Monday, September 1, 2014

In the Pines

 In July the annual Lumberjack and Jill World Competition took place in Hayward, WI.  My husband and I have always watched it on TV and every year we would say, "We should go there sometime."  This year the hay was finished and wheat wasn't quite ready to harvest, and so we packed up the kids and went for a quick trip.

As always, my brain thinks in quilting.  Even as I was watching the competition, amazed by their speed and skill, I was constructing this small wallhanging in my mind.  As soon as I got home, unpacked, and threw in the first load of laundry, I pulled fabric from my stash and got to work (or should I say play?)  I decided to use this quilt as my first attempt at making a tutorial.  So here goes!

fabrics used in the wall quilt
You will need a fat quarter or less of each fabric

Cut your fabrics as follows:
Background fabric:  24 - 3" squares; 8 - 2 1/2 x 3" rectangles
Tree fabric (flying geese): 12 - 3 x 5 1/2" rectangles
Tree trunk fabrick:  4 - 2 x 3" rectangles
Focus fabric (center of the quilt):  5 1/2" square

Fig 1
Begin by placing one 3" background fabric square on your tree fabric rectangle (Fig 1).  Sew from corner to corner.  A trick I've learned to keep my stitching straight without marking, is to take a piece of painters tape and place it on my machine.  I use a clear ruler to make sure my tape is straight and inline with my needle.  After sewing, you will need to cut off the extra fabric.  Using your ruler, place the stitched line on a quarter inch and then cut off the excess. (Fig 2)   You now have one side of your goose finished!  Once you have finger pressed or ironed the triangle open, add your second square and again sew
from corner to corner. (Fig 3) Cut off the excess leaving a quarter inch, and iron your little goose flat.

Fig 2
Fig 3
Fig 4

Next sew the background fabric rectangles to the tree trunk rectangle.  After you have sewed all the geese and tree trunk segments, it's time to assemble.  Sew three geese and one trunk to make a pine tree. (Fig 4)

Fig 5
  Lay out the blocks as pictured (Fig 5).  This wall hanging does      include one modified "Y" seam.  But don't be afraid, it isn't as hard  as people make them out to be!

Fig 6
 Start by placing your first tree even  with one edge of the center square.  The most important thing to  remember is to stop 1/4" away  from the end of the center square.  I usually place a pin at the 1/4"  mark.  (Fig 6)

Next you will continue around the center square, adding trees as you go.  (Fig 7 and 8)

Fig 7
Fig 8

Now for the finish.  Place the final tree at the edge of you wallhanging.  You will need to fold down the extra part of your first tree block to keep if out of the way.  This is why it was important to stop 1/4" away from the end of your center block.  This allows you to sew the last block in place.  Once you've sewn this block on, fold the block so that you can finish sewing the first tree block to the last. (Fig 10)

Fig 10

Fig 9

Sandwich your wallhanging and quilt as desired.  I chose to quilt circles, to represent the rings of a tree trunk.

quilt sandwich
quilting details

Monday, August 18, 2014

Will's Song

Will's Song 
      Born William Jantzi, he went by many names over his lifetime:  son, nephew, grandson, brother, Will, Pop, Grandpa Will, Old Grandpa (to the great grands), Bill, husband, father, Jack of all Trades, a man of God.

      I was privileged to meet Grandpa Will in the year of 1994, when I married the love of my life. My husband often tells stories of the many things his Grandpa Will taught him to do around the farm. The very farm we now live on.  I look around the barns and this house I now call my own, and I see Grandpa Will's handiwork.

     As I started this wall hanging, the rooster looked as though he were giving morning praise to his Creator.  I thought the words to Grandpa Will's favorite hymn was so fitting.  Grandpa Will loved praising his Creator as he plowed the fields, tended the animals, and invented things to make farm work easier.

     Over the last few years arthritis has made it's presence known in my fingers, and so quilting by hand has become painful at best.  I have mourned the loss of this ability, but as I thought about Grandpa Will and his many projects around this farm, I realized that he left me with a challenge.  Was I going to let this difficulty stop me from creating and using the gifts my Creator gave me?  Or was I going to figure out another way to accomplish the same thing?

Grandpa Will was well known for his ability to fix anything that was broken. When something didn't work the way he thought it should, he found another way to make it work.  As I appliqued, sewed, and created this wall hanging in Grandpa Will's memory, I felt like he was challenging me to let go of the past (hand quilting) and giving me permission to embrace the new way of  "making it work" (machine quilting).   I am so thankful for the legacy Grandpa Will has left this small part of the world.

     I have decided to honor Grandpa Will's memory by selling this wall hanging at the 2015 Northern Michigan Relief Sale.  I think Grandpa Will would be pleased at the healing this project has brought me, and the healing and help the money raised will bring people in other parts of our hurting world.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Depth and Texture

Notice the pattern created by the turned bales of straw

This past week saw a lot of activity on our farm and in the surrounding fields.  Wheat harvest was upon us.  Even during all the busy hub-bub of life I noticed something that is important in quilting as well as life.  Texture and depth.  Without texture or depth, a quilt will seem flat and uninteresting.  If you add texture and depth to your quilts you cause people to stop and be drawn into the beauty of your art. 

Notice the contrast of dark and light

Texture and depth can be added in several ways.  The first is fabric choice.  There needs to be contrast in colors, so that the pattern can easily be seen.  Using shades of dark and light cause depth in our quilts.  

Stars of the Past
Second is batting choice.  Even though batting is never seen on the surface of the quilt, it adds visual effects once stitching is applied through all three layers.  Some batting will lay flat, giving very little puff or definition to the quilted areas. 

My quilt, Stars of the Past, had contrast in color, but the batting I chose, gave very little depth to the quilt.  This quilt laid very flat. I opted to do this because I made this quilt to be loved to death, not to be hung on the wall as a piece of art. 

If you want to add loft and depth to your quilt, choose a batting which has a high loft (puff) or consider doubling up your batting.  Some choose to layer a wool batt with a cotton batt for added loft.

The third way texture and depth is added is by your quilting.  Notice how the stippled effect of the sand behind the feather, causes the feather to come to the fore front of your vision.  Decide whether you want your quilting to be the focal point, or do you want the quilt pattern itself to be the focal point.

It is wise to take your time when deciding how to quilt your art.  You have already put a lot of time and love into your quilt and don't want to be disappointed in the outcome do to poor choices of the quilting design.  

"Oopsy Daisy"
                This week I did catch time here and there to sew.  Several years ago my sister gave me a bundle of fat quarters for my birthday.  They were flannel, and very girly.  Not something I would have ever picked out, which is the challenge I gave her. They laid in my stash and every once in awhile I would take them out, look at them awhile, and hope some spark of an idea would strike.  This week it did.  I now have a girly baby blanket waiting for a baby shower.  It will be nice to have a gift already made!  The one thing I found out is that flannel stretches!  I should have basted a little closer before I started quilting.  However the resulting puffiness due to extra fabric between stipples, gives it a cuddly effect. I wanted the daisy to stand out.  To make this happen, I opted to quilt the petals separately and then to stipple all over the background.  

Detail of the daisy petals
Life Lesson:  Our lives also need texture and depth.  We've all met people, along the walk   of life, who are full of wisdom and depth, as well as people who are         shallow and concerned only with themselves. The people with depth in their lives are the ones who draw us into themselves.  These are the people we want to learn from.  Who we are depends on what we add to our lives.  Is it a love for people (depth) or a love of ourselves and things (flat and shallow)? 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Northern Michigan Relief Sale & Quilt Auction

This past weekend my family and I attended the annual Northern Michigan Relief Sale in Fairview, MI.  All proceeds from the quilt auction and sales of various crafts and food items go to Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). MCC provides disaster relief throughout the world.  They are often one of the first responders after a natural disaster.  MCC also has various ongoing projects to help people in rural third world countries.  They teach them farming and other skills so that they can work to support their families and villages. 
Crowd gathered to watch the quilt auction

The highlight of the sale is definitely the quilts. Comforters and quilts will sell anywhere from $50 for baby quilts to $2,000 for large exquisitely appliqued and hand-quilted quilts.   Here is a link to see more of the quilts sold on this year's auction. 

The Mariner's Compass quilt was my favorite and sold for $1,800.

Wise Old Owl - Color Challenge 2014

 Each year there is a color challenge.  I always enjoy laying out the five fabrics and deciding on my pattern.  This year's challenge fabrics screamed baby girl.  Since owls are so popular right now, I figured I'd jump on the band wagon. On Friday the public votes for "People's Choice".  Even though I didn't win this year, I was excited when my baby quilt sold for $80!

One thing I noticed while sitting in the audience, was the fact that I should have made my owl larger.  A good reminder to stand back and look at the layout of a quilt before sewing it together!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Taco Soup

We've been having an unusually cool summer this year.  Today I had my sweatshirt on all day!  Even though I don't normally make soup in the summer, today just called for it.  My family's favorite soup by far is Taco Soup.  Similar to chili, it is one of those stick to your ribs sort of soup.

1 lb of hamburger (optional)
1 med onion, chopped - fry with meat or saute in oil if omitting meat.
2 quarts tomatoes
1 pint corn
1 can kidney beans
1 pkg taco seasoning

Pour everything in a crock-pot and simmer on low for 4 hours. Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and corn chips or crusty bread.

NOTE:  If you are in a hurry, this soup can be simmered on the stove for 15 minutes and then served. As with most soups, longer simmering enhances the flavors.  This soup is even better reheated the next day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Quilting lessons I learned from the Raspberry patch

This week my black raspberries were ready for picking.  I had planted these bushes three years ago and was excited to get a few berries last year.  This year my bushes were loaded!  As I picked the berries, I noticed that if I looked into the bushes at different angles, I saw berries that I would have missed, had I only stood and picked, never bending over or squatting down.

This got me thinking about quilting and how fabrics look different depending on how you view them.  I miss so much if I don't take the time to lay out my fabric choices and spend time looking at them from all angles and in different lighting.

After my berries were put up into jam, I sat down to work on a quilt I had just started.  Thinking I knew how the block went together, I skipped the step of laying the pieces out ahead of time.  When I went to lay the completed blocks out on the floor, I realized I had sewed the background strips onto the wrong sides of the star block.  

Just like looking at fabrics and berry bushes from different angles is important, so is the step of  laying out the block before sewing.  I would have saved myself an hours worth of unsewing with that simple step!

The correct block is on the left, can you see the mistake?

Life Lesson:  Problems in our life can also be solved by looking at them from different angles and perspectives.  Asking friends for their perspective can also be beneficial.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fix It and Forget it, then get back to quilting!

I am always looking for easy meals to feed my family,which includes two growing teenage boys!  My motto about cooking is, "I cook to live and live to quilt!"  I try to find recipes that take no more than 15 minutes to prep, because I've found that you can do anything for 15 minutes, even if it's something you dislike.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Seam Rippers . . . Friend or Foe?

Tools of the trade...all quilters have them, right? They are so fun to have and hold, well most of them are.  See that evil little white tool in the middle?  Why would anyone in their right mind want one of those in their Christmas stocking?

For ten years I was a self taught quilter.  My husband gave me the gift of an afternoon away from my three preschool aged children, and I used that afternoon to take my first class on quilting.  When the class began the first words I heard from the teacher were, "Let the seam ripper become your friend."  Believe me, like most people I've encountered, friend is not the word I associate with a seam ripper.  I spent most of my life trying to avoid the seam ripper, generally with ever worsening results where my quilt creation was concerned.  I was beginning to wonder if I had spent my money wisely on this class.  Was the teacher out of her mind?

That single sentence, however, has become the best advice I've been given on my journey.  When you decide to allow the seam ripper to be a friend the accumulative mistakes, which cause distorted blocks and borders, disappear!

I have to admit that I still get disgusted with myself when I realize I need to rip a seam out.  But now I just shake my head, pick up my well worn ripper, turn up the volume on my CD player, and gently pick out the offending stitches.

If I hadn't made friends with my seam ripper, the following quilt would have most likely have ended up as a UFO!  I'm glad I turned up the CD player and picked away.
Stars from the Past, a wedding quilt for my sister

Life Lesson:  Just like sewing, in our personal life we sometimes need to get out the "seam ripper" and remove things like bad habits or caustic relationships.  It is never fun, but the end result is always beautiful.