Monday, May 23, 2016

Handwork Hextactular!

I don't know what happened to me, I used to be all machine everything, and then I inadvertantly learned English Paper Piecing, made a pincushion or two (or three), and then, the rest was history.

Last month, I took the kids to my parents for Spring Break (well, they had spring break, I just had to take time off work), but before I left, I cut up two charm packs into 2.5" squares, the two charm packs from Vanessa Christenson's lines Simply Colorful I and II, which by now look like this (well, this is just half of them, plus some interlopers from Simply Style (and one more print is from some other line of hers?) because I needed more navy, purple and teal):

And I also picked up Sarah Fielke's newest book from Pink Castle Fabrics, Old Quilts, New Life. And while I meant to savor it over the week, I pretty much read it in two days, it's so delicious.
And we got a book from the library about the local quilt history (local to my parents, that is), and it's got all these needle-turn applique album quilts, and I was all, wow, I need to get into that, so when I got home I ordered some books on applique. And I started on a Whig Rose block using a pattern from a 1970s McCall's Quilting book, which is apparently a faithful tracing of a 1860's quilt, though I of course decided their center flower was too fussy, so I am going my own way there, uh, eventually.

It's a bit wrinkled from falling to the bottom of my bag.

Well, this project has been a bit abandoned of late! Our local modern quilt guild is having a food themed mini quilt challenge this month, so after I finished my leaves, I started on that. It's needle-turn applique, too, of course.

First, I played around with paper to decide on placement. I was very inspired by Maja Moden's fruit work. (I came across her (?) by googling "modern strawberry.")

But these were all too busy and sweet, so I took it back a few thousand fold, and went with 5 fold symmetry (sort of?) to suggest the strawberry flower, and ended up with this.

Hand appliqued, machine quilted.
I had a discussion with my friend about how to keep strawberries from being to sweet, and one idea was to use nontraditional colors, and once that was mentioned, I was all, I like navy! and I like the interaction of navy and white with navy and white to blur the edges of the elements, and to that end, I used navy thread to quilt it, too. I rounded the edges to rid myself of some of the echo quilting that went to far. Privately, I call it "Heavy Metal Strawberry," but that may not be the best name for the show so I entered it in as "Untitled."

But since that one is finished, I've returned to my V and Co hexagons! I am trying to make a bag, but I am struggling to get enough for the large size. I started doing 2 of each design, now I'm doing 3! And some solid green to fill in the rest. I mean, eventually.

And then yesterday, I took Cathy Miller's Hexagons: State of the Art class, which was amazing. And her quilts! We learned many, many ways of making hexagons. And even with the techniques I thought I knew, I learned so much, and really better techniques then I had learned that first time.

Look, Ma, no visible stitches!

She gave us some of these funky plastic templates in our class kit, they're called Quilt Patis, and they are apparently indestructible (though you can't iron them, I asked!), so they can be reused forever (unlike paper pieces), and they are flexible. You use the hole to pin the fabric in place while you baste, and once it's sewn up, you pull the template out by inserting a chopstick in the hole.

And then we did glue basting with paper templates, and seriously, this is the first time it made sense, because when I tried it before, I was apparently doing it wrong?

And talked about fussy cutting! She gave us each one fat quarter of complex fabric, and then we tried to cut 24 elongated hexagons for Lucy Boston blocks. I didn't manage them quite symmetrically, not with a fat quarter, so some are mirror images.

And now I have another thing to sew up!

But! Another thing Cathy pointed us to was Marti Michell's Magic Mirror to help with fussy cutting for symmetric designs, which I'd been wanting for my applique forays anyway, but could not find in google searches without a proper name. So I have ordered one of those, while I sit on my hands to order every other thing related to hexagons that she suggested. Which was many, many things. It was very comprehensive; I have only mentioned 2 of the 5+ techniques we talked about here!

The idea I was most excited to hear about is the pieced fabric hexagon (kind of kin to fussy cutting, except you make your own fabric), from Mickey Depre. And one day, when I am done all this handwork, I will buy her books and jump in!

Monday, May 16, 2016

On the Next Quilt

Recently, I took advantage of a book and pattern sale at Pink Castle Fabrics to pick up Mary Fons's new book "Make + Love Quilts" which I quickly devoured. The patterns are cool, and its full of interesting thoughts on the quilt making process, such as why we should make larger quilts, why accuracy matters (which is a little startling, as I've been pretending it doesn't) and what fabrics work together, and all sorts of things I haven't really been thinking about, but I am now.

But the thing I thought most awesome in the introduction is her little sidebar about Rogue Blocks, blocks where the fabric is different, or the style has shifted, or what have you, for whatever reason (we ran out of a particular fabric! we ran out of patience with a fussy pieced block!) because it sets my heart at ease about some issues I've been having with what I call "The Next Quilt".

It started out as just the next quilt, the one after the one I was working on, then when I started it I couldn't think of a name for it, so I just continued to call it "The Next Quilt", and perhaps it will remain that. I also call it the split snowball, which isn't so catchy, and in reality, it's a bow tie quilt.

See? It's totally a bow tie quilt.
But my thinking was, I want to make a scrappy snowball quilt, where the blocks that make up the corner units of the snowball are solid (and not 4 triangles pieced as if they were solids) and each snowball would be made from 4 fabrics) and once I made up templates, I was like, oh, it's a bow tie. (I'm linking to these 12" blocks, but mine are 7" square, because that's what works for a 2" center square, and 2.5" for the outer bits, with some trimming, because I'm all about using my die cutter for the initial cuts at least.)

Currently on the design wall

So, I made this plan for a twin sized quilt, decided that yellow wouldn't work (not enough contrast!) and went to orange, and divided it up into groups based on how light or dark they read (they're all orange prints), and cut up a lot of 2.5" squares and divided them into boxes (each one numbered). Then I consult the chart, and use fabric from the appropriate box to make the block, consulting my design wall to be sure I'm not repeating fabrics too close to each other.

And the first couple of blocks went great! And then I got the new Mendocino, and had to add all the orange prints in, including the brown seahorses on the orange background, which was a bridge too far, and stuck out oddly (it's too dull for all these bright oranges), so I pulled all the squares I cut from the box, but I didn't want to rip it out the only one I sewed in right away. So I left it, to do later. And as the quilt grew around it, it became less of an annoyance and more of an interesting feature, and then I didn't question whether it should stay. (It's not in the picture, because it's in a part that had to be packed up to make room. Sadly, the design wall is quite small!)

That was only the first sign of trouble! As I headed to the middle, I found one print I'd categorized as a medium orange was really reading as a light orange, and I moved them from box 3 into box 2 (at least one of these is in the picture above, once as a 3 and once as a 2), and a few days later, I moved another fabric as well, then I was thinking, well, should I go back and fix the first part of the quilt to reflect the new reality?

The first part, which currently resides in a drawer.
But now I feel like I don't have to. Rogue blocks! Blocks made before I refined the categories! Blocks where I tried out a fabric, and then said, well, maybe not... These little hiccups tell the story of this quilt, the story of a person learning how to see prints not as stripes and flowers but as tones of a single color. And maybe the design will be fuzzy in the left hand corner and crystal clear in the bottom right, but that's also awesome. It will still look impressive. And I will still like it at the end, which I probably would not if I made myself dig through and redo all those affected blocks.

Which is not to say I never ripped out any mistakes! There were some egregious piecing issues that I did take apart and set straight. But sometimes, you just gotta let the little things slide a bit to get through the day, right?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Antique Tile, 2.0

So, this has been kicking around for months for no good reason, except I am finding it hard to find the time to sit down at the computer, but, anyway, it's done.

I released a quilting pattern into the wild!  It's free on Craftsy, and you can download it here. It was inspired by some clever piecing from Lori Holt's book Quilty Fun, which is really all about clever piecing, and if you don't have it, you should buy it. After that I was all, whoa, about it, then thought, couldn't that be expanded... to something like Antique Tile! And it works with charm packs to make 12" finished blocks.

You guys know I love Antique Tile. I've only made... (I don't even know) a half dozen (?) projects with it. It's simple and versatile and looks awesome.

I was hashing this process out at last year's Ann Arbor MQG retreat, so now that it's been almost a year, I should get this done. Especially since my example quilts and my pattern tester's blocks were all finished months and months ago! And thank you to all my testers! Your advice was really helpful!

This is a couch quilt, it used 4 charm packs (I started with two and quickly realized my error, and had to order two more!) It's 5 feet square, counting a 6" border. The line is Barcelona by Zen Chic!

Each block takes 9 charms, most charm packs have 42 charms, so, for every 4 blocks you want to make, you need one more charm pack.

This is a table runner I made using Tula Pink Saltwater fabrics and a solid with this method. It took only a little bit more thinking to get the blocks so the sea horses were still right side up. The quilting is a Leah Day design, Matrix, though her's is lovely and neat and mine is comparatively messy. But it gives a good oceany texture.

The last thing I made with this pattern is a crib quilt, 3'x4' and this was donated to charity. The quilting is an all over leaf design a la Angela Walter's first book. It uses Chirp Chirp by MoMo, whom I love, but I'm not sure I love this line, many of the fabrics are really cute, but I think visually, there is some problem in this quilt, I hardly know what I am looking at and I made it, but hopefully, someone will love it!

The pattern I wrote includes illustrated instructions, a coloring sheet, a table about the different projects you can make, and a separate page of instructions about making a two color antique tile quilt, and more about that in another post.

Anyway, please, download the pattern (and it's free, so why not?) and tell me what you think!

Monday, November 30, 2015

that magenta and lime green quilt

Well, it's the last day for QuiltCon submissions, and I hope you all have submitted some yourselves! I'll show you the ones I've submitted over the next few weeks, I put in 6! Not that they are all great, but because I had four fairly strong ones, and two I thought, well, why not? After all, because you submit in batches of 3, it doesn't cost any more to submit 6, once you've decided to go for 4.

Last week, I showed Fugitive Flower, my 300+ color quilt.

Today let me show you, uh, "Complicated Drunkard's Dots" Frankly, not actually a fan of that title. I've given it many, but none seem that great. This is a long shot to get in the show, I think.

But I like it! It's a combination of one of my favorite quilts from way back, and this tutorial I put up on my blog, called Complicated when Drunk, about doing piecing inside Drunkard's Path subunits.
And actually, this quilt is kind of an accident. Or is it a design challenge? I had a lot of lime green 2.5" squares for a quilt which grew out of that tutorial; when I had that top pieced, I realized that I had cut many more lime green squares than I needed, so then, I ended up making two baby sized quilts in addition, just using up those lime green squares. I'm quilting the other one now.

I'm not sure now how I hit on the red-violet and lime green combo, but I love it! It really seems to sparkle. And unlike the first quilt, there are no partial seams, so yay!

I used some nice lime green thread in large swirls to quilt it. The back is lime green, too. And the binding is a Carolyn Friedlander crosshatch. It's washed up and wonderfully soft.

It's interesting to look at, but I'm not sure it has that super strong graphic statement. I'm not sure that this is the best placement for 9 circles in a background of a particular size. I like everything about this quilt, how the busy patterns fade out with the high contrast between the two colors, and I'd be pleased to see it at QuiltCon, but if it doesn't get in that's cool, it will be going to the local Children's Hospital, where it will hopefully find someone to love it. And if it does get it, when it comes home it will still go to the Children's Hospital just the same, because that's what I always meant for it.

And I want to continue playing with the layout of this quilt. One day I will get it just right!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fugitive Flower, Finally

Portrait of the artist with the quilt.

It's funny, that when I looked back at my blog to see what I had posted about this project, it's just two posts. One post announcing that I was going to attempt it (and showing the materials), and one catchall post, where I showed some progress. And then it dropped out of sight.

I did some swaps, I went to Quiltcon, I was working on a few other things (including another large project I started like a week afterwards!) and paper piecing is... not my favorite thing.

Not that it's awful! It takes a lot of dedicated space and concentration, its own peculiar tools, and it's not the most portable project, especially, when everything has to be just so. That is, labeled, in order, organized. When you have an 8 page book of fabric names to look up everything in to be sure it's going in in the right order...

Did I forget to mention the vast organization effort that buttresses this quilt? It's a Kona 303 quilt, so it uses every one of the colors (and non-colors) Robert Kaufman puts out under the Kona name. It took 8 charm packs (Bright, Classic, Dark, Dusty, Neutral, Pastel, Summer 2013 and New Colors 2014) and that comes to 302 (I checked, manually, every color in the charm packs, to be sure they were all there; this is another quilt which owes its existence to time spent in bed sick, when I could devote an afternoon or two to such a silly undertaking). The last color is kona PFD, which I luckily already possessed, as I once spent much of my free time dyeing fabric.

Every fabric had to be labeled (every label had to be created). All duplicates were marked so that one could tell they were duplicates (see above). Then all the fabrics were sorted into piles by color (duplicates were put to the side).

Anyway, I'd sorted the fabric into 10 groups of 8 petals, each composed of 3 charm squares for the petals. Whatever was left was added to the duplicates to create the background (though duplicates only stepped in once the originals were exhausted to be sure every color was in the quilt). Notes were taken on all this work, so that if things were disarranged, or I took 8 months off from the project, they could be reconstructed.

the background with no foreground
Once that's set up, it's just the great slog of paper piecing petals... Once the petals were done, it was time to figure of the best layout. For this, I had to use my dining room table, and I threw up my hands once, and walked out, and then came back and made it work. There are some compromises in color progression that I'm not super proud of, but... you have to work with the blocks you have, right?

The foreground with no background
 Then on to choosing stems. The colors of the stems are all duplicates, coming from scraps of what was left from piecing petals. Seeing as this is a quilt all about color, I did rainbow, but I decided (after I took the picture, I guess, to put purple at the top, so it's an upside down rainbow in the quilt).

This, too, was dutifully recorded. Each label was annotated with the corresponding grid number of the block it would be joined into. (And the background, and the petals).

Then blocks could be finished. And subunits assembled. And those joined into rows. And rows into a quilt.

I quilted it all over with a light blue thread, using a paisley motif. (It has a nice Kate Spain backing, but I may never have photographed it!).

 Bound in Kona Lavender (coordinates with the backing) and done!

It's about... 32" x 40" tall. Would I do it again? Maybe. The seams pile up in  a way that makes them impossible to quilt, though, so I would hesitate. (Also, assembly? I broke at least 5 needles on this thing, guys). I also don't think it's the most elegant solution the the 303 puzzle. And... frankly, from a replicating the original standpoint, it's just not enough colors. As for releasing a pattern, well, I'm not sure about that either. Having made one myself, I'm not sure I want to inflict that torment on other people...