February 26, 2014

WIP Wednesday . . . Bee Blocks

You know what the end of the month means around here? Yep . . . bee blocks.  Per my usual modus operandi I wait till the end of the month to get my bee blocks done. Hey, at least I get them done in the month they are actually due. I think that's worth something.

Up this month was a Mod Mosaic block for Carrie as part of our Boulder Modern Quilt Guild bee. I've admired quilts made from these blocks but have never made one myself. That's the fun of bees, you get a chance to try out a block and not commit to making an entire quilt. She has plans for a king size bed quilt with these which will be really nice. The colors are so relaxing and calm. Love the little bird.

I liked this block a lot but don't see myself making more anytime soon. It was a bit time consuming. I'm sure once you get the hang of it the process would speed up quite a bit. When I'm making something for the first time and for someone else I tend to slow down. Fear of doing it wrong is a big factor.

Also up this month were more churn dash blocks for Carla at LollyQuiltz. Our Mid Century Modern Bee made the same blocks for her last year in pretty much the same colors. This time round she added white and yellow to the palette.

And here is the first set of churn dash blocks made for Carla last year.

It will be her Juicy Fruit quilt. Don't you love the name?  She's going to have one delicious juicy quilt.

We have our own blog now too so if you'd like to see more go here.

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February 19, 2014

WIP Wednesday . . . a Little Amy Butler Love

I started this week by starting a new project.

Not that I needed to start something new. I have plenty of nearly finished things that should have taken precedence. Two quilts with binding sewn on just waiting for the hand stitching. Two patterns almost done. Another one in the planning stages. Two bee blocks due very very soon. Plenty that I should have worked on . . .

But these fabrics were calling . . . no shouting my name. I just felt the urge to make something with these gorgeous Amy Butler fabrics. Maybe it's a touch of spring fever because the colors really spoke to me. So yummy, so fresh and spring like. I've had many of them for awhile and recently added a few others to the mix. They just needed to come together.  : )

A quilt design I reworked a little fit these fabrics perfectly. I pulled a couple of solids to go with the prints and started cutting. Soon I had a nice little pile of these lovelies.

I have the hardest time throwing away these tiny little trimmings? There's something about slivers of fabric that I just love. I've been known to save piles and piles of them. Always think they would make the most colorful bird's nests but of course I never get around to doing anything with them.

Do you save tiny trimmings like these? If so, what do you do with them?

The quilt is going to together quite quickly. I'm thinking it will make a great pattern so another project gets added to my growing list. Eventually I will get all of them finished. In the meantime, it's multiple projects in various stages but I think that's what keeps me going. Maybe I have quilter's ADHD.    : )

Linking up with Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Go check out what everyone else has going on.

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February 10, 2014

Sew Solid Sunday, Working With Solids

I had the pleasure of meeting Debbie Grifka of Esch House Quilts at Quilt Market in Houston last fall. She has a very bold graphic design sense which is reflected in her quilt patterns. One of my favorites is her pattern A New View. Since then I have started following her blog and today I'm linking up with her new series entitled Sew Solid Sunday with one of my first all solid quilts . . . "Rhythm & Blues".

Many of you have already seen this quilt as I previously blogged about about it here and here.

Today I'd like to talk just a bit about my experience working with all solids. My background is in graphic design and I have an affinity for strong, bold graphics. Solids work wonderfully in expressing this graphic style. They strip away the added layer and complexity that a print fabric brings to a quilt design pairing it down to the most basic elements . . . the shapes and colors in context to one another. It's this aspect of solids that I find so pleasing and interesting to play with when designing. Pure form, color and composition.

When working with all solids, you have a wonderful opportunity to really explore basic elements of design. Ask yourself these things when you are designing a solid quilt.

  • color;  how do the colors relate in context to one another.
  • shape;  how do the different shapes relate and play off of one another.
  • composition;  how do things like balance, rhythm and line effect the composition and lead the eye around the quilt.

These are just a few of the things that I find fun to explore when designing any quilt but most especially when working with solids. I'm even working on a pattern based on the design elements from "Rhythm & Blues" which I hope will be out later this year.

However making all solid quilts has led me to realized that after awhile I miss the absence of prints. I actually crave the riot of color and pattern that can only be found in a complete abandon of solids in favor of prints, prints and more prints. This is who I am.

I love both solids and prints for their unique qualities. Solids have the ability to express bold, graphic, even simple concepts with such clarity and strength. Prints have the ability to stimulate the eye and interact with each other on another, more complex level.

If you haven't tried solids, I recommend giving it a go. You can visit my Pinterest board of all solid quilts for some inspiration. It's so much fun to see what creative work others are doing with solids. There are sooo many fabulous solid quilts out there!

Hopefully I'll have a new solid piece to share on one of Debbie's future installments.
Please hop over to Sew Solid Sunday for a little solid inspiration from the other links. : )

On a final note I'd like to give a nod to Debbie's wonderful Mondrian quilt, by leaving you with my version of a Mondrian inspired quilt made mostly with solids entitled "Mondrian Unleashed".

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February 3, 2014

The Making of "My Journey"

In this post I'd like to talk just a bit about the process of making "My Journey" which is my mini quilt for our quarterly Four-in-Art challenge. You can read more about the quilt here and here.

Our theme was Structures and I chose highway overpasses. My travels of the past year brought plenty of highway experiences including a few wrong turns. My little art quilt was no different. It was a challenge right from the start. The journey was not without a few wrong turns.

"My Journey"   quilt #2 for our Four-In-Art challenge on structures.

I started by looking for images of complex overpasses. Next I sketched out the basic elements I wanted and made a full size final drawing. The quilt is only 12"x 12".  Easy to make a full size drawing.

Drawing to size of the final design based on road images. 

But how do I piece all those arcs? My gut reaction was to use a basic cut/insert strip technique. Trouble was I couldn't quite figure out how to insert the road strips in the right sequence so they overlapped the way I wanted. Trying to calculate all the seam allowances also threw me off. If I'd had more time maybe I would have tried this method with a sample. But time was not on my side.
Note to self . . . don't procrastinate next time.

Next I investigated curve piecing techniques from the book Curves in Motion by Judy Dales. She uses templates of each shape to piece complex curves. After a night reading up on her technique I thought I had it all figured out. No such luck. By the light of day this technique wasn't quite right either. Again it probably would have worked but I needed more time.
Note to self . . . don't procrastinate next time.

What I ended up using was a hybrid of the template technique from the book plus the cut and insert method. It worked. Sort of. But not without a few wrong turns along the way.

I started by making a second tracing of my drawing and spray mounting it to a piece of poster board. This would allow me to cut it apart into templates.
Note to self . . .  glue the tracing face down so the image will be in reverse. Oops. First mistake.

Next I numbered the sequence in which the road strips would be pieced with the roads furthest in the distance (meaning bottom) to be done first. Then I added tick marks across all the lines so I would have a way to line up the curved fabric pieces. This step came directly from Judy's book.

Once all the tick marks were in place, I cut the template apart into 3 sections; road strip plus 2 background pieces. I did not cut the entire template apart but instead worked on one road at a time. After that road was sewn I taped the template pieces back together and then cut for the next road. So in this way it was a cut and insert method but using templates to get the curves right.

In the photo above you can see the first road template cut and all the tick marks for correct alignment.
Note to self . . . Next time mark every third tick mark or so with an x. When you have a lot of them to match it becomes hard to know which ones should line up.

As for the fabric, I cut one single oversized piece of background fabric. I added a generous 6" for a piece 18" x 18"  The last thing I wanted was to run short of fabric as I worked my way through adding the road inserts. Those pesky seam allowances can eat up quite a bit of fabric.

Once the templates were cut apart, I traced the curved edge directly onto the wrong side of the fabric for both the background pieces and the road strip. This line is the stitching line. Next I drew a dashed line 1/4" out from the first line to indicate the seam allowance (cutting line).  I also transferred all the tick marks. After all marks were transferred, I cut along the dashed seam allowance line.
Note to self . . .  leave the template in place until the seam allowance is added. Once the template is removed it's very easy to get confused and draw the seam allowance on the wrong side of the stitching line. Then everything is messed up. Almost happened but thankfully was caught before it was too late.

In this photo you can see the solid line that is the stitching line
as well as the dashed line for cutting and all the tick marks for correct alignment.

To sew the pieces together I pinned the road strip to the background piece matching all the tick marks. A liberal use of pins helped to ease the pieces together along the curves. I must say sewing the curves was actually the easy part. Yea!!!  Everything came together nice and flat too. Success.

After the first road was inserted I added each successive road strip using the same technique. The most confusing part was adding road #3 which fell toward the top of the design. Not sure where to place it from the top I opted for piecing it from a separate section of background fabric. Again it was those pesky seam allowances that confused me. Turned out this was a mistake but I didn't know it yet.

Next came road strip #4 the straight one. All seemed fine at this point. The photo below shows roads 1, 2 and 4. Road 3 is on the separate piece which I didn't photograph. The ragged edges are from the oversized background I was working with. It would all get trimmed down later.

My mistake became obvious with road #5, the first print fabric road. See if you can spot the problem in the photo below.

Did you see it? Yep. The straight road got cut off at the top. Uggg. When I added the separate section with road 3 it essentially erased the top portion of road 4. The good thing was road 4 is straight so piecing it back into the top section wasn't that hard. Even so, I managed to do it backwards the first time.  : (

Ahhh . . . this looks better. With roads 1 through 5 all correctly in place, adding the last road was easy. Here's a look from the back side so you can see all the seams. You can also see all the little tick marks.

And here's the finished top before quilting.

For the quilting, I echoed the curves of the roads with a couple of shades of gray to indicate not only the craziness of real highways but also the many shifts in directions my quilting has taken over the years. I added a few more colored quilting lines that merge with the main road and are more indicative of the direction I'm on now with my quilting. I went with a facing finish instead of binding as I wanted an uninterrupted feeling to the edge as if the roads continue. I'd never used this technique before but will do it again. Next time though I'll research a better method.

For such a simple looking quilt, I'll just say the entire time I worked on it I struggled to wrap my head around what the next step should be. To say I was confused would be a HUGE understatement. The process was slowwwww. When I try something I haven't done before I slow . . . way . . . down . . .

What did I learn from this challenge?
  • Don't procrastinate!
  • Curves are not hard. They really really aren't.
  • Template piecing is not hard.
  • Trying to explain what I did after the fact is actually harder. 
Will I do it again? Yes. But I will simplify the design. I'm thinking of doing a block with a similar look so stay tuned for round two sometime in the future. Next time I'll make it easier to understand. Promise.

Our challenge for the next quarter's quilt is Urban Landmarks due May 1.
This time I won't procrastinate quite so late into the quarter.   : )

Hope you followed this just a bit. Thanks for hanging in if you've read this far.

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February 1, 2014

My Journey; Four-In-Art Quilt #2

Time has run out.

Today is the day we all reveal the second of four quilts in our year long challenge as part of the
Four-in-Art group. The theme for the year is Urban and for this quarter the topic was Structures.

I knew right away I wanted to do something with highway overpasses. My daughter and I had the pleasure of taking three trips in the past year. First was a long road trip from Colorado through Kansas and on to Indiana and Illinois. Next came a trip to Portland where we were both amazed at the dizzying height of the highway bridges over the river. Lastly came our trip to Houston and Quilt Market. Houston has more than its share of roadways and being in the wrong lane can definitely take you off in unintended directions.

This last experience in Houston is what made me decide to go with overpasses for my Structures quilt. With one single wrong lane we found ourselves heading to Galveston instead of downtown Houston. Then with another quick decision we thought we were back on track heading to the convention center only to see it as we drove by. Before we realized it we were then headed to Oklahoma. Another quick decision and we were off the highway altogether. Surprisingly we managed to get to the convention center just a few minutes later than if we had taken all the right turns. Needless to say we had plenty of road challenges along the way as we drove through unfamiliar territory.

This mini quilt was no different. It was a challenge right from the start as I made my way through unfamiliar territory. And the journey was not without a few wrong turns.

I posted earlier this week about my procrastination on getting started. For various reasons I really waited till the last minute. I knew it would mean more if I pushed the concept further. Further in terms of technique. Further in terms of the underlying personal meaning. I had an idea but had no idea how to piece it so I simply put it off. Hope I've learned my lesson when it comes to procrastinating.  : )

In the end I'm pretty pleased with my results. My quilt represents the craziness of real roadways as it was based on a real highway image. But it also represents the ever changing directions of my personal quilting journey.

I've been quilting for over 15 years and in that time have gone in many different directions. When I first started, I did my share of traditional quilts. I've also explored impressionist style quilts. Along the way I fell in love with Kaffe Fassett fabrics which had a big impact on my style. More recently, I've ventured into the creative world of modern quilts. Looking back I still love them all and am even growing more resistant to the labels. I'm trying hard to make what I like. What inspires me regardless of the label.

Below is the first large quilt I ever made. A traditional 9-patch floral. Please excuse the poor quality photo. It's an old quilt and a pre digital era photo.

This is another 9-patch showing the direction my quilts went when I discovered Kaffe.

With these influences in mind, I incorporated a bit of fabric from both of these quilts to express the journey I've been on. Fabric from the first quilt plays the part of a more distant road while the Kaffe fabric road dominates. The use of grays are a more literal interpretation of the many other roads and also allude to the many directions my quilting has gone over time. I enjoy using solids but after awhile I crave prints, especially the big bold prints.

So with all this in mind, I give you "My Journey".

The paths this little quilt took me on were many. Sometimes simple. Sometimes quite confusing. It looks simple but most definitely was not. A great learning experience that pushed me to utter confusion at times. I'll post next week about the technique, the mistakes and what I learned.

In the mean time, please take a look at all the other wonderful quilts that came from this challenge. There are 7 other very talented quilters in our little group and I am always amazed at the variety of ideas everyone comes up with. That's part of what makes this all so fun.

Amanda at What the Bobbin
Carla at LollyQuiltz
Elizabeth at OPQuilt
Leanne at She Can Quilt

Hope you have enjoyed My Journey!

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