Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Seeing Spots" - May do. Good Stitches Finished!

Just in the nick of time, the May quilt for the Nurture circle of do. Good Stitches is done!  May was my month to be quilter and I asked the ladies of our circle to make blocks following this tutorial.  Everyone did a wonderful job and with 36 blocks we were able to make a 60" square quilt.  The quilt will be donated to the charity "My Very Own Blanket" which provides quilts to children in foster care.

Feeling confident after my first learning experience with spiral quilting I decided to use circular quilting to break up the straight lines of all the squares.  I first did a loose spiral, with each line about 1.5" apart. I ended up deciding I wanted a little more, so I added two more lines beside the first to make a triple spiral.  Although it was time- and thread-consuming I didn't have any troubles with bunching, wrinkling, or shifting of the top.

The backing is, what else? Polka dots!  Michael Miller makes this 108" wide backing fabric called "Spot On" in a variety of colors.  The chartreuse (on top) is much more lime-y  and bright than it appears in the picture.

I machine bound the quilt with a dark brown solid and added my customary twill tape label. 

Making this quilt was such fun and I can't wait to see what else our circle makes in the future. I wish all the ladies of Nurture who contributed blocks could see and touch this quilt for yourselves! It is very nice and will make some child very happy :)

This is how all my photo shoots end...
Thanks, ladies!  Happy sewing!

Linking up to Finish it Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts, go see what everyone else is showing off :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Scrap Buster Baby Quilts

It's Friday again, and I have finishes!  These two sweet little baby quilts were made entirely from my scraps.  It's such a rewarding feeling to make use of some of those scraps.  I'll tell you what else is really rewarding about baby quilts: speed! There's nothing to help you get your quilting groove back like whipping out a quilt in a day.

Photo from White Sands National Monument, NM.
The little girl quilt I am calling "Pink Lemonade."  I wrote up a brief tutorial in case you want to make a scrap quilt like it; the tutorial can be found here.  Basically, I just cut patches from my pink and yellow scraps that measured 3.5" on at least one side. Then I sewed those patches into one loooong chain, chopped up the chain and sewed it into a top.  The finished quilt measures 36" x 39".

I decided to try out spiral quilting, a new-to-me technique, on this little top since the size made it manageable.  I used a light pink thread and a fairly tight spiral and I have to say, I love the result!  In fact, I am already in the process of spiral quilting a larger quilt now.

The pieced-pieces in the lower right and middle left are remnants from my Dino quilt
Several people have asked me how I went about the quilting but, honestly, there was no real science to it.  I used my compass (like the kind you used in geometry) to mark a circle about the size of a quarter in roughly the center of the quilt. Then, using my walking foot I quilted around the circle. After I closed the circle I deviated slightly out to begin my spiral. I eyeballed a slim 1/4" gap to the side of my walking foot nearest my previous line of stitching and just quilted along.

I thought the circle in the middle of the quilting looked empty so I embroidered a little flower in it.
It was a little stop-and-go at the beginning as I was having to turn the quilt so much and quilting in a pretty tight circle, but the farther out I got the easier it became.  Starting on a small quilt is definitely the way to go as less bulk makes it a lot easier to turn. 

I was expecting problems with wrinkling or distortion but none ever emerged.  Just a couple of cautionary remarks about spiral quilting: 1) It takes a long time and a lot of thread, relative to the size of quilt you're doing. I think this tiny quilt used 5 or 6 bobbins.  And 2) make sure that you spiral clockwise, other wise you'll end up pushing more and more bulk through the throat of your machine with every round, rather than less.

I have to give a shout out to Rachael from The Floral Suitcase.  I won her drawing during the Sew Mama Sew Giveaways and she sent me a charm pack and a ton of the best scraps, all the way from Ireland!! Several of her scraps made appearances in these two quilts and I adore the fabrics she sent.  Thanks Rachael! 

For the backing I used some of my precious, large scale Tula Pink fabric from the Plume line.  I found a bolt of it on sale at a quilt shop in California. It was marked down because it had faded some, but I can't tell the difference! I stocked up on it for little girl quilts.

I am generally NOT a pink kind of a girl, but I love these swirly swans and the soft pink works so perfectly for a baby girl quilt.  I bound the Pink Lemonade quilt in a pretty pink weave fabric and it will being going off soon to a sweet couple expecting their first baby in the fall.

I also made this baby boy quilt from my scraps after seeing all the modern herringbone quilts popping up around blogland.  It measures about 36" square and is backed with a soft, dark blue flannel.  Every fabric in the quilt top, including the muslin, was cut from my scraps piles. 

Photo from White Sands National Monument, NM
I have to give credit to Amanda Jean for convincing me to sort my scraps. It was reading Sunday Morning Quilts that got me to finally get around to it. Since then I've made exponentially more scrap quilts than before. It really is true that piles of well sorted scraps are not only easier to use, they're inspiring!

I quilted this one with sort of an overlapping zig-zag in a variegated blue-green thread.  So far this quilt isn't assigned to anyone, so it will be added to my emergency baby-quilt stash.  I wrote a basic tutorial for this top, too, which you can read here if you'd like to make your own.  

Linking up to Amanda Jean's Finish it Friday.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scrappy Herringbone Tutorial

Hello, as promised I am posting another scrappy quilt tutorial. This one is for a scrappy modern herringbone. I have been seeing these quits pop up every where in the modern blogging world and just had to make one.  It makes a perfect quick, scrappy baby quilt AND a great scrap buster!

Just like I said yesterday, before you start sewing, really pre-quilting step one, is to organize your scraps.  Having your scraps organized makes them sooo much easier to use and be inspired by.  So, scraps organized? Good! On to the sewing!
Step 1 is to pick two contrasting colors (or color groups) for your quilt. I chose muslin and blue with a bit of green.  Pick a size of square to start with.  A 5" square will yield finished half square triangles of about 4" square.  It doesn't really matter what size you choose to start, as long as they are all the same.  You will need half as many squares of each color as the total number of HST blocks the finished quilt will have. (So for an 8x8 layout, that's 64 blocks, meaning I need to cut 32 squares from each of my colors.)

Step 2 is to go through your scraps cutting squares of your chosen size until you have enough.  If you start running out of scraps large enough to get a square from, you can also cut triangles half the size of your chosen square. 2 triangles = 1 square.

(Method #2 here details the technique we are using to make our HSTs)

Step 3 is to begin sewing your HSTs.  Use a pencil and your ruler to mark a line from corner to corner on the back side of all the squares of one color.  Then pair up the fabrics with the opposite color, right sides together, and sew 1/4" to either side of the line.  Cut the blocks in half along the marked line to yield 2 HSTs per pair. Press and trim if desired (I hate trimming, and since this is a scrap quilt anyway, I just let it go.)

Step 4 is to arrange your blocks on the design wall.  In retrospect, I wish I had tried more to keep the blues similar where they touch. Oh well, just an excuse to make this design again!  When you are happy with your arrangement begin sewing the top together. I prefer to sew this type of quilt together but grouping the small blocks into larger and larger blocks, rather than rows.  It makes it so much easier to make those points match!

That's it! There are plenty of potential variations to this design. Try going for rainbow colors, or creating a gradation across the quilt.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Easy Strip Scrap Quilt Tutorial

It is Wednesday, right?  Or at least will be in a couple of hours.  I think I am still having vacation jet-lag as all week I've been thinking we were closer to the weekend than we are :) Maybe it's just wishful thinking.  I've been busy this week getting my do. Good Stitches May quilt basted and beginning quilting (no more pics until it's closer to finished). I also processed that pile of produce I showed you on Sunday into two strengths of pepper jelly and some Salsa preserves.  We have several pints of each in the cabinet now :) 

Extra Spicy and Regular Pepper Jellies and Preserved Salsa
Unfortunately, I didn't follow the instructions and wear gloves while I was cleaning the Cayennes... yeah, I paid for that mistake.  Still paying, in fact. Although my hands are no longer burning I haven't been able to get my contacts in yet.  Oh well, lesson learned (I hope).

In the spirit of a productive week, I decided to write up a tutorial on this scrappy strip quilt I made last weekend.  I have made a few quilts of this type and it's one of my favorite ways to make a quick baby quilt, use up a lot of scraps, and get a great effect.

Scrap management in action
Step 1 is to organize your scraps.  No, really!  Amanda Jean talks about it in Sunday Morning Quilts and it really is true, it's really hard to use your scraps when they're just in one big bin. Besides, I find all the pretty colored piles really inspiring.  I sort my scraps by color and shape. The jars hold strings, triangles, and crumbs, the larger pieces are kept in small piles on the shelves. I usually look at whichever color pile is tallest to decide what the color scheme of my next scrap quilt will be.

I don't have step-by-step pictures, so these will have to do
Step 2 is to decide on a common width to cut all your scraps to.  I chose 3.5" because I figured I'd be able to find plenty of scraps at least that size (I tend not to consider fabric a scrap until it gets under 5").  Whatever you decide on, that will be the unfinished height of the rows in your finished quilt.  Go through you chosen scrap pile and cut your fabrics to measure your common dimension in at least one direction.  (So for example, my fabrics were 3.5"x2", 3.5"x6", 3.5"x4"... etc.  3.5"x Whatever. You get the idea.)

Step 3 is to begin sewing the scraps together into one looooooong strip.  Start by sewing them into pairs, then sew the pairs together, and continue sewing the scraps together into longer and longer sections until you have joined all your scraps into one long strip several hundred inches long.

Step 4 is to do some math.  If you'd rather avoid math at all costs, trial and error is also a fine method.  There are a couple of ways to go about this.  What I usually do is decide on the width I'd like my final quilt to be (in this case I chose 36"). I put something like a yard stick on the floor and begin folding my long strip back and forth in sections the width I'd like my quilt to be.  However many folds you can make, that's how many rows of strips you'll have for the finished quilt. Multiply that by the height of your finished strip (3" for me) and you'll have the height of your finished quilt.  If it's enough, move on to step 5, if not, add some more scraps to the end of your strip.

Alternatively, you can determine how many linear inches of strip you need to make a quilt of certain dimensions, then compare it to how many you have so far.  Say I want to make a quilt 36" wide and 42" long and my strip will finish at 3" tall.
42" total/3" per row= 14 rows of scraps needed
14 rows x 36" wide = 504 linear inches of scraps
So once my long strip of scraps reaches at least 504" long I have enough.

My scraps even included some pieced pieces!
Step 5 is to subcut the long strip into the rows of your quilt.  Whatever you have decided on as the total width of your quilt (in my case, 36") cut the strip into sections that long.  My scrappy strip made (13) 36" long rows.  I can't tell you enough how easy and fast this technique is.  You can literally make an entire quilt in an evening.

Step 6 is to stack the rows up on your design wall and decide what order they should go in. When you are happy with the arrangement start sewing the rows together into the finished top.  Square up the edges and ta-dah, you're done!

This quilt, blogged here, is another made using the same technique with a few tweaks.  First, instead of using just one common dimension I used three, so I had strips that finished at 3" tall, 4" and 5".  I subcut the strips to a common length and arranged them just like in the steps above. Then, before sewing the rows together, I added a thin sashing between the rows.

You could also easily add a vertical sashing between each of the scraps as you sewed them into your long strip for a sort of crooked bricks look. There are endless variations you could make with this same technique!

If you enjoy this tutorial please comment and let me know. I love to hear your feedback!  I am planning another scrap quilt tutorial for tomorrow and then a Finish post about these scrappy baby quilts on Friday.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sunday Catch-up

Hello! It's been a whole week since I posted. My family went on vacation to New Mexico this past week to enjoy to desert in all its natural glory :) 

White Sands National Monument at sunset
Despite being gone most of the week, I did accomplish some sewing before we left that I'll be blogging about soon.

The Kitchen Mesa hike, aka, "The big one"
After I get some rest and recover a bit.

Nothing says "welcome back to Texas" like a full garden!
I am making pepper vinegar and pepper jelly with out excess of Cayennes and the tomatoes we can't eat will be frozen.  If anyone has any other suggestions for preserving these veggies I'd appreciate them :)

Practicing spiral quilting on a scrappy quilt
I made a couple of baby quilts from my scraps last weekend. I decided to use the manageable size to tackle some quilting techniques I've wanted to try. The girl quilt got a tight spiral.  I was pleasantly surprised with how easily the spiral went on and the lack to wrinkles or pulling.  I'll be using this technique on a larger quilt soon.

The other thing I have to tell you about is the upcoming Pets On Quilts quilt show at Lily Pad Quilting!  This online quilt show will feature photos of pets on quilts as well as quilts about pets and some great pet-themed quilty prizes.  As regular readers will know, this is pretty much an entire blog of cats-on-quilts pictures, so I can hardly wait for the linky to open up!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Sea Dreams Wall Hanging {Modern Mini Quilt Challenge}

It's that time of year once again, and I am so glad that this year I have a mini to enter into the Modern Mini Quilt Challenge at Ellison Lane! The contest runs until June 19th, so be sure to go browse all the entries and enter you own mini.

The rules of the challenge state the the mini quilt must have been finished in the past 6 months, be under 24" square, and have used at least one new-to-you technique, and this mini fits the bill perfectly.  I was really excited when I saw the first post about the challenge because it gave me a chance to do a proper post on this little wall hanging.  I never got good pictures back in February when I finished it, what with the weather and the rush to get it done for the baby shower, so it never got the debut it deserved.

This mini is meant to be a wall hanging; I call it "Sea Dreams". It was a baby shower present for a friend expecting her second son. She decided to keep the ocean nursery theme from her first baby and I couldn't have been happier with that ! (You can see the sea-life mobile I made for her first baby here.)

This whole design started when I fell in love with the Constellations fabrics and started thinking about how to use them in a present for this baby.  I wanted the design to be a little whimsical and appropriate for a baby, but also to be able to grow with him and something his parents would appreciate.  I also wanted to incorporate some real nautical-ness (is that a word?) into it.

Sunset over the Pacific
I LOVE the ocean.  I have stood watch the deck of a sailing ship at night and listened to the lines creak and the gentle slosh of the waves going on for miles and watched the stars turn overhead while the rest of the crew sleeps.  I've never felt as connected as I do at sea, and I wanted this quilt to have a little bit of that flavor to it.

Sunrise, the water is so calm
The flags flying from the boat are maritime signal flags.  Each flag represents a letter of the alphabet, or they can be used alone or in combinations to stand for other words or phrases. I used a few references (one handy translator is here) to make sure I had the letters/flags I wanted.  Reading from top to bottom, the flags spell out the name of the new baby: "C-H-R-I-S".  Each flag finished at just 1" square.  I made them using sort of a mini pillowcase method and then top-stitched around the edge.

The flags are tied with black thread to a line of seine twine, a kind of tarred, synthetic line used on boats. This little piece was one of a few that found their way back from the boats with me in my pockets and in the bottom of my bag.  I tied stopper knots on both ends and tacked it down to the quilt. 

The tiny piecing on the flags was a learning experience for sure and it will be a while before I try to tackle something that small again.

The boat I freehanded onto iron on transfer.  After ironing down the fabric to the background sky and waves I blanket stitched around the edge.

The easy-curves piecing on the waves was, as promised, surprisingly easy!  I pulled out my stack of blue solids and improved my way through the waves, choosing what would come next and where to make the waves crest and dip as I went.  The patterned fabric I used in the waves is called "Supernova" but when I look at it I see the star and moonlight sparkling reflections on the water.

I opted not to quilt the mini beyond stitch-in-the-ditch and a few scattered stars hidden in the star field so as not to overwhelm the design.

I always have at least one kitty helper with pictures
This is my original design
Measures 16"x24" (barely within the size limit, whew!)
Batting is Warm and Natural
 New-to-me techniques were easy curves (for the waves) + 3D pieced elements (the flags)

Thank you to Jennifer for hosting, and thank you to Lea, Chris' mama, for letting me borrow his present back to take pictures of it.  Baby Chris arrived in April and he is the most precious thing :)

Also linking to Finish it Friday.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Wonky Squares on the Design Wall

The weekends just seem to go by faster and faster each week, don't they? It's design wall Monday again already!

I am working on several projects this week, including my do. Good Stitches wonky squares top.  May was my month as quilter for the NURTURE circle and the photo above shows everyone's lovely blocks they sent in.  (You can see the tutorial I asked them to follow here.)  The blocks are 10.5" unfinished, so I am making a 60" square quilt.  I am pretty pleased with the initial layout above, but I will probably tweak it for a couple days before I sew it together.

The other project going on, which got taken down off the wall to make room for the wonky squares, I'm calling Bird Houses.  I saw a quilt somewhere on the internet that I based this design on but I can't find where it came from (sorry!)  I pulled bird fabrics that I've been collecting first, then coordinating colors to fill out the color scheme. I really like it :)  I think that the brown sashing strips look like tree branches, hence the name.

I saved all the bonus HSTs that got created from sewing the neutral squares onto the tops of the birdhouses.  Happily, there were enough of them to create this (above) for the quilt back.  Believe it or not, this is the first time I've sewn this sort of HST design, and it was really fun!

So that's what's on the wall this week; I'm linking up to Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gatsby! (or, the quilt formerly known as Architextures)

TGIF and I go something finished!  The Architextures quilt has been finished and received its grown-up quilt name: Gatsby!  I know someone you are probably fans of that book. Supposedly it's great literature; an American Classic, but I just never "got" it.  Now don't get me wrong, I am a big reader. I love books! But Gatsby...  There were some characters, and some stuff happened, there were a lot of parties, but no plot to speak of.  (Just my two cents.)  So what does any of this have to do with the quilt?  Well, it's very colorful and flashy but there's not much plot (pattern) :)

I got the Architextures charm pack that served as the jumping off point for this quilt way back in March(!) and it's been pretty much in progress since then. Finally, I made myself stop rearranging blocks and sew the darn thing together.  It is made up of an Architextures charm pack, Architexures coordinating solids pack (both purchased on Etsy from here) plus some of the many blue solids I had collected.  Each HST finished at 4" square.

I decided on simple straight line quilting for two reasons: I didn't want to distract from the design, and I knew the crisscrossing quilting over the points of the HSTs would help tame bulky seams.  I chose a bright lime green for the thread and it might be my favorite part of the whole quilt.  The green doesn't fight with the craziness of the rest of the top, but it pops right out at you and holds its own.

Of course the binding had to be lime green, too.  The color of the binding is truest in the first and last pictures on this page; for some reason it looks a little dirty in the closeups.  The backing is, of course, the wonderful IKEA Numbers fabric. I've had some of it cut and set aside for this quilt almost since I started making HSTs.  I adore the simplicity of it and the way that a the stark black and white print looks on the back of a raucous, colorful quilt.

When I was first arranging this quilt on the design wall I tried to avoid having any solids of the same color touch each other. Later, I tweaked the design to allow matching solids to touch in quite a few places. I am glad I made the change; I think the larger shapes formed by the matching solids give your eye something to land on amidst the randomness of the design.

The quilt finished at 52"x 60" and will be staying at my house, to live in the living room as one of our couch quilts for ever and ever :)  If I ever grow tired of it maybe I'll move it someplace else, but I doubt I will.  I have already used it a few times and it is perfectly sized and snuggly.

Linking up to Finish it Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts. Happy Friday!