Saturday, August 15, 2015

Posies and Tweets awaits a great-great-niece!

I'm blessed to be great auntie to my nieces' and nephew's children. They're all growing up so fast with two of my great-nieces now married. The oldest had her daughter in December 2013. I made Opal's Owl for her from the Remember Whooo Loves You pattern. Little Opal didn't get her quilt until her first birthday because I entered it in the county and state fairs where it won blue ribbons! The quilts I have made for my great-nieces' babies were chosen because the girls' MomMom, my sister-in-law Cindy, truly loved Irish Chain quilt patterns. It seems like nearly all of the UFOs she left behind when we lost her to cancer were Irish Chains, from miniatures to full size quilts. I stitch little bit of their MomMom (gramma) into each quilt that I make for them by choosing the pattern she loved most.
Remember Whooo Loves You for Opal
My middle great-niece and her husband just celebrated their first anniversary and are due with their first child--a baby girl--any day. I spoke to my niece several months ago and asked if they wanted me to make a quilt for the new baby. I got a definite Yes as I'm now filling my sister-in-law's shoes as great-auntie/quilter. While spending a getaway weekend in Branson, MO, my friend and I went to several quilt shops where I found some fabulous "shabby chic" fabrics that my niece said would be perfect after I messaged a picture to her. That was the beginning of Posies and Tweets, yet another Irish Chain baby quilt.
My niece said these fabrics were a perfect "shabby chic" for this quilt
This time I chose to make a double Irish Chain out of the soft brown and light blue and feature the pink print with the birds sitting on blossoming branches in the offset blocks. I played with the layout in EQ7 in order to get a sense of what size blocks I would need to make the scale I wanted for the baby quilt. Once I knew what sizes I needed, I cut the strips and strip-pieced the chain blocks as much as I could to speed up the piecing. Once the blocks were made and rows were layed out, I sewed rows together and pretty quickly had the top completed.

I added an inner border of the brown before adding the final border of the pink, pinned the layers and started quilting. I had purchased enough pink flannel to back it with, but thought the finished size would be smaller. I had come up short, but with a strip of leftover blocks added along one edge, I made it stretch quite nicely. I ditched all of the seams before quilting simple orange peel in each of the brown squares to make the chain pop, added swirls in the brown inner border, and swirly feathers around the outside border. However, I was stumped how to add something special to the pink blocks.

Looking at the quilt from the back after completing all of the stitching in the ditch, I could see possibilities, but wasn't sure how to accomplished the look I wanted. Then, while sitting at my Sweet Sixteen, I happened to spot a set of rulers I had purchased recently that include half-circles. I had a light-bulb moment and thought how fun it would be to add some curves to all of that straight piecing.
Ditch work complete and contemplating what to do next.
Being a huge fan of 54-40 or Fight blocks made with tri-rec units that create a curved look, I wondered about using the half-circle rulers to create curves where there were none. I got out my chacoliner and drew four half-circles on point in each of the pink blocks, making an on-point curved diamond in each. Following those lines, I quilted the curves and added a variety of free motion flowers in the pink blocks to complete the quilting.
The half-circle rulers added the perfect touch of curves to soften all of the straight piecing
As I was adding the final stitches to the binding, my granddaughter and I talked about what to name this quilt. We came up with Posies & Tweets because of the pretty little blossoms on the branches the birds are sitting on. I'm hoping that once little Maddy arrives that I'll get a picture of her wrapped up in her quilt to add to my scrapbook. Welcome to the world, Madelyn Estella!

A week or so into making the quilt, I got a phone call from my niece letting me know that the baby shower was scheduled for July 11 in Fresno, California. I knew I wouldn't get to attend, but had a deadline by which to get the quilt finished and shipped in time for the shower. Amazingly, I made it! I was so excited to have it done that I packaged it up and had it ready to go to the post office when I realized I hadn't taken any pictures of the completed quilt! I carefully slit the tape on the bottom of the box (the label was over the top flap, securely taped down), took it out and hung it up in my living room and took several pictures. Then it was back in the box and off to the post office.
It's amazing what we can accomplish with a request and a deadline to go with it. This quilt was completed in just a few short weeks around my teaching schedule. Fabrics were purchased the first weekend in June and it was shipped the first week of July in time to arrive the day of the shower.
I hope you've enjoyed this journey of love, making a quilt for my newest great-great-niece.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Friday, August 14, 2015

A Busy Summer Obsessed with One Block Wonders

School is starting and summer is nearly behind us. The weather is still warm with 90s expected the next week where I am here in northeast Kansas; however, overnights are cooling down indicating that fall is on its way. I've had a busy summer going to quilting retreats, teaching classes, quilting for clients, and making quilts for myself. Some of those quilts were class samples, one as a gift for my great-niece for her new baby due this week, and some just for fun.

As a shop sample, I explored using panels for a One Block Wonder (OBW), purchasing 7 panels and cutting up 6 to make the OBW hexies and then framing the 7th as part of the top. The result was Wanderlust, pictured below. I added a flange border around the central panel to set it off. I entered it in the Lyon County (Kansas) Free Fair and it won the 1st Place blue ribbon and the 2015 Best Use Of Color cash award! In two weeks it goes to the Kansas State Fair and we will see whether it places in the larger state-wide competition. 

This year has become the year of One Block Wonders. Including Wanderlust, I've made 5 so far and have fabric already selected for at least 5 or 6 more! Each one will be different with either yardage repeats or panels being used. The other 4 tops are done and each needs to be pinned and quilted, something I plan to so very soon.
Original print for the Butterflies OBW mini wall hanging

Of the OBW tops waiting to be quilted, I managed to squeak a mini wall hanging out of a yard of fabric that I picked up at the Missouri Star Quilt Company on a visit earlier this year. The Stitchin' Grannies, our Wednesday morning quilting group, were interested in learning more about OBWs and we worked together on one of our sew-days. Using the butterfly print pictured above that was fairly small scale, I cut just 2.5" strips to make the triangles for the OBW hexies. The top is just 26x36" and will have a few butterflies from the original fabric appliqued in the border before finishing.
Butterflies mini-OBW wall hanging

The next OBW I tackled was another one featuring a framed panel. I used Pandora, a challenge fabric selected by the Facebook group "One Block Wonder Forum". The panel features gorgeous poppies and lilies in brilliant yellows, oranges and reds. I once again purchased 7 repeats and cut 6 up to make the hexies. For this one, being a larger scale print, I cut 3.25" strips to get finished 6" hexies once assembled. This top I made larger, adding a border making it more into a generous throw that will finish at approximately 68x75".
Finally, this past couple of weeks I have been working on two wall hangings made from a beautiful nativity fabric. I missed out on purchasing panels before the shop sold out; however, I purchased the large scale print instead with 7 repeats and chose to fussy cut the large designs to frame in the wall hangings.
The large scale print of nativity fabric used for two wall hangings
I split the fabric down the center fold, using half for each top. I cut two sets of 2.75" strips, one with the grain and the other across the grain in order to get a different mix of cuts to make the hexies different in each. For the first one I fussy cut the main design features out as hexies and inset them with y-seams as part of the overall design. The blue border around the large hexie fussy cut on the first one will have a red satin cording frame appliqued to help break up the color flow and bring the eye to the main feature before quilting. For the second one, I made larger rectangular cuts of the two main design features that were framed within the overall OBW design similar to the panel quilts.

The two OBW wall hangings made from the same fabric with different fussy-cut framed features

It has been great fun playing and being creative with the designs on the OBWs. Changing up the OBW technique and framing designs within the color flow gives such a different look. The next fabrics are ready to be cut so I can continue playing with unique layouts.

Other quilts that have been made will be written about soon as I settle back into a fall teaching & quilting schedule. I hope you've enjoyed seeing these unique quilts!

More snippets from the sewing room soon...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

2015 Maple Leaf Quilt Guild Opportunity Quilt is DONE!!!

Mission Accomplished! Autumnal Equinox, the 2015 opportunity quilt for my guild, is DONE!!!
My grandson and his grampa, both over 6' tall, had to stretch to hold it up for pictures!

Ever since I showed the Maple Leaf Quilt Guild in Baldwin City, Kansas, my Solstice Moonrise quilt top (made from Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice 2013 mystery quilt pattern) early in 2014, they were in love with it! In fact, so much so that they voted me to be in charge of making the 2015 opportunity quilt in that pattern. Typically this is a group project done by several members of the guild; however, with so many subunits needing to fit together to make the larger blocks, I chose to move forward doing all of the sewing myself.
Solstice Moonrise, a variation of Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice, 2013 Mystery Quilt

To help streamline the process, I increased the size of the blocks from 9" to 12" and substituted the pinwheels with fall leaves fabrics to simplify it a little. By making the blocks bigger, I could grow it to queen size without having to increase the number of blocks needed. Members of the guild donated fabrics in the fall leaves color palette so I could get started. Some were scraps, since Bonnie Hunter's quilts are typically quite scrappy, while others donated fat quarter bundles that could be used. I started in sitting in front of my TV watching hours of movies, reruns, and 2014 March Madness college hoops while making 4-patches, tri-recs, chevrons, and flying goose units so I could begin assembling blocks.
String piecing chevron halves
Adding the corners to flying goose units
Before long, I had enough units together that I could put together a few blocks to get an idea how the colors would play together and what the overall look might be.
Chevrons are assembled and ready to go!

Checking fabrics to see if colors played well.
As I got further along and had completed all of the chevrons, I soon discovered that one of the pieces of yardage that had been donated truly didn't play well at all (notice the green with pink flowers in the units above). Unfortunately, there had been a lot of that fabric! I made the decision to remove that particular fabric from the quilt completely, so the unsewing began. I took those units with me to the Wednesday morning gathering of quilters at our local shop and several guild members helped me rip them apart and remove the corner pieces to be reused on different greens. I dug through the donations as well as the fat quarters in my own stash for more suitable greens that had more of the fall colors in them and remade nearly a third of the total number of chevrons. In the end, it was totally worth it!
New greens play much better with the other colors!
With blocks coming along nicely, it was getting close to time to layout the whole quilt to get ready to sew rows together. The overall appearance was quite pleasing once the greens had been swapped out.
The guild wanted a queen size quilt that was not square, but rather a little longer for nicer bed coverage. Since the original Celtic Solstice pattern is for a square quilt, rather than add another row of blocks, I chose to add a row of chevrons to two ends, bordering each with a narrow strip of color that would bring it all together. The green seemed to be a great choice and one that I had enough fabric for in the donated stash.
Finally the quilt top was ready for the outer borders. I took the top with me to the shop and several of us from the guild began auditioning various possibilities for outer borders. After our stack of 6-7 fabrics didn't bring a consensus, one of the gals (and a guild member) working at the shop went to the shelves where we had been looking, pulled one out that we hadn't even considered, and said, "Hey, try this one!" Amazingly, it was the perfect solution that everyone loved!

Initially the fall leaves (pictured on the left) was my favorite, but somehow it seemed washed out. When Cathy suggested the sunflowers and fruits, everything popped! So, fabric was purchased by the guild to do the borders, a wide backing in brown was selected, and off I went to add the borders and get ready to pin the sandwich for quilting.
Typically I pin my quilts on three 6 foot banquet tables in my living room. As you can see, the tables just weren't big enough. If the top had fit one way, I could have done it, but with it hanging off of both the side and the end, it just wasn't working out. Back to the drawing board...

It was time to clear away everything I could to make room, so furniture got pushed back or moved into the hallway and the largest space I could manage was cleared to tape down the backing, float the batting and top, and pin on my living room floor! Thankfully it fit, but just barely.
Moving furniture back or out of the room, I managed to make room to pin on my living room floor!
And the super-queen is ready to be pinned!
Finally it was time to start thinking about quilting. Wow! What a responsibility, custom quilting my guild's opportunity quilt! I could easily have passed it along to be long-armed with a pantograph design, but I really wanted to amazing piecing to be showcased, so took on the quilting job as well. I had been researching custom quilting designs for other Celtic Solstice quilts over the last year as I was planning how to quilt my own (which is still waiting to be quilted). I had gathered several really cool ideas and so dove in! I did extensive stitch-in-the-ditch work, stabilizing all blocks and nearly every seam within each block before I could start on the fun stuff.

At last the fun began! Straight lines in the chevrons were done using a ruler to get nice straight lines. The spacing isn't exact, but once done it looked really good. Gaining confidence by doing the straight lines in the border first, then I jumped into the body of the quilt next. 
 I continued with the straight lines in the chevrons of each block, adding narrow waffles in the connecting green triangles, making it easy to move around each block without having to break thread as I finished quilting with the green.
 Next I started adding gentle curves in an orange-peel type design in the yellow star and center square in each block.
Orange-peels were then done in all of the orange and brown four-patches that crisscrossed the quilt. The last major element was to quilt the tone-on-tone curved diamond secondary shapes created when putting the blocks together. 

As I was quilting the main body, I was scouting for a stencil I liked to use in the outer borders. I found a beautiful stencil called "meandering feather" that I bought. It fit perfectly in the outer sunflower border and so I started pouncing two or three lengths at a time, working my way around the quilt. There was only about an inch discrepancy between the repeats of the stencil and the overall length of the border, so I didn't have to do much stretching or adjusting as I got close to the corners.

With the quilting complete, it was time to square up the quilt and trim the borders to ready it for binding. My, oh my, it certainly is a process making a quilt from beginning to end! Being particular about how I pieced the blocks and building the top, thankfully it came out pretty darned square without having to make any adjustments during trimming!

Not done yet, though... Next the binding had to be prepared, sewn on, and hand stitched down.
If you're paying attention to the pix, you'll see that some of the tone-on-tone stippling designs aren't yet done as I'm sewing the binding on. With all of the stitch-in-the-ditch work done to stabilize the quilt, I went back and forth between doing that (sometimes tedious) detail stitching and the (more relaxing) binding work. This quilt was pieced and quilted entirely with Aurifil #50, my favorite thread! I used brown in the bobbin behind all of the various colors, but needed to use a matching bobbin with the neutral thread used in the tone-on-tone stipple work. The custom work was completed last week, just days before the first Art Walk of the season where guild members plan to sell tickets each month this summer. Once all of the quilting was done, I took a picture of the back where the details could better be seen.
So close!!! After spending several afternoons and one very late night hand stitching, Autumnal Equinox was finally done. A hanging sleeve was sewn on with a basting stitch in the ditch from the front and hand stitched down at the bottom on the back (this is in case whoever wins it doesn't want a hanging sleeve, it can be easily removed), and a label was prepared and hand stitched after being fused to the back.
Custom label printed on ink-jet ready fabric and colored with gel pens
Today while family was visiting, I had my grandson and his grampa hold it up high for me so I could get a complete picture of it.

The guys had to hang it sideways to get a picture--too long to hang full length!
Then later after the family went home, I put it on my bed (which is only a double/full, so there is a fair amount of drop on the sides) to see what it would look like when put to use. If I do say so myself, it came out fabulous!
I'm so happy with how this year-long project turned out! The guild is delighted and I've had many wonderful comments on it as I've posted its progress in various Facebook quilting groups. I look forward to entering it in the Douglas and Lyon County Fairs and the Kansas State Fair later this summer. Some lucky person will win this quilt when we draw the winning ticket at the 2015 Maple Leaf Quilt Show held during Baldwin City's Maple Leaf Festival the third full weekend in October. We, the Maple Leaf Quilt Guild, wish all those who purchase tickets luck!

More snippets from the sewing room soon,

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Wanderlust: Experiment with a One Block Wonder layout

I have a new quilting obsession... Making One Block Wonders with panels or border print-type panels and incorporating an uncut panel into the overall layout! I had already made three different One Block Wonder quilts and have a new mini-OBW in the works. What made this quilt top different started when I recently joined the One Block Wonder Forum group on Facebook. I noticed members posting that they were using panels instead of just multiple repeats of print yardage, which sounded very intriguing! I mentioned this to my local quilt shop owner and her face lit up instantly as she walked across the shop and picked up a bolt of Wanderlust by Hoffman Fabrics, a gorgeous abstract print built around an image of the Eiffel Tower. She asked if I would make a sample to show at the shop during the upcoming shop hop. Of course I agreed! I took home six repeats of the fabric with plans to start cutting the next weekend at our guild's monthly Sew & Sew day.
A single repeat of the uncut Wanderlust fabric.
I followed the usual technique of aligning six repeats of the fabric, cutting strips, sub-cutting the strips into 60 degree triangles, and then assembling the triangles into two halves of three triangles each to create two half-hexies that would later be sewn together into rows for an overall kaleidoscopic layout. Rather than aligning and cutting strips the full width of the fabric, I instead cut them across the 18" repeat width of the repeat, which was much easier to line up and cut. I chose to cut 3-1/2" strips, slightly narrower than the recommended strip width of 3-3/4" for large scale prints in the original One Block Wonder books by Maxine Rosenthal. The floral design at the bottom of the fabric seemed a smaller scale than many of the fabrics used for OBWs, so a 3-1/2" strip would keep the colors and designs better framed within the triangles.

Cutting 3-1/2" strips of the six repeats across the 18" width of the panel.
 I use the Clearview Triangle 12" 60 degree ruler to cut my triangles. I prefer this ruler as it has the point at the top which makes the triangles easier to line up when sewing them together. I place a piece of plastic tape across the ruler at the 3-1/2" cutting line so I don't have to think about where to line up my ruler each time I move it.
Cutting 60 degree triangles from the strips, setting them aside in their sets of 6 pinned together for later sewing.
Remaining sets of 6 triangles pinned together and ready to start sewing!
Once all of the triangles were cut, the gals and I attending the Saturday Sew & Sew wanted to see what this quilt might look like, so we laid out a number of triangles just to see what we had to look forward to as the pieces were sewn together.

Excited by what we had just seen, I started sewing pairs together right away. I took each set of 6 triangles and sewed two pairs together--string piecing continuously, setting the remaining 2 triangles aside to later add to each pair to create the half hexies. Most of the triangle sets were sewed together the same direction they were cut; although, there were a few that I rotated to create a different look. Testing out layout options before sewing took place at the machine before stitching the pairs together.
Testing the layout for orientation before sewing pairs together, string piecing through the whole stack.
After all of the pairs were sewn together, all seams were pressed open before I went back through the stack in the same order, adding the third triangle to each pair. Once the half-hexies were assembled it was time to start playing! The two halves of each hexie were pinned in order to keep them together as I began playing with the layout. Working from the dense color hexies from the bottom of the panel up to the light sky color hexies from the top, I started laying them out on a table to see just what I was coming up with.

As I started laying out the hexies into a color flow, I took a few pictures to post in the OBW Forum on FB. There were many comments and the ones that drew my attention were from members who suggested incorporating the uncut panel into the layout. Normally I would add a piece of the original fabric as a border, but with the panel that didn't make sense. I took the suggestions and started to play even more, returning to the shop to get a 7th repeat of the fabric to use uncut in some way.
The first attempt at incorporating the panel into the OBW layout.
As I added the panel, I felt it needed to be offset by a border, initially thinking surrounding it with a blue sky fabric I had in my stash that blended well with the top of the panel. Getting feedback as the layout progressed, I went from having the blue around the panel and as an overall border, to removing the blue except at the top, and substituting a 1/4" red frame around the panel, allowing it to blend in with the layout while still being set apart.
Option 1: Adding blue sky fabric to complete the hexies and frame the panel.
Option 2: Removing the blue within the layout and adding a narrow red border around panel.
Adding the narrow red border (the red was in my stash and blended well with the overall layout) was looking better and better! I cut 1" strips of the red, pressed them in half lengthwise, and sewed them to the four sides of the panel, thus creating a 1/4" finished flange frame for the panel. Then it was time to start sewing the rows together. Being sure to work one row at a time and keeping the order correct takes time and patience. Opposing halves of hexies have to remain lined up correctly as subsequent rows are sewn together, so I allowed two evenings to sew rows together.
Sewing half hexies together into long rows as the top progresses.
All seams were pressed open in order to distribute the layers as six seams come together at the centers of each hexie as long rows are sewn together.
Pressing long seams open of the main hexie section before attaching to panel.
Once the top was completely sewn together, I layered and pinned it with Dream Poly batting and backing. Then I went to my HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen to do the quilting. For all of the hexies of the OBW portion of the quilt I did a simple orange peel quilting design with a 50# Aurifil Antique Rose (#2430), keeping the curves about 1/4" from the seams. On other quilts I typically stitch-in-the-ditch, but on a OBW that has seams pressed open, this is not practical, so the narrow orange peel provided stabilization to the seams without stitching on the stitches in the seams. For the uncut panel I chose to quilt a boxy meander in YLI Natural (#239) 100# silk, which blended in beautifully.
Detail of the orange peel quilting on every seam of each hexie of the OBW.

A boxy meander, with the Eiffel Tower detail outlined, was quilted on the panel.

I love the look of the quilting from the back of a quilt!
Happily, I found that my top squared up easily once the quilting was complete. With as many pieces as there are in a OBW and the possibility of the many bias edges of triangles distorting, having my OBW quilt come out square gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment!
Trimming after the quilting was complete.
With the shop hop starting on Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m., I knew I was under pressure to meet that deadline. The quilt was done, the binding was sewn on, and I was hand stitching the binding down on Monday evening. At 2:10 a.m. Tuesday morning the final stitch went into the binding and it was complete!

I delivered "Wanderlust" to the shop on Tuesday afternoon where the shop owner greeted me with raves of how great the quilt had turned out! Finishing at 44" x 60", I'm considering this my first art quilt and plan to make many more. Wanderlust will be entered in the Lyon and Douglas County fairs, as well as the Kansas State Fair this summer. I'm also exploring the possibility of entering this quilt in a quilt show competition.

The first cuts were made on Saturday, March 28 and the final stitches went into the binding on Tuesday, April 7, just 9 days later. It may not seem like a long time to most, but I know it would have been completed much faster had I not been at the Sweet Sixteen for 4-6 hours per day working simultaneously on quilting our guild's opportunity quilt. I hope you've enjoyed this journey through the making of Wanderlust, a One Block Wonder art quilt.

More snippets from the sewing room soon,