Wednesday, May 31, 2017

One Monthly Goal :: May 2017 Update

It's the last day of May and I'm calling it. Not only did I not complete my goal, but for the first time since I started quilting, four years and 82 quilts ago, I'm pitching the whole thing and starting over...later.

The inspiration for this quilt came from the awesome original sold by MidwestThreadsOhio on Etsy.

She doesn't offer a pattern, so I reverse engineered my take of the quilt on EQ7. Obviously, I borrowed much of my design from the original. I did make changes to the eyes, hands, mouth, and raised foot.

I've been working on this quilt in between other projects because I don't have an intended recipient for it at this point. I was nearly done piecing the blocks when I made it my May One Monthly Goal, but three things got in the way of me finishing.

One. I broke my foot. Ouch. That is all. I'm back in a boot for the second summer.

Two. On the 4th of May, I learned that our son's librarian was retiring, so I dropped everything to make a bookcase quilt for her. I'm really happy with how it turned out. Especially since I made it in only seventeen days!

Three. There comes a time when you realize that it would take less time to start over than it would be to fix all the things you want to change. In hindsight, I should have realized this when I made the very first block and realized that I bought the wrong interfacing at Joann. The cashier pulled out the wrong bolt, but I should have double checked. I realized my mistake when I got home and make the first block. But then, since I bought the whole bolt and didn't want to waste it, I decided to go ahead and try to use it. Verdict: it's definitely too thick!

When using interfacing to make a pixelated or postage stamp quilt, use Pellon 44F JAS. Do NOT use  Pellon 950F. If you aren't familiar with this method of quilting, check out Oh Fransson's tutorial.

I started laying out my pieces using Pellon Tru-Grid. You can see a little bit of it on the edge here. (By the way, it's my helper adorable?!)

As it turned out, the Tru-Grid does not hold up well to ironing, so I switched to the piece of cardboard I've used with previous pixelated quilts.

The problem with this is that my blocks ended up being different sizes--up to an inch! Grrrrrr.....

Before I noticed the size differences, I was already unhappy with the value difference in the lower hand and the raised leg was a hot mess.

So in addition to wanting to redo the hand and feet blocks, I also had to redo a few individual blocks because my iron threw up on them. That has also never happened before! I was still planning to rework all these things when I noticed the size discrepancy, as I cut my finger and bled all over another block! (I'll spare you that photo! This is the iron puke.)

See? Clearly, this version of the quilt did not want to be made. So for the first time ever, I am chucking the whole thing! I still want to make it, but I'm starting over. I have the correct interfacing and I made a couple more tweaks to the pattern so hopefully it will come together much better on take two.

Before I say goodbye to Brutus for now, here are a few photos of what might have been...

Such promise.

Child labor.

And back to the drawing board.

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Quilt #81: Mrs. Gentry's Library

It feels like I've been unproductive this month because this is my first finish, but I have two other quilts nearly done. But, as happens in life, sometimes an event comes up and you drop everything to make a quilt to let someone know how much you love them.

On May 7, at the last parent meeting of the year, our principal accidentally let it slip that our beloved librarian. Mrs. Gentry, was retiring. We are moving out of our school building at the end of the year, and with all the changes our learners are facing, Mrs. Gentry wanted to keep her retirement quiet until the end of the year. But I think our principal's slip was meant to be because it spurred me to make this quilt.

I have wanted to make a bookcase quilt for awhile and this was the perfect opportunity. As soon as I got home that Thursday, I pulled up Pinterest for some inspiration. There are some amazing bookshelf quilts out there.

I love all the different things that quilters added to their shelves: photos, cats, clocks, globes, creative! I fired up EQ7 and started working on my own version.

I'm still learning how to add photos to EQ7, so the green blocks are books that are facing out. The black blocks are framed photos. The globe doesn't actually float, and the tulip will be pieced by modifying Podunk Posie's pattern.

I think the best part of making a library quilt is the ability to personalize it. That said, there isn't really one pattern I used so much as I drew inspiration from other amazing bookcase quilts that have been shared online, as well as tutorials from Moda Bake ShopFandom in Stitches, and Jessica Quilter, who uses selveges for the "book titles."

The most overwhelming part was getting started. After 80some quilts and hundreds of fidget bracelets and other sewn items, I have a pretty healthy scrap collection! I went through every bin I have,  trimming strips anywhere from 1"-5" wide and up to 12.5" long. Most of my strips were 2.5", because it worked well with my ruler, but in hindsight, I wish I would have made more strips that were 4" or wider because they work best as the last book in a block.

Mrs. Gentry's favorite color is green, so I cut lots of green strips.

My original idea was to cut 130 strips, one for each learner at our school. But I got so nostalgic seeing all the fabric I've used and the projects I've created from them. I kept right on trimming and am now ready to make another scrappy quilt that's my queue.

The hardest decision I had to make with this quilt was deciding which print to use for the background of the shelves. My first thought was to use green, but it seemed more natural to use black or brown to go with the shelves. After entirely too much time pondering it, I opted for Moda Merrily Weave Chocolate because it reminded me of books on shelves. For the shelves themselves, I used the Brown Crackle Calico Cotton from Hobby Lobby that's been in my stash for awhile.

Once I cut my strips, I was ready to attach them to the background fabric. My template calls for 12.5" blocks, so I cut 6.5" strips of the background print and chain pieced the strips to it.

After ironing toward the background print, I trimmed the pieces to 12.5" in length. It was at this point that I realized the wisdom of using a solid or non-directional print for the background. I had to fold my fabric lengthwise instead of selvage to selvage to get the strips in the right direction. I made roughly 100 of these.

I also made 30ish stacked book strips. If I used a non-directional print, I wouldn't have had to make a separate set of strips. For these, I chain stitched using strips cut traditionally, selvage to selvage. Of course, I still managed to get my strips messed up when I pieced them together and made several mistakes like this that I had to redo.

I set these aside and moved on to the slanted books. It took me a few tries to get the dimensions right. I found the Moda Bake Shop tutorial to be really helpful. I made six slanted books.

Next, I moved on to the photos and book covers. Rather than printing on prepared fabric sheets, I made my own using muslin or white fabric, freezer paper, and our inkjet printer.  I specifically bought the printer I did for my craft room because it will print up to 17" x 13". First I cut both the fabric and freezer paper to size. I then ironed the freezer paper to the fabric. I had quite a few wrinkles in my fabric so it took a bit of elbow grease to get it smooth.

This was my first project with the new printer so I printed on 11" x 17" sheets. I grabbed the book cover images from the internet and referred to the dimensions on Amazon to size them to scale. The hardest part here was narrowing down to only six books! (Magic Treehouse! Boxcar Children! Nancy Drew! Geronimo Stilton! Choose Your Own Adventure! All cut from the final list).

For books, I selected:
I recruited some help gathering the six photos, but my favorite is the one of Mrs. Gentry with my son. I was talking with a teacher about how we might be able to trick her into a photo with D when I noticed her new haircut. I came over to compliment her--because it looks great!--and enlisted D to ask to be included when I asked to take a picture for my own much-needed haircut. I love the photo I was able to snap.

As a rule, I don't tell people that I'm making a quilt for them. Mostly because it can be years from the time they get put on my queue til the time I finish the quilt. But also because pressure usually kills my creativity. In this case, not only did Mrs. Gentry not know I was making her a quilt, but I had to be a little sneaky at home because my son wasn't supposed to know about her retirement until the last week of school. Whenever he was home, I had to hide the photo of her retirement cake!

I trimmed the book covers to include a 1/4" seam, then added enough background to make the block 12" tall. For the photos, I added a 1-1/4" border around each to make the frame, then added the background.

I also printed a globe on my computer, using an image I found online.

I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut to stand using a sparkly silver print from my stash.

At this point, I must stop and give massive kudos to Amazon's customer service. I had a minor heart attack when I opened up my new mat from Subscribe and Save and realized it had already been used.

When I contacted customer service, they immediately overnighted me a replacement. And I didn't think I could love Amazon more!

To applique the globe and stand to the background, I used a zigzag stitch instead of a blanket stitch for the first time. I was afraid it might bunch up without any stabilizer, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Finally, I made my tulip block as a nod to our Dutch family. I chose orange in honor of the House of Orange. I mostly followed Podunk Posie's pattern, but I only made one, much thinner leaf, and added the pot. The little section above the leaf bothered me, so I replaced that piece with a scrap that was printed in the right direction. (Have a mentioned that directional prints are not a good idea for the background?!)

At last, I was ready to make my blocks! For book-only blocks, I simply pieced together the strips until I had a little more than 12.5"x12.5", then trimmed to a square. For the others, I started with the feature items, and then added books until I had the right size. This is why I would recommend making more thicker books. Some of my books got pretty slim! Another option would be to not do blocks at all and just keep adding books and objects until the row is the length you'd like.

I made thirty blocks:
  • 6 with framed photos
  • 6 with book covers facing out
  • 6 with one slanted book
  • 1 globe
  • 1 tulip
  • 5 with stacked books
  • 5 with only book spines straight up

Once all the blocks were made and I finalized the placement, things moved quickly as I sewed the rows together and added the 3" strips of bookcase fabric.

At this point I was tempted to call it a day, but I really wanted to add more green to brighten it up and make it more personal with her favorite color.

My original plan was to use up a remnant that went well with the backing from my stash. But alas, I needed a yard and a half, not a scant 3/4 yard. Off to Joann I went and found this green and gold striped Christmas fabric. (Oddly enough, the background fabric is also from a Christmas collection).

I made 5.5" x 4.5" legs for the "shelf," and used 5.5" strips for the "wallpaper."

Once again, I used a directional print because I like to make things difficult, but it totally made my day when I realized I did this. I couldn't repeat it if I tried.

At this point, I finally got my first real look at the quilt put together.

If I had made my blocks smaller, I might have added another border of the wallpaper, but I was close to king size at this point!

I amused myself while putting the blocks together. I imagined Mrs. Gentry playing I Spy with her new granddaughter on the quilt, so I hope the juxtaposition of some of these print makes her smile.

Coffee and Educators = Perfect Match.

Smart Princesses.

Landing on Mars.

Donuts or oranges? Eat it all!

Many hands will miss her.

Including my son, the aspiring rocket scientist.

Because time was getting very tight, I quilted straight lines 2" apart, stopping to avoid quilting over the photos and book covers. I stitched in the ditch around those.

For the binding I used the same print as the wallpaper. I love how it makes the yellow-green circles on the back look gold.

I finished at 2am the morning before I planned to deliver it.

D and I were up bright and early to take pictures in the morning light.

Mrs. Gentry was surprised and very touched.

I think we all felt like her on this morning. She has such a gift for making each child feel loved, special, and smart. Countless children know how to read because of the time she has spent encouraging them and finding the perfect book to help them fall in love with reading. Our school family will miss her so much.

Later in the day, when we were all composed, we took a more dignified picture.

On the last day of school, I was touched to see that she had displayed the quilt in the hallway, where other appreciative families offered their own cards and gifts.

Happy retirement, Mrs. Gentry! We love you and thank you for a career of loving and inspiring our kids. We hope your retirement is filled with joy and happy times with your family.

To see more pictures of this quilt in progress, look for #MrsGLibrary on Instagram.  If you'd like to see what I'm currently working on, follow me at de Jong Dream House.

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