Saturday, March 12, 2016

Vintage Patchwork Talks to Me

In my free-motion quilting classes, I always tell my students to listen to their quilts, whether they pre-mark their tops and plan every detail ahead, wait until their quilt sandwich is pinned, or even during the process of quilting. I truly believe my quilts talk to me and tell me what they want or need to make them shine. No, I don't think I'm crazy. I just like to go with the flow and follow my intuition, which, in turn, is the quilt speaking in this case. So far it seems to be working! 
All of my quilting is done on Sassy, my sit-down HandiQuilter Sweet 16. For six years I quilted everything from mug rugs to a queen size quilt on my domestic sewing machine. Then four years ago, after my father died, I splurged and purchased Sassy and have never looked back. I love the control I have working on details as I move the quilts under the needle. I've even found a way to use two small craft tables beside my chair to create a U-shaped "nest" where the bulk of the quilt is supported by both Sassy's 6 foot long table (yes, I have the add-on table extensions) and the tables beside me so I have no problem with drag. 
Recently my friend Wanda brought me a small top to be quilted. If my memory serves me right, her mother had made similar tops with blocks she hand appliqued petals on surrounded by left over patchwork hand pieced by Wanda's great-great-grandmother for Wanda and her sisters, and her mother hand quilted them all. A final top was assembled from the same vintage patchwork and hand appliqued blocks, but the thought of hand quilting yet another top was too much. That's how it ended up with me. Being a satisfied return customer, Wanda told me to do what I wanted with it.
I knew I would be seeing Wanda this weekend, so I pulled it to the top of the "to be quilted" stack and dove in. The little patchwork squares begged to be orange peeled to set them apart from the applique blocks. Each little square measures approximately 1 1/4" and with this setting, they were all on point giving me some measure of concern on how to keep everything square with those rows of squares all being on the bias to the length and width of the top. Plus, being hand pieced and somewhat irregular in size/shape, I didn't want to ditch the quilt. I did my best to keep things square as I started quilting, ditching each of the applique blocks along the way, and overall it turned out great! The entire top only measures 33" x 46", perfect for a vintage quilted wall hanging.
Getting all of the orange peel done in a couple of evenings, the applique blocks were next. I didn't want to quilt on the applique, so ditched around each petal to give them added dimension, and then added swirling tendrils around them filling the negative space without over-quilting those blocks. The first run didn't quite cut it, so I added an extra tendril that filled the corner spaces before I was done.
Finally, there were the corner and setting triangles. The small setting triangles got a quilted flower with tendrils similar to the applique blocks, and then I played with the corners.

In the four corner triangles, I used a combination of stacked teardrops, pebbles, small sections of feather, and a little McTavishing, each corner being unique in its combination. The corners add a little of the fun, modern side of my quilting to this vintage piece.
It goes back to its owner this evening and I'm sure she's going to love it as much as I do! And now it's on to the next project in the tote as I continue to work through both client quilts and my own UFOs.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,
Liz

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Taking the Leap into Sample Quilts!

With the encouragement of my friend Sharon, the owner of the local quilt shop where I have been teaching for the last year, I brought several sample quilts and tops to the shop to show a fabric rep she was working with late last year. As it turns out, not only was the rep impressed with my technique/design, so was her boss! Long story short, in December I received fabric enough to make one of my hexified panel quilts to be displayed in their vendor booth at the spring International Quilt Market to be held this May in Salt Lake City. Woohoo!!! While I'm still building my quilting business, this seemed to be a jump-start in the making! 

The new line Garden Rendezvous, by Ro Gregg of Paintbrush Studio Fabric, is a gorgeous line of fabrics that features a panel full of spring flowers surrounded by a Celtic lattice frame. I was excited to dive in and see what fabulous hexies this set of panels would offer. The first few were so amazing, I kept going and got the whole batch up on the design wall as quickly as I could.
This first hexie was enough to get me excited to keep going!
The more hexies I worked with, the more intrigued I became.

With a deadline initially set for the end of March, I knew I had my work cut out for me. Getting the 60 degree triangles cut and sewn together into the half-hexies that would be pinned together for layout purposes, was the easy part. I've done enough of these now that the assembly portion has become almost routine. Getting the pinned hexies up on the design wall and getting a layout I'm happy with is the trick!
The initial layout is simply a process of getting all of the hexies on the design wall in color groupings.

The first step is to put the panel up on the design wall and then put all of the pinned hexies up in random order and leave the sorting for later. I do try to put like-colors in groups just to get a head start on the sorting process. From beginning to ending of the design process, the hexies shift and move from side to side. With each major shift, I take a picture so I can go backward if necessary. For this quilt alone I have over 40 digital photos in my file, one taken each time I moved hexies around until I was satisfied with the layout as being ready for actual sewing together. From initial layout to being ready to sew can take days or longer. Sometimes I allow myself to walk away for a couple of days, only to come back for a fresh look to make more adjustments.
The layout is just about ready to sew together!

I was almost done with the color flow when I got a call from the rep who gave me the news that they wanted to display the quilt at yet another show coming in mid-March! This meant my deadline to get done was moved up an entire month. It was time to really get moving. With the color flow done, I started playing with the flange around the panel, the inner border, and the options for the outer border. The beautiful eggplant was perfect for the flange and inner border; however, the border stripe was just not giving the quilt the pop I wanted it to have.
Auditioning the border print. Even in bad lighting, it just didn't have the pop I wanted.

I went back to the rep and we selected a coordinating all-over print instead that appeared to be the perfect solution. The lavender background of the new border choice brought life to the hexie color flow that I was finally satisfied with. Time to sew!
With the top completed, it was time to pin the layers together and get to quilting. I had a number of ideas for this quilt including my usual gentle curve/orange peel along the seams in each of the triangles of the hexies, outlining the flowers on the panel, and feathers in the border.


It was amazing working with Invisafil, a new-to-me 100 weight thread, that just melted into the background leaving the texture without showing. Seeing the panel come together from the back is always fun as the quilting takes shape. This view also gives me time to consider what I need to add to fill the background so the primary motifs truly shine. 
Feathering along the border, keeping them inside the blue line I'd marked.
I had intentionally made the borders wider than I needed. I did this in case the quilt shrank more than expected from the quilting, ensuring I would still be able to hit the target size requested. It's always easier to make a block or quilt larger and trim it down, than to make them too small and be stuck. Before quilting the border feathers, I marked the entire border an inch inside the outer edge with a water soluble marker. I also marked a gentle wave with my wave ruler to use as a guide for the border feathers. After stitching the stem all the way around, I dove in, keeping the feathers away from the blue line I'd marked. 
The borders came out better than expected as I experimented and played with new ideas.
For the final border touches, I pebbled between the swirled inner border and the feathers, and then did some ruler work adding straight lines from the feathers to the edge of the top spaced 1/2" apart. 

Viewing the quilt from the back showed just how much fun I had quilting this! The body was quilted in tan Invisifil on top with linen Glide on the back, and all of the border work was done with purple ARC poly on top and bottom. Quilted entirely free motion on Sassy, my HandiQuilter Sweet 16 sit-down quilting machine, the overall design was really coming together!

The mini-stipple in the background of the panel was great a great addition!

The last step was to fill in the open areas of the center panel around the flowers. Although my wrists and shoulders complained later, I love how the mini-stipple filled the background and made the flowers actually look appliqued once complete!


Finally, I cut strips from the eggplant to use as binding. The quilt was nearly complete. With the deadline looming, I worked long hours to be sure it was done on time. Knowing a UPS pickup ticket had been ordered for this Monday, February 29, I spent Sunday madly binding. The last stitch went in just before 5:00pm, in time to catch some sunlight at nearby Baker University campus where I hoped to find a good spot to get some photos. 
Although not in a sunny area, I love how this picture on the stone bridge turned out!
I lucked out with a sunny grassy area with a slight slope to it where I could get some pix without having my shadow showing. Here's what I captured from various angles, full quilt shots, and one with it draped over a stone bridge. Enjoy the quilty eye-candy!







After photographing, I spent the rest of Sunday evening adding the hanging sleeve, and stitching the label on. Monday morning the quilt was tucked into its box and by mid-day UPS had picked it up and sent it on its way. Garden Rendezvous Reimagined will be displayed in the vendor booth of Paintbrush Studio at two events this spring. First, at the 22nd Annual Mountain Quiltfest in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, from March 15-19 where Ro Gregg, the designer of the fabric used, will be a guest speaker. It will also be displayed in the Paintbrush Studio vendor booth at the Spring International Quilt Market in Salt Lake City from May 20-22.

This is my first venture into making a commercial sample and am very excited it will be getting this kind of exposure! I don't know what the future will bring, but after taking this leap, I'm ready!

More snippets from the sewing room soon,
Liz

Friday, January 22, 2016

UFO Busting in 2016--Two-Step Through Oz is nearly there!

Let's see... I've only been quilting since 2006, but have completed over 60 projects from pillows to large quilts. Then I look in my closet and in the boxes around Sassy's table (the HQSweet16) and realize the number of UFOs could actually match the number of completed projects! Good grief!!! I had attempted to make 2015 a year of finishes, but fell short. This year is definitely going to be the year of finishing up old UFOs and I'm already feeling like I'm making progress. I've already finished binding two wall hangings from last year, plus adding hanging sleeves to a couple more. Time to dig deeper!

The first large project that came out of the UFO pile is a Wizard of Oz themed quilt that I started back in November of 2012 when I attended a weekend workshop put on by the Emporia Regional Quilt Guild in Emporia, Kansas. They had invited Pat Speth, known for her books on Nickel Quilts based on units made from 5" charm squares, to put on a 3-day workshop. I was so excited to be taking part in this workshop that I worked diligently all day and then went home to work late into the night on fussy cutting the centers for each block, and making additional units so I could have my quilt top laid out asap. During the workshop I got most of the sub-units made, and did manage to get two squares completed and up on the design wall to share.
First blocks complete and up on the design wall to share during the workshop.

Within a week after the workshop I had all of the blocks made and had a layout done on my floor, ready for the blocks to be sewn into rows. I had selected Pat's Texas Two Step pattern for my quilt. It looked so different from the sample pictured in her book because hers was made with batiks and I had chosen a very distinctive line of prints featuring the characters and themes from the movie, The Wizard of Oz.
Less than 2 weeks after the workshop, all of the blocks were made and ready to sew together!

What I didn't realize then, but found out soon after as I started sewing blocks together, was that I had sacrificed accuracy in my haste to be a "star pupil" at the workshop. Instead of making a few blocks correctly, I rushed through and didn't take the added time to measure and trim each sub-unit before assembling the blocks. As it turns out many of those nice points in the layout pictured above were chopped off. As I measured the already assembled blocks, I realized I had to trim them down before I could sew them together. Yikes! I finished sewing the top together, but was unhappy with myself for being so foolish (did I mention I'm a recovering perfectionist?) and put it away to deal with later after I'd cooled down. It was far too late to take it apart and fix it, so I had to come to terms with the fact that I had made a quilt I wasn't happy with as far as accuracy goes.
Over a year later, I finally added the borders and got ready to piece the back.

In fact, it was over a year later in March 2014, at a retreat at the Kansas Troubles Retreat Center in Minneapolis, Kansas, when I finished the top, finally adding the borders. Once the borders were on, then the process of piecing the back started. I had several photo-blocks from the movie that I wanted to include in the overall layout, so I placed them on the top to get a spacing I liked, before adding the additional Oz fabrics around them to make the overall pieced back. The pictures were pinned in place at the retreat and taken back home for assembly.
Placing the pictures that would be pieced into the backing.
Once I got home, I continued to play with the layout of the picture blocks for the pieced back. Standing on my end-table gave me the best vantage point to take a picture from above since my living room floor was my design wall. The back got pieced, the quilt got sandwiched and pinned, and then once again it got stuffed into a box with other UFOs when I moved at the end of 2014.
The process of stitching in the ditch begins on Jan 20, 2016!

Jump forward to January 2016, I'm determined to start knocking out old UFOs. I had pulled this quilt out to use as an example of what NOT to do for my Beginning Quilting 101 class and realized it was still pinned. I was sure I had at least ditched the rows, but apparently not. That afternoon after class I decided it was time to get it at least ditched. I cranked up the tunes on Pandora and went to work. Hours later all of the rows going both directions were ditched. The next afternoon I ditched around the subunits in the blocks, finding a path that allowed me to ditch every individual piece with minimal overlap-stitching. With a 1/4" line of stitching around the outer border, the entire quilt is ditched and I've decided that is enough. It's going to be used by my grandkids when they visit and probably again as a sample in my classes, so minimal quilting for a utility quilt is plenty.
Oops! Do you see the 4-patch turned the wrong way? That Jacob's Ladder block doesn't look right.

When I got to the bottom of the quilt, I found there was one 4-patch that had been turned the wrong way. Rats! I hate when that happens and I miss it before quilting! Such is life--I guess it's like the Amish quilts, it has an error proving it was made by human hands.
One of four quotes included in the fussy cuts.

Overall, I'm delighted with how this quilt is turning out despite its problems. I love the fussy cuts, especially the few blocks with movie quotes. To a non-quilter I'm sure it's amazing. It's only because I'm so picky that I think it not my best work. I've decided I'm going to machine stitch the binding down after I sew it on tomorrow since it's a fun quilt for the grandkids. No real reason to put the hours into hand stitching down what feels like miles of binding for a potential fort/picnic/campout quilt. It came out a super-twin measuring 70"x93".

Two Step Through Oz is complete! 
Showing off the pieced backing on Two Step Through Oz.

Friday morning update: The binding is on and the top is complete! Two Step Through Oz is ready when the grandkids come visit next week! It's too long to hang up inside and too cold to go outside to photograph. Plus, we only got a couple of inches of snow, so the grass is showing through--not so good for pretty quilt on snowy background pictures. So, here it is, both front and back, hanging from the rod above my couch. It's draped over the couch, so has some funny ripples, but it's the best I can do at the moment. I'm just happy it's done!

Before I can pin any more of the UFO tops, I have to "release" more pins already in quilts that have been waiting far too long to be quilted. After finishing this one quilt, my pin box is magically half full! Rather than continue to buy more pins as I've done in the past (I probably have over 500 if I got everything quilted that is currently pinned!), I'm going to quilt, quilt, quilt, until I get caught up. Then I won't feel guilty about pinning another project! Among others, the UFO pile has two more Wizard of Oz tops (both king size!!!) that have yet to be pinned, not to mention quilted! I'm hoping they will both get knocked off the UFO list yet this year. Wish me luck!

More snippets from the sewing room soon...
Liz

Monday, December 14, 2015

Launching into Quilting Vintage

Recently I joined a new group on Facebook called Quilting Vintage which quickly grew to over 2500 members from around the world. This group, organized by Kelly Cline, a longarm quilter from Lawrence, Kansas, takes vintage linens of all kinds--hankies, dresser scarves, table napkins, table cloths, and more--and gives them new life by custom quilting them. Some are matted and framed, some are bound and turned into wall hangings or table toppers, some are turned into pillow shams or pillow covers. Each item is unique and so far I haven't seen anything that didn't turn out spectacular! Many of those in the group are using their longarms to quilt these vintage items. Others, like me, use our sewing machines or sit-down quilters (I have a HandiQuilter Sweet 16). Whatever technique used, the results are amazing.

I looked through my mother's cedar chest that resides in my closet and found I had saved quite a few of her linen table napkins, a couple of dresser scarves, a whole box of my mom's and grandmother's hankies, a couple of bridge-size table cloths, and a few other items. I've wanted to do one of these projects since I first saw them a few months ago, but it took me longer to get started than I expected. There were many other projects in line before I could play.

I decided to use one of these lovely linen napkins for my first vintage quilting project. I have several of these, so figured if I didn't like the outcome I could try again. The applique and cutwork are so delicate and there's even a crocheted edging around the corner that adds a beautiful touch.


For my process, because I'm a sit-down quilter, I have to pin-baste my layers together before I can quilt. I had in my stash several yards of a gorgeous mauve Shantung poly silk that I had bought to make a dress that never got made. It was the perfect color for the background. I expected the little bit of cutwork in the napkin would let the silk show through after quilting. I've worked with Shantung on quilting projects before and knew I would need to stabilize it with Best Press before I could pin it.

Once that was done, I used my mesh grid and pounce to mark the grid around the on-point square I marked off for the napkin placement so I could stitch the grid and quilt orange peel as the background.

The typical way to begin a project like this is to quilt the center first, working out towards the edges. I wanted to applique the napkin over the orange peel background, so did the background first. The quilted grid and orange peel shrunk up the piece significantly, more than I had expected. I was a little worried at first, but, again, figured if it turned out badly I could start over with another napkin. When I placed the napkin on the silk after the entire background had been quilted, it overlapped the orange peel by several inches, which meant some of the puff I wanted in the linen quilting would not be there since the piece was already quilted behind it. Such is life.


I centered the linen napkin over the central square, distributing the amount of orange peel behind it as evenly as I could and started quilting. I outlined it by quilting just inside the scalloped edge first to secure the piece and then started the journey of what to quilt and where. I knew I wanted to do pebbling around the applique and cutwork, so I started in that corner first.


Something I've learned about myself as I've continued to do custom quilting is that I can visualize what I want, but I cannot draw it with pencil and paper. Once I'm at the quilting machine, I can quilt what I visualized and often later laugh at the lines I tried to sketch out with a water soluble pen before starting. I didn't even take a picture of my sketched idea, but instead did some quilting based on what I had imagined, and spritzed the napkin last night before I went to bed so it would be dry to work on today.

This morning's class was cancelled, so I came back home and started to work expanding the quilting and got almost half done before returning to the shop for an afternoon class. When I got home, I went back to it once again and before supper had finished quilting the entire piece. Once I started, I didn't want to quit! There's not only a lot of orange peel, there are a lot of pebbles, too!


The bow I envisioned is a little bulkier than I might have wanted, especially the center knot, but overall I'm delighted with my first try at quilting vintage! I threw in a few swirls, and added feathers up both sides into the corners. It was fun making the feathers bump into the scallops up both sides of the napkin.

Since I do my feathers free motion, they are entirely organic and don't mirror each other. If I want "perfect" feathers, I use a stencil, but not this time. I found that there were places I could tell where the napkin overlapped the background orange peel quilting. The feathers were flat in those spots, but overall, I'm very happy with my first attempt. It's a learning process, experimenting with the designs, testing the sequence to see what works to attain the look I want. There are a few things I will do differently next time.
With this piece complete and ready for binding and a hanging sleeve, I'm already looking at what piece I want to try next. I'm definitely hooked and look forward to playing and creating more interesting vintage quilted pieces!

More snippets from the sewing room soon,
Liz