Thursday, December 28, 2017

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018!

2017 was an interesting year. Despite world events, I'm much happier than I was at the end of 2016; I think it's because I purposefully focused on self-care this year.

Essentially, I simplified my life. Less deadlines outside of work = less stress. Less blogging and less writing. More reading (and discovering the beauty of audio books!). More trips to the theater. More gym time (though that's gone off the rails the last couple months, as I've been constantly ill). Overall, it was an especially healthier year for my mind.

I always write a post at the end of the year to see how I met my quilting goals, and what I want to pursue next. This post is a really useful way for me to reflect on making.

This year, I finished 17 quilts (4 of which I can't show yet), all of which have linked blog posts on my Portfolio page (though not the top left just yet!). Some of these (namely Fall Spectrum and Today I Feel) are among my top favorite finishes of all time. I forced myself to stretch in a lot of new ways with both piecing and quilting this year (especially free motion writing). Also, I discovered my excitement over making and sharing politically motivated art.

I made a lot of smaller projects this year, too, including mini quilts (always lots of those), pillows, bags, a quilt ladder, and a needle case. Below are some of my favorites!

Here were my 2017 goals:

1. Use my Quilter's Planner to actually plan. This year it dawned on me that I'm just not a planner person (though I used to be in high school!). I didn't keep up with this as I wanted to, but that's okay.

2. Write more. Not sure if I met this one, but I certainly wrote most often in The Wonky Press newsletter, which is now 2.25 years old! Crazy. I did write some blog posts to be proud of though (linked in my recent Best of 2017 list right here). Over 7 years, I'm at 1,009 published blog posts and over 1 million views right now, and I'm pretty proud of that, too! I love blogging!

3. Widen my teaching scope. Definitely taught and lectured more this year. It was busy and very fulfilling. 2018 is lighter so far.

4. Develop a quilt-a-long for summer. I just couldn't make this happen, and I don't regret it at all. But...

5. Develop a quilt-a-long for 2018. Yep!! It's very laid back and most of the work on my end is already done. I hope you'll join my guild for the Modern Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) QAL!

6. Blog at least 2x a week. Most of the time, I did this. Some weeks had 1 post, some weeks had none. I spent that time otherwise engaged and I'm all the better for it. I still love blogging and interacting with you, but it was a lot to handle. And with my "simplify" theme, it just didn't always make the cut!

My 2018 Creative Goals are simple. They are:

1. Finish long-term projects: my Meadow Quilt, Purple Scrap Quilt, and 2015 Bee Quilt. These are at the quilting stage. I'm itching to take one out of the closet right now and get to work. I think I will!

2. Finish my long-term hand-quilting project. I started in the summer and paused for a while, but I think the chill of the next few months will keep me cuddled up on the couch working on it.

3. Knit more and learn how to knit a hat. Scarves are my specialty (I used to knit before I learned to quilt), and I'm just tip-toeing my way through my first cables, so there's a lot of fun to be had here (thanks to my teacher, Marika!). I've already found that knitting a couple rows can totally relax me.

4. Bake more. With my new KitchenAid mixer (for which I spent several years quietly price-watching from afar), I've been baking so much! The above cake is from my new Hershey recipe book (basically fudge cake with homemade coffee icing. YUM!). It just makes me happy.

5. Sew more clothes. I'm starting with the Peg Leg legging pattern by Patterns for Pirates and the Suki Kimono by Helen's Closet. It's been a couple years since I made my last garment. Yaaaay.

I'm not going to set any distinct blogging or writing goals. That feels great. :)

So, what's your top creative goal for 2018? I'd love to hear about it! Here's to a new year.

Linking up to:

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Best of 2017

Recently, I realized (with a shock) that I've blogged 1,007 blog posts and reached just over 1,000,000 views! In 7 years, that's pretty cool! Though I blogged markedly less this year, there are a few posts I'm really happy with (and some created some awesome discussions). Thanks to Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs for opening up a linky party to share our favorites.

5 Favorite Posts

5 Favorite Projects

I'd love to know what your favorite project (or post) of the year was! 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Handmade Holidays 2017

Every year, I try to make gifts for the holidays. It has been overwhelming in the past, but I've figured out that if I start in October or early November, I can usually give out about half of my gifts handmade. This year I made less than usual but they are good ones!

It's my personal goal to make all of my (6, soon to be 7) nieces and nephews a memorable sewn gift every year. They get so many gifts for the holidays (and the couple December babies, like me, are getting gifts all month) so I really try hard to think of something unique and special.

I've done so many different gifts now (my oldest nieces just turned 10 and I've been a part of their lives since they were born), but these personalized drawstring backpacks are amongst my favorites. I attached a note to each one and filled them with little goodies to unwrap (mostly creative stuff). Each bag has specific fabric tailored to each kid, plus their initial. :) I used a great tutorial over at Sew Can She to whip these out in a day at our guild's November sewing retreat. I hope they can and will use them for many years!

I made potholders with Insul-Bright for the first time - these were fun to make and also a great way to use up holiday fabric scraps. There are two layers of Insul-Bright for stability. I hope the recipients can use them in their holiday decor next year!

I also made a couple knit infinity scarves for special coworkers using this tutorial from Sew4Home (the tutorial uses voile but it's even easier with knit - less pressing needed!). They are so warm (I had to test them, after all) that I want to make myself one sometime.

I also made a quilt for a family member, but more on that later in the week! Did you make any gifts this year?

P.S. Blog business: lately, I've seen a huge upswing in spam comments, so I've changed commenting (registered users including OpenID, and I'll try out comment moderation). It was getting really overwhelming, and hopefully this helps so that all who want to comment will get theirs through, and others won't. Thank you!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Modern FMQ QAL - Details!

I'm so excited to share a project I've been working on for my guild, the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild - the Modern FMQ QAL! I hope you'll consider joining in with this laid back challenge for all skill levels! We'll be quilting all of 2018.

Each month, I'll reveal a theme (January is "loops") and providing links to wonderful, free tutorials from talented online quilt instructors. You will "choose your own adventure" (or FMQ quilting level) to pick a tutorial to try. Practice, quilt up a quilt sandwich, and then join all the sandwiches together at the end of your year with Quilt-As-You-Go techniques.

While only CJMQG members are in the running to win prizes at meetings (pending our new board's approval and budget), you will have a beautiful quilt in the end, and you can share your progress on the hashtags: #modernfmqqal and #cjmqg

Here's my first month's quilt sandwich - using the following tutorials:
It was so much fun! I'm using a group of jewel toned solids from my stash for the front (so I can see my quilting) and Anna Maria Horner prints for the back. Also, contrasting thread is important to use - otherwise, I wouldn't be able to see what I was doing! So, I grabbed my Aurifil white (2024) and Fuchsia (4020). Texture is my favorite.

I hadn't really quilted either of these motifs before, and it was fun to change up the scale of my arches. For my quilt, I'll sometimes quilt multiple motifs per quilt sandwich, but for the challenge, you only have to choose one. 

The sky is the limit; I'm providing some direction each month, but you can choose do you whatever you want within the month's theme. You could even create placemats or tote bags or something altogether different with your quilt sandwiches. I can't wait to see what my quilt looks like in the end, and how much I improve!

The official description is below. You can read more, including my list of FMQ Resources and Reminders (and books/classes to buy and support FMQ teachers) and Fabric Requirements, Tools, and How To Make a Quilt Sandwich at the official QAL page. I'll be sharing my progress here on the blog monthly and on Instagram, too!

How it works

  • Choose your current level of machine quilting skill (beginner, intermediate, expert)
  • Gather your fabric (I recommend solids for the front) and prepare your squares for the year (or as you go each month - you decide)
  • The monthly theme will be revealed at the CJMQG meeting live, and on this page the day after (also accessible on the top tabs of the main CJMQG page)
  • Quilt a quilt sandwich in your chosen motif, related to the theme. Themes will be introduced for 10 months (Jan. - Oct.). You do not have to quilt the suggested tutorials - just stay within the theme.
  • DO NOT trim the blocks! This will be done at the end of the year during QAYG (quilt as you go) and will help keep your stitches intact if they are stored or moved.
  • Share your quilted block at the next month's guild meeting and share on Instagram with the hashtags #modernfmqqal and #cjmqg 

So, are you up for the challenge? Will you join us? Let me know and feel free to post your January progress on Instagram!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Map of Prague: A Finished Quilt

Finishing this quilt was a really happy moment; it's a culmination of 2017, and until it was hung up on a wall, the year didn't seem complete. I became spellbound by the city of Prague during my visit to the Czech Republic in 2011, so this quilt holds a lot of meaning for that reason, too.

Timna Tarr, who taught a class for the North Jersey MQG, asked us each to bring a map (I blogged about the class and the beginning of the process here). I purchased a "DestinationMap" of Prague by National Geographic and based the quilt very loosely off of it (copyright 2014 by National Geographic Maps). After enlarging the map itself, I made some sections slightly bigger or smaller to surround the most major streets in Prague. I decided not to include all the very small streets that intersect the city.

Thanks to Timna and her guidance, I learned techniques for making map quilts. More specifically, I became intimately acquainted with using Heat 'n Bond Lite. My goal was to highlight various sections of the middle of Prague with different colors. This important part of the city surrounds the Vltava River (which, according to Wikipedia, runs under 18 bridges!). Six of the bridges made it into the quilt, as a matter of fact.

Orange: Jewish Quarter; red: Old Town (where we spent a lot of time on our trip). I specifically chose and fussy-cut saturated colors with a bohemian feel, and spent lots of time deciding where each one would end up. I only had a scrap of that rose fabric, and it fit perfectly!

The quilt seemed to ask for echo quilting with my free motion foot. This technique emphasized each unique shape. With a good audiobook to listen to and zen out with, it took a month or so of on again, off again work. The river itself was really easy and fun to quilt with waves.

I used several different colors of Aurifil thread to blend with the color sections, trusting that the texture would be the star (2250 Red, 1133 Burnt Orange, 4012 Copper Brown, 1320 Medium Teal, 4225 Eggplant, 1148 Light Jade, and 2024 White). I talked more about my quilting decisions for this quilt here.

Purple: the castle area (purple for royalty); purple/pink: "Lesser Town" and Petrin Park

I was really pleased with the results of echo quilting on the back! Texture won! Not that I'll see it much, but it makes me happy. And that's what matters, right? This fabric is "Painted Pottery" by Carrie Bloomston.

The map was one of the last pieces I planned to hang in our apartment! I love how it looks in our living area. You can even see it when you walk in the front door. The quilt that my guild gifted me (which I use pretty much every day) matches well. One might think these were my colors or something. :)

Here are some pictures of my trip to Prague, which I still think about quite often. It's funny; there are so many places in the world I'd like to visit, but some of those I've already been to (Prague and Berlin) are high up on the list. There's something about those cities. I've even made two other quilts inspired by Prague {here} {here}.

So, have you made a map quilt? Would you like to in the future? What place inspires you?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Teaching at Quilt and Sewing Fest of NJ

I'm excited to announce that I'll be teaching at The Quilt and Sewing Fest of NJ for a second time. In the debut of my brand new quilting class, we'll explore free motion quilting with a modern twist. Bring your sewing machine!

Detail of "Emergence"

"Cascade Free Motion: Modern Alternatives to Feather Quilting" is a confident beginner/intermediate exploration of how the movement of quilting can impact a quilt. I've been making quilts with these motifs for a few years, and I'll also be sharing some of the quilting I did on some quilts not yet shown in public. Now is the time to register for the class (Saturday, April 28 from 9am-4pm)!

 Detail of "Pebble Cascade"

This class is also available to shows, retreats and other guilds. Please contact me for details.

Also, please be aware that the quilt show is in a new location this year (Edison, NJ instead of Somerset, NJ) and that the dates are later (April 26-29). I can't wait! Hope you can join me!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pumpkin Pie: A Modern Maples Quilt

All quilts have stories. I think my favorite ones are those that involve other people. When I make a quilt for someone, I think about that person every step of the way - from the fabric colors, to the design, to the layout (symmetry or asymmetry?), to the quilting (will they probably use it to cuddle with, or hang it on a wall?).

This fall, I decided to make a quilt for my mom's birthday gift. Mind you, I've already made two other quilts for her, but this was different. Recently, when my husband and I moved, we took almost all of the quilts. At the season changed, Mom openly lamented that she no longer had a fall themed quilt to display (Pumpkin Spice Latte, which will always, always, always be mine). And fall quilts are special.

Then, it became clear that my parents were really selling the house I grew up in and moving far away down south (the house sold in three days). My mom's birthday was coming up, so wouldn't it be great if she could take a little bit of New Jersey with her, to display when fall comes around again next year?

So, making this particular quilt was full of mom thoughts and house thoughts. It was about memories of moving in 19 years ago on Halloween. I was in elementary school. I'll never forget the first night I slept in my new room; the moon was so bright and we had no blinds or curtains up yet, so I just lay there watching and thinking.

I thought about all the quilt photoshoots over 7 years at my parents' house (in fact, that's the place I learned how to quilt. At that dining room table, which just sold).

This quilt is about 17 or so Thanksgivings that my mom hosted in our house, with my dad's whole side of the family, and it's about the pumpkin pie she makes for my Grandpa every year (ironically, I ran the sugar over to her house this year for that pie!). Hence the name of the quilt.

It's bittersweet. I'm happy for my parents and their new phase in life, but I'm also sad that I won't be able to visit so easily. I realize lots of people live far away from their parents, and I've been lucky to have close proximity for so long, but change is strange.

I completely surprised my mom with this quilt on her birthday. It was so worth the rush to get that reaction. And then I took this last picture on Thanksgiving, in their almost-empty family room.

Quilt Stats:
  • Modern Maple Quilt with improvisational elements, bits of negative space, and gradation in background and leaf color 
  • Made entirely by me from October to November 2017 
  • Quilted on my domestic machine with Aurifil 4060 (Silver Moon variegated gray 40 weight) and Aurifil 2605 (Gray 50 weight) - woodgrain motif
  • I also blogged about the process here ("Marrying Modern and Traditional")

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

    Monday, November 27, 2017

    Considerations for piecing scrappy quilts

    The best part of piecing a quilt, for me, is figuring out which fabrics go where. Sometimes it's a vague plan instead of a precise one; an element of improvisation is exciting. For example, when I made my fall landscape quilt, I pieced together blocks by color, not knowing exactly where they would end up.

    This year, I'm making one big quilt to give at Christmas (obviously I won't reveal the recipient just yet), and the design is 6 huge bear paw blocks (similar to my Star Light, Star Dark layout). Big blocks are awesome, so I'm using this tutorial by Jeni Baker (why do the quilt math when you find what you need?). That's a lot of half square triangles!

    Going into this quilt, I needed to have contrasting values in brown, green, and blue - you can see my general plan above. The contrast in each block needs to be enough to let the bear paw design shine through. This took a lot of scavenging and planning within my scraps and fabric stash. Of course, scrappy quilts naturally breed more scraps... so I wouldn't say this was a scrap buster!

    Over the last couple of years, my fabric buying has shifted greatly. Not only am I buying much less than I used to; I'm also only buying colors or shades that I need for a project or gaping hole in my fabric stash. Recently, I realized that I've shied away from using fabrics with a white design on a saturated background and now prefer fabrics that are truly tone-on-tone (like, a darker red motif on a lighter red fabric). These fabrics best help me create original designs that showcase the design, not the fabric itself.

    Anyway, throughout the process of making this quilt so far, I came to a few roadblocks. First, I had to avoid any fabric with a lot of white in it. I realized that the white was overtaking my fabric choices (the contrast of the main colors is the main element of these blocks).

    The "x" fabric from Cotton + Steel and stringy white fabric (bottom right) by Karen Lewis Textiles were just the perfect amount of white for this block. The color doesn't overwhelm the overall design.

    Second, I simply did not have enough brown fabric. It's been really hard to find modern brown fabrics - saturated, not too dingy, dark, or muted, and featuring some kind of not-too-overpowering design. My dear guild friend Laura @drlbennett graciously offered up some woodgrain fabrics to mix into my brown blocks (after all, I want the bear paws to be scrappy).

    Third, I was nearly out of navy blues, thanks to recently finishing my modernized double wedding ring quilt. This was less of a conundrum, as navy blues are really easy to find! So I went shopping. :)

    All in all, if you're looking for some special scraps to use, I would recommend talking to your guild mates or online buddies. Quilters are always willing to help out (especially with scraps, I've found!). Don't be afraid to cut into yardage, either. There's a reason you have that fabric, and it might just be to use a little piece (for now!).

    Wednesday, November 22, 2017

    Belle: A Disney Mini Quilt

    This is the fourth year I've made a Disney-themed mini quilt for my little sister. It's a special year because she's finally turned 21 - the last person in the whole family to do so!

     "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere..."

    This year, I chose the original cartoon Beauty and the Beast for a couple of reasons (and specifically the scene in the opening song reprise of "Belle," when she emerges onto a scenic meadow in the midst of fall and dandelions). This year, the live action movie came out with Emma Watson, and we both enjoyed seeing it together. Plus, my sister is getting ready to graduate from college (next year!) and I thought this scene was particularly poignant.

    The video of this scene is only a minute long and it's right here on YouTube! I was inspired by the scenery from :26 on. Here's a screenshot of the meadow from the movie (I changed the point of view for the quilt).

    Belle sings:
    I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, 
    I want it more than I can tell.
    And for once, it might be grand
    To have someone understand
    I want so much more than they've got planned...

    I quilted the first line of that scene right above Belle with several stitchings of Aurifil 2024 (white), similar to the other quilts.

    Originally, I considered recreating the famous ballroom scene, where Belle and the Beast dance together for the first time. This created two problems: 1. I'd have to recreate the Beast with fabric, and I wasn't up to that particular challenge and 2. All the quilts have been female-centric for a reason. The scene I chose seemed much more appropriate.

     Quilt in progress - creating the women themselves always takes a bit of planning!

    I gladly took a bit of artistic license; for example, the Beast's castle sits in the distance to hint at the upcoming adventure, and I added a growing rose bush to the bottom left corner because... well, have you seen the movie?... roses are an important part of the later plot. This was really fun to free motion quilt in black and then applique. There are also a few trees featuring rose fabric. Sneaky.

    Even though I love making these minis, I asked her if she still wanted me to continue the series after 3. Her response was to give me a list of at least 5 Disney movies. Good thing she has me! :)

     And here are the other three I've made and their accompanying blog posts: Frozen, The Little Mermaid, and Tangled. I can't wait to see this new one next to the others, and I'm already scheming for next year!

     Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow American friends! It's my favorite holiday. :)



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