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"