Monday, May 23, 2016

Playing with value

I've been having fun experimenting with value placement.  The block I've been playing with here is my Wildflower block.  It appears in the current Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks (Volume 13).

I began by dividing  the block into five areas.  There are several ways of doing this but I chose the block corners as area 1, the background (area inside the corners and outside the petals) as area 2, the petals as area 3, the "lines" as area 4, the 4 small squares around the centre as area 5.  The small centre square usually ended up matching the petals.

Here we have a light background around strong petals and centre squares.  The light lines really stand out on this one (I decided to emphasize the lines by paying attention to the direction of the print on the fabric.)

The stronger background area encloses the bright petals.

Here the petals and lines seem to float above the lighter fabrics.

Light petals anchored by  the surrounding fabrics.  The small squares around the centre are just a bit darker than the petals and seem to add dimension.  
I realize it might be a bit of a challenge combining all these blocks into one project, but I have a plan.  I'll let you know how it works out!

Here are some more Wildflower blocks made by my friends.
My friend Louise framed the red petals with the strong print -- this reminds me of a flower against the leaves.

Marie made three blocks in bright spring greens for a table runner.

Carol used a large scale print for the petals, and the centre square provides a bright focus point.

Kim made cherry blossoms by constructing blocks in two sizes and placing them on an angle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Package at my door!

Look what has arrived on my doorstep!

This magazine will be on news stands first week of May, but I have an advanced copy!  And how did I get an advanced copy, you ask?  (Thought you'd never ask!!)  That's because one of my blocks is in there!

I've been drooling over the lovely designs -- and taking frequent peeks at my own, as well!  There are several blocks I'd love to make, but I must get another project (top secret for the moment) completed first.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy Hearts

A pile of bright fabrics came together to make a baby quilt. Hearts, bright fabrics, soft edges -- it all added up to some cuddly love for a tiny baby.

When the members of my sewing group learned that one of our friends had suddenly found herself fighting breast cancer we decided to use this same simple block to make another quilt.

Quilters donated hearts in bright colours stitched onto black and white backgrounds.  We cut each heart in half, combined halves to make blocks, and added bright borders.
We paired up the heart halves and carefully chose
bright fabric strips to go around each block.

Each block was trimmed to produce a twisted frame.  Then we sewed blocks into rows and enjoyed the way the hearts and colours dance across the surface.

The back of the quilt incorporates leftover fabrics from the front
 along with muslin squares on which the recipient's friends
 have written notes of encouragement .
When the quilt is washed the edges of the hearts will roll and fray a bit to add a softer look to the design.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Smoothing Iron -- borders at last

Has this top really been sitting for more than two years?  When I last wrote about it it was still in the construction phase.  That blog post is here.  Since then I have completed the piecing and added a first border, yellow.

But the time has come for this project to be done.

I found a large piece (over 2 metres) of an intricate indigo print.  Clues on the selvage led me to a website that indicated this was a type of batik from Indonesia.  The design is very precise and the repeats are exact, so this is a different type of batik than what we usually buy in quilt shops today.

Since there are four complete repeats of the design running the length of the fabric my first thought was to cut the borders lengthwise.  But I couldn't find a five inch section I liked and making the pattern match at the corners seemed like a complicated task..

 I  decided to cut the strips across the fabric instead of along the length.  I was able to cut plenty of 5 inch strips with the designs centred -- as long a I cut the strips with a slight curve!
A bit of steam from the iron was enough to straighten each curved strip when I laid it between straight lines marked on the ironing board cover.  

Two strips together were long enough to make a border for the short side (width of quilt plus allowance for mitering.  I pieced them together, carefully reversing and matching the design at the centre.  Then I determined where the corners of the quilt were going to fall and made borders for the long sides, making sure that the same point would fall at the corners.  This meant I needed to splice extra length into the strips -- more careful matching.

With all that matching and pinning and stitching (and re-stitching), the designs worked out and I was able to complete four corners, all the same.

Yes, I do know that one should not combine butted borders and mitred borders in the same piece!  But there are a couple of reasons to do that here.  First, the yellow border was added many months ago, before the plans changed.  And second, I don't think a 45 degree mitre would look right meeting that 60 degree piecing line at the corner!  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

The completed top.  Next step -- quilting!

Monday, February 22, 2016

What was I thinking?

It all made perfect sense while I was doing it!

I came across some good-sized scraps of this pretty floral in a pile of donated fabrics:

There was plenty for borders of a quilt, so I proceeded to the scraps for some fabric that would go with it.  I was thinking oranges, browns, perhaps?

I came up with these:
A light print that picks up the gold, some golden yellows, a few red-violets.  Not what I expected, but I like it so far.

I made a batch of blocks.  This was the perfect chance to try out a new quilting book from the library. I had recently been asked to help select some new books for the quilting section.  I included Cut and Shuffle Quilts by Jan Ochterbeck on my list and was eager to read it as soon as it arrived.

I am always interested in techniques that involve sewing fabric together and then cutting it up again. I found the author's instructions very thorough and clearly illustrated.  She includes tips for cutting and piecing that make this a very useful book.

My dozen blocks were soon made and I started laying them out on the wall.  Dilemma -- I needed another colour in there, and nothing I tried seemed to work.  Orange was too -- orange-y.  Using the floral print for all the sashing was too much of the same thing, especially as I planned on using that for borders.  I finally consulted my colour tools and decided that a nice medium teal-y blue would fit the bill.  It would be a complement to all the red-orange that I was seeing.

But now that the quilt is all together, I don't know how successful that colour choice was!!
The blue plus signs in the sashing seem a bit surprised to find themselves there!

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not taking it apart!  I think a bit of blue in the border might have helped, but the quilt needed to be this size and no larger and there didn't seem to be room for blue.  I don't think a blue binding is the answer, either!

But -- as I often tell my friends -- the ONLY time anyone is going to be looking at this quilt and analyzing the colour balance is right now.  Once this quilt is finished and wrapped around someone what matters is that it is bright and colourful and warm and full of comfort.  Those rather odd bits of blue really won't matter.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Working from the Junk Drawer

What do you do with those odd triangles?  I don’t like to mix them with my cut strips and squares.  For years I have ignored colour or size and tossed them all together into a drawer.  When I noticed that the drawer would no longer close easily I decided it was time to USE THEM! 

I proceeded to stitch triangles together into light/dark pairs and trim them to a common size.  As the stack of units grew I decided to make them into Friendship Star blocks.  Each block makes use of 8 units plus a square, and the top will be a sample for an upcoming class.

Original plan was to use ALL the colours, but as the blocks gathered on the wall I started to reject those that didn’t fit in – out went the solid white, the black, the bright yellow.  I can’t say that the final choices of colours actually “blend” in any way, but the top has more unity than I expected it would!
Very Scrappy Friendship Star quilt.

Everything from calicos and vintage prints to florals and metallics in this block.  And there is a repeated fabric in spite of my best efforts to avoid it.
The scrappy border also used up odd bits.
The only part of this top that is not scrappy is the final brown border.

Final tally: 

  • triangle drawer -- slightly less full
  • bin of “bits” -- not noticeably decreased 
  • my level of satisfaction -- quite enhanced by the experience 
 And I have a useful quilt top.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

It's all about the fabric

About a week before Christmas I was feeling overwhelmed with my list of things to do.  There were not only Christmas preparations but quilting obligations for a variety of commitments coming up quickly in the New Year. 

My solution – start something new!  I found myself deciding that it would be helpful to make an attempt to use some of the “bottom of the barrel” bits and pieces that had been kicking around the sewing room shunted from one type of accommodation to another, for who know how many years (or decades).

 Out came pieces from the drawer labelled Blue Scraps.  From these I was able to cut (or piece, as needed) an assortment of 3.5” by 6.5” rectangles.  And from other drawers – Lights, Two-inch Strips, even Pieces Too Small to Use – I found scraps to cut a mound of 2” squares.  I set to work composing my version of Bonnie Hunter’s Narragansett Blues quilt.

Once I had those blues and 4-patches up on the wall I decided to make it larger, so there was another foray into the bins. When the piece was on the wall and arranged to my satisfaction I realized it must be sewn together working from the wall as there was no simple way to label and stack those bits in hopes of recreating this particular layout later. The wall was needed for other things, so there would be no putting the job off.  I joined  units, made rows, finally actually stitched the rows together.

And I love it!  Every odd, decades-old little scrap of it.  There are calicoes in there.  Bits of recycled shirts.  Fabrics that were gifts from special people.  There’s a novelty fabric with half a chicken on it.  Celestials.  Batiks.

 I know I'm not the only quilter still finding bits of Year 2000 fabric in Deep Stash.

Some of the matching pieces ended up next to each other in spite of all my efforts to to have a random look – I see these and hear my son’s voice
 – “Random does NOT mean evenly distributed, Mum!”

Now what?  Who knows?  I guess it might need a border.  And a destination.

Did I manage to get all those other important things done?   Christmas came and it went and we had a good family time with plenty of love, laughter and food to eat.  And there are samples ready for the quilting class tomorrow.  All is good.

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