Thursday, August 25, 2016

Starburst: A Mini Quilt

I'm excited to share a small, happy mini quilt with you today!

I knew that I'd be staying at my friend Liz's (@beadqueene) house when I traveled to Maryland for my workshop last weekend, and I wanted to make her a thank you present for hosting me.

She loves mini quilts and bright colors, so I started with the below beautiful plus fabric ("It's A Plus" from Koi by Rashida Coleman-Hale, which I've luckily hoarded, as it's long out of print).  I pulled colors from my fabric stash that matched (or closely complemented) the pluses.

I decided to separate the colors in a star design, and inevitably returned to the amazingness that is the Ribbon Star quilt block tutorial by Faith of Fresh Lemons Quilts. I added the extra HSTs coming off of it to a) showcase more fabrics and b) to mimic my Epic Anna Maria Horner medallion (that's probably my favorite part of that quilt!). I was a little hesitant to use the pluses as the background, but it quickly became clear that the small print would not overwhelm the quilt. In fact, in this case, I'm much happier that I used it instead of a solid!

I used the following Aurifil colors to blend with or slightly pop against the fabric: 1100 (magenta), 2135 (yellow), 2850 (green), 2710 (light blue), and 5004 (dark gray).

Liz saw the sneak peek of the back on Instagram (pictured below) and wanted to know which fabric it was! You guessed it: another Rashida print from her even older Washi fabric line. It just fit!


Upon finishing, I reflected about how awesome it is to make mini quilts. You can try out a big idea on a small scale. You can quilt them really densely without worrying about much wear and tear or washing. You can make something special for someone that takes much less time (and money) than a large quilt. It can be apart of their decor or table or sewing room for years to come! Thumbs up, mini quilts.

I hope this little quilt can find a happy place near X Marks the Spot! Thanks again, Liz, for a super fun weekend!

Linking up to Needle and Thread Thursday, Fabric Tuesday, TGIFF.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Workshop Recap: Waterfall Quilt Class with Baltimore MQG

I'm still recovering from a long weekend in Maryland, where I taught my Waterfall Quilt Workshop to the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild! It was an all-day class and we tackled so many different techniques, including my favorite kind of improvisational piecing (which I call brick-by-brick), bias strip piecing (no applique here!), and intermediate free motion quilting motifs. These ladies were certainly up for the challenge!

 Picture from my hostess and friend Liz @beadqueene

I started off with discussing the original quilts themselves and showing various improvisation examples. Since Baltimore was a few hours drive away, I was able to bring more than enough quilts in my car! I also demoed improv for them using some beloved, fall-like Anna Maria Horner scraps. So, does this mean I've started another quilt? :)

And everyone was off, creating their improv blocks!


Most of the improv from the day in one picture, below! It was so interesting and exciting to see everyone's different fabrics and interpretations. There was lots of time to explore and work with my students one-on-one. As always, I feel like the number 1 topic is color and fabric placement. We all seek opinions on those subjects!

 Close up pics of some blocks:

Top row (left to right): Cindy, Judy; middle: Andee, Phyliss; bottom: Diane, Amy

 The BMQG requested that part of the 6 hour class be devoted to the free motion quilting techniques I used on Emergence and Pebble Cascade. So, we got to work after lunch! I am happy to customize classes to fit the needs and wishes of different groups.

Cindy worked on pebbles:

Liz practiced drawing for awhile before quilting. This one of the ways students can improve their quilting by MILES. I really believe that f you can draw it, you can quilt it!

Here's Amy trying every motif! Wow!

 It was an awesome day, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity. Thank you, Baltimore MQG! I can't wait to see what you make!

P.S. There's the top of that Modern Cathedral Window I was blabbing about last week - I'm planning to quilt it today! Ahh! I'm so excited. Also, I'll be back Thursday night/Friday with a mini quilt to share.

P.S.S. I'm updating my teaching page right now! I just added all the pictures and testimony from BMQG members, and I'm going to be posting several more classes very soon. I'm very excited for all that is coming up.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Star Light, Star Dark QAL: What Is Alternate Gridwork?

Welcome to Post 7 of the Star Light, Star Dark Quilt-A-Long! Today, we're taking a closer look at one mysterious element of modern quilting: alternate gridwork. Let's delve in!

June 26 - October 4, 2016

All info here!

Share your fabric choices and progress!

 Instagram: #starlightstardarkqal

Facebook: Quilty Habit Facebook group

Sponsored by:


First, a preface: everyone has a different definition of what a modern quilt is, and I think that's fantastic. Alternate gridwork is currently part of the Modern Quilt Guild's definition of modern quilting, and I think rightfully so (this doesn't mean a quilt that is modern *has* to have alternate gridwork, though!). I've said it before, and I'll say it again (my humble opinion): alternate gridwork is one of the easiest and clearest ways to modernize a traditional quilt design.

Alternate gridwork (or alternative gridwork - same thing) is a nontraditional quilt layout. Traditionally, quilts are pieced with blocks, in rows and columns. Here's an example of a traditional block layout, like a 3x3 piece of graph paper:

Here's one example of a quilt without a grid (alternate gridwork). Can you tell how I pieced it? No. It has a structure but no clear layout.

 Rainbow Wave (original design; for my niece) 

It's true that the Star Light, Star Dark quilt is laid out in a traditional grid. Can you see it? 2 large blocks across, 3 down. It makes for a nice lap-sized quilt. However...

This quilt allows for many different layout options! You can sew the large piece to the Large Star either on the top and the bottom. You can make 1 or 2 Small Stars. You can place the smaller fabric (below: stars) either on top or below it. That's why I'm describing the SLSD quilt with alternate gridwork in mind; you can alternate the way the blocks look.

One example: the stars have the potential to be offset (like my quilt). Some of the stars float a little higher than others due to the placement of the long strips of fabric. Below, the light blue Small Star is higher than the two dark blue Small Stars.

Here's a look at the differences between my two quilt tops. I purposefully switched the placement of the Small Stars and the long fabric strips (below or above the Large Star)!


Here are two more examples from the QAL, used with permission. I hope they inspire you to play with your layout and consider all options before piecing your top together! The options are truly endless.

Elizabeth (@elizabethkray) is considering this unique layout: switching the placement of the small stars and panels. How unexpected and luminous this quilt will be! I can't wait to see what she chooses.

Yvonne (@quiltingjetgirl) placed the small star panels on top or below the large stars, rather than to the side. How beautiful! It looks like the small ones are shooting stars, zooming from one end of the quilt to the other.

  • To read more of the technical aspects of alternate gridwork, visit the Modern Quilt Guild's post (complete with interactive graphics). This article is by Heather Grant, who also lectures on the topic. I truly appreciate the educational value of the post!

Alright, that's it for this week! Next week I'll provide instructions for putting the top together, and then we'll have even more time set aside before the quilting suggestions post. If you're ahead of the game, feel free to put together your top (some of you have already) and start quilting! Remember, we'd love to see what you're working on - post a picture to the Progress Linky Party and check out all those who have already!

Quilt-A-Long Schedule
August 22: What Is Alternate Gridwork? <<<you are here!
August 29: Piecing the Top Together
September 12: Quilting Suggestions
September 19 - October 3: Final Linky Party - Link up your Finished Quilt - Prizes Up for Grabs!
October 4: Winners announced

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wholecloth Quilt Challenge with Renee

For a while (okay, pretty much since I started free motion quilting four years ago), I've thought about making a wholecloth quilt. Wholecloth quilts, which use just 1 fabric as a background (hence the term "wholecloth"), traditionally feature a ton of quilting. It's a blank slate. A chance to do anything. Absolutely anything! It's a delicious thought.

Renee (@quiltsnfeathers) and I have been casually chatting about making them for at least six months. We both work on the same domestic machine (Janome Memory Craft 6300) and we love quilting on it. I had mentioned to Renee that I planned to start mine in August, but so far, I've been a little daunted to start such a huge and time-consuming project. She said it was time for us to just DO it, and challenged me officially! Now, we'll both make them at the same time across several months and many states (she's in New Mexico and I'm in New Jersey). 

In order to prepare for this challenge, I made a couple of small wholecloth quilts, starting with this sign for my sewing studio! I've always wanted to make one to celebrate my blog, and I don't know why I waited so long!

I used my own technique of "sketch letter quilting" to quilt the letters (similar to my "Winter is Coming" wall-hanging). It involves using a Hera Marker (which I used pretty much every step of the way on this little quilt) and a whole lot of patience. I recorded a little tutorial on Periscope several months ago that no longer exists; I might have to create another one day! Anyway, this method works well for me and I will DEFINITELY be using it for my larger wholecloth quilt, along with cursive letters.

I based the lettering on my blog logo font, Basic Title Font. When my mom saw the quilt, she said, "It looks a lot like the picture on your blog!" At least that translated well! :) But - look how puffy the quilt was before I quilted it to smithereens with my free motion foot!

Ahhh. Much better. My large wholecloth quilt will have a whole lot of texture! Here, I used Aurifil 2024 (white) to fill in the background with wonky lines.


I used a quick cardboard template to trace orange peels onto the quilt (again mimicking my logo, which was designed by my talented sister Marisa!). Then, I quilted over them a few times and filled them in with several Aurifil sunset-themed threads: 2460 (burgundy), 2250 (red), 2240 (orange), 1133 (light orange), 2140 (dark yellow), 2515 (light pink), 4020 (magenta), 120 (blue purple), 2520 (light purple), 4225 (purple), and 1158 (blue gray). I am really, really pleased with how the orange peels came out! I love them more every time I make them (pieced or quilted).

Okay, so back to the challenge. Traditional wholecloth quilts feature a medallion-like design and lots of intricate quilting. I often imagine lots of feathers. I'm aiming to make a "modern" wholecloth quilt, which will be modern on my own terms. It's not going to be completely symmetrical or medallion like. It's going to use tons of different thread colors and weights. It's going to have lots of "modern" free motion motifs and some of my own made up ones. It will have words (which I'm still deciding on - I should have an update by next month). And the background will be a luminous purple, specifically Free Spirit Designer Solid in Plum, which I bought a few months ago from Hawthorne Threads (did you really expect a different color? Because if I can use one background color, why NOT use purple? :) ). Free Spirit solids have a sheen to them and they wash (and quilt) beautifully - that's why they're my favorite. Just passing along my opinion!

Anyway, Renee and I have agreed to check in on our blogs every month about our progress - check out hers here. We'll be posting in-progress peeks on Instagram, too (I started using the hashtag #wholeclothquiltchallenge this week for a couple of sneak peeks... I'll be back to share two other little projects with you soon). Next month, my goal is to have some of the words done on my large wholecloth quilt and an overall plan to share with you. I'm just not there yet! Good ideas come to those who wait, yes?

So, have you ever thought about making a wholecloth quilt? Have you made one already? I'd love to see it and/or read your tips.

One more picture. My little quilt looks great perched on the sewing room door. It greets me every morning! My happy place, now complete.

 Linking up to TGIFF and Needle and Thread Thursday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

WIP: Modern Cathedral Window with Improvisation

Ever since I first made a Cathedral Window mini quilt (Circus Tent - and thank goodness it was mini, because it took forever and tons of fabric!), I've been interested in making more modern versions (like Wanderer). Namely, with bias strip piecing and improvisation, which are the main aspects of my latest workshop offering, the Waterfall Quilt Class. I experimented with the concept for Wanderer, and it reminds me every day how much I enjoyed the process - that one hangs right beside my computer!

I decided that I'd make a larger version of ONE cathedral window shape for my August 20 class with the Baltimore Modern Quilt Guild (which still has a couple of seats, in case you're interested!). I won't finish it in time for the class, but I'll have a top and I'll use it as a future class sample.

I started by piecing together blocks of solids I receive from a solid swap with the Central Jersey MQG late last year. I arranged them vertically in color order and only took a couple out that just didn't seem to work - otherwise, this background is completely from that fabric swap (CJMQG, you rock! I can't believe how well all of our random colors mesh). Also, to begin with the improv look, I sewed them in rows and then just a little "off" when piecing the whole top.

I thought this would be it. You can see that I have my bias strips ready to piece into it. Then, yesterday, 5 days before the class (of course), I decided to make it a little more interesting. I was a bit apprehensive about cutting into it, but it's an easy enough process once you get the hang of it.

I pieced together some solid scraps that were generally in color order, to be spaced out across the quilt. My only stipulation was to sew a thin strip alongside each one. It gives each piece an unexpected dimension (more than just the tinier scraps). Below, you can see what the quilt looked like after piecing in the top left and right middle pieces. I won't apologize for my dim nighttime picture - I was on a creative high at the time and process pics are important! I love that background has so much more depth already here.

 Here was the quilt top this morning, completely pieced together. It needs a really good pressing and a lot of Best Press, but overall, I'm extremely pleased with it. I already pieced in the white bias pieces, but I'll share that with you at a later date. The Baltimore MQG will see it first!

The BEST part about cathedral windows is that they make orange peel shapes. I'm going to quilt it with that in mind, I think. Hmm.


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