To be a bit cliché, this shoemaker is a professional Web Developer and her child is this blog, but it was past time to launch what I have of a new design. All the content is still here, everything else is a work in progress (kind of like most of my sewing projects)!
Spring has been a whirlwind so far. I am terribly behind on blogging about my finished projects. I have three completed quilts (two that are waiting to be delivered, the other finished this weekend at my guild’s spring retreat). This has been finished for a couple of months!
It started with a challenge of colors. Five of them, four greens, one yellow. Of course, none are fashionable; the greens are all slightly different from the famed 2017 Pantone Color of the Year, the yellow a bit too off-trend. Then there’s a challenge of size. 18″ square. Constraints like this are helpful to me when it comes to challenges.
The lacking part was inspiration, until I scrolled through Instagram and came upon this lovely bit of mixed-media art by @aykceramics and @aleksandrazee.
Which, of course, introduced another challenge as said design doesn’t translate well into squares and blocks.
But through y-seams and trial and error, it came together.
The fabrics weren’t perfect. If I were making this again, I’d make sure the two lighter greens had slightly more contrast, and the darkest be a little more vibrant. I finally dug out my package of Quilter’s Dream Orient batting (a blend of cotton, bamboo, silk, and tencel) that I’ve had for years, thinking this was the right project to use it for. I quilted it with a perfectly matching Coats & Clark variegated green 30wt that came in a goody bag at some point (kismet). I like how the thread weight helps highlight the design lines, even as it blends in and out.
I finished it with facing instead of binding, incorporating a hanging sleeve into the finish. My corners aren’t perfect, but the green and yellow make me dream of daffodils popping up in this very slow-to-start spring we’re having in Vermont.
This and those of my guild mates will be on display at VQF in June. It’s a very eclectic mix of minis.
Kona Corn Yellow
In an effort to create tools for education and promotion of modern quilting, my guild started a challenge series (of sorts) a while back that we call “Make it Modern”. Members are encouraged to take a traditional block, make it up in an 18″ quilted square, then make a second one “modern”. The goal is to explore some of the aesthetic differences that exist between modern and more traditional quilting when it comes to fabric selection, quilting, and styling of a block. We have a collection of the blocks now that we are able to take to demonstrations and talks, as well as providing a quick programming bit at our meetings when a member presents their block pair.
After giving and organizing a few talks for local traditional guilds about modern quilting, I noticed that we were missing a good example of pixelation, which has been a trend in modern quilting. Since I’d signed up (many months in advance) to do a Churn Dash block, I decided to play around in Illustrator to see if I could come up with something that evoked the look of the traditional block, but allowed for me to piece ‘pixels’ that weren’t too incredibly small for an 18″ mini.
The traditional churn dash is straightforward—four half square triangles, a center square, and side rectangles, made from fabric I purchased early in my quilting journey. The more traditional text print is a great foil to the more modern, low-volume math print used in the other block. I stitched in the ditch to quilt it, because I didn’t feel like FMQ at the time for something more advanced.
The super technical details modern details: I drew a vector churn dash, shrank it to 0.15″, rasterized it, then blew it back up to 18″. I played around with different sizes prior to rasterizing, but this was the best combination of “still looks like a churn dash if you squint” and “has big enough pieces (1.5″) that I won’t hate making it” I found.
The more quilty modern details: after I had my design, I broke it up into blocks that let me piece as few 1.5″ squares together as possible (but, I was winging it, so there could be even more efficiencies I didn’t think of). I used a low-volume white math/text print from the stash as background, and two greens (Kona Peapod and Kona Limelight) that are just a little different so that you really get the pixelated blend from far away (that is, the farther away you are, the more it looks like it’s a normal (perhaps fuzzy) churn dash). I quilted it in geometric spirals, starting with a churn dash shape as a nod to the original block.
And here’s what it looks like once we take photos and drop it in a template to publish on Instagram and Facebook for the guild. I love the way this project has encouraged me to think about the different ways modern quilting can be expressed, and it’s been amazing to see the creativity of my fellow guild members in how they approach their own make it modern blocks.
It’s becoming quite the thing for me to start off the year with a baby quilt for friends or family. This year’s is incredibly hard for me to let go of as it’s one of my favorite quilts to date, but alas, it’ll look cuter with a newborn on it.
I decided to do a straight-forward representation of the different shapes and their arrangement in the photograph, but wanted to inject color and pattern to make it more kid-friendly. Since the quilt is for the daughter of one of my instructors and his wife (and fellow student), I wanted to incorporate a subtle (or not subtle) nod to our discipline into the design. Thus, the colors of the shapes are the eight colors of belts in our ranking system (in no particular order). The prints are mostly small-scale, pulled from fabric I already had. I can’t get over the cute little pandas in the white stripe.
Piecing this really pushed my skills in a way I’ve shied away from in the past. I had a few rough measurements, but did a lot of the piecing improv. The central angle was nerve-wracking, but I managed it with no ripping involved, mostly by using partial seams and a lot of patience.
The back of the quilt is pieced from the super cute cat polkadots from Cotton+Steel and a strip of the colors from the front to give me the length needed. The quilt was just narrow enough to use the width of fabric, which limited the piecing I needed to do. The batting is Warm & Natural, as I had a crib-sized package laying around.
I also approached the quilting improvisationally, doing each section at a time with whatever spoke to me. Most of it was done with a walking foot, but the green section was free-motion quilted. There’re straight lines, loops, orange peels, zig-zags, serpentine stitches, and more. Each section was done in matching thread. The red binding echoes the belts of our experienced black belts in addition to providing a contrasting frame.
I hadn’t yet ordered new labels for the year with the appropriate year and qr code on them, so I used just the logo and name section from an old leftover. I’m beginning to think it’s time for something new, though I haven’t yet decided what I want to do going forward. For now, this one’s got the basics, and has already been delivered when our newest (just a few days-old) white belt made a surprise visit to say hello to last week’s class.
A word of advice: when heading to retreats, give yourself plenty of time to pack and consider projects. I waited until the last minute and only had some half-baked ideas. One of those was finishing up my 2013 Saturday Sampler projects in some way. I considered how to do so before leaving for the retreat, but rather than sketching something out, I just wrote down a few measurements and required materials, then tossed the box containing the finished blocks in with everything else I was taking. That’s the obscure way of saying that this quilt is nothing like what I’d planned, but hey, it’s a finished project!
Cotton’s Etc. in Wampsville, NY ran this sampler back in 2013. I only attended for four months before we moved to VT, so I wasn’t working with much for this quilt. I went to the retreat with the four completed 12″ blocks, a half-yard of supposedly matching white, and low-loft cotton batting pieced together from scraps.
On the Saturday of the retreat, we took a quick road trip to a local store running a moving sale, and picked up most of the rest of what I’d need—a yard for borders that coordinated pretty well, and 1.5 yds of lovely cuddle backing. The gray binding came from my stash at home.
I realized after I pieced the top together that my notes mentioned putting all four blocks in a row with lots of negative space to quilt that would read a lot more modern. Oh well. Instead, I put together a very basic, traditional sashed and bordered layout to turn the blocks into a 44″ square quilt. I’ve no current plans for it, but it’ll likely be a baby gift or charity donation sometime in the near future.
I put the quilt sandwich together at the retreat, then brought it home to quilt. I should have redone the basting before starting to quilt, as I cut corners at the retreat since I didn’t have a big space to secure the backing and batting to. I managed quilt it without too many tucks or bubbles, but it’s not my best work. The quilting is all straight-line with a mix of 40wt Gutermann (in the blocks) and 28wt Aurifil (borders and sashing). Some of the bobbin is a white 40wt poly Gutermann, and possibly even a bobbin-weight white cotton because I was scrounging around for the last bobbins and spools of white thread I had to use on this. I tried to do a wider-than-normal binding, but messed up the corners. Then, I did my worst machine binding attempt in recent history (possibly ever), resulting in an extra row of stitching all around.
The blocks are Snails Trail, Rolling 9-Patch, Rope & Anchor, and Hummingbird. The sampler was the ‘modern’ color-way option from the shop—which really just meant bright fabrics and a solid background as opposed to a country-ish food-themed fabric (if I recall correctly). In the intervening 3.5 years, I can’t remember what made me do it, but I made the green block with the back side of the fabric up, so it’s a little less vibrant than the others. I wish I knew why. I’m also not happy with the block placement—there are two fabric patterns, and I wish I’d alternated them rather than put them next to each other. Additionally, the whites are off between the blocks and sashing, which is doubly annoying since I purchased that specifically from them as coming from the same bolt of fabric.
In all, it’s not the best example of my skills, but I think that sometimes that’s okay. Regardless, it’s a candy-sweet quilt that I hope someone will love to cuddle under.
At my guild’s quilt retreat last month, a project I’ve been working on for six years (sort of) finally started really coming together. I’ve tried to save 2.5″ squares of the fabric I use in my quilts to make some sort of meta-quilt patchwork. Last year, I finally decided on how to piece the patchwork squares together and made the first eight, and I’ve kept up with my quilt finishes ever since, so I had the latest 12. The 24 in between were another story.
I dragged my entire tub of scrap fabric to the retreat with one goal: to sort it out and find the scraps for those other blocks (oh, and sort all the scraps by color [done], and maybe make scrap bins [haha, no]). I spent most of a day on the project before deciding I needed a break, and made a lot of progress. There are only nine blocks left, and I have most of those scraps set aside ready for piecing. The solid blocks signify a few unique non-cotton-patchwork quilts—t-shirtquilts and a chenille whole-cloth one. A few 2.5” squares had to be pieced together from even smaller pieces.
I thought I’d share the progress now. After piecing the different blocks together, I decided to put the rows together in a quilt-as-you-go method, so I basted my batting and backing together and started sewing the rows available when I could. The rest of the blocks are just pinned on for show and tell.
I’m not sure how I’m going to quilt this. Some days, I think I should quilt each square similar to how I quilted that quilt, since quilting can make such a difference in the final product. Other days, I think I’d like the fabric and project to stand on its own, and say stitching in the ditch is the right choice. Maybe I’ll add something via quilting or embroidery to mark the different years.
I think I can squeeze in one more row before quilting and binding (once I piece the rest of the rows together), then I’ll start a second panel. If I eventually finish that (another 48 quilts!), I’ll sew the two finished panels together side-by-side and start another. It’ll truly be a life-long project, but I love looking back and remembering each quilt.
Things have been quiet here. Everything in non-sewing life caused me to retreat from sewing for a solid two months, somehow. So, with my guild’s first ever retreat quickly approaching (this past weekend), I needed to get my sewing mojo back. The guild provided the perfect opportunity: a few mug rugs to give to women from the larger traditional guild in the area who provided space and support during their semi-annual retreat for us to do our own thing. I managed to pull three together in the week before the retreat.
#1: A scattering of hexies
I had a mini charm pack promo pack (~10 2.5″ squares?) from Windham sitting on my shelf, and was inspired by some of the hexie mini quilts that have been going around. I used plain gray fabric to turn out hexies, stuck them on to a background with spray baste, then used the quilting to secure them. The binding was leftover from a previous project. It’s a strange color scheme, but I thought it worked out well. I wish I’d ripped and fixed the top right corner, though.
#2: Masochist Shaman
Last winter, I used a bunch of 1/2″ off-cuts of Shaman by Parson Gray as leaders and enders and ended up with a strip of fabric. I’m not sure what possessed me to do something that fiddly, and had no plans for the finished piece. I cut into that, pieced it into some gray, and ended up with an interesting mug rug. I still have a few more cut strips from it, so there may be a matching one in the future. It didn’t take long to matchstick quilt something this small. I bound it with mostly matching leftovers from another project.
#3: The running out of time
I needed one more to meet my pledge and was lacking inspiration. I challenged myself to just pick some scraps within 2 minutes and start sewing. So, I grabbed three more of the Windham charms, leafed through a stack of orphaned full-sized ones for one that matched, and happened upon a scrap of solid that was the perfect compliment. It worked out surprisingly well. Quilting it was another matter, so again, I just started sewing and it worked out okay. I had a 2.5″ strip of green that made a great frame as binding.
For some reason, while machine binding the other two went very well, this one missed three of the corners. So, time being limited, I decided to topstitch all the way around in the binding to secure the corners on the back. Shh—that’s what we call a design decision, not an accident. 😉
So, those were my mug rugs. I didn’t actually complete anything at the retreat, but I made a dent in a couple of projects, so I should be posting about those soon. First, I have to go back to real life, which includes another retreat (or leadership summit, if you prefer) this week and a extra few vacation days where Carl will join me down in Austin, TX. Life never stops!
I started a double wedding ring quilt in the summer of 2012 as part of a local quilting group in Utica. At the time, I was still enamored with using all types of fabric for quilting, so I paired some Valorie Wells Cocoon with poly satin and a linen blend. After finishing three rings from a Double Wedding Ring pattern published by Free Spirit, I decided that was enough of that plan, and packed it all away. When I needed a baby quilt for another little girl this summer, I had the perfect excuse to pull it back out and cobble a new design together.
In addition to the three finished rings, the storage box contained a yard of a purple print, a yard of the butterflies print, two 6″ charm packs, a fair number of other charm squares cut into fourths, a quarter yard each of the five poly satins, and a ton of the linen blend. If I recall correctly, once I’d given up on doing an all-over double wedding ring quilt, I decided to do a somewhat complicated (and large) medallion quilt with the leftovers, but then put that off as well. This time around, I wanted something simple and baby-sized. Her sisters were recipients of the Impressions Baby Quilt (coincidentally started around the same time as this DWR) and Noble Blooms, both of which were around 40-45″ to a side, so that’s what I aimed for here as well. The length was easy—the rings were 40″ long—so I just had to worry about width.
After thinking about it for a couple of days, I decided columns of charms on either side of the centered ring applique strip would work well to finish this off. To tie it in to the shapes in the rings, I sliced off the edges of the charms at an angle for a trapezoid shape, which still stacks well if you flip them around back and forth. I meant to have the strips on the edges be reversed (long edge of trapezoid to long edge), but pieced them incorrectly. I decided to leave them as is. I could have paid better attention to pattern placement within the strips as well, but in this case done is better than perfect.
It’s backed with a dimpled cuddle fabric—I wanted to be consistent with her sisters’ quilts rather than use the cotton yardage I had leftover. In between is Soft ‘n Crafty 80/20. The rings are a bit loftier because they’d already been quilted to a layer of batting back in 2012.
Most of the quilting is straight line (and echoes of the rings). In the center of each ring, I used a machine embroidery quilting design for feathers. It looks okay on the front, but I’m a bit unhappy with the back of those sections due to the heaviness in the center. I considered much more intricate quilting, but didn’t want to squish the cuddle background too much. I used a pale pink Aurifil for all the quilting—it’s a nice contrast in the grey areas, and blends well into the colorful parts. (Also in the box of supplies—color matched rayon embroidery threads I’d intended to quilt with—those definitely wouldn’t have held up to use!) It’s machine bound in the purple yardage I had from the line.
As I did for her sisters, I made a stuffed animal and doll quilt to go with the baby quilt. The stuffie is made from backing leftovers using my trusty copy of Simplicity 2613. The 16″x18.5″ doll quilt used up the quartered charm square scraps (trimmed down to 2.5″ squares) and 2.5″ strips from the butterfly print. It’s backed with the pinstriped linen blend and bound with the same purple as the quilt.
It’s nice to cross another project off the “in progress but more or less abandoned” list and lighten my stash a bit! Plus, I’m glad that the new baby has a quilt just like her sisters do, even if it was a few months late this time around. Now to wash it and send it on its way! (Speaking of washing, please forgive the fact that you can see blue markings in some of the photos from where I marked to center the embroideries.)
Having free motioned text as quilting in the past, Angela Walters’ Mighty Lucky challenge did not strike me as the most inspiring—not that it’s a bad challenge, but it was nothing new to my skill set. I was all set to not make a project for it (just like the last few months… shhh…), until I remembered that I signed up at the beginning of the year to talk about the challenge at my guild meeting this month.
A pillow cover seemed the perfect project to showcase both cursive and block lettering in the form of my favorite Louisa May Alcott quote.
“She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.” Work: A Story of Experience (1873), Louisa May Alcott
Because my handwriting is horrendous, I arranged the text in Illustrator, then printed it out to trace. While not feasible for a sandwiched quilt, I was able to use my window as a lightbox to trace the lettering onto the top fabric of my pillow cover.
It’s quilted on linen, with wool batting and no backing, using a rayon embroidery thread. I considered doing additional quilting with a whitish thread, but my time was limited and I was happy with how the quote looked alone.
I finished the case with an envelope backing that matches the thread color and stuffed it with a purchased 12×16″ pillow form. It’s perfect as a bolster pillow for a reading nook!
When I started working on this quilt in 2011, it was a chance to dip my toes into making a quilt for show and a way to embrace my love of history and research. The possibility that it would be accepted as one of 26 to travel after the initial show was never in my thoughts. The idea that the show would continue traveling across the country and internationally for four years was beyond my imagining.
Now that it’s home, I finally had the chance to take photos of the finished quilt!
Here’s the statement that I submitted with it, which gives you a better idea of why there are three distinct sections.
One fact about the War of 1812 that sticks with me is that the last living survivor of the War was only fourteen years old when he enlisted. Surely, he was not the only man to enlist that young—though we now call a fourteen-year-old a boy, not a man. Fourteen—even eighteen—years is not so many years at all to a mother. So my inspiration of cradle–to–cot–to–coffin was born.
My premise is that the center section originated as a cradle or crib quilt, sewn sometime post-1795 (when the 15th state was admitted, represented by 15 stars in the medallion) for the birth of a son. Sixteen or so years later, a mother extended the quilt to its final dimensions, and sent it off to war with that same son—now a soldier—to warm him once again.
I constructed the quilt in three separate parts, almost finishing them completely before putting everything together as one quilt. Although it is machine pieced and mostly machine-quilted, I did a lot of handwork: the medallion is hand-quilted, the edges were all done by hand, and actually connecting the three pieces was also by hand. If I recall correctly, I liked the wool batting I used in this quilt far better than the type I used more recently. It came from a bolt at Joann Fabrics, but I haven’t seen it since.
The edges are knife-edge finished. To connect the sections together, I pressed the edges of the center section edges in like I would if I were finishing them with a knife-edge, slid the other section into that resulting pocket, and stitched the center to the other section on the front and back.
The center medallion was a stock photo woodcut engraving that I printed via Spoonflower. Although the majority of the quilting is machine quilting, I hand quilted the center. I had no idea what I was doing or how to hand quilt, as evidenced by the back.
The back looks very make-do, as I tried to use up as much of the leftover fabric as possible rather than let it fill up my scrap bin. Don’t mind the selvages showing at that very top—that is the hanging sleeve. There’s a custom label pieced directly into the back, inspired by one memorializing Princess Charlotte of Britain c. 1817 (scroll midway down).
Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I’m not a big fan of the tension between traditional and modern quilting. I’ve made traditional. I’ve made modern. I’ve made modern with traditional. I’ve made a lot of things that are just quilts. I spend more time with a modern guild and modern quilters, but it’s not at the expense of respecting and learning from traditional sources. I think that we as quilters and people are better for acknowledging that both sides (and everything in between) have much to bring to our craft and art.
In my Web wanderings recently, I came across a digitized collection of early 20th century quilt design paintings. The 419 watercolor paintings were done by Virginia Beauchamp around 1919-1923, but many depict quilts from the previous century. What drew me into the collection was how her framing and cropping of the quilt down to the desired design motif is incredibly similar to how we often make modern traditional quilts.
Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a traditional quilt design and making it in solids.
Other times, we take a single block and make it very large.
Some of the paintings go beyond depicting what we call modern traditional and straight into modern.
We break the grid.
We decompose the design in places.
We use negative space to great effect.
This collection has left me inspired with ideas of quilts to make for years to come. I hope you find similar inspiration.