Thursday, January 11, 2018

Some More Progress

A visiting Mute Swan at Carolina Beach Lake - a juvenile I am sure and not a frequent visitor on this pond.

This is a Greater Scaup which is also not a frequent visitor -- used to see a lot of the Lesser ones.  There were two pairs today.

A couple of Hooded Mergansers which I don't usually see at the lake as well.

For some reason, we are seeing Kildeers all over in many places you don't normally see them including my backyard during the snow!

There was a huge influx of Robins right after the big storm.

I am making significant progress on this quilt.  I only have to do about 25 more of the Snails Trails blocks to get that part done.  I am also starting to finish the whole rows but haven't sewn the rows together yet.

Only one more of the long full rows and a few blocks to finish out one of the smaller rows.d

I have decided to finish the quilt differently than she did and it will be easier than I anticipated.  I am doing a background colored hexagon half instead of the darker fabric, then adding a rectangular 2 inch background piece and half triangles on the main motif.  A small square in the corner finishes it off.  This way I don't cut into any of the Snail's Trails blocks.

She finishes hers off by cutting those top motifs and having half hexagon motifs.  The quilt looks incredibly busy on my wall and adding more background seems to be more soothing to me so I will be also adding an additional 2 inch wide background piece around the whole outside.

Here is some auditioning of the above idea of a border on my design wall.  I will probably add an additional border of thing turquoise and then a darker blue or purple.  Things aren't sewn together.  I am also going to change out that top Snails Trail on the middle motif -- just aesthetics -- will just invert the row as I haven't sewn it to the one on the left and I will be more careful in the placement of some of the darker lights and darker darks.

If I were ever crazy  enough to do this again, I would also make half Snail Trails on those outside blocks -- i.e, only put the dark on one side rather than spiraling out in two directions from the middle.

Of course, you can clearly see the difference between her quilt above and mine in the direction of the spirals.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy New Year to All My Blogger Friends and Readers!!

We did not escape the bad east coast weather this time!!  We  have been wintering down here in southern coastal North Carolina for nine years and this is a first for us.  Lots of ice still and it has been sunny all day but the temps are barely above freezing even now in the mid-afternoon.  They have been going into the teens at night and will for the rest of the week.  We have had a few really cold days before but not for two weeks running at this early in the season!!  All this ice is of course covered with snow on the streets in the land of no snow plows or even salt trucks!!  

Doesn't seem right to have palm trees covered in ice and snow!!

This has given me lots of opportunity to work on the "quilt from hell" that I am determined to finish.  The sad part is that I have ideas of how to do different ones but no way would I have the patience to ever do this quilt again.  Usually I can finish a quilt top in a week or two, even fairly complex ones.  At the rate I am going on this one, it will be over a month at least just to get it pieced.  So it will only be done once.  This is a single motif sewn together.  It was a  lot easier to put together than I thought it would be, just tedious but perfect for doing on my Featherweight.  

Hint:  Do all  your sewing from the Snail Trail side so that you can match those corners.  It is okay if you cut a little of the corner off but not good if you make the seam to slim.  This also goes for when you are attaching each set of triangles while making the Snail Trail block.

One whole row is complete here.  Here are my hints for putting it together to this stage:

I decided to take my first shot at putting one of the motifs together as I had dreaded this step.  I think alternating the different parts of putting this quilt together makes it easier going as even with the different fabrics, all the trimming gets a bit tedious -- the reason I don't like making quilts with half square triangles.  So here was my approach as there were few if any hints in the pattern just a couple of pictures!

1.  Sew all the hexagons together first sewing two triangles and then adding the third.  Press away from the middle triangle.  Sew two sections together to form a hexagon.  Sew to the end -- don't leave any 1/4 inch allowance.  Press the middle seam open and press the hexagon.

2.  Put the motif (a hexagon center with the surrounding pieces) on your design wall to make sure all are facing in the right direction.  Carefully take off the Snails Trail blocks with the triangle next to it making sure triangle in same place on each block.  Take to the machine and make a light mark a 1/4 inch in on each end of the square and then sew each triangle to the Snail's Trail block starting a quarter inch in (and backstitching) and going to within 1/4 inch at the end.  Do this for all the blocks for a whole motif (one whole motif per row).  This will be six Snails Trail blocks for a whole hexagon. Finger press toward the triangle.   

3. Here comes the tricky part.  I thought this would be more difficult than it was.  I first pinned a Snail Trail block with its attached triangle to one of the triangles in the hexagon.  I pinned at either end from seam to seam making sure I didn't catch any of the previous seam.  I then stitched this from one end to the other.  I then did the same thing with a second Snail Trail block right next to this first block doing the same thing.  then I sewed the seam between the two blocks, again making sure not to catch any of the previous seams while sewing, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam.  This was laborious but not difficult as it turns out if the blocks and hexagons are all the right size!!  I then pressed it pressing the hexagon seams out.  

The tedious part of all this  is constant checking to make sure the arms of the Snail's Trail blocks are all going in the proper direction. I learned this the hard way!!

Well, I did have to spend one whole day of sewing undoing three of the four blocks that I  had sewn together in the above picture.  Funny how seeing the lined up showed up the errors easily!!  Can you find the "bad" blocks.  It was a pain to take them apart because of the backstitching but was easy to reassemble because of the no overlap of seams.

Here you can see the second full row (not sewn together yet) and the intermediate row.  There are four of the big rows and three of the intermediate ones.  I am going to finish off the intermediate rows and the tops and bottoms of the big rows differently than she does.  It will be a little awkward looking but I do not want to lop off any of the Snail Trail's blocks.  I think it will provide somewhat of a tan border beginning as well.  I am going to add even more tan in the border I believe as I think it needs to be calmed down a bit.  We shall see!!

Before I make any more blocks, it is back to cutting which took days before.  I am completely out of the lighter values in all sizes!  

Friday, December 29, 2017

Addendum to My Addendum!!

A serene sunset to calm myself before having to blast the Edyta Sitar pattern which I thought originally was just incomplete but now know it is wrong besides everything else!!  Thank goodness for design walls.  This is not the first time I have had this happen to me.  The first time when I wrote the author, she was incredibly rude and not apologetic at all explaining that the problem was corrected in future editions of the pattern (The Professional Tote).  The second time it happened, the author was super thankful as she was about to re-issue the pattern.  She immediately sent me a correction plus two free patterns.  We shall see what happens this time as I did write the author.

Anyway here is the way I had it together and how it would look if you placed the darks in the orientation she illustrated.  As I mentioned yesterday, I thought that the greatly differing values of the lights were what caused it to look off to me.  However, it just didn't look right this morning.  Again, I thought maybe because I hadn't sewn it together.  Then I finally started twisting the blocks around so they were "facing" in the other direction.  If you look at my previous post, you will see that I had originally placed them that way but switched them after looking at the position of the dark side illustrated in the pattern.  At that time, I was worried about not sticking to the pattern because of the confusion of doing a difficult pattern differently!!

Now you can see the difference.  This is how they should be but it results in the Snails Trails going in the opposite direction than pictured on her final quilt.  The disparity is between steps 2 and 3 in the pattern. The variability of the lights is okay now so that will save some cutting. 

I am making progress slowly though.  The pattern is called Slow and Steady.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Addendum to the Last Post!!

I am going to document the details about how to actually do  the Snail Trail quilt.  After looking at the blocks I posted yesterday, I have decided to go with much less scrappiness with the light fabrics.  I will introduce some pale yellow into the mix and eliminate the darker tans altogether even though I did a lot of cutting!!  The book I got this quilt from is Handfuls of Scraps by Edyta Sitar and has some nice quilts in it besides this terror!  The two biggest omissions in my opinion is that (1) she doesn't mention trimming at each step which is critical and (2) the directions for putting together the quilt are almost non-existent.  There are pictures of the general order and a general direction of sewing to within 1/4 inch but that is it.  I am sure this will be the most challenging part of this quilt as it looks like a y-seam nightmare.

First Tip:  Just use a couple of fabrics for the four patches in the middle.  They are only a 1/2 finished so any pattern is lost anyway and it will save you time.  Make sure they are a very distinctive light and dark.  I am going to take my own advice and sew some more strips together and not use some of the ones I had already sewn.

Second Tip:  don't cut little squares as she suggested in her book for the centers of the "trails".  Cut long strips - one dark and one light, sew together and then cut into 1 inch lengths.  .  Take these small pieces and sew together into little four patches which will measure 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches.

Third Tip:  She doesn't say anything about trimming in the directions but you really have to trim at each step,    I string pieced about fifteen of the blocks at a time.  It is critical to get those first dark pieces on the proper side of the four-patch so I kept a correct block next to the sewing machine so that I would put the dark pieces in the right position.  I centered each of the first set of dark triangles using the center of the four patch as  guide.   I did this for all 15.  Then I string pieced down one side for all 15.  I then finger-pressed each one so that the seam was away from the four patch center.   I then string pieced the second dark side and finger pressed again.  Then I snipped then apart and applied the lighter triangles in the same manner.  After these were all done and finger pressed, I went to the iron and pressed each one.      You repeat this process for each of the four sets of half square triangles. After the first set of triangles, you can pin both sides at the same time as there isn't overlap at the edges.  The last step is to use a small ruler and make sure you square up the block to the dimensions for each step in the pattern.  Despite my best efforts, sometimes they are a little bigger and sometimes they are a little short but just take that into consideration when you put the next layer on making the seam just a mite smaller.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Back to Some Quilting After Christmas Sewing

I have discovered that the best birding down here at the pier is on the rainy miserable days when there are no sightseers or fishermen!!  I have never seen so many mature pelicans
lined up down there before.  It was really amazing.

I don't know whether I ever posted this one before it was cut up.  It was one of my perceived failures.  I tried cutting it into quarters and that didn't help.  Then I sliced again so I had eighths and bingo, I think this is a winner!  Will add white to finish off the spiral and then will see what to do next.  The design wall has several projects just getting off the ground and requiring further study!

And then I started on the insane quilt that I saw a friend post a link to on Facebook!  The quilt is by Edyta Sitar and I actually bought the book it was in as it wasn't obvious how to put it together even after figuring out what the individual parts were. The book directions leave a bit to the imagination as well which was a little disappointing -- it is obvious that it is a quilt that needs to be taught  by the author to get all the hints about how to put it together properly.  It is definitely not for a beginner!!  This is the first Snail's Trail block done.  The size (unfinished) is 4 1/2 inches and contains 20 pieces!!!  You have to make 142 of these.  I haven't found an easy way to make this go quickly as just cutting all those half square triangles took forever!!

Without looking at the book, I arranged the spokes.  Oops -- did them going in the wrong direction which would probably be okay but this is complicated enough without turning right handed trails into left handed ones.

So I turned them the way they were pictured.  I had made 15 Snail Trail blocks just to see how it would look

Here is how they start to go together.

And even more added.

This is a picture of the quilt that is in the book.  I am going to do the outside just slightly different as she has you cutting a bunch of those snail trail blocks in half -- they take too long to make to go cutting them up.  The quilt pictured is 72 x 76.  I have yet to decide whether I will go bigger or smaller.  We shall see.  They take forever to make and I haven't even started sewing the pieces together!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Deer, Totes and Birds!!

I went down to the recreation area at Ft. Fisher and there were a lot of deer hanging around.  It was very late afternoon but lightening up the photos really helped and showed how nice looking they were. 

I think a doe and a fawn from this year.  I haven't seen my bucks again but think they may have dropped their antlers by now so they may be in the crowd.  There were probably 8-10 the other day.

 There was one lone Royal Tern down at Ft. Fisher on this miserable rainy day.

I liked the pose of this Snowy Egret down at Ft. Fisher.

There was a nice flock of Horned Grebes down at Ft. Fisher.  It was very dreary and dark.

Here are three  hanging out.

Drying out his wings.  You can see the one patches on the wings.

Here are eight of the 12 or so Horned Grebes that were down there.

 I have a ton of leftover Dear Jane blocks -- most are the ones from my original DJ exchange.  I have made three quilts already from the blocks,, one king and two queens.  I also gave away about 200 for auction at quilt club.  I still have over 200 so it is time to do something with them.  I did use some as a border on one small quilt.  I have a preliminary thought but we shall see.  I also have a pillow challenge in February.

 I have been using some of my less favorite pieces of ice dyed fabrics to make totes.  These were pieces that I just folded into eighths rather than the mandalas I have been doing lately.  I cut the  pieces into basically fat quarter units so that the front and the back of the bags match.  The neat part is that the sides match also.  I think that Christmas presents are in order!  They are nice sturdy bags lined with both interfacing and fusible fleece.

I have basically two of each bag.  

Monday, December 4, 2017

An All Bird Post -- Mattamuskeet, Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge and Ft. Fisher

Each  year I head up to northern North Carolina to see the Snow Geese and Tundra Swans which winter here each year.  This year I went with my oldest daughter and we were not disappointed.  The only bad thing was the light.  The birds seemed to know where to stand so we could not get good pictures!!  These were three Tundra Swans flying over early in the morning. 

We were lucky enough to see two Bald Eagles way off in the distance in the drive across Lake Mattamuskeet. This was the female on the nest (at least my guess is that it was the female).

This is the male Bald Eagle hanging out on the tree nearest the nest.  Lisa spotted both of these birds from the road and made us stop.  They were very far away!

This was a female Kingfisher standing guard some distance away.  They are hard to capture in pictures.

Two Wigeons also visited the Bald Eagle area.

We spotted this bird in very poor light and tried to guess what it was as all it looked like was a big blue bird in the light.  With some tweaking, found it to be a Kestrel which is one of my favorite hawks.

A Great Blue Heron and two Cormorants were resting along the canal.

Driving back to the hotel from Mattamuskeet along the scenic route (the western road from the top of the lake), we found a huge field filled with Snow Geese.  It was the first we had seen this year.  Last year, I think we only saw one or two.

A closeup of some of the Snow Geese.

First thing the  next morning, we went to Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge.  Lots and lots of Tundra Swans there and a roar from Pungo Lake with all the other birds although we could not get close to the lake for some reason.  We were treated to seeing one bear cross in front of us and five River Otters including a family of four.

Just one of the River Otters swimming away.

This is a picture my daughter too of the family of River Otters.  They were very distant and the light was just after dawn.  She said they looked like they were posing for a family Christmas card!!  I agree!  Best picture either of us took from the trip.  This is the first time we have seen the otters as well!

Back home, I spotted this immature Red-shouldered Hawk down at Ft. Fisher.

 Yesterday, I went down to the pond by the aquarium as someone had spotted some Goldeneye ducks there.  I have seen these before but only one other time.  This is a picture of several of the Hooded Mergansers which frequent the pond each winter.  The males are certainly beautiful.

 These are a couple of female Buffleheads, a frequent visitor to our shores and sometimes the pond.

Right in the center of this picture is the 1st year female Common Goldeneye.  I was surprised to see how different her coloring was and had to look her up on my bird book to make sure what she was!  

There were also a couple of Ruddy Ducks there, another common visitor in the winter.