Monday, February 24, 2014

Santa Cruz Quilt Show/Shop Hop

For Valentine's Day, Doug gave me a certificate for a shop hop day.  So when a fellow guild member emailed me about the Pajaro Valley Quilt Association Quilt Show down in the Santa Cruz area open this weekend, I was ready to put my certificate to good use.  In addition to looking at the PVQA website about show specifics, I also researched local quilt shops and plotted a route in Google maps to visit them all in en route.

The drive included some spectacular views and it was a warm and sunny day.  It provided a lovely backdrop for a fun day ahead.  The quilt show itself was wonderful.  While I was there for the beautiful quilts and vendor temptations, I was on a side mission to do some research in preparation for our 2015 Quilt Show.  Their guild recently purchased pole and drape system which looked so sleek and allowed the quilts to take center stage.  Moreover, the standardized set up and equipment would be a huge upgrade from our 13 different rack sizes made from PVC--or as some members call it "Tiddly Winks."

Awesome quilt kit, bundle of fat quarters, thread and buttons
And there were some fun vendors selling magical and fun fabrics to add to my stash.  I was instantly mesmerized by a particular quilt on display featuring ombre fabrics.  While I am not one to buy quilt kits, this one had to come home with me.  With the additional yardage in my stash, I can make a lap sized version which may be bumped up in my project queue?!?

And as if I hadn't done enough damage among the vendors, we then visited some great quilt shops including Harts and their huge wall filled with fun, bright and modern fabrics; Judy's Sew and Vac new location in an old bank, complete with a vault; and Sue Dee's where my hunt for a particular fabric concluded and I had a charming conversation with the quilt shop staff member.  
Thank goodness for the extra reusable bags to tote my treasure trove home!
Thank you Doug for an amazing day and spectacular Valentine's Day gift!!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Petite Panda Pandamonium

Panda Portrait Ready for Quilting
Therese May was our featured quilter at our January meeting and she offered her quilted portraits workshop the next day.  Panda was my muse for the day as I learned how to translate her image into fabric.  Using Therese May's technique, I started with a layer cake of bright batiks.  During the workshop, I made 9 blocks but had some spare parts that I used to create a 10th block.  This spare block was given the same border treatment featuring a fun striped print and solid black fabric so the quilting would really pop.  This piece then served as my practice piece to test out different colored threads and quilting motifs in preparation for the larger quilt.

Yesterday morning, I went through my quilt motif sketchbook and pulled out some fun spools of solid Aurofil thread and got to work!  Since it's such a small piece (13.5" square), the quilting went super fast and I had everything but Panda's face/torso quilted before leaving for work.  After work I wrapped up the quilting and added the binding in record time!  Here are some fun finished pics of this piece:
Petite Panda Pandamonium Quilt Front
Petite Panda Pandamonium Reverse
Now the quilt front looks awesome but I am just in awe when I turn it over to the reverse.  I used solid black fabric making it easier to see all the FMQing:  modern baptist fans in the borders in pink, yellow, lime and teal thread, white loop de loops in the inner borders, white pebbles surrounding Panda, pink swirly flowers, lime green stipling, more teal pebbles and some hills and valleys for her chin.

And here's the muse herself with her very own quilt...
Finally a quilt that captures my colorful personality!
Panda says:  You ain't see nothing yet.  Just wait until the larger quilt is complete!!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

UFO Exchange

After some serious soul searching about my growing list of UFOs that have lost their appeal, I decided to host a UFO Exchange for my quilt guild.  I invited fellow members to pack up and bring any unwanted UFOs and to erase all evidence of said UFO such as spare blocks, fabric, patterns, etc.  I had each member label the project with their name and a brief description of the project.  From there, they were directed to say farewell to the project and deposit it to the labelled area that best described the project category (ie. modern, batik/hand dyes, child/youth, floral, applique, etc).  During the half-time break in the meeting, the members were able to select a fun, new to them, project from the pile to take home.  We have until our May meeting to complete a top, and we've secured some fabulous prizes as incentive for those members that show a top during our monthly show and tell, including gift certificates to local quilt shops and edge to edge quilting services generously donated from one of our business affiliates.  We had 11 members participate and several brought more than one there was quite a range of projects.

Former UFOs that have now found new homes
I took this opportunity to purge multiple UFOs from my studio:
  1. Dinosaur 4-Patch Slash
  2. Bow Ties in Yellow, Green and Teal
  3. Baby Boy Twister
  4. Pansy 9 Patch
It was such a relief to send these projects to new homes, although I was nervous that my fellow members wouldn't want them either, or worse, I would be stuck with my own UFOs after everyone else had selected their new projects.  But to my great relief, they were all snatched up by rather enthusiastic members who were most curious to work with my fabric palette!?!  I did warn them that these projects were all started a number of years ago, so they might not represent my current quilt style.

1" strips of hand dyed fabrics in gradient values

And after everyone had selected a project, I had my turn to select.  I had seen a bag full of strips of hand dyed fabrics that had piqued my interest.  Much to my surprise, they were still there after round 1 of the UFO draft, so I snatched them up, before someone else got to them. 

When I got home, I had the opportunity to better inspect my bag of fun fabrics.  It turns out there were lots and lots of 1" fabric strips in a variety of values in both pink and green.

Some of these strips had been sewn into strip sets of varying some more possibilities.  I loved the gradient beautiful!!

But behind all those 1" strips of fabric was the real treasure trove:  1/4 yards of each fabric, 2 colors with 8 gradients each--for a total of 16 colors and 4 yards of fabric!!!

I may challenge myself to create a few projects from this bundle of fun.  Something from the fabric strips, something from the strip sets and lots of possibilities from the yardage!!  I even started a Pinterest board of potential ideas.  I've been hoarding some hand dyed fabrics that were too precious to cut up.  Since these fabrics are already cut up...I am ready to dive in, get creative and have some real fun.

4 yards of hand dyed fabrics gradated in 2 color ways.  
Log Cabin Wall Hanging/Table Runner

Since I had brought in multiple projects, I was able to take an equal number of projects.  After everyone had selected all their new projects, I went back and found a small box in the Wall Hanging/Table Runner category that had been passed over by the other members.  I opened it up and found 4 beautifully pieced log cabin blocks in gold and light blue, with metallic gold accents, and extra yardage.  They were too pretty to pass up, and would be a quick and easy finish so I could be entered for the prize drawings. 

I am super excited about my 2 new projects and can't wait to see what the other members do with their projects.  It will be especially fun to see my own UFO's finished and/or reinvented by another quilter.  My giddiness will have to wait 3 more months until the big reveal!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Black Opals & Ribbon Candy

Christine Barnes has been a great source of inspiration in my quilting adventures.  I have taken several of her classes and workshops, attended her Magical Fabrics, Special Effects retreat and have several of her books and patterns.  She visited our quilt association back in August 2012 and offered her Luminosity workshop.  While I had already completed this pattern and technique at her retreat, she gave me permission to work on one of a different pattern during her workshop, so I chose her Black Opals & Ribbon Candy pattern.
Sets of HSTs made for the Black Opals Blocks
Black Opals Laid Out on Design Wall
During the workshop, I worked on the colorful Black Opals half square triangles (HSTs) using Thangles paper templates and then tucked them away when stumped on the sashing fabrics.  I made so many HSTs, that I had enough to piece two quilt tops, once I figured out my sashing to create the Ribbon Candy effect.  Almost a year later, I pulled out all my HSTs and set out to create two different qult tops using the same pattern and sets of HSTs:  One quilt used mostly cool color fabrics (teal, blue and purples) for the sashing and borders, while the other used mostly warm colors (pink and reddish-purple) to surround the Black Opals blocks.  Once they were pieced, I then challenged myself to create slightly different quilted motifs.  

Here are pictures of the Warm Version of Black Opals & Ribbon Candy and its progression:

Black Opals & Ribbon Candy Quilt Top Sans Borders
Here are the quilted center blocks and sashing...
Close Up of Black Opal Blocks Quilted
Serpentine Quilting for Sashing, Swirls and Pebbles in the Corner Pieces and Preview of Border Quilting
Border Quilting Evolution...I was stumped on the design for the longest time, but once inspiration struck, I had it quilted in just 2 days (despite it taking 2 hours to quilt each side!!)
Round 1:  Blue Tape with Tick Marks to Create Quilted Diamonds
Round 2:  Echo Quilted Diamonds
Round 3:  Fill Diamonds with My All Time Favorite-Figure 8's!!
Round 4 and 5:  More Echo Quilting and Even More Figure 8's (Notice My Quilted Signature in the Corner?!?)
Reverse Side of Quilted Borders
Fun Large Scale Print for Backing--Although IWish I Had Used a Solid So the Quilting Would Really Pop!
Finished and Quilted Black Opals & Ribbon Candy-Warm
I am in the process of quilting the borders of the cool version of this quilt...can't wait to post pictures of the finished quilt!!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pinteresting Block Layout Labels

Most of my quilt layouts fall into a standard grid layout.  And I take great care to organize all my blocks for easy assembly into rows and columns, so I don't accidentally sew a block in upside down or in the incorrect position.  Typically, I would take scraps of paper and make 1.5" labels and hand write A1, A2, A3...B1, B2, B3, etc until I had labelled each block within its assigned row and column.  These slips would then be pinned onto my blocks to help me track their proper placement within the rows and columns of my quilt top during assembly.  Once the quilt top was assembled, I would pull off all the scraps and rather than reorganize, I would simply recycle them and then have to recreate the slips for the next set of quilt blocks.  I've always thought it would be nice to have a system that could be reused from project to project and was easy to reorganize for the next use

I've seen reusable plastic templates that can be pinned on, but I suspected I would simplify even more with a simple pin system.  So I picked up a fun little pin cushion and 100 plus flower head applique pins.  Using an extra fine point black Sharpie marker, I then wrote my standard grid letters/numbers A1 through H10 on both the front and back sides of the pins.  They are all in order and ready for use...

This system can account for 8 rows of 10 blocks each=80 blocks, but I have plenty of pins left over that I can expand for quilts that have more than 80 blocks.  And I've already put these pins to use with the current quilt I am working on that only had 20 blocks.  I did have one small mishap, as I melted one of the flower heads while ironing.  But it was easy enough to replace and I was much more aware of pin placement when ironing the other blocks.  

And once the rows/columns were assembled, I was able to easily replace the pins to their proper section on the pin cushion--and they are ready for my next quilt project!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hot Stuff

2012-2014 :  Rest in Peace
To celebrate my recent UFO finish, I treated myself to starting a brand new quilt!  I was making great progress when my iron suddenly died while pressing my rows of blocks.  

At first, panic did not set in.  I figured the automatic shut off safety feature had kicked in...nope--the lights were all off.  Next I checked the extension cord to see if a fuse had blown...but its light was on telling me it was getting juice.  I unplugged the iron and tried plugging it back in confirming that it was truly dead.  Panic now set in and required an immediate trip to my trusty Target store for a much needed replacement iron. 

I don't mean to brag, but this is a professional grade iron!

Fortunately, they carried a selection of 10 or more irons, including the brand Shark.  I really like the Shark designs, especially the iron plate, which just glides across the fabric and is very easy to clean.  I went with the light weight professional grade iron which has the setting dial, a pointier tip to really press open those seams and my sleek iron plate.  It works great and makes a great press the first pass over the fabric, so I may not need to rely so heavily on best press as much for crisp seams.  

Hot 2 Trot Travel Iron

While I was at Target, I had a second mission in mind: look for a  travel sized iron for classes and workshops.  At a recent workshop, a fellow guild member introduced me to a pint sized iron that packs a punch.  She even let me test drive it and I was very impressed.  She told me the brand name, which while I had since forgotten, but remembered that it was cute and clever name.  Once at Target, I immediately recognized it:  Hot 2 Trot.  It has a decent ironing surface size, lightweight, ergnomically friendly and gets super hot.  All this for only $9.99!!  How could I resist bringing this little guy home?!?   

All my irons from over the years--some retired, some to be sent off to iron heaven and others that are ready to quilt

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Rainy Day Brings Finished Rainbow Vs

Rainbow Vs ready for borders
Rainbow V's might be one of my oldest UFOs, dating back to its start sometime between 2008 and 2010--my New York days before I knew about quilt shop quality fabric.  It began with a modified version of "Breaking Out" from Maaike Bakker's Strip Pieced Quilts:  Easy Designs from Just Six Fabrics book.  All the blocks were assembled and were transported to California...but I didn't touch them until September 2011 and all I managed to do was assemble the rows and columns into a mostly finished quilt top.  I had ideas of appliqueing a giant pansy print border, but I wasn't confident in my skills and no longer cared for the quality of the pansy printed fabric.  So I hung the quilt top in our hallway outside our bedroom.  While in bed, I would often look out at it and wonder when I would ever finish it.

Well fast forward to mid January 2014--and I was once again looking out at it and finally decided it was time.  I asked Doug to help me take it down and went to work the next morning pulling out fabrics to audition for possible borders.
Border Possibilities
Skippy approves the new borders

Now in fairness, this quilt has been on my mind and I had picked up several quilt shop quality fabrics for the borders...but needed to decide on which would nicely complement the rainbow Vs.  I was torn but ultimately went with the butterfly/flower petal fabric that brought some sparkle to the quilt.  Here is Skippy modelling the newly added border design.  Then I went to work developing/doodling quilted motifs and have been working on it ever since until I put in my final binding stitches last night, just as it finally started to rain--and has been raining ever since.  

So here are some pics of the finished quilt, backing and quilting motifs...enjoy!
Finished quilt top
Close Up of Feathers, Figure 8s and Cursive E's and Ls
Back of quilt for better visibility of quilting
Quilt back featuring a fun large scale floral print
Border feather motifs
Hidden Easter Egg:  My name quilted into the inner border
"The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain"--Dolly Parton
At least I had something bright and cheery to look out at this it is rather dreary outside with non-stop, but much needed, rain.  And it is so nice to have this UFO complete--I was all giddy last night with celebration!  I have 2 other UFOs I'd like to tackle the border quilting next, and then it is time to treat myself to a new project or two!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Quilt Doodling

There's been a whole lotta doodling going on these days.  No, this is not another attempt to procrastinate quilting all the quilt tops in my queue.  Its to help me design some fun FMQ motifs to add another layer of interest to those quilt tops.  Rather than waste lots of paper drafting up ideas, I've found some reusable surfaces to doodle away...

System 1:  Sheet Protectors
Ready to Doodle Quilt Designs
I recreated the block on paper in black and white using sharpie marker.  Since the block was already partially quilted with figure 8s, I added these on the paper version to see how the doodles would complement them.  Once complete, I slipped my paper block into a sheet protector and went to work doodling up fun designs using fine tipped white board markers.  To help me remember the various draft designs, I would take a picture of each before erasing it.
Doodle Designs for Black Opals and Ribbon Candy Cool Version
Once I settled on a final design, I was able to remove the paper block and do a final audition by placing the sheet protector with design over the actual quilt.
Final Audition of Design Over Actual Quilt
Quilted Block
I had to recreate a new block for the warm version of the same quilt as I hadn't started any quilting in these blocks.
Doodle Designs for the Warm Black Opals and Ribbon Candy blocks
Final Audition
I used my sheet protector system for another old UFO--my Rainbow Vs.
Rainbow V doodles
System 2:  Plexiglass
Plexiglass with Blue Painter's tape
I have since upgraded my doodling system to a larger piece of Plexiglass, which can accommodate larger blocks and borders.  I placed blue painter's tape along each edge to create a lip to prevent my doodles from running off the edge onto the actual quilt.  I can also use blue painter's tape to mark out inner borders rather than keep drawing them with white board markers.  

Stay tuned as I finish up quilting all these doodles and post more pictures of the finished quilts soon!