Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One Block Wonder

OBW Fabrics awaiting a class...

I’ve been in awe of Maxine Rosenthal’s One Block Wonder quilts, book and technique!  So much so that I purchased all 3 of her books, a set of mirrors to preview potential OBW fabrics, and 4+ yards each of two different printed fabrics that would make awesome OBW quilts.  I understood the basic construction of the quilt, but nervous about how to layer the fabric to ensure perfectly stacked layers that could be then cut into identical 60-degree triangles to achieve the kaleidoscope effect.  So I waited for a LQS to offer a class and waited, waited and waited.  Finally a not so local quilt shop (40 minute drive) posted a 2 part OBW class on their website and I immediately signed up.  To no surprise, I already had everything on the class supply list so all I had to do is wait for the big day to arrive and have all the OBW mysteries unveiled…

For this first class, we prepared our fabrics to be cut into sets of 6 identical 3.75" equilateral triangles ready to be sewn into hexagons creating a kaleidoscopic effect.  Each class attendee brought very different fabrics, so it will be fun to see how this same technique will yield totally different quilts!  Interestingly enough--even people starting with the same fabric will end up with totally different quilts depending on how they cut the fabrics, assemble the hexagons and lay it all out!  Our homework assignment was to finish cutting up all the triangles and assemble them into half hexagons (that way we don't have to sew any Y-seams!).  Its so much fun manipulating the angle of the triangles to create 3 very different kaleidoscope images...and watching them bloom in front of you!  Instant reward!
Sample homework hexagons using Butterfly Carnival fabric (top left image)
The instructors did warn us that OBW quilts are addicting!  Both have each made 40+ quilts and purchased enough fabric for another 40+ OBW quilts.  I even overheard a fellow quilt shopper inquire about what class was in progress and then muttering something about addictions/disease when she heard it was a OBW class!  Well, I think I am developing an addiction as I may have cut up a second OBW fabric and started to assemble hexagons...
Overachiever:  Second OBW featuring Koi Carp & Waterlilies by Free Spirit/Westminister Fabrics
So now I've got 108 sets of Butterfly hexagons to sew together and 105 sets of Koi Fish!  Fortunately I have 10+ days, including a BAMQG Sew Day, until the next class where we lay out all our hexagons and start assembling our quilt top!  I can't wait!

And I may have to visit a LQS or two in search of additional OBW candidate fabrics...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Block Party

Whenever I attend sew days or small quilting groups, I opt to bring small portable projects that can be accomplished regardless of my allotted sewing space.  On occasion I will bring rows/columns for assembly--but most of the time, I like to work at the block level.  Easy to transport to and from safely with minimal wrinkling, simple and flexible for taking breaks for socializing!

Here are some blocks sewn at recent sew days/events as a little preview of upcoming projects/posts:

BAMQG New Charity Blocks-Patchwork Wheel by Don't Call Me Betsy
Single Patchwork Wheel
6 Patchwork Wheels-love the secondary pattern that forms!
SCVQA Quilting 101 Paper Piecing Demo
Front of Strippy Heart
Paper Pieced Foundation

Karla Alexander Run for Color Blocks (started at her April workshop!)
More than halfway done with all the colorful and curvy blocks!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Finally! Quilts for our Bedroom

Dixie modelling off the new bedroom decor
While some quilts are quickly sent off to their lucky recipient, I will admit that several do stay behind for my viewing pleasure!  While some of the smaller wall hangings can easily be hung with small corner tabs or even safety pins, we needed a hanging solution that was strong enough for some of my larger quilts and easy to swap quilts in and out of rotation.  Once again...IKEA to the rescue!  They have these curtain wires and metal hook/clips that are perfect for hanging up quilts!  We first tried it in the studio to photograph finished quilts...then added one in the front foyer to welcome visitors...and just installed a third in the bedroom.  Doug's a pro at hanging them up!

Skippy trying to blend in with his new surroundings

In lieu of a headboard, we hung a large quilt at the head of our bed and I love it!  I especially enjoy waking up in the morning and looking up to see bright flashes of colorful fabric...a great start to my day!  And I still have plenty of room along that wall to hang 1-2 more quilts!

And as you can see, the dogs love getting up on the bed, so this way I don't have to worry about them ruining any of my quilts with fur, scratching, etc.  Although I think they are now expecting some wall art/decor for their doggy beds...?  Fortunately I still have one set of curtain wire and clips ready for the next wall!

When will we get quilts to decorate our doggy beds?!?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I Love Lil' Twister Quilts!

A few months ago, I demonstrated the Lil Twister tool for some fellow quilters and provided them each with a small charm pack to experiment.
5x5 grid for heart pattern

Any pattern that uses all squares in a gridded pattern make great candidates for twister quilts.  To help demonstrate, I created a small heart made within a 5x5 grid.  Once I had it sewn together, I used my Lil' Twister tool to cut new blocks that were sewn together to form a Twister Heart.

Later that evening I set about adding some borders with another twister pinwheel in each of the four corners.  I layered it up with some cute cherry fabric for the backing and did some straight line quilting around the gridded heart.  But when I got the borders, I was totally stumped!  My sewing machine started to act up.  So out of frustration, it was banished to the UFO pile (out of sight and out of mind!)

Until this Tuesday night when Doug mentioned one of his colleagues having a baby shower and whether I might be able to make a quilt for the occasion.  Sure!  Not a problem...when is the celebration?  This Thursday!?!  As in less than 48 hours?  I knew there was no way I could get a baby quilt done so fast, until I remembered my little heart twister that was half quilted.  So I pulled it out and thought about incorporating some hearts into the borders and came up with some various quilting designs that could be accomplished using some good old contact paper templates, my trusty walking foot and minimal stop/starts.  I cut up some hearts and came up with this design.

Quilted Hearts in Borders--back side of quilt
To create the heart templates, I first measured the length and width of the border section and dividing by the number of hearts I wanted to include.  My border was approximately 18" x 6.5", and I wanted to include 3 hearts on each border with some buffer space between the binding.  So I started with a 6" square of paper that I folded in half lengthwise and cut out a heart shape of my liking.  I then traced the paper heart onto the back of contact paper three times, cut out and voila!:  My heart templates were ready for quilting.

I peeled off the contact paper packing and laid the center heart template sticky side down, centered along the length and width of the border.  Then I placed each of the neighboring hearts upside down with a small space (less than 1/16") to stitch in between without punching through the contact paper.  If I wanted to include more hearts, I would have added hearts on each end alternating the direction with a small gap for stitching.  For even numbers of hearts, center the middle two hearts and then work your way out.   

With my walking foot on, I stitched along the templates starting with the curved portions of the heart (start at the blue star and follow the yellow arrows).  Once the curved portions were done, it was all straight stitching (follow green arrows) as I went up and down along the pointed ends of the heart until I got back to my starting point.  After the 3rd or 4th use of the contact paper heart templates, the adhesive isn't as sticky, so a flower head pin or two can help with keeping them from shifting during the quilting process.

"Cherry Sweet Dreams" for Baby Vivan

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hot Stuff!

What a cute bag.  But this is no ordinary bag...
I've been spotting these iron totes that you can safely transport your hot iron and then open up to serve as a mini ironing pad...very clever!  A few weeks ago we checked out a local quilt show and one of the vendors was selling the pattern, complete with the silver heat resistant fabric.  At first I was a little intimidated by the pattern instructions (for me, all patterns still read as a foreign language!) and reached out to a fellow guild member asking for her assistance at an upcoming sew day.

Ta da!  There is an iron inside!  
The night before I pulled out the materials and decided to do some prep work so she didn't think I was a complete nitwit and waste her time where she could be working on her own projects, and found that if I went step by step and took my time I was able to follow the pattern on my own.  I was very proud of myself for making so much progress and managed to complete the entire project (measurements, quilting, binding, handles and buttons) completely on my own.

I finished sewing on the two buttons last night to complete this cute little project.  I am looking forward to testing it out at an upcoming sew day where I signed up to bring an iron for group use.  With my new little caddy, I won't have to unplug it so early for a safe transport home.

Wait!  There's even more.  It opens up to form an ironing pad!

Reverse side open

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Improvisational Fun

Box o'scraps
At this month's BAMQG meeting, we got through the business portion and show & tell quickly and were treated to demonstrations on four different improvisational piecing techniques.  Everyone brought their sewing machines, basic sewing tools, scraps of fabric and an open mind.  

Each of the demos were approximately 10 minutes covering all the basics of the technique and sample projects--and then we had 20 minutes to return to our sewing station to experiment before the next demonstration began.  

1st technique-Curvy 9 Patches

The first demo covered two techniques using slice and dice.  The first involved slicing into squares and sewing in strips of fabric.  I recently used this technique to create one of the butterflies for the SCVQA I opted for the second technique to create some curvy 9-patches.  This process started with 4 identical squares of fabric (navy, blue, bubbles and purple), cutting gentle curves to get 3 strips per square.  Then I shuffled the strips which were sewn together to create a curvy rail fence.  I cut two more gentle curves, reshuffled and ended up with some fun patches incorporating all 4 fabrics!

The second demonstration had us cutting random wedges of fabric sans ruler straight edge to create a fabric strata which could be incorporated into other blocks using the previous slice and dice technique or including as a row within a block. Creating the strata was fun, and we were encouraged to incorporate a "pop" of color---and if you can't guess which is the "pop" then it isn't bold enough!  Once I created one strata I decided to go onto create a wonky log cabin block.  I managed to complete most of it within the 20 minute practice time.

The third technique was from Gwen Marston's Liberated String Quilts--Chevron String Bars quilt.  What I liked about this process was in letting go of trying to control every aspect of the layout of fabrics and embracing randomness to guide the final layout of fabrics.  This was accomplished in several ways:  incorporating different thicknesses of fabrics, sewing two random pieces together and then throwing the 60-degree cuts into paper bags to be randomly pulled and sewn together.  While I did not have strips of fabric ready to play--I do foresee myself making this quilt in the future.

The fourth technique was actually wonky log cabin blocks.  I appreciated seeing some of the design options that can be incorporated-sometimes out of necessity due to fabric shortages to create some intriguing log cabins.  At this point my head was swimming with ideas...and since I had already created a wonky log cabin today...I decided to skip on the last practice session and pack up. 

These demonstrations really helped liberate me from some of the traditional designs/techniques--heck I didn't even use my straight edge all day!  I may just have to pull out that box of scraps for some more improvisational play!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Glowing Outside

I finally finished quilting the larger Illuminaria Quilt, and did all the hand sewing for the binding while staying up late watching the Summer Olympics...and ta da!
Finished Illuminaria Quilt-I love all the pop of color, warmth and glow!
Glowing and electrified quilt back!
I snuck inside to take some pictures of the quilt back to find unexpected surprises:  Thanks to the sun shining through--the center squares appeared to be truly glowing through and the stitching looked like it was electrified!    

I had some fun taking pictures of both Illuminaria quilts around the backyard...many thanks to Doug's technical assistance and some puppy props!

Mini Illuminaria hanging out
Side by Side with Skippy!