22 December 2012

Traveling Quilts Bee for John

It waited patiently for several weeks, but I've finally added my bit to John's quilt-in-progress for the Traveling Quilts round robin.

John began the quilt with the field of equilateral triangles on the left side. Alissa made the large triangle. Elizabeth set the first two blocks in stripes and a few triangles. Amber contributed the diamonds at the bottom, Heather the star, and Monica the bottom setting and the jet at the top.

I couldn't resist the triangle theme, and added a column of flying geese on the right.

The geese are and assortment of 1"x2", 2"x4", and 3"x6" pieces. For the smaller to sizes I used the four-from-one method on this Connecting Threads tutorial page. I love that the method requires no trimming and leaves no waste. For the large geese I used the square-on-rectangle method on the same page, which does require trimming.

I followed Stephanie's suggestion and used the trimmings to create half-square triangle pieces. On my last post she commented:
I like the square-on-a-rectangle method, because a second seam 1/2" away from the first delivers a bonus HST unit from each side of the goose(which end up in a baggie in a bin, for "someday").
I used these bonus units at the top and bottom of the column. I like how they give the feeling of flying in and out of the column.

Now I'll send it off the Penny. I can't wait to see what she does with it.

In other sewing news, I made a bag as a last minute holiday gift for Munchkin's grade 5 teacher. I used the Two Zip Hipster pattern by Erin Erickson. The tutorial was easy to follow and the bag feels solid and elegant. Here's the photo I took the other night at 2am when I finished the bag:

My machine had a bit of trouble top-stitching the thickest parts of the top edge of the bag. Both the exterior and lining fabrics I used were heavier than quilting weight, and I think I had an extra layer of interfacing in there, too. Next time I'll be careful to reduce some of that bulk. I'll use this pattern again - maybe a slightly sized-up version for myself.

13 December 2012

Some quilts want to be noisy

I've started a new project with Thomas Knauer's upcoming Asbury line of prints from Andover Fabrics. Thomas says the designs are inspired by New Jersey beach resort Asbury Park.

I started the project with flying geese blocks, using all the prints with anything more than a hint of purple or plum. The background dots are the Marquee print from Thomas's Frippery collection, currently in stores.

I tried to capture a kind of funhouse energy, movement, and noise with the bold prints and kinetic background dots.

The patchwork measures about 66"x76". I meant to use the Quilt in a Day flying geese method and 5"x10" ruler, which produces four geese units from two squares of fabric. I feel like I followed the directions closely, but obviously I wasn't careful enough when I aligned and marked the fabric squares. At least a quarter of the geese came out too small when I went to align the ruler and trim the units. The below photo shows one such block, with a scant seam allowance visible in the lower left corner.

My first thought was to buy the 4"x8" ruler, but I didn't feel good about reducing the size of the quilt a full 20%. So I decided to make my own ruler for 4-3/4"x9-1/2" blocks. The plastic store cut a 5-1/4"x10" rectangle of 1/8-inch acrylic for less than $2. This only works because all the blocks are the same size, but I'm happy with how it's turned out.

I have to say I'm disappointed in the Quilt in a Day ruler, simply because the instructions seemed to indicate "eye balling" the fabric placement would be sufficient, when success actually requires precision. I'd love to hear your tips for success with their technique.

15 November 2012

Free and Precise

I finished piecing a new quilt top today.  The edges are a little raggedy. I plan to square it up after I quilt it, but for now it's about 80"x100".
I didn't have a plan at the start. I knew I wanted to do something with lavender diamonds. I started with the central star, piecing 2 1/2 inch strips.
Then I cut 2-1/2-inch diamond strips at a 60-degree angle. To address some waviness in the strip piecing, I aligned my ruler's 60-degree line with the center seam, and trued up the angle after every two diamond strips.
The colors are mostly pink and lavender. For punch I included some purple, magenta, blue and green.
I bordred the star with an improvised patchwork of dark blue solids highlighted with a pale green that picks up the green in the Tula Pink paisley and Kaffe Fassett water lily prints.
Next came a rotated hexagon in slightly lighter blues.
It's hard to see here, but there are at least a dozen blue solids in the first two borders. Some are very similar, but next to each other there is just enough contrast to create a sparkle effect, I hope. Then came two more rotated borders with another 10 solid shades, shown in the top photo.

The grain of the border solids was crucial in my vision of creating a sense of movement and rotation. For each facet in the second, third and fourth borders, the grain is perpendicular to the outer edge (the first border is a bit more complex).

As it happened my first try at the third border was a complete loss. I created a large piece of improvised patchwork fabric, then cut the facets, all of them, at the wrong angle. It cost me a full day of work, but worse two months passed before I could pick the project up again.

I did pick it up again last week and got the border right. I have to tell you it bugs me a little that there isn't greater contrast between the third and fourth border. Or maybe the contrast is too great between the second and third. I hope to be able to make some sense of it in the quilting.

28 October 2012

Hello Houston

Updated with a photo from the Andover booth.

This time every year there's a big quilt industry tradeshow and quilt festival in Houston. I didn't go, but two of my quilts are there.

Thomas Knauer brought my Hurle Burle Marx quilt to show off his Frippery fabric collection for Andover Fabrics. Here's an action shot of Thomas showing the quilt in a Friday "schoolhouse" session, tweeted by the Fat Quarter Shop team.
Photo Credit: Fat Quarter Shop
And here it is hanging in the Andover Fabrics booth.
Photo credit: Heather Grant
On the festival side, my Ripple quilt is included in The Modern Quilt Guild Showcase 2012, a juried collection of quilts made by members of the modern quilt guild. Alissa took this photo of the quilt hanging in Houston.
Photo credit: Alissa Haight Carlton
The Modern Quilt Guild has some more photos of the collection on Facebook.

Looking at the quilts side by side (or top and bottom) I realize both are riffs on the traditional drunkards path block, taken in very different directions.

There's a good chance I'll make it to Spring Quilt Market in Portland next May. It will be great to meet in real life so many of the people I interact with in the online quilting community. But for now, it's fun to have my quilts in the mix.

07 October 2012

Hurle Burle Marx Quilt

I've just finished a quilt using Thomas Knauer's new Frippery fabric collection for Andover fabrics. It's bright and a bit crazy.
The design of the quilt is inspired by the work of Brazilian landscape architect and artist Roberto Burle Marx. Burle Marx had a bold graphical style that is on display in private gardens and huge public spaces throughout Brazil and around the world, including the iconic paving design of the Copacabana Promenade in Rio de Janeiro.
Thomas had asked for an energetic modernism. Thomas's brief and the exuberant geometries of the fabric line made me think of modern tropical landscapes. (Confession: the list of things that make me think of modern tropical landscapes is long and varied.) And that led me back to Burle Marx. I love how his designs capture both a retro 50's space-age aesthetic and a 70's rainbow vibe.
The quilt is constructed in thirty 12" (finished) blocks, using squares and rectangles, and drunkard's path and point-to-point curve units in various sizes. The blue background uses an egg print in three Frippery color ways and three blue solids. The red background uses the Frippery tonal swirl in red and gold and two salmon/red solids. The circles feature Thomas's large-scale prints.
I quilted free motion on my domestic machine using three quilting patterns. The circles have a radiating asterisk pattern similar to the Frippery firework print. The two backgrounds use patterns from Angela Walters's Free Motion Quilting. I used "Flower Power" on the red background, and wavy lines & pebbles on the blue.
It was pretty easy to get the hang of the flower pattern, an the quilting went quickly. The lines and pebbles were trickier. It's hard to free-motion quilt continuous lines without getting jiggy and jaggy, and the pebbles just take a long time (and a lot of thread). The best thing about the pebbles is that they are great for hiding those jigs and jags. I quilted with Aurifil 50wt cotton thread in salmon and aqua. The thread was wonderful to work with, giving me even tension and only one or two thread breaks.
I used all the scraps from the front on the back, along with some larger pieces of the large-scale prints. I trimmed all the quarter-arc scraps from the drunkard's path units into triangles and made half-square triangle units.
The quilting shows beautifully on the back.
The binding is the red arc print from the collection (the blue arcs appear on both sides of the quilt). It's a double-fold bias binding, hand-finished on the back.
Frippey started showing up in online shops last week, including Fat Quarter Shop and Hawthorne Threads.

24 August 2012

August Bee Blocks

Another month, another round of bee blocks. For the Free Bee, Leanne She Can Quilt asked for tiny improv blocks framed by neutrals. I did a bit of curved strip piecing, surrounded by off-white cottons and linens.
The block is 15.5x15.5, unfinished. I have a feeling Leanne's quilt is going to be gorgeous.
For the Traveling Quilts, I worked on Amber one Shabby Chick's quilt. There's so much energy in the quilt already, I decided to go low volume. I added the column to the left of Monica's spool and thread.
The bird in the middle of the quilt looked lonely so I gave him a friend to sit between my three log cabin blocks.

More precisely, there are two courthouse steps blocks and a chevron log cabin. Any now Penny gets to take a shot at this one, too!
And one extra photo, with drama provided by concrete and wind.

21 July 2012

Little Things

I made a couple things for Munchkin this week. He's been asking for them for a while. I'm afraid it can be easy to put that sort of stuff off when there is so little sewing time and my head's wrapped up in bigger projects.

The first thing is a messenger bag.
The bag is made out of up-cycled cargo pants, lined with quilting cotton and an up-cycled shirt, using a tutorial from Noodlehead.
It was easy to put together in a single morning session.
Munchkin specifically requested the mushroom print. In truth, I think he was disappointed that the mushrooms are on the lining, rather than the exterior. Alas, I was unable to find any mushroom pint cargo pants. I added pockets to each side of the lining using a check toddler shirt that hasn't fit for years.
The edges of the cover flap are finished with bias binding scraps from my recent shot cottons quilt and blue and brown quilt.
 When I put the whole thing together I extended the strap along the interior side gusset about 3", then stitched to reinforce after I turned the bag right-side out.
If I make another one of these bags I'll plan for 1/2" seam allowances instead of the 1/4" recommended in the tutorial. I worry that the seams won't stand up to Munchkin's abuse. For a bag measuring 10"x11"x2", the cutting sizes (exterior and lining) would be:

front & back: 11" x 12"
side gussets (2): 3" x 12"
bottom gusset: 3" x 11"
flap (with pocket on exterior): 10"x13"

Munchkin's second request was to make a blanket and pillow for his Totoro plush toy. I fear the window for this kind of request will be closing soon, and I would kick myself if I missed the chance.
He saw me making a log cabin block with this anthropomorphized sushi novelty print, and assured me the Totoro likes sushi, so it would be perfect for him. He also picked the coordinating Flock print.
He's probably right. What do you think?

19 July 2012

July Bee Blocks

I finished blocks for the Free Bee and the Traveling Quilts round robin earlier this month. July is Stacey's month for the Free Bee, and she asked for strip-pieced improv blocks inspired by the work of Rosie Lee Tompkins. You can read a bit about her at Collectors Weekly: 'The Beautiful Chaos of Improvisational Quilts'.

Stacey's sketch served as color inspiration for my block. The fabrics are cotton solids, linen, and shot cottons. The untrimmed block measures approximately 15"x23".

For the Traveling Quilts, I added my bit to Alissa's quilt. So far, this project has been touched by Alissa, Elizabeth, Heather, Monica, and now me.

I added the coloumn of circles on the left side. I used a bit of the Art Gallery chartreuse Alissa sent with her first block, along with various linen and cotton solids and prints from my stash. I love how each quilt in this round robin is developing it's own personality. This one is just so elegant -- I had half a mind to keep it and claim it must have been lost in the mail

Next up in the Traveling Quilts will be Amber's project, if Monica can stop staring at her amazing Ron Swanson quilt and sew along for just a few minutes.

18 July 2012

Picnic Nine-Patch

Thomas sent me a pile of scraps a while back. I'm not sure where he got them, but they weren't quick to make friends with my fabrics. I tend to collect saturated colors; Thomas's scraps were mostly pastels.
Picnic Nine-Patch, front
And I'm not very good with scraps. Where on earth am I supposed to keep them?I decided to whip up a quick picnic blanket to lay on the grass on warm summer afternoons.

Picnic Nine-Patch, front
I cut the smaller pieces into squares and made nine-patch blocks with various blue solids (at least one of which had some serious sun bleaching from sitting atop a pile by the window for too long). The bigger pieces I cut into larger squares to alternate with the nine patches.

Picnic Nine-Patch, back
I had to add a few prints from my stash to finish it. In the spirit of scrappiness I cobbled together a batting from at least 14 batting scraps, of at least 4 different varieties, including cotton, cotton/poly, and various manufacturers and weights. And you know what? When it came out of the dryer I was hard pressed to identify a batting seam, or where one type started and another ended. Granted, all the battings I used have more or less similar shrinkage characteristics, but it was still noteworthy.

Picnic Nine-Patch, back and machine binding
The back is really quite a collection of prints. It will be sitting on the mud so I went for darker colors, and prints I was eager to find a use for (i.e. I didn't want to see them in my fabric cabinet ever again). And the same for the binding. I finished the binding on the machine for a change, and was pretty happy with the result.

Picnic Nine-Patch, folded twice
I have to say, I'm amazed how well I like this quilt considering how ambivalent I am about so many of the fabrics. But the overall colors are cheerful, the back is solid, the binding forms a solid frame, and the composition is simple and satisfying. It's amazing how a quilt can transform the uglies into something beautiful.