Driftwood is at the printer!


Driftwood ©2009 Helle-May Designs

Seems like ages since I’ve written.  October is always such a busy month for our family with birthdays, anniversaries, Halloween, and fall traditions.  Somehow I managed to squeeze in pattern writing this month, too. 

I tried my hand at Adobe Illustrator this time to make the diagrams and what a difference it made!  Even my husband was amazed that there was relatively no grumbling this time!  Although many people have commented that the diagrams in the previous patterns were very good, they did not happen without a lot of hair pulling and teeth grinding.   What a breeze it was this time to make them with Illustrator!  I downloaded a 30 day free trial to use for this pattern – but now I just gotta have it!

I would not recommend the pattern to a beginner quilter, but anyone with a reasonable handle on quilting and paper-piecing basics should have no difficulty following the step by step written instructions along with a diagram for practically each step.  I truly believe that a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m sure that there are quilters out there who depend purely on the pattern diagrams and read very little of the text.  All the more reason to include as many diagrams as I can!

All of my patterns are reviewed and edited by two of my most persnickety quilting friends, Connie (in suburban Chicago) and Leslie ( who moved to NJ from Texas about the same time we moved here.)  After they are done with their red pencils, I even give it to my husband.  A mechanical engineer by degree and a quilter by proximity,  he has learned enough about quilting techniques that he can intelligently read through a pattern and pick out errors and parts that need further clarification.    Of course, we’re all still human, so if there still is a mistake or question in there, I’m more than happy to get an e-mail or phone call to offer clarification!

Having just written that last paragraph, I realized something I really hadn’t thought about before.  All four of us have degrees in science!  Connie, in chemistry, Leslie, in geology, and Greg and I, in engineering.  At a minimum, we all approach things from a very analytical and methodical way!  I gotta believe that’s worth something when you’re writing instructions for other people to follow!

The Free Shipping Sale is still on, so visit the website  www.HelleMayDesigns.com and place your order!


A bit of catching up to do!

I wrote this early last week and didn’t realize I hadn’t actually published it!   So now I’m even farther behind! 

I’ve had at least one complaint that the blog has been dry for too long.  September was a very busy month!  Between getting the boys back into their school and after school activity routines (yet they haven’t had a full week yet due to school holidays and one stomach virus) and finishing Driftwood, there was very little spare time.  So where to begin?

I’ll start with Driftwood.  The top came together nearly perfectly and I was very pleased.  The colors are outside of my normal comfort range (I’m not a blue person) and of course I was worried.  The block looks far more complicated than it is to make.    I think it would make for a good class.  Anyone interested?  But I have to admit I like it and may even have a good spot to hang it when it comes home. 

The quilting was another story.  I quilt all of my quilts on my Janome 6600.  Its only advantage over a regular domestic machine is that it has a slightly longer arm and therefore a little more space under the machine.  Unlike with the piecing, which is usually completely planned out before I start, I can never quite plan out all of the quilting.  This almost always adds more time, since I often have to gave into an area more than once.  I came closer than ever before with a quilting plan for this quilt, partly due to the time constraints I was under. 

My preferred method of marking my quilt designs is usually to draw on Golden Threads paper, sew on the lines and then rip off the paper.  Due to the planned repetitive design and just not wanting to pull out more paper, I decided to mark directly onto the quilt.  This is always scary for me, since I’ve heard so many horror stories of marks not coming off.  Fortunately I found something that worked really well – a Bohn Extra Fine Linemechanical chalk pencil with white “lead.”  It’s not lead and it’s not powdery chalk.  Maybe compressed chalk combined with something?  Anyway, the markings sit on top of the fabric and easily erase away with a soft eraser.  It also probably helps that Batiks are very tightly woven cotton and I had pre-starched them all.  The leads also come in different colors.  Get one at your local quilt shop and give it a try.

Ask my husband about the roller coaster of emotions I went through during the week and a half of quilting this baby!  He’s decided that I’m really a temperamental artist and not a frustrated engineer – but I think it’s probably more of a combination.  Let’s just say that it doesn’t make for good times!  I was very happy when it was all done, both because I think the quilting came out well, and more importantly because I was done!  I probably spent about 60 hours marking and quilting.  It is the most heavily quilted quilt I have made. 

The biggest challenge, however, was the batting!  Never again will I use that brand!  I will not bad mouth it here, but if you’re curious drop me a note and I’ll tell you!  hm@hellemaydesigns.comMy favorite brand, Hobb’s Heirloom 80/20, was out of stock and so I chose another national brand that said it was 80/20 with a very soft hand.  Since I knew I was going to be quilting heavily, I thought a soft hand would be a good feature.  It has a soft hand alright, but let’s just say the bearding and the pilling was enough to drive me crazy!  The brown was coated with a fine white film, and the thread was also coated with it.  Rarely broke my thread, so the tension was good, but I can just imagine what the inside of the machine looks like! I am also sure that it was moving between my layers, since I really had to struggle in parts. 

The only thing that kept me sane during the quilting process was that I discovered I could listen to Estonian radio on the internet!  I found a station from Tallinn that played everything from Classical symphonies to various jazz artists to Broadway showtunes to some modern rock.  All with commentary, interviews, and news in Estonian, of course.  It was fun to listen to and keft me focussed!

Anyway, it’s done and was shipped on Monday to California to the owner of Island Batik for display in their Fall Market booth.  I wish I could see it hanging in person, but I am saving my pennies and have decided that I will be better prepared to go to Spring Market next May.  Now, I’m trying to get the pattern done.  It will probably ready in about 2 weeks – just a little later than I had hoped.  I’m only human – please be patient with me!

I will admit to taking a day off in the midst of quilting to attend the Mancuso show in Pennsylvania.  (I really needed a break and a bit of inspiration – it worked!)  It is a new show.  Evidently they used to have one in Harrisburg.  This is its replacement I guess.  It was a great show.  Lots of quilts and lots of vendors.  (No sign of a recession there!)  I suspect they’ll have that one again.  It was located on the outskirts of Philadelphia, so it’s within a reasonable driving distance for a lot of people.

Looking ahead, after I pattern Driftwood, I have a quilt that’s already made (imagine that!) that I also hope to pattern before the end of the year.  I also have to paint the family room and make those valences that my husband said I should quilt!  With any luck I’ll get it all done before the holidays.


P.S.  See the website for a picture of Driftwood.  www.HelleMayDesigns.com

News from Helle-May Designs

I can’t believe it’s been almost exactly a year since I decided to launch into the world wide web!  I have truly learned a lot in the past year.  It’s been frustrating at times – me vs. the computer – but very satisfying when I either finally mastered a new software or figured out how to get that darn photo to look right on the screen!  To honor the anniversary, I am having a Free Shipping sale for the next two months. (and no, I haven’t increased prices!)   

It’ll be interesting to see what year two will bring!


P.S.  I just finished putting together the center of Driftwood.  I’ve put an updated picture on it’s page on the website.  Check it out!

Driftwood is coming along

Check out the website  www.HelleMayDesigns.com  for an updated picture in the Driftwood journey.  I have put together one block for preview.  The colors are playing nicely together.  A little re-engineering of the block and I was able to achieve a set-in seam look without the set-in seams!  A little trick up my sleeve that I’ll explain in the pattern.  Happily, I’m still on track to get it done on time (quilt and pattern by the end of September.)

When I’m not sewing, I’m trying to pick a paint color to paint the family room (my project after the quilt is done.)  I don’t understand why I can put fabrics together with relative ease, but agonize over paint color!    I finally found a fabric that I  fell in love with to make upholstered cornices and drapery panels from JCPenney’s, but finding a complimentary paint color is killing me!  You know it’s bad when you walk into the paint store and the guys go – “You’re back again?!”  Right now my walls are a patchwork of those $5 paint can samples.  

Then I realized I would have to piece the cornice fabric to make the length I needed.  It is a paisley print and will have to be matched.  I was fretting over the seams showing, when my husband casually remarked, “Why don’t you just quilt over it?  That’s what you do when you don’t want your quilt block seams to show.”  I shot him one of those “Are you crazy?!!” looks and then I started thinking, he may be onto something!  Since I have to put batting behind the fabric anyway, why not quilt around the large motifs to give it some dimension before stretching it over the board.  Has anyone done that or seen that done?  So even when I’m taking a break from quilting – I might be quilting!


Decisions, decisions…

Some have asked why I don’t post a sketch of a new quilt design that I’m working on.  Here’s the reason why:  Even after I think I’m done with the design, having played around with countless versions on EQ6, things still end up changing before I’m done with the actual quilt.  It’s one thing to look at a design on the screen or even on paper.  It’s quite another when you’re actually working on the real thing in actual size. 

Case in point, my new Driftwood quilt.  For the last few days, I have been working on my “practice” block using my own fabrics to make sure all my dimensions are correct and to work out the pressing directions.  I kept looking at that block on the design wall and something just wasn’t quite right.  Couldn’t put my finger on it until tonight when I realized that my color placement just wasn’t working.  I still love all of the fabrics I selected for the quilt, just not in the same places as I had originally thought.  Fortunately, the yardages work out and I have enough for the changes.

Even before I realized there was an issue with the block, I realized I had to change the border, too.  Originally, I had just a plain border.  I don’t like plain borders!  Something had to be done!  So now, the border will be pieced in a design I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.  Here’s my opportunity!

I will say that Driftwood is loosely inspired by my Paradise Squared quilt.  A number of my friends have asked me to pattern this quilt (see the Quilt Gallery tab on my website www.HelleMayDesigns.com), but I can’t even imagine where I would start. 

The quilt was designed for my first guild challenge.  The requirements were that it couldn’t be square, it had to have a flower, and there had to be some orange fabric.  First thing that came to my mind was the Bird of Paradise flower.  Then somehow I decided I wanted to base the quilt on the Card Trick block. 

I went to the library and photocopied a picture of the flower.  Then I set about simplifying the photo into a drawing and then a paper-peiced pattern.    The whole quilt, including the borders, was paper-pieced from hand-drawn freezer paper foundations.  It took me 3 months to complete the design.  I think each flower was done in at least 4 sections.  The black stamen were machine appliqued on top.  When I finally went to sew it all together, I realized I had also created a pattern requiring multiple inset seams – AHHH!!!  Somehow it all came together in the end and it is still my favorite quilt.  Aside from a few practice blocks this was my first paper-pieced project!

So for now, I hope those who like Paradise Squared will settle for Driftwood!