Thursday, September 28, 2017

Improv + Structure

One of the challenges in working with a quilt top with a variety of block sizes is how to puzzle them all together. And that's exactly where I'm sitting with my most recent Bee Sewcial quilt, Looking Up.

With Mod Mood, I used a 18" x 22" painters tape frame on my design wall, and filled in with smaller blocks. The skinny accent strips of one of the blocks was used repeatedly on other blocks to tie it all together.

That didn't work quite so well with Baconrific, where once I had the blocks all on the wall, I had three 'holes.' All is took (ahem) were three similar blocks to fill in.... I used improv circles aka pancetta blocks.

With Improv Alliance, I turned to improv spikes to fill in the gaps, and that worked beautifully. Only problem was I wasn't happy with the finished size of the quilt top. After much consideration, I opted for one wider side strip of spikes, and that not only connected with the other spike slabs, but brought the quilt top up to a size I was happy with.

So.... all my bee-mates' blocks from my "Looking Up" prompt are up on the design wall, and I'm mulling.... just what will it take to bring this quilt top together. I trust time will tell.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Minimal Day :: Dalle de Verre

The latest block for the Seattle MQG BOM is called Dalle de Verre, named for the "glass art technique where slabs of glass are set in a matrix of concrete and epoxy resin or other supporting material. " (thanks Wikipedia!) There's a cool example pictured in this article about glass artist Russell Day, for whom our BOM is named, and who happened to be our hostess Jonna/bespokeoutlaw's great-uncle. Pretty cool!

I can't said that my fabric choices did me any favors when it came to this block. Up until now, the voile was easily appliqued onto the Essex. But working the opposite - reverse-appliqueing linen onto the voile, was a bit fiddly. I also had a quandary over using matching thread. First I chose a dark brown thinking that was the way to go (why?) but no, it was eventually obvious that it would be better to match the top fabric color, not the bottom. So I switched halfway through my stitching. Not my best work, but...... nestled in amongst the other blocks, I think I can live with it!

Monday, September 25, 2017


Remember me telling you about Curated Quilts, the new quarterly quilting journal coming out soon? Well one of the features in each issue is a mini quilt challenge. For the second issue, the call for log cabin quilts has been announced. In fact, the deadline is coming soon - October 1!

I can't honestly say that what I'm submitting is quite the result I may have gone after if it hadn't been for the traveling I've done the last several days. Ie. I knew I'd be away from my machine for a while, and the week waiting for me when I returned didn't guarantee much sewing time either. So when I managed to get a quilt top done before I left, I knew the only logical way to proceed was with hand-quilting.

Which is all fine and good. I've had plenty of experience at it back in the day, but lately not so much. And with the use of both Art Gallery denim and Essex linen in the piece, the thickness varied quite alot, and my stitches were kind of wobbly and uneven. You know - a very handmade look. The best part, though, was the thread I used - Aurifil 28wt #2625 (Arctic Ice). It was a first for me, as far as hand-quilting goes, and it stitched oh-so-smooth.

By the way, the backing I'd found in my stash was pretty perfect, I thought. In person, the colors really mesh with those of the required palette. Which reminds me - there was a required palette! What I saw in the photo posted was gray, tan, coral, gold, and pink. I read somewhere that the gray was really 'a soft navy', which is why I chose the denim. At any rate, it was a really captivating palette for me, and very enjoyable to work with.

One other little issue, though, was that I took the opportunity to use a machine I was quite unfamiliar with to sew on the binding. Don't get me wrong - it was a delight having a brief sewing spell in a borrowed (with permission!) sewing room, but it was kind of like sewing in Greek - none of the buttons were familiar, and I wasn't about to switch out the walking foot, thus my seam allowances weren't as precise as normal, and that resulted in a bit of bunching in the finished binding. In an odd sort of way, maybe that just adds to the wonky log cabin and the imperfect quilting, eh?

Whatever, it was a very enjoyable sew and gave me some hand-stitching for the car ride. Finishing at 15" square, it's the smallest quilt I've made in a while, and I confess, that was a bonus. Perfect it's not, but who ever said it all had to be? ....Exactly.

Linking up with Curated Quilts' Call for Entries - Log Cabin Mini Quilt.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017 Finish-A-Long :: Q3 Finishes

Nearly three months ago I went out on a limb by putting five projects on my Q3 Finish-A-Long list... and survived to tell about it!

1. My scrappy improv quarter log cabin quilt top sat for a while, but eventually I pushed through to get it done.

I really appreciated how many scraps it used up, and it's a block I always enjoy making. So win-win on this one.

Fragmentary :: 72" x 72"

2. Juneish was made during Amanda Jean/crazy mom quilts' June Quilt QAL, and again, used up alot of scraps! Separated by those backing squares, it made for a really large quilt.

I treated myself and asked my guild-mate Pam Cole of Keeping it Simple to quilt it for me and I'm so glad I did!

Juneish :: 86" x 86"

3. Another scrap-involved project led directly to the improv stripes QAL and it was great fun to have a crowd sewing along with me.

Here's the basic block tutorial, in case you missed it. I have no doubt I'll be making more of these.

variegated :: 32" x 35"

4. A scrappy tumbler quilt with a mix of all my brown scraps had been on my list for a while.

The result, Double Tall Skinny Vanilla, went together really fast, and I enjoyed it so much, I'm working on another version. Love when that happens.

5. Last on my Q3 list and the most recent finish was a baby quilt made with the Geo pattern by Samantha Green/MissyMackCreations.

This was the one project that wasn't begun from scraps, but I appreciated being able to mix some stash fabrics with a few new purchases to be able to make the envisioned quilt.

Geo Baby :: 32" x 44"

So that was a terrific quarter.... loved using up so many scraps, and focusing on some really enjoyable sewing!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Blogger's Quilt Festival :: EverGreenery

It's time for the Blogger's Quilt Festival, an opportunity for the online quilting community to share their quilts and admire the work of others. Hardest part about it is deciding what to share, right? Scrolling through the quilts I've made this year, I finally settled on EverGreenery, basically because it still makes me smile and I had so much fun making it!

Inspired by Greenery, the Pantone Color of the Year, I started with improv spikes, then filled in around them with improv hourglasses, diamonds, and stripes, basically made to order as the design came together.

Quilting was improvisational as well, with different designs in various areas of the quilt - all done with my walking foot.

Chunky binding (5/8" finished) seemed the perfect frame!

Creating quilts such as EverGreenery is my favorite.... going to the cutting board with rotary cutter and a stack of fabric or scraps - or both! - and just seeing where it takes you....

Quilt stats:
Finished size35" x 36"
Pattern: my own, improvisational
Fabric: Kona Parrot and green scraps + one lone scrap of Kona Pink Flamingo
Thread: Aurifil 50wt - 2021 [Natural White], with a touch of both 1114 [Grass Green] 
and 2435 [Peachy Pink]
Quilted by: myself, using a walking foot

My previous entries in the Blogger's Quilt Festival:
StringSong, 9/23/16 ~ Yay or Nay, 9/21/16
Room Temp, 5/20/15 ~ Keychain, 5/19/15
Red Hots, 10/27/14
Unlocked, 5/16/14
Crazy Rainbow, 10/25/13
Absolutely Mod Pop, 5/19/13 ~ 
HST Love, 5/17/13
Hopscotch, 5/19/12
Mango Revisited, 10/28/11
Supernova, 5/13/11

Monday, September 18, 2017

Of All Stripes

It feels like I haven't done any Bee Sewcial creating for ages, and in a way that's true! After M-R/quiltmatters' Group Hug prompt in June, it was my turn, with my choice being Looking Up. I didn't make a block, but those of my bee-mates have all arrived by now, and then we took a month off in August. So yeah, it's been a while.

12" x 14"

Imagine my surprise - and pleasure! - when Anne/playcrafts announced her September prompt "Of All Stripes." Yup. Improv stripes - one of my very favorites. Just perusing her inspiration pin board made me very happy!

13" x 16.5"

So those were very fun to make! AND the hard task of puzzling my Looking Up blocks into a quilt top remains.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Improv Spikes

Smitten as I am with the improv spike blocks I've been working on, I figured it's high time to share a tutorial. So here's how I make them!

For me, it works well to cut the background pieces to approximately my finished size. Cutting the 'spike' fabric the same size isn't necessary, but doesn't hurt.

Lay the spike fabric on top of the background, right sides together. See top arrow, where spike fabric extends 1/4" past the background. Note the bottom arrow to make sure once you sew your 1/4" seam down the righthand-side of the spike fabric, that there is about 1/4" of the background fabric to the left of the spike.

Sew 1/4" seam along right side of spike fabric.

You can press the spike fabric to the right before or after trimming the background fabric underneath.

Once pressed, flip the piece over.

Lay a ruler over the background portion of the block, lining up so you can trim off the excess spike fabric.

Flip back over right-side up, and you've got a finished spike block!

If  you want your spikes to butt up against each other, trim to the left of the spike so the background extends just 1/4" further - like the red block below. I tend to trim most of my blocks but leave the random one untrimmed and if occasionally there isn't even 1/4" extra there, that's ok too.... just creates a fun mix.

So go explore and see if you don't enjoy improv spikes as much as I do!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


There's one more thing I worked on during retreat that I thought you might appreciate hearing about. I made the Venti quilt top, and with Island Quilter just down the hall, I decided to shop the sale bin for a quilt back. I happened to mention it to my guild-mate Matt/@odditease, and he suggested I pattern-match the backing, and he'd share some tips with me. He's kind of obsessive about matching his quilt backs (and wildly successful), so I didn't have to think long before accepting his offer.

Matt (and now I) follows a tutorial from Samantha/Aqua Paisley Studio that he happened to read about in an issue of The Scrap Basket. (smile) It's pretty straightforward and before too long, I was ready to stitch the seam up. Unfortunately, my pattern shifted ever so slightly and I had a decision to make. Let it be - as it really did look ok, even though not perfectly matched - or start over. I opted for the second option because it was more important to me to figure the technique out so I was 1) comfortable with it, and 2) happy with the results.

So once home, after confirming I had enough fabric to do so, I trimmed off what I had done and started over. The first time around, I had used a glue stick, and Matt thought that wasn't quite as secure as actual glue. So I tried again with what I had on hand - Aleene's Fabric Fusion. I gotta say, I'm a mess with glue! But I forged ahead and also opted to use my walking foot on the second go. It still didn't turn out perfect, and I confess I didn't pin at this point as the tutorial suggested. So I might try that next time. Here's a peek at one of the best sections....

And from farther away, I think it looks pretty darn awesome! I'll definitely try again. I've since asked Matt exactly what glue he uses (Elmer's Washable School Glue), so I'll try that along with pinning on the sewing step. Pretty cool though!

I'd love to hear about your experiences pattern-matching a quilt back. Or not!

Monday, September 11, 2017


The unpacked bags are piled all around me and I am totally wiped out. But going on retreat with Seattle MQG was great fun, as I fully expected it would be!! We stayed at Camp Huston in Gold Bar and though the accommodations were simple, the lodge (aka the sewing room) was spacious and the meals absolutely delicious (think homemade baked goods at every meal, prime rib dip, salmon, etc. etc.). And with 36 guild members attending, the company was excellent!

I made one special item before I went - a pillowcase from the tutorial by The Twiddletails Blog. I had no idea how satisfying this would be to make! With stash fabrics, it took all of 45 minutes, and went terrific with the quilt I chose to take for my bed - my Crossex quilt. It's nice to sleep handmade anytime, but especially at a quilting retreat, right?

The first project I started once I got set up was a new tumbler quilt made with a range of cool RJR Cotton Supreme Solids. I made my own template, based on a Venti Starbucks cup (truth), and cutting out the tumbler shapes was quick work.

Truth be told, piecing this quilt top (about 56" square) was quick to sew too - amazingly so. Within just a few hours I had a flimsy ready for the traditional Camp Huston water tower photo.

Next up was a little secret sewing and believe it or not, a bit of fabric shopping with Island Quilter, who traveled to us! Oh yeah.

Come morning while I was still fresh, I tackled a Devon Pouch, a pattern by Svetlana/Sotak Handmade that I'd been wanting to try. I made the large version which measures 7 ¼” wide x 5” tall x 1 ½” deep. It's marked 'intermediate' and I'd agree with that rating. It took my attention while not being overly challenging. In a perfect world, I'd have two sewing machines set up - one with a 1/4" foot and one with a zipper foot, as there were several times I needed to switch back and forth. But that was just a minor inconvenience, and definitely worth the effort.

My pair of metal zippers came from Zipit, who had the matching zips in the two sizes needed. I used one of my custom leather labels, which I love! Unfortunately when I went to look for a link to share, it looks like the seller, cocosheaven, may have left etsy. (sad face)

Meanwhile, some of my fellow guild members took the retreat as a chance to make their improv Dresden block for the 2018 QuiltCon charity quilt challenge. [Thanks for Louise/@imfeelincrafty and Monica/@monicathequilter for the fun photo!]

So, the other project I worked on was a new one involving improv spikes! I'm pulling from my scrap basket, which explains the eclectic palette. The shortest slabs are 3 1/2" tall, the tallest 8". Where this is headed I'm not sure, but though tedious, I'm really liking the evolving piece.

So, now back to reality! Nuff said.