Sunday, July 24, 2016

Nine Patch Courthouse Steps

I pulled this beautiful quilt from the frame recently. The client who expertly pieced it had fallen in love with a quilt from a magazine, and purchased the matching fabrics so that she could make it just like the picture. 

The applique border was treated with echo quilting, which I found to be very fun to do. The courthouse steps blocks received cross hatching in the central nine patch, and serpentine waves alternating with diamonds in each of the 'steps.' I followed the quilting suggestions from the magazine to make this quilt as close to the original as possible. 

I love this little quilt, and was imagining one made in subtle autumn colors such as this color palette entitled 'Culinary Autumn' from Design Seeds, inspired by a photograph from Instagrammer _ewabakrac. 

My dream for this quilt, would be to recreate it with these colors, and to have autumn leaves, pumpkins, and acorns appliqued around the border. It's just another quilt to add to my quilty bucket list. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Prize Winning Quilt

Once upon a time, there was a naive long arm quilter who loved making quilts. He had recently participated in the Foothills Mystery Quilt along hosted by Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs and discovered that she would be hosting a second mystery. This naive and ambitious quilter was so excited that he eagerly shopped for fabric for this next adventure, and jumped in surprise and joy when his husband purchased fabric to make a second mystery quilt! 

A portion of the naive quilter's fabric choices are pictured on the left, and his husband's choices are on the right.

Cheryl had been such a kind and gracious hostess that the ambitious long arm quilter wanted to extend an offering of gratitude to her and perhaps to her loyal quilt detectives. He decided to offer his services as a quilter to one of the cunning solvers of the Midnight Mystery. The details of this prize were documented here.

Confession, I'm an art teacher, and a maker. I am not a writer. So I'm going to stop with this silly narrative from above and will just go on to say that I, the naive quilter, in the story ended up being delighted and extremely nervous when the winners of the various prizes were announced. I was going to be quilting for Mel Beach! If you do not know who she is, you should check out her website Mel Beach Quilts and blog Piece, Love, and Happiness! When you do, you'll find that she as amazingly talented and inspirational and that the picture of her featured on her website, is the quilt that I finished for her! Whoa, I'm thrilled beyond belief!

Anyway, I was really nervous when I found out that I would be quilting for Mel, whom, I have to admit was a complete stranger to me, as this online quilting community is so vast that I had never heard of her. Mel has it going on. She is an accomplished quilter and does workshops and lectures about quilt challenges, mandala quilts, and improvisational techniques. She is a true master, and I am a mere fledgling.

I consulted with her via e-mail, and sent her several quilting ideas that I drew out based on a picture of her quilt. Here are some examples of my sketched out ideas.


 We decided that diagonal lines and curves would compliment the on point setting of vibrantly colored rectangles in Mel's quilt top. Additionally, a brightly colored thread was chosen that blends into the bright geometric shapes, but pops against the deep blue background.

The pattern was a delight to quilt out. Unfortunately, I am terrible at documenting the process of quilting, and only have these few photos of the quilt in progress.

If you've read my blog before, you might know that I am fascinated by quilt stories, and I so happy that I am a part of this quilts history. If you would like to read more about the piecing and challenge behind this quilt top, pop over to Mel's post, where she describes the entire process and has more fantastic pictures.

Meanwhile, I'd love to quilt for you, and there is another opportunity up for grabs with Cheryl's new Meadow Mystery Quilt along. Check out the details on Cheryl's blog! (She also has way better pictures than I do!)

Have you won any prizes from the world of quilting? What is the best prize that you've received?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fabricating a quilt story

I am constantly amazed at the variety of quilts that are being made, or have been made. In September of last year I was asked to quilt an antique red and white quilt that had been found tucked away in the hall closet of the childhood home of my client's husband. Fascinated by the stories surrounding a quilt I was curious to know more about this one. The spiraling shapes were unlike any quilt block I had seen, The quilt seemed to have been constructed during one period of time and then forgotten about and then borders added to it. The curvaceous piecing was done by hand with a thick white thread, the starts and stops finished with large knots. The borders of the quilt were machine pieced, and added to the center of the quilt by machine in such a way that the whole quilt top appeared to roll like the Appalachian Mountains.

 The quilt was constructed of solid red and white fabrics with a stripe of patterned red. In the picture above I tried to show how much fullness was in the quilt top. I knew that I would not be able to quilt this top without there being small tucks and puckers. The most troubling area was in one corner where the border was added in such a way that there was considerable bubble of fabric. I would have to do a bit of reconstruction in this area to make it more manageable.

I failed to take a picture before I picked the seams of this corner, but you can still see how there is a considerable curve between the white border and the inner red fabric.

Here, I've added almost two inches to the white border, using unbleached muslin that matches the original fabric, and a red fabric to fill in the space near the white border and add to the outer white border. I machine stitched where the quilt had been machine stitched, and I hand stitched where the quilt was originally hand stitched. 

Can you see the large white hand stitches that piece the curves in the upper right part of the picture? I wanted to show the front and the back here, so that we could see the old and new bits together. 

Then I began quilting with a feather motif that I thought would play well with the shapes of the quilt.

 I made large feathers in the curves, connected with a chain of circles. I knew I would go back to finish each of the more square areas with additional circle chains on the un-stitched sides, and add a design in the center.

 From the backside the texture was taking shape, and a spectacular second design was being created as I switched threads to match the colors in the top of the quilt.

 Under poor lighting I took a final picture of the quilt before I delivered it to the appreciative couple. I was able to hear a bit more about where the quilt was found. It turns out that this childhood home was also the home of a former governor of Alabama. The home only had two owners, Governor Henderson and the family of my client. They were not sure where the quilt had come from, if it was something that belonged in the family, or was a remnant from the previous owner. I suggested that this was a perfect opportunity to fabricate a story about how the wife of Governor Henderson had worked on this quilt and tucked it away It was later discovered by the next home's owners who added the borders to the quilt and stashed it in the very same closet where it would be found decades later. I know this quilt has a story, and while we may not know it's beginnings, I am certainly glad that I could be a part of its tale.

Here is a picture of the client's childhood home.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sun Bonnet Sue

I have foggy memories of a Sun Bonnet Sue quilt that used to reside in the bedroom of my aunt Lori. If I remember correctly it was made by my aunt Kathy, Lori's sister. The blocks were laid out simply in rows and may or may not have had sashing. In an effort to clear the fog, I called my aunt to hear her quilt story. Of course she remembered the quilt made by her sister, who lovingly appliqued each of the squares. It had become worn with use and age. The colors were once bright, now faded. The quilt itself had become just a memory. 

In early November, I had the good fortune of doing some client quilting and Sun Bonnet Sue made a return visit. This was the first time I had ever quilted a piece with applique, and I was nervous. My client, Ms. A, had carefully planned how she wanted to quilt to look, and included lace details that had belonged to her mother. The quilt was a gift for her first great-grandchild, and would have the sentiment of five generations. 

 There were nine little Sunny's in this quilt and I gave them each a place to play; a field to pick flowers, a well worn path to walk on, hills of fresh grass to shuffle their feet through and fluffy clouds to help shade them.
 There were flowers and hearts adding points of variety that were quilted with swirls.

 Ms. A, was very pleased with the results, She created a beautiful quilt that will be loved and cherished.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since last November. I'm not sure what has held me back from sharing. My aunt, like her beloved quilt, is now a memory, and my quilty conversation with her one of the last times we spoke. She passed away early last week. The youngest of my father's siblings she has left us too early. I will remember her for being a beloved babysitter to my brother and I. I will remember her for crafting with me as a child, she taught how to stitch plastic canvas and we made all sorts of magnets and tissue box covers, but I also developed skills in craftsmanship, and color selections. I will remember Lori as a recipe collector who loved to make foods of all sorts. She was never afraid to try making something new, even if it meant searching for exotic ingredients, and taught me that you should not fear making alterations to a recipe. The same sun that shined down on us as we experimented with yet another wacky barbecue grill technique will hold the fog at bay from my memories of Aunt Lori.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

TGIFF! Zig Zag Quilt

Welcome to Thank Goodness it's Finished Friday. If you're here in the USA you might be recovering from a Thanksgiving food coma, or battling the shoppers for 'Black Friday.' Maybe you even braved the masses who shop Thanksgiving Day. In the spirit of this crazy season, I'm making this post available on Thursday. I cannot wait until Friday! Let's get this TGIFT/TGIFF party started. I'd love to see what you are finishing up! 

My Zig Zag Quilt had its beginning in March of 2014. I fell in love with some beautiful batik stripe fabrics at the Original Quilting and Sewing Expo in Lakeland, FL. I'm happy to say I completed the quilt in less than two years! 

Binding took quite a bit of time, and inspired the name.
My original design did not call for a crazy binding. No, I drew it out on my graph paper all neat and square. The craziest I got with the first sketch was cutting off the corners a little bit. When I started putting the whole thing together though, I just couldn't justify trimming so much of the set in triangles that put this design on edge point. The crazy zig-zag binding was going to put me on edge! Fortunately, with a helpful search engine and YouTube, I was able to find some great tips on how to handle an irregular binding. I'll include a link to the video that I followed at the end of this post.

It seems that everyone has different parts of the quilt making process that are super appealing to them. I run the gambit, I love piecing (even though I'm not entirely precise), I love quilting (especially now that I have Louise the Longarm), but there is something so satisfying about hand stitching the binding onto a quilt. Perhaps its the feeling of accomplishment knowing that you are putting the finishing touches on something that you've worked so long on, or maybe I just find the hand work to be very relaxing. I'm not sure. Anyway, as soon as the binding was on, I couldn't wait to take the quilt out to the groves to get some pictures. 

Free hand 'straight line' quilting enhances the strong geometric and graphic quality of this quilt. I used Louise's hopping foot to follow along the stripes in the red fabric and then use straight diagonal lines in all of the white areas. You might be able to see from the photo of the back that there is a difference in color where the red stripe fabric is and where the white areas are. That's because I used a variegated King Tut thread from Superior threads for the red areas and white Aurifil (#2024) in the white areas.

 A little close up of the quilting. I know it's an amateur shot, but I'm always on the look out to learn better ways of documenting my quilts. I have learned that it is very difficult to see what you are taking pictures of on the screen of a smart phone in the day light. If you have any suggestions for photographing your quilts, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more about the journey to this TGIFF be sure to check out these other postings.
Getting My Sew-Jo at the Expo, where I first fell in love with the stripes.
So Yeah, This Happened Today, which I could have titled, The First Cut is the Deepest! 
A Quilty Coaster Ride, where find out what a thrill designing my own quilt can be.
Finding Time, cause we could all use some more sewing and design time.
 Here is the link to the video that I used for irregular binding.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Stash: Happy Camper

I stumbled into Nancy's Quilt Shop in Winter Garden, FL a few months ago after my husband and I had walked around the Winter Garden Farmer's Market. Although they have a wide selection of fabric there were only a couple that really spoke to me. This camping fabric reminded me of the lining of a sleeping bag I used when my scout troop went on it's annual summer camping trips. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and the fabric had been discounted. In addition to Nancy's wide selection of fabrics, she also has a hefty array of clearance priced bolts! Unfortunately, my wallet was slim, and I didn't think it was wise to purchase these, marked down or not. Until. . .

About a month later, Seark and I were back in Winter Garden, this time scouting out some real-estate in the area. He knows me all to well and knew we had to stop back in. The American Jane, Happy Campers fabric by Moda was still there and still on the discount shelf. I bought up several yards with the intentions of making a couple of oversize lap quilts.

Now, I have to figure out what quilt pattern to use! Until then, these are going to marinate in the closet for a bit.

I'm linking up with Molli Sparkles for his Sunday Stash.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Broadway Mini Swap

The beginning.

Instagram has been a gateway to the world of mini quilt swaps. There are swaps for nerdy quilts, super hero quilts, zombie quilts, rainbow quilts, quilts featuring specific fabric designers. If you can dream it, there is probably a swap for it. While I resisted all of the monsters and heroes, I could not pass up the Broadway swap. I know it's a stereotype, but before I even knew I was gay, I loved Broadway and stage productions. The first CD that I ever owned was Riverdance! Wow, I can't believe I just admitted that. I quickly put my name into the sign ups.

If you've never participated in an swap on Instagram or otherwise, they are tons of fun. Essentially you fill in a form with your quilty interests such as fabric likes, dislikes, favorites of the swap theme and some information about allergies and snack weaknesses. You are assigned a partner and you get their information from the questionnaire. Based on this you get to search them out on social media and learn more about them. Then you create a spectacular mini quilt just for them!

My partner for the Broadway Mini Swap loves Grease, so I thought I would make a quilt featuring the female lead, Sandy. I referenced the packaging of a vintage clothing pattern to make a drawing of the the new girl at school. I thought I could simplify the lines to make it more angular and that I could make a paper piece pattern of the drawing. My drawing proved to be overwhelming to me and I could not figure out how to make the pattern. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So I decided to create a grid over the drawing to break it into smaller more manageable parts. This worked well, but may have created some unnecessary seam lines. I wish I could better describe the process I took, but struggle to put my thoughts into words. Instead, here are pictures to show the girl coming together.
The bottom of the skirt starts to develop as I add row three.

With the addition of row four I was pleased to see the draping of the skirt match with the parts below.
Sandy gets some arms.
I took a break from working on her at this point, because I was disappointed by her wasp like waist and I couldn't figure out how to make the band at the top of her skirt. The lines of her cardigan and head were also bothersome to me. During this break, I was notified that my partner had dropped out of the swap! Eek! My new partner had a long list of Broadway likes, and buried at the bottom of the list was Bye Bye Birdie. Since I had already invested so much time into the design and creation of this mini I wanted to make it work instead of starting over again.

I used the wrong fabric as I pieced the top.
I had some struggles with the piecing, but enjoyed the puzzle of it all. In the picture above I had used fabric the color of the cardigan when it should have been the color of the blouse. I had to take it apart and insert the correct color and use some hand sewing to recreate the seams.

She's almost complete. Just waiting to 'get her hair did.'
A detail of the quilting. 

I wanted the quilting to help tell the story of the show as I transitioned this quilt from Grease to Birdie.  I imagined quilting other figures in the background holding signs expressing their love for the drafted rock and roll star. I simplified this idea and quilted hanging pennants that spelled out "WE ❤ YOU CONRAD." I used crosshatch quilting to fill the negative space behind the girl to create a wall, I used larger diagonal cross hatching to create a floor for her to stand on.
With about half of the quilting done, I was running out of thread. Boo!
Another quilting detail. This shows the pennants a little better.

A hand embroidered label for the back. 

The finished mini all bound and ready to be sent.

The back featuring a crossword puzzle fabric I purchased at Pink Castle Fabrics.

She had to make it to the groves for a photo as well. 

I'm linking this finish up to TGIFF (Thank Goodness it's Finally Finished) this week hosted by Laura at Quokka Quilts.