop and define the edges of the quilt. So, I started with cutting 1″ strips of black.

Next, I sewed the black strip to the inside of the border strip using a 1/2" seam.  That's right, 1/2", NOT 1/4".  Then I pressed all of the black to the raw edge- essentially folding the black in half along the seam I had just sewn.  So, I had a 1/2" of black along the inside edge of my border strip.  If you try this at home, you know you have it right if you have three raw edges on your inside border- two black and one border.  I then added black corner pieces to the borders.  When I sewed the borders to the quilt using a 1/4" seam, I had created a 1/4" border without fighting with a tiny piece of fabric and without adding any width or length to the overall size.  It was just the pop I needed- all of the fun, and none of the pain!

Next, I sewed the black strip to the inside of the border strip using a 1/2″ seam. That’s right, 1/2″, NOT 1/4″. Then I pressed all of the black to the raw edge- essentially folding the black in half along the seam I had just sewn. So, I had a 1/2″ of black along the inside edge of my border strip. If you try this at home, you know you have it right if you have three raw edges on your inside border- two black and one border. I then added black corner pieces to the borders. When I sewed the borders to the quilt using a 1/4″ seam, I had created a 1/4″ border without fighting with a tiny piece of fabric and without adding any width or length to the overall size. It was just the pop I needed- all of the fun, and none of the pain!

See the difference?

See the difference?

After quilting, be sure to bury those threads!  By the way, I like Fons and Porter's self-threading needles for this.  You don't have to have an excessive amount of thread to be able to thread the needle and then bury the thread in the quilt.

After quilting, be sure to bury those threads! By the way, I like Fons and Porter’s self-threading needles for this. You don’t have to have an excessive amount of thread to be able to thread the needle and then bury the thread in the quilt.

I chose to use a long arm quilting machine to do the free motion quilting on the main parts of the quilt.  However, I wanted the applique' and the chevron to stand out, so I used my domestic machine to carefully outline each car and to stitch in the ditch in the chevrons.  It made for a nice contrast in stitching and gave the quilt depth.

I chose to use a long arm quilting machine to do the free motion quilting on the main parts of the quilt. However, I wanted the applique’ and the chevron to stand out, so I used my domestic machine to carefully outline each car and to stitch in the ditch in the chevrons. It made for a nice contrast in stitching and gave the quilt depth.

Oh how I just love a striped binding, and this one was so very perfect!  I didn't use all fabrics from the Don't Look Now line, but I had to have the stripe, it was just too perfect!

Oh how I just love a striped binding, and this one was so very perfect! I didn’t use all fabrics from the Don’t Look Now line, but I had to have the stripe, it was just too perfect!

Finally done, and before I sent it off to our grandson, I ran it through the wash.  I love the wrinkly look a quilt gets, and I really loved how the variation in the quilting came out in the wash!

Finally done, and before I sent it off to our grandson, I ran it through the wash. I love the wrinkly look a quilt gets, and I really loved how the variation in the quilting came out in the wash!