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,

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,