Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SCVQA Crazy Elegance Quilt Challenge: Flights of Fancy

Crazy Elegance Fabrics-all 21 of them!
Back in November 2011, I signed up for my first SCVQA Quilt Challenge:  Crazy Elegance and walked away toting a bundle of mystery fabrics, each of which would need to be included in my finished quilt.  I returned home to explore my mystery fabrics and admit I panicked a bit when I saw this collection of mostly fashion fabrics made of polyester and rayon of every imaginable color.  How would I ever wrangle this collection into a cohesive quilt worthy of entry let alone prizes?  I did find two quilter friendly fabrics made of cotton-both of which were not the best quality nor the prettiest.  I made note of the fabrics and made a list of possible quilt themes and then tucked them away in a drawer of their own for safe keeping, until an idea struck...

Hanging on my design wall waiting for divine inspiration
Fast forward 5 months and those fabrics were still untouched in their own drawer.  I had brainstormed a list of potential design themes/ideas--each of which was scrapped either because they wouldn't utilize all the fabrics or challenge rules, or were just beyond my skill level.  I thought maybe if I hung them all up on my design wall--where I would see them each day...divine inspiration would strike.  Two days later--another project came along that required use of the design wall--so these 21 fabrics were sent back to their drawer. 

Scrapped 3-D prototype
Finally, inspiration struck in one of my happiest places...IKEA!  There was a cute frame displaying a colorful collection of artsy butterflies made of fabric.  I thought it would be fun to recreate a butterfly collection display with 3-dimensional quilted butterflies...but then I worried as to how I could ever create such a vision.  I set out to create a few fabric prototypes using scraps, but none of them lived up to the image in my head.  So each was scrapped as I settled for 2-dimensional butterflies. 

Butterfly Puzzle template
With just 3 weeks until the deadline, I set to work on designing and creating my collection of butterflies.  Starting with an image, I pinned one copy under my teflon pressing sheet, and cut apart the puzzle pieces (after I numbered them for easy identification!)  I then cut out matching pieces from the many pink fabrics included which were fused into their respective places within the butterfly puzzle.    


Bias strips being added to the butterfly
I then made lots of strips of bias binding which were used to conceal all the raw edges and create a stained glass effect.  Finally, tacked down all the strips with small zig zag stitches, created a torso and hand-embroidered antennae.  I love the finished look but wondered how I would create 3 more butterflies to match its beauty?!? 

That worry was short lived as I created 3 more fun butterflies--each using very different techniques of applique and some piecing.
Cosmic butterfly

Confetti Butterfly

Red, white and black slash butterfly
Quilted backgrounds and borders
I then designed a background with a patchwork of 2" squares or flights of stairs.  Each quadrant featured a very different quilted effect to house each finished butterfly:  grid of 1" lines, spiral squares, sun with rays, and random parallel lines.
I then added the butterflies, added a bit of quilting around the borders, binding and I was done...with just 3 hours to spare until the official deadline!  Phew!

Challenge Completed:  Flights of Fancy
Next Challenge-due January

Hmmm...what's this in my future?  Another SCVQA challenge bundle?  For the "Oh my Stars!" challenge, I was relieved to find 4 fat quarters of beautiful, vibrant and mostly modern fabrics.  Let's hope my lucky stars provide the inspiration and drive so these gorgeous fabrics don't sit in a drawer until next December to finish in time for my January deadline!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 3 and 4 of Magical Fabrics, Special Effects Retreat

Armed with a fun assortment of bright, vibrant warm fabrics for my centers and cool, dull, dark fabrics for the borders, I was ready to begin my Luminaria quilt.  First I cut my center squares, and then my border strips.  I swapped a few border fabrics with a fellow retreat participant who was also working on Luminaria--which really helped round out both of our collection.   

The real fun came when assembling the squares and then taking the leap to whack them apart.  Below is my first set using 4 similar blocks with lime green centers, cutting them off center, shuffling quadrants to be resewn into 4 new blocks.  I went on to make a total of 5 sets with centers in lime green, yellow/yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, red and bright pink/violet-reds.  They were fairly easy to make and could most be chain-pieced.
Lime green set of Luminaria blocks

More blocks added to the mix
 Tuesday night we were treated to a fashion show featuring Heidi's creations.  Her creativity certainly inspired some new techniques and shattered my perception that quilted fashion is frumpy.  After seeing some of her fun, fresh and colorful vests, I purchased a vest pattern and may look to create a vest some day...
Quilted Fashion

Spiral embellishments

Our final day was filled with some wrap up demonstrations, working on our respective projects and a visit to another local quilt shop.  What started as an innocent visit to what was described as a small shop led to a treasure trove of magical fabrics.  We found so many great ombres and opalescent fabrics, that upon our return with our goodies, the remainder of retreat attendees just had to check out the shop for themselves...including the instructor/organizer!  Everyone returned with a bag of magical fabrics!  It was definately a great ending to the retreat and provided some great inspiration for continued work on magical effects. 

Some other retreat highlights:
  • The catered food by Ruben was absolutely amazing.  While we never cracked his secret salsa recipe, we did learn he adds a dash of beer!
  • Getting a mild sunburn while dashing out of the classroom to use the ironing boards set outside.
  • seeing the clouds of green pollen from all the pine trees in Lake Tahoe...but not seeing my navy blue completely covered in the powder!
  • All the amazing projects created by my fellow retreat attendees on opalescence, luster, transparency and luminosity!

  • Adding a new category for fabric shopping:  magical fabrics--which I now have an entire drawer in my studio!!
  • Leaving with great inspiration for future projects using magical fabrics--including a mystery project that I am super excited about working on.
  • 20 beautiful blocks just waiting for assembly...stay tuned!
Luminosity blocks awaiting assembly/quilting!!
Many thanks to Christine Barnes, her two talented assistants/friends:  Kari and Heidi, and all the other participants for an amazing weekend of magic!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Magical Fabrics, Special Effects Retreat Day 1 and 2

Just got back from a 3.5 day Magical Fabrics, Special Effects retreat with Christine Barnes--up in South Lake Tahoe.  It was wonderful being surrounded by so much inspiration:  talented quilters, colorful fabric and truly amazing works in progress.  

Quilting supplies and fabric accounted for the vast majority of packing for this trip:
Suitcase of fabrics around the entire color wheel

Magical Fabrics
Upon arrival to the classroom we were greeted with goodies of all kinds:  a one of a kind thread/scrap catcher, swatch of magical fabric, chocolate and an embellished notebook to jot down notes, inspiration and plans. 
One of the very rare moments my station was tidy!
Sunday afternoon, Christine presented an overview of Magic Fabrics, Special Effects including a ton of great was a feast of gorgeous fabrics and fun effects.  After dinner Kari, one of her friends/assistants gave a workshop on caring for our machines including which needles/threads to use, cleaning out our machines and helping them to run at their peak performance.  She even gave us some new quilting needles to try along with some q-tips to clean our sewing machines.  Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to watch the sun set over Lake Tahoe.

Monday morning we dove into each magical effect principle through the use of mock blocks:  glueing cut pieces of fabric onto a paper pattern.  This way we got a great sense of how the fabrics would play together and the flexibility to easily swap out fabric swatches without the unnecessary task of sewing/unsewing!  
Everyone's Illumination Mock Blocks

My mock block for Illuminaria--love those fireworks!
After each exercise, everyone posted their mock blocks up front for review, feedback and sometimes more manipulation by borrowing others fabric swatches.  It was really interesting to see how everyone tackled each principle using totally different fabrics.
My transparency mock block

All transparency blocks
Transparency can be difficult to achieve using fabrics...but once you find a successful match it really does appear to look like two bars of fabric overlaying each other resulting in a really exciting center square!

After all these exercises--I was mentally drained!  But nothing charged me more than a fun visit to Fabrics Unlimited for some fabric shopping and a fun champagne reception featuring champagne, wine and every imaginable chocolate treat:  cake, chocolates and chocolate dipped strawberries, marshmellows, pretzels, ritz crackers, pringles chips, and red vines!!  I may have overdosed on chocolate but I did behave myself with fabric shopping and found some cool, dark fabrics to use with creating a larger Illuminaria quilt.  Upon our return we visited the Tahoe beach again just in time to watch the sun set... 
Perfect ending to a day filled with color!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy belated birthday!

I was a naughty daughter and did not have my mother's birthday gift/package ready in time for her birthday...tsk tsk!  But now that she received her belated birthday gift--I can share pics!

Its a colorful Midi Bag by Quiltsmart.  This pattern is very similar to the Mondo bag in terms of design, construction, but a bit smaller with an 8" square bottom.  I selected the lining fabric first--as she loves red.  And then I went to my stash/scraps for 2.5" squares.  I started with an assortment of reds, yellows, greens and blues...but when I went to lay out the pattern--it seemed so drab.  So I picked out some leftover teals from my Mondo bag and boy did they provide that needed sparkle!  I also added two inner pockets for additional storage...and of course a handy key fab.  It really is a fun and colorful bag!

I am pleased to say she set about transferring her pocketbook contents to her new Midi bag within 5 minutes of opening her package and putting it to good use!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rainbow Charm Swapland--Magically Delicious

In March and April, I joined two online charm swaps.  In each swap, assignments were made for one of the 12 colors around the color wheel and/or a neutral such as black, grey or white.  We were then charged to find 5 fun and quilter's quality fabrics within that color assignment...1 yard of each fabric cut into 56 5" charm squares.  Through flickr, we worked with our fellow swappers to share our fabric selections, receive feedback and get a preview of other swappers' picks.  A month or so later--we'd get a full spectrum of 5 yards worth of charms back to admire, cherish, and dream up beautiful, colorful projects.  Not a bad deal?

Here are some pictures documenting my adventures in Charm Swapland:
For Swap #1, I was assigned Purple.  Here are my picks.
Here are all my 56 stacks of my purple charms laid out on my cutting table, ironing board and carrying over to my chair and desk!  I can only imagine what the swap organizer must have gone through coordinating and shipping out everyone's stacks!

A few weeks later--all those purple bundles came back in a full spectrum of colorful charms!   
Look at that bundle of color!!!
Shortly after receiving my bundle, I heard about another rainbow charm swap starting I signed up and was accidentally assigned 2 colors:  red and red-violet...requiring 10 yards worth of fabric!  And just today I got all 560 charms back!!  I was like a kid on Christmas morning--ripping open the package and spewing out all that color.  Taking only a minute to peruse the compulsion for order kicked in as I went to work sorting all the charms into the 15 piles for each of the colors, black, grey and white.

Tower of Color

Color wheel of fabric charms

And while it is tempting to join another swap, I am ready to put all 840 charms of color to work with a fun project or two.  That is of course, after I spend a bit more time admiring them all and pondering all the possibilities.  Stay tuned!