Thursday, April 23, 2015

Finished Foxy Farewell

Quilt top design and audition process
My work colleague has been admiring my quilts displayed in my work space, and started to drop a few hints indicating her interest in me making her a quilt  She competes in sword fighting and has taken on the persona of Fiore del Volpe, translated as Fine Fox and as such, really wanted a fox themed quilt.

After some more hinting, I started a fox themed Pinterest board and sought her input as to which fox designs resonated with her style and persona.  With several project deadlines rapidly approaching, the fox quilt remained at the Pinterest research stage, until she recently announced her decision to resign in order to relocate to the East coast to be closer to family.  With her move date rapidly approaching, the fox quilt was quickly bumped to the top of the priority list and finished a day ahead of schedule!

With less than a week until her end date, I revisited my Pinterest board for inspiration on fox designs as well as layouts.  While a variety of fabrics were auditioned, solids were selected in order to showcase some quilted texture.  While the machine appliqued fused fox block came together in one night, the design for framing was a bit more involved.  I had envisioned an asymmetrical border, but wasn't sure of the exact layout or dimensions.  So I pulled out a stack of prints and simply folded and layered them to audition various combinations and layouts.  After multiple auditions, I finally settled on one that had two parallel framed blocks separated with a long bar of ombre fabric.  While it was one of the better combinations, I wasn't totally in love with the design.  But giving the rapidly approaching deadline, I decided to move forward anyway in order to finish.  As I was cutting out a wide swatch of the orange flowers print, serendipity took over as it was placed next to the fox block creating the asymmetry I was envisioning!  I scrapped my original idea and used a wide section of that fabric, smaller widths of a multi-colored floral print and incorporated some thin striped piping to create some contrast.  

Then it was time to add some quilted texture!!  Some quilting designs came immediately to mind, while others took some planning and sketching.  The fox tail seemed a lovely spot for some feathers, but when I sketched them out, they just didn't fit.  Once I doodled some flames/wood grain, it totally clicked for me.  I had originally left the white eyes, belly and tail tip unquilted, so they created a faux trapunto, lofted look when surrounded with dense quilting.  But I simply could not resist adding some escargot swirls to these areas which still had some loft given all the layers.   The multicolored floral print had so much going on that I kept the quilting simple with a basic stippling, but realized it was difficult to see the thread and my previous stitch lines.  So I turned it over for better visibility but was having some significant tension woes and thread breaks.  So while it should have only taken 15-20 minutes to quilt the floral frames, it must have taken close to an hour due to rethreading, picking out stitches and all the other frustrations.  In the long run--it still looks fabulous and has such a great texture throughout!!
Auditioning various quilting motifs:  top row with rejected motifs with the winning designs along the bottom row
The same striped fabric was used for the binding.  The backing fabric is a cute print featuring foxes weaving through birch trees.
Backing print featuring more foxes
Once it was quilted and bound, it was time to add the finishing detail: button eyes.  I finished it a day ahead of schedule and brought it into work to surprise her.  I snuck it in without her seeing it enter the building and when she had a chance to step away from her desk, I pulled it out from hiding and hung it in her cubicle for her to find upon her return.  She turned around and was so surprised to find a foxy quilt made in her honor.  She really enjoyed the finished project and proudly raved about it when other colleagues inquired about the quilt.  I will admit that it was a treat for me to be present for the final reveal as most of my gifted quilts must be shipped by the mail and I miss out on seeing her initial reaction. 
Farewell Friend...Best of luck in your cross country adventures!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dainty Dresdens

Dainty Dresdens is the third miniature quilt in the McCalls Mini Madness quilt along.  I started making the dresden plates in my February quilt retreat and put it on the back burner while working on the quilt show preparations.  

The McCalls version features red Dresden plates on a background of yellow and green which felt very country and holiday seasonal.  Instead, I went for a pop of pink for the flower blades and used two different black and white prints for the sashing and border.  However, when it came to deciding on the sashing cornerstones and background fabrics, I was truly stumped.  I started with some lime green fabrics which looked great but then stumped me on the background fabrics.  So many pieces of fabric were pulled out from the stash, auditioned, cut up for more auditioning and nothing really excited me.  I even tried looking at different border fabrics and alternate colorways and still nothing.  Finally, I landed on a triadic colorway of teal, pink and yellow which I really liked.    
The hardest part of Dainty Dresdens:  Selecting colors and fabrics!!  Pile of fabrics auditioned and the chosen colorway.
Look at all those teeny tiny hand stitches!
The Quilt Along instructional videos highlighted hand applique, but did give an option for machine applique, which resonated to my practical side.  But then Season 4 of Game of Thrones DVDs arrived in the mail which was the perfect opportunity to squeeze in some hand applique.  The Dresden plates were all done in one night's viewings, with the fussy cut center circles done for the next round of Game of Thrones.  The handwork made for some productive stitching as I caught up on all the deception and treachery throughout the 7 Kingdoms!

Once the top was pieced and assembled, it was time to add some quilted texture!  I added some spirals and swirls in and around the pink blades.  The solid teal background was just calling for some hyperquilted feathers with bright pink and yellow Aurifil thread.  The border print got some embellished quilting for a pop of pink.    

A final pop of pink piping was added around the center unit and inside the it!

Dainty Dresdens finished at 19.5"x 19.5"
One more miniature quilt to come as part of this series...but it requires quite a bit of paper piecing which I have yet to it may be a while until its ready to post.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Color Wheel Interleave

While attending a fun retreat in early February, I started a new Interleave quilt.  For this quilt,  I incorporated the color wheel to see what kind of colorful interplay would emerge from the Interleave design.  Interesting combinations were created in the overlapping shapes:  tertiary colors as well as complementary pairs. 
Rather than my typical vertical orientation, I opted for a horizontal layout which gives the illusion of rolling hills.

While I managed to finish the quilt top and quilting in just a few hours, it took me over 2 months to create the label and bind it!  And rather than a traditional binding, I used a faced finish which I really like!

Color Wheel Interleave 16"x16"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Petite Button Flowers

Now that the quilt show is past, I've been able to spend some time in my happy place:  creating in my studio.  This past weekend, I spent some time clearing out some of the clutter that had accumulated:  papers, coupons, random fabrics, etc.  Whenever organization inspiration strikes, its time to visit my other happy place:  IKEA.  We picked up a few small items including a small filing cabinet that fits perfectly under my sewing machine.  This little addition will greatly help to maximize my prime realty (space near my sewing machine) and help to contain my ever expanding thread collection and other quilting notions.  While I had a pretty impressive to do list lined up for Monday, I scrapped most of it and spent most of the day in my newly tidy and organized studio working on finishing the second miniature quilt in the McCalls Mini Madness Quilt Along series:  Button Flowers.  

This pattern calls for a variety of woven plaids for the background.  Whereas the inspiration quilt featured plaids in forest greens, brick reds, tans and browns (so not my colors), Instead, I pulled out an assortment of bright and cheery woven plaids and stripes from my stash to cut 1" strips to be sewn into miniature Chinese Coin units.  Fortunately this particular pattern is fairly forgiving in the event your seams are slightly off.  I loved the glow created from several of the bright plaid fabrics!!  
Top left clockwise:  woven fabrics, 1" strips, chinese coin units, pieced background.  
Now that my quilt top was done, it was time to embellish with quilted texture, applique vines and button flowers!  I went a little crazy with quilting cursive e's and l's on either side of the blue bars and around the border, and figure eights across the Chinese Coins units.  Then it was time to applique on my lime green vines and leaves.  The quilt along used bias bars for the vines and freezer paper for the leaves.  I tried the bias bars for the vines but if making this quilt again, would have opted for my bias tape makers.  As for the leaves, I tried ironing the edges around the freezer paper but the pieces were so small and I kept burning my fingers.  So I used fusible interfacing instead and turned the leaves inside out trying my best to get crisp points and edges.  
Adding Texture to my top (left to right):  Basted top, quilted top, appliqued top.
Last but not least was hand sewing on all the button flowers which really transform the entire quilt and add that final pop of color and texture.  While selecting buttons, I decided to add one more little surprise to my quilt:  2 lady bug buttons.  
Look what's blooming in our garden
Petite Button Flowers  - Finished 16" x 21"
Up next Dainty Dresdens, the third in the Mini Madness Quilt Along, as well as a few other fun quilt projects.  So hopefully more frequent posts in the upcoming weeks/months!