A Visit To Mahone Bay

Wednesday past was a glorious day – Remembrance Day. My friend Mary Ann and I decided to spend the day visiting Mahone Bay (to have lunch, visit Have A Yarn Wool Shop (if it was open), and to pick up a piece of used furniture she had seen on Kijiji,).

The day started off with dense fog here in Halifax but by the time we reached Chester the sky was clearing and in Mahone Bay it was sunny and warm – like 20°C warm.

We had lunch outdoors at The Biscuit Eater – mild enough to be without jackets. Then visited Have A Yarn – and of course I came home with a couple of balls of Sisu solid yarns (to fill in missing shades from my stash). We picked up the old table Mary Ann wanted.

Then on our way back to the highway we stopped at Heidi Wulfraat’s Woolworks shop.

Just one section of  the Kaffe Fassett Fabrics – colour sorted

She has some interesting yarns but her collection of Kaffe Fassett/Free Spirit Fabrics (the most complete in the province) is to drool over. The fabric collection is small compared to the quantity of bolts you’d see at Avonport Discount Fabrics (the other must go to fabric spot in Nova Scotia) but this is just about the complete collection of Free Spirit fabrics.

The collection is a lovely quality of quilting cotton. The prints, both large and small scale) are compelling. I spent quite a long time looking through each shelf. It was so tempting to pick out bolts but I already have one drawer in my stash with Kaffe Fassett/Philip Jacobs fabrics – I couldn’t make any decisions. In the end I did come home with a 21 piece fat quarter bundle to add to what I already have.

It’s one thing to go shopping with a quilt idea in my head – quite another to walk into a riot of colour like this and make any decisions! I had the same experience in New York in 2012 at the button warehouse we visited. I walked up and down the isles of buttons unable to pick out anything – what size? what colour? what quantity? Buttons are something you pick out after you have selected the fabrics and made decisions about what you’re making. A tailored shirt needs 11 small buttons, a wool jacket might look good with 5 large bright ones…. It’s the same with quilting fabric – do I want some fat quarters, half yards, full yard cuts? Or am I looking for a specific backing in which case I will need 2 metres. I just don’t know.

So I added some fat quarters to my collection of Kaffe Fassett fabrics:

My Collection of Kaffe Fassett Fabrics

Now I just need to think about what to make with them…. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Skyline #3 – Completed

Finished the third quilt a few days ago. It didn’t take as long to quilt as I’d anticipated in large part because instead of quilting single blocks I was able to quilt two at a time using the 360 x 260 hoop. I probably could have quilted 4 at once using the large “Garden Dream” reversible hoop (360 x 350) but it was just as fast to re-hoop blocks as it would have been to fight to take the hoop from the arm and turn it around and hope the positioning was close. The problem with that large hoop is getting the second side to align with the first. So I rarely use it for quilting.

Skyline #3 – Top

I am happy with how the layers on layers of circles turned out. There are actually five complete circles but they’re not obvious in part because the four quadrants are all different. But that’s also what helps with the layered effect.

To quilt it, I used a floral design I’d created for another quilt doing my best to overlap the stop/start positions where the design ended and began in adjacent blocks. Overall, the effect is to appear to have been done using a long-arm quilting machine.

Skyline #3 – Quilting Detail

Again, I used a strip from the original Hoffman “Skyline” fabric as a strip in the back – making sure I had it right side up in relation to the front of the quilt.

Skyline #3 – Back

The three quilts together as a set I’m calling “The Sisters”!

Skyline #1
Quilt Top Skyline #2 – Quilt Top
Skyline #3 – Top

Three very different quilts all from the same fabric.

Now on to something else.

Skyline #3 – 3 / Christmas Fruit Cake

Skyline #3

This morning I managed to complete 24 more blocks (14 left to get me to 63 which I’ll get done tomorrow).

49 Blocks – 7 x 7

I’m not going for a traditional drunkard’s path layout – I want a relatively random layout with probably 5 complete circles (at the moment I have three) and the rest partial circles which creates the illusion of layers of circles. The colour flow is working out but I won’t be satisfied until I have all 63 blocks on the floor and I can photograph them and move them around.

If I stay with a 7 x 9 array (63 blocks) I will end up with a 40 1/4″ x 51 3/4″ panel. Since I want the final project to be close to the size of the other two quilts – 48″ x 64″ I can either do a narrow 1″ sashing with the dark blue grunge I used on the wedges and a 3″ border strip from the Skyline fabric. That gives me the width (40 1/4 + 2 + 6 = 48 1/4″) but short on length (51 3/4 + 2 + 6 = 59 3/4″). If I were to add a 10 row to the bottom, I’d end up at 57 1/2 + 2 + 6 = 65 1/2″.

Or another way to solve the size problem is to add two more rows and a column to make an 8 x 11 array (46″ x 63 1/4″), a wee bit shy on width and length but close enough to the other two that I could live with that. In this case I’d need 25 more blocks. I have the fabric to do that – I bought the end of the bolt, another 1 1/2m of the fabric, so I have more than enough to create the needed blocks.

What I’m liking about this latter idea is that it mirrors the more modern finish I’ve used on the other two quilts. To finish the panel with sashing and a border will make it look more like a conventional quilt even with a hidden binding.

So after I’ve laid out the 63 blocks and stitched them together I’ll audition the sashing/binding idea but I’ll probably take time to construct another 25 blocks….

Christmas Fruit Cake

Christmas Fruit Cake 2020

Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend. I always make fruitcake just after Thanksgiving so two weeks ago I bought the candied fruit, raisins, dried cranberries, put it in my 27c Tupperware bowl with lid then added a pint of dark Barbados rum and left the mixture to soak for a week.

Today was the day. I’ve ended up with 10 2lb loaves (plus a single small cake) which will get wrapped in waxed paper, stored in a ziplock bag, and kept on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator for the next two months.

Right now, the cake is kind of “cake-y” but in two months time it will be dense and moist from the rum working it’s way from the saturated fruit into the cake. Just in time to give it away for the holiday.

That’s my single big Christmas preparation – all done.

This is my Fruit Cake recipe in case you want to give it a try. A very forgiving cake.

Skyline #3 – 2

Yesterday I completed 25 blocks for this quilt – it’s starting to look like I want it to – circles on circles. Nothing is in place for sure yet – can’t be until I have all 63 blocks stitched and trimmed. I know there will be movement once I get the layout on the floor to audition all the blocks at once.

25 blocks

It’ll be another couple of days before I get the remainder of the blocks done and laid out – then I will photograph the array and think about what I’m seeing before beginning to assemble rows, moving things around as I discover repetitions and some areas that are too light and others that are too dark….

That’s what it’s like when you aren’t working from a pattern – just an idea.

Drunkard’s Path Block

BernieLynn wrote questioning the “L” part of the drunkard’s path block – she wasn’t seeing what I was describing. So here it is.

A drunkard’s path block consists of two parts: a “pie” or quarter circle and an “L” or complement to the circle:

Drunkard’s Path block elements

You can purchase acrylic templates of various kinds; you can make your own.

To construct a template first you need to decide on a block size (remembering to add the outside 1/4″ seam allowance – hence 6 1/2″ (for a 6″ block) or 6″ (for a 5 1/2″ block) etc.).

Draw an outline for your block. Next construct a quarter circle (using a protractor, a plate, …) using a radius between 1/2″ to 2″ shorter than your block size, making sure the arc ends are symmetrical. This creates your “pie” shape. The line you’ve drawn is the seam line. The complement is the “L” shape.

To construct seam allowances you draw another line 1/4″ from the quarter circle arc on EACH side of the arc line (I use a different colour pen to draw these two lines to differentiate them from the original arc line). Using template plastic, trace the quarter circle piece using the arc line farthest from the apex of the arc – this is the “pie” cutting line. Reposition the template plastic and trace the quarter circle using the arc line closest to the “pie” corner – this is the cutting line for the “L” piece (it’s a smaller quarter circle).

Drunkard’s Path Templates

You end up with two quarter circle templates, one a half inch larger than the other.

Drunkard’s Path Templates

To cut the “pie” pieces from fabric, cut a strip the width of the 1/4″ circle radius (the length of one side); to cut the “L” pieces, cut a strip from the fabric the length of one side of the desired pre-trimmed block size – this will be wider than the strip for the “pie” pieces. [For my blocks I cut 5 1/2″ strips for the “pie” pieces; 6 1/2″ for the “L” pieces.]

In my block I’ve made my overall trimmed block size 1 1/4″ larger than the radius of the “pie” piece:

Trimmed Block

When I’ve finished sewing blocks together there will be a 1″ border around each circle or partial circle.

Skyline #3 – Blocks Laid Out

But you can construct drunkard’s path blocks that have no border around the quarter circle. These are a bit trickier to stitch because you are working with just 1/2″ of fabric on the ends of the “L” shaped piece to end up with a 1/4″ seam allowance for joining the blocks:

Drunkard’s Path Block from “Let The Trumpets Sound”

It’s all up to you and how you want your final project to look.

In this case I want the circles to be circumscribed within the blocks rather than touch the edges of each block as I did in Let The Trumpet’s Sound.

In my first drunkard’s path quilt I circumscribed the circles. My circles, this time, will be a bit larger in relation to the size of the block.

My First Drunkard’s Path Quilt

Skyline #3 – Begun

Yesterday I pulled a pile of Grunge fabrics from my stash, looking for bright colours to strengthen the bright elements within the  panel.

I’m after a final block size of 5 3/4″ (I’ll go down to 5 1/2″ if I have to). I began by cutting 5 1/2 strips from the panel, cut them into blocks, then cut the “pie” shaped pieces from those.

Next I cut 6 1/2″ strips – enough so far for 48 blocks – then cut the “L” shaped pieces from those (that gives me 48 “pie” pieces to use for another project!). Then I cut 2 “pie” pieces from the grunge fabrics.

Cut Blocks

I paired dark to light/light to dark (more or less) and set them into two piles. Then I began stitching some drunkard’s path blocks. Everything you read recommends doing a lot of pinning – I find I get a better block if I do no pinning at all – just align the “pie” element on top at the end of the “L” piece, then using my 1/4″ right guide quilting foot to slowly stitch the curved seam, aligning the edges carefully as I go along. My resulting block isn’t perfect but close enough that I’ve been able to trim them to 6 1/4″ which will give me a finished 5 3/4″ block.

Skyline #3

I’ve finished seven blocks and as I go along I will play with layout. I’m already liking how the buildings in the panel have disappeared and the colour definitely stands out. That was the effect I had in mind and it looks like it is going to work out as I was visualizing it.

Now I need to construct the remaining 41 blocks. I’m anticipating a 7 x 9 array – 63 blocks in all so after the 48 I will still need to cut out and stitch 15 more blocks. I have more than enough fabric from the panel to do that. I’ll cut them out tomorrow.

Skyline #3 is underway.

Skyline #2 – Completed

Done. I was able to quilt the remaining six wedges this morning. I added the hidden binding and  I just finished hand sewing it to the back of the quilt. The label is also sewn in place on the back.

Quilt Top Skyline #2 – Quilt Top

With trimming (in order to make the quilt relatively squared), I managed to end up a bit smaller than the first quilt – this quilt is 47″ x 61″; the first one is 48″ x 64″. I lost size because the dense quilting tightened the fabric, and my edges weren’t straight, and had to be adjusted so the corners would be close to right angles.

I was lucky, I managed to keep the fabric relatively flat – some steam pressing with a bit of Best Press helped eliminate most of the “fullness” in the wedges.

The back turned out flat as well (thank goodness), and the binding matched the backing so the fabrics extend to the edges.

Quilt Back Skyline #2 – Quilt Back

Now on to Skyline #3!

I’ll start that quilt tomorrow. I plan to cut out 8 1/2″ squares from the panel as well as some complementary Grunge fabrics to accent the drunkard’s path blocks. I intend making ~56 blocks – 48 for the top and some for the back. I expect to end up with a 6 x 8 array which should give me a finished quilt at 48″ x 64″ (if I’m lucky and I don’t have to trim the blocks to square them up).

Skyline #2 – Quilting Begun

Today, I started “echo quilting” the wedges of the quilt. I decided to use my adjustable guide foot which has markings from 3/16″ to 1 1/8″ – the guide is easy to keep aligned against the right edge of each wedge as I stitch.

Adjustable Guide Foot

I’ve been varying the width of the echo stitching, starting at approximately 1/4″ to 1/2″ and occasionally 5/8″ as the whim takes me. With the guide foot, the stitching is easy to keep reasonably parallel – the only care point is determining the position of the “point” of the wedge as I’m sewing so that it more or less centres in the wedge.

Echo Quilting The Wedges

I managed to quilt 6 wedges today; I stopped when my back, neck and shoulders were telling me I needed a break!

I can see from what I’ve done so far that I will leave the sashing without any further stitching. Quilting the wedges makes the sashing stand out, the colour strong. Were I to quilt the sashing it would cause it to be diminished. So I will leave it stitched in the ditch and nothing more.

I’ll try carrying on tomorrow. At six or so blocks a day I should be finished quilting in another three days. Then I can trim the quilt to 48″ x 64″ and do a hidden binding using backing fabric leftover from trimming the quilt.

I finally feel I have this quilt under control.

Skyline #2 – Still A Work In Progress

I had started stitching-in-the-ditch on each side of the sashing ten days ago or so – got a few rows done and then put the quilt aside. I just couldn’t carry on – not sure why that was because I knew if I started sewing it wouldn’t take me terribly long to stabilize the sandwich.

Skyline #2

This morning I finally picked up the project and stitched the remaining sashing, and around the outside. The back is nicely flat – the top has a bit of fullness but a good spraying with BestPress and a steam iron and it should be starched and pressed enough to give me a flat surface to quilt.

The question is what do I want to do next. I can’t leave the project as it is – there isn’t enough quilting to make the whole stable so I have to add a lot more stitching. I simply cannot do consistent free-motion work, my stitch length is inconsistent and my lines wobbly; I’m never satisfied with how it turns out which is why I quilt-in-the-hoop. But given the shape of these wedges that isn’t an option here. I’m leaning toward echo stitching the wedges and leaving the sashing alone. Once I start there will be no stopping until each of the 20 wedges is relatively densely stitched. Do I want to echo-stitch 1/4″ or 1/2″? Maybe a combination of both. What colour thread? Probably a mixture of the variegated threads I used on Skyline #1.

Tomorrow, I’ll start the process and see how it looks.

I’ve also been thinking about Skyline #3 – drunkard’s path blocks. Probably 8 1/2″ blocks with some 4 1/2″ blocks as filler. I may even try a “porthole” or two.

I just made an 8 1/2″ pair of templates (I have a commercial pair that size, but the pie-shaped piece is quite a bit smaller / the “L” shaped piece larger – I want the joins to be closer to a 1/4″ seam allowance…)

8 1/2″ Templates

Then I constructed a pair of test blocks:

8 1/2″ Test blocks

which turned out rather well. My seam allowance from the edge of the curved seam is closer to 1/2″ – that leaves me with two options: trim the block to 8″ (giving a finished 7 1/2″ block) or remake the templates. I’ll sleep on that decision.

I want a finished quilt size to match the other two Skyline projects – 48″ x 64″. If I wanted a border then I could actually go smaller or fewer: set up a 5 x 7 block array (40″ x 56″) – actually the fewer might be just fine. I’m better off staying with the finished 8″ block because that makes it much easier to do a few finished 4″ blocks as filler.

I also now have to think about a balance between my Skyline fabric and some Grunge inserts – I want some bright Grunge fabric to broaden my colour range. The Skyline is colourful, but when it’s cut up and reassembled some of the brightness disappears.

I’ll start by cutting the Skyline into 9 1/2″ squares – that’s large enough to cut out both drunkard’s path template pieces without a lot of waste, then mix and match the two elements to see what it will look like… After I finish quilting Skyline#2.

Skyline #2 – Top Pieced

The Skyline #2 top is finished.

I took what I’d done apart – I had to because the panel was not laying flat! I didn’t have to take every seam out, but I did have to take quite a few apart. Now it will lay flat on the batting and cling smoothly enough to permit me to quilt the whole.

Skyline #2 – Top Pieced

I still don’t know how this quilt will turn out. I’m happy with the overall flow of colour. The next challenge is quilting the project. The quilting will pull the piece together (or, frankly, it could kill it).

I’m intending to echo-stitch the wedge elements, including the sashing. I expect the quilting will need to be quite close but not evenly spaced. I plan on using the same threads I used for Skyline #1 – a mix of variegated purple / turquoise / red to blend with the print (instead of contrasting with it).

In the meantime, I need to square the piece – tricky, actually, because although the top is relatively flat now, laying it on my cutting table and keeping it in place while I trim edges will need weights to prevent slipping.

The top is still a bit wide and I think 3-4″ longer than I finally want it to be so I do have a bit of wiggle room as I square it up.

The backing will include an offset uncut strip of the original fabric with sashing to border it as I did with Skyline #1.