Monday, December 11, 2017

Lessons Learned from Quilt Challenges

"I never lose, I either win or learn" - Nelson Mandela

I love this quote, especially as it relates to my participation in quilt challenges.  Winning awards & prizes is certainly a fun bonus, but for me, the bigger prize is all that I've learned from each and every quilt challenge.
Between the 60+ quilt challenge finishes, I've certainly picked up some new quilting techniques and tricks:  stack & whack quilts, slice and insert improvisational piecing, bias tape applique, mod molas, designing original quilts in Electric Quilt, trapunto, working with non-quilting fabrics and sew much more!!  My progression as a quilter is especially evident as you compare my first quilt challenge entry with my most recent challenge finish!!
Learning Progression From 1sts Challenge Quilt to Most Recent Challenge Finish 
There have been other important life lessons learned along the way:
  • Time management (especially for those 1 week challenges)
  • Working under pressure
  • Creative brainstorming
  • Photography
  • Taking risks
Several of the challenges prompted considerable research and study on a fun range of topics including (top left to bottom right):
Interesting Quilts=Interesting Discoveries
Thank goodness for Pinterest, Youtube videos and local libraries for providing me with invaluable information and insights for these fun research projects!!

I look forward to many more fun discoveries and developments as I continue my quilt challenge participation in 2018!!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Special Link to Watch The Quilt Show!!

After much excitement and anticipation, you can watch my debut on The Quilt Show by using this special link!!!  

Many thanks to The Quilt Show for opening up Episode 2112 so all my family, friends, students & followers can watch!!  Feel free to share with members of your small quilt group, quilting friends, family...anyone who might enjoy watching this wonderful quilting program hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims.  It will be available to watch (and rewatch!) through Saturday, December 16th.

Want to watch more quality quilting programming like this one?  I highly recommend becoming a TQS Star Member for instant access to the 250+ Quilt Shows from previous seasons plus a brand new show every other Sunday, access to the Block of the Month patterns, 7 Online DVD classes, a free gift and a discount from your next purchase in the TQS store!!

I truly hope you have as much fun watching, as I had during the filming in LaVeta, Colorado!!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mod Molas for The Quilt Show

In this first week of The Quilt Show #2112 airing, I've received some wonderful feedback, especially about the Mod Mola technique.  Quilters, who have been saving precious hand dyed fabrics, are inspired to create their first Mod Mola!!!
TQS Mod Mola, Finishes 12" x 12"
During the episode, I demonstrate the basic Mod Mola technique by creating mini Mod Molas inspired by and made for The Quilt Show.  Prior to the taping, I received permission to use the TQS dancing star logo, which was transferred onto contact paper to create mark-free templates. 
Transferring the TQS Logo with Contact Paper Onto my Quilt Sandwich
During the taping, one of the star points is revealed through careful cutwork.  With the magic of TV, a finished TQS Mod Mola is then presented.  Here is the swatch by swatch reveal of that beautifully glowing dancing star.
Twinkling Star Transformation
In addition to the step outs, I made 3 finished TQS Mod Molas:  one each for Alex & Ricky, and one for me to keep as a souvenir of my TQS experience.

Are you ready to give Mod Molas a try?!?  I'd love to see a picture (hint-hint).

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Where to Find Quilt Challenge Opportunities

After people learn that I've completed more than 60 quilt challenges in the past 4-5 years, they usually have a few follow up questions:
1.  WHY!?!?  
2.  How do you find the time?
3.  Where do you get your ideas/inspiration?
4.  How do you find all these quilt challenges?

In my Challenge Yourself! lecture/trunk show, I answer each of these questions by addressing common fears associated with quilt challenges, highlighting the benefits of partcipation, sharing tips/tricks for having fun and during the trunk show portion, I am sure to share the journey of each challenge quilt I bring. 

Oftentimes after my presentation, I receive emails asking me for a copy of the slide where I post Quilt Challenge Opportunities.  These emails totally make my day as it means that I was successful in my mission to encourage participation in Quilt Challenges!

So I thought I would share this information here with some more detail as to where you can learn about upcoming quilt challenge opportunities...

1.  Your Quilt Guild

Quilt Guild Challenges
My journey into quilt challenges began with the annual challenges hosted by my own local quilt guild as part of our biannual quilt show.  These are a great way to get started as you are surrounded by your fellow quilting friends.  As I've travelled to various guilds, I've enjoyed seeing so many guilds host a wide range of challenges for their membership.  And in some cases, guilds started to offer quilt challenges after their members showed interest following my presentation.  If quilt challenges aren't currently part of your guild's activities, consider hosting a challenge on your own or with a friend.  Hosting quilt challenges is a fun way to get involved and meet fellow quilters.  Looking for ideas?  Here are two fun quilt challenges that I've hosted for my guild:

2.  Magazines

Keep an eye out for some of your favorite quilting magazines to announce fun new quilt challenges for their readers.  As a bonus, winning quilts are often printed in future issues!!

Here are a few examples of past quilt challenges hosted by magazines.

3.  Online

Thanks to social media, you can find so many amazing quilt challenges all online!!

4.  Fabric Companies

Many fabric companies are now hosting fabric challenges.  These are a great way to explore new fabric lines and in some cases score free fabric!!  Here are a few of my favorite fabric challenges:

5.  Friends/Fellow Guild Members

Once you get a reputation for participating in quilt challenges--friends and fellow guild members will start notifying you of upcoming challenge opportunities!!  Here are some ways of staying up to date on upcoming challenge opportunities:

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Quilt Show #2112 is Available to TQS Star Members

Great news for Star Members of The Quilt Show:  Show #2112 featuring yours truly is up and running for you to watch!  This show is packed with improvisational fun:  Alex puts a new spin on an antique String and Old Maid's Ramble quilt, I share my love of quilt challenges and quilts made as part of quilt challenges, demonstration Slice of Improv, Mod Molas & more!!
Not a Star Member?  Check back on Sunday 12/10 as I will post a special link to access the episode all week long so you can experience first hand how Alex Anderson and Ricky Tim bring you the friendliest interactive online community for quilters worldwide!  Join today to learn, share, create, connect and watch Alex and Ricky in brand new episodes of "The Quilt Show"! 

Alex, Ricky & the entire TQS crew sure know how to create top-notch quality quilting programs!!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Free Stylin', Spiralin' & Flyin' Geese

In addition to the Michael Miller Our Yard Fabric Challenge, QuiltCon West 2018 will feature another fun quilt challenge:  The American Patchwork & Quilting Flying Geese Challenge!  MQG members were challenged to modernize a traditional flying geese block by creating a quilt of any size that uses modern quilting elements (modern color palettes, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, alternative grid work, scale, etc).

Improv piecing spiral squares & rectangles proved to be lots of fun and my brain was definitely spinning with new spiral design variations including triangles.  I raided my basket of ombre fabrics and chose Pointillistic Palette 2 collection designed by Debra Lunn & Michael Mrowka for Robert Kaufman.  These fabrics feature selvedge to selvedge gradient color changes which are beautifully brilliant against a solid black backdrop!
Technicolor Triangles
Constructing the triangles was lots of fun, especially as I explored using different ends of the ombre fabrics.  Once I had amassed a collection of 10 triangle spiral units, it was time to start working out possible layouts.  My design wall proved to be invaluable as I explored a range of layout possibilities.  Some were fairly traditional flying geese designs but needed a more modern twist, whereas others were quite exciting but didn't quite reflect the flying geese tradition.
Triangle Tryouts

With less than a week until the entry deadline, I desperately needed to finalize the layout and complete the construction of my quilt top (and complete the remaining phases of quilting/finishing!)  One of the layouts that appealed to me most was when I interlocked the warm & cool colored triangles into a vertical row, so I began to refine this design.  A rainbow confetti print was swapped out for a more modern solid black background.  Ombre strips were chopped up and transformed into improv pieced flying geese units that march from the edges into each of the large triangle spirals.  Oh and did I mention that I had a limited amount of solid black fabric available to work on two concurrent quilt challenges?!?
Triangle Transformation
So let's review the modern quilting elements checklist:

  • Modern Color Palette...check!
  • Improvisational Piecing...check!
  • Minimalism...check!
  • Expansive Negative Space...check!
Yikes!  That sure is a lot of wide open negative space in need of a quilting plan!  Immediately I knew I had to break up the space and began by stitching in some large spiral triangles.  Here is where I learned firsthand that for whatever reason (chemistry, physics, or possibly astrology for all I know?!?) that solid black fabric seems to repel my trusty blue painter's tape!  After carefully marking my triangle design, I would return to the sewing machine to find all the tape had completely lifted up off the surface!  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  It was time to break out my bright green roll of Scotch Masking Tape for Hard-to-Stick Surfaces 2060, perfect for concrete, brick, grout or solid black fabric!  Careful handling was still required but I was able to use the tape over and over to mark out three large floating triangles.  Aurifil 50 weight threads were used to stitch out the triangle spirals and fill in with pebble quilting:  Spring Green (1231), Turquoise (2810) and Fuchsia (4020).  I still had a lot of background area to fill in so I sketched a few flowing wavy lines that were then stitched in with metallic threads adding in some sparkle.        

Triangle Textures
In addition to running low on solid black fabric, I was also playing a game of chicken with my remaining spool of Black Aurifil (2692) and I had less than 48 hours until the QuiltCon entry deadline!!  So I continued to add some more bling to my background by adding five smaller triangles that were also stitched in metallic thread with smaller escargot spirals.
Breaking Up the Background and Running Low on Black Thread
As I added more stitched designs to the background space, I had to be careful not to detract attention from the pieced triangle spirals or flying geese units.  So after 3 large triangle spirals, 4 sets of wavy trails and 5 small silver triangles, it was time to tackle the remaining background area. Only a 1/5th of the background had been quilted before I ran out of the black thread.  A phone call to the nearest quilt shop to confirm they had some in stock, followed by a quick road trip, lunch break with my small quilt group and 2.5 hours later, I was back at my machine stitching pedal to the metal!!  After 4 hours, I took a much needed break to attend an evening appointment.  Shortly after midnight I managed to complete the last of the quilting, much to my aching body's relief.  I proceeded to trim up my quilt, add a label & sleeve and binding before heading to bed around 3:30 AM!!  I managed to squeeze in a few hours of sleep before waking up around 7:30 AM to take pictures in the morning light.
Detail of Quilted Textures
Free Stylin', Spiralin' & Flyin' Geese, Finishes 47" x 52"
While the photo shoot went well, writing my Artist Statement was a real struggle!  Hmmm...could my inability to hold an idea much less articulate a coherent sentence have anything to do with sleep deprivation?!?  Luckily I had some moments of clarity after a much needed nap to draft my statement and submit with 6 hours to spare!

Artist Statement:
Triangles take flight, twist, twirl and twinkle in this technicolor flying geese remake.  Beautifully brilliant ombre fabrics are improvisationally pieced into spirals and flying geese units that radiate against the black backdrop.  Free-motion quilted triangles dance throughout the negative space adding another pop of color, sparkle and texture.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Our Yard Michael Miller Fabric Challenge

Michael Miller sponsored a fun new Fabric Challenge as part of 2018 QuiltCon.  This year's challenge bundle featured fabrics from the Our Yard fabric collection.  MQG members were eligible to sign up to receive a free fabric challenge bundle that included Fat Eighth Yard cuts of 4 prints and one coordinating Cotton Couture solid. 
Fat Eighth Yard Pieces of Challenge Fabrics
The challenge rules allow entries to be any size or shape, but at least two fabrics from the "Our Yard" line must be incorporated, along with as many Cotton Couture solids as desired and the option for the binding/backing fabric made from any Michael Miller fabric.

The two striped prints appealed to me (one was black & white and the other featured bright colored stripes) and I love the drape, feel and range of colors available within the Cotton Couture line of solids.

After considering a few different design possibilities, I revisited some sketches I made last year for an improvisationally pieced Peace sign block.
Peaceful Prototypes
Here are some mock ups and blocks that I made but scrapped as they didn't quite capture the modern/abstract look that I had envisioned.  Later that night I experienced some insomnia and spent some time brainstorming new design alternatives.  Inspiration finally struck after I revisited my own Slice of Pi quilt where I experimented with stack, whack and shuffling my background fabric squares before inserting fabric strips.  A few adjustments were made for this new quilt:
1.  Slice a peace sign into the background squares
2.  Incorporate more contrast into the background squares by using 3 super bright solids plus a few of the challenge prints (and I opted to have the stripes going in different directions as it would be easier once it was time to layout the blocks)
3.  Use only one solid for the strip inserts.  Black and white were both auditioned but given the amount of white in the prints, solid black was the clear winner!  Widths of the strips ranged from 1-2"
4.  Incorporate one large off-center block

Piecing Together Peace Signs
I began by layering 5 squares and absolutely loved the first set of blocks.  In less than 24 hours I had pieced a total of 32 blocks.  I did experiment with incorporating the light blue lime leaves print but chose not to use them as they didn't add any interest.
Peaceful Progress
Piecing the large Peace sign block was a bit of a challenge, mostly because I only had smaller swatches of the pink and yellow solid remaining.  But with some careful planning, I was able to make it work without having to seam together fabric remnants!  I considered adding an imbalanced border of solid black but needed to conserve any yardage for a 2nd QuiltCon entry I was making.
Peace Filled Pebbles
As I was piecing my blocks, I began planning out the quilting.  White (#2024) Aurifil 50-weight thread was used to free-motion quilt a zig zag meander in around the background for the smaller blocks and peace sign filled pebbles on the larger block. Leaving the black fabric strips unquilted helps them to really pop (especially since all the seams were pressed under adding a little more loft).  The quilting was completed in just one day.

And in lieu of a larger border of black, some 1/4" black binding beautifully frames this quilt.
"Peace by Piece," Finishes 37" x 37"
I had some fun coming up with quilt titles that played off Peace vs. Piece.  Here are some of the brainstormed quilt titles:  Peacework (my mom's suggestion), Peace de Resistance, Conversation Peace, Think Piece, Peace Together and the winner--Peace by Piece. 

I managed to finish this quilt almost 3 days before the QuiltCon deadline and include in my online submissions today (the deadline!).  Here is my Artist Statement:  Abstract peace signs dance against this vibrant backdrop consisting of Our Yard prints and Cotton Couture solids.  Squares of background fabrics were stacked, whacked & shuffled prior to inserting the black strips.  A zig zag meander adds energy as it is stitched throughout the smaller blocks and a peace sign filled pebbling motif is featured in the larger peace sign block.  Peace & love to all.

Regardless of QuiltCon's decision, I am excited to have a new sample for my Slice of Improv workshop and foresee making more of these blocks with different fabric palettes!