Sunday, November 30, 2014

REWIND: Milkweed and Churndash Variation

Welcome to my first edition of REWIND where I bring you posts from the past! Today we are revisiting a post from August 2013. I chose this post because it is something that I've had in my scrap book for many years and I've often thought about giving it a try! Maybe this summer I'll finally harvest some milkweed pods and dry it out!

Milkweed and Churndash Variation

The milkweed plants are forming their seed pods now. Once they ripen we will pick the pods so that they don't spread their seed.

A lot of people remove the milkweed from their gardens but we let them grow because they have lovely sweet smelling flowers that attracts insects but more importantly they are the primary food source for the monarch butterfly caterpillar. The milkweed plant can be eaten by people too! And the milky sap has medicinal properties. Supposedly it is good for getting rid of warts!

All this is very interesting stuff so you are probably asking yourself what does milkweed have to do with quilting? Plenty!

When milkweed pods ripen the burst open and inside are small dark seeds attached to a bit of silky fluff which acts like a parachute to carry the seed away from the parent seed and hopefully it will find purchase in new soil. The silky fluff has long been used for a variety of purposes. It is naturally buoyant so it can be used for flotation devices. First nations peoples used it to line diapers and the pioneers used it to stuff mattresses, comforters and pillows. It can also be spun and used for knitting. And for us quilters, the silky fluff can be used for batting.

I have a binder where I store interesting articles related to quilting. Back in November 1993 there was an article by Frances Eckhardt  in Quilters Newsletter Magazine (page 32) and it was titled Nature's Quilt Batt.  

Frances wrote that she collects the pods in a large bag. She processes the fluff in a draft free area. She splits the pods to release the fluff. She removes any twigs or unwanted bits and then puts the fluff in a pillowcase or a paper bag to dry for several days to several weeks. A plastic bag should not be used because the fluff is damp and will mildew. The final step is to separate the fluff from the seeds. To do this she takes small batches of fluff and puts it in a plastic bag. She blows air into the bag before closing it like a balloon. She bounces the bag and the seeds will release from the fluff and fall into the corner. Now the fluff is ready to be used. She wrote that she lays the fluff out on the quilt back to the desired thickness and then covers it with the quilt top. It is closely basted with a needle and thread. Frances recommends close quilting because the fibres are not bonded as with commercial batts.

She writes that she has used milkweed batt successfully in many sizes of quilts and that they have withstood multiple machine washings in cold water with a gentle detergent. The fluff didn't bunch, shift or ball all!

So there you have it - if in September you find yourself in need of a quilt batt and it isn't in the budget, take a walk in a meadow and harvest some milkweed pods!

Yesterday I showed you how I make my 3" churn dash blocks. A variation on that block is to swap out the corner half square triangles for 1 1/2" squares (includes the seam allowance). The finished block will look like these blocks! 

Well I've got hundreds of tiny hourglass blocks to make so just like this little fellow in the picture below, I had better hop to it!

UPDATEThere have been several comments about milkweed and I believe it is a North American plant. It is a dietary staple for monarch butterflies in the larval stage. In addition to using the fibres from the seed pods for quilt batts they also have another important application. They are an absorbent that can be used to clean up oil spills! Milkweed fibres absorb oil but repel water and that makes them unique! The fibres are four times more absorbent than polypropylene which is the artificial product currently used in oil spills. Because they are more absorbent this means less material is required making them more cost effective than the alternative. A co-operative of 20 farms has been set-up in the province of Quebec and they will grow 325 hectares of milkweed. Maybe commercially made milkweed quilt batts will be in our future!

I hope you've enjoyed this issue of REWIND!  Until I post again, happy sewing!

Karen H

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sharks teeth and early apples

My Gardens of a King quilt now has the second shark tooth border. The designer of the quilt, Missie Carpenter, and I worked hard on getting it just right and the efforts have really paid off! I has created a nice break and it not only frames the centre panel of pieced blocks but it will also nicely frame the next border made up of appliqued blocks.

Missie's design calls for a border that is pieced but I have a lovely old green print in my stash and have decided that rather than use an assortment of fabrics I would use my green print.  Want to know what it looks like? Well hang on and I'll show you. But first, do you remember the early apple block? This is what it looked like.

Each of these blocks will be framed by a pair of crescent shapes. In Missie's version she used two different fabrics in each pair of crescents but I decided to use a single fabric. I chose a deep rusty red for the apples. Remember what I said about adding little details? I decided to add a ladybug on a leaf! And this is the finished block pinned to the green fabric. I think the block is looking rich and elegant!

Can you imagine the shark tooth border on either side? Perfect! For more information about this quilt pattern which I am testing for Missie visit Traditional Primitives.

In my spare time I managed to finish one more Lozagons block. It is a rather insipid block but I think it will look very pretty when surrounded with the turquoise stars!

Lastly I decided to treat myself to some very pretty fabric that I found at Family Farm Quilts. This is a family run business in Pennsylvania. The staff were very nice and extremely helpful! The fabric that I bought is from Andover and it is called Jo's Chintz. I'm thinking of using it for the backing of my Value Proposition hexagon quilt or maybe I'll make another quilt with broderie perse. Heck, maybe I'll do both! I think they might just have some of the fabric left in stock if you are interested. The prices are very good and there is a great collection of beautiful prints!

I've been blogging now (almost on a daily basis) for more than a year and a half. That's a lot of blog posts, almost 500 of them. Every now and then someone will ask me a question and I respond that I had published a post on that very topic! So what I'm thinking of starting a new feature that I will call Rewind.  Every now and then I will republish one of my older posts. It might be a story that I think is amusing, a tutorial or something interesting. What do you think of that idea? I respond to every comment so if you don't hear back from me it means that you are a no reply blogger and I have no way of contacting you!

Time for me to get sewing and I think you should do likewise. Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Friday, November 28, 2014

Value Proposition Quilt Along - Block 17

Welcome back to my Value Proposition Hexagon Quilt Along. Can you believe we are already at Block 17? Next Friday I'll publish the instructions for the final two Side Setting Blocks and the Friday after will be the final block!

Value Proposition Map for Block 17

Value Proposition Recipe for Block 17
  • Cut 18 Light identified as A on Map (6 for Round 1, and 12* for Round 3)
  • Cut 8 Mediums identified as B on Map (for Round 2)
  • Cut 6 Dark-medium identified as on Map (for Round 3)
  • Cut 5 Dark identified as D on Map (1 for Centre and 4 for Round 2)
* I had some leftover "made" fabric from a previous block and I used it in Round 3 because it was Light

My Value Proposition Block 17

This is the colour version of Block 17.  I was using up bits and pieces of leftovers because we are getting close to the end and I didn't want to waste those precious hexagons!

Have you decided on your path fabric yet? I designed the quilt with a triple path. This means that each block is surrounded with a path fabric and between the blocks will be a second path fabric (marked in pink in the drawing). This means you will surround each of the 18 blocks with a round of 24 hexagons. This can be done at any time but since we are nearing the end of the QAL I would suggest you get started! For a refresher on the path you can refer to the post about Constructing the Path.

The partial blocks will have path hexagons attached as well. Make the path with 13 hexagons (see "outer path for partial blocks" in the diagram below).

If you have already selected your middle path fabric you could start sewing the hexagons together for the path as in the following diagram.

I set up a Value Proposition QAL page on Flickr so that you can post pictures of your blocks and also see what others are doing! There are many very different and exciting blocks to see and there are also some pictures showing a bunch of blocks arranged together and that is very exciting to see! 
If you are looking for previous Block installments of my Value Proposition Hexagon QAL you will find all of the links under the tab Quilt Alongs by Karen H just under the banner. Have fun making Block 17. The two final side setting blocks will be available on December 5th! 
 The final block, Block 18, will be available on December 12, 2014. 

I hope you are enjoying my QAL. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I send an email response to every comment so if you don't hear from me it means you are a no-reply blogger and I have no way of contacting you (unless you leave me your email address).

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Another little detail in the Garden

I've completed another applique block for the border of my Gardens of a King quilt. This one is toadflax which is a wildflower that has bright, cheery, yellow flowers. The colours in my quilt are a little  muted so I used some artistic license and chose to use a rosy brown and orange print instead of yellow! I think that it works!

I've written several times about the addition of details to personalize quilts and to add some sparkle. I decided that this block could benefit from a detail and I settled on a butterfly. I cut one out from my print fabric and needle turn appliqued it in place. The crescent frame has been stitched to the block and the excess background fabric has been trimmed away. The block is now ready to be appliqued to the border strip but I'll have to finish the others before doing so!

There are also four pieced blocks in the corners of the border. I showed you the face block that I made. It is the first corner block. I think the face could be replaced with a great fussy cut from a pretty print!

This is the second corner block. I decided to go with darer browns around the outside edge so that the four corner blocks have a consistent look about them.

I've got a plan for the third block but am still undecided on the fourth! It will come to me! The corner blocks will be reverse appliqued to the background fabric so that will give them a very nice finish.

If you are interested in making your own Gardens of a King Quilt or just want to see what the quilt will look like you will find more information at Traditional Primitives.

There'll be no post tomorrow but Friday I'll be back with Block 17 in my Value Proposition Hexagon Quilt Along! Until then, happy sewing!

Karen H

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gardening and hexagon fun

I've been working away on my Gardens of a King quilt and the centre is now stitched together. All of the blocks were made using English paper piecing and some applique. At this point it measures 40.5". The next step is a narrow shark tooth border. I've started preparing the teeth to be appliqued to the background and then they'll be stitched to the quilt.

As you may know Missie asked if I would be willing to test the pattern for her and I agreed. While I'm still working on my quilt I've done enough that I was able to send her my notes. The pattern is now available in her shop, Traditional Primitives, and the cost  is $36US. If you are interested you will find the pattern here.  Below is a picture of Missie's finished quilt. The centre block and the fruits and flowers in the outer border are done in wool applique buy I am making mine with quilting cottons. Just so you know, I have no financial or other interest in the pattern or Missie's company. She asked me to test her pattern. I thought it would be a fun thing to do and it was!

I continue to work on the floral and fruit appliques for the next border. The cherries were so much fun to make. I decided to make each one a different red and I think it worked out well! I also used a variety of small brown scraps for the branches and stems. I think the cherries are one of my favourite blocks so far!

The next block is hazelnuts. They resemble acorns in the pattern but I had no idea what real hazelnuts look like so I searched for pictures and all showed green nuts so who am I to argue! Green nuts it is!

Both blocks were made using back basting applique.  I really enjoy this method because I always get good results!

I also completed one more Lozagons hexagon block. The fabric in the first round of hexagons is from he bag of old scraps and partial Dresden plates that I bought at a church white elephant sale. The turquoise looks goofy but when you see the quilt you will understand why it is in my blocks!

The inspiration for this quilt is an old quilt that I saw on Lorraine's blog, Granny Loz.  It is also the source of the name, Loz + Hexagons = Lozagons! Lorraine posted a picture of some hexagon quilt tops that her friend got at an auction. This one caught my eye! I still have to figure out a design for the border but there's time yet!

Lorraine had a great post yesterday about a workshop she took with Marg Sampson George. It looks like they spent a lot of time drafting blocks. It is amazing how a hexagon block can be broken down so many ways and then depending on the fabric used, interesting designs can be created. I wrote a little tutorial about constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing hexagons!  In the following block you can see a hexagon divided into twelve diamonds. I chose to create a star but depending on the placement of the light, medium and dark fabrics you could also create tumbling blocks!

Close-up of Hexagreens by Karen H

I'll give some thought to expanding that tutorial in the future!

I think that's enough blogging for today, Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blogathon Canada and the instructions for my hexagon quilt 81 are HERE!

Welcome Blogathon Canada visitors! This is the final day of a week long blog hop organized by Sew Sisters Quilt Shop in Toronto, Ontario! To celebrate I am publishing the instructions to make my hexagon quilt 81 The Giant Monstrosity!

If you didn't get here by way of the Blogathon you really should visit the  Sew Sisters blog where you can enter to be able to win prizes and you will  find a complete list of host bloggers with links to other Canadian blogs like mine! Leave a comment on the Sew Sisters blog and the host blogger's sites to be entered in draws for wonderful prizes from Sew Sisters! The hosts for Ontario are Lorna from Sew Fresh Quilts and Sandy from UpStairs Hobby Room. They'll be introducing you to some very talented quilters!

I've been promising to publish instructions for making my quilt 81 The Giant Monstrosity. I called it 81 because there are 81 hexagon rosettes and stars in the middle panel. The giant monstrosity part was added when I realized just how big it was going to be; it finished roughly 93" by 97"!

The quilt is surprising easy to make and it is very forgiving. I used English paper piecing to make the stars and hexagon rosettes. I fussy cut butterflies and appliqued them as a little extra embellishment. You can embellish as you see fit!

I thought you might like to see some of the fussy cut hexagons!

If you don't have enough fabric to cut six hexagons (or diamonds for the stars) just fussy cut three and use a complementary print for the other three! You can see some examples of this in the following picture.

I used scraps to make the baskets and fill them with flowers. Each basket is the same basic shape but the flowers and leaves are different in each one! I had a bit of pansy fabric in my stash so I cut some out and appliqued them. It is a great place to use some of those pretty florals that you don't know what to do with!

Once the quilt top was together I made my quilt sandwich and machine quilted it on my domestic sewing machine. However because the quilt is constructed in sections I think it would be suited to a quilt as you go technique! I didn't include quilting instructions but I wrote about how I did it in several posts. If there is interest I would consider putting together a separate instruction sheet on the quilting. 

So for those of you who love hexagons, I hope you'll enjoy the instructions for making 81. If you do start making it I would love to hear from you! Even if you don 't make it I would love to hear from you! I reply to every comment. If you don't hear from me it means you are a "no reply" blogger and I have no way to contact you! 

Enough chit chat; here's what you've been waiting for!

You can also find the link under Patterns by Karen H. I put a great deal of time, effort and energy into my free patterns. Please do not sell or reproduce them without my written permission. However you are more than welcome to post a link to my blog so that others can access this pattern and my other free patterns. 

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H

Friday, November 21, 2014

Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch and a Soupcon quilt

My first quilt along (QAL) was called Soupcon, a French word that means "a little bit". I called it Soupcon because I used a variety of techniques that I like to use but they were used sparingly so it was a chance to introduce readers to these techniques without having to commit to a large quilt. It was a six part QAL and you will find all of the pattern installments under the tab Quilt Alongs by Karen H. I've recently heard from several of you that you are still working on your quilts. Keep posting pictures on the Flickr Soupcon QAL page! Here is the most recent picture from Clare!

Soup Is On 003 by Clare

What a stunner it is! She designed her own cornerstone blocks and decided to leave the red border empty. She will use it to showcase her hand quilting. I've seen Clare's work and she is an exceptionally talented quilter so I know that the finished quilt is going to be amazing!

Don't forget that my current QAL is Value Proposition Hexagon Quilt Along is still running. You will find links to all of the patterns under the tab Quilt Alongs by Karen H. The next block pattern will be published on November 28th!

I'm still working on testing the Gardens of a King quilt pattern for Missie of Traditional Primitives. There are appliques in the border and some of the stems are just far too tiny so I decided to embroider them with a Hungarian braided chain stitch. I found this online demonstration and after watching it got started on the stems.

Initially it was slow going but once I got my brain wrapped around the technique it was fairly easy. The basis is the chain stitch but you are in effect stitching another chain stitch on top and to do that you need to weave your needle under the previous stitch. A pointy needle can split threads and that causes problems. I saw a handy tip on Quilting Arts this week....rather than taking the point of the needle under the stitch, use the eye of the needle. I tried it and it worked like a charm!

This is my first attempt at the Hungarian braided chain stitch. I've got more fruit with stems to be embroidered and this stitch is perfect! It adds a little bit of texture and dimension.

There will be an oval frame around each fruit or floral applique. I made one to see how it will finish the block and I am really pleased with it!I haven't appliqued it to the block. I want to get all of the embroideries done first!

The Sew Sisters Quilt Shop's Blogathon Canada continues and today we are off to Quebec and the Territories. Be sure to visit the Blogathon and the host bloggers where you can enter to win great prizes. It is easy....all you have to do is leave a comment!

Tomorrow I'll publish my pattern for 81 The Giant Monstrosity so until then happy sewing!
Karen H

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's all in the details

Now that all 32 pieced blocks for the Gardens of a King quilt are completed each needs to be reverse appliqued to the background fabric. That's a job that goes quickly so it was time that I moved on  to the centre block. This is the block from Missie's quilt and it is worked in wool applique. I really liked the darker centre. She told me she used a plaid fabric and it just worked out that the darker portion was in the centre.

I don't do wool applique so I went back to my stash to pull cotton fabrics. These are the fabrics that were eventually used. What isn't show in this selection is the rusty brown that I will use for the shark tooth borders.

My first choice was the gold fabric that is second from the top. Love the softness of the colour with the little pops of rosy caramel. My plan was to use it for the elliptical shapes and to leave the inside empty so that the background fabric showed through but it was boring and very drab. I filled them in with the fabric at the bottom of the picture; I fussy cut the shapes so that they would match. I thought there would four identical prints in the fat quarter but there weren't. I was able to cut two pairs of identical motifs and that worked just fine. The two robin's egg blues in the middle of the picture had already be used in the pieced blocks so I decided to repeat them and they became the four fleur de lis shapes. It was looking nice but still a little on the boring side so I fussy cut a circle from the top fabric and appliqued it dead nut centre! Much better! This is what the block looked like at that point.

I adore that print in the centre; it is one of my favorite fabrics and I think it is timeless and dramatic! Trouble is that I thought the block was still looking like it was looking for a little something something to finish it off. I decided to cut some of the circles from the gold fabric and applique them to the base of each fleur de lis. This is a close-up of what I did! It is just a little detail but it was the perfect finishing touch! You might be able to see that there are some basting threads inside the elliptical shapes. I have been thinking about embroidering a thin, rich brown line around the inner edges but have decided against it (for now)!

This is the finished block! The four little circles took almost no time to prepare and applique but I think that they have a big impact on the look of the block. You only have to add one or two little details to personalize a quilt and make it even more beautiful!

Have you been visiting and discovering blogs that are new to you through Sew Sisters Quilt Shop's Blogathon Canada? Yesterday we were introduced to Albertan bloggers and today it is Saskatchewan and Manitoba! Friday it is off to Quebec and the Territories. Saturday it is Ontario. I'll be one of the Ontario bloggers and to celebrate I'll be publishing my instructions for making 81 The Giant Monstrosity! I am so eager to hear what you think of it!

Until I post again, have fun discovering Canadian blogs and when you aren't doing that, happy sewing!
Karen H

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One thing leads to another

Isn't it funny how sometimes one thing leads to another?  Let me give you some examples of what I mean!

I continue to work on testing the Gardens of a King pattern for Missie of Traditional Primitives. The original quilt that inspired Missie's pattern has some blocks with sun or moon faces and I really like them. I drafted a large block but it isn't part of Missie's pattern so I won't include it in my quilt.This block finishes at about 10" across and I used my Sakura Pigma pens to draw the face.

I really like my face block so I thought about ways that I might include this design element in my quilt while still staying true to Missie's pattern. And that is my first "one thing leads to another" moment! There are four pieced blocks in the corners of the outer border so I thought that would be the perfect place to sneak a face into the quilt. I drew the face and used one of the block patterns to frame it! This is what it looks like! The edges are rough but will finish nice and round!

This is the block in my quilt on which I based my face block. I like the dark frame around both blocks because it focuses the attention on the centre design!

That leads me to my next (and final) two blocks for the centre panel of my quilt. These two were perhaps the most challenging although they look relatively simple. I think if I were to make them again I would use a single fabric for the background (or piece a four patch of four fabrics) and then applique the petals to the background using the back basting applique method that I wrote about.

The last "one thing leads to another" moment involves the fluffernutters, Gump and Jinx. Gump is an older guy who is partial to sleeping or at least relaxing. He is getting much better at posing for picture taking so we were having a nice moment together.  He is such a super model!

And then along comes Baby Jinx who promptly begins to nibble on Gump's toes! Not a good idea.

And that just leads to a good clobbering! Lesson learned for now but it never lasts!

Finally on a totally unrelated subject, it is Sew Sisters Quilt Shop's Blogathon Canada time.

It is an opportunity to find new blogs and win prizes. Yesterday we met bloggers from British Columbia and today we are off to the Maritimes. Tomorrow we are off to Alberta which is wild rose country! Good luck and have fun checking out all of the lovely blogs! One blog that I found particularly interesting is Judy Cooper's blog. Check out her fabric boxes. They are something else!

That's it for me for today! Just a reminder that I reply to every comment so you don't hear back from me it means you are a no-reply blogger so I have no way to contact you unless you include your email address! Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H