Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sewing on Display + Design Wall Construction

Earlier this month, I was invited to sew in public for the third year in a row at my community's Day of the Arts celebration. Readers might remember last year when I led a community quilt project. This year, I was asked to demo and lead an activity.

The kids were so interested in my sewing machine and what I was working on. Those who had never seen a sewing machine in use loved watching the pedal and the needle. Also, everyone wanted to know why I was wearing gloves! At the time, I was quilting my now-finished Epic Medallion quilt because I had an ever-coveted two table setup. These well-loved Machingers gloves really helped me keep a grip on this heavy quilt.

For the activity, I set up a Community Design Wall with two large design walls and buckets of scraps. Throughout the day, I encouraged kids walking by to stop and add to the design wall. Some only added a couple of pieces, while others went to town! We chatted about fitting fabrics together, matching/clashing colors, and seeing exciting prints (like animals, interesting stripes, etc.).

Kids are so much more creative than we sometimes give them credit for, especially in this world of standardized testing and resume-cramming. Just like us adult quilters, kids are fascinated by fabric and color, too!

The boards are larger than they look - 45" x 48" each! Constructing them was simple enough, but interesting for sure. I bought a 1" thick foam insulation board from Home Depot. Seeing me carry it across the parking lot would have been worthy of an episode of America's Funniest Videos, because of course, it was the windiest day of the year yet! You would think something so large would be difficult to get carried away in the wind (it didn't actually happen but it was a close call).

I was also falsely confident that it would fit in my large car. A very helpful Good Samaritan saw me struggling, so he volunteered to cut it with his pocket knife. Luckily, all was well after that. Be aware that you will want an extra person around to help you with foam boards! I learned that first hand. :)

I want these boards to last for years to come (hopefully I'll be invited back next year!), so I purchased Kaffe Fasset's Design Wall Flannel in Gray. It's the perfect color for a design wall (neutral and not too bright) and the gridded lines are so useful. However, the flannel stretches a lot, so it was difficult to line up the grid when piecing it together (I didn't cut the boards to fit the fabric, because I wanted them to be as large as possible). It doesn't make much of a difference to me now, and I'm pleased with how they came out. I also used a staple gun for the first time to attached the flannel to the boards. WIN!

Above is my 2nd Sisterhood of the Traveling Quilts bee quilt blocks returned - thanks to the lovely Renee @quiltnfeathers, Michelle @ml_wilkie, Ashley @wasntquiltinaday, and Laura @littleandlots! I am so excited to put it together - this curve-themed quilt will be one of my projects at the upcoming Mid-Atlantic MOD quilting retreat. In any case, the design walls will be put to good use until they are needed by the community again!

All in all, it was a successful venture. Thank you to the Lopatcong PTA and the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission for their generous support!

I'd love to know... have you constructed your own design wall? How did you do it? There are a lot of tutorials out there and I'm curious what has worked for you. I'm still using batting on the wall as a design wall, plus these two!

P.S. Don't forget to check your inbox for the next issue of The Wonky Press, due out on Friday morning!

Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 Paintbrush Studio New Block Blog Hop

Welcome to the New Block Blog Hop, sponsored by Paintbrush Studio! This is the second annual event, and all the bloggers involved are using Painter's Palette Solids. The chosen palette, Ocean Sunrise, is stunning, and I can say from experience that these fabrics have a beautiful, smooth hand!

Thank you to Paintbrush Studio and our hosts Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl, Cheryl @Meadow Mist Designs, and Stephanie @Late Night Quilter for their hard work in making this blog hop run smoothly!

I'm Jess, and I typically make quilts using improvisational techniques. Whenever I create a block tutorial, I err on the simple side because I prefer modern design and minimalism. When you put minimalistic blocks together, you can create an overall design that is visually pleasing (with little effort)! It's freeing and exciting to let a simple block take over.

Just like my block from last year (the wonky diamond/thread block), this quilt block can be altered in a thousand ways, which I'll share some of below!

 Strippy Sunrise Quilt Block

For this block, I used 5 of the 6 fabrics in the palette (no white). You'll use the most of your chosen background color, so choose wisely! Here, I wanted the block to look like an abstract version of the sun rising (the tan is the sun, and it gets lighter as it rises into the night - almost day - sky).

Note: All seams are a scant 1/4 inch. See here to read more about scant quarter inches.
Block will be 12.5" square unfinished.

Cut (from a fat quarter):
(1) - Peach - 1.75" by 18"
(1) - Pink ("Coral") - 1.25" x 18"
(1) - Burgundy ("Bordeaux")- 1.75" x 18"
(1) - Light blue ("Daydream") - 1.25" x 18"

Subcut from those strips:
(1) - Peach - 1.75" x 9.75"
*(1) - Pink - 1.25" x 9"*
*(1) - Burgundy - 1.75" x 8.25"
(1) - Light Blue - 1.25" x 10.75"

*The leftovers for Pink and Burgundy can be used to make another block! You could also sew strips of Peach and Light Blue together for subsequent blocks. No one will notice the seams. Use your fabric up! Be aware that you will need more fabric to make a whole quilt of these blocks, especially of the background color.

                                   Original strips before subcutting

Cut - Background color (Dark Blue or "Midnight"):
(1) - 1.75" x 18"
(1) - 1.25" x 18"
(1) - 8.5" x 12.5"

Subcut (from the first two strips only):
(1) - 1.75" x 3.25" (matches with Peach subcut piece)
(1) - 1.75" x 4.75" (matches with Burgundy)
(1) - 1.25" x 4" (matches with Pink)
(1) - 1.25" x 2.25" (matches with Light Blue)

1. Lay our your strips to determine your color order, and alternate the side Dark Blue sits on.

                                 From top: Light Blue, Burgundy, Pink, and Peach.

2. Sew your small dark blue pieces to your colored strips. It doesn't matter what side you sew the strips to because you can just flip them around. See second subcut chart above for which dark blue pieces go with which color.

3. Press seams open. 

4. Sew all rows together. Your finished sunrise piece should come out to 4.5" x 12.5". 

5. Sew a large background strip 8.5" x 12.5" to the top of the light blue piece. 

6. Press all seams open. Your block is complete!

 Block Options

There are tons of options for this block. You can simply alter the order in which the strips are pieced together to create a different look. You could create less negative space in the background and instead piece together two strippy parts (one on top, one on the bottom).

You could also change the strip sizes (go even smaller or larger), or alter how far horizontally the sunset strips reach. You could even go wonky. This block takes very little fabric to make, so go wild with it!

Here's a traditional layout of the quilt block - look at all that fun negative space for quilting! This would measure 36.5 x 48.5 - perfect for a graphic, modern baby quilt.

Here's a unique one - turn the block at random! You could make 12 blocks just like above and have fun making combinations. This one has a distinct improvisational log cabin feel to me. If I was to make this block into a quilt, I think I'd make it like this!

Don't forget to pop around and check out all of the other FREE tutorials for today! There will be many more on Tuesday and Wednesday - 40 overall! - check the main blog hop post here for more info. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

P.S. - If you want to hear more from me, you can follow the blog (I blog 3-5 times a week about works in progress, topics related to modern quilting and community, and finishes), and sign up to receive my bi-monthly modern quilting newsletter, The Wonky Press. The next issue comes out on April 1 and now reaches over 1,000 readers! :)

2016 Paintbrush Studio New Block Blog Hop

Monday, March 28

Host: Yvonne @Quilting Jetgirl
Jess @Quilty Habit (<<<<<you are here!)
Silvia @A Stranger View
Cristy @Love You Sew
Kelly @Quilting It Out
Renee @Quilts of a Feather
Bernie @Needle and Foot
Terri Ann @Childlike Fascination
Chelsea @Patch the Giraffe
Mary @Quilting is in my Blood
Diana @Red Delicious Life
Sarah @123 Quilt

Friday, March 25, 2016

Thoughts On Quilt Guild Leadership

This post features a quilt that was made FOR ME (I still can't believe it) by my guild, using scrappy improv and my favorite colors. Rows were made by guild members and the whole thing was sewn together and quilted beautifully by my partner-in-crime, Jessica Levitt (@jtlevitt). It was a surprise for me at our March meeting. Thank you, friends, for a gift I will treasure forever. It is absolutely stunning and I use it every day!!


Many of you may know that I recently stepped down from leading my local Modern Quilt Guild, the Central Jersey MQG. Our founder, Jessica Levitt, handed the presidential reins over to me after two years, so it only made sense for me to do the same after 2 years. A bit like good old George Washington, if you will. New blood is good, and quite frankly, I need a break.

Why/how did I become involved in guild leadership? Well, I love and live to lead, teach, and volunteer. There was an opening and I went for it. I became the Webmaster, which is a President-appointed position, after 1 year of joining the guild. I was/am skilled with Blogger and social media, and no one else had volunteered. I ended up keeping the Webmaster position for three years - throughout my year as Vice President and 2 years as President. Being the Webmaster and President at the same time was its own unique workload, but it made sense to me often times. This year, our new President and Webmaster are separate positions again, and I think it's for the best. Plus, the two people who now inhabit those positions, Neva and Maggie, are rock stars!

What are the perks of volunteering to lead within a quilt guild? There are many. Getting to know nearly everyone in our 60-member guild by name. Leading meetings and crafting a year (or two) of monthly programming. Scheduling speakers and workshop teachers, sharing meals with them, and driving them around. Developing people and online management skills further. Making executive decisions for the good of the guild. Being the spokesperson for the guild within our state and the international MQG. Speaking with guests and meeting visitors who are thrilled to be there. Working with an executive board of passionate, hard-working, quilt-loving friends. Spreading a love for modern quilting.

Label on the back + signatures. The rainbow coincides with the front!! 

 Kristina, that little heart face gets me every time!

It's also difficult at times. Keeping up with emails from members and guests weekly was a lot of work on top of my personal blog emails and general social media presence. I oversaw and led retreat and workshop planning, inter-guild gifts, QuiltCon charity quilt making, guild banner making, 2 quilt show preparations, and more.

Additionally, our guild meetings are VERY involved (but of course, a blast); guests often told me they couldn't believe how much we had going on. For example, you could expect to hear about business, member announcements, recaps and comments about recently attended quilting events, our guild bee (now three years running), the annual guild quilt-a-long, a challenge at every meeting (including the international MQG challenges), a swap at most, a 10-15 minute demo, and show and tell. Phew! When you only meet once a month, there's a lot to do!

After my first year as President, I realized that we needed a better way to communicate business, so I developed the guild newsletter. Anyone can sign up to receive it on the top left sidebar of our guild site. I always sent it out the first week of the month, so that members had time to read it before our meeting on the second Tuesday. Working with MailChimp for the first time was a huge learning curve, but I learned to love it, which is one reason why I developed my own bi-monthly modern quilting newsletter, The Wonky Press, last October.

So, in case you're wondering if you should help lead your guild - yes! You should! It will certainly change you. This is the fifth year of our guild, and I've already been blessed with a transformative experience. I just want to thank everyone from the guild for allowing me to be a part of the guild in this way! I wrote a message in our leadership goodbye post, and I'm reposting it here in case there are more guild members reading this:

I'd personally like to thank all of you for your continued support of the guild and my own quilting. I never thought that I would be in the position of guild president when I joined four years ago as a very intimidated college student (you are all STUNNINGLY talented!). You have become friends and loyal comrades, and it feels like coming home whenever we have a guild meeting or event! Thank you for making all of it worthwhile. I'll still be around, but you can look towards the back of the room instead, where the old board will surely be cackling like Statler and Waldorf.



I did promise that my Dad would reappear soon...

Linking up to Fabric Tuesday, Needle and Thread Thursday
This is also a finish for my guild, so I'm linking up to TGIFF and Crazy Mom Quilts. :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

WIP Wednesday

Apparently, ending a huge project inspired me work on/start a bunch of little ones.

I shared the start of my rainbow mini quilt for Mid-Atlantic Mod last week. I'm so excited to bind this baby and give it away! I don't do a lot of straight matchstick quilting (very close lines) but the design called for it. Plus, I had visions of rainbows of Aurifil thread shining on the white fabric. I have some cool in process pictures that I'll share when it's done (they show too much of the design). By the way... if you guessed that I'm using orange peels, you're right!

In other news, I've started ANOTHER orange peel quilt. Shocking, right? I posted four layouts on Instagram, and almost everyone agreed on this design. The quilting is so much fun, and I can't wait to share more soon. This is for the Quilt Alliance's annual fundraiser/contest with the theme "Playing Favorites" this year. Your 16x16" quilt is donated to the Quilt Alliance, exhibited, raffled off, and documented in the Quilt Index. Click here to read more.

This fabric pull is for a new class sample for one of my next classes in development. The inaugural class is going to be held at a guild this summer (details tentative, but hopefully it will be finalized soon!). Those Lizzy House butterflies have SO many amazing colors!

Finally, I finished my block for the Paintbrush Studio New Block Blog Hop. Pop back on Monday to see this one and all the others! This is just the first stage of making the block. :)

See you on Friday for some thoughts on quilt guild leadership and a special gift I recently received.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Epic Anna Maria Horner Medallion: A Finished Quilt (At Long Last)

Finishing a special quilt that's been in progress for years is one of the best feelings.  The only other quilt that compares for me is Dresden Rainbow, our wedding quilt! This quilt is the one I infamously placed in time out 2 years ago, so it's especially exciting to see it finished.

I started this medallion quilt in January 2014 in an attempt to use some of my voluminous Anna Maria Horner fabric stash. It's difficult to explain how thrilled I was to see the above photo! It's done, it's really done!!

Here's the original sketch. The medallion is my original design, except for the very middle block (Ribbon Star by Fresh Lemons Quilts) and feathers (Feather Bed Pattern by Anna Maria Horner). The design morphed a lot as I went. I enjoyed making it up as I went and measuring only when I needed to. As you can see, I originally wanted orange peels in the middle (which I completely forgot about until seeing this again today!). Ironically, this was months before I even made my first orange peel quilt.

I realize now, looking back, I let pretty fabric do the talking as I went on (more so than a complicated design and/or tiny piecing). Color was the main focus. You're probably noticing that I didn't just use AMH fabric throughout; I focused on fabric I loved that would make a statement. Medallion quilts, to me, are all about contrast between each border.

With a picture this size, you can see the contrast and the rainbow pattern even more! I'm glad my friend Jess (@jtlevitt) convinced me to add a 1 inch white border before the plus blocks - it really pops!

On the last border, I quilted the wonky piano keys differently: the warm colors have wonky matchstick straight lines, and the cool colors have a braided motif. This helped break up the monotony of quilting straight lines the whole way! And of course, orange peels for the x plus blocks. Because orange peels are my favorite!

I documented the rest of the quilting on this blog post and on Instagram (#epicmedallionjs). It was a monumental effort to free motion quilt this on my home machine, but it got easier on each border further from the center. My arms felt like jelly! I'm used to quilting large quilts on my domestic machine but I knew from the beginning that this one, a queen sized quilt with a large overhang, was going to be a challenge. 

I posted this picture before but it's worth posting again. At least quilting "the beast" kept me occupied while many of my sewing friends were at QuiltCon in Pasadena!

One of my favorite little details: quilting echoed flying geese in that very first border around the ribbon star.

I used various shades of Aurifil 50 weight thread throughout the quilt, including my favorite #2600 (Dove gray), #2605 (Gray), and #2024 (White). I changed it up depending the border; very saturated borders often got quilted in dark gray, while lighter borders received dove gray or white. Sometimes I like to be a rebel (because apparently you're *supposed* to match threads) and quilt light thread on dark fabric. I want all my hard work to show, and I'm not afraid! :)

 Quiltnado and lots of different thread colors.

Originally, I planned on binding the quilt with a dark frame (like a solid teal, black, or dark gray). I'm thrilled that I went with this heart print by Anna Maria because now the last border, the wonky piano keys, act like a frame instead (since the print doesn't overwhelm). Thanks to Liz (@beadqueene) for helping so much with this very important decision!

I backed the quilt in flannel because the most comfy quilt I've ever made, my husband's Doctor Who quilt, was backed similarly. Easy decision. And, in case you are wondering, it's NOT more difficult to free motion quilt with flannel backing on your domestic machine. Make sure you prewash and then go for it! One more thing: most of the backing is the Echinacea print in Boost from Anna Maria. It's one of my favorite prints of hers (maybe my favorite ever), and other colorways of the echinacea snuck their way into the piano keys. :)


It's finally on our bed! Mike was more than thrilled that this quilt would actually cover all of it and more. Apparently I'm a cover hog, so there you go. :)

This photoshoot required three people (two people to hold the quilt, because MAN is it heavy, between the size, flannel, and all the quilting!). My dad couldn't resist being his silly self and Mike apparently couldn't resist snapping this pic. When I saw it in the group of photos, I knew you guys would enjoy seeing it. :) You've seen his antics before, after all. There's another great photo from this day and another quilt, but I'll save that for another day. :)

So, overall, you should go make THAT epic quilt. Yes, that one, with your prized fabric collection. Because IT WILL BE EPIC and you will enjoy it forever!

Read more about this quilt:


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