Thursday, June 24, 2010

The assembly of the double wedding ring has begun. The first "block" was a bit scary, but I eventually figured out that it was the same kind of seaming that I had been doing in the construction of the individual blocks, the only new element being the seam through the middle of the 4-patch (yellow in the photo above). At this point 6 of the 9 blocks are sewn together, and I'm in the process of creating the extra "melon" pieces I will need for the left and bottom edges.

That and trying to make the blocks lie a little flatter. Since I'm going to be taking it to a long-armer for basting I don't want any major bumps or bubbles in it. Today I decided to try giving the block a good spritzing with water, letting it sit for a minute or two to "relax" the fibers, then pressing the seams well and letting it come to nearly dry on the ironing table. I will then let the blocks lie flat overnight to finish drying. It seems to be helping a lot; as I suspected, I did a fair amount of stretching of the fabric as I sewed, and this is giving all that a chance to relax back into shape. I also changed the direction I pressed the seams partway through (when I went back and reread the directions in John Flynn's book). so am correcting that as much as I can as I go.

Still meditating on how to quilt the large background areas. I'm saying to myself over and over again "Keep it simple, stupid. Keep it simple." It's not just a matter of time; I don't want to do anything that's going to compete with that lovely pattern. Some is needed for the sake of keeping the batting from going wonky. But I'm thinking as little as possible. I even read the instructions on the batting package yesterday; it says 2-4 inches. There's still time to think about that, and Amy may have a good idea too.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Last week I decided it was time for a change of scenery, so took advantage of the slow holiday week and took off for the Ozarks. In order to have an objective for the trip other than just getting out of Dodge I planned a quilt shop hop. Arkansas Quilters Guild had done a mammoth shop hop at the end of April and their list of shops was still posted on their web site, so I was able to look at that list and a map, and plan a trip that was reasonably sensible. I left right after the Memorial Day service at the cemetary on Monday and got home by suppertime on Wednesday. Between Tuesday morning and noon on Wednesday I visited 9 shops, and came home with some lovely fabric and a few other treasures to play with over the coming weeks.

Visiting those shops gave me an opportunity to reflect on what makes a quilt shop worth traveling out of your way to visit. For me at least, the first criterion is fabric selection. I want enormous variety. It's why I visited Kay's shop in Vicksburg even when the stuff was so crammed you could hardly move and the lighting was terrible; she has the bolts, and no one else aroun here does. (And her new store is lovely, and I hope she's proud of what her hard work has accomplished.) And of all the shops I visited, The Country Corner in Harrison, AR definitely had the fabric. I had to resist the temptation to spend all my money there and go home. I did, but I still left with 2 bags full.

The second reason I would put a quilt shop on my "Visit Again" list is atmosphere. Some shops have an ambiance all their own. Whether it's the way things are displayed, or the selection of merchandise, it's clear that the shop owner has a vision and isn't trying to do everything, just what she or he can do well. Remember Me in Mountain Home, and Quilted Heart in Horseshoe Bend were two that fit this category. They were the kind of shop that is fun to poke around in, because you know you are likely to find something that not every shop has.

The third reason is the staff. I will visit a shop with a spectacular inventory even if the staff are indifferent, but a competent and friendly staff will make me revisit a shop that has even a humdrum inventory. Quilter's Corner Fabric in Heber Springs is definitely in this group. Their collection of fabric is small (although the bargain prices help make it attractive), but I had a lovely time chatting with the owner. And at the end of my visit, she presented me with a tote bag from the guild shop hop; it was that personal touch that put that shop on the "Visit Again" list.

So, a lovely ramble through the hills, in spite of the heat. Met some interesting people, saw some interesting places, and came home with toys to keep me occupied for a little while. And 4 shops out of 9 that are worth going back to. Pretty shop hop, I say.

I can finally show the picture of the first quilt I've finished this year:

I made it as a birthday present for my friend Amy, so of course I couldn't show it until she had seen it, since she does pop in here once in a while. I bought the fabric on my last trip to the Ozarks about 5 years ago, and found it when I was going through scrap bins looking for fabrics for the Sprout Quilt. I had a great time working out the setting. And the fabric for the backing is just fabulous:
Amy likes it, and I'm pleased with it, even if some of the points aren't quite perfect and the quilting isn't professional quality.

I've started the quilting on the Sprout Quilt, but have temporarily put it aside until I can get to Monroe and buy more lime green cotton thread. I decided to work a feather stitch over the seams between the blocks and the sashings, and that takes a good deal of thread. I'm working on a list; I know I will need more battings soon as well.

While I had the surfaces cleared I decided to go ahead and baste another top that will work for a young child's quilt. Can't get a picture until the basting is done, and I'm waiting on an order of tatting thread to do that.

So with everything else stalled out, it's back to the Double Wedding Ring. Blocks are getting assembled. I can count how many of each type of piece I need. It's a number less than infinity. This is progress.