Sunday, July 26, 2015

Binary Log Cabin

The log cabin block served as inspiration for this month's "Focus through the Prism" Project Quilting monthly challenge.

During my research phase, I was drawn to two different artists:  Anton Stankowski and Josef Albers.  Unable to decide which route to go, I opted to combine them!  I used Josef Alber's Homage t the Square for the block design and Anton Stankowski's Viessmann Calendar for the overall layout using increasingly larger blocks for each round.
Anton Stankowski Viessmann Calendar and Josef Albers Homage to the Square
ROYGBIV Purple, Cherrywood Gradient bundle and pop of lime

Starting with 20" top, meant the smaller units would be super tiny:  1.25" to be precise.  So I simplified the block to a 3/4 log cabin with 3 levels of color:  lime, red-violet and the purple from the ROYGBIV bundle.  I started with the 10" blocks which were simply pieced.  But then I drafted up paper foundations for the 5", 2.5" and 1.25" blocks.
Drafting the layout/blocks, paper piecing and construction progression from big to small
Free motion scrapped for dense 1/8" matchstick quilting
Once the blocks were done, they needed some kind of division, so I pulled out the blue-violet fabric from the gradient bundle and added some sashing, which required some careful trimming of the individual blocks to accommodate.

As to quilting it, I tried sketching some free motion motifs, but in the end, celebrated the clean lines of the design with some dense 1/8" matchstick quilting.
After auditioning a few solid and gradient threads, I selected this Aurifil 50 weight thread that gradated from white to olive, which added lovely highlights without being too distracting to the overall design.

For the title, I chose binary logarithm cabin (but used the mathematical formula--log 2 cabin).  It seemed perfect for capturing the mathematical relationship between the sizes of the blocks as well as the inspiration log cabin block.  

I also did a faced edge to preserve the modern aesthetic of the design (and minimize losing any more of the tiny 3/4 log cabin blocks in the top right corner)

Can't wait to see what next month's inspiration block will be!

Log2 Cabin 20"x20"

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Totes! Totes! Totes!

These reversible totes are super fast and easy to make, and make great gifts for friends & family.

Doug selected some fun classic pick up truck fabric for me to make a tote bag for his brother.  Since both fabrics had a pop of yellow, I chose some yardage from my stash to make the handles.

Pick Up Tote bag for Doug's bro
 The second tote is a thank you gift for a colleague.  She is a dedicated animal advocate and has several kitties of her own, so these beautiful Laurel Burch prints featuring cats made for a lovely thank you tote.  I even had some accent Laurel Burch blenders in my stash to make the glowing orange handles.
The Purrfect Thank You Gift

Monday, July 20, 2015

Charleston Spin Challenge Block

I just completed a 2-day modern wedge workshop with Kathy Doughty (more to follow on this fun-filled and inspiring weekend, as well as my modern wedge quilt that is in progress).  But it certainly inspired my entry for the Timeless Treasure Block Challenge.  This block challenge is open to all who want to celebrate the new Charleston fabric collection by adding it to a quilt block (original or one from EQ7).

I designed a bulls eye/darts board-like block and then fussy cut and repeated several of the larger motifs found within the collection.  In total, this bold and graphic block uses 8 different prints from the collection.  Be sure to check out some of the other blocks entered for this fun challenge!

Charleston Spin block designed in EQ7

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dyeing: A Study in Gradations

More than a week had passed by without any I was anxious to continue the fun.  My friend joined in again as we aspired to create gradients using Frieda Anderson's instructions in her book "Fabric to Dye For."  As the Bay Area was expecting some warm weather, we dared to dye indoors in the comfort of running water, power and mostly importantly...A/C!  We covered the counters in old towels which were damped to contain any migrating dye powder.  Aside from one brief mishap with a leaking blender, we worked cleanly and safely...because safety is sexy.  Once everything was cleaned up, the towels were tossed in the laundry and all evidence of our indoor dyeing adventures was erased!
Dare to Dye Indoors with A/C!
Brief mishap aside, we had a great teamwork where we measured out and mixed up the 3 primaries which were then combined into different proportions to create a 12-step rainbow gradation.  Once the medium value set was set outside for batching, we went to work mixing up some black dye, which was then added to each of the 12-step gradated dyes to create a dark value series.  We each left with 24 fat quarters of beautiful textured gradated fabrics.  
Its a Double Rainbow!!--6 yards total of beautiful gradients in medium and dark values
Tray Dyeing--Bright and Darkened Rainbows
With mixed dye remaining, more fat quarters, half yards and full yards were ripped for some further experimentation.  First up was some tray dyeing using some shallow garden trays.  A yard of fabric was folded in half, and then pleated every 1-2"s to fit.  The soda ash solution was poured on top to soak for 15+ minutes, and once drained, I used squirt bottles to create overlapping lines of fuchsia, yellow and turquoise yielding some spectacular ombre fabrics.  If you look closely, you can even see the folded lines as well as some grid work created by the textured floor of the pans.  

There was also lots of darkened gradation dye, so several half yards were folded and pleated into another plastic bin, where I added 1-2" of each of the 12 gradated dyes.  They soon started to combine and after a few minutes, it looked like a big dark muddy brown mess.  I did not have very high hopes for this particular lot and was very tempted to rinse early.  But I was pleasantly surprised the next morning when I drained any excess dyes and opened up each bundle to reveal three beautiful gradations.  Interestingly enough, since I layered the panels, you can see the left batch was on top and received the majority of dye, while some still managed to seep down into the 2nd layer and even less into the final layer.  But I love all three equally!

And then of course, a few extra pieces of fabric were scrunched and dye was then added to create some beautiful explosions of color!

Colorful explosions of scrunched fabrics
Most of my earlier dye experiments used Kona prepared for dye fabrics.  But after experimenting with some of the Pimatex, I was a total convert and even ordered an entire bolt of 30+ yards!  Not only does it have a lovely soft finish, it frayed very little in the wash/dry cycle!  

While I love the Pimatex cottons, I am still open to dyeing other natural fabrics.  Even after all of these experiments, I still had remaining dye!  So I went on the prowl to find more fabric to use up some of the excess mixed dyes...including Doug's dresser drawers and pulled out a few new pairs of light/white boxer briefs and went to work adding a splash of color!  I managed to hide them throughout the batching, rinsing, drying and even ironing phase.  Doug was hanging out with me as I ironed all the yardage, so once done, I passed him the laundry basket containing the 3 pairs and asked for his help putting it all away.  He started to get up to put the basket away and then realized they contained a fun surprise!  He was super excited about his bold new briefs!
Color Saturated Skivvies!  Sorry, I wasn't able to convince Doug to model them!!
My younger cousin is coming out to visit in another week, so we will definitely schedule a dye party!!  Counting down the days...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Meditative Mandalas

This past week, I started Alyssa Burke's Mandala Magic online class.  Her class combines backgrounds on mandalas, as well as her process for designing her own mandalas.  The best part is watching her create the mandalas on camera--some set to music and others where she talks through her process and decision making.  It is totally mesmerizing to watch the mandala start with a few concentric rings penciled in as guides and transform step by step with black pens and markers.  After starting my own shapes and embellishment libraries, I was ready to get in touch with my mandala mojo...
My own mandala magic
They are just as fun and liberating to create!  It was truly meditative as I just focused on filling in the individual petals with contrasting designs with no master plan.  I just chose a shape, doodled it in marker or pen, and then went to work filling each section to my hearts content.  These are my first two mandalas, and I am totally hooked!  More mandala fun to come...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Quest for the Perfect Hoffman Challenge Entry

2015 Hoffman Challenge Fabric
This is the tale of my quest for the perfect 2015 Hoffman Challenge entry.  Going in, I knew this journey would be difficult and would require me to muster up some much needed courage, especially given this year's challenge fabric selection:  Pomegranate Gold of the Mandalay collection.  

The easy part of the journey was hunting down the fabric as many of the quilt shops were carrying the entire line!  A few quick clicks and the fabric was slated to be shipped directly to my castle.  I also ordered a companion print, Navy Gold which had little specks of gold.    

Once it arrived in December, I hung it on my design wall and waited for divine inspiration...and waited, and waited some more.  Some early brainstorms to celebrate the fabric's various motifs included tarot cards/fortune telling, magical carpet rides, Victorian homes and embroidery samplers.  Several pins were added to my Pinterest board, but then I grew weary of these ideas as none had sparked a quilt design.  
Auditioning various shield/crest designs
Then one day, while battling traffic home, inspiration struck:  a knight's shield.  I had recently attended a colleague's rapier practice where I saw an array of armor, shields and weapons.  As I started to research various shield designs, I was delighted to find chevrons, zig zags, checkerboards and other designs commonly found in patchwork.  I drew out my rotary cutter, forged of steel and yellow plastic, and set to work slaying (aka fussy cutting) square repeats to create a checkerboard field.  

A large medieval French and English shield outline was sketched onto brown paper--providing a much needed framework to gauge the area needed to fill with patchwork.  The motifs contained within the challenge ultimately dictated the overall design and layout.  Originally I had envisioning strong vertical lines in the center, flanked by patchwork.  Unfortunately I soon realized that I did not have enough repeats to support this design, so I reversed it to have the checkerboard consolidated into the center and surrounded that field with horizontal lines alternating challenge fabric motifs and a gold speckled navy print from the Mandalay collection.  Some warmth and movement was achieved by adding an ombre print that had gold specks.  Gold lame binding strips were added for a touch of royalty and bling.
Line up of my usual suspects:  Aurifil threads to add some quilted texture and color
Auditioning quilting motifs
Aurifil threads co-sponsored this year's Hoffman Challenge, so we were encouraged (but not required) to use Aurifil threads to be eligible for additional prizes.  Fortunately, my machine loves Aurifil thread and I had a fun variety of colors to add some quilted texture and color to my shield.  Considering the dense quilting used, the quilting only took 2-3 days, and I enjoyed every moment!

Now it was time to transform my quilted sandwich into a shield worthy of any knight. Gold lame binding was added to the perimeter, complete with some gold studs.  The gold lame presented a bit of a fight, but I persevered and came out triumphant.  More bling was added with gold buttons, some of which featured miniature shields!
Progression of quilting, trimming to take on its shield shape and embellishments!

And what shield is complete without its trusted sidekick sword?!?  Yes, my 4th of July evening was spent forging a fabric shield using more lame fabric requiring lots and lots of pins and patience.  But the battle against the lame was nothing compared to turning my sword right side out--as it was a pretty snug fit.  But my persistence paid off once the blade was pressed and the handle stuffed.  Unfortunately, all entries must be capable of folding to be included in the travelling exhibits.  Otherwise, I would have stuffed some wooden dowels and/or metal wire into the sword to provide an internal frame and strength.  
Embellishment details for the front

Even more embellishments were planned for the reverse of the quilt, including the required quilt label and 4" sleeve, both featuring more challenge fabric, faux leather arm straps and even a Quilter's Code.
Details added to the back:  faux leather arm straps, quilt label and Quilter's Code
Supplemental fabric and remnants of the challenge fabric
In addition to the Hoffman challenge fabric, I only used small amounts of 6 additional fabrics:
*  Navy Gold companion print, Cheddar solid and the ombre gold speckled print for the front of the quilt
*  navy solid for the quilt back
*  marbled cream for the label and Quilter's Code (turned inside out for a more subtle background)
*  marbled brown to create my faux leather straps

Alas, the Hoffman challenge fabric did not survive the journey.  It succumbed to repeated attacks from the dreaded "Fabric Slayer", who will be converting the remaining bits into 2.5" charms as a memento of her journey!    

Finishing this beauty was bittersweet for me:
*  Relieved to have finished in time for the deadline
*  Happy to have some time and energy to focus on other projects as this has consumed my full attention these past 2 weeks.
*  Sad it was all over as it was a really fun challenge experience!

But alas, this is not the end for "We Are the Knights Who Love to Quilt", as it has already set off on its next epic adventure:  Judging in Mission Viejo, CA, where it awaits its fate as to whether it will join any of the travelling exhibits.  Let's hope it will be deemed worthy to travel, so it can defend the other entries against viewers who may be tempted to look with their hands instead of their eyes!!  Wish us luck!!   

Without further ado..."We Are the Knights Who Love to Quilt"
View going into battle, measuring 25"x36"
Never turn your back in battle--unless you look this awesome!!
A Knight Out Around Town!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bright Bin of Laundry

Laundry basket or Easter basket?
Today was a much needed laundry day requiring several loads of wash.  But who is complaining when this is what comes out at the end!  Yes...this rainbow of hand dyed fabric was the result of another fun day of dyeing!!

Yes there were probably several other projects that I should have been tackling, but it was a gloriously beautiful day for dyeing other responsibilities went out the window, while the pups and  I headed out to the backyard for some more experimentation!
Setting up shop in the backyard as the pups supervised
After my first dye party's success with scrunching, I set out to do some more experimentation with this manipulation technique using 3 sets of gradated dyes.
Ombre Parfait created by scrunching fabric and adding layers of 4 gradated dye lots:
mixing red, tangerine, golden yellow and sun yellow
Rainbow of fabric and dye parfaits
For the yellow to blue colorway, I used lemon yellow, mermaid's dream, turquoise and intense blue.
For the pink to blue colorway, I used magenta, reddish purple, eggplant and mixing blue.

After waiting 20+ hours for the batching process, I woke up super early to start rinsing/washing out my little bundles of fun.
Morning glory series:  some significant wash away of dye but still beautiful!
Yellow to blue with some brilliant interactions of color!
Saving the best for last--sunrise colorway that matches our blooming lantana!
As I was pressing all these fat quarters, my mind was transported away to all the beautiful quilts that will be made with these beauties...once of course I get up the nerve to cut into them!!  ;-)

Yes, I am officially addicted to dyeing my own fabric.  I already ordered an entire bolt of prepared for dye white fabric along with a few more procion dyes in preparation for my next day of dyeing!!

MQG Riley Blake Fabric Challenge

Back in March, I received a lovely package containing a bundle of fat eighth's prints from "The Cottage Garden" fabric collection designed by Amanda Herring of The Quilted Fish.  They were part of the Modern Quilt Guild's newest fabric challenge sponsored by Riley Blake.

The challenge rules were fairly simple:
Challenge bundle, rules and kaleidoscope blocks created from the main print

  • make something fantastic that is quilted
  • make something you've never done before
  • challenge yourself to learn something new
  • Use only Riley Blake Cottage Garden fabrics and coordinating Riley Blake basics and solids.

After watching Marilyn Foreman's "Quilted Kaleidoscopes" Craftsy class, I thought I would try to create some fun kaleidoscope blocks using the fantastic large print 'cottage main grey'.  I needed to order more yardage to ensure I had 4 repeats, but then I was ready to apply Marilyn's technique for carefully layering and pinning four identical repeats.  Each repeat yielded 30+ 5" squares along with some smaller 2.75" squares.  It was so much fun spinning the squares of fabric to choose the best kaleidoscope setting...instant gratification.  Being a basic 4-patch, the blocks went together easily enough.

Once all the blocks were assembled, it was time to determine the layout to highlight the kaleidoscope blocks and feature other prints and coordinating solids.  After watching Heather Grant's "Alternate Gridwork" MQG webinar, I was inspired to use an alternate grid setting.  The final block/unit inspiration came from a scrapbook layout template found on Pinterest.  After repeating this unit, I soon realized that I could work the smaller kaleidscopes into the intersections--but would need to do a little unsewing first to make the construction possible.  After laying out a block, everything appeared to blend.  So thin faux-piping frames were created to create contrast of the larger kaleidoscope blocks.
Scrapbook layout=block layout and auditioning framing for contrast
Laying out the blocks and adding strip sets
The rest of the construction went super fast and soon it was time to add some quilted texture.  I turned to Angela Walter's books for inspiration and tried out two new-to-me quilted motifs.
Quilting Really Does Make the Quilt--thanks Angela Walters!!
Very scrappy quilt back using nearly all the remaining fabric from this project
Cottage Garden Squared ~70"x70"
So, did I meet all the challenge requirements?:
  • make something fantastic that is quilted--check!  Just look at all the amazing texture!
  • make something you've never done before--check!  This is a totally new and original layout and design.
  • challenge yourself to learn something new--quadruple check!  New skills learned and applied:  made kaleidoscope blocks learned in new Craftsy class, tried an alternate grid layout, free motion quilted 2 new-to-me motifs and incorporated a small patch of alternate solid into the binding.
  • Use only Riley Blake Cottage Garden fabrics and coordinating Riley Blake basics and solids.--I loved working with this collection and have just a few scraps left over to add to my stash.
Thanks to the Modern Quilt Guild and Riley Blake for a very fun fabric challenge!  Can't wait to participate in future MQG fabric challenges!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Multitude of Miniature Sewing Machines

My Bernina, aka Bernie, is back home after being in the repair shop for 3+ weeks.  She required not one but three different surgeries:  replaced microchip, replaced LCD screen and finally a replaced hard drive! Luckily for me, the quilt shop had a loaner available so I could resume progress on several challenge quilts, including my "Argyle and Azure Spiral Galaxy" quilt!  Alleluiah!!

Doug quickly recognized how I longed for Bernie, so he helped to fill the void by hooking me up with not just one but five replacement sewing machines...
Army of Lego sewing machines
He had a field day recreating various sewing machine models completely out of Lego bricks.  It started out by making a miniature version of Bernie to decorate my newly constructed pegboard shelves.  But then he started to enhance the design with more superior features and upgrades to create an elite sewing machine.   
Mini Modern Marvels--look at those computerized screens and superior stitches created!!
After he created the ultimate computerized sewing machine out of Legos, it was time to revisit the classics...
Don't tread on us
Yup...he found a way to create super tiny Singer treadle machines, complete with the turning wheel.  And I have a feeling there are more designs in the works, including a long arm!

So now I have a fleet of petite sewing machines ready for some sweet sewing action!!  Thanks Doug!!