Posts filed under ‘New Projects’
Obviously, it’s been a really long time since I posted. I had intended on taking the summer off from blogging, but I didn’t mean to let it drag so far into fall. However, Hurricane Sandy closed my office on Monday, and since the power at home stayed on, I got some good momentum going on this post before normal life resumed.
Part of what has kept me quiet was the fact that until very recently I literally couldn’t talk about the main project that has occupied me since July: the guild challenge. This year’s theme was orphan blocks. We randomly drew bags that contained anything from a single orphan block to a collection of blocks or precut pieces, and then had to make something new out of the bag’s contents. My bag had just one single block in it, and it had issues:
In the plus column, it’s a 54-40-or-Fight block, which I’ve always liked the looks of but had never made; the basic color palette had promise, since purple and green are two of my favorite colors; and the fact that it was primarily made of solids meant that finding coordinating prints would be relatively simple. HOWEVER, I completely understand why this block ended up an orphan. It’s hand pieced, and the seam allowances were positively enormous, in the 1/2″ to 5/8″ range. There were rust stains, probably from being stored with needles or pins in it, and this block did not have a single 90-degree angle to its name. If I had made a block like this, I would have stopped at one, too. I salute the brave quilter who not only held onto this block for some years, but offered it up for public consumption. And I have to say, it inspired me to make something I’m very proud of, that I never would have conceived of otherwise.
My first thought was to just rip out the seams and use the individual pieces for applique. Heck, with those seam allowances, I certainly would have ended up with plenty of fabric! But ultimately, I decided I really wanted to maintain the sharp points of the original block and riff off of those for my final design.
A brief aside regarding my conflicted relationship with foundation paper piecing. I absolutely love “sharp pointies” designs such as New York Beauty and Mariner’s Compass, and paper piecing definitely seems to be the way to go to achieve satisfactory results with these blocks. However, I really don’t enjoy the process that much. I’ve tried several different books’ and teachers’ methods for paper piecing, I’ve tried several different types of paper foundations, and I still just find it to be tedious. I don’t like sewing on paper because the presser foot slips around, I despise having to trim after each seam, and I HATE having to tear the paper off afterwards. But in order to achieve the results I want with those super-sharp points, it’s what I have to do, and I’ve made peace with that. It will just never be my favorite technique.
I’ve had a book in my collection for many years, “Quilt Mavens: Perfect Paper Piecing” by Deb Karasik and Janet Mednick, whose pictures I have (metaphorically) drooled over for as long as I’ve had it. Up until now, though, I’ve never had occasion to make any of the patterns from it. But strangely enough, their pattern “Spike Redux,” which is essentially a giant Lemoyne Star by way of the Chrysler Building, seemed to echo the sharp points of the 54-40 or Fight block while introducing new design elements. I just changed the color and value distribution to suit myself, and swapped out the corner New York Beauty-style blocks for the orphan block.
I had bought the beautiful, hand-dyed-look, gradated purple and green fabric, “Glacier Lake” by Caryl Bryer Fallert, at least eight years ago. (I found it on the enclosed porch of the old location of Endless Mountains Quiltworks, so it’s been a while.) It was love at first sight, but it’s been one of those “too good to cut” fabrics for me all these years. With this color palette pre-established, I had finally found its showcase in the big setting triangles and curving center pieces. I only had a yard and a half, so I had to cut carefully, and I only have a few scraps left after just barely having enough to make the binding, but it was the perfect fabric for the job. In fact, most of the fabrics for this project came from my stash; the only ones I had to shop for were the pale lavender and pale chartreuse, because I needed lights for value contrast, and these are not shades that naturally occur in my collection. Fortunately, my mini-retreat with Rhonda and Kathy occurred just when I was about to embark on this project, so a shopping trip to Sauder’s did the trick.
The only part of the quilt that I hadn’t completely pre-planned before starting to cut fabric was the corner blocks. Initially I had considered leaving the block intact and just making three more like it (obviously machine pieced and with new fabrics), but I was concerned that wasn’t changing it enough for the spirit of the challenge. Also, having three identical blocks and one “vintage” block would probably tend to draw focus to the odd one out, like that old song from Sesame Street:
So I tried cutting the blocks in half diagonally, although I flipped the orientation after playing around on the design wall. I experienced a great deal of stress when finally rotary cutting that block, because it was the only one I had — normally the worst thing that could happen is that I’d have to recut or repiece, but the stakes were high on this! Plus, those hand-pieced seams really wanted to spring apart until I sewed across them. I had fun making my own new 54-40 or Fight block for the other two corners. I finally used the Tri-Recs ruler I’d bought years ago, and was very happy with the result.
For quilting designs, I mostly fell back on my old standbys: freehand feathers in the Glacier Lake pieces and parallel lines in the paper pieced areas. The stroke of genius was Dan’s, as he came up with the idea to quilt the corner setting triangles as if the piecing continued for complete blocks. Doing the dense pebbling filler pattern not only created contrast in the solid areas, but also gave me some additional peace of mind regarding the hand-pieced blocks, that they wouldn’t be going anywhere.
And all my work and soul-searching was very well rewarded at our guild meeting, when my quilt got the highest number of votes at the big challenge reveal! I got a lovely prize bag and the grateful satisfaction of knowing my work is appreciated by a group of quilters I love and respect so much. Priceless.
For the happy dance, I had to go with Gilles Marini’s Bollywood dance from DWTS All-Stars. It just makes me smile:
My sister Sian had her third son, Alexander Jackson Bailey, on September 26, 2011. As they live in Massachusetts, I didn’t get to meet him until they came down for Ronan’s birthday party in November, but I sent him a set of little fleece pajamas with pumpkins on them and a pumpkin hat with matching booties. She sent me these wonderfully styled photos of him wearing them:
(By the way, both of the pretty pretty quilts in the above pictures were made by my mom.)
I had made wallhangings for each of Sian’s older sons when they were baptized, incorporating photos of them as infants. Here’s Bruce’s, from 2004:
And Luke’s, from 2009:
As the youngest of three boys, I imagine Alexander will have quite a few hand-me-downs of clothes, books, and toys. I wanted to make sure that, even though my life circumstances have changed quite a bit since his older brothers were born, he still had a quilt from me that was made just for him and was at least the equal of the ones I’d made for his brothers.
It’s nice to have a reason to make a little quilt from time to time. My projects tend to suffer from gigantism, as regular readers well know; if I hadn’t wanted to conform to the same general size range as the other two wallhangings, who knows what this might have grown into? Especially because the block technique I had wanted to try anyway, Anita Grossman Solomon’s Unbiased Block from the April/May 2012 issue of Quilters Newsletter, turned out to be so addicting that I might have just kept going. She has you use strips of fusible interfacing on two identical squares of striped fabric to create this handy-dandy hourglass/pinwheel block that does not distort, despite the bias edges on the outside. It’s way too much fun. If you, like I, have a big collection of striped fabric, this technique is an excellent excuse to spend an afternoon playing. One pleasant surprise was that the wiggly, uneven, painterly stripes created more successful blocks to my eye than the traditional, regular stripes.
This was entirely a stash quilt. The only purchase I made was the batting, and only because I didn’t want to cut up a queen-sized piece. Inspired by the fall colors in the photo, I pulled all the autumnal stripes from my collection and decided to make nine blocks from five different fabrics. I did have one nonstarter; while I loved this corn fabric (and it really is functionally a stripe):
it was WAY too busy when I put it up on the design wall with the others. In a bed-size quilt I might have gotten away with it, but not in a small quilt like this. I wanted to use the gold fossil fern fabric for the sashing, but I didn’t have enough of it, so I used it for cornerstones and chose the orangey stone-veined fabric to pad it out. As with virtually any other instance in my quilting career where I’ve made a decision to include more fabric in a project, I think it is an improvement over my original idea. I will make it a point to use low-contrast cornerstones in future projects where I might otherwise have just used straight sashing.
Once everything was pieced, I fused the transferred photo and some simple leaf shapes and appliqued them down with a machine buttonhole stitch in a variegated heavy thread. (I’m purposely skipping over the step where I obsessed over leaf placement for multiple evenings in a row, consulting Dan to the point of exhaustion, then accidentally let the fan blow half of them off onto the floor.) I quilted an overall design of leaves and tendrils over the entire top, ignoring seam lines but tying in the appliqued leaves as if they were part of the edge-to-edge quilting design. This was the first time I’d ever done anything like this, especially freehand, and it was a fun puzzle challenge to decide on the fly what I should quilt where. It was also the first time I’d quilted details into my appliques, rather than just quilting around them or going over them with a filler pattern, and I was very pleased with the faux-trapunto result. The photo also looked much more defined with some simple outlining quilted in.
I’ve been handstitching more of my bindings lately, but this quilt got a Sew Precise, Sew Fast machine binding out of the fabric I used for the center square, and with a sleeve and label attached, it’s done in plenty of time for his June 10 baptism:
I’m still plugging away on the shop hop sampler quilt, but barring major upheaval or disaster in either the quilt or my life, it should be done for the show without necessitating any sleepless nights. I’ve also been tapped to demonstrate freehand feather quilting at the guild quilt show, so I need to gather my samples and my thoughts to prepare for that. And the guild challenge is impatiently tugging at a corner of my subconscious, asking for attention to be paid to it. The beat goes on…
Yes, I know Ronan is only 16 months old and probably doesn’t need quite so many quilts. But we do storytime every night before bed, and one of his absolute favorites has long been The Very Hungry Caterpillar. So when I saw the full line of the fabulous Andover Fabrics Eric Carle fabrics at Ladyfingers when we did the shop hop last fall, I couldn’t resist. I didn’t think I’d make anything with them any time soon, but when I was reorganizing the fabric in my studio closet I wound up leaving the central panel within toddler reach. Ronan not only grabbed for it, he kept playing peek-a-boo with it and was making his “cute noise” (normally reserved for sightings of furry animals) while looking at it. What could I do but start a quilt?
I had lots of fun with this due to the extremely simple piecing and the bright saturated colors. While there are absolutely gorgeous blenders and tone-on-tone fabrics in the Andover collection, I chose the path of thrift and used all fabrics from my stash for the four-patches. The long vertical mirror-image panels with the caterpillar and the sun were originally joined in the center for making a bolster pillow or door-bottom draft stopper, but I thought they’d look more interesting in the quilt. I originally planned this as a lap quilt, but it finished 53″W x 76″L; I thought about stopping with just the central three panels divided and surrounded by four-patches, but I loved that large stripe and decided it needed to be a part of this top. Besides, that means Ronan will be able to use it on his big-boy bed someday.
The large food stripe had the power to be a deal breaker because it depicts the art from Ronan’s favorite pages in the book, the ones in which the holes in the foods are actually punched out of the book’s pages so that little fingers can follow the path of the caterpillar. I had only bought 3/4 yard of the stripe last fall, as I had no idea what (if anything) I was going to make out of these fabrics and I didn’t want to go overboard. However, it’s also not the sort of design that could be pieced without looking extremely strange. Therefore, once I finished the center of the quilt and all the four-patches, I got on the Ladyfingers website to order two more yards. They were sold out. Trying not to panic, I began searching elsewhere online. I did find a few sites that had it in stock, but they were either a) in England, or b) offering it for the low low price of FIFTEEN DOLLARS A YARD. So Ronan and I made a Saturday morning trip to Zook’s at Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse. They had the majority of the line, but not the large food stripe. (I consoled myself by buying a few other fabrics at their fabulous prices.) However, across the street at The Old Country Store, they had it!
I promptly brought it home, washed it, and cut it the wrong size. The less said about that day, the better.
But I made it work. I had initially planned to have those borders run the entire width of the quilt without being surrounded by four-patches on all sides, so I wouldn’t be limited to multiples of 2″ for the height of the border and could just follow the design. So although having to cut it 12″ finished height meant that there are some little stems and leaves and details peeking up from the seam line, I think ultimately the four-patches gave it a more finished and cohesive appearance. I can’t say I’m glad that the price of gas is tiptoeing towards $4/gallon, but that certainly helped me make the decision to work with what I had rather than jumping back in the car, and I think the final result is the better for it.
In my continuing struggle to select appropriate quilting designs and appropriate threads to quilt them in, I think this project was a solid success. I wanted this quilt to be softer and more pliable than Ronan’s fancy blue and taupe quilt, so thus much less heavily quilted. The batting is Quilter’s Dream Orient, a blend of bamboo, silk, Tencel, and cotton; I thought it would be funny for the caterpillar quilt to have batting made by actual caterpillars. A practical advantage of this batting is that it can be quilted up to 8″ apart, granting me significant latitude in designing the quilting.
I never want to mark or measure more than necessary, so I used the four-patches as landmarks for gridding the unpieced panel areas. I used a simple on-point square grid for the central panels, and a hanging-diamond variation for the horizontal borders. I think grids come the closest to disappearing over heavily graphic areas so as not to distract from the artwork. This also allowed me to use the walking foot for all straight line quilting. I then switched to my free-motion setup, which continues to perform extremely well, with no skipped stitches or shredded thread. Again drawing inspiration from the subject matter, I quilted echoed leaves in all the four-patches. I used a yellow Isacord #40 polyester thread for all quilting. While it did play peekaboo to some extent, I’m happy with the result.
This process was a good reminder that simple quilts can be a satisfying and rewarding experience, that every quilt teaches me something. And Ronan loves it and knows that it’s his, which is reward enough.
For a happy dance for a quilt based on the story of a caterpillar’s life cycle from egg to butterfly, what could be more appropriate than “The Circle of Life”? Dan and I were fortunate to see “The Lion King” on Broadway about 10 years ago, and this number left me speechless:
(What can I say, I was a college sophomore when that song came out, so it’s permanently imprinted on my psyche.)
Another new project I’ve been dabbling with is entirely Bonnie Hunter’s fault! (Didn’t I start following her to help me finish my UFOs?) She’s been posting on her blog about her English paper pieced hexagon project that she works on for handwork during all her travels. As I’ve been feeling a little uninspired by hand applique lately, and my counted cross-stitch projects are in a woeful state of disorganization at the moment, I’ve been in a bit of an uncharacteristic handwork drought myself. So when I saw a lovely display of English paper piecing projects and die cut papers for sale at Back Door Quilts outside Indianapolis in August, I thought I’d give it a try. If I didn’t like it much, I’d only be out $3.75 for the bag of 250 3/4” hexagons and a little stack of scraps.
I’ve never been much one for traditional hand piecing a la Jinny Beyer, so I never really contemplated making a hexagon quilt. I think they’re lovely, but the necessary step of basting in the papers seemed like it would be tedious. So far, I’m enjoying it far more than I’d ever imagined I would. (I am thinking I need a thimble for my thumb when I baste, but I haven’t seen Roxanne thimbles at a show lately, and I’d want to be fitted in person.) I learned a quick method of chain basting hexagons from a YouTube video by Jackie Willis, so the preparation stage doesn’t take quite so long. And it’s remarkably satisfying to take the papers out once each hexagon becomes completely surrounded, kind of like a quilting version of playing Minesweeper.
I’m using scraps left over from cutting out Taupe Winding Ways (you know, the same scraps I used for Ronan’s quilt? and for my circle applique block? and there are still more of them?) The whipstitches used to put the hexagons together are so far much less susceptible to my perfectionism than my applique stitches usually are. Rather than making typical Grandmother’s Flower Garden shapes, I’m piecing elongated diamonds like in the Martha Washington’s Flower Garden quilt:
The beauty of this project is that it’s self-limiting: I’m planning to make diamonds until I get sick of them, and then I’ll join them into whatever size they make. It could be a bed quilt, a hot pad, or anything in between. I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far at the speed at which they’ve been going together when I really have a chance to focus, though; I finished an already-started diamond and basted a respectable baggie-full of hexagons while sitting at my most recent quilt guild meeting. And I’m certainly honing my reflexes for hiding the scissors every time Ronan pulls himself up to my table while I’m working on them!
I’ve certainly seen many hexagon quilts over the years, especially examples from the 1930s at Documentation Day, but I had never really studied just how many possibilities a hexagonal grid leads to. The English tradition means that they show up all the time in Australian Patchwork and Quilting, and the handwork aspect means they’ve become popular among Japanese quilters as well, so I’ve been looking through some of my old magazines with new eyes. My starting this project seems to represent such a perfect example of the odd juxtapositions inherent in being a quilter in 2011: I was inspired to start doing a style of hand piecing that’s been around for nearly 300 years, by a blogger, and I learned how by watching a video on the internet. Oh, Miss Bennet!
Where have I been? I’ve been asking myself the same question!
It’s been a busy summer, especially as I’m still getting used to how much having a baby in my life changes things. Ronan is an absolute joy: his sunny personality just blows sugar through my soul every time I look at him. He’s crawling now, babbling nonstop, giggling and dancing and chasing the cats, and I’m cherishing every moment. I can’t lose myself in the studio for hours on end the way I could Before Baby — which is a perfectly acceptable tradeoff — but that’s the way my OCD personality works best for creative endeavors. I’m starting to acclimate to life in this warm messy new country called Motherhood, and am digging in some hand- and toeholds to find my way toward quilting again, albeit in the brief scrambled bursts I can occasionally scrape together. And hopefully, I’ll also figure out how to find time to blog about it as well!
It hasn’t been a total dry spell, though. I finished something!
Diane, Rhonda, Kathy, and Rhonda’s cousin Cathy (that was confusing!) came for a mini-retreat at my house in mid-July. Dan acted as the primary with Ronan so we could all get some concentrated sewing in. Diane had given me a charm pack (Lollipop by Sandy Gervais for Moda) with my birthday present, so I decided to use it for some relatively brainless piecing. For whatever reason, in my life, “easy” doesn’t usually turn out that way.
I planned to make some simple double pinwheel blocks using the Angler tool. Easy piecing, no marking. Well, first, the Angler just wasn’t working for me. I know quilters who swear by it, but I was finding myself more prone to swear at it. My seam allowances looked like my history with Weight Watchers: straight and faithful at the beginning, but veering off the longer I went and, let’s face it, getting wider. Since ripping out and resewing was the absolute antithesis of what I wanted to be doing, the Angler came off the machine bed and I started marking my diagonals on the backs of the squares.
I made 2 identical half-square triangle squares from 2 contrasting charm squares, then sewed each of them along both sides of the diagonal to another charm square to make 4 pinwheel units. So far, so good. But those 4 units, put back together, didn’t make a pinwheel! Oops…
As someone who works in a mirror all day, I’m ashamed I didn’t see that one coming. (It works if you cut the charm squares into quarter- and half-square triangle squares and then sew them all together, but not if you use the “quick” no-triangle method..at least not the way I did it.) If I’d been working from fat quarters, I would have simply cut more squares and continued to make my blocks containing only 4 fabrics each. But since I just had the charm pack, with only one square of each fabric, I had to either abandon the project entirely, or find a way to make it work. And let’s face it, one of the central tenets of Sarah Loves Fabric is that more fabric is better! So I ended up with five sets of identical-but-mirror-image blocks containing EIGHT different fabrics each, for a total of ten blocks with only two charm squares left over from the original pack of 42.
As it turned out, I’m glad my original plan fell through, and I’m glad I felt obligated to work with what I had rather than just cutting (or worse, buying!) more fabric. I think the blocks are more interesting with eight fabrics than they would have been with four, but I don’t believe I would have been brave enough to plan them that way. As I mentioned before, when it comes to fabric I definitely believe more is more; I get bored making a two- or three-fabric quilt, or one where all the blocks contain the exact same fabric combination. But until now, I hadn’t taken the plunge into making blocks that each contained quite this many different fabrics. I have to consider this a very successful experiment, and one that I intend to repeat — just so long as I don’t manage to manipulate it into an excuse to buy more charm packs!
I quilted the table runner using minimal-mark designs from Pam Clarke’s “Quilting Inside the Lines” with Lagoon Brytes by Superior Threads. These blocks turned out fairly lumpy in the centers, even after twirling the seam allowances when pressing, so I wanted to choose a design that allowed me to avoid those areas unobtrusively. Also, as I’ll be taking a class from Pam at Quilting with Machines in October, it seemed like a good mental warmup. I used a piece of Pellon Legacy wool batting (yum) left over from another project, and managed to find backing and binding fabrics from my stash that coordinated with the charm pack, rather than giving in and buying more of the Moda fabrics. I am appropriately proud of myself. I even hand-sewed the binding, and finished it in time for show and tell at Guild last week! It’s like I’ve turned over a new leaf.
For the happy dance for this one, how about two late greats of American comedy, Dom DeLuise and Gilda Radner, in the one bright spot in an otherwise dreadful movie:
Big surprise that lately, when I’ve had a chance to quilt, I’ve been working on baby quilts. As I alluded to in my last post, I’m making a quilt for Ronan that’s blue and taupe. I had gotten this wonderful Japanese owl print by Alexander Henry several years ago from a vendor at the Airing of the Quilts, with no thought at the time that I would someday have a baby son; I just liked the fabric. It manages to be juvenile-appropriate without being juvenile. Really, the only clue that the designer intended it to be a baby fabric at all was that it was available in pink and blue. My mom bought some too, in both colorways, and has made three baby quilts with it (two pink and one blue) for two daughters of family friends and one of my nephews. In contrast, for me this was one of those fabrics that gave me (bad pun alert!) Quilter’s Block. It was too cute to cut. That is, until I had a good idea– and then made a bad mistake that had the potential to scare me off cutting any “good” fabric for the rest of my life!
I bought the book, “9-Patch Pizzazz” by Judy Sisneros a few years ago as a way to use up some large prints that I always fall in love with on the bolt but then don’t know what to do with. I loved the author’s ideas for combining the large print with both coordinating and contrasting fabrics, but of course, being me, I had to goose up the difficulty a little bit. So while I came up with a basic layout very similar to the ones she uses in the book:
I decided to use quarter-square triangle squares, or hourglass blocks, instead of the 9-patches. This decision also allowed me to use some relatively small scraps (hi, Bonnie Hunter!) left over from cutting the Taupe Winding Ways blocks. Cutting the triangles posed no problems; the trouble started when I cut the big blocks of the owl fabric. I have an 8.5″ x 12″ Omnigrip ruler that has faked me out in the past with that extra 1/2 inch. Somehow I managed to transpose that in my mind into thinking there was an extra 1/2 inch on the 12″ side, too. So all the owl blocks that were supposed to be cut 12.5″ x 12.5″ were accidentally cut 12″ x 12″. And of course I didn’t have enough fabric to recut anything (although I would have had enough to cut them correctly in the first place, grumble grumble.) While there was initially some wailing and gnashing of teeth, I realized that with so many seams coming together in the pieced areas, odds were (knowing how I tend to piece) that the hourglass block sections would measure shorter than the cut size for the large-print blocks anyway. Therefore, I reserved judgment on the cutting error until I had the piecing done.
Wouldn’t you know it? The ONE time in my piecing life that I channel Sally Collins and have my blocks come out exactly the intended size, is the ONE time I wanted them to turn out small! Oh well. I added some 1″ dark taupe strips– another opportunity to add in more fabric!– and I think it actually improved the design. I’ve heard the saying before, it’s not a mistake, it’s a design opportunity, but I think this is the most significant example in my work so far.
To a lesser extent, this phenomenon recurred with the appliqué blocks. I knew I didn’t have enough of the owl fabric for all of the large blocks on my plan, so I intended to make one 6″ x 6″ block and one 6″ x 12″ rectangle out of the blue and taupe leaf print that I used in the hourglass blocks. Several of the model quilts in the book use more than one featured print to excellent effect. However, once I got them up on the design wall, they just blended right into the background. I salvaged the situation with some fused, machine blanket stitch appliqué, and I think the result is more interesting and attractive than if I’d had enough owl fabric in the first place.
I still need to add the borders, but I needed to put Ronan’s quilt aside to start AND FINISH!! Arianna’s quilt. We stood as godparents to Matt and Alyssa’s baby daughter, and of course I wanted to make her a quilt. (Plus, it gave me an opportunity to use some pink fabric, now that I live full-time in the Land of Blue.) I started with some Log Cabin and Pinwheel blocks I had left over from another project, added some borders and some more machine blanket stitch appliqué, and quilted it with Patsy Thompson-style no-mark feathers and freehand Baptist Fans. Considering how down-to-the-wire this project was (I finished putting the binding on at 1:30 on the morning of the baptism) I think it turned out quite well:
Once again, deadlines seem to be my friend when it comes to selecting quilting designs. If I have all the time in the world, I can dither endlessly as to which designs would be best. If I’m racing to finish, I make a command decision and put the hammer down. This was the first time I’ve even attempted, let alone used, that freehand Baptist Fan, which was inspired by Ruth B. McDowell‘s use of it as a background filler on her fabulous art quilts. I was very pleased with the result and will definitely use that again (possibly even on Ronan’s quilt?) especially on another quilt with a lot of busy piecing. It makes such a nice texture. No wonder it’s a classic. (Plus, more fun quilting puns: Baptist Fans on a baptism quilt?? Huh?? Funny?? I’m such a dork.)
On Saturday Ronan and I attended the AQS Lancaster show. I won’t give you my reviews now; hopefully there will be some new posts on the subject within the next week. I will say that I was very excited to see that many of the changes I predicted from last year have come to pass. I definitely noticed a significant uptick in positive media coverage of the show over last year, much of it focused on the predicted $10 million it’s bringing with it to Lancaster! Several non-quilters of my acquaintance specifically asked me if I were going to the show, as they had heard about it from TV, radio, and the newspaper. So AQS seems to have come to understand Lancaster, and Lancaster seems to have grasped what it means to have a show of this caliber come to town. More on that soon!
Ronan Damien Paddock made his appearance at 12:35 p.m. Saturday, November 20, 2010, weighing 10 lbs., 8 oz. and measuring 20 1/4″ long. He was born yelling and passed all his neonatal tests with flying colors. Due to his hugeness, he was delivered by Caesarian; so far, my recovery has been blessedly easy.
He has a full head of dark brown hair, my ears, and his daddy’s barrel chest; beyond that, it’s too soon to tell who he looks like, so for now he just looks like himself.
He is very strong and grabs everything he can with his tiny hands. I’m already imagining a lifetime of his exploring the world through those hands: making and breaking things, digging and playing, building and experimenting. I hope that he enjoys working with his hands as much as I do.
I hope he knows that I will always be here to hold his hand.
Suffice to say, there will be a considerable lull in the quilt-related posts here while the new normal asserts itself and I figure out where quilting fits. Quilting will always be a part of my life, no matter what else is going on, but I have to reprioritize and restrategize around this tiny new human for right now. There’s a post in the pipeline about Matt and Alyssa’s quilt, and I’ll be able to catch up on my back episodes of The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims during baby feedings, so I may post some reflections and points of interest about that. Dan is working near my Janome dealer, so he’s planning to run my machine up for servicing next week; hopefully the free-motion quilting tension problems I’m experiencing will be alleviated by the time I can actually find a free moment to quilt.
But in the meantime, I’ll be marveling at how on Earth I managed to make this amazing little person.
Wow, it feels great to get things finished! Even though none of these projects were on my “official” list of UFOs, they were still taking up both physical and psychological space, and it’s wonderful to have them out from underfoot, so to speak. Plus, as I wait for labor to start, finishing quilt projects is apparently as close to “nesting” as I get.
Noah’s Ark panel:
I picked up Mary Mashuta‘s “Foolproof Machine Quilting” for $10 on sale at Quilt Beginnings in Columbus, OH on our way out to Indianapolis in August. I have long been a fan of hers, first upon seeing her gorgeous quilts and wonderfully inspiring books (her book, “Confetti Quilts” would be on my desert island list) and second upon learning that she manages to amicably share a sewing space with her twin sister, Roberta Horton. However, for all that this book contained some great ideas, it was mostly centered around making walking foot quilting accessible to new quilters who’d been put off by free motion. Since that’s not where I am at this stage, I passed the book along to a friend.
But one of the ideas she’d stressed was using heavy threads and decorative stitches to make quilting show up on busy prints (for which she and I share a passion.) I didn’t want to do very intricate quilting on this piece, first of all because it’s just a panel that I tweaked by piecing in the lattice, but also because I didn’t want to detract from the graphic impact of the panel. The viewer’s brain already has to make the visual “jumps” across the lattice; I didn’t want to further confuse things by introducing a busy quilting design. So I marked a simple 2″ grid to echo, rather than compete with, the lattice, then used the walking foot with a serpentine stitch and orange Brytes by Superior Threads, a nice heavy 30/3 polyester with a bit of a sheen to it. I used the Pellon Legacy wool batting I’d bought at AQS Lancaster, which gave it a nice puffy loft. (I hesitate to say it, but I think I might actually prefer the Pellon to the Quilter’s Dream wool I used for Convergence Birds and have set aside for Ruby Wedding!)
I switched to my fancy new free motion foot, its first real test drive since I bought it at Quilt Odyssey, but left the Brytes in to do a no-mark, freehand Patsy Thompson-style feather in the top and bottom borders. I’ve been a huge fan of her Freemotion Fun with Feathers DVD series, but hadn’t had much opportunity to use her techniques in actual quilts rather than just on doodle cloths, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I quilted these feathers before I took her class at Quilting with Machines in September, and it acted as an excellent warmup. I wasn’t sure whether the feathers would show up in that busy print border, but apparently the combination of the puffy wool batting and the thick thread did the trick. I will have to remember that.
For the binding, I used the same fabric I’d used for the lattice strips, and Suzanne Michelle Hyland’s Sew Fast, Sew Precise Machine Binding technique that was so maligned by the show judges on my quilts this spring and summer — remember, “a hand-sewn binding adds refinement” — but that gets my quilts finished rather than languishing in limbo. Plus, I don’t think my baby boy will be so discriminating.
Mom’s Halloween Attic Windows:
1) How to handle the border, which is decently wide and of a solid batik that would nicely show off the quilting
2) How to quilt the focus fabric squares without distracting from the fabric itself
3) How to use the glow-in-the-dark thread to best advantage.
It’s always tricky to quilt something for someone else. Even considering that my “client” in this case is my mother, whose tastes I have far more experience with and insight into than the average person’s, there’s still that worry that what pleases me might not please her. I know she doesn’t like extremely dense quilting, especially in contrasting threads. At the same time, I have this wonderful opportunity to use glow-in-the-dark thread on a Halloween quilt, and the NiteLite colors are all very light; I used the Purple, but against the deep plum border even it looks almost white. I used the Pellon Legacy soy blend batting, which only needs to be quilted every 8″, so dense quilting wouldn’t be necessary. I started with simple ditch quilting with the walking foot and fine, matching threads to anchor the center. That way, I could come back to the center once I’d figured out what to do with it.
I knew I wanted to do something spectacular in that border, yet that would still fit the whimsical theme of the piece. That was when I remembered the antique Easter quilt I’d seen in Fons & Porter, with an appliqued border of stylized bats that just looked like fancy swags at first glance:
That idea was way too much fun to leave alone, so I modified a simple bat design from an online coloring page (great resources for simple shapes and line drawings!), sized it to fit, and then used another technique from Mary Mashuta’s book to mark them: I cut them out of freezer paper and ironed them onto the quilt top, then did my freemotion quilting just outside the edge of the paper. This also allowed me to fudge the measurements where I needed to, and obviated the need to do a lot of marking on a dark fabric. I hadn’t originally intended to add the button eyes, but I wanted to make the shapes more clearly recognizable as individual bats, and especially with the “spooky eyes” fabric as the sashing, I think it maintained the mood.
I wish I could post a picture of what it looks like glowing in the dark, but I do not have the right camera equipment for that. In fact, I have a phone, which is not going to cut it. But let me assure you, it’s pretty impressive. So I decided to just use the NiteLite for all the visible quilting, even though it’s higher contrast than I would have otherwise dared. That also solved my dilemma for the Attic Windows sashing, as I didn’t really want to have to change threads between the purple and orange segments. I chose the design partly as a quilting pun: it’s a variation on the old Pumpkin Seed design, which I thought was both thematic and pretty. Add some diagonal lines to tame the focus fabric, and it’s done! This also got the machine binding treatment: it’s a wallhanging, for goodness sakes! I did hand sew the hanging sleeve, though. Isn’t that batik adorable?
Matt and Alyssa’s quilt gets its own happy dance post, after all the trials and tribulations of what was supposed to be a simple project. So here’s my preliminary happy dance for the two smaller projects, and I’ll indulge in a grander one in the next post: