November 16, 2019

Night Into Day; A Negative Space Quilt Using Notan

Last night was the opening of Unoccupied: The Importance of Negative Space, a show of modern quilts made by the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild. It was a lovely evening full of quilty friends and wonderful quilts. The show runs November 15 through January 6, 2020 at the Collective - Community Arts Center in Lafayette, CO. If you're in the Denver area be sure to stop by. I have two quilts in the show. Circling the Square and Night Into Day. Night Into Day even made the cover of the show postcards.


When the show was first announced I knew I wanted to explore something new using negative space.
I started with a lot of different ideas and struggled at first to narrow down the choices. Then, when a couple of guild members gave two separate presentations, the first on negative space in quilting, including the concept of Notan, and the second on improv, I was inspired to try incorporating both into my show quilt.

So what exactly is Notan? Notan is a Japanese concept of using dark and light shapes to create harmonious compositions often thought of as figure/ground reversal. In other words, positive and negative space. Think of the Yin and Yang symbol. Or paper designs that cut away a section and reverse it as a mirror image.


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I decided to create black and white shapes using improv techniques to make my quilt blocks. To create the shapes, I paired one black and one white square of fabric and cut the stack into shapes by making straight cuts. The cuts were not planned other than being straight. I chose not to use angles, but they would work just as well. Then I interchanged the cut pieces and sewed them back together. The result was two blocks that were essentially the opposite of each other. Quilters may know this technique as stack and whack which generally involves 3 - 4 pieces of fabric per stack. 

Each pair I made was different and I had no idea how they would come together until they were all done and I could play with arrangements. Both the cutting and the layout was done improvisationally.  

Here's the process I used to make 12 pairs of blocks that finish at 6" x 6" for a total of 24 blocks. 

1.  Cut 12 squares each of black and white fabric approximately 8.5" x 8.5".  Blocks will be trimmed to 6.5" x 6.5" but the larger size is needed to account for seam allowances when the squares are cut into smaller pieces and then re-sewn together. I suggest you cut at least 2" bigger than your intended final size.

2.  Layer one black square with one white square and make one or two cuts horizontally and vertically through both fabrics. Sub-cut some of the larger shapes into smaller pieces similar to what's shown below.


3.  Shuffle the black and white pieces to create new blocks that combine both black and white pieces. This can be done by directly interchanging every other piece to create blocks that are direct opposites. The cuts above made the blocks below.

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The pieces can also be arranged so the blocks are mirror images of each other as shown below. These blocks are from a different stack of cut pieces. It's a little hard to recognize the mirror image until you look closely.

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Another option is to create blocks where one is predominately light and the other is predominately dark by only exchanging a few pieces. 

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4.  Sew the pieces together starting with the smaller pieces and building outward until all pieces are sewn together. It's easiest to sew one block at a time so as not to get confused about what piece goes where. Repeat the same sewing sequence to make the second block. 

5.  Trim both blocks to 6.5" x 6.5".  OPTION: for added interest block pairs can be trimmed differently. This will reduce the matching appearance between the two blocks. For my purpose I wanted to maintain the matching yet opposite appearance so mine were all trimmed the same.

6.  Continue the process, making different cuts for each pair of blocks. Once all your block pairs are done the fun begins.

There are so many different ways my blocks could have been arranged. The lights and darks could have been clustered concentrically from the center out. Or they could have been positioned on the diagonal. In these arrangements you would probably be hard pressed to find the matching pairs.

I chose to go with a rectangular layout by placing the matching pairs side by side in order to emphasize the figure ground aspect of the matching blocks and play with the positive/negative shapes between the block pairs. A few of the simpler matching pairs where then placed along the outer edge and the solid squares were used to fill out the design. My final quilt finishes at 24" x 48".

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The images below show 2 pages of a 3 page document I created in case you'd like to try the Notan concept for yourself. It shows block basics, layout options, plus several block variations. You can download it here. If you use this document to explore your own Notan quilts I'd love to see them. Tag me on Instagram @springleafstudios.

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www.springleafstudios.com

My second quilt in the show, Circling the Square is shown below. I think it plays quite well with Laura's red cross and moon phase quilts. The common colors and the contrasting shapes of the three quilts make a striking combination all together.


You can read about the design process for Circling the Square here. In addition to this show, it has been shown at QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville and the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden. It was also featured in the QuiltCon magazine.

I enjoyed the process of making Night Into Day so much I am planning to experiment with another quilt using a bunch of different colored solids. I have already cut one large and one small square from each solid in my stash. I have about 130 squares in each size. I'll use the large ones for another Notan quilt and the smaller ones for something else.

negative space quilt, notan quilt blocks, modern quilt

There are so many choices I can make with this all solid idea. I could always pair a warm with a cool colored square. I could pair warm on warm or cool on cool colors. I could use stacks of 3 or 4 fabrics instead of just 2. This would give me the choice to have more than 2 colors in a block. I have no idea what the end result will look like, but that's the challenge and the fun. I won't start this until 2020 and will post here and on my Instagram account so follow along if you'd like to see what happens.

Thanks go out to The Collective Community Art Center in Lafayette for hosting the show and to Laura and Katie (and everyone else) of the BoulderMQG for all your hard work putting the show together.
You did a great job!


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November 6, 2019

Arboretum

Welcome to my Arboretum, a most colorful forest of fabric trees.

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This quilt wasn't even on my radar. One day I just happened to notice a few Kaffe Fassett fabrics in brownish colors on the shelf and suddenly quilter's ADD took over. Since it's fall, those browns and rusts were begging to be used and leaves seemed the perfect fall subject.

Inspired by those fallish prints, I looked through my Pinterest board on leaf quilts for inspiration. Several pins sparked ideas. Unfortunately, the pin I was most inspired by led to no further links or information, so I took off on my own.

I did a quick layout in the computer to determine the quilt size and number of blocks I would need and settled on 9 rows with 11 blocks per row for a total of 99 blocks. The blocks are 5.5" x 8" for a finished size of about 60" x 72" . . .  a nice large throw.

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Next I pulled a ton of prints in a range of fall colors. Starting with the browns and rusts, I added reds, oranges, golds, yellows, greens and even purples. As I said in my previous post, more is more as far as I'm concerned. More variety makes for more interest and more visual activity.

I cut one rectangle approximately 6.5" x  9" from 99 different fabrics. I was determined not to repeat any fabrics and easily found more than 99 in my stash. Next I pulled strip scraps in the same color range for the veins (branches) and cut them 1" wide.

At this point in the process, I planned to add small triangles to the corners of each block to give it a leafy shape. I thought I'd use solids and tried a couple of different light blues as you can see here.


The more blocks I made, the less I liked the corners. Then my husband wandered in and said he liked my trees. So my leaves became trees with branches.

The piecing process for the branches was completely improv. First, I cut a print rectangle in half top to bottom. Then I made angled cuts in both halves. The placement and angle of each cut was random. Most blocks have three angled cuts. Some have only two. Others have four or even five. There's even a couple with just one. The 1" strips were sewn between the angled cuts and pressed toward the strips. When both sides were done, the center strip was added between both halves. The finished block was then trimmed to 6" x 8.5"

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I auditioned each strip fabric for each print as I went choosing not to cut too many of any one fabric. Some branch fabrics blend with the tree fabric and others have a strong contrast. Having some of each allows for the overall effect to come in and out of focus as you look at the quilt.

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I had no preconceived idea of how to arrange the blocks but as more of them went up on the design wall I liked the look of the horizontal runs of color that were starting to happen. Once about 3/4 of the blocks were up I could begin to see what colors I needed more of. At this point I let go of the idea of 99 different trees and inserted 5 blocks of the same fabric called Shark's Teeth by Brandon Mably. To me this print looked like trees on hills. Repeating this fabric offered a very subtle pause within the forest.

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I considered staggering the rows (below left) but it just looked too busy. There's a lot going on with all the prints. Keeping the tree trunks lined up (below right) provides a subtle sense of structure and unity.

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It was quilted by Cara of Sew Colorado Quilting with a leafy design appropriately called fall foliage. It's subtle but the leaves have branches just like the trees.

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I had hoped to get some great 'in the wild' photos with glowing red/orange fall foliage. Unfortunately we had a very early hard freeze and the colors just haven't been pretty. I settled for some yellow trees near home. My favorite pic is the opening photo near the city arboretum. The sign is what actually gave me the idea for naming the quilt Arboretum. It seems quite fitting.

Arboretum . . . a botanical garden devoted to trees.

Want to make something similar? While making Arboretum, I discovered that Scott of Blue Nickel Studios has a new pattern called TreeTime that is really cool. Check it out here. Or take a look on Instagram at #treetimequilt. It's a different, yet similar idea and I love what he did with the his trees.

Linking up with Wendy and her Peacock Party.

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October 22, 2019

Summer Sangria, an X-Plus Quilt

Let me introduce Summer Sangria. It's one of my favorite finishes from this summer and features several large scale prints and a very intense color palette. It was very hard to capture the true colors in photographs.

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It's made using the X-Plus block and finishes at 60" x 72".  I added a border by repeating the plus part of the block all around the edge. I usually don't use borders but in this case I liked how it framed the quilt. It was quilted by Cara of Sew Colorado Quilting using the whisper pattern which added a nice swirly feel to the angular blocks.

My daughter and I took it on a little outing recently when we took a girls weekend away. These photos were taken on an evening hike through Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Couldn't resist the sangria bottle since it had all the right colors and name on the bottle.

www.springleafstudios.com


www.springleafstudios.com

I have always wanted to make an X-Plus quilt. The block was very popular several years ago and I always thought I'd make one using aquas and chartreuse. But this summer I opened a box with fabric I had set aside for a different quilt and they suddenly seemed perfect for the X-Plus block.

In the box was a fat quarter of this Kaffe Fassett fabric purchased many years ago. Reds and corals with a dull gray-green background and very bright chartreuse leaves. It paired well with another Kaffe spot print and Kona seafoam that is a close match to the print background. From my stash I pulled a rusty red/green dot print. These were all in the box.

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Also in the box were three other large prints in somewhat similar colors. I had planned to use them in a modern minimal design I came up with years ago. That design no longer held much interest to me. Too simple. Too minimal. I have come to realize that more is more as far as my quilts are concerned. I like to throw in a lot of different prints and often a riot of color. Below are three of the original feature fabrics in the box.

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I knew a wider range of fabrics was needed so I turned to my stash. I looked for X prints in the pink, coral, orange color range that varied in value. I looked for reds, oranges and even magentas that worked for the plus signs. Initially I planned on all chartreuse prints for the ends of the plus signs but realized it was better to broaden that color range as well so included yellows, oranges, and greens. For the background I debated on using all the same fabric but decided I preferred more variety there as well. I even used the original seafoam green to add a little more value change in the background. Below shows the lightest and darkest blocks plus one of my favorite blocks on the far right.

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The end result couldn't be further from my initial idea. All sparked from a single print that caught my eye. Lots of color and value differences keeps my eye engaged. I think that's why prints appeal to me so much. Prints are my happy place.  : )

Numerous tutorials exist online on how to make the X-Plus block at different sizes. I thought I'd share some links here in case you'd like to make your own. From what I've read, the original block is attributed to Nancy Cabot in 1938.
  • For a 7.5" finished block check out this tutorial by Amy of Badskirt. 
  • For a 10" finished block check out this tutorial from My Quilt Infatuation. Kelly provides great tips for making a super scrappy X-Plus quilt.
  • For a 12.5" finished block check out this tutorial by Christine Barnes. If you're a Kaffe fan you'll love the blocks she made featuring Kaffes prints. They are gorgeous.
  • And for a giant 24" finished block check out this tutorial by Karen at CapitolaQuilter. She made a wonderful scrappy quilt that mixes block sizes.
If you'd like to draft your own X-Plus block the thing to remember is it's based on a 5 x 5 grid. Of course you can tweak the breakdown of the 5 x 5 measurements and customize your block to fit your needs.

I wanted a 12" finished block so I used the following measurements. It's not an even division of the 5 x 5 grid but it's so close you wouldn't know.

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  • X:  cut (4) 5.5" x 5.5" squares. I used the same fabric for all four but you could use a different fabric for each one to make it more scrappy.
  • Background (corners of X pieces):  cut (8) 3" x 3" squares
  • Center cross:  cut (1) 2.5" x 7.5" AND  (2) 2.5" x 3" pieces
  • Outer cross:  cut (4) 2.5" x 3" pieces
You could also play with the measurements within the 5 x 5 grid to create thinner or thicker Xs. Here are some examples of how that might look. The illustration on the far left shows an uneven 5 x 5 grid with larger background corners resulting in narrow X units. The middle illustration shows the normal block with an even 5 x 5 grid. The far right shows another uneven grid but with smaller background corners resulting in wider X units.

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You can see the look of the quilt changes when the grid measurements within the block are altered. Even though the X units are wider in the illustration on the right, the X itself gets lost because the background that helps define the shape is smaller. 

I really love how Summer Sangria looks in the guest room. Almost wish I had made it bigger because it looks so good on the bed. Especially with the floral pillows.

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The X-Plus block offers so many possibilities I'm tempted to make another one. Maybe I'll make that aqua and chartreuse one I originally envisioned. Or perhaps a totally scrappy version where each X within the block is different. That would be a great way to use lots of scraps.

Have you ever made an X-Plus quilt? What colors did you use?

If you've never made one now might be the time. Maybe this post and my Pinterest board or the Instagram tag #xplusquilt will inspire you.

Linking up to Kelly's NTT, Wendy's Peacock Party, and Cheryl's Favorite Monthly Finish.

Hop over and be inspired.

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October 12, 2019

UFOs and Fruits and Veggies

I'm a collector. I have a collection of fruit and veggies dishes that I bring out for the spring/summer season each year to add a punch of color to my decor.

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And I have a huge collection of fruit and veggie fabrics. Here are just a few.

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My fruit and veggie stash started years ago when the fabrics first came out. They went so well with my dishes I couldn't resist. Originally I thought I'd make a single quilt from all the different fabrics but I just couldn't see how to combine all the various colors and prints. It finally occurred to me that I could make several themed quilts instead of trying to combine all the prints.

I made a citrus one called Fresh Squeezed. It gets used at the beginning of the summer.

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There's a berry one called Fresh Baked. It usually gets used around July 4th. It's the closest thing I have to a red/white/blue quilt.

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And there's a salad one called Fresh Tossed. I use this one later in the summer as the veggies ripen.

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Along with collecting dishes and fabrics, I also seem to collect UFOs at an unhealthy rate. Over the years there have been other fruit and veggie projects started but never completed. Four table runners plus a tomato quilt have lived in UFO limbo for years. The BoulderMQG UFO challenge for 2019 finally motivated me to finish many of those projects. The first ones finished were the table runners.

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www.SpringLeafStudios.com

www.SpringLeafStudios.com

Besides the above two short runners, I finally finished this monster runner that uses most of the fruit and veggie fabrics in a sort of rainbow effect. It finished at 106" long. When not in use, I hang it in the shallow shelf unit where even more dishes live. Yes. I know. I have a lot of fruit and veggie dishes.  : )

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My tomato quilt, Vine Ripe, was the most recent UFO project to be completed. Cara of Sew Colorado Quilting did the quilting using my favorite quilting pattern Trillium. This one is currently hanging in the hallway.

www.springleafstudios.com

www.springleafstudios.com

As part of the guild UFO challenge, I also made an effort to seriously deplete the fruit and veggie stash. I made 8 placemats using the stitch and flip QAYG method. You can read more about various QAYG methods here. Next came a bunch of cloth napkins. My initial plan was to hem the edges but without a serger it was too time consuming to press the edges under so I made double sided napkins instead. It used twice as much fabric (in this case that was a good thing) but they were much quicker to make. Just two pieces approximately 17" x 17" sewn right sides together, turned inside out, and then pressed and top-stitched around the edge. The double thickness feels nice and sturdy. I keep them in this basket near the table so we can just grab a clean one as needed. The placemats stacked below the basket are in use every day too.

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The napkins and placemats put a good dent in my stash but there was still quite a bit of fabric left so I made a quilt tablecloth for the deck from some of the smaller scraps. I made 16-patch blocks using three different fabric combinations. Color + color for the inner blocks. Color + green veggie for the middle ring and finally green veggie + a green leafy print for the outer border. It was layered with a large leaf print and quilted without batting. Even without the batting it's a very durable feeling quilt due to all the seams involved in the piecing. The seams do make small things like beer bottles wobble just a little without the batting there for added padding. I'm happy to report that no beers have been spilled to date. Or maybe we haven't had enough to drink yet. I love how it adds color to the deck and sets a festive mood for eating outside.

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Even with all these projects, there are still bits and chunks of fabric left. Enough to fill two boxes. You can begin to see just how big my stash was. I still have plans for some potholders, a few more napkins, and an apron.

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Do you ever notice how sewing from your stash doesn't seem to make the piles any smaller. I think they replicate overnight when I'm not looking. I think fabric bunnies are involved. How does your stash grow?

Linking up to Cynthia's Oh Scrap linky party.

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July 17, 2019

Robins, Chickadees and Triangles

Red Red Robin and Chickadees in the Pines are my most recent finishes for the #bouldermqgufos challenge. Both quilts were pieced a couple of years ago but then nothing. No quilting. No finish. The UFO challenge this year has been really good motivation for me to actually finish several projects and I'm so happy to have both of these quilts totally done.

springleafstudios.com

springleafstudios.com

Both quilts are the result of wanting to try a new tool. Do you ever buy a quilting tool and then never use it? The right tools can be so important for accuracy and good results, but in general I don't tend to buy very many tools. I'd rather buy pretty fabric. : )  Every once in awhile though I give in and buy a new tool and most go unused. Especially rulers. So after owning an equilateral ruler for some time I thought I'd give it a try. My friend Elizabeth just posted today about rulers and the essential ones to own. Check out her post here.


I found it quite easy to use this ruler. There are sooo many design possibilities with equilateral triangles. I definitely foresee more triangle quilts in my future so can safely say this was a worthwhile purchase.

For Chickadees I wanted a modern, clean look to the triangles so I chose mostly solid greens and off whites in a variety of hues. Then I sprinkled in a few fussy cut chickadees from a very old bird print. 

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This is my winter family room quilt. I considered throwing in a tiny touch of red for Christmas but decided on a more general winter theme instead. After the holidays are over I strip away the red touches from Christmas and use a simple, white and green palette for a few months. There are even a few chickadees here and there so this quilt fits in quite nicely.


springleafstudios.com

springleafstudios.com

Chickadees was quilted by Karen at The Quilted Moose using an all over tree motif with a few stars and moons in the mix. The motif adds a serene feeling of a quiet walk in the woods under the moonlight. Perfect for a cozy night of reading by the fire on a cold winter evening.

Shortly after piecing Chickadees I started another triangle quilt after buying a fun robin print called Birdland by Alexander Henry. It was an impulse buy. I love birds and the colors just spoke to me. I started with a few fussy cut triangles of the robins and arranged them on top of the pine top. I thought this would help me distribute the robins and also help with color placement. In retrospect I would never do this again because it just meant I had to move all the pieces off the base quilt top. It did help me decide that I wanted a more blurred color placement rather than the green/white contrast of the pine quilt.

springleafstudios.com

springleafstudios.com

I cut the fabric a few triangles at a time by pulling coral/orange/pinkish prints from my stash. Once the robin areas were filled, I cut greens and lighter values to blend out to the edges. By cutting a few at a time I was able to gradually build-out the layout.

Once all the triangles were arranged, I needed to puzzle out the quilt top piecing. Due to the three larger triangles I couldn't piece the whole top in single triangle rows like I did for the pine quilt. First I figured out how to chunk sections so they would come together in wider rows. You can see below how those sections came together. It's not hard. You just need to think it through before you start piecing. Grouping them on the design wall helped me see how they fit together.

springleafstudios.com

springleafstudios.com

Red Red Robin was quilted by Cara at Sew Colorado Quilting using the Trillium motif which is one of my favorite quilting motifs. It features leaves . . . what more can I say.

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Red Red Robin is my springtime family room quilt. It's way to hot now to use a quilt inside but it certainly adds a cheery spot of color. I think during the off season I'll keep it in my bedroom where it fits right in with the bird decor.

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Have you ever made a quilt with equilateral triangles?
Do you have a favorite specialty quilting ruler you would recommend?
I'd love to hear about them.

Linking up with Kelly at NTT and Wendy at the Peacock Party


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