Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mongolian Quilters Converting Unwanted Scraps into a Beautiful New Life

Maggie Ball was our featured quilt artist and presented a fabulous trunk show including quilts made to teach children the skill and history of quilting, as well as her own quilts where she adds her own twist on traditional quilting blocks.  She concluded her trunk show by sharing stories of her travels to Mongolia to teach a group of Mongolian women the skill of quilting.  Ten years later, she has remained involved with the New way Life NGO Mongolian Quilting Center, as she has returned to the center on multiple visits, and has helped to raise funds to provide a safe space for women to practice their new craft.  Many thanks to her dedication and instruction, these women learned how to quilt small scraps of silk fabrics into extraordinary art, as a way to earn money to contribute to their family income.

Her table featured a display of gorgeous Mongolian quilted art available for purchase, with 100% of the money going directly back to the Mongolian Quilting Center.  It was really difficult for me to decide which quilted artwork to purchase as they were all absolutely stunning--the designs, brilliant colors, rich silk textures and just the beautiful craftsmanship.  But at the end of the night, this little beauty came home with me.  I just love all the beautiful colors and textures, and I just marvel that it was made by fellow quilters far, far away!!  I will treasure it and remember what a gift the skill of quilting is to women (and men) all around the world.
Mini Quilt Made by Mongolian Quilters

Sunday, June 15, 2014

UFO Wrap Up: Wrap Around Rays

Pieced Quilt Top
This is the last of the quilt tops made as part of the UFO Exchange!  Not only did I purge unloved UFOs, but I committed to finishing/quilting each new project started in this fun challenge...woo hoo!

When brainstorming various quilt motifs, I looked at each of the block shapes for inspiration.  Initially I thought about creating a feather wreath that would circle around the center floral square, but wasn't totally in love with the sketched mock up.  So then I broke it down to each of the rectangle units to see what I could create within each rectangle and again tried various feather designs, flowers and other filler motifs, which were fun but didn't thrill me.  Then I subdivided the rectangles with a diagonal line, which was echoed in the outer sections to create rays and then some cursive E's in the lower triangle...which I just loved!!

Mocked Up Free Motion Designs (top left to bottom right):  feather wreath, feathers, wiggly tentacles, spirals/cursive e's/chain of pearls, flower and finally wrap around rays with cursive e's.
As soon as the wrap around rays and cursive e's were sketched, I knew it was a perfect complement to the pieced design and was ready to start stitching.  I hate marking quilt tops and turned to my trusted blue painter's tape to create a straight edge guide for my walking foot to stitch the dividing diagonal line.  Once I went around once in a full circle, I used a smaller piece of tape with little tick marks to spread out the echoed lines evenly in the remaining space.  I started at the narrow end and just worked my way down the center of the triangle towards the center tick mark, then stitched in the ditch to the next tick mark, pivoted and then sitched down the center of this new triangle back to the point, pivot back to the last registration mark to create at total of 4 straight line rays.  Once all the straight lines were stitched and the center square stitched in the ditch, I put on my free motion foot to fill in the center blocks with wavy lines or pebbling, and then filled in the inner triangle units with loops/cursive e's going from large to small.  
From Sketch to Stitching using Blue Painter's Tape
Quilted Blocks Using Superior King Tut Variegated Threads
Now that my free motion quilting is improving, I don't want it to simply blend in with the background fabric.  So I am choosing bolder thread colors so you can really see the stitched motifs.  I really love Superior's King Tut brand and found two fun variegated threads to use:  Ramses Red and De Nile.  My first inclination was to play it safe and use the warm colored thread on the pink blocks and the cool color on the teal blocks.  But then I tried to audition the opposite combination by pooling some of the Ramses Red thread on the teal blocks and really loved how it popped, and tried the same with pooling De Nile on the pink blocks.  I kept going back and forth as to whether to play it safe or to mix it up a little, and once I took that leap of faith, I absolutely love how it created another layer of interest in my finished piece.
Wrap Around Rays
Quilt Label and Backing Fabric
I used a bold pink and green floral fabric for the backing with my signature corner label.  My quilt title comes from the spinning gradated units that wrap around the floral center blocks, and the stitched lines that radiate around the center:  Wrap Around Rays!

I am excited to announce that I will be teaming up with a fellow UFO Exchange participant and board member to host another UFO Exchange starting January 2015, complete with more fun UFOs to swap and fabulous prizes including edge to edge quilting from Grace's Long Arm Quilting and a budget to buy more gift certificates to our local quilt shops!  I hope you can join the UFO fun!!
And that's a wrap to the 2014 UFO Exchange!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Feathers Squared

Finished Quilt Top Basted and Ready for FMQing
I am still amazed at how some free motion quilting can totally transform a quilt top!!

To the left is the finished quilt top pieced from the log cabin blocks I brought home from the UFO exchange.  Even though this was the first of my UFOs quilt tops to pieced and basted, I was unsure how best to quilt it.  So I moved onto other UFO exchange projects as I allowed my brain to percolate different FMQing motifs to bring this quilt to life.

Thanks to some purposeful procrastination, here is the transformation created through some free motion quilting...ta da!!
Feathers Squared Quilted and Bound
Practice Makes Perfect!

So while I claim to have been stumped as to how to quilt, in actuality, I knew all along I wanted to replicate the feather design from the border fabric into the quilting and was inspired by Angela Walter's plume fern/feather design for my cream center cross.  Using my handy dandy sheet of plexiglass, I did several practice doodles to work out the flow and develop muscle memory.

Close up of Center Section

But this center feather design still left me with 4 log cabin squares in need of some kind of fun free motion filler designs--and these are what really stumped my forward movement.  But I've learned to simply divide and conquer larger spaces to make it much more manageable.  So using my walking foot, I stitched an arc along each side of the log cabin blocks, creating an orange peel effect.  These arcs were echoed and then filled with loops and figure eights.  And then I just had fun creating different center designs using pebbling, McTavishing, back and forth and even a fun checkerboard.  I didn't plan out any of the designs in advance but rather just started stitching and just tried to have each block center be totally unique.   

Quilt Label and Quilt Backing Fabric
Another helpful lesson learned was the repetition of design elements throughout the quilt top.  More feathers were quilted in each of the 4 spinning borders and the chain of pearls motif stitched in the feather spines were carried into the green inner borders.  These repeat designs really helped to create a cohesive look and help the viewer's eye move around without becoming totally overwhelmed.

Once I started to divide and conquer smaller sections of the quilt top, the quilting was completed super quick.  In total, this only took a day to complete all the free motion quilting, label and binding!    

I went with the name "Feathers Squared" since feathers were incorporated in both the fabric and quilting, as well as feathers helped to frame the four log cabin squares.

And here is one more finished pic framed by our blooming yellow rose bush...
Feathers Squared Framed by Golden Roses