Monday, January 23, 2012

Solid Quilt

      The other day I spent time at my friend Eleanor's working on a quilt that I haven't introduced you to yet.

      I really like to work with solids. My quilting friends used to turn their noses up at the idea of making a quilt with all solids; but I have always liked the clean, graphic quality you get from using solids. Have you ever looked at an Amish quilt and thought "That's lovely, but I wished they had used prints."? I never have. I've had good luck with solid quilts. The first solid quilt I made was bought by the first non-quilter who saw it. The second solid quilt I made was chosen for the series quilt in McCall's Quilting in 2009. So now I am working on my 3rd solid quilt.

     I spent a lot of time working on this quilt when I was down in Florida visiting family for Christmas. It's a good quilt for working on away from home, because there are many steps that you don't need a sewing machine for. I won't need a design wall until I get the blocks done.

    Let me start with my inspiration. The first solid quilt I made used the block you see in the above photo. I made a pattern from that quilt which is on sale on my etsy site. I wish I new where I first saw that block or what the name of it is. If anyone knows the name of that block I would love it if you could send it to me in a comment. Anyway, I turned my head and caught sight of that pillow out of the corner of my eye; It made me think of this block:

     My first thought was to make a quilt entirely out of that block, and make a secondary pattern out of the way the colors were moving from block to block. But when I got several blocks made, and put it up on the design wall; I thought it might be too monotonous, I decided it needed some divisions. I have an idea of what I want to do with it, but I don't know how to describe it. I will just have to show you when I get further along.

       I had already made all of the half square triangles. When I was in Florida, I cut the center strips and squares, and pinned a color choice to each block. By the time I was at my Friends, I had already sewn the first side to the center strip. I often get asked how I keep all of my pices organized into blocks. I have a system.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        First, you need to make a decision for each block which way the half square triangles will face. Each way you turn them really changes the look of the block.

     I love to chain piece, but you can use chain peicing to help you stay organized. Sew one HST to one vertical center strip, one horizontal center strip to the center square, a second HST to a vertical center strip.

     You will have 2 HST and 1 strip left. Pin these to the chain of pieces.

      Next, repeat these steps for the next block. Cut your chain in between the blocks. Repeat this for all of you blocks. You will end up with a grouping of 3 completed seams for each block. Each grouping will have the "yet to be sewn pieces pinned to them. You will have many groups that will look like this.
      That is what I had when I went to Eleanor's house. I was ready for several hours of pressing and chatting.

      Cut them apart and press. Be sure to press the strip//HST units one way; and the strip/small square units the opposing way so they nest into each other.

     After pressing, pin all the pieces togethet to keep the organized. I like to store them in a plastic shoebox to keep them all together until I am ready for the next step. See you after I have gotten something else done!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Donation Table Runner


     Every year this Artist Guild I belong to has a fund raiser in February. This year I made a table runner and a pair of matching pot holders.  I am not much of a machine quilter, and don't have time for hand quilting. I often resort to sewing strips together through the backing and batting. I used some batik strips leftover from a custom quilt I made last fall. First I made some strip sets.


     Then, I used spray baste to stick a piece of leftover batting onto a back. Making bed size quilts leaves me with plenty of long narrow batting pieces that are perfect for table runners.

     Then I cut my strip sets in a variety of widths. I even cut some on an angle, and sewed them down onto batting.  I love doing it this way, because when the piecing is done, so is the quilting.                                                                                                                
Just keep adding strips until you fill up the space.

     All you have left is to add the binding, and you're done! Great for when you need to make something relatively quickly to donate.

     I have also been spending time quilting at a couple of friends houses. Isn't that the best?
When I visit friends, I don't like to bring my sewing machine. It just seems like too much work to pack it up, haul it over there, set it up for a couple of hours, pack it up again, haul it back home, and set it up again. Do I sound lazy or what? I don't mind doing it for a retreat, or even a class; but when it comes to sewing with my friends for an afternoon, I can almost always come up with something to do that does not require my machine. Some examples are: cutting pieces, marking or trimming half square triangles, pressing what you have been chain piecing, hand stitching binding, pairing and pinning what you will chain piece later, pinning  "One Block Wonders".

     Recently, I was at my friend Mary's house and I stacked and pinned this fabric together.


       I thought this would make some unusual blocks for a "One Block Wonder" . I can't wait to see what blocks I will end up with from this. Isn't that part the most fun? It's really addictive. I doubt I will make a true "One Block Wonder" with it. I will probably add some other fabrics to it. I have done that before and really enjoyed the results. That quilt sold, and now I would like to replace it, so I can illustrate what it looks like to mix fabrics to potential custom quilt clients, or in my guild program. This is the quilt I did this on before.

This quilt was called Vesuvius.
     I mixed 2 Kaffe Fassett fabrics with an Aboriginal print. Since I made this quilt it has made it easier for me to choose "One Block Wonder" fabrics. I no longer worry if there is enough colors, or variation in the fabric. I just want it to make pretty blocks, and if there is not enough variety in the blocks to make an interesting overall design, I just add another fabric.

Milky Way
I bought the fabric for my Milky Way quilt, with the idea that I wanted to make a quite "One Block Wonder". I wanted to show that a quilt can be low key, and still have some personality. How many solid beige, cream, or sage green bedspreads have we seen in home decor magazines this year? Yawn. I thought that if it looked like the quilt was going to be too boring when I put it up on the design wall; I could always add another print or two.
But, I was pleased with the way it turned out; and it sold at the second show I took it to.

     It is getting kind of late, so I will save today's sewing for tomorrow's blog! Good night all!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Quilts From my Past

First, I wanted to correct the faulty link from the last post, and again, my apologies, I'm not so adept on the computer; but I think this should be right:

Next, I feel like my poor little infant of a blog could benefit from some visual interest, so I thought it might be nice if I posted some pictures of quilts I have made in the past. My truly recent quilts have not been photographed yet. I am waiting for a cloudy windless day, so I can get some good photographs of the new ones. So, for now I will just post some selected quilts from before 2011.


Indian Summer

Prickly Bear

Double Star


Milky Way
Star Kite
Chocolate and Cream
Color Study
Pineapple Storm
Southern Winter

I hope this helps you get to know me a little better. See you next time!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Problem with link

I'm sorry folks, but the link I put in my last blog post didn't work. I will have to get back with you on this.

Indian Summer

      Hi all!

     I wanted to get you caught up on on of the many quilts I have started.

     Several years ago I was given a book on American Indian Trade blankets. I immediately  thought that many of them would be a wonderful reference for a quilt. Here is one of several, that I thought would be a good choice.

      My friend, Eleanor, and I used this picture as an inspiration to make a wedding quilt for our friends Jo, and Steve. Unfortunately, we made that quilt before I got a digital camera, so I don't have a picture of it in my computer to show you. 

      I wanted to make another quilt using a colorway that looked more like the original blanket. Here is how the second quilt turned out.

     I really liked being able to use several different fabrics to add variation to each of the colors. While I was piecing this quilt, I got ideas for several more. 

     In the same week I was sketching them out on EQ; I was working on some rug samples for Lyn Sterling Montagne, who I weave rugs for. Here is a link to her website, so you can see her gorgeous rugs:

Working on these samples gave me yet another idea for a quilt.

  Here is the drawing those samples inspired.
     So far I have a little more than one third of it pieced.

     As for the quilt I showed you last time-I have pieced 3 sets of blocks together. I have 3 more sets to sew before I can arrange the corners.



Saturday, January 7, 2012


     It's hard to know how to start this, so I will just begin with the first quilt I have been working on this year.

     The original idea came from a desire to mix the bold prints of Kaffe Fassett (and possibly a cohort or two of his) with the beautiful stripes from his collection. I thought that the kaleidoscope block would work well for this, and I had been looking for an excuse to use it again any way. So, I got on my EQ and started playing, and this is the drawing I came up with:

I'm not sure if the picture shows it well, but because my printer was low on ink, I got this slight gradation from gold/peach colors in the top left to yellow/green colors in the bottom right. I thought-what a great idea! So I decided to gradate the background using batiks. I like how when you put the stars in rows, and link them, the negative space forms ovals.

     My first step was to pull out my Kaffe Fassett prints, chose a group that I thought would go well together, and pair them with coordinating stripes. Then I cut enough for several stars from each combination, making sure I had enough of each print for the outer star points, and sewed the star centers together. I pinned each color group together with it's outside points, so they would stay organized for storage.
     You guys can let me know in your comments if I am going in to too much detail-but I get asked all of the time how I keep all of these things organized. Help my learn how to strike a balance between helpful and boring.

     Next, I arranged my stars on my design wall, balancing the lights, darks, and different colors to move you eye in a pleasing way. Unfortunately, it is hard to get a good photo of my design wall because of the big loom in front of it. (my day job is weaving rugs). That is the only wall in my house that is wide enough to put up a whole quilt.
     My friend Eleanor said this quilt had a Russian look. So I am storing that away for when I have to come up with a name for it. I usually find naming my quilts daunting, and since I often make patterns from them, I do have to invent a name for them.

     My design wall consists of 2 large rectangular vinyl table clothes tacked to the wall upside down, so that I have enough room to lay out a bed size quilt. Thank you to my good friend Mary C for this easy, inexpensive, and life changing suggestion.

     Next, I cut some pieces from all of the fabrics I had been collecting for the background.   

     Then, the real fun began. I took me 3 tries to get a gradation that I really liked.

     The tough part of this pattern is that once you have sewn the center of the stars, the whole quilt needs to be laid out to get the in between rows right. Now that it's laid out, how I am going to get it to my sewing machine in the right order? The only thing I don't like about my upstairs sewing room is it's lack of wall space. My design wall is downstairs in the opposite end of the house.

My friend Jo Beth to the rescue with another great design wall suggestion. (she has a quilting blog too and I will add the link to hers as soon as I figure out how). 

     Get a piece of insulation board. They will cut it in half for you at the store. Mine cost under  $12.00. I was lucky enough to have a white, flat, flannel sheet around. I covered the board with it using thumb tacks and staples. Otherwise you can just use some white flannel.

     Now, I can transfer my design to my upstairs sewing room a section at a time, and put it right next to my sewing machine. This is really handy at quilting retreats. If you don't have a wall you can pin into, you can just prop it against a chair.



     Normally, I would just stick the pieces to the flannel without any pins, but since I am traveling across the house and up the stairs, I used short pins to stick the patches in place for some added insurance. I have learned the hard way that if you tip the board forward a tiny bit, the pieces fall off, and I sure don't want to have to recreate all of that work. I hope you can see the pins in the above picture. I just stuck them in "pin cushion style".


     Talk about low tech. I keep the blocks in order with numbered slips of paper. I am consistent in how I number them. Number 1 is always where 12 o'clock would be on a clock. I like to chain piece, so I sew 1 to 2, 3 to 4, 5 to 6, and 7 to 8. Then I cut off the 1 and 2, and the 3 and 4 units. Press their seams open, sew them to each other. Cut off the 5 and 6 unit, and the 7 and 8 unit, press, and sew them to each other. In order to keep chain piecing, you will have to either start on the next block, or throw something in from another quilt.(leaders and enders Ala Bonnie Hunter). That will free you to cut off both units, and you can press them, and sew them to each other. When I get the whole octagon sewn together, I put 1 piece of paper with grid coordinates that will mark it's position on the quilt. I am careful always to put these on the same part of the block each time. This will prevent me from getting my blocks twisted in the wrong direction. In this quilt, I am always placing that marker on the patch that is in the 12 o'clock position. With this quilt it is particularly important to keep your blocks in the right place and turned the right way, to make the pattern. Most quilts it doesn't matter so much.

     Here are all of my finished blocks(accept for the corners), back on my design wall. I had to put them back there so when I finish all the blocks, I can decide how to arrange what will go in the corners.

     So that's all for my first blog post ever. I hope that if I keep at this, my writing and photography skills will improve with time. I'm off to sew the rest of these blocks together. See ya real soon!