Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review of Quilting in 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, I've enjoyed reflecting on my year of quilting adventures.  There have been many wonderful memories made both in my studio as well as in the larger quilting community--but here are some of my highlights from 2015.

First up is my annual quilting New Year's Resolutions:
1.  Experiment with Fabric Dyeing and Manipulation
Hand Dyed Fun in 2015
As you can tell from this explosion of color, I had a lot of fun learning to hand dye!  I had 5 dye parties where I experimented with various folding manipulations, creating gradients, tray dyeing, thread dyeing, and dyeing an assortment of clothing/accessories.
Special thanks to:

  • Jane Dunnewold's Craftsy class:  The Art of Cloth Dyeing
  • Frieda Anderson's book "Fabric to Dye For"
  • Leslie Morgan and Claire Benn's book "Tray Dyeing"
  • My friend Chris C who was my partner in crime for two dye parties
  • Doug for helping me to hunt for plastic containers/trays, create my outdoor wet studio and was very generous when I needed more "materials" to dye.

2.  Continue my Battle Against UFOs
Attack on UFOs
UFO successes:

  • I was able to complete 7 of my own projects that were started in previous years.  The two projects in the lower left corner had components that were made in 2012!!!
  • I purged several UFOs as part of the UFO Exchange, and brought home a large quilt top with some large squares of colorful fabrics that were given new life in two new projects including an improv strata quilt that is in progress.  
  • I started and finished a total of 20 brand new quilts in 2015.
  • And I only added 7 new UFOs to my docket, many of which are still in progress and I am very much committed to finishing!

3.  Learn new quilting designs/techniques to add more beautiful texture to my quilts
Textures from 2015
I love enhancing my quilt tops with such fabulous textures during the quilting phase!  This year, I added many new tricks and techniques to my quilting tool kit including:  new free motion motifs, hyper quilting, trapunto and match stick quilting!!

Many thanks to:

4.  Put myself out there more as a Quilter
2015 Quilting Successes
This was a very exciting year as I celebrated several quilting victories:

  • My Wicked Windy & Winding Ways quilt published in AQS magazine and the Wicked Challenge book!
  • Seeing several of my quilts on display at both our SCVQA Quilt Show and PIQF
  • Leading a demonstration on Interleave Quilts for my fellow members which really started off a trend on so many wonderful Interleave quilts being made!!
  • My DNA Mapping:  Past, Present and Future winning Viewer's Choice at the SCVQA show
  • Joining SAQA and being paired up with a fabulous mentor Terry Waldron who has been incredibly generous in sharing resources, tips and tricks she has learned as a professional artist/instructor!
  • Engage more with the online quilting community.  I finally signed up for a Facebook account, where I have connected with so many friends, family and certainly the vibrant online quilting community!!  I continue to post my work on my blog with a total of 57 posts!  I also worked through Alisa Burke's Art of Blogging course and found it really helpful in creating intentionality in my posts and overall blog design.  I am also gaining more traffic visiting my blog by participating in several link ups, cross posting to Pinterest and Facebook!   And I've participated in several online challenges/quilt alongs.
  • Designing original quilts/blocks and entering them into challenges including the MQU Modern Makever Block Challenge, A Focus Through a Prism monthly Challenges, Be Creative Quilt Challenge, EQ7/Timeless Treasure Block Challenge, Fiber Shot for SJMQT, MQG EZ Triangle Challenge AMB Mini Quilt Challenge, MQG Riley Blake Fabric Challenge and of course, the Hoffman Challenge.

2015 Challenge Entries
5.  Incorporate technology into my quilting process, designs and documentation
This year, I embraced technology in my quilting adventures:

  • Completed Pixeladies Photoshop Essentials 1 and 2 online classes to learn how PSE features in my quilting.  These lessons have come in especially helpful as editing was needed for pictures taken during our monthly meeting show and tell.
  • Watched all the video tutorials and worked my way through 4 online courses through EQ University to learn how to use EQ7 in designing my own original quilts/blocks.  These lessons were brought to life as I turned to EQ7 for designing all 7 of my Focus Through the Prism challenges, all five MQU Modern Block challenges, the Be Creative Quilt Challenge and even created a virtual block for the EQ7/Timeless Treasures block challenge!

EQ7 Mock Up Designs Translated into Fabric
More Highlights from 2015:

  • Studio Enhancements including a brand new cabinet build by Doug, reupholstered benches and Lego sewing machines.
  • Shop Hop by the Bay
  • Joining a small quilt group and enjoying the company of these talented quilters (even if it meant I had to join a Senior Citizen Community Center before turning 40!!)
  • February Retreat near Yosemite
  • Workshops with some amazing quilt artists including Katie Pasquini Mosopust, Laura Wasilowski, Kathy Doughty, Karen Eckmeier, Sandra Bruce, RaNae Merrill and Jan Soules.  
Workshop Techniques Added to my Quilting Tool Kit

Last but not least--a whopping total of 27 finished quilts!!
2015 Finished Quilts!!
I am looking forward to seeing what quilting adventures await in 2016!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tackling Some UFOs

With just 28 hours left in 2015, I am working to tackle a few lingering UFOs.  Both of these projects were used for my July Q101 Demonstration on Interleave quilts.  I created a number of step outs of the Interleave Quilt in progress as a visual of the various steps involved.  One of the step outs was nearly complete and just needed a label and binding for completion!   And so I dug it out and got to work finishing this small piece.
Quilting 101 Demo Step Out
Finished/Bound Raspberry Lemonade Interleave
As part of the Interleave demo, I also incorporated a mini tutorial on facing a quilt.  Well, I needed a small project to demonstrate, and pulled out a wonky log cabin blog I had made back in August 2012, as part of a Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild demo on improvisation.
Improv Log Cabin Block
I had some fun doodling different Free Motion quilting designs into the various sections and started to face it during the demonstration.  So all I had to do was add a label and finish facing the other two sides of the quilt!
Faced Back Side of Wonky Log Cabin
Finished and Faced Wonky Log Cabin Mini
With 24+ hours left in 2015, there may be time for me to tackle one or two more small UFO projects!!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

For a variety of reasons, it was a struggle getting into the holiday spirit this year.  At first, everything seemed to be such a chore.  We eased into the holiday spirit with his and hers Lego Advent calendars (City for me and Star Wars for him).  The decorations were soon pulled out from storage, but the boxes remained untouched, as Susie Q's recent mischievous misdeeds had us wondering whether it would be safe to even put up a Christmas tree this year?!?  Thanks to the magic of an ex-pen, the Christmas tree went up and stayed up as my two girls were total angels!  What Christmas season is complete without some homemade Irish Cream!  Mmmm!  
Deck the Halls!
Then there was our annual Christmas ornament tradition that we hadn't even started!  We started with some simple round wooden desks that Doug cut, sanded and stained red and green.  He passed them off for me to embellish with metallic Sharpie markers, where I created a variety of mandalas.  I actually enjoyed the meditative and creative nature of each unique design (all 20 of them!!)
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree!
The Christmas crafting fun continued as I worked on some secret hand-dyed Christmas gifts for family and friends including t-shirts, socks, boxers/boxer briefs, scarfs, handkerchiefs and even bandanas for some special four-legged friends!  
Santa's Workshop and Special Elves
Hippie Holidays from Susie Q, Panda, my mother, brother, his canine companion Helix and Doug!!
And Santa delivered some special Christmas gifts to us as well!  It is essential that we always have a back up Heinz ketchup on deck for Doug.  So he got a back up Heinz ketchup ornament for the tree, a fun t-shirt and an industrial sized container of ketchup...truly a Christmas miracle!!
Santa Claus is Coming to Town!  Ketchup, Ketchup and more Ketchup for Doug!
And I received a fun assortment of quilting fabrics and notions...
All I Want for Christmas...
All in all, we survived this Christmas/Holiday season...and have 360+ days to start preparing more for next year's festivities!!   

Monday, December 21, 2015

December Midnight Mystery Quilt Along

December's instructions for the Meadow Mist Midnight Mystery Quilt Along took a bit longer than expected...but here are my finished blocks and a possible alternate layout.  Really love how the units come together to form a star.  Will need to wait until the January set of instructions to see if I am on track this time around for the layout of blocks...
December Blocks and Possible Layout

Friday, December 11, 2015

MQU Modern Makeover Block: Bow Tie Burst

Option 1:  James Bond Bow Tie
December's MQU "Everything Old Is New Again" monthly block modern makeover focused on the classic Bow Tie block.

With the new James Bond "Spectre" movie out...I thought about the iconic James Bond tuxedo and tie.  I tried sketching out a few variations in EQ7 but each seemed to fall short on either contrast, construction and/or staying true to 007!

So, I explored some other design options in EQ7 and had fun creating radiating bow ties and playing around with different colorways.

Online voting is open through December 15th...hint hint!
My "Bow Tie Burst" block.  Be sure to vote online for your favorite modern makeover!!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Always Follow Your Heart

Phew!  November was the final stretch of quilt challenges.  I had signed up for two QuiltCon 2016 challenges:  the Michael Miller challenge featuring Glitz fabrics and the EZ Quilting Triangle challenge.
The Glitz has faded...another time?!?

Before my Michael Miller challenge fabric bundle arrived, I had a vision for what kind of quilt I wanted to create and sketched out a rough design.  I picked up a selection of Cotton Couture solids and that is where the story pretty much ends.  When it came time to finalizing the design and construction--I kept striking out, and so I will not be entering anything this year.  

Meanwhile, my Mini 45-degree triangle template just sat and sat with no real ideas for a quilt design.  I brainstormed a variety of triangle and diamond quilts but none piqued my interest.  And so it sat and sat until an arrow pointed the way to the other side of a rainbow!  Yes, I opted to create a color wheel quilt featuring 12 arrows representing each of the primary, secondary and tertiary colors!  The triangle template was perfect for creating my arrow heads.  For the fletching (aka feathers), I found a range of chevron prints in my stash and filled in missing gaps with a quick trip to Beverly's!  Matching Kona solid 5" charms were selected to match the chevrons and a solid grey Kona was used to create bias tape.  A black and white chevron/zebra print was used to create my applique heart center!
Creation of my Color Wheel of Arrows
Once my fabrics were all selected, the quilt top came together fairly quickly, despite some tension woes with the invisible thread used for the machine applique/basting phase.  As always, I struggled with how best to quilt it.  Initial plans including designs that would explode from the center in between each of my arrows, including some invisible arrows that would be quilted into the background.  But then I thought back to my archery instruction days and thought it would be fun to create a target.  Initially I started with concentric hearts...but did not like the idea of having to mark the hearts onto my mostly white quilt top.  The same issue came up with concentric rings.  Yet, squares could be easily marked thanks to the ever amazing and ever practical blue painter's tape!!  Doug challenged me to consider wonky frames...which I sketched out in Photoshop but my brain was too tired to figure out how to figure out the rotations.  So I went with the KISS principle and used concentric squares that were each 5" apart from each other!  
Brainstorm for Quilting Designs using Photoshop Elements

Each ring was taped off, stitched with a second stitch line about 1/4" away.  A different free motion filler was used to fill in each ring.  The first few rings went super quick, but the free motion feather took almost half a day given all the extra details.  
FMQ Fills (center out):  Escargot, Flames, Modified Spirals and Feathers
In case you hadn't noticed, I am very resistant to marking my quilt tops for fear the marks won't come out (I've read and seen too many marking horror stories!!)   Once again, blue painter's tape to the rescue!!  I used small pieces that were marked with up and down arrows to use as guides for even spacing of my hills and valleys for the spine.  They served as little road signs as my walking foot navigated its lap along the final border! 
Blue tape guides

As this quilt was made for QuiltCon 2016, I really needed quality photos for the online entry.  I typically wake up early and go outside to capture the morning light.  Yet, it kept casting a slightly blue tint to all my pictures and it was difficult to capture the texture of all my quilting.  So I tried hanging it in our bedroom where you could really see all the quilting, but as the wire is not totally parallel, it kept resulting in distorted edges!!  I was about to give up when I looked down and saw Panda watching from the floor.  I tried laying out the quilt on the floor and finally managed to get a picture that was square and truly showed off all my quilting!!  
Photography Blues and Skews!!
Of course, a large chevron print was used for the quilt back, and I used more of the zebra print for the quilt sleeve!  
Chevron Backing and Panda serving as inspiration for the heart center/sleeve and directing the photo shoot!

"Always Follow Your Heart," 40"x40"

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Snowball's Chance in Hell

Back in May, I embarked on the Persimon Dreams "Focus Through the Prism" Project Quilting Series of ROYGBIV Challenges.  Each month a new traditional quilt block was selected as inspiration for us to create a 20" square quilt that read as one color from the Cherrywood ROYGBIV bundle.  Red was my final color that remained for the November challenge featuring the Snowball block.  A quick search yielded the quote "A Snowball's Chance in Hell" which seemed perfect for the color red!!

First task was to paper piece my Snowball block, using the Snowflake 2 block from the EQ7 library.  Instead of paper, I tried the EQ Printables which are translucent and can be left in the quilt.  It went through my printer fine and made it so much easier to see whether my fabric swatches were aligned correctly before sewing!!  I am a total convert and will be using EQ Printables in future paper pieced projects!!
Paper pieced Snowball block
With my snowball pieced, it was time to create the fiery backdrop featuring mostly reds, oranges and yellows.  All 24 blocks were created using magical glowing fabrics from my stash.  I spent an entire morning cutting out squares and thanks to some matching colored peanut M&Ms, I kept up my energy to design and finish the quilt in just 2 days.  
Quilt Top Progression of Fabric selections, layout and assembled Snowball top, with help from matching M&Ms
The final quilt top was quilted with an all over flame motif using variegated thread.
"Snowball's Chance in Hell" finished at 20"x20"
This quilt seemed a fitting finish for this 7 month challenge series.  There were a number of times where I doubted my ability to find inspiration and/or time to finish each monthly challenge.  But I persevered and as a result was able to design, create and quilt 7 unique and fun quilts.  These challenges were a great way to experiment with the different blocks using EQ7 and translating these designs into fabric.
All 7 Quilts in Monthly Order from Top Left to Bottom Right
All 7 Quilts in ROYGBIV Order
All in all, this was a really fun challenge and pushed me to try new techniques, practice using EQ7 and I am really proud of this series of quilts.  I can't wait to learn more about the next round of Quilt Challenges hosted by Persimon Dreams!!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Three Challenges in Three Weeks

I think this is the final stretch for quilt least until the Spring!  I have 3 challenge deadlines coming up for the end of this month and just under 3 weeks to get them done!  And while I have not yet commenced construction on any one of the three quilts...I've got the inspiration, fabric selection and many of the design details worked out (at least for the 2 quilts below) so I can make a big dent this coming weekend!!
Michael Miller Modern Quilt Guild Challenge--can't wait to dive into this beautiful palette!!
Chevron Craze for the MQG EZ Quilting QuiltCon 2016 Triangle Quilt Challenge 
And that is all I am revealing!!!  You will have to tune back in at the end of the month to see if I was successful in finishing all 3 quilts and what will become of these fabrics!!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Basket of Blooms

Fused Flower Basket Ready for Quilting
One of the workshops I took at PIQF 2015 was Laura Wasilowski's Woven Flower Basket Quilts.  I've watched several of her Craftsy classes but it was a real treat to take an in-person workshop with her.  As part of the workshop kit, we each received two lovely pieces of her hand dyed fabrics.  We ironed on some Wonder Under fusible and were ready to experiment and play!  Laura shared her tips and tricks for fused art quilts and led us through several demonstrations and exercises to help us explore new techniques including weaving, braiding and more!  By lunchtime, we were starting to compose our own unique woven flower basket quilts.  And despite starting with the same two pieces of fabric--everyone created very unique quilts!

Laura demonstrated hand stitched embroidery and provided us each with some of her hand-dyed threads to embellish our own quilts!  And while I really loved all the little details she hand stitches into her own quilts, I opted to finish my top by machine before it turned into a UFO.  But I do hope to incorporate some hand embroidery into future fused art quilts!  However, I did adapt some of Laura's free motion designs into the background of my flower basket and love the fabulous texture it creates!!
Details of machine quilting embellishments
The workshop supply list had us bring a pre-cut piece of fabric for the backing, to which I had selected a lovely floral print.  However, once I finished my basket, it reminded me of a batik checkerboard that I had in my stash.  So once home, I swapped out backings and think the new one is the perfect complement to the front!
Quilt Back Inspired by Basket Design
Finished "Basket of Blooms" 12" x 14"

Friday, November 6, 2015

November Progress with Midnight Mystery Quilt Along

November's set of instructions for the Midnight Mystery Quilt Along were revealed yesterday morning.  Several participants posted pics of their finished units on the first day, but I wasn't too far behind, as they went together fairly quickly.
Half Square Triangles and Combining Previous Sets of Square in a Squares and Flying Geese
Once they were all done, I had some fun experimenting with the units for a possible quilt layout and sashing units for the 9 large Courthouse Steps.   Of course, I will have to wait until December and possible January instructions to see if I was month and counting...
Possible Sashing for the 9 Courthouse Step Blocks?!?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Be Creative with "CREA-TV"

Back in May, I purchased a challenge fabric bundle to participate in the "Be Creative" Quilt challenge hosted by McCalls Quilting, Quiltmaker and Quilter's Newsletter magazines.  Challenge rules were fairly simple:

  • Design and create an original finished quilt using fabulous pre-selected fabrics designed by Lotta Jansdotter
  • Use at least 8 fabrics from the challenge bundle (13 prints and 4.5 total yardage)
  • Ok to to add 3 additional fabrics of your choosing
  • Finished quilt dimensions had to be 56"-60" wide and 68"-72" tall.  

"Be Creative" Challenge bundle of fabrics featuring all Lotta Jansdotter prints from several different collections
Several of the prints seemed very retro to me, so I thought it would be fun to design a quilt featuring retro television sets.  I found a wide range of televisions from the 60s and 70s to serve as inspiration as I designed five different television units in EQ7.  The television blocks all incorporate orange, teal and grey combinations in the tv unit, monitor and background.  All but one of the blocks had a companion block, but it was not always easy to recognize the pairs, as great variety was achieved through selection of colors, fabrics and in some cases using the mirror image.  Each of the television screens were appliqued on with an extra layer of batting behind to create curved dimension similar to the original curved screens.
Retro TV in EQ7 and later translated into fabric
Smaller rectangle panes units are used as a vertical sashing to create some distance between the televisions,  more height to meet the size requirements, as well as incorporate more of the challenge fabrics.
Quilt top designed in EQ7, units laid out on design wall and finished quilt top
As of 10/30, the quilt top had been layered with batting and the backing, and I had only done some preliminary stitching in the ditch along the long vertical rows and inner border.  I just kept plugging along, tackling section by section and making decent progress.  But around 10 PM, I started to experience significant thread woes during the quilting of the sashing and borders including frequent thread breaks, skipped stitches, thread nests and eye lashes on the back, along with a string of expletives coming out of my mouth (and this was with a quality thread that I had used often with great success on other quilts)!  At this rate, I would not finish in time...and I started to panic.  After trying all my usual tricks of switching needles, adjusting tension, reloading the bobbin, rethreading my machine---I had one option left--switch out thread midway of doing my borders.  I turned to my trusty Aurifil in a similar color (I don't think I could even differentiate between the section where I changed threads) and from there it was smooth sailing, even as I was quilting 55 mph!!  Amen to Aurifil!!
Details of the Quilt Back--just don't look too close as you may see some evidence of my thread tensions!!
With some serious pedal to the metal and some very long days (15+ hours of quilting), I managed to custom quilt and bind the quilt by 2 AM on November 1st, followed by squeezing in a few hours of sleep before waking up early to take the finished quilt pics and submit my entry before I had to leave for work!  All I have to say is thank goodness for daylight savings and some serious caffeine!!
Details shots of the customized quilting of television blocks, sashing, and borders
"CREA-TV", finishes 56"x70"

Friday, October 30, 2015

"Life is a Rainbow" for the ROYGBIV Challenge

The classic 9-patch served as inspiration for October's "A Focus Through the Prism" challenge.  Yellow and red remained from my Cherrywood ROYGBIV bundle.  I explored a few different design ideas, but none captured my enthusiasm.  With less than 72 hours until the deadline (and a larger quilt due 24 hours later!!!), I was sitting at my sewing machine and trying to figure out how to proceed and not totally go into panic mode.  I looked away in desperation and inspiration finally struck in the form of 4 curved strip sets made as part of a Curved Strip Piecing workshop with Sonya Lee Barrington, back in January 2012!  I had made these 4 yellow curved strip sets, with the original plan of making a sun rise/starry scene, which fizzled once the workshop was over.  But I never threw them away and there they hung...waiting for the perfect project!
Yellow Curved Piecing Strip Sets
"Nine X Frame"

A quick search of EQ7 for 9-patch designs yielded the "Nine X Frame" block that drew my attention, provided the perfect setting to combine yellow rays of sunshine with blue triangles representing rain, creating the perfect rainbow!    

I enlarged the block onto a 20" square piece of brown paper so I could work out the scale, dimensions, and framing using the yellow Cherrywood fabric.  
Brown Paper Mock Up
Using the curved strip sets made the process fairly simple.  The only glitch was that three of the strip sets had a darker yellow fabric, making the 4th a bit of an outcast.  Some water soluable coloring pencils helped to remedy that issue (you can see the before and after practice piece laying on top of the original in the top left arm of the X below).  The only remaining decisions was what section to use for the rainbow and which fabric to represent rain for the background triangles.  Both were fairly easy now that I had a clear vision.  With only a few seams to sew, the construction was super fast, as was the quilting and binding (done by machine due to time constraints)!
Auditioning Fabrics & Testing Recoloring Yellow Strips
Detail of Quilting Motifs Used
More Rainbow Fun for the Quilt Back
"Life is Like a Rainbow:  You Need Both the Sun and the Rain to Make Its Colors Appear", finished 20"x20"
November will be the final month, and my red Cherrywood fabric awaits!  Can't wait to see the final block reveal!!  But first, I had better get busy with the other quilt challenge that is due November 1st!!  Wish me luck!