Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Sashiko Addiction: Orange Peel Pillow

Do you remember when you started quilting? The unbridled joy of finishing your first quilt? Stitching that last inch of binding and feeling like you'd conquered the world? Yup, that's how I feel all over again, because the sashiko embroidery bug has bitten me.

What is sashiko, you ask? It's a form of traditional Japanese hand-stitching that one traditionally practices on blue linen with white thread. This Purl Soho article gives a great overview and technique! I've never been much into handwork, but I've long craved a portable activity that doesn't include my machine. I cross-stitch once in a while, but it becomes a huge production (lots of floss colors, pattern, embroidery hoop, etc.), so I don't usually bring it anywhere.

 Various places I worked on this piece throughout the summer - Jersey Shore, Maine, and en route.

But sashiko is easy on my tiny hands (just a running stitch) and can have a gorgeous contrast. Also, you use a whole strand of thread (none of that pesky splitting apart), and the stitches are pre-marked, so there's no squinting for the next cross-stitch hole. I want my portable project to be as easy as possible, and there's something wonderful about a simple stitch.

The main lessons I learned from this first project are: 1. Keep stitches the same length as much as possible (if I so desire - and this was tough as a first timer) and 2. Never let them touch.

Originally, I chose the orange peel design because it's my favorite motif and my logo. It's quite easy to stitch the waves, and eventually the whole project comes to life. Susan Sato, who owns Easy Piecing (where I get all my supplies from - this not a sponsored post, just love her shop!), suggested that I stitch the outer border only when I'm done with the inside. It was like a long victory lap!

When I was done, the soft blue linen was just large enough for a small 12" pillow. I was super inspired by this photo from @cassandra.beaver of her recently finished pillow (I'm not even a huge fan of pink, but WOW, pink and navy!), so I decided to border the pillow with little precious scraps.

Then, in an effort to use up my precious Anna Maria Horner fabrics, I backed the pillow in echinacea (probably my second favorite print ever) and a small piece of Field Study that is now nonexistent in my stash.

This pillow is a happy, welcome sight in my sewing room whenever I walk in, and it's been used a couple of times, too. Plus, it reminds me to take a bit of time away from the computer and machine to work on my next bit of sashiko, which I picked up from Easy Piecing while at PNQE. More on that when I get a bit further! I think I've even decided to add a bit of a running stitch to my latest machine quilting project.

 So, have or will you try sashiko? I think I've convinced my friend Julie to give it a whirl!

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

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza (PNQE) 2016 Recap

Last week, I attended PNQE, a Mancuso quilt show in Oaks, PA. It was about 1.5 hours from my house but it was well worth the trip for three reasons:

1. Modern quilt inspiration!
2. The Mr. attended his first quilt show!
3. My quilt won a ribbon!

More on all of these below.

1.  Mancuso shows traditionally exhibit traditional and art quilts - though their shows have a modern category this year! Well done, Mancuso. Modern quilting is a huge part of the quilting world now! That being said, I wish there had been more entries into the modern quilt category - but I found lots of modern quilting inspiration all over (especially in the gigantic international quilts exhibit).
Top left: "Purples in Africa" by Christine Vlietstra (UK); bottom left: "Sunrise, Sunset" by Heather Bitner (PA, USA); middle: "Ribbon Dance" by Rosemarie Palmer-Sungail (PA, USA), quilted by Cindy Cary; right: "Dream of All" by Harumi Iida (Japan)

Just to be clear: I have never met a quilt I didn't like (because I love quilts), and while I can appreciate traditional quilts, I'm more of a modern traditional/modern gal. So I was pleasantly surprised by the bold colors and modern elements in the exhibit.

Top left: "Colorful Trees and Streets" by Petra van den Daele (Germany); bottom left: "Life Cycle" by Jo Gallaway (UK); middle: "The Chisel Master" by Alison Laurence (NZ); right: "David" by Gilli Theokritoff (UK)

Here were some of my favorites, but it was really impossible to take pictures of them all (that's why quilt shows exist - so we can see everything in person!). I'm particularly fond of well-done quilting (and especially that done by domestic machine) so I tended to go in for up close shots.

The Philly Modern Quilt Guild had a huge exhibit (below), and that was the source of much oohing and aahing from us! I posted larger versions of some of these quilts last week on my Instagram account. It was an amazing show, and I wish we had the time to see it all.
Top left: "Rainbow Quilt" by Anna Levengood; bottom left: "Trees" by Jill Stafford (who I had the pleasure of meeting at the show!); middle: "Ribbon Quilt" by Sarah Bond; right: "Change from Baseline" by Deborah Woodworth

2. Though Mike and I have been together for ten years (say what, has it really been ten years?) and I've been quilting for six, he's never actually been to a quilt show. This is a real shame, since not only did I want to show off my quilt to him, but he's quite the artist himself (he draws amazingly).

He's also developed quite the expertise about quilts and free motion quilting, so we walked through, making comments on stitch length (something he's jokingly particular about since I'm not so much), color combinations, panels that were quilted vs. quilts that were completely pieced, and that sort of thing. He especially ogled over "The Chisel Master" quilt (in the second mosaic featuring the hand). The detail was absolutely stunning!

 "The Chisel Master" by Alison Laurence (NZ)

We also asked someone to take our picture in front of my quilt (the first pic in this post) because the quilt is about our marriage (you can read the story here). All in all, it was a successful day (and we had pizza, so, you know, all was even more excellent).

3. This was my second time entering a juried exhibit. Last time was QuiltCon 2015, when this quilt was automatically accepted in after it was part of the Modern Quilt exhibit at International Quilt Festival. I received some great constructive feedback from QuiltCon: color balance good, work on starts and stops with quilting + stitch length. This time around, my constructive feedback was only about squaring my quilt before binding (which I still haven't found a full proof way to do - anyone have advice on that?).

I found it interesting that the judges didn't make any comment on my stitch length and obvious stops/starts. It goes to show how much feedback can vary from show to show. That being said, I'm determined to enter my more recent works into shows because I've improved so much (still not striving for perfection though! Because it's a quilt. And I'm not perfect. And I'm not a show quilter. :)).

Otherwise, "Home" was praised for having a "mid-century modern" vibe, which is what I won the ribbon (and some prize money!) for. I originally entered it because it was my only quilt that was completely show-ready (the right label and hanging sleeve attached), and because it seemed to fit the theme of "Evolving." Overall, I'm thrilled with the experience and to see it hanging there with so many other gorgeous quilts was a joy.

Strange light in my sewing room this morning, but this is my current mini quilt wall! And yes, I've moved the blog logo quilt over because I need to figure out a better way to hang it on my door.

I'm not a show quilter (I'll say that again and again forever) but I will try to improve my craft. I know I've already improved by miles since I made this quilt in 2014.

In other news, I've just learned that "Soar" and "Deconstructed Churn Dash" (two more recent makes) will be heading to the Modern Quilt exhibit at the Ontario Museum of History and Art in California this winter! All the quilts are based on a modernized traditional block. Now that three of my quilts will have traveled to California (further west than I've been), maybe I should go someday soon? Also, lots of hand-sewing and Poldark are in my future (gotta get those quilt sleeves attached).

Did you attend PNQE? If not, what is your favorite quilt show you've ever attended? I'd have to say QuiltCon 2015 because of the sheer number of modern quilts in 1 room. Inquiring minds would like to know!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Trellis - A Finished Quilt (BQF)

I've been participating in the Blogger's Quilt Festival for 6 years now. I can't believe that! There are less bloggers linking up than in the past, but it's always a great way to view tons of beautiful quilts all at once and never leave your computer or phone. Thank you to Amy for spearheading such an important event in the quilting blogosphere!

Today, I'm finally introducing my quilt, Trellis, which has quite a story and process behind her. She sits riiiight at the edge of the "Small Quilts" category, at 60" square. Similar to my other entry, Metropolis, this quilt was a long-term WIP that really challenged me to develop a myriad of sewing skills further. Apparently, I love a good challenge!

The concept behind Trellis began when I gleefully signed up for Anna Maria Horner's "Mod Corsage" workshop at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, TX. Readers might already know how much I love her fabrics and admire her as an artist and teacher. Anyway, the premise of the class was making tons of different flowers. I learned a lot about fussy cutting, how her fabrics are strategically made, needle-turn applique, and piecing flowers. I wrote more about the class here if you're interested. I ended the day with a bunch of pieced flowers and possible leaves:

My overall concept: the "trellis" that you might see in a garden, holding up flowers that have woven themselves over and through it, is actually invisible. Since that was the image in my head from the beginning, I thought it would serve as a good name. I envisioned a large pieced flower (top left) as the starting point, with all kinds of flowers and leaves growing off of it.

Eventually, I decided to add two black bars on either side of the quilt to suggest a garden gate. Hopefully, the flowers would flow over it! It's abstract but I like the depth it provides. I eventually ran out of steam while machine appliqueing flowers and the quilt became much larger than I originally imagined, but I'm very happy with the final look!

The piecing process was drawn out and interesting, to say the least. My design wall and floor were very handy. Here are some progress shots of lots of low volume, random curves, and partial seams. Just some of the flowers are appliqued; the background is completely pieced. Somehow it all came together over a year and a half; it was frustrating at times and I had to put it away often. I honestly didn't know if it would get finished this year... but it did!

I made bias tape out of an old green AMH print, and it was perfect (see below)! I machine appliqued it all over the quilt, leading to different flowers and sections. That was probably the easiest part! I used my walking foot to quilt an all-over spiral from the top left (where the trellis started) with Aurifil 2024 (white). I felt like it was the only motif that could bring all of the elements of this busy, detailed quilt together, and the white blended perfectly.

 My favorite section of the quilt is the one below, where I appliqued two different colorways of the "Summer Totem" print from Loulouthi (my favorite fabric EVER in the history of the world). This part really conveys the "trellis" image. Plus, the Pride and Prejudice text print in the background (from Ardently Austen) is one of my favorite low volume/text prints!

She's bound in low volume scraps for two major reasons: 1. To avoid detracting from the colors and gate bars and 2. Because I had a ton of scraps!

The backing is a conglomeration of many AMH prints I have hoarded and loved. Since I'm keeping this quilt forever, I figured it was worth using up some large pieces (it was). I'm particularly fond of "Summer Totem" (the large flowery piece on the left - I've always wanted to back something in that print thanks to inspiration from Ashley @wasntquiltinaday, who was in class with me!) and the book-like stacks!

One last picture. I was going to hang it on my sewing room wall but it's way. too. big. I tend to "go big or go home!" Oh well - maybe next sewing room. After a lot of work in so many skill areas, I feel so thrilled and relieved to have completed this thing!

This is my second entry into this fall's Blogger's Quilt Festival. My first entry, Metropolis, is right here! Please enjoy the festival, which has many categories of quilts. Make sure you vote for Viewer's Choice as well!

Past Blogger's Quilt Festival entries:
Fall 2014 (nominated for Viewer's Choice)
Spring 2012 (First Place in Baby Quilt Category)


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Metropolis (BQF)

Three cheers for the Blogger's Quilt Festival once again gracing our screens! It gives us an opportunity to share quilts again that we're extra proud of (and I'll actually introduce one of my newest finishes this week as part of the festival!).

For me, nothing fit the bill better this year than my Metropolis quilt, which I'm entering into the Modern Quilt category. This quilt challenged every part of me throughout the 1.5 years it was made over, from piecing together all the improv piecing to the quilting. You can read the full story here if you'd like, but for now, here are 5 things I appreciate about this quilt:

1. Colors. I started with 2.5" mini charm squares of Carolyn Friedlander's Doe fabric, and pulled colors that are quite unlike my normal color schemes.

2. Layout. As the quilt evolved, it became clear that I didn't want a neutral in the background (why go neutral when you can go full on COLOR?). Forget gray and white - this quilt totally transformed.

3. Piecing. The middle is completely pieced; this was not easy to do but I am so proud of it! "Metropolis" was the first time I really used partial seams, and now I don't hesitate to use them when needed. Learning new skills is always a plus.

4. Quilting. Notice how I didn't say "the quilting process" - because that was the main part I struggled with over about a year! With help and encouragement from lecture attendees and students, I started to see a "city" in the middle of the quilt, and quilted it at varying densities to encapsulate the idea of population density. One day, I finally decided to quilt the "background" with improv-y, wavy lines. I am so glad I did.

5. Photoshoot. I have fond memories of traipsing around New York City with my sister this summer. We took some great shots and got lots of strange looks - but it was sooo worth it. Long ago were the days when we were embarrassed to whip out quilts in public.

Please enjoy the festival, which has many categories of quilts! Make sure you vote for Viewer's Choice as well! Thank you to Amy for hosting and to the festival sponsors for supporting such a wonderful show (and the blogging community).

Past Blogger's Quilt Festival entries:
Fall 2014 (nominated for Viewer's Choice)
Spring 2012 (First Place in Baby Quilt Category)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Star Light, Star Dark QAL: Final Linky Party

Can you believe it? The Star Light, Star Dark Quilt-A-Long is coming to an end. It's been amazing sewing along with you all and seeing your quilts develop! The community on Instagram, in the blog comments, and in the Facebook group has been so helpful and inspiring. Every time I log online, something new pops up! I never could have dreamed that this quilt-a-long would be so successful. Thank you for sharing your talent, advice, and lovely quilts!

I'd like to share my finished quilt (the second one!) - officially called "Ablaze." I quilted this one very in-depth; each large star features a different filler motif, and I used lots of organic lines and swirls to add dimension to different parts of the quilt. Many of the stars look like they pop off the fabric. You can see more close ups on last week's quilting suggestions post, if you're interested!

I used an assortment of Aurifil threads that appears slightly lighter or darker in each color section: 2110 (light yellow), 1135 (yellow), 1133 (bright orange), 2240 (pumpkin orange), 2437 (salmon), and 2250 (red).

I pieced together lots of scraps from the front and a lovely yellow, Sprout Cirrus Solid, for the backing. The minimalist approach and lightening effect made me more happy that I can say. It's totally reversible, bright, and happy.

Quilt backings for the win. They are so much fun!

Look, it's in its forever home now, and I couldn't have planned it better myself (I DID NOT KNOW it would match their room - like, look at that chair!!). This quilt now lives with my aunt, uncle, and family, who just moved to CA. I hoped it would fit in, and I'm happy to say they are thrilled with it!!

If you'd like your quilt to be included in a parade of finished tops and quilts on Oct. 4, please email me or comment on this post to let me know that I can include a picture of your quilt. I will link it to a blog post if you've included it. If you don't tell me, I won't be able to include your quilt (I need your permission). Thanks!


In order to be in the running for prizes, you must link up your finished SLSD quilt top OR finished quilt to the appropriate linky party between now and October 3. Here are the prizes again, so you have some incentive! :D

Linky 1. Baby Quilt Top Only:

1 random winner will win 2 PDF patterns (winner's choice) from Yvonne of Quilting Jet Girl's Craftsy shop!

Linky 2. Finished Baby Quilt (quilted and bound):

1 random winner will win a $25 gift certificate to Sew Me a Song!

Linky 3. Lap Quilt Top Only:

1 random winner will win a complete Aurifil color card with 10 small spools - 50 weight thread collection (Minick and Simpson)!
Linky 4. Lap Quilt Finished (quilted and bound):

1 random winner will win a $50 gift certificate to Fat Quarter Shop! 

1 random winner will win an Aurifil 12 large spool, 40 weight thread collection (Springtime Roses) - ideal for quilting!

ALL winners will win (1) PDF pattern from Myra of Busy Hands Quilts, from her Craftsy pattern shop!

Thank you so much to the generous QAL sponsors for offering these prizes!

I will choose winners using the Random Number Generator and email them, so PLEASE make sure you enter your email address when you link up! If you need help linking up or are unsure how to proceed, please email me your picture before 11:55 pm EST on October 3. You can only win if you are linked up!

Link up your baby quilt top!

Link up your FINISHED baby quilt! (quilted and bound)

Link up your lap quilt top!

Link up your FINISHED lap quilt! (quilted and bound)

Be sure to visit the links to see all the lovely quilts that have been made. So many in-depth explorations of contrast, fabric, and quilting!

Quilt-A-Long Schedule

September 19 - October 3: Final Linky Party - Link up your Finished Quilt! <you are here!
October 4: Winners announced


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