Sunday, May 6, 2018

Kintsugi: A Pantone Challenge Quilt

Kintsugi is the Japanese practice of filling pottery cracks with gold in order to create beauty out of brokenness. The method, so prevalent in my mind over the last year, translates to my life in several ways. Mulling over this fact and inspired by the Pantone Color of the Year, ultraviolet (purple, my favorite color), I embarked on the first of what will hopefully be a series of small quilts.


Recently, renowned artist Lisa Congdon posted her thoughts about "art is survival," and that is the most succinct way to describe the last 8 years for me. I'm slowing down on production (so many ideas!) and beginning to focus more on the kinds of sewing that make me most happy. The process. The details. The quilting.


Quilting came to me at a time (age 20) when the whole world was a possibility. While this is still true, 8 years is a long time in both life and in practice of art. Lots of wonderful and terrible things happened. The daily practice of quilting (and my quilt friends) really kept me together. Only within the last couple years, though, do I think I had the capability to create something like this. Only after going through some really tough times. Now, I feel like I can get through anything.

 

Because kintsugi is about the beauty in the struggle. When I first cut the vase out from my piecing, it looked nothing like my vision, and I had to cut it apart and piece it together again. I tried to embrace it as part of the process - and I'm really glad I kept persisting, going back and forth for a few days before I finalized the vase's shape.

I purposefully pieced some lighter purple scraps in jagged, angular ways to show the cracks in my vase. After quilting the vase with my walking foot in three colors (Aurifil 1200 Blue Violet, 2540 Medium Lavender, and 1100 Red Plum), I used DMC metallic embroidery floss 5282 to embroider in gold. It was a challenge to make it look like real cracks and not hand-drawn with chalk beforehand! Thank you to Lindsay and Alyson for your encouragement!

For parts of the embroidery, I played with the kintsugi method of filling whole pieces of the broken pot in with gold, separate from the cracks.

At first, I considered quilting the pieced gray background like Metropolis, but thought it better to use lines rather than waves (to make the pot's curves more obvious). It was too plain for me, though, so I started randomly quilting orange peels with my free motion foot inside some of the channels. I used a variegated thread, Aurifil 4060 Silver Moon, which smoothly glides from light to dark gray (thereby blending and standing out at different points throughout the background).




My husband spotted me taking these pictures, remarking, "It looks like something you would make." I was pleased. The vase is my favorite color surrounded by my favorite motif, quilted orange peels. The backing is my current 2nd favorite fabric ever ("Rosealea" by Nel Whatmore for Free Spirit - very ultraviolet). The quilt itself is anything but perfect. Just how I like it.


I made pleats inside the vase to make up for the extra fabric pooling while I quilted (Sherri Lynn Wood teaches a method in her book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters). The embroidery is purposefully see through/not completely full. The background and pot are purposefully lopsided. Needless to say, this quilt came out even better than I hoped, and it's very special to me. Isn't that what quilting is all about? And now, I'm thinking of other ways I can represent kintsugi in quilt form. So much to think about.

Quilt stats:
-Size: 37" x 37" and made in the USA
-Designed, pieced, and quilted by me on my Janome 6300 home machine
-Made for the 2018 Pantone Quilt Challenge (and for my personal enjoyment), hosted by Rebecca of Bryan House Quilts and Sarah of No Hats in the House
-Other kintsugi quilts of interest: by Alexis Deise

Linking up to the 2018 Pantone Quilt Challenge (quilts category), TGIFF, Needle and Thread Thursday, Crazy Mom Quilts.

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Precarious Body Pillow: Stash Statement Blog Hop

Planned improvisation is my thing, so when my bloggy friend Kelly Young of My Quilt Infatuation asked if I would participate in the blog tour for her new book, Stash Statement, I was quick to answer "yes!"

 
The book contains 12 patterns plus tips for organizing and sewing together your scraps. Kelly made me ponder some new ways to combine and then cut fabric scraps. I was immediately drawn to the "Precarious" quilt. The layout of the blocks just screamed "body pillow" to me, so that's what I made!
Kelly's original "Precarious" quilt from Stash Statement

Each row of scraps is monochromatic like in Kelly's original rainbow-colored quilt, pictured above. Originally, I was inspired by a house in my town that's painted turquoise, blue, and brown (I used gray as my background color instead). I really enjoyed laying out my scraps and seeing what shapes they formed together.


Once I pieced the pillow, I quilted it densely with three colors of 40 weight Aurifil thread: 4060 (Silver Moon), 2810 (Turquoise), and 3770 (Stonewashed Denim). For quilted pillows, I usually baste a layer of thin batting and a piece of muslin behind it to ensure stability. Though it's densely quilted, the pillow is super soft!


I was quilting at sunset one day and had to take this picture. The sun really shows off the texture.


The backing was a long-stashed yard of Euclid linen by Carolyn Friedlander; I used up a whole yard with just a few small scraps left! I think it gives this pillow even more stability, and it meshes well with the front color scheme. I love to sneak my tags into pillow backings.


This was a really fun "palate cleanser" of a project, and I really feel like I actually used up scraps this time (unlike other scrappy projects I tend to engage with. Haha).



If you'd like a book that teaches you effective ways to use your scraps, make sure to check this one out! Visit Kelly's blog for a giveaway, and visited her Etsy shop for a signed copy. Please check your local quilt shop, Amazon, and Martingale for unsigned copies. Finally, view more book projects at the links below - enjoy!



Stash Statement Blog Tour Schedule


4/16- Grand Bazaar    Shelley @ Cora's Quilts
                                      Connie @ Freemotion by the River
                            Diann @ Little Penguin Quilts
4/30- Precarious  Jess @ Quilty Habit                       
                              Myra @ Busy Hands Quilts
                                                            
5/7- Beach Retreat  Sarah @ Sarah Goer Quilts                               
                                  Liz @ Savor Every Stitch 
                                                           
5/14- Fire Pit   Alison @ Little Bunny Quilts                                          
                         Preeti @ Sew Preeti Quilts
                                                            
5/21- Detour    Laura @ Slice of Pi Quilts                         
                         Shelley @ The Carpenter's Daughter Who Quilts
                                                            
5/28- Murrina    Yvonne @ Quilting Jetgirl             
                            Leanne @ Devoted Quilter
                                                            
6/4- Scattered    Jayne @ Twiggy and Opal                      
                           Christine @ Triangles and Squares 
                                                            
6/11- Bloom Chicka Boom   Chris @ made by ChrissieD            
                                               Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty
                                                            
6/18- Regatta   Susan @ Quilt Fabrication                             
                          Debbie @ A Quilter's Table    
                          Christa @ Christa Quilts
                                                            
6/25- Catch a Falling Star  Cynthia @ Quilting is More Fun Than Housework        
                                              Anja @ Anja Quilts
                                                            
7/2- College Prep   Hilary @ by Hilary Jordan                 
                                Lori @ Crossquilt
                                                            
7/9- Take Flight (free bonus pattern)  Kelli @ Seriously, I Think It Needs Stitches 
                                                             Paula @ The Sassy Quilter

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Sunday, April 15, 2018

To Bee or Not to Bee?

It's been 4 years since I last participated in my quilt guild's yearly bee. When our president Neva asked for interested parties last fall, I was finally ready to sign that paper again.


Here's how our bees work: There is a maximum of 12 spots for each year (one person for each month, Jan. - Dec., and if we get 11, we skip July, our non-meeting month). Each month, one quilter is the "queen bee" who decides on the pattern/tutorial/theme and can choose to pass out fabric, too. Each person in the bee makes a block, and then brings them to the next month's meeting to share with the whole guild. Then, the queen bee makes a quilt from all the blocks! Our bee is so popular that a second bee ran last year, the "New Bee" (newbie, get it?) for quilters who wanted to make simple blocks only.

Flying geese bee blocks from the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild, 2014 - my longest running WIP (UFO?)

Here are the reasons I love quilt bees of any kind (I've also done Round Robins, which are my favorites): you get to contribute to a quilt for someone (bonus points if it's for a friend). You can try different techniques and explore your piecing likes and dislikes. The opportunity arises to use precious fabrics or scraps from the stashes of other quilters. Most of the time, bee blocks are a quick make, and can be a fun, inspiring project. Blocks usually turn out unique to each maker; working together creates beautiful work.

Here are the downsides. Relying on other people can be tricky. I have been involved in a very hairy, still-unresolved-after-YEARS (literally years) quilt bee situation. People drop off the map, don't get in touch, etc. It's frustrating and hurtful to all parties involved. Quilts are personal, emotional, and financial investments.

The first blocks of my traveling curve-themed round robin quilt, which is now being quilted. More on that hopefully this year!

On the less dramatic note, blocks *can* be time consuming. It might be another difficult deadline to complete, depending what's already on your plate (this is the main reason I refrained from signing up the last few years). You might receive instructions to create a quilt block that you are really uncomfortable with. In my other guild bee experience, a queen bee asked for reverse applique, and no matter how much I tried, I could not make the block look the way it was supposed to. I felt bad because it was supposed to be a part of her quilt - I still handed it in at the meeting, but it always haunted me.

For a guild bee, there's generally less risk involved. These are people you see every month or so, whether or not you know them well. You can ask for help in person if you need it, and there are no mailing costs (unless you can't make the meeting). And best of all, this time around, it's given me an opportunity to make a quick block/palate cleanser before I work on my own more thought-and-time-consuming work. So, into the bee I go. My month is July, and I'm starting to cobble together a plan for my beemates! I'll certainly blog about it further when the time comes.

So, have you joined a quilt bee? If not, would you like to? What do you like/dislike about the experience?

Related blog posts:
 

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Otter Raft - A Finished Quilt

Four years ago, I made a secret quilt for my husband, the giant Dr. Who churn dash quilt (that blog post includes "8 Steps to Making a Quilt for your Significant Other"). That quilt has been used just about every. single. day., sometimes for hours on end (so at this point that's 1,460+ days). It's been washed many times, and some of the quilting has even come out. It's cozy and truly a staple in our home.


About a year ago, I found out that Mike loves sea otters. LOVES them. How I had not known this fact after being a couple for almost 12 years, I'm not sure, but it was nice to know there are still some surprises left to discover. :)  Ha. So, when I saw Elizabeth Hartman's "Awesome Ocean" pattern and showed Mike, he was SO excited and immediately started begging for another quilt (even though it's labelled a manatee in the pattern). With that level of enthusiasm, I really couldn't say no.

The first pic, while in his natural habitat: "I can't force a smile!" The second pic was a genuine smile, so I whipped out my phone to capture it. :)

If I purchase a pattern, which is pretty rare (since I like creating my own designs), I usually stray away from the original layout. This pattern was no different since the original design contains all the cute sea animals. For my recent collaborative quilt with my niece, we chose just three animals and the coral.


While I'm thrilled with the results of both sea animal quilts, the cutting expectations for them were no joke. Phew. I cut out the pieces for 8 otters and labelled them all with pieces of Post-Its and Wonder Clips, separating each otter in a plastic bag. After that huge effort, I really didn't want to sew them together, so they sat in one of my plastic project bins for a few weeks. Eventually, I got tired of seeing them sit there, so I started chain piecing, and eventually some faces appeared. They are so cute and just a little squinty eyed, since I refused to use pins. :) Honestly, I wouldn't have them any other way.


Once the otters themselves were done (a bit quicker than I expected; I think we had another big snow storm that week), I gave Mike a few options for the layout. He liked the idea of otters swimming in different directions (yay!). I had purposefully created a blue background light to dark (like many of my quilts) to create some interest, so I used that to inform the final layout. And I loved creating the ombre binding (pictured below) to match with the changing quilt background!


Did you know that a group of otters in water is called a "raft?" My wonderful guild friend Linda looked it up at our last sewing day as I was cutting out the approximately 1.5 million pieces to make 8 otters (okay, slight exaggeration). So, a quilt name was born.


I used Aurifil thread 2715 (Robin's Egg), 4140 (Wedgewood), and 2745 (Midnight) to quilt overlapping waves using my walking foot. I usually quilt more densely, but figured I could always add more if necessary. With the Mammoth Flannel backing, the whole quilt washed up beautifully. Mike has commented several times about how warm it is, and it's easy to see why it's the current quilt of choice on the couch for both of us.


Pictured with lots of past projects including my guild's quilt made for me, purple fabric woven pillows from Shannon of the Jersey Shore MQG, my recent paper-pieced pillow, and Bouquet now hanging on the wall. I love a colorful house!


So with that, I created another quilt for my significant other, this time not in secret. Though parts of the process were tedious, these are the best kind of quilts that I make! The reaction is priceless, and I'm sure there will be more. We still have plans to create a Middle-earth map quilt together to hang on the wall, after all...

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

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Over time

Within the last two years, I noticed something markedly different about my piecing skills. After nearly 8 years of sewing, I'm at the point now where I can confidently pick up nearly any pattern (possibly even paper-piecing! What?) and be able to sew it together without major mishap. Points will exactly or just about line up with little effort or pinning, half-square triangles will come out exact or just nearly exact, and the finished block size might be off by 1/8 of an inch, if at all. This, to me, is just about quilting perfection. Not that I've aimed for perfection, but this is how I stand.

A block just sewn for my guild's bee for next month. I had never made this block before, and in the past been iffy with the sewing-white-corners-on-the-black-square step, but lo and behold, it just happened effortlessly.

Back when I started sewing 8 years ago, when everything was new and required so much concentration, I never dreamed that I'd be able to piece the way I can now. I think it's the culmination of practice nearly every day for 8 years. Not just physical practice, though - also reading about sewing on blogs, Instagram, and in books for 8 years straight. Forcing myself to follow a traditional block of the month program back in 2013. Taking a few in-person classes. Interacting with my in-person quilt guild and ogling their work close up every month. Attending quilt shows. Observing how other people sew and forcing my mind to learn in a new or different way. My brain consumed this information and doled it out bit by bit when needed.

Some people set out as beginner quilters expecting everything to come out exactly perfect. And it might! For most people, though, it takes years. This is like any other skill. Piano players, chefs, pitchers, bicyclists (after a year and a half of spin class at the gym, I'm really understanding it!), etc. You develop a rhythm and consistently practice. And in the end, you will see those results.

It was hard to wait, but I'm really beginning to see how years of work pay off. What step of sewing has unexpectedly become second nature to you?

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Modern FMQ QAL: April (Month 4)

Are you quilting along with the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild? It's super easy and fun! Every month, I post several links to tutorials in this Google Doc for the Modern Free Motion Quilt Along. Each month has a theme, and you choose your current free motion quilting skill level to follow a tutorial or two.  

Our goal is to practice free motion throughout the year and come out on the other side with a small sampler quilt. At guild meetings, we're bringing our quilt sandwiches in to share, and you can share from afar (outside the guild) on Instagram with the hashtags #modernfmqqal and #cjmqg. Find out all the details on this page over on my guild's website. All fun, all FMQ, all year!



This month, we're exploring curves and waves - a precursor to more circular quilting! The tutorials I posted range from beginner - intermediate/expert, and, just like the last three months, I combined a few different motifs in my quilt sandwich. I've also made an effort to change thread colors to vary up the quilt; here, I experimented with Aurifil 4060 (Silver Moon - variegated gray) and 1126 (Blue Grey).

One of my absolutely favorite modern free motion quilting motifs is the Bear Claw by Christina Cameli (see top right). It's so easy to quilt and a perfect filler for a background where you'd like some texture. I followed that with some big spirals, and then to the left, I tried LuAnn Kessi's clam shells. I'm itching to try some of the other variations she posted about. This one is very forgiving.



It's fun to see the backs of my quilt sandwiches in all their Anna Maria Horner fabric glory. It will certainly be interesting to see how they all look once the quilt is pieced together later in the year.

Next month's theme is bound to be interesting (and maybe a bit more challenging). Keep quilting, and stay tuned!

http://centraljerseymqg.blogspot.com/p/2017-guild-quilt-long.html 

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Faceted Rings Pillow: Modern Plus Sign Quilts Blog Hop

I was lucky to spend time with Cheryl Brickey of Meadow Mist Designs and Paige Alexander of Quilted Blooms in Savannah last year over some decadent ice cream. Cheryl is actually one of my very-long-time blogging friends! I was thrilled to hear that they were writing a book together, and now that Modern Plus Sign Quilts is published, I can share my project as part of the blog hop.


This pillow was a huge accomplishment for me; in 8 years, I've never successfully paper-pieced - until now! It's just one of those skills that has a) never really been of interest to me, since I'd rather just piece together improvisationally or applique and b) never made sense, even when shown in person (I'm a visual learner).

When I happily signed up to participate in the book blog hop, I didn't realize that my top design choice was a paper-piecing pattern (and an intermediate one at that - gah). But I had to try. The results were nearly perfect (not enough off for me to rip stitches :) ). Using Cheryl and Paige's instructions, I made a pretty successful test block for this design, took a very deep breath, and cut into my Liberty and Loominous fabrics. Yeah, I take risks! I bought the Liberty during Savannah's QuiltCon, actually, so this was the perfect project for it. The fabrics have been lying around together for a while now, just waiting to be made into something.

As a beginner paper-piecer, I was really surprised at how fast just one block came together. I finished off the pillow top with a couple of coordinating border fabrics that speak to me.


For the quilting, I used Aurifil 2600 (dove gray) to emphasize the plus block design. Pillows are so quick and fun to quilt; my quilts tend to "go big or go home" so this was a pleasurable task. Since this pillow is for keeps (as shown on my couch in the first picture), the back is this lovely purple ginkgo leaf linen that I've been holding onto for dear life (Geishas and Ginkgos by Lonni Rossi). Now it's being used! A miracle!


My pillow turned out better than I could possible imagine, and to be completely honest, I can credit the book's clear directions with my understanding of paper-piecing (so thank you eternally, Cheryl and Paige!). Not all the quilts in the book require paper-piecing, but there's certainly a wide variety of plus block designs and gorgeous color combinations (maybe I'm biased, but check out the book quilt below - amazing, right?).

"Faceted Rings" quilt in Modern Plus Sign Quilts - Credit: C&T Publications


Make sure to check both blogs for a giveaway daily, and to purchase a signed copy of the book, you can visit Cheryl's or Paige's Etsy shop. Check your local quilt shop, Amazon, and C&T Publishing for unsigned copies. And since the fun continues, read on below to see more Faceted Rings quilts and other book quilts all over the internet. Happy hopping!


MODERN PLUS SIGN BOOK HOP SCHEDULE
Monday, March 12th

Tuesday, March 13th
Kitty @ Night Quilter
Sophie @ Luna Lovequilts
Afton @ Quilting Mod

Wednesday, March 14th
Abigail @ Cut & Alter
Sandra @ mmm! quilts
Karen @ Run Sew Fun

Thursday, March 15th
Bernie @ Needle and Foot

Friday, March 16th
Izzy @ Dizzy Quilts
Christa @ Christa Quilts

Monday, March 19th
Jessica @ Quilty Habit << YOU ARE HERE

Tuesday, March 20th

Wednesday, March 21st
Anja @ Anja Quilts

Thursday, March 22nd

Friday, March 23rd


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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Baby Sea Animals - A Finished Quilt

This is a special quilt finish since it was made with the color choices and organizational helpfulness of my 10-year-old niece. Her second younger sister will be born at the end of the month, and together, we schemed to make a quilt together. It was quite the process!


My niece has already been learning how to sew, and when I showed her the "Awesome Ocean" pattern I had just bought (by Elizabeth Hartman, which I'm already using for the otter quilt), she was all in. On a weekend afternoon, my niece chose the colors and animals to make as we talked about contrasting fabrics. She loves bright, vivid colors, just like me!


As I mentioned in my last post, the animals are a LOT of piecing work. My niece helped me get all the pieces organized for the seahorse and even sewed some of them together while I continued cutting. Throughout the next few weeks, I sent her updated photos of the quilt as it developed. My goal was *just* to use the pattern for the animals and seaweed, and to piece everything together improvisationally.

 The clownfish purposefully looks like Nemo.

I quilted the whole quilt in pebbles that grew in size towards the outer edges, mimicking bubbles. This was easy and quite quick to do (other pebble-quilting projects like "Burst" have nearly incapacitated me since they required so much work). I used 50 weight Aurifil #2860 (light emerald), a shade slightly darker than the background, so the thread color would show just a bit. I'm really pleased with the final look; it crinkled so nicely in the wash.


I really love that she chose to make the ocean green instead of blue. I think it adds such a unique look to the quilt. Plus, the backing is some beautiful Anna Maria Horner flannel that I had left over from my epic AMH medallion quilt - I had just enough! My niece agreed that the backing was perfect (I think it even looks a bit like sea plants - see below).


Hopefully her new baby sister loves it. Both of us presented the quilt at the baby shower last weekend! I neglected to get a picture of us together with the quilt, but if I do, I'll update this post with it. Also, of course, babies on quilts... I can't wait to meet my new niece.

After the otter quilt, I think I'll be done with animals on quilts for quite a while! ;) On to the next challenge.

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

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