Thursday, May 23, 2013

baby quilt for Joel

My nephew and his wife are the proud parents of a new baby boy, Joel, born on May 12 - Mother's Day! I've had the quilt top for this new little guy done for a couple of months and just this week started quilting it.

The day after he was born I got busy pinning it. Just a bit of a teaser here to give you an idea of the color scheme without giving away too much...

And here are some detail shots of the quilting I've done so far. My favorite part - the sun!

Some spirals...


Pebbles in the stream...

And a little bit bigger teaser...

Except for the spirals, I've not quilted any of these patterns before. I used Angela Walters' book Free Motion Quilting with Angela Walters for both inspiration and how-to help. Her instructions are diagrammed so clearly that I just jumped right in and tried some new things! You can find it online here.

So far I have three of the six main sections quilted - halfway there! My goal is to finish the quilting this weekend, binding next week, then off in the mail it goes to baby Joel's house :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

quilting decisions

My long term piecing project - The Tree of Life quilt top - has been sent off for some heavy-duty custom quilting. I dropped it off last week with my long-arm quilter, Carol. The top is about 83" square, so I wasn't about to tackle that by myself!

I knew that I wanted some dense custom quilting rather than an all-over background pattern. Carol suggested I choose a wool batting (which I have never used before) to make the quilting really stand out. I'll confess that while making this quilt, I decided that when it was finished I would enter it into a judged show - something I've never done before. Maybe the upcoming September show in Madison, WI will be the one. Wool batting is supposed to spring back from being folded better than cotton batting and also hang better, so wool it is.

Several quilting designs were churning around in my head, so I tried some out on graph paper (love that stuff!) to see what I really liked best. First I drew a grid of most of the entire top of the quilt to figure out the scale of blocks vs. sashing vs. borders. On this go-around I sketched out my top ideas for sashing quilting...

Then I made a larger diagram of a single tree block to see what filler patterns looked good in the backgrounds...

It seemed that adding a little color to the diagrams would help with choosing thread colors, and by this point I had also wised up to the fact that if I made copies of the diagram I wouldn't have to keep drawing them over and over to avoid erasing. Duh.

Design decisions for the tree blocks were made pretty quickly, but the border decision took much longer. I am not a fan of "feathers" in quilting designs. I know lots of people think they are beautiful and flowing and organic, but to me they just look like (and forgive me if this ruins your love of feather quilting) intestines. I know, gross, right? But that's what immediately comes to my mind every time I see them! So here I am doodling away trying to find something that is appropriately scaled and dense enough to stand up to the block quilting designs I've chosen and not be stuck with feathers. Leaves? Nope - not dense enough. Spirals? Nope - scale is all wrong...

And here is my attempt at a variation of feathers that includes swirls (you know I love swirls!) but this one just looks like intestines drawn by Dr. Seuss. Definitely not the right theme...

I ended up choosing a pattern from Carol's library of border designs that incorporates a little bit of leaf with some swirl action too. Whoops - I should have drawn it before leaving her house so I could show you here!

Carol will be using many colors of thread - magenta, turquoise, sea green, gray, purple, yellow, and a blue green to add lots of dimension to my already colorful quilt top. It won't be ready until early July, and already I can't wait to see it!

I pulled all of the sketched quilting designs from three different books, all great references to have in your quilt book library:

Beginner's Guide to Free-Motion Quilting by Natalia Bonner
Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters by Angela Walters and
In the Studio with Angela Walters by Angela Walters

And lastly, a funny story about this quilt that should have a photo accompaniment, but doesn't... I purchased a couple of different border fabrics that I really liked (at the time) about 2.5 years ago when I first had this tree quilt idea. But now they seem kind of ridiculous (and on the verge of [gasp!] ugly) so I pieced them into the backing. Said backing was hanging over my upstairs railing a couple of weeks ago when my husband spied it and (pointing to the ridiculous fabrics) said to me, "Did you buy that fabric? I mean, did you pay money for it?" Hilarious!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

border challenge 3

My Border Challenge class meets again this week, and I am ready!

For the third round, our design element assignment was a four-patch block. Ugh. The second border I had added felt square-ish enough already, so I decided to include only a few four-patch blocks (tiny ones at that!) and to set them on point. My color requirement - determined by drawing a crayon - was blue green. Hey - I can work with that! In fact I already have in both the first and second borders.

The most challenging part of the assignment was this ugly fabric... Yes, it had to be included somewhere in the border. I've heard that no fabric is ugly if you cut it up small enough, so that's what I did. The squares in my four-patch units are 1" finished! Now look back at the first photo... Doesn't seem quite so ugly, does it?

I went with a relatively simple border this time. While I love the top so far, it was feeling just on the edge of being too busy and a bunch of four-patch blocks all around would have tipped it right over that edge. But I think the 3" of blue green and 1" of burgundy all around stop the "busy-ness" and ground everything in the center. Which means now I can go crazy on the next border! We have two more challenges until the class ends, and I'm hoping for triangles and applique to be our remaining design element assignments. We'll see what happens on Wednesday!

Can you see the strips of Kite Tails in Emerald on the top and bottom between borders #2 and #3? I had some strips left over from the back of my Twinkle quilt, and the colors seemed to be perfect, so used them to elongate the quilt into a rectangle. And it really is straight along the bottom. I think I was a little too heavy-handed when smoothing it out over the design wall, stretching it out a bit too far on the right bottom.

Current size is 48" x 55".

The blue-green border fabric is Carolina Chambray from Kaufman in Marine. I purchased this fabric at an LQS - Sew Generously - but can't find it in that color online to provide a link for you. It's like a shot cotton with two different thread colors for the warp and weft, but a little heftier in weight and body. Very nice.

The ugly fabric is... hmmm. How can I say this politely? It's not the ugliest fabric I've seen, but I won't be searching for more of it ;)

Three borders down, two to go!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

improv piecing challenge

Last Sunday the newly formed Crystal Lake Modern Quilt Guild held our first workshop - Introduction to Improvisational Piecing. We had a turnout of about 20 ladies eager to get some hands-on practice with modern quilting techniques!

Paige (our President) led the workshop, and her goal was to help everyone feel more comfortable with forgetting the "rules" and just placing colors and shapes together by instinct. We focused on a simple "log cabin" type of block. Some of the ladies were very uncomfortable without a set of directions, but they all stuck with it and each made at least one block.

I'll be the first to admit it - this kind of quilting is not something I love. I struggle with chopping up fabric into random sizes, sewing it back together in random ways, and then lopping off bits of the block as I go. It's the randomness of the whole process, but it's good for me so I soldiered on and actually had a great time. It helped that for this workshop I used a bunch of scraps that were already chopped up. In fact, I brought along my entire basket of strip scraps (except for those favorites that are tucked away and destined for a scrappy-trip-along quilt) and let everyone have at it!

Here's a look at the three blocks I completed...

As a follow-up to the workshop, the guild is challenging all the participants to finish their blocks into some type of completed project. I'm thinking baby quilt for mine with lots of negative space.

I was going to "square up" each block but then on Monday I decided to emphasize the odd angles with a uniform 1" strip of Kona White around each one followed by a 1/2" border of the black and white stripe. My first block from the workshop... As you can see I still managed to end up with two right angles. Darn - I tried so hard to avoid that!

Block 2 - I think it looks like a house. Getting better at avoiding the dreaded right angle...

Block 3 - and we're back to the right angles!

I quite like this view of them all stacked together, and I think this is how I will place them in the baby quilt with lots of negative white space on the left side. It will be the perfect chance to practice some new free-motion quilting designs. Which will also be "good for me".

Paige was an excellent advisor and "cheerleader" when people began to get frustrated with the process. She has wonderful color sense and endless patience - a great combination when dealing with a room full of ladies trying something new. It turns out that stretching yourself in an unfamiliar direction is great creative fuel. And bonus - I didn't have to bring home any scraps!! Thanks Paige!

Our challenge projects aren't due until July, so I'm putting these blocks away for a bit in order to finish a different quilt for our nephew's first baby - a boy! Maybe I'll show you a peek at that quilt next time.

Until then, thanks for stopping by and reading :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

one down, three to go

Update: The Applique Project of the Decade

First border done! This project is taking me so long it feels like a big banner headline and shouts of "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" are appropriate to announce progress - haha!

I'm actually a bit ahead of schedule here since this border has taken me less than a year to finish ;-) I posted about finishing the center panel here on May 29, 2012. So if I keep up this pace I could be finished in 2017 - allowing one year for each of the three remaining borders, and one year to piece it together and send it out for quilting. (You can hear my sarcasm, can't you?) The great news is that I still love it and plan to keep going...

Obviously I'm not working on this project daily - I am a slow hand-sewer, but not that slow. I pick it up every now and then when the mood strikes and there is no other hand-sewing needing to be done. Sometimes I take it to group sewing get-togethers so I don't have to haul a machine around.

This bottom border is all Kaffe fabrics. To make the center wavy line easier to applique, I made bias-cut tubes of fabric that finished at 3/8" wide. A little washable tacky glue held them in place while I sewed to prevent stretching.

The two side borders will consist of lots of swirly branches much like those found in the center panel, with a few leaves and flowers tossed in. The top border is supposed to say "Live well and be happy", and while I completely agree with that philosophy I don't want it appliqued on my quilt. I'm considering some other phrases, but I've got a couple of years left before I need to commit!

You can find the pattern in this book from Piece O'Cake Designs if you find yourself in need of a long-term hand-sewing project commitment.

Happy stitching!


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