Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On Tour: Owl You Need Is Love

We are going on tour across the United States---Whoo Whoo!
The 2014 Hoffman Challenge Judging is complete and notifications sent out.  While my "Owl You Need Is Love" quilt entry did not win any competition prizes, it was accepted into the travelling exhibit!  I am just honored the Judges deemed the quality to be exhibit worthy.

And as a bonus, one of its first stops is Sarasota, FL, where my mother lives, meaning she can see the actual quilt in person!

So if you are curious in seeing my quilt travel--it will be in Trunk D which has its very own travelling schedule.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wicked Awesome Quilting Fun

My guild posts various quilt challenges for its membership via Facebook, including The Wicked Cherrywood Challenge.  I've visited the Cherrywood booth at PIQF and loved the suede-like texture of these 100% cotton fabrics.  Heck, I've even purchased one of their Tropicana fat quarter bundles that was simply too gorgeous to cut up!  While talking to my mom about the various challenges out there, I mentioned the Wicked challenge and admitted that I had no visions or ideas.  She is super creative, so our brainstorming sessions are always productive.  Even though she hadn't seen the musical, she was familiar with the Wizard of Oz and threw out a few ideas and when she mentioned tornado--I was instantly inspired and motivated.  Immediately after our phone conversation, I submitted my registration to gain access to the Wicked Fat Quarter Bundle including Black Onyx and 3 shades of Wicked Green, as well as purchased a fat quarter bundle of their Onyx to Light gradation to create a stormy look.
Cherrywood bundle up top and their Kona counterparts
As I was contemplating the actual tornado design and construction, I purchased a stack of Kona solids in green and gray gradations to use for quilt mock ups--saving my precious Cherrywoods for the final piece.  I am so glad I did as my earlier experiments were quickly scrapped.  I am relatively new to solids, so I thought I would cut up some strips to create my own patterns of stripes and checkerboards, which not only took up a lot of time and effort but I just didn't love.  So back to the drawing board.

After much research and brainstorming, I decided to create ticker tape pieces that could be fused into a tornado-like design.
Ticker Tape Tornado

I started with an 18" square background of the Onyx black, fused onto Pellon Decor Bond stabilizer.  The ticker tape bits were created out of 2.25" strips that were fused with Pellon Wonder Under and then cut down into 1/2" by 2" pieces.  And I fearlessly busted out the Tropicana bundle, selecting the yellow and aqua fat quarters to add a pop of color to my whirlwind.  As I was cutting up the yellow strips, I saw flashes of yellow bricks and immediately went to work constructing a yellow brick road for my center.  From there, I gradated into various greens strips, aquas and light to dark grays to create a concentric design from light to dark.  I loved the look and immediately fused it down by iron.

Since I was working with fat quarters, I didn't have a piece large enough to meet the 20" square finished quilt requirement.  So borders were needed to meet the size requirement, but how to complement my tornado center and not detract.  I decided to keep it simple with 2" spinning borders of green Cherrywood--which nicely framed my tornado and ensured that I met the 60% of the quilt top featuring the Wicked bundle of fabrics.      

Paper Mock Up Of Logarithmic Spirals
While I loved the center design, I was really hoping to create a tornado spiraling out from the center.  Since everything was fused down, I achieved my spiral during the quilting phase.  Yet, I was not entirely sure how to go about creating a uniform spiral that would radiate out from the center and required minimal marking.  Even my attempts to sketch out spirals on paper came out super awkward and ugly.   So I turned to Doug for some mathematical insights.

We researched various spirals and first started with Fibonacci or Golden Spirals--but they always seemed off-center.  We kept looking at various spiral designs, and finally saw a spiral that exactly matched the visions in my head:  Logarithmic Spirals!
Logarithmic Spiral Freezer Paper Template
These logarithmic spirals could be created with a formula which was totally foreign to me, but Doug took one quick look and he immediately put his engineering and math training to work translating my vision into degrees and distance from the origin points that could be plotted along a Polar graph. So while I was making a paper mock up and marking 30-degree lines, he used several computer applications and websites to calculate all the various points that I then plotted at 30 degree intervals using an Engineer's ruler.  A french curve was used to connect the first set of dots, creating a beautiful spiral radiating out front the center.  Then the points were plotted starting at the 180-degrees vector, creating a set of spirals swirling around each other.  These were traced onto freezer paper, cut out and ironed onto the quilt top achieving a totally mark-free quilting template!
1st Spiral Quilted and then the Second Spiral Filled In
Wiggly Tentacles (aka Mini Twisters) and Label
Once the spiral shape was determined, the actual basting and quilting was completed in less than a day.  The first spiral was quilted with dense pebbling in Aurifil grey to simulate Galinda's bubbly personality and her ability to travel by bubble.  The line dividing the two spirals was echoed in a matching lime green Aurifil thread and the remaining spiral was filled in with green triangles filled in with cross hatching, creating Elphaba's witch hat and broom.  Then mini twisters (aka Leah Day's Wiggly Tentacles) lined the border.

And here are some detail shots of the front of the quilt...

Close Up Shots of the Quilt Front
Wicked Windy & Winding Ways Front
Wicked Awesome Quilt Back
I received an email yesterday confirming the receipt of my quilt.  And today, I got a visual confirmation that my quilt arrived safe and sound, as they posted a photograph of it on their Facebook page!!   How wicked awesome is that?!?  Out of 70+ quilts they've received thus far, mine was among 5 or 6 total that have been posted over the past 5+ weeks.  Let's hope that is a good sign that they liked my design and it has a chance of being accepted in the travelling show and a possible contender for a prize?!?

"Witch" me luck!  :-)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Quilting with Alex

Last week, Doug's niece and nephews came over for a BBQ.  During their visit, Alex*, the youngest going into 4th or 5th grade, was checking out several of my quilts hanging around the house and commented that she would love to learn how to quilt.  So I offered to invite her over for a quilting lesson to teach her some quilting techniques...and today was our first lesson.
In preparation for some fusing fun with Alex
Since this was Alex's first foray into quilting, I wanted to ease her in with a quick and easy project that she could complete in her first 2 hour session. So we started with some fusing fun.

Before our first session, I pulled out a colorful assortment of 5" charms and precut some slightly smaller squares of Wonder Under fusible.

When she first arrived, I showed her some examples of fused quilts from Frieda Anderson's and Laura Wasilowski's books, as well as some of my own finished quilts.  I could tell her head was spinning with ideas, so I asked if she might find it helpful to sketch out some shapes/images, and when she nodded yes, got her some printer paper, pencil and colored pencils to doodle some original designs.

Alex carefully ironing on Wonder Under
After sketching time, it was time for my favorite phase of the quilting process:  fabric selection!  I had her select 10-12 charm squares and showed her how to iron on the fusible.  I asked her if she had ever ironed before, and she shook her head we went over some basic iron safety tips and then demonstrated how to feel for the fusible side and layer the fabric and fusible.  She helped me with a few squares, and then did the rest on her own with me watching on.  I did set up the silicon pressing sheet just in case, but she did a great job keeping all the fusible on the fabric.  While the fused squares were cooling off, I asked her what colored background she might like to use for her art quilt.  She looked around my studio and after seeing several of my recent quilts which had grey backgrounds, she decided on grey.  So I pulled out some solid grey Kona cotton and cut out a fat quarter sized background and chalked on some border lines, ensuring there was ample space to trim/assemble without compromising her final design.  I showed her how to press the solid fabric to remove all the fold lines and wrinkles.    
Alex's colorful fabric selections

We then started to remove the paper backing off the charm squares and I showed her how she could cut out various shapes using fabric scissors and pinking shears, and she went to work creating an assortment of free-form cut shapes.  She wanted to cut out a star but was unsure how to free form it.  So she learned how to sketch designs in pencil on the Wonder Under paper backing and use an iron to transfer the lead lines onto the fused side of the squares, that could then be cut out.  She used that technique for a few different shapes.  When she started to draw a flower, I showed her how she could cut petals out of individual fabrics and layer them onto the paper backing to create an entire unit that could easily be moved around into her design.  She even got into some fussy cutting to cut out certain sections of the fabrics she most wanted to feature.

Alex getting ready to assemble her quilted pillow

Once her composition was complete, we then fused it all onto her background fabric.  I asked her what she might like to do with this finished piece:  make a mini quilt, tote bag or pillow and she was really excited about turning it into a pillow.  So we selected a pillow backing and she chose light pink thread to do some 1/2" straight line quilting onto a scrap of batting to keep all the fused pieces in place.  She helped to layer and baste the quilt top and even helped guide the fabric under the sewing machine as I controlled the foot pedal.  Once quilted, she helped to pin and assemble the pillow.  She was afraid we were sewing it upside down, but I assured her I would never let that happen to her first quilt.  So after I trimmed off the scrap edges, I handed her the inside out pillow and had her turn it right side out for the big reveal.  She then went to work stuffing her pillow and once filled, stitch together the small opening.
Alex and her first quilted pillow

Here is Alex's first quilted pillow--look at that big ole' smile on our budding quilt artist!!

While she was busy creating her quilt top, I went to work assembling a little fusing kit for her take home.  Doug found a small plastic case that we added some more backing grey fabrics, another stack of fused charms, in addition to her remaining fused scraps so she could continue the fusing fun at home.  She also took home a few quilting magazines.

I can't wait to see what she creates...maybe we can use some of her new pieces to learn how to piece together fabric and create a larger project at our next quilting session.

*  Name changed to Alex (she actually chose the name herself--perhaps she is destined to be a world-famous quilter like Alex Anderson!?!?)

Friday, July 18, 2014

2014 Hoffman Challenge: Owl You Need Is Love

2014 Hoffman Challenge Fabric-Indigo
Yes, my blog posts have been rather sparse this past month...but that is not due to a lack of quilting.  Quite the opposite:  I've been very busy working on a new quilt to enter in the 2014 Hoffman Challenge.

I came across the 2014 Hoffman Challenge earlier this year and loved the challenge fabric, but had absolutely zero ideas as to what kind of original quilt design I could ever make.  Every few days I would visit the website to look at the fabric and even after seeing it on the bolt at one of my favorite quilt shops--I still drew a total blank on ideas.  And just as I was about to forget this challenge entirely, inspiration struck!  While surfing some of my favorite blogs and Pinterest, I kept seeing images of owls which are all the rage this year.  Seeing those big ole owl eyes suddenly reminded me of the mandalas floating around on the challenge fabric and I rushed out to the quilt shop the very next day to pick up 2 or 3 yards of the challenge fabric.  Ever since starting this quilt, more and more owls are being spotted everywhere:  online, shopping trips, fashion, etc!  So at least I know they are still popular:  let's hope that wins some judges favor!

The start of my lil owls
Since the owl eyes triggered the memory of the fabric, it seemed fitting to kickstart this by selecting which mandalas to use for the eyes.  I chose two each of my two favorite mandalas to fuse and then carefully cut out.  Next, two of the mandalas had similar petals, one set being slightly larger than the other.  Fusible was ironed onto the fabric and then I carefully trimmed out the individual petal shapes, keeping the two sizes separate.  Once I had a nice pile o' petals, they were laid out in interlocking rows to create two owl chests.  And there these two quilts remained for well over a month as I continued to research owl anatomy via Pinterest, hoping for Pinspiration as to how to complete my lil owls with the challenge fabric.

Full Moon Phase
Once I finally sat down with the fabric and took a closer look, I started to see lots of possibilities for various owl body parts:  flower petals in pink and light blue could make for some lovely wing feathers, yellow feathers that looked a lot like claws or talons...etc.  And gradually, bit by bit, my two feathery friends came together.

Tree for Two Tails
Now that the owls were mostly assembled, it was time to set the romantic stage for my owls by framing them with a full moon against a starry sky backdrop.  The freezer paper appliqued moon was made with a wonderful cream and grey marbled fabric and Sulky invisible thread.  

Marbled brown batik fabric was used to freezer paper applique some tree branches for my lil' lovers to perch upon.  Before appliqueing the tree down, care was taken to tucked the tail feathers behind the branch first.

Look whooooo has arrived?!?
Now that my little scene was set, it was time to add some texture with free motion quilting using a colorful selection of Sulky threads, to be eligible for The Best Use of Sulky Awards.  I started by outline stitching the moon and tree to baste everything in place before filling in each of these spaces with different free motion fillers:
  • pebbling for the moon with some hidden floating quilted hearts (Sulky Rayon #1236)
  • spirals for the sky (Sulky Rayon #2106)
  • bark for the tree (Sulky Rayon #2133)
Tower of Threads

In total, I used 11 different Sulky threads (rayon, polyester, cotton, invisible and metallic) to embellish my quilt with lots of thread painting, especially on each of the owls.  With great relief, my Bernina played nicely with all but the metallic thread which did break a few times.  But otherwise, the threads just glided through my machine producing beautiful stitches along the surface of my quilt.  I'd start with one color of thread and doodle away on the owls, adding texture throughout.  I'd start with a spool of thread and microdoodle away in similar colored areas.  After burying each of my thread tails after each round, I would quickly flip over the quilt to see all the stitches truly pop on the solid black backing, creating a whole cloth quilt effect on the back.  Then I'd move onto the next spool of thread, anticipating the next sneak peak of the quilt back!
11 different Sulky threads creating texture on the front and a colorful surprise on the back
My poor tree looked so barren and the background seemed so very dark and dreary.  So a pop of color and depth were added with some pieced 3-D leaves.  The leaves were made from an assortment of pink, orange, yellow and teal fabrics, including stripes and fabrics that read as a solid.  Lime green piping was added to the center during the piecing, creating a channel to conceal floral tape that could then be twisted and manipulated to add another layer of texture and dimension.  Lime green sulky thread was used to stitch in some veins and satin stitch the leaves to a felt backing.  Once all my leaves were assembled, zig zag stitching was used to conceal the floral tape steps and attach the leaves to the quilted top.
Owl You Need Is Love Finished Front
When it came time to bind my quilt, care was taken not to draw attention away from the owls.  While I considered finished by facing, but went with double fold binding, as I could do it well and it would minimize the amount of handwork needed to attach the 4" quilt sleeve.  However, when it came time to cut the 2.5" strips, I realized I did not have enough yardage remaining.  Rushing to the store's website, I was despondent when the fabric came up but was out of stock!  I called anway, hoping there might be some small chance that the website was wrong and the shop staff sure made my day when they let me know there was still some yardage remaining on the bolt.  This brief hiccup led to yet another happy discovery:  the starry fabric glows in the dark!!   Upon learning this little detail, I grabbed the quilt and ran to the bedroom closet, shut the door and confirmed that it does in fact glow.  How awesome is that?!?
Owl You Need Is Love Backing
And while the challenge required us to use a recognizable amount of the challenge fabric on the quilt front, I decided to use some of my fused scraps along the quilt sleeve and label on the reverse side of the quilt.  It was an easy detail to include. since I truly hope people will have the opportunity to see the back of my quilt.
Fabric details used in Owl You Need Is Love--See if you can locate them all in use within my owls or quilt back
That's Owl Folks--be sure to visit again soon to see all the "Wicked" fun I am having now in the studio!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Let There Be Light!

Good lighting is key to quilting!  It helps you to see your project more clearly--critical when it comes to the detail work:  precise cutting, sewing, pressing and especially when it comes to free motion quilting.  All too often we either accept what little light our space provides, or we supplement with additional lighting for a more pleasant quilting experience.

Its refreshing to work in a well-lit area, and I've got 3 lights that hang from the ceiling that brighten up my space and make it easy to locate tools, books or just the right fabric.  I made sure to use the brightest bulb in the light directly over my sewing machine.
In addition to above your sewing machine, it may be helpful to have task lighting in other key spaces--especially where you measure and cut fabric.  I've got some great wall-mounted light sconces that shine directly onto my cutting table making it super easy to clearly see the increments on my rulers making for accurate cutting!

Last but not least, be sure to provide adequate lighting under the throat of your sewing machine.  Unfortunately, most sewing machines simply are not equipped with adequate lighting needed for more detailed or intricate sewing.  Oftentimes, I see new lighting products in use by my fellow quilters at workshops, classes and retreats.  Some like the little Ottlights but for me, they just always seem to be in the way and take up precious table space.  I tried small desk lamps sold at IKEA that could be bent and twisted into place---but they just always seemed to be blocking my view and/or being knocked out of they way by big, bulky quilts.  Then, there are the lights that are small and can be clipped directly onto your sewing machine and will project light onto your sewing space.  Years ago, I discovered Eco Lux products.  Developed by a fellow quilter, these little LED light units can easily be attached to the roof of your sewing machine--well out of the way of quilts.  After seeing it in use, I quickly ordered myself a 6-LED light strips to use with my Brother Sewing machine and just love the light it projects onto the bed of my machine.  In fact, I will sometimes forget to turn it on and then wonder why everything is so dim.  Once I turn it on--alleluiah!!

Basic lighting provided by my Bernina
Enhanced Lighting thanks to Inspired LED Lighting!!
Very recently, a dear friend gave me a gift:  a Sewing Machine LED Lighting Kit made by Inspired LED.  I thought I would test it out on my Bernina sewing machine where I do most of my piecing and free motion quilting.  The Bernina 820 is already equipped with 30 LED lights, so I was curious whether I would notice any improvement, before I attached it properly.  Here are pics of the effect of lighting under the machine throat--modeled by some black fabric (which is always the hardest for me to see clearly in poor lighting--don't even get me started on black thread on black fabric!!).  Up until now, I've always been content with the lighting provided by my Bennie and never had any reason to complain.

Before attaching the new LED light strip, I did a test drive by simply holding it in place with my fingers.  Once I flipped on the On switch, I was totally amazed and delighted by the profound improvement of lighting thanks to this sleek little LED strip.  I immediately went to work removing the sticky tape backing so I could properly mount it to the Bennie!  It was super fast and easy to assemble the light unit and attach to my sewing machine.  The kit provided clear and easy directions for assembly and even included two cable clips to keep the wires well-tucked away.  And according to the website-it is priced at just 1/3 the cost of the Eco Lux lighting.

So if you are looking to brighten your sewing space, I HIGHLY recommend this Inspired LED Sewing Machine LED Lighting Kit!

To quilters every where--let there be light!