Sunday, August 26, 2012

Streak of Lightning QAL -- Wheeeee!

I hope you are having as much fun as I'm having!

It has been a while since I've worked on something as "pulled from my stash" as these blocks are. The florals are delish & the go-withs -- the corals, orchids, pinks, sky blues -- are so pretty & girly. Not lady-like, just girly. As I stitch each pair of fabrics, I think "this is my favorite", then comes the next pair & I think "no, this is my favorite".
No, wait, I like these 2 best.

 lightning fun

I know that quilts don't always equal the sum of their parts, but I'm having such a good time with these parts that maybe it doesn't matter if the finished quilt is not so good.

some lightning blocks

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Streak of Lightning QAL -- Cutting & Making HSTs

Basically, a Streak of Lightning quilt has overall up & down zigzags. They can be achieved in many ways -- log cabins, flying geese, even squares set on point. Our inspiration quilt is made with 9-patch blocks made up of half-square triangles (HSTs, from here on).

I had been quilting for more than 10 years before I learned the "magic number" you need to add for cutting when you know what size you want finished squares to be. This is probably taught in Quilting 101, but, being largely self-taught, I didn't know it. If you want your HST to finish at 4 inches, you add 0.875 (or 7/8) inch: so a 4.875 inch square, cut in half diagonally & sewn to another triangle, will give you an unfinished square of 4.5 inches, a finished square of 4 inches. (I usually cut a full inch larger, since cutting at the 7/8 line isn't the easiest. Then I trim the block down to the unfinished size.)

For this project though, I wanted to keep the cutting simple, so I am making easy cuts: the Laura Ashley dresses I cut at 4.5 inches. Let's see, that means they will finish to 3.625 (3 5/8) inches. As a separate (& experimental) project, I cut my Elvis fabrics to 3.5 inch squares. They will finish to 2.625 (2 5/8) inches. (Kind of small, I think.)

tiny elvis lightning

Sujata has written an excellent  post  about how to assemble & lay out the blocks. The interesting thing about this block is its asymmetry -- set it in one way & you can continue the zigzag, either in fabric print or fabric value, flip it around & you bring the zigzags to a halt. So much fun!

continuous lightning

interupted lightning

As for making your HSTs -- whatever is familiar is probably best. There are lots of ways for mass-producing HSTs, but I prefer old-school: two right triangles that I sew together along the hypotenuse. Then, because I love super flat patchwork, I press the seams open. In this case, this is useful to reduce bulk where all those seams are coming together.

lightning back

And how many blocks should you make? I don't know! I don't know how many I am going to make! I don't know how big my quilt will be! I'm thinking biggish -- double bed or maybe even queen size. But I'm pretty sure I will have blocks & cut fabric left over. The very good news is that HMQG has decided that our fall charity will be to make wheelchair-sized lap robes to donate to nursing homes. These blocks, backed with fleece or flannel, will make cozy & cheery lap covers for some seniors -- a project near to my heart!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Streak of Lightning QAL -- My Apologies

I am not a natural Leader.

Part of my problem is that I assume that everyone is just like me. In the specific case of this QAL that means I've assumed these things:

1. That everyone owns the book Bold Improvisation.
2. That everyone has been studying for years the Streak of Lightning quilt in that book.
3. That everyone is bad at following pattern instructions & for that reason has become accustomed to figuring their own way of making a quilt that they admire.

So, I want to step back & attempt to provide more guidance for everyone who isn't me.

Because we are re-creating our own versions of a quilt from a book, an *old* quilt from a book, there isn't an existing pattern. When I look at a quilt, especially if I think I would like to make it myself & sometimes even when I don't, the first thing I do is look for is the Unit Cell, the repeating unit -- the block -- that makes up the quilt. For this Streak of Lightning, it is a 9-patch made up of half-square-triangles. The blocks are oriented so the zigzags go up & down rather than side to side. I'll talk more about making the half-square-triangles (HSTs) in another post.

Another thing we don't have when we're making our own way through a quilt on our own is specific fabric requirements. You have to get used to the facts that you are either going to have fabric left over (yay! stash!) or -- horrors! -- not have enough. This has happened to me lots of times. At first, I'll hit some quilt shops & hope I can find more of the used-up fabric. When I can't find more, I often put the project away for a while. But I'm forced to think through the "problem" creatively & I can sometimes come up with a solution that makes the quilt even more interesting than had I not run out of fabric.

On reflection, my goal for this QAL, is not just making this awesome quilt. But it is also, for those who aren't used to making quilts without a pattern, for them to learn to trust that they can look at a quilt, analyze it, & figure their own way to make it their Own. It may not be a painless process -- I've made made *plenty* of really stupid mistakes along the way, but I do learn from them (most of the time). It may not be an easy process -- I've often re-invented the wheel, something I could have avoided had I just read the first paragraph of a pattern. But I think these are valuable skills to have as a quilter. So I hope this will be the Streak of Lightning, Learning & Growing QAL!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Two story lines here:

First, I've always said that I never win anything. Grade school carnival cake walks, scratch-off lotteries, blog give-aways -- I come away empty handed every time. I was once one of 3 -- 3! -- who signed up for a blog give-away & I did not win.

Second, I have always admired the quilts & fabrics of Malka Dubrawsky & was very excited when I heard she was coming out with a line of fabric. I thought I was watching carefully for it to come to market but somehow I missed it. I asked a guild friend who is much more clever than me about the comings (& goings) of fabric lines & she told me it had come out some time ago, if I searched, I might find a print or two, but it had come & gone. {sigh}

At the HMQG retreat this past spring, everyone got a goodie bag -- a prize, of sort. I "won" mine for coming in last in the jelly roll race! Everyone's bag had lots of great loot -- patterns, notions, fabric. I got lots of great loot & my greatest loot of all was a layer cake of Stitch in Color by Malka Dubrawsky!!!

I was giddy with pleasure & wanted to use it right away. So my Stitch in Color quilt jumped to the front of my to-do list & came together quite quickly. I've decided to call it "Lucky" -- to remind me that Good Fortune is less about getting stuff than it is about valuing the stuff you already have.

lucky front

lucky back

Streak of Lightning QAL -- Choosing Fabric

The sky is the limit!

The original quilt has about 28 different fabrics -- large & small scale prints, plaids & solids. Some occur repeatedly, some only once. But I think the important thing here is the fabrics' values -- their relative lightness & darkness -- rather than the print or color of the fabrics. You can be as wild or as controlled as you want. This QAL might be an opportunity to use up some of your long held fabrics -- you know, those cuts that are a little old & don't quite go with anything but that you just can't bring yourself to get rid of. It is also a great project for re-purposed fabric, either from thrifted or family clothing. LeeAnn & Sujata used thrifted clothing for their fabric palettes: LeeAnn's top gives a salute to the Bold Improvisation quilt, then she added that awesome barkcloth border. Sujata went completely over the top with an all bright floral top with a subtle grouping of the prints.

 LeeAnn's Tennessee Lightnin':


Sujata's Painted Zigzag:

Painted Zigzag

As for me, I'm trying to turn my back on my inner Fabric Worrier -- she always makes this process too hard! I'm going to jazz up those Laura Ashley with pinks & oranges, a plaid or 2, some crazy stripe-y prints. I've cut some triangles & am VERY excited to get going on this one!

laura lightning (& kitty toes)

Before I decided to go with the florals & was fussing over what fabrics to use, I saw, at the bottom of the shelf, some Elvis prints from long, long ago. Folded among them were music prints in red, black & white. I was packing for my trip north & decided to grab Elvis by the horns, so to speak, & cut some triangles to sew while I was away from home.

elvis lightning

And how about light green & linen lightning -- a Modern take on the Streak of Lightning? Quite a few of these pieces are fat quarters -- the small amount of fabric may prove interesting. Hmmm.

 green & linen lightning

Another possibility, my collected & hoarded black birds & brights. I love this grouping & don't often see them because they are tucked away. They have been long awaiting the perfect project, maybe this is the one!

black bird lightning

Join us on the Flickr group & show us the fabrics you are thinking about!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom.

No exclamation point.
This is her 3rd birthday in "memory care" & she really doesn't know it is her birthday.

happy birthday, mom

I made this little quilt for her 80th birthday -- just 6 years ago. Most of the fabrics were from my Grandma's -- Mom's Mom -- scraps dating from the 1930s. There are bits from doll dresses, clothing scraps, old lace & ribbon. I added several hankies, silk flowers, lots of buttons (some of them vintage) & lots of love. The little photo is my Mom on her 1st birthday.
I'll be remembering her today by taking my -- *our* -- quilt, "Skirting the Circle" over to the Quilt Festival offices.
Happy Birthday, Mom.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Weekend -- At Last

This past week, I drove more than 1000 miles & spent almost 21 hours behind the wheel. Last Sunday, my drive home was a little over 800 miles, taking about 13.5 hours. My round trip from home to work & back is almost exactly 50 miles & takes (if I'm lucky) about 45 minutes each way. (Shug & I carpool, but because my work is farther from home than his, I am nearly always the driver.)

I was tired of driving & just plain tired.

I was ready for the weekend!

I had things I needed to get done -- housework-y things: laundry, dusting, vacuuming, errands. 
And there was LOTS I wanted to get done in my sewing room. (I don't know why, but I just can't seem to call *my* room, dedicated to *my* quilting, my *Studio*. What is the deal with that!?!) 

I cut & stitched on the binding to my Stitch in Color quilt; I've decided to name it "Lucky" -- I'll explain why when I reveal the finished quilt. 

which is the front, which is the back?

I cut out some bibs to make for Bibs for Babies.


I stitched some on my Low Volume project -- I love it SO much. I did some fabric pulling & fabric stacking & a bit of fabric cutting for the Streak of Lightning QAL. (Two VERY different projects!)

quiet & loud

I tried to figure out what went wrong with Shug's shirt. I got it mostly assembled while I was away, but notches & dots weren't matching up & now the collar & lapels look insane. Seems I tried to put the boys' size collar on the men's size shirt. grrr 

I meant to take a nap, but never really found the time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Streak of Lightning QAL!!!

Twice, I have written about Scott Heffley's Streak of Lightning quilt from his Bold Improvisation collection. It is simple in construction -- just a 9-patch block made up of HSTs -- but the asymmetry of the block & the way the blocks interconnect, makes for very interesting patchwork. My eyes are always in motion across this quilt surface! I wanted to make my own version from the moment I saw it. But you know how things go -- a need-to-make project arises, life intervenes -- keeping you from your sewing machine, new fabrics or a new pattern woo you away, etc, etc -- next thing you know, years have passed & you haven't made *that* quilt. (I'm saying "you" because I hope that you do things like this too. Please tell me you do.)

Anyway, the quilt was brought again to my attention when my e-friends LeeAnn & Sujata were both working on their versions of it. (I like to think that great minds think alike!) Then my e-friends Beth & RachaelDaisy expressed interest & then I thought: QAL!!!

Would you like to join us? I hope so!

The Streak of Lightning QAL will primarily be a Flickr group. There aren't any rules & there won't be much in the way of instructions -- make your HSTs any size you want, construct them in any way you want, chose fabrics that make you happy. This QAL is about sharing a journey, sharing a joy of watching fabrics come together & patterns develop & watching & encouraging each other as our quilt tops grow!

Let's go!

Monday, August 06, 2012

(Nearly) Wordless Week Away

I drove north.


It was hot.


I stitched up some puppies.


Two scrap swaps arrived for me at home (thanks, Armchair Quilter & Blue Mountain Daisy!

thanks armchair quilter

thanks RachaelDaisy

I visited my Mom everyday.

nursing home

I forgot my pinking shears but found my Mom's -- they're Craftsman!

craftsman pinking shears

Back at home, Shug got a cast -- it's green!

green cast

I had my ritual sausage egg McMuffin & coffee at the Flint Hills McDonald's.


I drove south.