It’s Home! My Traveling Bee-utiful Quilt Top

23 12 2015

My quilt top for the Traveling Bee-utiful Swap made its way home a few weeks ago. It’s so large that I had to wait until I could take it to work and photograph it there, on our empty floor space. I could carpet my living room with this quilt top.

My Traveling Bee-utiful Quilt Top

I’m debating ways to quilt it, but I might make some alterations first. We’ll see.

For the moment, this top is going into my UFO pile, to await the day that I’m ready to tackle it again.


Finished! Sewing Room Quilt Top Additions

23 12 2015

I’m late in blogging about it, but I did actually complete my addition for the last quilt top in the Traveling Bee-utiful Quilt Swap.

I had a lot of disparate parts, that I needed to make into a cohesive whole. Making them whole would have been easy – COHESIVE was another matter entirely.

Traveling Bee-utiful - November Part 1

Traveling Bee-utiful - November Part 2

I kept letting myself get psyched out by the project. Frankly, I let myself get stuck on one idea, and couldn’t get myself out of the mental rut. Somehow, I’d convinced myself that I needed to make representational blocks – images of tools, essentially.

I couldn’t find patterns that I was willing to pay for, and I definitely didn’t feel up to designing something myself. So, I got stuck. Repeatedly.

Until finally, I re-read the description for the ‘plan’ for the quilt top, and realized that I could do something else entirely. Up to, and including, splitting the disparate parts that I had into two quilt tops, so that the original quilter would be able to hang her quilts on the wall.

Traveling Bee-utiful November

Ultimately, I decided to piece the words “DREAM” and “DESIGN”, to complement the word “CREATE”, which had been pieced by a previous quilter. I then sandwiched one of the panels between the words, and left the remaining panel (featuring a really awesome seam ripper) alone, to be its own mini-quilt.

In the end, I sent it out, pretty happy with what I’d done. I’d go back and change a couple of small things now, but it’s done, and so is this swap for the year.

Finished! Rainbow Brite Additions

22 10 2015

October Addition Complete

I finally completed attaching the borders to Rainbow Brite this morning. I’d set it aside for a couple of days, frustrated.

I’d made the mistake of assuming that the quilt top would be the same length on each side, and measured down the middle for 74.5″ inches. I made my borders to fit that measurement, and when I pinned them on in preparation to sew, I discovered that one side was 1/2″ short, while the other was 3″ short.


I was not prepared to take the central quilt panel apart in anyway – I’ve done that once already this swap – and I just don’t have that kind of time left in the month. I ended up replacing the sashing strips at either end of both borders, to make up the differences. Not a big deal (I guess?), but it makes me worry about the final product.

Regardless, it’s done, and I like my additions. If I had this quilt next month, I know exactly what I’d add, but this will be going to it’s last temporary home before returning to the original quilter at the end of November.

WIP Wednesday – The One in Which I Attempted to Post Earlier…

14 10 2015

It was almost 2 AM, very early on Wednesday morning, when I started this post. I’d hoped I could have it done before I had to work eleven hours. I started falling asleep before getting through the post, so now, at 10:00 PM, I’m going to finish.

I received the top-in-progress for my October contribution to the Traveling Bee-utiful Quilt Swap earlier this month.

Traveling Bee-utful - October

Unlike previous tops, this one was too big to reside on my design wall, so I didn’t get to ruminate on a design the way I usually do: in the back of my head, while I go about other projects. I like to take a look at these tops, and then go to work. I find that I solve a lot of my creative issues while I’m walking around the sales floor, figuring out solutions to other problems.

Traveling Bee-utiful OctoberNot having the top up where I could see it daily, I felt a distinct difference in how I approached this top. Usually, the design process feels very organic. This time, I had force myself to consider things in a very condensed period – I was late on sending out last month’s top, and I don’t want to repeat that this month. I had today off, so I tried to be very conscious about having a design picked out. I wanted to use my time off effectively.

As I tried to figure out design, I ran into a stumbling block right away. As is, the long sides of the quilt top measure 74.5″.

Try as I might, I found it difficult to create/design borders for that length. No numbers divide nicely into 74.5″ (or even 74″, which would be the finished size to shoot for). However, this top is already fairly busy – there’s a lot going on here!

Ultimately, I decided that less would be more, and thought multi-hued stars would be the way to go. I decided on Martha Washington Stars, because I could sew their center pinwheels using a black background print, to give them some unity. I knew I wanted to make each of them out of a different color fabric – the theme to this top is ‘Rainbow Brite’, after all. I also decided that the stars needed to float on their background, to combat how busy everything else is.

Design decided on, it was a simple matter to decide on background fabric – I have a few yards of a black mini-dot on white fabric, which will coordinate nicely with the other black on white background fabrics used in the top thus far. I also knew that I’d want to use the same fabric for the center pinwheels of the stars. Easy peasy – I have that on hand too.

From there, it was just a matter of hitting the stash for 16 different fabrics for each of the 16 stars I’ll need to make for the two borders. Yes, just two, because I don’t want this thing becoming disproportionately long.

Rainbow Brite Fabric Pull

Fabric pulled, it was a quick job of starching, pressing and cutting. That done, I was able to get all of my sub-units pieced, though not entirely trimmed:

A Good Day's Work

My plan for this evening is to get all of my sub-units trimmed. I’d like to be able to focus on chain-piecing everything on Thursday night.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

A Little Catching Up…

4 10 2015

This week and last were both 50-hour work weeks for me. We experienced an onslaught of winter/holiday items arriving to our warehouse, and I’m one of the few individuals cross-trained both to work in the warehouse and in our retail locations. Due to this, I ended up working at the warehouse, hefting boxes. Lots of boxes.

This means that I’m behind on my (admittedly mental) schedule to get my retail location together for winter/holiday displays, but that’s actually a good thing. There remains a slew of open orders due to arrive at the warehouse. I’d rather not set up displays, only to have to reset them again, and again.

That also meant that I fell behind on getting my September commitment for the Traveling Bee-utiful Swap done. Not by much – just a couple of days, but I hate falling behind on deadlines. It makes me grumpy.

This is the top, as I received it, in early September:

Traveling Bee-utiful - September

I knew one thing, as I got this top-in-progress on my wall – I wanted to lighten it up, by adding a border that was comprised heavily of low volume fabrics. I felt like the top needed a ‘breather’ but this point. I turned to EQ7, as I usually do, and modified an existing border treatment in the EQ7 block library. I started with this:

Base Border BlockIt was pretty boring to me, so I decided to alter it. After reading the original quilter’s journal entry regarding the start of her quilt, I knew that I needed to make sure to use scraps. It wasn’t a hard choice. I have plenty of scraps.

It didn’t take long for me to come up with this:

September Border

Plenty scrappy, and I knew I had plenty of low volume fabrics to get me through border. I did, however ultimately decide to stick to just two low volume prints. I didn’t have enough scrappy low volume, and wanted to minimize my time in cutting.

I modified the design to come up with a corner block, so that the design would ‘turn the corners’ of the border:

September Border - Corner Block

That made me happy with the final design:

September Border - Whole

From there, it was just a matter of paper-piecing. This should have been fast, and easy. Problem was, I completely forgot about chain-piecing for some reason. *sighs*

If I’d remembered, I might have been able to get this out on time…

As it was, I remembered halfway through, and managed to make the last two nights of piecing go much more quickly. For all of my non-low volume fabrics needs, I went through my stash of starched and pre-cut scraps. I love using my scraps – it’s like a fabric acquisition memory lane.

So, after being silly, working too much, and making this project take too long, I finally attached the border to the last side on Thursday night.

Traveling Bee-utiful Swap - September AdditionI’m very happy with how this one turned out, and am excited to start October’s contribution. I’ve already received it, though I haven’t opened the package yet.

Traveling Bee-utiful – August

4 09 2015

For the month of August, a top-in-progress that I’d already worked on cycled back to me. When I last saw it, this is what I had, a collection of individual blocks:

Traveling Bee-utiful - February Round

This time, there were more individual blocks:

Traveling Bee-utiful - August

My challenge this month was to start pulling a modern sampler together out of the individual blocks.

I stared at the blocks for a while, feeling like there was something missing. I referred back to the inspiration quilt, which is the Moda Building Blocks Sampler. I realized that what I felt that another, large-ish block needed to be in the quilt top.

So, I made an 18″ Windmill block:

August - Windmill

I went with this block because I felt it was visually distinct from the several variations of star blocks already present in the blocks. In the end, this was my only new addition.

I then began putzing around with the blocks, looking to start forming the actual top, to get the blocks into a sampler. I ended up with three distinct sections, as pictured below, along with a handful of additional blocks.

Something Like Progress

I left the top-in-progress as it was, and sent it to the next person to work on it. I figure this way, there’s some structure, but there’s also room to add more.


Traveling Bee-utiful Additions for April

9 05 2015

I ended up getting two tops-in-progress for the month of April. Not a big deal – I was up to the challenge! Or so I thought…

The first top-in-progress was not a challenge. The original quilter requested a single, sashed block from each of us, with our signature on it. I picked a block I really like from one of my reference books and modulated my usual really strong color choices a bit, to better blend with the previous blocks. I think my color choices were still really strong in comparison, but maybe it’ll blend better as we progress through the year.

Traveling Bee-utiful April for SunseakObviously, acid green had to make an appearance, and I was enamored of the tiling-like print, so they went together. I happened to have that emerald green solid from a clearance purchase, and I thought it made a lovely median between the acid green and cerulean.

It was when I got to the second top in progress that I faltered. The theme for this one was ‘Well Traveled’. I instantly wanted to map out my travels in fabric, but that proved harder than anticipated. To give you an idea… I was born in the Philippines, and, as a military brat, spent time in Italy, Florida, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma. As an adult, I moved to Illinois, and have traveled to Indiana, and then returned to Wisconsin.

I went through idea after idea, discarding most of them. Mainly because I didn’t want to piece a bunch of buildings, because previous additions to the quilt were all animal related. Also, because they were very complicated, and I wasn’t in the mood for complicated.

Despite saying that, I decided that I had to pay homage to the Philippines, for sure. I ended up drafting a sun block, taking the sun motif from the Philippine flag. The sun symbolizes unity, freedom, people’s democracy and sovereignty. The eight rays of the sun represent the eight provinces that began the 1896 revolution against Spain.

I also decided to pay homage to Texas, and purchased an armadillo pattern on Craftsy. I enlarged it quite a bit, to match the finished size of my sun (14″ square).

For everything, I raided my slim stash of batik fabrics. I’ve never been able to bring myself to get rid of them, and I’m so glad I didn’t now, despite not finding them appealing anymore.

Traveling Bee-utiful April for ForestbucketsI’m still tempted to see if I can iron out ideas for the other places I’ve lived, but we’ll see if my creativity is up to the challenge. Drafting one block was all right. I’m not sure that I’m up to drafting several more.

Anyway, both of these are now in their May homes, and I’m without a swap project for this month. I am, however, already looking toward June…

Traveling Quilt Start

7 02 2015

I did end up joining one swap this year, but ONLY one. One item that remained on my quilting bucket list was to participate in a round-robin type swap, where each bee mate adds to an existing quilt center.

My opportunity to arose after I’d stalked a Flickr group long enough – an advertisement was posted for a round robin swap, though it was hosted on Threadbias. I joined, and waited. The swap organizer was still looking for participants. It took a while, long enough that I actually forgot that I’d signed up.

Just before the end of the year, it was announced that we had enough members and our starter blocks should go out at the end of January. Unfortunately, due to my surgery, I couldn’t sew until after I’d healed. Right after that, I started working at my new old job (I took over managing the mall location that I’d been working part-time in).

So, I fell a little behind, just not being able to make sewing time. Once I figured out what I wanted to sew, I had to let the tutorials I’d read percolate – the instructions made sense, yet not. Finally, I buckled down and sewed.

After some strips and cutting I ended up with:

Lone Star - Fractured

Yes, I decided on a Lone Star start. Actually, I ended up making enough strip sets to do two of these stars. Right now, only one of these is sewn up, so I can send it out. I used a number of tone-on-tone prints and some of my more ‘modern’ prints, to try and capture the essence of what I personally find appealing.

Lone Star - Complete

Scrappy. Saturated colors. Grey/blacks for neutrals. A mix of low volume prints for the background, so no one has to worry too much about matching.

It’s not perfect – my angles didn’t come out quite right, so there’s a slight wonk to the star. Rather than freaking myself out about it, I’m calling the wonk part of the block’s charm. After all, it lays flat, and I’ve got good seams throughout the piece.

This will soon be winging its way to Tennessee, for its first trip for the year. It will return to me in a year, something for which I’m excited.

In the meantime, I will sew up the second star, and begin making a sister top to the one traveling across the United States.

Why I Don’t Do Swaps Anymore

16 11 2014

I started today with the intention of putting together a quilt top. Last night, in cleaning out some of my sewing space (which still needs a lot of organization!), I tripped over about 30 Granny Square blocks from a swap I participated in about a year ago. I’d stashed them away, and forgotten about them.

Since I’m still in a Go!Go!Go! Sew!Sew!Sew! phase, I decided I’d whip out a quilt top today, and began trimming these blocks down (I’d asked for them to come to me untrimmed, so that I could take that step myself).

By the time I was done trimming, I’d thrown NINE of these blocks away. In all fairness, I screwed up the trimming on one of them, and cut through a point. But the rest…


Now, let me just say that I’m a fairly anal-retentive sewist. I know this about myself.

I iron at nearly every step. I’ve just discovered the joys of starching the heck out of fabric, and how CRISP it makes my points and piecing. I change my needle at the end of every project, and change my rotary blades as soon as I feel myself pushing too hard on the cutter. I pay strict attention to my quarter inch seams, and unpick if my seam wobbles. I use the same brand of rulers on each project, and only use the markings on my rulers to determine where I cut – not the markings on the cutting mat. I make a test block, and then measure the test block to ensure that I’m producing according to the pattern / instructions.

The blocks I discarded…  Most of them weren’t acquainted with a quarter inch seam at all. Some would have failed a field sobriety test, the sewing was so wobbly. One block blatantly disregarded the swap rule to use Kona White as the background. Instead, I got a white background fabric that was so thin, I could see through it. Others yet, the blocks weren’t comprised of squares – they were comprised of trapezoids. (granny blocks, for your reference)

Quite frankly, I would have been ashamed to send them out, had I made them.

To say that I am frustrated is something of an understatement. Instead of being entirely done with a quilt top today, I have to make another twenty-five granny squares to be able to wrap this project, to match what I’d envisioned. If all of these blocks had been acceptable, I would have only needed to make half that.

It’s not the fact that I didn’t make the progress I wanted. It’s the fact that several someones out there thought these were acceptable to send out, not just to me, but probably to everyone else in my swap group.

And I know that many of those fellow sewists were planning on making gifts out of the quilts that would eventually result from these blocks. If I was disappointed at the blocks I got, for a quilt top for myself, how much more disappointed were these other sewists?

Now, a year out from this swap, it’s obviously too late for me to communicate to the swap organizer how disappointed I am, but the problems weren’t limited to this one swap. Prior to this year, I participated in many swaps. In most instances, I was highly disappointed by what I received versus what I sent out.

Rather than feeling more connected to a larger community of quilters and sewists, I felt (still feel) angry and irritated that I put such effort into producing quality work that I could be proud to send to someone else, and received so many poor quality blocks in return.

This batch of blocks just reinforced that sense of disenchantment, and strengthened my lack of desire to participate in swaps. I’d actually signed up to participate in Stash Bee 2015 (to start next year), and have withdrawn my participation because I don’t want to deal with the inevitable disappointment of putting forth effort for no return.