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. :)


    Tuesday, November 14, 2017

    Patriotically Resisting: A Mini Quilt and Auction

    When I heard that the Quilt Alliance mini quilt contest and auction theme was "Voices," I was inspired to create yet another politics-related quilt (because I firmly believe that a quilt's place is in politics).

    Artist Statement: "In the aftermath of the 2016 election, I felt frustrated by insinuations that those who don't trust or believe in President Trump are unpatriotic. In fact, my love for my country inspires me to resist against forces that threaten it. I decided to shout this to the world accompanied by a patriotic pussyhat, a symbol of the most empowering day of my life so far, the Women's March (1/21/17)."


    For the flag, I used a fantastic Cotton + Steel print that showcases state names. I decided to hand quilt the stars for extra texture and emphasis. Finally, I quilted the words and densely quilted the background with a fabulous dark purple thread, Aurifil 1200 (blue violet). This quilt was really inspiring to make, and I'm so glad to share it with someone else now!

    The quilt is currently on auction with the Quilt Alliance until November 20 (#38 at this link) - please consider supporting this wonderful nonprofit organization by bidding on a mini quilt. And if you bid on mine, I hope it encourages you to keep fighting for the America you believe in (and also of the power we the people have in this fight - which also showed its face in last week's elections! Yeah!!).


    Friday, November 3, 2017

    Modernized Double Wedding Ring: A Finished Quilt

    When I set out to make a quilt for my sister-in-law and her new wife, who have been together for 10 years, my goal was to commemorate the long-awaited wedding event itself. It was such a special day for the couple and family, and we were fortunate enough to be able to attend a few weeks ago!


    This is my simplified version of the traditional double wedding ring quilt, using orange peels instead (my favorite motif, as you might already know!). I LOVE double wedding ring quilts, but I have no patience to piece one (and the idea for this quilt came about only a couple months before the wedding, so it would have been quite a time crunch). Plus, while I was looking them over, I realized that all the little pieces actually look like large orange peels. I placed the central orange peels like so to mimic the joining of two circles, or two hands, in marriage. Perfect!

    Back when I chose these modern, calm fabrics (in colors the brides chose), I organized blues into 4 color groups. This was mostly instinctual but often directed by warm/cool tones. I wanted the quilt to move from gray in the middle all the way to dark blue on the top and bottom; this design would hopefully emphasize the double wedding ring motif. When I started piecing improvisational waves, I often added in a bit of the next darkest color. This technique ensures that the gradient will change smoothly (versus starkly).

    The quilting itself was really fun to do; I used my walking foot to create randomized waves all over. This was the right choice for this quilt (in my mind) because a) it emphasizes the design of the waves (always one of my goals - add to the design instead of take away) and b) it maximizes comfort.

    Barbara Persing gave a wonderful lecture at our guild meeting a few years ago, and one of my takeaways was the importance of considering the quilt's use. This one was intended for the couch (and that's where it is, yay!), so dense quilting wasn't necessarily going to be as comfortable. Win-win!

    I used a handful of Aurifil threads to make the waves in each section, progressing from light to dark (4060 variegated gray, 2735 medium blue, 2783 medium delft blue, and 1320 medium teal). My most recent exciting thread discovery is that variegated gray thread, which really makes an impact. I just used it for part of another quilt, too!

    The backing is this lovely print, "Lilla," from Lotta Jansdotter's "Hemma" line, which I picked up from my LQS, Pennington Quilt Works. I enjoy ordering fabric online, but nothing beats being able to choose in person when I can.

    And finally, a picture of the happy couple. We were glad to be a part of the special weekend in Florida! Originally, I planned to pack the quilt with me and gift it to them in person, but it was easier (and cheaper - it's a large lap size) to ship it right before we left. I'm so glad I was able to surprise them with a quilt!

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


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