25 April 2011

A baby quilt

I had decided that I didn't have time to make a baby quilt in time for Bill & Sharon's baby shower. I already had a large stack of works-in-progress, and the thought of starting something new was a bit overwhelming.

But then I needed a green patchwork circle for another quilt back. My plan was to sew strips together, slice the new piece, rearrange, sew & repeat to get the desired block effect, then trim into a circle. And it occurred to me that if I was going to make a 15" block and discard the trimmings after cutting the circle, I might as well make a four-foot rectangle and use the extra for the baby quilt. Easy, right?
Well, I guess it did end up taking some extra time, but it definitely made it easier to fit in my brain. And the blanket turned out great. I especially love how the quilting arcs meet in the pieced orange and blue window.

I finished the binding with the machine, and it went much more smoothly than my last try. I managed to attach the label at the very last minute, just in time for the shower. The party was lovely, the expectant parents delightful, and we can't wait to meet the new baby.

13 April 2011

Seeing water

I made this quilt for the second Project Modern quilting challenge organized by the Modern Quilt Guild and judged by the talented and inspiring Malka Dubrawsky. The theme was "Monochrome," and the constraints were left largely to the interpretation of individual designers. The guild just announce the winners.

I was inspired by water. I love how the color changes depending on time of day, angle of the sun, weather, and the surrounding environment. The play between transparency and reflection can be mesmerizing. The color ranges from white to black, green to blue. I love how, at any given moment, the same tiny patch of water can shimmer with the brightest reflection of the sun, glow with the pure blue of the water and the sky, and capture the deepest shadow on the dark side of a ripple. 

I explored two water motifs in the layout: wave and bubble. The monochrome palette ranges from light to middle blue, with some wiggle into green-blue and grey-blue typical of the ocean in my area. Early in the design process I settled on using mostly prints because they better capture the ever-changing nature of the surface of water. I organized fabrics into five groups by value, lightest to darkest, then created the half-square-triangle zig-zag wave pattern using the darkest four groups. 

The bubbles are drawn from the lightest four value groups and constructed in a contrasting square pattern. I considered several layouts with the circles placed randomly in various sizes, but in the end preferred the abstract column. I pieced the bubbles into the wave background, and the resulting circular half-square-triangle scraps found a home on the back of the quilt in a single vertical chain sashed in sky blue on a solid turquoise background.
In the quilting I played with the direction and reflection of light. The quilting lines echo the triangle seams in one direction over the entire quilt, with perpendicular quilting intersecting and reflecting at the large bubbles. The finished quilt measures 64" x 73".

12 April 2011

Hero emerges

I've made up another new name. I'm calling this series of quilts I'm working on stencil quilts. My process involves drawing a stencil shape (think of spray painting a shape through a paper cutout), layering two contrasting quilt tops together, sewing the the layers together along the stencil outlines, then cutting the top layer to reveal the bottom layer within the stencil, with a raw-edged applique finish.

I used this technique before on my Marquis quilt back using white and natural muslin. Now I'm doing it on a larger scale using pieced foreground and background layers. To sew the layers together I draw the design on thin tracing paper (available on rolls at art supply stores), then baste the layers together. From the bottom layer:
  1. Neutral/background layer, right side down
  2. Contrast/stencil layer, right side down
  3. Tracing paper
Here I've also inserted a layer of muslin between the neutral and pink layers because the pink was showing through the top. It's hard to see in the photo, but even with a generous margin of pink all around the drawing (or so I thought), the lines just barely fit in a couple places -- notably the tail and front hoof. I pin-basted the layers together, then free-motion stitched around the drawing.

Next I peeled off the paper (still more peeling to do) and trimmed around the outer stitches.

I sewed the layers upside down for two reasons. First, it's much easier to align the tracing-paper drawing with the pink fabric when they are directly next to each other. For that matter, it was also easier to align the seams on the neutral and pink layers -- though the scale and geometry of the two piecing patters is completely different, they both have strong horizontal elements and I didn't want the triangle rows askew. Second, no matter how hard I try to peel every last bit of paper, some tiny bits inevitably get caught in the stencil seams. I've gone back and forth on how diligent I have to be on paper removal, but it's nice to know I don't have to worry about the tiniest scraps.

And now for the scary part: flipping it over and cutting through the top layer (see first picture above)! I left about and eighth of an inch raw edge around the seams. When washed the edge with fray and curl back to reveal more pink beneath, especially in the narrow strips along the tail, mane and horn.

When it comes time to quilt the finished blanket I'll start by free-motion quilting along the stencil lines again, this time through the batting and backing as well. Then maybe concentric echo lines around the whole beast for an effect like this, though not so closely spaced.

11 April 2011

Two backs

This weekend I finished two quilt backs. I find piecing backs to be very liberating. I usually approach quilt tops by planning every detail first, even before I think of specific fabrics. It's on the backs that I start sewing with only a broad idea of the finished project and see where my hands take me. Although both of these tops finished with a precise look and geometry, I planned only one step at a time. For both I started by piecing scraps from the respective quilt tops, cutting and recutting as I pieced, then forming the whole around those upcycled blocks. The first is for Hero, the unicorn.

I patched together triangle trimmings from the quilt top and pieced them into a single 12-inch circle.

The back is Kaufman Kona Crush in Ivory. It has a wonderful crinkled texture that feels and looks great. It doesn't seem like it's very widely carried, but my local quilt shop sells it in several colors. I had better luck working with the Crush fabric when I pinned liberally. The crinkled texture results in easy stretching, especially working with these long blocks of it. (I really don't like pinning, but I find I hate ripping seams even more.) The sashing is Kona solid Ivory, and continues the tone-on-tone theme from the quilt top.

The other back is for Hero's arch enemy. I know we're not supposed to keep secrets here, but I've been working on Hero and his nemesis at the same time. I think maybe there was just so much yin in all those magical cream pinwheels and pink unicorns that I needed to stir up some yang to keep the project going. The bad boy is orange in a field of blue, and I'll have photos soon. Anyway, the quilt back uses trimmings and scraps from the quilt top as well.
Although it ended up being quite a bit more involved than I originally bargained for, I'm happy with the result. Here the solids are Kona Royal and Orange, and Kaufman Carolina Chambray in Pacific

06 April 2011

The unicorn's progress

It doesn't seem like much of a unicorn yet.

But you will just have to trust me that there is tremendous unicorn potential.

Oh, and I have started calling him "Hero."