November 11, 2015

Drunkard's Path QAL; The Free Motion Quilting Begins

For those of you who know me or read my posts regularly, you know free motion quilting is not my favorite thing. I'd rather start a whole new project than quilt the most recent top. But with my drunkard's path quilt I am determined to get it finished by the end of November so I can use it this Christmas. I have 20 19 days!  For anyone just stopping by for the first time, you can find all the previous Drunkard's Path QAL posts here or see the tab at the top of my blog.

Making a block a month worked nicely. Adding borders last month worked well. Now there's nothing left but quilting. I managed to pin baste last week after finding numerous other things that had to be done. Translation . . . PROcrastination. The only good thing is that I get lots of other things done when I'm procrastinating.

The biggest question is how to quilt it?  For this, I looked through a few books for some ideas. Another form of procrastination perhaps?

Next I sketched ideas on paper at full size.

For my Kaffe mini quilt made with the same block design, I used a petal motif in the flowers (purple) and a vein in the leaves (green). Then I echo quilted the background areas.

I decided a variation of this would be good for the Christmas quilt but the petals would need to be more poinsettia like. I used tissue paper over the printout of the quit to see how it might look.

Once I had the basic idea, I turned to the dry erase board to practice a few times and get the general flow down. I find a dry erase board quite handy for practicing at full size. After a few times drawing it on the dry erase, I moved on to actually sewing it a few times on a practice quilt sandwich.

Another option for full size practicing is to place a piece of clear plastic over the quilt and use a dry erase marker to draw your design in the spaces. I highly recommend putting tape all around the edge of the plastic first though so you don't accidentally draw off the edge onto your quilt.

I've created a Free Motion Quilting Guide that includes the outline of the petal shape on one page and the sketch of my quilting motif on the second page for you to play with. Download it here.

Yesterday I quilted all the red petals. Next will be the green leaves. I may do the same leafy vein used for the mini or perhaps I'll just stick with the petal design like I used in the red. Poinsettia flowers and the leaves have the same shape so this seems somewhat appropriate. With such busy fabric it hardly shows anyway but I still want the motif to make sense for the design.

The biggest question will be what to do in the little background areas and along the border.
Any ideas? I wasn't thrilled with the echo look. I think something simple that flattens the areas a bit but is not too dense. There are so many little spots and a lot of stopping and starting without any easy connection from one area to the next. Originally I was going to stitch in the ditch between the blocks to anchor the diamond areas down. Then I realized this wasn't the best choice since I pressed those seams open. So I skipped that part and moved right into quilting the petals figuring something would become more obvious when the time came.

Now that I have finally started, it's not nearly as bad as I usually think it will be and the finish is in sight. So far my machine is cooperating. I have an old Bernina with a very small arm space so even a quilt this size isn't easy to push and shove through. Sometimes I roll the excess. Sometimes I bunch it up. Either way, there's not a lot of room to maneuver.

How about you, do you have Christmas projects waiting completion?
Do you procrastinate when it comes to free motion quilting? If so, why?
Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.


October 30, 2015

Orange Spice

What do you think of when you envision the color Orange?

With tomorrow being October 31, the number one answer just might be pumpkins . . .

Or perhaps beautiful scenes of fall and blazing orange leaves . . .

I love how these tiny orange leaves were swirling around in the water and being washed up into a thick line of color along the water's edge. It was a very striking and ever changing composition.

Along with hot orange foliage, there's nothing better than a blazing campfire to warm up a cool fall evening. Complete with a few s'more of course.   : )

When you think Orange maybe it's a nice juicy orange or a glass of freshly squeezed juice. According to ColorMatters, orange is the only color name taken from an object. There are plenty of other orange foods too. Carrots. Orange peppers. Peaches.

For years Orange was simply not a color I embraced in any way, shape, or form. Oranges, rusts, terra cotta. These were not colors I liked. Nope. Not even a little. Living in Denver Bronco country didn't even endear me to orange. (Broncos colors are orange and blue for those of you not in the know of American football teams)

But the times, they are a changing. I actually like orange now. Certain softer oranges. Tangerine and ones that fall a little more to the yellow or the pink side. Mango. Salmon. Melon. Perhaps it was when Tangerine Tango was the Pantone color of the year way back in 2012 that opened my eyes to the potential of orange. Or perhaps it's the plethora of beautiful orange fabrics now available. Here are just a few of the oranges I found in my studio once I started looking . . .

Whatever the reason, I can honestly say I have grown fond of orange. I even have plans for an orange quilt one of these days with some of the fabrics in the photo above. I also have my eye on this crazy orange and purple restaurant downtown for a quilt photo shoot. I don't much like this orangy orange but the color combo of purple trim and the blue sky reflecting in the window is striking. A variation on a split complementary color scheme.

Besides the things in my studio, Orange also makes an appearance in my dish collection . . .

My daughter uses orange in her jewelry too. These lovely earrings use carnelian gemstones. Carnelian stones carry a meaning of action, and are thought to give you courage and confidence. Check out her shop for other orange jewelry.

Orange seems like a happy color in a crazy kind of way. They say orange means enthusiasm and fun. Perhaps they're right. I can't imagine feeling pessimistic or depressed when thinking of orange. Just look at these bold orange sculptures.

But Orange also has a serious side. Safety orange is used to set things apart from their surroundings and therefore used in construction areas. This summer and fall I've been seeing far more orange than I'd like around town. Orange in the form of way way too many traffic cones and barrels.

You might not think of Orange as a common color in nature but the earth itself comes in many colors including beautiful oranges like these arches at Arches National Park in Utah. Look at the bottom of the photo just left of the middle. See that little vertical line? That's my husband!! These are huge folks.

Nature also gives us beautiful orange flowers . . .

Even though I don't think of orange as a springtime color, the tulips above left are the first flowers to make an appearance in my garden year after year. They often are found peeking out from under a bit of spring snow.

One of the most beautiful oranges mother nature gives us has to be how we begin and end our days. Glowing sunrises and sunsets. Are you up early enough to see the sun rise?  This was the sunrise I saw this morning.

And the sunset . . .

When I started this color series, my intention was to really look for the color in my own personal world. To see the color around me in my house, my environment and my experiences. For that reason I've chosen to use my own photos rather than rely on the abundance of beautiful photos and color schemes available through sites like Pinterest and Design Seeds. These sites are wonderful places for inspiration on color but I want my series to be personal . . . representative of the color I see around me. You can see all my other color stories under the Color Inspiration tab at the top of my blog. If you'd like to see additional beautiful color images, you can follow my Pinterest color boards here. Just look for the specific color boards or my Color Scheme board.

I challenge you to look around your home, your neighborhood, your work and really see the colors in your world. Go look for some Orange in your life. Thanks for reading. Happy Halloween.   : 0

October 28, 2015

Scrappy Trip Tips

This is one of my big WIP's at the moment . . .

Years ago I saw a blue and white checkerboard quilt in a home decorating magazine and it really made an impression. It was so clean and crisp, yet simple and striking. My version is green and white and I'm hoping to use up a lot of the traditional leaf prints I have leftover from my impressionist quilting days. They may not be modern fabrics but they do go really well in our bedroom.

I bet many of you have made a Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt. It's based on this great tutorial from Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville and has been around for years. Just google Scrappy Trip or look for examples on Pinterest. The variety is amazing. Truth be told, I'd love to make many more of these. Maybe an all Kaffe. Maybe an all floral. Perhaps even an all low volume. Guess I ought to start cutting loads and loads of strips.   : )

Last year I had my BMQG members make blocks for this baby sized quilt in an attempt to use up some of my greens and aquas. Barely made a dent in my stash not to mention I discovered how few blues I have. That just led to more fabric, not less. I'm sure that never happens to you . . . haha.

Now I'm working on my leafy version. I like how the scrappy trip technique creates diagonal lines of different fabrics. I wanted to take advantage of this effect to emphasize different values and even different green hues throughout the quilt rather than have it be totally random.

As easy as this block is, there is one part where I tend to make mistakes so I thought I'd pass on a few tips. I'm assuming you are familiar with Bonnie's technique. If not, this won't make a lot of sense, so go check out the tutorial. I'd highly recommend learning her method. Once you try it you just might find yourself making multiple Scrappy Trip quilts like me.

On to the tips . . .

TIP:  Like any project, working assembly line speeds up the process. After cutting loads of strips, I grouped them by greens and then sewed the strip sets together assembly line fashion using chain piecing. I managed to get quite a nice stack of them done at the guild retreat in just a partial day.

If you know the tutorial, you know each strip set is sewn into a loop. Then the set is cut into segments, then you un-sew. Yes, I said un-sew. It sounds crazy but it really is a great method for this block.

TIP: Use the same assembly approach to cutting, and use some painters tape to mark the 2 1/2" mark on your ruler. Cutting just one segment the wrong width can wreck the whole strip set as you might not have enough for all 6 segments.

Once the segments are cut, the tutorial calls for un-sewing the loops to produce 6 segments with a staggered fabric placement. This is the point where I inevitably make a mistake by un-sewing the wrong seams.

TIP:  After cutting a strip set into segments leave them on the cutting board and slide the individual segment loops so all the seams you need to un-sew are at the top of each segment. I do this by leaving the first segment on the left as is. Then with the second segment in the row, slide the fabric loop so the white fabric is now at the top. With the third segment slide the fabric so the green that's at the bottom of segment #1 is now at the top. Continue sliding so that each segment has a different fabric at the top. You can see if you have it right by checking for the staggered progressive placement of the different fabrics. See the bottom photo.

TIP: Once they are properly positioned, clip them together along the edge you need to un-sew. This way there's no mistaking what to do when you get back to it. I find it nice to get several groups ready to un-sew and then do it in front of the TV in the evening. Be sure to clip the groups back together after you un-sew so the strips don't get mixed up.

Now that you have several groups ready to piece into blocks, it's back to assembly line sewing. But before you sew, play with the layout of strips. For my checkerboard block I have three possibilities as to which fabric falls directly across the longest diagonal. Here are the three possible arrangements I have. Each one has a different fabric in the longest diagonal. NOTE: If you're making an entirely scrappy block with 6 different fabrics you will have 6 possible fabrics that could create the longest diagonal.

Now compare the last two photos below. In the one on the left the sequence is correct and all diagonals have the correct fabric placement. In the photo on the right the sequence got mixed up, so even though the center diagonal is all the same fabric, the other diagonals are off. The fabrics aren't the same in each diagonal.

TIP:  Before sewing your strips together, take the time to be sure the diagonals all line up correctly. Sew them together into strip sets of two. Once you have three sewn strip sets you still have time to rearrange the layout and place a different fabric in the longest diagonal just by switching up the sewn segments. Before sewing the sets together check again that they are in the correct order.

TIP: Instead of pinning, use the tip of your small scissors or a stiletto to hold the seams together. If you pressed to the side as the tutorial instructs, there is no need for pins. Just line up the first seam intersection by nesting them together. Stitch through the intersection to secure. Stop and line up the next intersection. Continue until the entire seam is sewn. It's much quicker than taking time to pin and I'm generally a pinner. Chain piecing also speeds things up.

Now that I have this system down for un-sewing, the process is going along quite smoothly. I still have many more blocks to make for a queen size quilt so this block may continue to be my go-to for guild sew days. It's easy to have at the ready in my plasitc storage box.

Have you made a scrappy trip quilt? If so, what type of fabrics did you use?  Solids?  Modern Prints? Kaffe?  Traditional?

I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.


October 13, 2015

Drunkard's Path QAL: Adding the Borders

Month 10 is here for the Drunkard's Path QAL. That means I have all 9 blocks done and they are now sewn together into a top. So far so good with my monthly schedule. November is quilting month and then it will be all done and ready to use for the holidays. WaHoo!!

When I first started my Drunkard's Path Christmas quilt, I didn't plan on adding a border. I don't often use borders on my quilts. But as I explored the design, I decided that borders would be a nice finishing touch to complete the design. In this earlier QAL post, I shared a few different border possibilities. Here is the one I have chosen to use.

Here's the finished blocks all sewn together before adding the border . . . 

And here it is with borders attached  . . . 

It's hard to photograph the reds and the light background fabrics in the same image. I tweaked it as best I could so you can see the different background fabrics and still see the reds too.

I think the use of a border sets off the blocks nicely by giving them room to breathe. And the addition of the drunkard's path units expands the block design activating the border space.

For my 9 block layout I needed 12 additional Drunkard's Path units for the border. I decided to match the reds in the quarter circles to the reds in the adjacent quarter circles. I think this continuity gives the feeling of the petal expanding beyond the block. There is one exception to this in the lower left corner because I didn't want to have two units with the same fabric on the same side of the border. The units came together quickly by using a chain piecing method. Love to see the little string of units swirling around behind my machine.

If you are using my templates for the drunkard's unit, don't forget they create slightly oversized units. Be sure to trim down to 4 1/2" square after you have sewn them. More on that here.

Since I used three background fabrics for the blocks, I used the same three fabrics in the border to continue the scrappy feel. I only had a small amount of one fabric left so I used that one for all the drunkards units. The other two fabrics fill in the rest of the border, alternating in placement and wrapping around the border corners.

To make this type of border you can download an information sheet that lists yardage and cutting directions along with placement diagrams. For Drunkard's Path unit sewing instructions see this post.

As I said earlier, November will be the machine quilting month. I don't know what type of quilting to do yet. For my mini for the KaffeMiniSwap I used a petal design in the 'flower' shapes and leafy veins in the greens. I might do something similar, or I just might send it out to my long arm quilter and let her do her magic. We'll see.

If you're on Instagram, check out Susan's Drunkard's Path quilt @susansquiltstudio. She used the checkerboard version for her border and it turned out great. She has also already done her quilting.
Go Susan!


October 7, 2015

Charity Time

My recent sewing has been primarily quilt bee blocks and charity work.
The September block for the Mid Century Modern Bee was this fantastic paper pieced block. It was made for Mary of Mary on Lake Pulaski. The block is called Starry Sky by SewKylie. and looks fantastic when several blocks come together. Note: I get an error when I try the original link to the block, but the link here will take you to the blog. Not sure what's up with that but it's a great block.

October is my month to be the queen bee for the MCM Bee. Whenever it's my turn I have the hardest time settling on what to have the others make. So many good ideas. So many quilts on my to-do list. In the past I've had them test blocks for my patterns, but this time I'm having the group make striped fabric from these colors.

I've been wanting to work with stripes for a long time and have quite a stash of stripe fabrics so this will give me something to play with. Not sure exactly what the end result will be but that's part of the fun.

My other WIP's have to do with charity work for the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild. Each year we adopt a different charity to support and this year our quilts will be going to a local assisted living facility.

While these quilts don't reflect my typical bright colorful style, I think they are well suited for the charity. Some of the fabrics were generously donated to the guild so I was able to not only piece the tops but also make pieced backs.

The first quilt uses a disappearing 9-patch, a block I've wanted to try for a long time. I think I will work with color placement more next time instead of the random placement used here. Have you ever made a disappearing 9-patch? There are several ways to lay out the blocks that result in entirely different looking quilts. It's a pretty fun design to play with so I'm looking forward to trying it again. I also like the big chunks of fabric for the backing. The back is actually giving me some ideas for a new quilt with large scale prints.

The other charity quilt is this plus block. I shared the top here when it was first made. I finally got around to piecing the back from some of the leftovers fabrics. Do you piece your backs or use a single fabric? I like the look of pieced backs but they do take time to sew together even when you use big chunks. No plan here . . . just piecing until the size was big enough. Not sure I like this one but it's done and I used up quite a bit of my older stash which is a good thing.

Well, that's about it for now. Next on my to-do list is to get the border figured out on my Drunkard's Path QAL quilt. Sorry to any of you who might be waiting for that post. I slipped behind a bit but promise it's coming.

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.
Hop over and see what others are whipping up this week.