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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Fractured Cathedral Window: A Finished Quilt

I always forget how satisfying small quilts are. Not just mini quilts, but small quilts in general - baby quilts, wall quilts, and the like. I've spent a long time with an automatic "go big or go home" mindset, so it was refreshing to start this project and realize that it didn't NEED to be bigger (it's 29" x 24")!


I am infatuated with traditional cathedral windows quilts. I even made one once (below - "Circus Tent"). Mind you, it was a mini quilt, but it was very precise, took forever and a half, and used a lot of fabric (3 things I usually try to avoid). Plus, I'm always excited about pulling out traditional blocks and modernizing them. So, I took inspiration from a single block and remade the diamond, using pieced curve techniques that I teach in my Waterfall quilt class (not bias tape applique, though I could have done so).

 "Circus Tent" mini quilt, made for a Flickr swap back in 2012

It's certainly hard to imagine that the quilt once looked like this! These were simply bricks of solid fabric that the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild swapped last year. I only took out a couple of colors from the stack to arrange them vertically in a visually-pleasing rainbow formation.


One of my most valuable takeaways from this project is the improvised background. I am always mesmerized with improv quilts that are cut into and changed, because the piecing spreads all over the quilt. There are a couple of spots on this quilt where just a tiny shimmer of fabric shows, because that's where an arc was pieced in. I explained the process of how I pieced the background in this post from August.


The "fractures" in the diamond were actually a happy accident. These curves are long and unwieldy, so the quilt top had severe ripples (this is common for curves). I calmed them using a technique from Sherri Lynn Wood's lovely Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, and those "fractures" were the result. I thought about cutting into the quilt more to make it even wonkier and more off balance, but it seemed subtle enough to shine through.


Okay, the quilting. So much to say about this little quilt and I haven't even talked about my favorite part of the process yet! My goal was to emphasize the orange peels that happen as a secondary design on cathedral windows.


I used a healthy mixture of thread colors and weights for machine quilting - Aurifil 2600 (Dove Gray, 50 and 28 weight), 2024 (white, 50 and 28 weight), 2520 (light purple), and 2805 (light blue). The purple and blue give the middle of the quilt (below) some extra shine. I also decided to only quilt the middle with my free motion foot and without marking to give those diamonds some extra "wonk" or crookedness. Imperfection is perfect.


The heavier weight threads served a purpose in the orange peels; combined with very thick hand stitching with DMC floss and perle cotton, the outer part of the quilt is very textured. I LOVE it. I could have added even more quilting but this stopping point felt "right."


My fabric stash thanked me for making this quilt (I actually heard it speaking to me - maybe I need to get out more? :) ). Not only did I utilize almost all the solids from that guild swap - I used up my last large piece of this Anna Maria Horner print for the backing (from the Dowry fabric line).


This was only the second time I blocked a quilt. Instead of following 1 tutorial, I took a bunch of tips from several and tried something. I threw the whole thing in the bathtub to start and soaked it in Synthrapol so that the solids wouldn't run on the white (that would have ruined the whole effect, and no, I'm not a prewasher, and no, I don't plan on becoming one). Then, I pinned it flat on my carpet and let it dry out for an entire day. The result was a VERY flat quilt, which is a huge improvement! Plus, the crinkle is lovely. I'm thrilled!



This project is one of my very favorites from 2016. It looks to my past (improv, curves, machine quilting) and to my future (hand and machine quilting combinations). I'm so pleased to finally share it with you today! Lesson learned: make more small projects.

Linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts, TGIFF, Needle and Thread Thursday, Fabric Tuesday

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day

Welcome to Quilty Habit! I love to improv piece and quilt on my domestic machine. I blog 2-3 times a week, teach and lecture about quilting, and write a free quilting newsletter. How do you do? :)


Today I'm excited to offer a 1 yard bundle of fabric (1/2 yard each) as part of Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day - the Viewfinders from Playful by Melody Miller and an OOP (out of print) fabric from Loulouthi by Anna Maria Horner.

Some of you might be wondering how I could give that latter one away, as I am a huge AMH fabric fanatic. Simple - it's a gorgeous piece of fabric, given to me by a friend, but I haven't found just the right use for it yet. I think it would be better in the hands of someone else. Somehow, these two prints just seem to go together! I hope you can find a beautiful use for them both.

Leave 1 comment*, answering this question: 
  • What is inspiring you to create right now? (It could be a thing, person, place, event, quilt, etc.) Links are appreciated but not required. If nothing is inspiring you this week, what has inspired you to create in the past?

You do NOT need to be a follower to enter, but you can if it strikes your fancy. I really try to share as much as I can in the hopes that I can spread around the quilty love as much as I have received! Right now, I'm in the middle of a modern wholecloth quilt (here's this week's post about quilting words in different sizes), and I share educational content (Top Ten Tips), progress posts, free patterns, quilt-a-longs, and detailed finish posts.


I also write The Wonky Press, a FREE bimonthly newsletter that contains relevant quilting links, project inspiration, community sharing, and highlights from my blog/a close up look at my personal life. Join our community and try it out!



Subscribe to The Wonky Press modern quilting newsletter!

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Have fun jumping around through the giveaways, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

http://www.sewmamasew.com/2016/12/giveaway-day-sewing-craft-supplies-fabric-patterns-etc-4/

*Details: This bundle ships anywhere in the world. The giveaway will end on Sunday, 12/11/16 at 7 pm EST, when I will email the winner and close comments on this post. You MUST leave an email address or have one attached to your account to win - otherwise, I can't contact you. I often have to pick a second or third winner because I can't locate an email address. Best of luck!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Week 4: Wholecloth Quilt Challenge

 The "Today I Feel" Quilt is my ongoing large wholecloth quilt project. I'm writing one post every week about the past week's phrases, which answer the prompt, "Today, I feel...." You can read more about the project on Week 1's post and my daily expansions on each phrase on Instagram under the hashtag #todayifeelquilt. The threads are generously sponsored by Aurifil Threads.
 
This week's words were slightly challenging, mainly because I didn't have my sewing machine for 2.5 days. Luckily, she's all better now and ready to take on all the quilts of 2017!


For those days, I wrote my phrase in a notebook and, as always, wrote in more detail on Instagram. I fear that my machine being out caused more of a disturbance to me than intended (everything seemed to go completely wacky for a couple of days), but I'm happy to say things are back to normal. 


Last week, I talked about using contrasting colors for each phrase and shared some tips on using heavier thread weights (thank you for all of your positive feedback!). This week, I have a few thoughts about size, or scale, of words.


When you are designing a wholecloth quilt, scale is a delicate subject. Since you will ONLY be quilting this quilt (no piecing involved), you must create interest. One of the easiest ways to do this is scale. I'm not tracing any of the words, so it allows me to be especially organic as I quilt. I've done very little ripping of stitches so far because I aim to leave things as they happen.
My usual approach for changing word size is to take it day by day. I look at the word I wrote the day before and decide if I want to go bigger or smaller. Many phrases tend to be medium sized, but my goal is to be able to spot the larger ones from afar and read the really small ones as you come within a foot or two. It will be really exciting to see this one hanging in my individual exhibition in March.


There have been a few times where I chose word size based on how I was feeling. The morning after election day, all I felt was dread and despondence, and I had little to no energy to devote to the quilt. So, I quilted very small. A few days later, I was furious with the world (specifically the patriarchy), and I quilted in large, all-caps letters. That in particular was very therapeutic. 


Next week I'll talk about the logistics of managing this larger-than-I-thought quilt, as well as my thread burying strategy. I'll be back on Wednesday for Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day and Friday-ish for a finish! Yay! Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

5 Tips for Working with 40 and 28 Weight Aurifil Thread

Whenever my husband and I visit a restaurant for the second or third time, we almost always regret ordering something different. We'll take a few bites and sigh: "Wish I had just gotten that chicken sandwich. That was SO good." I guess I'm a creature of habit.

28 weight - 2600, 2024; 40 weight - 3840, 2810, 2600, 2220, 2024, 2535, 5006, 3770
I'm used to using 50 weight Aurifil thread for all of my piecing and quilting on my domestic machine (and my machine loves it); why break something that isn't broken, right? I had heard that 40 weight, a bit of a thicker thread, really gives the quilting good definition, but 28 weight seemed unimaginably thick to me as machine quilter. But really... I was wrong!

When I decided to start my large wholecloth quilt project, I took a chance to try these different,  new-to-me thread weights. Since a wholecloth quilt is made up only of quilting, the heavier weights might really provide contrast (yes, the lower the number, the thicker the thread). I asked Aurifil if they would be willing to let me try out some 40 weight (green colored spool) and 28 weight (gray colored spool) threads, and they were gracious enough to send several spools in specific colors. Thank you, Aurifil!


You can see above how much thicker the 28 weight thread is. Aurifil states on their website that it's best used for machine quilting, embroidery, applique, plus hand applique and hand quilting (it gives great texture). So, I decided to put it to the test...


I tested out the gray thread (2600, my favorite shade ever) on a scrap quilt sandwich. Since I knew I'd be writing words on my wholecloth, I wanted to experiment with writing right away. You can see that the 28 weight thread is still noticeably thicker than 40 weight, but below, further away, it only makes a slight difference. Still, though, both threads are thicker than 50 weight.

 I wrote a little message for you. 😉



5 Tips for Working with Heavier Weight Threads

1. Take the time to figure out the right tension on your machine. You may have to adjust your tension dial to accommodate (I did). It can be a frustrating and lengthy process, but it's worth it. Once you've figured out the right settings for different kinds of thread, I suggest writing down your numbers on a handy post-it to keep near your machine. Also, I use a universal needle 80/12 for almost everything, but you may want to try the needles Aurifil suggests (28 weight: Top Stitch 90/14; 40 weight: Sharp/Microtex quilting or denim 80/12).

2. Use a practice quilt sandwich for all tension testing and practicing. It doesn't have to be large (fat quarter size - 18x22 works well for me, or sometimes smaller).

3. Use a thinner thread in the bobbin that's a similar color. I only use 50 weight bobbins - that's the thread I have the most of and I know it works well (plus, Aurifil recommends it on their website!). I haven't tested thicker weight threads in the bobbin but if anyone has, I'd love to hear about your experience. Also, I know that the quilt police like it when you use the same color thread in the top and bobbin... but I hardly ever do. As long as your tension is right, you shouldn't really see the threads!

4. QUILT SLOWLY. Thicker weight threads, especially 28, have more of a chance of breaking/splitting. This didn't happen to me often and I'm thrilled with the quality of the thread, but it's simply MORE thread.

5. Practice tracing over thread to gain even more definition. See below...


 

This is a small project I started (with more words). On the bottom row, I decided to trace over the stitches to make them stand out even more. I want the words to really show in comparison to the rest of the piece. Overall, I'm very please with how the 28 and 40 weight threads stand out on their own, but you can really add to the effect by tracing.

Background thread - 50 weight; words - 40 weight, traced over 2 or 3 times.

50 weight is my favorite for piecing, but 40 weight is definitely my favorite for machine quilting now. I love to make my quilting SHOW (after all, I put so much work into it!).


So, have you tried changing thread weights? If not, take the chance and dive into the unknown. You might be surprised at the subtle contrast and change in the look of your work!

For further reading, please check out Yvonne (@quiltingjetgirl)'s tutorial for using 12 weight Aurifil on her longarm.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Week 3: Wholecloth Quilt Challenge

 The "Today I Feel" Quilt is my ongoing large wholecloth quilt project. I'm writing one post every week about the past week's phrases, which answer the prompt, "Today, I feel...." You can read more about the project on Week 1's post and my daily expansions on each phrase on Instagram under the hashtag #todayifeelquilt. The threads are generously sponsored by Aurifil Threads.

The quilt is half done now, after writing 1 encapsulating phrase each day for three weeks (has it really been three weeks since I started and since the election?)! It helps that I've been filling in the surrounding negative space every weekend. The project will take me right past my birthday on December 17 - which was completely unintentional, but I'm glad of it!


Week 3 was Thanksgiving week - my favorite holiday. I had a 4 day weekend and spent lots of time with family, friends, and food. It was probably my most "relaxed" week yet.

Today I'll explain how to use thread color to create contrast. As I mentioned in Week 2's post, this quilt is very much a day-to-day experiment. Since I quilt a different phrase each day, I naturally want to change thread colors. Ideally, I'd like each phrase to read on it own. So far, I'm happy with the overall look!

 I love to add details like that little star over the "i." It makes the words even more special.

When I started out, I wanted the color palette to stand out well against purple but also complement it. I've thought of popping in lime green thread a couple of times but it doesn't seem to play well with the other colors. Also, most purples are a no-go because they blend too easily.


When choosing a color to quilt in, I think about what the phrase means to me. Is it a happy, sad, or angry phrase? Whenever I get stuck on a color, I choose light gray (2600) or white (2024). Never underestimate the power of neutrals! Sometimes I simply choose a color because I haven't used it in a while; I look at the words nearby and determine which would highlight it best.

Later this week, I'll post about specifically using different weights of thread to create contrast in a quilt! In next week's wholecloth post, I'll discuss variation in word size. So much to explore on a seemingly simple project!

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