Saturday, May 31, 2014

Texture Plus

Whenever working in a series, I always try to mix things up a little on subsequent pieces to add some variety and try new designs and/or techniques.  I really loved Hugs & Kisses (the contrast between the pebbling and straight lines of the X's and even the play on words with the title), so I was at a total lost as to how to tackle the teal companion piece.
Trapped Ripples FMQ Filler

While stitching in the ditch, I looked over at my Leah Day Free Motions Filler Sampler quilt for inspiration--originally in search of a variation on the pebbling design--perhaps some spirals to continue the Hugs & Kisses title.  But then I saw the Trapped Ripples block and thought that would make for a great filler around the crosses.  Each of the blocks had 4 corner quadrants that were easily subdivided into 2 triangle units which were then filled with echoing arcs forming Trapped Ripples.  Not only did this filler design provide some great texture, it was super fast to complete all 8 rows (another big plus--ha ha!!)
Texture Plus with Trapped Ripples Free Motion Quilting

While working through each of the 8 rows, I mulled over some clever quilt titles.  Since there weren't any circles, Hugs & Kisses no longer applied.  Brainstorm sessions using the X shape came up empty.  By changing my mindset from perceiving the cross as an Plus Sign, instead of an X quickly yielded the Texture Plus title--which captures all the fabulous texture created by the Trapped Ripple filler design...perfect! 

In lieu of pebble quilting, how about rocky backdrop for Texture Plus?!?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

X's & O's: Hugs & Kisses

Hugs & Kisses
Originally I had dubbed these quilt tops "Chopsticks," based on the criss-crossed strips of pink (or teal) fabric.  But once I started to free motion quilt pebbles throughout, it was filled with Xs and O's, hence the "Hugs & Kisses" name.
Close up of pebble quilting
Quilting the pebbles was a fairly easy task that required only a little planning ahead to ensure I didn't leave any nooks or crannies unquilted--not that it wasn't hard to travel forward/back as needed.  To help the X's really pop, I outline quilted them before filling in the gaps with pebbling.  I was able to plan all my starts and stops to take place off the edge of the quilt, so I didn't have to bury any of my threads-woo hoo!  I used Superior Threads So Fine 50 weight thread in a matching grey color that worked beautifully.  But I think I still went through at least 3 or 4 extra large bobbins.
Quilt Label--Check!

I've got a pretty lengthy list of quilts that are in need of quilt labels (tsk, tsk--I know!!).  But at least I am trying not to add any more quilts to the list but incorporating the quilt label before adding on the binding.  It goes so much faster this way--doesn't require any interfacing and/or handwork.  So here is my quilt pocket label beautifully framed by one of our gorgeous roses in bloom.

Next up, its companion piece in teal.  Not sure yet whether I will replicate the same pebbling motif or mix things up.  Stay tuned!

Friday, May 23, 2014

UFO Exchange--Part 4: My former UFOs---or "where are they now?!?"

Pile o' Discarded UFOs
Back in January, I set out to inventory my UFO projects and determine which fell into the Love It, or Over It categories.  I've already blogged about several quilts that fell into the Love it pile and have since been quilted and carried to completion (or are in progress).  

The UFO Exchange was created as a way to let go of some of my Over It projects and give them a new life with some of my talented fellow guild members.  As I've been working on the 2 UFOs I brought home in February, I've been secretly wondering what would become of the blocks or quilt tops I bid adieu to at the February UFO Exchange.  So for me, it was a real treat to see two of my former UFOs carried to completion with great care and love, many thanks to two very talented fellow quilters--Irene B and Marie S. 

My Baby Thaddeus Twister Quilt from February 2012
Quilt #1:  Baby Boy Twister
Lil Twister Quilt by Irene B
Back in February 2012, one of my college friends announced she was expecting her 3rd or 4th child, yet another baby boy (nearly all my friends have had baby boys, so I am running out of baby boy quilt ideas).  So I purchased three cute charm packs from an online quilt shop that featured a variety of cute baby prints:  safety pins, ducks, rattles, bottles, etc.  Sorting out the more feminine charms, I was left with a mostly yellow, blue and green color palette that I supplemented with additional prints from my stash.  Since I had so many charms, I set out to make a companion quilt to have ready for the next of my friends/family to be expecting with child.  The second set of blocks were laid out and even sewn into rows and that is where the project fizzled out.  I never got around to sewing the rows together to cut out the twister shapes that are then reassembled into a Twister quilt.  So the assembled rows and all the spare charm squares were packed up and entered into the UFO Exchange where they piqued the interest of Irene B.  Once I learned that she had picked up my former project, I sent her an email explaining my original intent use the Twister tool to create a twister quilt.  Ultimately, it was her project to complete and keep as desired, but I was super excited to see that she went out to purchase the Lil Twister template and created a Lil' Twister quilt of her very own!  Irene did a fabulous job with all the twisters and even used the remaining square scraps (left behind after cutting out the twister square intersections) for her border--what a fantastic idea!  And what happened to all those extra charm squares from the original charm packs?!?  The ever resourceful Irene put them to use in piecing her quilt backing!
Irene's Lil Twister Quilt Back Using all the extra 5" charms!

Even though the quilts did not have to be quilted/bound--Irene went above and beyond and finished her quilt with a fun swirling spiral motif and even bound her completed quilt!  

Thanks Irene for finishing what I could not!  I am sure it will bring a lot of joy and warmth to a Lil one.  And as an extra bonus, Irene is yet another Twister convert--and shared that she will definitely use it again!

Interestingly enough, all the 1" hand dyed fabric strips that I first selected, were dropped off by we basically exchanged with one another!  How fun!

Quilt #2:  Bow Tie Quilt
Bow Tie Blocks in Yellow, Green and Teal
This quilt was started back in 2010 when a friend from grad school announced his engagement.  The wedding colors were yellow and he was a huge John Deere tractor I pulled in some green prints (including a John Deere print) and some fun teal prints.  I whipped up lots of bow tie blocks then it was time to move to California--so they were packed up for the big cross country road trip.  Once settled in northern California, the blocks were pulled out and various motifs/designs were arranged on the floor before I found one that piqued my fancy.
I really liked the concentric rings the bow tie blocks formed, but had envisioned it on point and just couldn't figure out how the math or design work to piece the four corner units.  I had a bunch of leftover half square triangles sewn from the corner units that might be fun to incorporate but sought out the professional help.  Yup, this quilt was my first introduction to The Granary quilt shop as I attended one of the open sew sessions hoping for inspiration and/or guidance on how best to proceed.  The Granary staff members were wonderful and provided me with some great ideas to move forward, but ultimately the large size of this quilt just got the best of me.  So it too was packed up along with a stack of spare bow tie blocks, charm squares, half square triangles and yardage originally purchase for a border and/or corner units.

I was flattered when Marie S, one of our more expert quilters selected it in the exchange and let me know that she was looking forward to working with my color/fabric palettes, which she often enjoys seeing during the show and tells.  Besides being a master quilter, Marie S is the queen of scrap quilts.  In fact, Marie S was our October 2012 meeting speaker as she presented her "Scraps, Scraps, Scraps" trunk show featuring a fun line up of scraptastic 9-patch quilts.  It was just amazing to see the beautiful works of quilted art she created using scraps in various 9-patch block layouts!  I was very curious to see what she would do with all my banished bow tie scraps.  Well--Marie certainly rose to the challenge both in quality and quantity as she produced not just one but three quilt tops for Monday's big reveal!!
Marie S's Bow Tie Bonanza!  Three Quilt Tops Created from my humble Bow Tie Quilt!!
Marie's First Quilt Top

Marie's first top used the stack of charm squares included to create diagonal lines alternating in yellow, green and teal.  

Marie's Second Quilt Top

Her second quilt used half of the bow tie quilt top, to which she created corner pieces and a large border from the extra yardage included.  I especially love the fact that she kept the one John Deere block (in the top right corner)!
Marie's Wonky Bow Tie Quilt Top

Marie then used the remaining bow tie blocks and created wonky bow tie blocks using the extra yardage to frame each bow tie block.  This one is definitely my favorite of the three tops as I love all the movement created by the off-kilter blocks creating a zig zags in each direction!  Very fun!  

And there is still one more deposited UFO floating around with a fellow UFO Exchange participant:  my slice and swap blocks in red, yellow, green and blue.  Another project started while living in NY for a young child who was crazy for dinosaurs (but has since long outgrown this boyhood phase).  So who knows--maybe I will see this top pieced and completed at a future meeting show and tell?!?

Kudos to Irene B and Marie S for their bravery to participate in the UFO Exchange project, but for also taking home one of my older UFOs and giving them a terrific finish!  And many thanks to each of them for giving their permission for me to include pictures of their completed projects in today's post!  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

UFO Exchange--Part 3: 1" Strips

One of the first participants to arrive for our UFO Exchange had a bag full of hand dyed fabric scraps that immediately caught my eye.  Knowing I'd be in the last selection group, I figured they'd already be scooped up by another participant.  So when it was my turn, I made a beeline in the off-chance they might still be up for grabs, and as soon as I spotted them, I scooped them up and claimed them as my own!

It wasn't until I got home and unpacked my bundle of scraps that I realized what a treasure trove this UFO contained!  First I pulled out the 1" strips and found several strip sets buried inside.  And then buried behind all the strips was yardage (almost 1/4 yard in all 8 gradations in both teal and pink!!--so almost 4 full yards of fabric!)
1" strips pressed and organized
Once I pressed all the strips, I realized there were 5-6 strips in each of the 16 colorways--and thankfully my predecessor had already labelled each of the gradations for easy identification!!  I decided to challenge myself to see what I could do with the 1" strips.  For inspiration, I found loads of inspiration in my book & magazine collection, and of course, Pinterest!!  The challenge would be narrowing down which techniques/designs to try first!

Quilt #1:  Spinning Borders
I had found one idea on Pinterest and went to work creating a large strip set alternating the gradated hand dyes with black 1" strips to create a large sideways V-shape.  But the original inspiration quickly lost appeal, so I went to work slicing the strip set into ribbon blocks to wrap around a center block.
Block layout experimentation
I played around with the orientation of the strip sets--lighter values towards the center (top left), towards the corners (top right), matching light values in opposite corners and dark values in the other two corners (bottom left) and adding an inner border of black (bottom right).  They definitely needed the black inner piping to clearly define the various components.  Below are the finished blocks in teal and pink. 
Finished 10" Blocks in Teal and Pink
Finished Quilt top
Here is the pieced top, which I like as is.  I don't think it needs a border, but still have time to play around with border treatments.  The changes in value and color really give the piece a lot of movement and create an optical illusion where the strip sets appear to get wider as they move towards the lighter values creating a vortex spinning around the center squares! 

Quilt #2:  Pink Chopsticks

Several of the inspirational ideas I pinned used a slice and insert technique to slice a background fabric and insert fabric strips.  I had read several magazine articles by Jacquie Gering outlining her slice and insert technique and while I loved the liberated look of the finished blocks, I needed some semblance of order in my quilts.  As such, I created a few design rules to help me plan and organize my blocks and layout:
Pile o' pink patterned prints to supplement--say that fast 3xs!
1.  To add some sparkle and variety, I supplemented the 8 different values of pink hand dyed strips with patterned prints from my stash.  I aimed to have 2-3 WOF strips in each of the 8 values and laid them out from light to dark with their corresponding hand dyed fabric strip.
2.  Since I wanted the strips to pop, I cut 64 5" charm squares out of charcoal grey Kona solid for my background.
3.  Starting with the lightest value strips, I started to assemble my slice and insert blocks.  Half the blocks had the hand dyed fabric inserted first and the pattern print second, and the other half reversed the order so there were full strips of each fabric strip.
4.  When starting out, I only made 1 or 2 blocks at a time so I didn't lose track of which pieces went where.  But after the first few blocks were completed, I was able to slice and insert 4 blocks at a time, and then soon I was able to stagger the different phases to chain piece 8 blocks at a time.  It sounds confusing but surprisingly enough, I didn't sew any units incorrectly!
5.  After running out of hand dyed fabric strip for the first set of 8 blocks, I used a more shallow angle for the hand dyed slices, and more extreme angles for the prints (requiring a longer length of fabric strip), so I was able to get 8 blocks from each strip of hand dyed fabrics (with just an inch or so to spare!).  These 2 different angles also helped me keep track of all the block units when chain piecing 4 or 8 blocks at a time.
6.  Once both strips were inserted and the block was pressed, I trimmed it down to 4.5" giving me plenty of wiggle room for any wonkiness/distortion created by the various angles.
7.  At first I started with the light value blocks in the center and radiated out to more darker values, but quickly realized this plan would mean the outer rows have to blur all the remaining darker values.  So instead, I gradated the values with the lightest in the top left corner and getting darker as I worked my way to bottom right corner.  And I just took care not to have the blocks with identical strip sets laying adjacent to each other (corners kissing was ok).  

These blocks were actually started 1 week before the challenge deadline (I really do seem to do my best work under pressure!!), but went together in a day or two.  Once all laid out on my design wall, the blocks were super easy and quick to sew together into rows and then columns.
Pink Chopsticks Finished Top
Interestingly enough, even though the grey charm squares were all cut out of the same fabric, it appeared to change in value in relation to the strip sets.  Several of my fellow guild members even commented that the charcoal grey looked lighter with the lighter pinks at the top left, and darker in the bottom right.  A very cool, yet unplanned magical effect of the fabric colors interacting with each other.

Quilt #3:  Teal Chopsticks

Teal fabrics ready for a companion quilt
Just as I was about to sew all the finished pink chopsticks blocks together into a quilt top, my dear Doug suggested that I make a companion quilt using the teal strips.  Exasperated with the looming deadline, I convinced him that I needed to first focus on finish this quilt for the looming deadline (and joked that it might require a visit to a quilt shop or two to pick up some more fabric to make a companion quilt.)  But it was too late--the seed of an idea had already taken root and a few minutes later, I was digging through my stash to pull out an assortment of teal fabrics in a variety of values!

This time around, I had an efficient system in place and quickly churned out slice and insert blocks (about 8 blocks/hour), and I just paced myself to do 16-24 blocks a day to meet the rapidly approaching show and tell deadline.  I finished the last batch of blocks on Saturday and went to work Sunday evening to assemble all 64 blocks into rows/columns, finishing it in plenty of time for our Monday morning guild meeting big reveal!

Pieced Teal Chopsticks Quilt Top
I've started to layer and baste the pink chopsticks quilt, but haven't finalized the quilt motif yet.  But since these are all fairly small pieces (~30" square each), they should quilt very quickly and will make some fun and modern baby quilts.  And I still have plenty of 1" strips remaining should I ever need to make a 3rd chopsticks quilt!!

But for now, I think I am done with 1" strips for a while!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

UFO Exchange--Part 2: Log Cabin Blocks

Our guild's UFO Exchange came to a close on Monday where participants revealed their finished tops/projects at our monthly meeting show and tell.  And while mine are not yet quilted/bound, I will share my journey of incorporating my own fabrics and design style to complete the finished tops that are ready for quilting.  

Table runner pattern, log cabin blocks and extra yardage
Since I had brought in multiple UFOs from my studio, I was able to select more than one UFO turned in by the other participating members.  After the first round, most of the UFO's had been claimed, so I was a little skeptical as to whether any of the remaining projects would appeal to me.  But then I noticed a small cardboard box that was still sealed I opened it up and saw four pretty log cabin blocks that were meticulously pieced by a fellow guild member, Suzanne D, using asian-inspired fabrics with metallic gold highlights, along with additional yardage and a pattern to make a patchwork table runner.  I brought them home and admired them and then my usual procrastination set in.  

Fast forward to April, and while my brain was buzzing with loads of ideas and inspirations for each of the projects, I had yet to actually do any sewing!  It would be rather embarrassing for me, as the UFO Exchange organizer to not have anything to reveal!  So I figured the log cabins would be a quick and easy project and at least I'd have something to show with my fellow participants.  The table runner pattern had the blocks lined up in 1 row, creating a 1x4 design.  Instead, I went with a 2x2 block layout forming a square and moved the 4 blocks around to mock up how the fabrics/colors would create different patterns. 
2x2 layout options A (left side) and B (right side)
I really liked the cream colored cross formed in layout A, but found the outer border distracting and I was worried about matching up all the seams to make it appear as one large border.  Having that same fabric in the center for Layout B just seemed very busy and I lost the strong, clean lines I liked in layout A.  I kept going back and forth and wasn't thrilled with either layout.  

Finished quilt top, pin basted and ready for quilting
And then I realized it was that one outer fabric with the large circles and flower bouquets that I found distracting.  Before I cut them off entirely, I simply folded them back for a quick mock up of the new layout and eureka!:  that was the magic solution to my design dilemma.  I hate ripping out seams, so I pulled out my rotary cutter and just sliced off those outer strips!  

Now that I had the block layout puzzle sorted out, I still had to figure out borders.  There was extra yardage included with some feathers with metallic highlights that would make for a really pretty border frame, but it blurred with the blue block strips.  So I went to my stash and auditioned several different gold, green and teal fabrics to create a contrasting inner border.  There was a green leafy print with gold metallic accents that was perfect and I had just enough to create my binding strips and a thin flange for my spinning borders.  And while this isn't my current style of fabric or design, I really love it and found a way to make the fabrics and blocks truly pop!
Feather/fern motif inspired by Angela Walters

And while I have not yet started to quilt, I've sketched up some FMQ feather/fern motifs inspired by the feathery border fabrics.  I've got my center cross motifs all sketched up with this beautiful feather/fern design from Angela Walters, and I'm still doodling different mock ups for the log cabin blocks and surrounding spinning borders.  Stay tuned for a future post once its quilted and bound! 

Many thanks to my fellow quilter Suzanne D for her meticulous piecing of the four log cabin blocks and extra yardage to create a fantastic wall hanging/table topper! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

UFO Exchange--Part 1: Inspiration and Organization

My own stash of UFO projects that inspired a UFO Exchange
At the start of the new year, I started to tally up my UFOs and WIPs.  I quickly realized there were several projects that had lost my interest for one or more reasons, and I was ready to part ways and was about to donate them to our guild's Philanthropy committee.  Then inspiration struck, and I had the brilliant idea to host a UFO Exchange with fellow guild members.  Giddy with excitement, I went to work formulating a proposal to pitch to my fellow guild board members.  My vision was to invite fellow members to bring unwanted/unloved UFOs (including any spare blocks, fabrics, embellishments, etc) and leave with someone else's UFO to complete as desired and keep for themselves.  I was a little nervous pitching my idea to my fellow board members, but was pleasantly surprised by their positive response to my crazy idea.  They offered some very helpful suggestions such as including a time frame to motivate the participants to complete their new projects and even put forward a motion to allocate $150 budget to purchase incentive prizes to award to participants that complete their project by the deadline.  And then a member in attendance at the meeting offered her edge to edge long arm services as a bonus incentive, which was awesome!!

Round 1:  Pile o' 1" strips of hand dyed fabrics
Announcements were made at our January meeting and in our February newsletter, but I had no idea how many members would be game to participate at our February meeting exchange.  I heard some buzz but wasn't I sure which scenario I feared most:  a total dud turnout of only one or two member bringing UFOs or to be swamped by a 100 participants which could mean total chaos when it came time for members to select a new to them projects.  Hoping for the best, I hung large signs along the side wall, each printed with different quilt/fabric styles  modern, batiks, ethnic/asian, baby/youth, florals, applique, historical/repros, wall hangings/table runners, etc.  As members arrived with their projects, they were asked to first, label the project with their name and a brief description of the project and to then deposit their UFO under the category that best captured their UFO.  During the meeting break, small groups of participants (selected by birth month) were then given the chance to go to the wall to select a fun new project.  I organized the small groups order so that I would be in the last group, and was thrilled to find that the bag of hand dyed scraps I had spied upon arrival, were still up for grabs!!!
Round 2 UFO Exchange Selection

For those members who brought more than one UFO (and believe me, there were several of us anxious to purge more than one UFO), they were able to select one project per round, and after everyone had their chance to select their first project, they were invited to go back and select another project, until all the projects had been claimed.  I was totally thrilled with my first selection but revisited the wall to see what other projects remained, when I noticed a small cardboard box that had been sealed shut.  I opened it, curious as to what was inside, and to my surprise, found some very pretty log cabin blocks made with asian fabrics with metallic highlights, extra yardage and directions to make a long, narrow table runner.  So I scooped that one up as well!

There were a few leftover, unwanted projects which were gathered and donated to Philanthropy to be made into quilts for our community.

Email addresses were collected from all participants to send out a follow up email outlining the challenge and 2 updates/reminders for the approaching May meeting show and tell deadline.  And along the way, members would email me with their own progress and pics, which helped to motivate me as well (especially since I usually procrastinate and stall on quilt challenges!!)

Come April, Doug and I went to work securing all the gift certificate prizes, purchased from our various affiliate quilt shops.  It was a lot of fun doing our own shop hop to visit each of the quilt shops to purchase the gift certificates, while doing a little fabric therapy of my own!  I also worked with our long arm quilter to draft up the terms and limitations of her services (size limitations, date restrictions, and clarifying what the winner must provide and what the long arm quilter provides).

The night of the big reveal, members earned one drawing ticket per each completed UFO shown.  Since edge to edge quilting was the big prize, the UFO projects did not not have to be quilted or bound to be entered into the prize drawings.  I was thrilled that 8 of the 11 participants had one or more completed pieces to show!  Finished projects included quilt tops of all sizes, wall hangings, a pillow, lampshade and even an apron complete with two potholders (super creative!!)  As the names were drawn, winners were able to select from remaining prizes.  Several of the participants expressed to me how much fun they had with this challenge, and how it stretched them to work with someone else's fabric selections or block constructions.  Many of the participants asked if we would do it again next year, in addition to many other members who after watching the UFO exchange unfold now wanted to join the fun!  Even the visiting quilt artist, Cara Gulati, commented on what a fun idea our UFO Exchange was!  If any fellow guild members are thinking about hosting their own UFO Exchange--feel free to contact me and I am happy to share my planning documents and timeline.

Stay tuned for posts revealing my progress with the 1" strips and asian fabric log cabins, as well as how two of my fellow members worked their magic with some of my former UFOs!