11/3/14

Star A Day FINAL update

Today I won’t show you what is ON my design wall because its empty. But I have something to show that came OFF my design wall yesterday.183On Oct 31, 2014 I finished my final star! This one, right here. 176It was 1:28 pm when I cut my thread, spread it out in front of me, and said, “You, my pretty, are the last one!” Whew! I did it! I made 365 stars in one year – enough to make a quilt big enough to sleep under.

This post officially concludes my Star a Day Challenge.

What’s next, you ask? How about a Lucy Boston quilt? Here’s my first block. I was so eager to start it that I stitched this block the same evening that I finished the last little star! Why stop when you’re on a roll, right?184And in case you are wondering, NO, I will not be making a block a day! But do you suppose I could finish it in just one year?185(2)

Check out Linda Franz’s website by clicking here.

Let’s link in to Patchwork Times today and see what Judy and friends have on their design walls. Click here to go to Design Wall Monday.

10/1/14

Easy Math – A Star a Day Update

At the beginning of each month I pause to assess progress on my Star A Day project – and some months I actually get around to reporting my status to you, my faithful blog readers. Today is Oct 1st and the report is good:  Here are ten completed cuties, patched together, ready for the lower right-hand corner of my quilt.10 on Oct 1 Oct has 31 days – the last section needs 41 stars – 10 are completed (see above)- that means I only need 31 more stars. Hey! That’s just a star a day! Not only is it easy math, it also adds up to good news: I am on schedule. And so we enter the 12th and final month of my year of tiny stars.

09/22/14

Out of the Quicksand- Star A Day Update

It is Sept 22. At this moment I am officially caught up on my Star A Day project. As one friend described it, it is like climbing out of quicksand – a new day arrives with the challenge to make a star. If you miss one day, it’s like loose gravel. If you miss two days, it’s more like mud. Before you know it you might be a week behind and in quicksand. I wasn’t exactly testing the theory, but if you fall 41 blocks behind (sheepish grin) you can crawl out of the quicksand in exactly 21 days. That’s one a day plus two in arrears. And here is what your quilt will look like when you have eight of the nine sections completed:Section 8 finished

Let’s jump over to Patchwork Times and see what others have on their design walls today. Click here to go to Design Wall Monday.

09/8/14

Three Hundred

Once there was a tiny star. He was all alone in my sewing room, wishing for a friend, or two, or three …. or 300! Can you guess which Tiny Star milestone I have to report?  300! That’s right! 300 stars are completed!300Are you wondering, “Is she caught up?” No! I’m not! I fell behind early in the summer which is when I learned that I love making a star a day but  it isn’t as much fun when it becomes two or three stars a day. I have carried on, stitching the stars whenever I could, until I had a pile waiting for a day in the sewing room so I could press them and sew them together. 016I’m still behind 8 stars, but who’s counting?

Karen Styles, the Australian Quilter who brought us “The Star a Day” will be visiting Eudora, KS in Oct. Click here to go to Quilting Bits and Pieces Quilt Shop’s newsletter to learn more.

06/25/14

Day of Stars

Okay, so here’s the deal – on Nov 1, 2013 I began hand piecing tiny, little 3″ eight pointed star quilt blocks. The idea was to sew one block a day and at the end of the year I would have 365 blocks – enough to make a full sized quilt. Sounds great, right?

And it has been. Most days.

All winter I stayed on task, completing seven stars a week. Then spring arrived and travel started and new deadlines cropped up and before I knew it I fell into a pattern of dropping behind, and getting caught up, then falling behind again.

I missed reporting on my blog about reaching the halfway point – and the halfway point really was one of my favorites.

Halfway point May6, 2014

Past the halfway point May6, 2014

Then I missed reporting about block #200. And it was really special – 200 little star blocks all sewed together hanging on the design wall. I didn’t even get a picture!

And I missed posting a May report and a June report. If you’ve been following this project you may have thought I stopped altogether.

Nope. I have continued stitching my stars on airplanes, in the car, during meetings, and from my favorite chair at home with the evening news on TV. I make a few stars, sew a few stars together, make a row, sew the rows into a section, quilt a section, sew two sections together. Day after day, star after star – marking each one on my little pocket calendar.

In spite of myself and my schedule, the quilt is growing.

It’s just that instead of a star a day I need an occasional day of stars!

04/17/14

Machine Quilting As I Go – Tiny Stars Tutorial

Awhile back I wrote that my plan was to machine quilt my Star-A-Day quilt in nine panels. Some of you have asked me how that was going so I thought it was time to post a little tutorial showing the method I’m using.

The first thing I did was read Marti Michell’s book on machine quilting in sections.

1. As I complete my stars I sew them into Nine-Patch blocks with the 3″ alternate, plain squares. When I have nine of those blocks, I connect them in three rows to create a nine block section. It will take nine of these sections to complete the quilt.

Here's an example of one completed section

Here’s an example of one completed section

2. Layer and baste the completed section with batting and backing. Leave at least 1″ of excess batting and backing on all sides. I’m using Hobbs Heirloom Cotton 80/20 because it’s my favorite batting and I have a whole bag of smallish pieces leftover from other projects. Either pin baste with 1″ safety pins or use basting spray – I really like the Sulky temporary spray adhesive.

3. Using my sit down, Handi Quilter Sweet 16 I do all of the background quilting and the in the ditch stitching.

Start out by quilting in the ditch

Start out by quilting in the ditch

4. I stitch in the ditch working across the quilt, stopping to stitch around each star as I come to it.

Continuous curves around the outside edge of the stars

Continuous curves quilted around the outside edges of the stars

5. When the stars are completed I go back and do any in the ditch stitching that I missed in the first pass.

6. I tried several different designs in the 3″ alternate squares before settling on a sort of free form flower. Using free motion stitching and not worrying about making every flower exactly the same I can manage without marking anything. Of course each flower looks a little different but I’m okay with that. Start by quilting a 1/2″ circle in the center of the background square. Then quilt a four petal flowered bringing the petal to a point at each corner of the block.

Quilt a circle in the center of the square then add four petals.

Quilt a circle in the center of the square then add four petals.

7. Add a second row of stitching around the flower echoing the shape of each petal.

Stitch a second row of quilting around the outside edge of the flower filling in the space to the edges of the block.

Stitch a second row of quilting around the outside edge of the flower filling in the space to the edges and corners of the block.

8. Stitch around the center circle again, stopping at each petal to add a line of accent stitching in each petal. Cut the threads when you get back to where you started the second lap of stitching around the circle.

Quilt texture lines inside the petals. Cut the threads after each flower.

Quilt texture lines inside the petals. Cut the threads after each flower.

9. At this point I switch machines and move my work to my Bernina where it is much faster to change the color of thread. Using thread that matches the fabric, stitch continuous curves in the star diamonds. I’m quilting inside four of the eight diamonds. I found it works best to start in the center and quilt the first diamond, then the diamond directly opposite it ending in the center. From there I can move on to stitch the other two diamonds starting and ending in the center. When I tried quilting them one at a time in a clockwise manner the centers shifted and I ended up with a bubble. By anchoring the center first, I can keep my stars flatter.

With matching thread quilt four of the diamonds with continuous curves. I am leaving the other four un-quilted.

With matching thread quilt four of the diamonds with continuous curves. I am leaving the other four diamonds un-quilted.

I quilt each section leaving the edges that will be connected later unquilted.

Which brings me to connecting the sections and here’s how I attacked that job.

1. Working on one panel at a time flip the backing of the edge you are going to connect out of the way and trim the excess batting even with the edge of the quilt top.

Fold the backing out of the way.

Fold the backing out of the way.

Trim excess batting even with the front of the quilt.

Trim excess batting even with the front of the quilt.

2. Now fold the front of the quilt out of the way and keep the backing folded out of the way. Use pins if needed.

Fold both the backing and top so the batting is a single layer.

Fold both the backing and top so the batting is a single layer.

3. Trim the exposed batting one more time, this time cutting away 1/4″. The edges of the batting will be butted later. By trimming this 1/4″ now, you won’t have the bump of overlapping batting.

With the top and the backing folded out of the way, trim another 1/4" of batting.

With the top and the backing folded out of the way, trim away another 1/4″ of batting.

4. Smooth the layers so the extra backing shows beyond the edge of the quilt top. Trim away any excess. Theoretically you should be able to trim the backing even with the quilt top but I felt more comfortable leaving a little extra.

Trim the backing. You can cut it even with the top at this point but I was nervous so left a little extra.

Trim the backing. You can cut it even with the top at this point but I was nervous so left a little extra.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the second panel.

6. With right sides together and the backing and batting folded and pinned out of the way, pin and stitch the two sections together.

Fold the backing and batting of each section out of the way and pin in place. Match and pin the seam that will connect the two sections.

Fold the backing and batting of each section out of the way and pin in place. Match and pin the seam that will connect the two sections.

The backing and batting of both sections is left free.

The backing and batting of both sections is left free.

7. Press the seam. I prefer to snip into the seam allowance and release the seam so I can press toward the alternate plain squares. You can see from this picture that it’s the way the seam wants to go!

Press the seam

Press the seam

8. Unfold the batting letting the two edges come together. Use batting tape to fuse the two edges in place.

Smooth the batting in place. The edges should meet without overlapping.

Smooth the batting in place. The edges should meet without overlapping.

I'm using this batting tape to connect the two layers. Fuse it in place over the batted edges that are butted up to each other.

I’m using this batting tape to connect the two layers. Fuse it in place over the batting edges that are butted up to each other.

9. Smooth the backing in place over the fused area. Because I left excess when I trimmed the backing I had too much fabric so went back and trimmed a little away. You only need enough to turn under the raw edge on one side.

If there is too much excess backing fabric, trim it now by folding the quilt top and batting out of the way.

If there is too much excess backing fabric, trim it now by folding the quilt top and batting out of the way.

10. With one side of the backing smoothed into place, turn under the raw edge of the other side and overlap the two edges of the backing. Pin in place. I gave it a quick press at this point.

Smooth the backing of one section and overlap it with the backing from the other section. Turn under the raw edge and pin in place.

Smooth the backing of one section and overlap it with the backing from the other section. Turn under the raw edge and pin in place.

Edges ready for hand stitching.

Edges ready for hand stitching.

11. Using matching thread and a blind hem stitch, stitch the edges together.

Hand stitch with a blind hem stitch using matching thread.

Hand stitch with a blind hem stitch using matching thread.

Hand stitching is completed.

Hand stitching is completed.

12. Machine quilt the section, leaving any edge that will later connect to another section unquilted.

Machine quilt the stars and alternate plain squares in the area where the two sections were connected to each other.

Machine quilt the stars and alternate plain squares in the area where the two sections were connected to each other.

13. When you turn the panels over and look at the back you will see that the machine quilting covers the area where the batting was butted and fused and the backing was hand stitched together. It helps to choose a backing fabric that will hide the stitching!

Back after quilting was completed. See the hand stitched seam?

Back after quilting was completed. See the hand stitched seam?

I am using this quilt as you go method because I didn’t want to wrestle my full sized finished quilt under either my HQ Sweet 16 or my Bernina. If you want to try this I highly recommend you get a copy of Marti Michell’s book and read it cover to cover. It is full of tips and several other ways of quilting as you go. Click here to see the book.

There. That’s three sections done, six to go!

04/14/14

The Dog Ate My Homework

When I was in school I never used the “dog ate my homework” excuse. We had outdoor dogs on the farm – they didn’t even know about homework. I don’t think my kids used that excuse either, although they could have because we once had a beagle, Sydney,  who ate anything left unsupervised to include a pair of my son’s pajamas and my daughter’s jeans. And one time, another dog, Millie, a cute mixed-breed golden something or other, saw my bowling alley punch card sticking out of my wallet and pulled it out and ate it. It was brand new with only two punches on a $40 card. Grrr. But homework, no, not really. Unless you count making a star a day as homework.

I was busy on my guild challenge quilt and fell behind 4 stars but my goal is 7 per week and I thought I could still meet it last week, if I made four stars on Sat night while watching a movie with my husband. Great plan. Dale got the movie while I traced star parts.

One Star, traced ready for cutting and sewing.

One Star, traced ready for cutting and sewing.

By the time I went downstairs I had a neat pile of all four stars traced, ready for cutting out and stitching. Surely I would be caught up by the end of the movie.

But my dog, Holly, wouldn’t leave me alone. She has needed more affection than usual after 12 days at dog camp while we were in Florida. So I set my sewing aside and gave her a bit of attention. Satisfied, she went off to find dog friend, Tommy.

Finally settled in my chair I reached to the end table where I had set my basket of work. My sewing kit was there, the scissors were there, and my glasses were there. But where were those fabric pieces with the traced shapes? Did I drop them? I retraced my steps to the sewing room. Nope. They were in the basket when I brought it downstairs. Right on top. I looked at Holly with suspicion. She’s always trying to steal my sewing. I think she likes it because it smells like me. It’s one thing if she just wants to smell it but oh no, not this dog. With her mighty, ant eater like tongue she can sweep up a whole pile of cut out pieces and swallow them whole. Did she eat my homework? Or did Tommy steal them? I didn’t see either dog at the sewing basket. I must have misplaced them.

Holly, did you take them? Or was it you, Tommy?

Holly, did you take them? Or was it you, Tommy?

I looked around but couldn’t find a sign of those fabric bits. Four little stars worth. Traced and ready for cutting. Twelve different pieces of fabric. Where did they go? I looked at the dogs once more before giving up and going back to the sewing room to start over. The week ended and the delay set me behind by two stars.

The next day Dale found some of my fabric pieces in the yard. He offered them back but I politely declined.

Don't be fooled by her cute ears. She is a fabric stealin' theif!

Don’t be fooled by her cute ears. She is a star eatin, fabric stealin’ thief!

Tommy is the good dog for a change!

Tommy is the good dog – for a change!

 

 

04/14/14

4/9ths and 20/20

On this snowy Monday in April my design wall is 4/9ths full of Tiny Stars! (plus two more small projects to round out the picture) That’s right! It snowed in KS today. And that’s right, I have completed four out of nine sections – one star at a time!

4/9ths finished!

4/9ths finished!

And there’s more! Not only am I completely up to date on making a Star-a-Day, I also made twenty yellow stars for my quilt guild challenge. The Sunflower Piecemakers Quilt Guild, is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year so the challenge was to make a quilt with 20 blocks or a block with 20 pieces. I thought, why not use my Star-A-Day templates and make 20 little 3″ blocks and turn them into sunflowers? And why not use 20 different yellow fabrics? And go ahead and add at bit of wool work with 20 different brown wool centers.  20 appliqued leaves seemed sort of skimpy spread throughout four borders so I grouped them in short vines on opposite corners and used 20 different greens.

Anniversary Challenge quilt wearing a third place viewer's choice ribbon. Ribbon made by talented guild member, Joelyn.

Anniversary Challenge quilt wearing a third place viewer’s choice ribbon. Ribbon made by talented guild member, Joelyn.

Quilting like a maniac I got it done just in time – why do I do that? I had a WHOLE year! Using 20/20 vision next year I’m starting earlier! But I like the finished quilt. And apparently the guild members liked it too as I won the third place viewer’s choice award at our meeting. Look at that beautifully handcrafted ribbon made by guild member and friend Joelyn!

If you live nearby you can see this little quilt on display at our quilt show on May 3, 2014 from 9-4 at the Lansing Activity Center, Lansing, KS. The other challenge entries will also be on display. Come visit!

In the meantime, let’s hop on over to The Patchwork Times by clicking here to see what Judy and friends have on their design walls and check back later for a post about quilting those stars as I go.

 

04/4/14

Tiny Stars – April Update

The first of April has come and gone so this post is a few days late but NOT a dollar short!

I was teaching a class last night where a student commented, “I haven’t seen any new blog stories lately”. She’s right – there haven’t been any new stories for awhile, that’s because I was on vacation, in Florida. My student went on to ask about my trip then she asked the question she really wanted answered, “Are you still making a star a day?”

Okay, so let’s look at that question: “Are you still making a star a day?” In the most literal interpretation of the question I have to answer with a sad face, “No”. Because I have not been sewing A star day. But what if she meant, “Have you completed a star for each day of the year to date?” In that case, I can honestly say, “Yes, I am up-to-date with one star per day completed since Nov 1st when I started my Star a Day challenge.” But did I sew one star a day? No, not in March.

As I packed for my 12 day long road trip to Florida I prepped a packet of stars to sew while traveling, counted out to get me caught up, dated, to keep me from falling further behind. By the time we left home on Mar 20th I was 10 days behind. Yipes! I was tempted to call a truce and say that I just couldn’t do a star a day for a year. I would have to add those ten stars on to the end of my year. But maybe, just maybe, I could get caught up while on vacation.

It took all 12 days to do it but on April 1st, (no foolin’!) the last day of our vacation, as we drove past the St Louis Arch, just four hours from home, I took the final stitch on the star that ended my month long stretch of being perpetually behind.

Which brings us to my Star A Day update for April: I have completed 153 stars and am back on track!

Don’t worry, I still love my tiny stars but if there is one thing I learned from falling behind it’s this: A star a day is fun. Three or four a day is work.