Saturday, July 28, 2012

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

July and August have been dedicated to finishing up some long over due WIPs, so I can make room for new projects on the horizon for late August and September.  For 2 glorious days, the Bennie and I were making great progress with one of the quilt tops...and then it just stopped producing any stitches, despite my best efforts at repair.  When the problems kept getting worse, I gave up and sent it away on a 4 day time out at the repair shop.  Long story short--once I got the call that it was ready for pick up--I was there within the hour, eager to return to my stack of WIPs awaiting quilting. 

I am happy to report we are back on quilting terms again and making continued progress on this stack of ready to quilt tops.  In fact...I finished basting 2 more quilt tops just today.
July and August line up:  4 quilt tops layered, basted and ready for quilting

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mad about Plaid

Aurofil thread samples
BAMQG launched a new Whole Cloth Quilt challenge, sponsored by Aurofil thread.  Our awesome challenge coordinator reached out to Aurofil to provide thread samples for challenge participants.  We each got a bundle of threads in different weights and colors to try--although we are free to use any thread in our project.  While I was lured in by the offer of free thread, I was nervous about this challenge.  I am known to mutter a few choice four letter words at the quilting phase.  I have yet to befriend free motion quilting, opting instead to rely on my walking foot which has its limitations.  And all the whole cloth quilts I had seen featured feathers and wreaths:  BORING!
Quilt Sandwiches and thread ready for play

In addition to this bundle of thread, I picked up another little gem at the meeting:  an older issue of Quilting Arts magazine.  I was reading through it before bedtime when I came across an interesting article about thread play which provided inspiration my challenge project.  I was giddy with excitement and woke up early the next morning and got to work making sandwiches using scraps of white, charcoal and black solid fabric.  Pulling out a few groups of thread colors, I got to work creating my own colorful tartans.  

Starting with red, yellow and blue, I stitched lines going vertically and horizontally.

Primary Plaid-starting with red, adding blue and then yellow lines
I was so excited by the process and end product...and set out to try another design...
Pastel Plaid:  yellow, pink, teal, and then lighter colors to create highlights.
Each swatch was 7 or 8 inches square and went super fast, despite the dense quilting.  I am eager to create more samples using different patterns and color combinations--before finalizing the design of my final whole cloth quilt.  The possibilities are endless!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mini Luminaria Quilt

Panda Perfect Sized Luminaria Quilt
While sewing my Luminaria quilt, I wanted to include blocks that had yellow-orange, orange, red, pink and lime green centers.  Each block is created by sewing 4 identical squares with different centers and border fabrics, cutting them up and shuffling the pieces to create 4 new blocks.  So using 5 different center colors resulted in a total of 20 blocks when only 16 were needed.  So I decided to sew the leftover blocks into a mini wall Mini Luminaria Quilt.  Besides the smaller number of blocks, I made a few other modification to the pattern:  Introducing a 1.25" finished inner border using a luminous plaid in pink, orange and yellow cut on the bias, swapping out a blue and teal striped border for the brown border on the pattern and using the same luminous plaid for a bias binding!
Luminaria out in the garden

I love the finished look!  The center squares of bright, warm fabrics  appear to float right off the surface of all the dull, cool fabrics.  And I am happy with the inner border and binding for more pop of color/warmth.  And I was much happier working with the somewhat cheerier blue and teal borders that spin around the edges.

I also had some fun taking more creative pictures of the finished piece.  Although I will admit that the first set of finished photos were taken at night from my studio and looked dark and warped.  So with the morning light, I tried some new settings, backdrops and Panda decided to help.
One more shot--I love that creeping vine
Christine Barnes will be coming to our quilt guild meeting in August.  Her teaching schedule was so busy that she didn't have any spare samples to send early to promote the class.  So I was able to finish my mini quilt in time for our July meeting and definately encouraged my fellow members to sign up!  The programs committee even hung my quilt at their table and showed it off during the business portion of the meeting to encourage August workshop sign ups.  Now I hope to finish the larger quilt to show Christine when she visits in August!  And yes, I did sign up for her August workshop but got permission to work on one of her other patterns:  Black Opals.  I cannot wait and have been purchasing fat quarters of some absolutely beautiful magical fabrics!
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Snuggle Bundles

Snuggle Bundles
A new cancer center is being constructed here in San Jose.  In preparation for its winter opening, they are trying to collect 3,000 snuggle bundles for use by future cancer patients during chemotherapy treatments.  A snuggle bundle consists of a lap sized fleece blanket and two small pillows to rest their arms while they are receiving their injection.  One of our guild members has been promoting this opportunity and the president issued a challenge for us to try making 2 bundle kits under 30 minutes.  During a recent Joann's visit, I saw the fleece was on sale for 50%, so I picked up enough material to make two bundles (only 1.5 yard/bundle).  One of the fabrics was super fun but was more female friendly, so I found a bright cheery blue tye dye that I thought would appeal to any male patients. 

I was making great time cutting the fringe and preparing the pillows for two quick seams, until my Bernina started acting up AGAIN!  I gave up fighting that battle and moved onto the Brother machine, but unfortunately this glitch had me finishing closer to 35 minutes so I did not meet the 30 minute challenge.  But I am happy to help, especially since cancer has affected several family members and dear friends.  I hope these little bundles of love will help others overcome their battle with cancer.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Artist Trading Cards: Round 2

Class Samples
More Artist Trading Cards were needed for trading with fellow CQFA members.  I considered cutting up some scraps to create colorful firework explosions, but 10 days had lapsed since July 4th.  But then inspiration struck as I was organizing my studio.  I had this small bundle of samples created back in January for a surface design workshop that hadn't evolved into much.  Other than move them from place to place, I decided to cut them up and create some ATCs.

Deja vu

At first, I felt guilty about cutting into my "art"...but then I rationalized that by cutting into them, they could finally see the light of day and be appreciated for their beauty and texture.  As a bonus, I wouldn't need to keep finding new places to store them. 

So I went to work trimming them into 2x3" pieces, fused with some heavy duty interfacing and backed in solid black.  I added some minimal quilting and zig zag stitching for binding...and came up with 7 fun ATCs to swap.

I was also pleased to see some of them were selected in the first round of swapping!

Starry ATCs
Abstract ATCs

Here are the 4 ATCs that came home with me.  Artists from top left going clock wise:  Angela, Maureen, Chris and Rhonda.  It is always fun to see such a beautiful range of creativity, materials used, construction techniques and color!  I felt like a kid in a candy shoppe:  which ATC to choose during my turn?!?

I look forward creating and swapping more ATCs in September!  Perhaps I will actually start my ATCs earlier than 2-3 days before the meeting?!?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tote Bag Troubles

Frumpy tote bag:  Dixie's not impressed
A LQS offered free tote bags and I quickly signed up eager to learn new tote bag patterns/techniques.  I was looking for a larger bag to organize equipment/supplies for dog training classes:  extra leashes/leads, marking tools, treats, toys, etc, and one of the tote bag patterns offered was marketed as "big and easy"...perfect!  I visited 5 (yes 5) LQS in search of cute dog fabrics--and was surprised at how very few dog fabrics are out right now.  But I finally found some cute fabrics featuring many colorful dogs, dog bones and paw prints and was ready for class!

Early into class, I realized I didn't have much of a chance to actually finish the tote bag during the allotted class time...but tried to make as much progress as possible.  I met up with the instructor to have her walk me through the assembly process so I could finish the bag once at home...and I did with a few modifications of my own.  However, I was really disappointed at the finished product which was rather frumpy:  it did not hold its shape even when empty and practically caved in on itself once filled with all my training tools.

Scrappy midi bag

My "if its free, its for me" philosophy was seriously challenged and the bag served as a painful reminder of my frustrating class experience and wasting some really precious dog fabrics.  I tucked it away and moved onto another QuiltSmart Midi Bag...just to build some tote bag confidence.  This bag was made for Doug's mother, and he helped pick out the fabrics and even laid out the blocks onto the grid!  I put it all together at a small quilt group and all the ladies loved the finished project.  This cute little bag is capable of supporting itself and all its goodies. 
Rebuilt Tote Bag
Yet despite this success, that pathetic little dog training tote bag haunted me.  I woke up this morning resolved to do right by these fabrics...and went to work ripping out all the stitching, adding some much needed fusible fleece for internal support and reconstructed it all.  All this extra work was well worth the effort.  The bag looks way better, stands up and doesn't cave in once filled. 

Panda, Dixie and Skippy give their new training bag 12 paws up!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Modern Dresdens

Anelie Beldon Dresden Demo
I love the look of the dresden quilt block but there were so many techniques and templates for construction...I realized I had two totally different templates tucked away in my studio!  So I was super excited to see Anelie Beldon, author of Thoroughly Modern Dresden, was scheduled to visit my quilt guild for a trunk show and dresden workshop!  Her trunk show, Dresden Dance, featured dresden quilts both historical and modern.  It was both inspirational and amusing--she really is a fun speaker!!  I left feeling even more excited about taking her dresden workshop the next day...but struggled to 1.  narrow down which project I wanted to tackle as she had sp many projects outlined in her book  2.  select fabrics!!  Two hours before I was scheduled to leave for the workshop I grabbed a layer cake featuring black and white print fabrics, some luminous stripey/ombre fabric and my firework fabric for the center...and hoped it would all work out!

Anelie using my blocks for demo
Anelie's block construction technique was super easy and yielded great results.  I was relieved to open my first block to see the edges all matched up.  Woo hoo.  I also learned she had developed several safeguards to overcome any inaccuracies...especially after she used two of my finished blocks to demonstrate how they are all sewn together.  It turns out that one of my blocks was off by a bit and Anelie shared tips for getting the blocks to play nice!
Block Progress at End of Workshop
 By the end of the day, I had a mostly finished dresden block which I absolutely love!!  All that was left was to hand stitch the center circle.  At first I thought I would just make a small wall hanging...but now I am considering adding more black and white dresden blocks for a slightly larger dresden sampler.  Options to consider:  include dresdens with different sizes, construct 1/4, 1/4 or 3/4 dresdens, vary blade tips and use different background fabrics (since I have very little of the striped ombre leftover!)  Until then, the lovely Panda will model off my finished black and white dresden block!

What's black, white and super bright?!?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Charity String Quilt Blocks

Front of string quilt block
Our BAMQG philanthropy coordinators are absolutely amazing.  Each quarter, they select a new modern block to turn donated scraps into fun and modern charity quilts.  These fabulous women not only recruit donations of fabric and batting, but then they cut it all up into little block kits!  There are so many opportunities for members to help out:  pick up and sew a kit, assemble blocks into a quilt top, layer and quilt and put on bindings.  So far, I've helped by taking a few block kits at each meeting to sew and return at the next meeting.  I enjoy learning a new technique for block construction and seeing so many diverse fabrics come together into a cohesive block.  Last quarter we made postage stamp blocks. 
Back of string quilt batting foundation
This quarter we are making string quilts using a quilt as you go technique and foundation piecing strips of fabric to a square of batting.  At the first meeting, they had kits ready to go with all the fabric strips and batting square for one block in a sandwich baggie.  The blocks went together pretty fast, so at the last meeting I took 4 kits.  What I didn't realize is that they repackaged the kits to now include fabric/supplies for 4 blocks...meaning I had enough for 16 blocks...eeeek!  But they went together quickly/painlessly and now I have enough assembled blocks to do a mock up on my floor!

String blocks mock up