Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Border Progress

All the squares are pressed. That took a long time to do. The triangles in the container are for the tips. So far there's seven of the reds and seven of the white are sewn. Looking good!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery Project - Clue 5

Hi everyone! I'm linked up with Bonnie Hunter's blog for the Celtic Solstice Mystery Quilt. Thank you so much for stopping by and seeing my progress on clue 5! If you like what you see, check out other posts in my blog and if you really like it, follow it!

I was excited to have the day off when this clue came out. And having 100 blocks done from clue 3 was such a big "wind in the sails" for getting these blocks done. Thank you Bonnie for that wonderful time saver! Cutting the rest of the pieces went pretty quickly. I got around 30 usable triangles from the white strips and 19 from the blue. 

For some reason, I had a bit of a mental block when it came to sewing the prices together. After sewing the first triangle onto the square, I set it next to the other pieces so I had a visual reference to double check that I was doing it correctly. This is what my first sewing line needed to look like.

With the sample nearby, the other pieces were laid out so I could pick them up exactly how they needed to be put together. The top white triangle in the stack went on the right side of the square, along the yellow edge. That yellow edge was the one to get sewn. 

The second white triangle in the stack was set aside for the other half of the piecing. Each time I did a square, the first triangle was used and the second one was put in its own pile for the other side.

It helped me to put the second triangle in the correct place by holding it this way. The white triangle was flipped over so its right side was down on the yellow edge. That was the edge to sew.

I finished 10 pieces at a time and then pressed after each side was sewn on. Doing this helped me keep count. I found it easier to sew the second triangle on in this manner. It helped keep the pieces feeding in straight. 

Once those white triangles were both attached, the big blue triangle gets sewn on. Hold your breath - the pieced triangle and the big blue triangle should be, or should be close to, the same size! Get a smile on your face because it's all downhill from here! 

I sewed with the pieced side on top so I could see where the point was while sewing. I tried to stay to the right of that tip. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. But the tips that were cut off weren't cut off very much so I can live with it. 

The final pressing gave the reveal of the fabulous, colorful split triangles! 100 are done and ready for their place in the quilt!

I was playing around with a border idea that I have decided that I will use on this project. Since this clue is done, I can make more of them this week. Let me know what you think of the idea. I could be asking for trouble! Haha!

Thanks for checking in. I'd love to hear your thoughts or if anything in my post has helped or encouraged you in your CS quilt. Have a terrific week! See you in 2014!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Strip Cutting Breakdown

Sadie from Germany asked me about how I cut strips for clue 4 so here's the visual for her and anyone else who finds it helpful.

Please keep in mind that I am not a certified quilt instructor. (is there such a title?) But I do what works for me. My methods may not always be 100% proper but they get the results that I want. If you have another method that you like, then take my tutorials as food for thought, but do what works best for you.

First things first - do yourself a favor and use a new or almost new blade in your rotary cutter! It will help you so much in making good, clean cuts! If you have to make two or more firm passes across your fabric to get through it, you need a new blade! OK - here we go!

Part 1
I cut the initial strips individually if going from selvage to selvage. Since my cutting mat is 24", I fold the fabric into thirds so I can cut it in one pass. Be careful when folding, if your fabric shifts, you'll end up with a crooked strip! Then you'll be having to realign it over and over while you are making your future cuts. I know this from experience!

If I have shorter pieces of fabric, I stack them no more than 4 layers and make the cut. The more layers you cut, the more chance the fabric will shift and your strips will come out crooked or narrow. 

Extra fabric is neatly set aside in case I need to cut more strips. I try to keep those cut edges lined up so it doesn't need much straightening out if I have to cut more later. 

Part 2
The strips get put right sides together, sewn, and pressed open, all as per the mystery's instructions. 

They are paired up, right sides together. You feel the seams snugging up together when you do this step. Love that!
You can see that 4 patch peeking out at you already! We're getting closer!

Part 3
This is the neat part that makes the cutting go really quick. I place the paired sets on the mat so they are staggered up the mat. Here's two sets staggered in that layout. Under the middle green strip, there are 4 layers of fabric. The next strip set will go on top of the upper orange strip, and so on.

You can stagger as many sets as you are comfortable cutting. I like to do five sets. It's easier counting them out into sets of 10 after they're cut. 

Line up the left edge along the proper line on the ruler, in this case it's on the 2" line. It's good to try to have the sewing lines on the fabric under a number line. See them under the 10" and 12" lines? You can be pretty confident that you'll wind up with an even rectangular piece when it's cut! Hold that ruler down firmly and make your cutting pass. 

Now the pieces are ready to be sewn into the beloved 4-patch!

If you are a beginner or are interested in a simple 5-clue mystery project, I have one in the Mystery Projects tab on my blog called Ringing in the New Year! All the clues can be found in the 2013 dates that are in the post.

I hope this little tutorial is helpful. Sometimes visuals are better than imagining the steps. If you enjoy my posts, consider following my blog and visiting my Facebook page! E-see you later!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Border Experiment

I've been pondering the direction to take on my border for Celtic Solstice. Remember in clue 2 where we cut the corners off of the strips to complete the chevron blocks? And Bonnie mentioned that those triangles were pretty small to use. . .well,  I saved them. I thought about them. I sewed some together. I measured the little blocks and thought some more.

There are a lot of these things, and they are tiny! There must be a way to use them. Maybe sewn into pinwheels. Or little broken dishes. Or ocean waves. What if I put them with a larger piece of fabric, like in delectable mountains? That could work! 

Instead of making the whole block, I put the tiny sawtooth rows on the sides of the larger triangles, ended them with single triangles at the top and bottom of the teeth. That gave me a straight 3" wide strip of hills and valleys! I think it will look good on CS, telling the eye where the edge of the quilt is.  

There's my border experiment. It will be interesting to see how it will fit on the quilt! I have many sections to make but can bang them out on the days after the week's clue is done. Maybe most of it will be ready when I need it! Are you going to do a border design on your mystery quilt? What color(s) will you put on it?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery Project - Clue 4

What a great weekend! The last one before Christmas! The fridge is stocked, the shopping is done, the presents are wrapped, and clue 4 of Celtic Solstice is out! Are you posting or surfing in the link up? Either way, it's great fun! Isn't it?!!!

But first things first, we had a show to go to on Saturday. Christmas with the Rat Pack - Live at the Sands at the beautiful Proctors Theater. Loved it! This is the book they handed out showing the gorgeous ceiling architecture inside the theater.

No pictures allowed during the show. This was what I snapped during intermission. 

We are Rat Pack fans. I'd see this show again and again! Sammy, Dean, and Frank with a trio of sisters and a big band... You can't go wrong! I bet it was amazing during their hey-day.

I got a late start on clue 4, but this clue will be done in one day! If you want to see a tutorial on my cutting techniques, check out this post.

Since I was really low on orange, I had to buy a few fat quarters to get this clue going. Here's the 2" strips getting sewn together.

When they're getting ironed, I separate them up green color. That way, it's easier to pair the strips up for cutting - the dark greens and light greens will get matched.

Don't you love it when you get done sewing and find this? Whoa! That was close!

Cutting the sets for the next sewing step is easy when you line things up with your tools! 

120 sets ready to go under the needle, all facing the same direction, as per Bonnie's instructions. I got one extra pair of strips back by my iron, just in case I need 'em. And I did need to replace one that had salvage in it, so I was glad the spare strip was handy. 

I love making 4-patch squares! They are seam-spinned clockwise. 

Done! 20 squares in each of the 6 piles. Those green ones look like they have a face in them. Haha!

Let me take a moment to say, Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a happy 2014.

And Sasha and Sparkie say "woof" and stuff. 

Catch you next week. I gotta go - White Christmas is on!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery Project - Clue 3 Sewing with Pinwheel Breakdown

Here we are! I'm linked up with Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice Mystery Quilt project. How much fun is it seeing other quilters' posts and pictures and chatting with each other? Thanks for your comments! I'm loving the party!

Clue 3 is getting sewn up. Check out my cutting post  for this clue, if you want. For the size I'm making, I needed to end up with 100 1/2 square triangle blocks and 25 pinwheels. The 1/2 square triangle blocks are done. Woo hoo!

I had a lot of the fall leaf fabric that made enough squares to do the pinwheels. They are all set in stacks of 4 on the bottom half of the photo.

I really thought that the main tone in this fabric was an orange but now that it's cut up, it has many colors that are featured. Since all of this fabric will be in every pinwheel, I hope the color variation will look ok. What do you think?

On to making pinwheels! The blocks are all sewn together like this. I had the gold pointing to the upper left on the top half and to the upper right on the bottom half. Flip the top block, right side down, onto the lower block.

Notice where the dog ears are. They should be in the same corner or on opposite corners, depending on how you cut your triangles. Mine are both in the corner under my finger. Also, when you put the squares together, you can feel the seams snugging up next to each other. That will give a nice look when it's sewed. The side to stitch is that top edge. I had to rip seams and start over enough times to remember to pay attention to that detail! haha!

I get chain sewing and after about 4 or 5 sets are done, I put two aside as my last block to do. Since I like to pull sets out and make them into full blocks before all the chain sewing is done, this lets me have reference pieces, if needed.

The sets come out and need some dog ear trimming. You could skip that step but I have found that it is better in the long run to get rid of that bulk. Finger press the seam up; all seams go towards the orange triangles.

When you put the halves together, have the top seam fold pointing towards the needle. That way, the center points snug up since the top seam gets pushed into the lower one. If you have it the other way, like the way it is in the next photo, the center points could be pushed apart a little. Does that make sense?

You can feel all the seams in the blocks "marrying" due to the way it was pressed. You can pin this or just slip it under the foot and sew. I skip the pinning, sew the to center, make sure my other end is lined up, and then finish sewing the other half.

When the pinwheel block is together, the back needs some attention. We are dealing with lots of fabric at the center so spinning out the seams helps cut down the bulk a lot. The seams will flow with the direction the triangles are pointing. Mine spin clockwise. Two of the seams will be fine but the other two will need coaxing. In my photo, the right one needs to go down and the left one needs to go up. If they resist in the center, you might need to pick a stitch out of there to help them lay down. Once they "spin", press the back and then the front to help it behave!

I don't know how Bonnie's pinwheels come out so perfectly, but here's one of mine. Not quite the way she described, but I am happy with it!

My Clue 3 is ready! 100 1/2 square triangle blocks and 25 pinwheels. The first 4 that I made were pointing counter-clockwise, and then I checked the clue, which shows them pointing clockwise, so I changed over to match the clue. hopefully, those 4 unique ones can go in the corners or the center or something. I'm sure it will look fine! 

My mom told me that every quilt needs something in it, call it a mistake if you want, that makes it your own. My 4 counter-clockwise pinwheels are my "somethings" that will make it mine!

I hope you've been able to get something useful out of my pinwheel breakdown. I'd love to hear your comments. Happy mystery-quilting!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery Project - Clue 3 Cutting

It's another Friday so we get another clue for Celtic Solstice! Half Square Triangles are so fun to make and versatile to work with. This won't be an extensive tutorial, like last week, since the 1/2 square triangle is a staple block in our piecing portfolio. And making pinwheels... how fun; it brings the kid out in me!

My colors, or some of them, for this clue.

I showed my hubby this scrap and said, "I'm making triangles!" To which he said, "It looks like a dorito!" And he's right. Sparkle would like a taste!

I love using the Easy Angle ruler. If you don't have one, get a Joanne's 40% off coupon and go get one! You'll be glad you did. Right sides together and zip! You got a set of triangles all ready for sewing into squares.

My mystery quilt, Ringing In The New Year, also uses the Easy Angle. If you want to make a less intensive mystery quilt, try that one out! There is a tab at the top of the blog for my mystery project. It would be a fun one to take on after the holidays are over. I have lots of pics and give clear instructions. Let me know if you make one!

After a session of cutting, my 200 sets of dorito and cheddar chip pieces are all cut! Don't they look delicious? They'll make 100 squares and 25 pinwheels. I'll get going on the sewing tomorrow while were getting whomped with snow. My quilting club Christmas meeting was canceled tomorrow so I'll be sewing these up!

I found the best way for me to navigate through the clues and get them done each week is to check out the clue first thing in the morning when it comes out so I can think about it. Then, after work, I come home, get the fabric selected and get the cutting done. Saturday and Sunday (or up through Thursday) are great days for sewing the pieces into the blocks. Breaking things down into little sections helps it seem manageable and I can finish them on time! Yay!

My next post will be on the sewing and I'll be linked up on Monday at Bonnie's blog. Sew on, sistahs!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Newest Addition to ThistleFire

I broke down last weekend. Not my car... Me. I gave in to the lure of the embroidery machine. I've looked at them, seen videos, know people who have them but never thought I'd want one until last weekend.

It was a pitiful sight. I spotted the Singer Futura XL-400 in the sale flyer at Joann's and didn't like the way the unit looked. But my local store had two on premesis so off I went to take a look. The one side of the wall didn't have them so I looked at the other side and there was one humongous box sitting there. Of course, that was the one. I needed help carrying it to the register. And it would not fit in my car. I had to unpack it and cut the sides of the box so I could fold it down to get it loaded to take it home. I said it right, it was pitiful. But my sidekick, Sparkie, was there for me when I needed a smile.

The next step was to get my computer set up. Easy process. Love that this unit is fire-wired to my PC so the sky's the limit!

But the fun has finally begun to reveal itself in my sewing room! It sews beautifully so it is my backup in case Lacy needs servicing. After nearly breaking it to install the embroidery bed, the first sample was stitched.

This was stitched on a heavy upholstery fabric so I didn't use a stabilizer. Regular white sewing thread was used since I didn't know any better. 

Then, I found a pretty little pattern for the Christmas season. Stepping it up to multiple thread colors, it was a nice one to practice with. No stabilizer, plain threads... It's obvious, I know, but it's still pretty!

Since this was new territory for me, I figured I'd better watch at least one training video about how to do this. First stop, PBS.org's Sewing With Nancy. She had a two part show about this craft. Very helpful! She's an inspiration! Next stop, Craftsy.com. It was my day! There was a free beginner's class available! Between all those videos, I felt much better about attempting to make real things, not just samples. 

So I downloaded more patterns that I liked, remembered that I picked up a bunch of Sulky thread a few months ago and got them handy, got various stabilizers together, and was ready to start designing!

Here's a pattern I think is really nice. Love that Sulky blue!

And another classic look. The variegated pink is a subtle effect but I love it!

It's a great machine! Works like it should! I'm so glad I took the plunge. 

Do you have an embroidery machine? What do you make with it? Share your blog link in the comment section or post a photo on my Facebook page!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery Project - Clue 2 Sewing

What a weekend! Tackling Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice mystery quilt! Lots of prepping, marking, and sewing happened, and I've written posts about all the steps! Check the others out if you want to: here for prepping and here for marking and here for Clue 1. I really tried to give helpful hints and tips. I hope there's something useful for you in there!

Since my marking and pinning were already done at this point, I could really get into the power sewing! I picked up 10 of the "right" sides and 10 of the "left" sides so I would wind up with 10 chevron blocks when I was done. I felt that this helped keep things more manageable and attainable!

Picking up the square on one side allowed for easy chain sewing. The pins could come out after the first couple stitches were down. It is easy to remember where to sew: right next to the line on the side of the pin!

The second square was easily accessed by picking up the opposite corner. Both sides done without having to stop at all. 

Trimming off the excess is pretty clear as long as you remember to cut on the side where the pin was, just like where you had to stitch.

I had to think about the pressing part. The easiest method I came up with was to set the blocks next to each other and look at what direction the green part went from left to right. The one I'm pointing at goes down, so I pressed those seams down.

Being able to press the seams in the same direction makes for quick results! I put the block face down, started at the white part and brought the iron over to the yellow part. That made both seams go down. The other side was pressed in the opposite way: start at the yellow part and bring the iron over to the white part. Easy peasy!

Now, since the seams lay in opposite directions, the two pieces nestle together beautifully along both seam lines! Norah McMeeking calls it "marrying the pieces". I like that! They snug up nice and don't even need pinning, but you can pop one in if you want!

See how the seam edges face the needle? That's good. It will push those seams together for you while you sew them. Just be careful that the seam allowances don't flip backwards on you. It can happen quick so hold it down and slow up if you need more control over those areas.

When you flip it open, there's a beautiful chevron! Almost like magic! I finished 30 of my 100 blocks today. The rest will be done before Friday, when the next clue comes out!

After all, I was a little distracted by this.

I really hope my posts have given you some tips or pointers. I love sewing and quilting and enjoy sharing what I find to be useful or time saving. Remember, persistence pays off. You can do it! Link up at Bonnie's blog to share your project and to see all the wonderful quilters' work there!

How is your project coming along? Will it be for you or someone else? I'd love to hear from you!