Monday, January 29, 2018

Wolverine - A Wholecloth Quilt

Once in a while, I hear a quote that makes me sit up a little straighter and think, "well, that needs to be on a quilt." I'm really picky about which quotes deserve quilt status (not typical stuff like "live your life" or "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade"). Imagine my husband and I watching the season finale of one of our favorite TV shows, a Japanese anime show called Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ancient Magus' Bride) on Christmas Eve, when this quote pops up. It applies widely, I think.

"I thought she was a quiet girl, but she might actually be a wolverine" - English translation/subtitle from Episode 12 of Mahoutsukai no Yome

In the episode, one of the important characters has a huge transformation (no spoilers); it's the climax of the whole first season. It took my breath away (isn't it amazing what animation can do?) - the music, too. I had to find a fabric that would pay homage to the quote and scene. While looking through my stash, I pulled out this lovely, colorful Daiwabo fabric that I scored once at a guild meeting. It's softer and a bit more papery than quilting cotton but not any different to quilt on. Since this was to be a wall hanging, I just went for it.

Whenever I quilt words with free motion quilting, I always quilt the words first. I wanted the words "quiet girl" and "wolverine" to stick out most, so I gave them their own lines and created fonts especially for them. I also used four different threads to move the quote along: Aurifil 2024 (white), 2600 (dove gray), 1158 (medium gray - which can be seen better here in certain lights), and 2692 (black).

Usually I don't mark much, but I made use of my chalk pencils to mark straight lines to quilt on and decided where to place the words. I wrote more about starting this quilt and the process of quilting words here.


After completing the words, I filled in the background to emphasize the same words as before. Those pebbles are so tiny, but they were worth the effort (I've probably quilted over a couple million pebbles in my life, and these are by far the toughest ones)! I used 2250 (red), accompanied by 1133 (burnt orange) and touches of 2135 (yellow) for flames (which is related to the show, but again, no spoilers). Finally, I quilted the top in long strands to contrast the small pebbles (in 2540 medium lavender and 1200 blue violet, easily my favorite purple thread shade).

This quote got a big thumbs up from my husband, who loves the show and also appreciates detailed quilting. I don't want to give this one away, so I hung it up on my sewing room wall. It reminds me to keep pursue whatever I'm doing that day.

More word quilts coming. I looove making them! And once you find something you love, you should keep at it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Modern FMQ QAL - February (Month 2)

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!

February's theme is "bricks." I really had fun time choosing threads to make sure they contrasted with my fabrics (I want my hard work to show up!). This is a beautiful purple solid from my stash, and I used Aurifil white (2024) and Violet (2520) to quilt it up. I'm trying out 1-2 (dare I say 3?) motifs for each month; I want my sampler quilt to showcase lots of motifs.

This month, I chose the beginner and confident beginner/intermediate tutorials because I love how they look (so feel free to break out of your skill level!). It's a combination of The Brick Wall Tutorial by Lori Kennedy (The Inbox Jaunt) and the Planks FMQ Tutorial by Christina Cameli. The options for quilting these motifs are truly endless.

I'm excited to show my quilt sandwich at the February meeting in two weeks' time and to see what others have made! You can see more from our January guild meeting here (17 members brought quilt sandwiches in!). See my January quilt sandwich (month 1) here. Are you going to quilt some bricks this month?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Purple Majesty: A Finished Scrap Quilt

"When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple," proclaims Jenny Joseph in the famous poem, "Warning." To take it literally, I think I'll start early (about a quarter of my wardrobe is purple anyway). Even further, the world needs more purple quilts - I've already made several but it's not enough!

Two years ago, I noticed that my purple scrap bin was piling up awfully high (I have an admittedly nasty/wonderful penchant for collecting good purple fabric), so I started piecing scraps together little by little. Full disclosure: I cut a little bit from some pieces of yardage, to fill out the colors I was looking for (and to feature a couple of much-loved fabrics) but for the most part, these were scraps. The blocks sat around until late last year, and in the restful, non-holiday parts of the end of December, I quilted and bound it (scrappy, value-matching binding for the win)!

"Purple Majesty" is named for two reasons: 1) Purple is known as a majestic color - for royalty and for awesomeness (okay, I'm biased). 2) Ultra Violet is the Pantone Color of the Year. So purple wins 2018. I hope that means a lot more bright, saturated, modern purple fabrics will come out in the next couple of years! I'm waiting, fabric companies!

After I made a whole bunch of blocks in brick-by-brick improvisation style, I decided to piece them from light to dark (high to low value) in a diagonal cascade. It took a while but it was so worth it! Monochromatic quilts might be my favorite things (I still haven't gotten over how much joy making "Peace" brought me).

Many of these are "precious" fabric scraps - some are fussy cut, and there are a couple of orphan blocks in there. It was so good to USE them. If you use a scrap and you keep the quilt, it's like still holding onto the scrap, right? Quilters, I know you understand.

Then, to mimic the cascade, I quilted orange peels by size; small ones in the light purples, medium ones in the middle, and huge ones (marked with chalk and quilted with my walking foot) in the darkest part. I was finishing up listening to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas at the time, so I'll always associate this quilt with that riveting book. I remember wishing I had more quilting to do so I could keep listening!

I used three shades of 50 weight Aurifil thread to bring the orange peels to life (2515 Light Orchid, 2520 Violet, and 4225 Eggplant). They don't show up to well until you get closer, since there is *so* much awesome going on with the many, many prints. But I know they are there, and that's what matters! Orange peels and purple are pretty much my life.

I'll admit that the darkest section (bottom right, also pictured below) is *not* a purple I like (gasp!); it's dark bright and has a bit of a Marsala feel (never jumped onto that bandwagon - just a personal preference). BUT, combined with these other purples, it feels right at home. Now, I love that little section of the quilt! Funny how color placement can make all the difference.

The backing is the wonderfully soft sateen Tula Pink wide back fabric, "Free Fall." I gathered a couple of pieces, just waiting for the right project, and BOOM! - it came along. Users beware: there was some talk on Instagram about this fabric bleeding, so I made sure prewash it (and I only prewash if it's really important - I did NOT want to ruin this quilt!). When I washed the full quilt, I threw in a couple color catchers and all was well. No problems, and it washes soooo soft. Just make sure you prewash, okay?

Currently, this quilt is in my sewing room/office, and I don't think it will be going too far. It's going to be cold for a couple more months, so I might as well get comfy and wear a purple quilt all the time, right? In case you're wondering... no, my scrap bin didn't go down enough (scrap quilts create more scraps... it's a vicious cycle!). Which means it's time for another quilt!

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The most precious scraps

Every fabric scrap has a story. I love that I can remember so much by seeing just a scrap: what I've made with the fabric before, where I bought it, when it was gifted, what was going on in my life, etc. That's one reason I love quilting.

Do you save your fabric scraps? I do, happily, but once my mountain of scraps starts falling over, it starts to irk me. That's when it's time to make a new scrappy quilt, and my favorite way to do that is with the technique I teach: brick by brick improvisation.

Recently, I was inspired to make another landscape quilt; I went digging through my scraps, which are already organized by color (except for Anna Maria Horner and scraps with more than 2-3 colors). For each color, my goal is to use up the smallest scraps first (these can vary from 1 to 2.5" wide - yeah, I keep those sometimes). Once I've made a few blocks, I've gathered more smaller scraps, but usually they are unusable (so I don't feel bad about tossing them).

These kinds of quilts are the perfect place for "precious" scraps. I can't help but think about Gollum when I talk about these. You know the ones? When you go through your scraps, you greedily and excitedly put them aside for the perfect project. My "Fall Spectrum" quilt was a great place to stick them because they stand out on their own but still blend in with the color blocks (see the flower scrap above). This kind of scrap placement can take some practice, and I happily accept the challenge. By the way, if you're going to Road to California this week, "Fall Spectrum" will be there! Could you send me a picture, please?.

Anyway, here are just a few examples from the first two rows of the quilt. 

I've been holding onto this small scrap of a Heather Ross mermaid for years. Looking back, I can't remember exactly where I got it from (I never owned the original fabric) but it's likely from a guild meeting or kind friend. This will be the *only* diagonal seam in the quilt (the fabric was a triangle shape, and cutting it to strip size would have ruined most of the print).

This blue-on-blue orange peel (middle of picture) from a recent Cotton and Steel collection was begging to be fussy cut. Once I finally sew the rows together, it should be a perfect four petal orange peel. I never know where my fussy cuts will end up, because of improvisation, but I can still feature them. I made place mats with this fabric, which I'll share soon!

My nieces and SIL sent me a fabric Christmas gift recently (!!thank you!!) and one of the cuts was this yellow tree fabric. I love it, and it arrived at the perfect time! Since there's a lot of brown in the print (which might detract from the yellow row I'm creating), I cut off much of the brown and just left the tree trunks. Whenever I see this print in the quilt, I'll think of my family.

Finally, the rose print (gold on white) was lingering in my yellow scrap bin. At first I thought there might be too much white, but now that I've surrounded it with other colors, it's more off-white (which is more acceptable). Isn't it fun how color works? I decided to keep this one in full (for now). I'm fondly remembering featuring the rose fabric in this quilt, "X Marks The Spot," for my friend Liz @beadqueene.

Once I've finished the quilt rows, I plan to make a video of how it all came together. It's so much fun to sew this way, but it's also taxing (lots of seams and squaring up). It really puts my brain to work!

So, do you have precious fabric scraps? What do you do with them?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Guest on The Creativity Project

Kim Soper of Leland Ave Studios is a good quilty friend of mine and an absolutely, jaw-droppingly fantastic quilter (for example, have you seen her People's Choice and 1st Place Improvisation winning Lincoln quilt from QuiltCon 2017?). Fun fact: Kim was the first person to hire me for a guild lecture back in 2015 (for the Long Island Modern Quilt Guild!). It was such a thrill to finally meet her in person then and also to hang out with her at QuiltCon.

Kim just launched a year-long study of quilters called The Creativity Project, and I'm thrilled to be Week 2's guest! In the interview, I talk about (amongst other things) where my creativity grew from, what's it's like to work in a traditionally domestic medium (and being a prolific quilter under 30 - which I'd like to unpack more at some point), and how my husband and I work together on quilting.

I hope you enjoy the interview and that you'll tune in for the weeks ahead! Also, consider participating by taking The Creativity Project Survey!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Coming Soon: 2018 BOM List

For the past two years, I've released a list of online and in print Block of the Months (BOMs), starting in January or February, through my newsletter The Wonky Press. This year's issue comes out this Monday 1/15, with a total of 57 SO FAR. That's nearly double last year's total. I can't believe it! Are there just more BOMs starting this year compared to others? What do you think?

If you'd like to see the list and pick one (or two?) to follow, make sure you subscribe to my newsletter before Monday (on the side pop up window or the bottom of this post). Otherwise, the BOM List will be posted here on the blog a month later, on February 15. Most of the BOMs start in January and some have already started!

If you'd like to read more about BOMs and why you might join one, click here and scroll down to the bottom of The Wonky Press Issue #7 (from two years ago, wow, time flies!). To learn more about The Wonky Press, my free bimonthly newsletter, click here.

I'm so excited to share this list with you. It's out of control!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

In the process of quilting words

Starting a quilt can be intimidating, even if the idea gives you all the excitement in the world. For me, it's akin to taking that first step out onto ice (I've had a couple of severe ice falls in my time, so this can be perilous) or how you feel when you take your first sip of coffee in the morning (or, if you're a daredevil, sumptuous coffee ice cream at night). Wired and slightly more aware of your surroundings.

This year, I want to make more word quilts - just because. I'm not into super corny sayings (unless they're for my husband or sister, who love puns), but often, I'll come upon an excellent quote or lyric that's just begging to be stitched into fabric. This particular one has been on my mind since Christmas Eve - I'll explain more when the quilt is done. This sentence is just to illustrate that it's been haunting me, in a good way, for a couple of weeks now; it's finally all coming together. The fabrics, the thread, the fonts.

When I quilt words with free motion quilting, I'm not using embroidery stitches - just my own two hands guiding the fabric. I'm not always marking the letters (though this time, I did). Usually, I'll use Fons and Porter chalk pencils or my hera marker (an amazing plastic tool) with a ruler to mark the straight quilting lines. Then, I just go for it. It's really that simple!

It definitely helps to be confident with free motion quilting, though you can quite easily quilt a cursive word, like a name, while you're learning (it's similar to signing your name on a document, except you're using a needle instead of a pencil). Just like anything else, you have to practice, practice, practice.

In terms of fonts, it depends on the words I want to communicate. Usually I create my own fonts and practice drawing them lots on paper. The last word on this quilt feels fierce, so after going over the curvy-ness a couple of times, I've randomly added streaks to look like fur.  There's your hint for now!

Last year around this time, I presented an hour+ long webinar for the Modern Quilt Guild with much, much more about Quilting Words with Free Motion. You can find it here if you're a member.

And now that the process has begun, I'm going to let these words simmer a bit. However, it's a fairly small quilt, so finishing it can't be too far away. And I'm eager to hang it on my wall.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

"For a Maine Winter" - A Finished Bear Paw Quilt

If someone were to take a poll of the top 5 things quilts are known for, I would hazard a guess that "coziness" would be among the results. That's what I had in mind when I finally made a quilt for my brother-in-law this Christmas, who has said many times how much he loves quilts and handicrafts.

We have indeed visited our Maine family in winter when it snows all the time (and it's no big deal. Here in NJ, that would be catastrophic). Their house is super warm and cozy, and everyone has a quilt now! This quilt was backed with Mammoth Flannel by Robert Kaufman (see some of it below). YUM.

 Scrappy Bear Paw block tutorial by Jeni Baker of In Color Order

The colors were meant to be natural, "Maine" colors. It was difficult to find all the various tones needed to make the supersized bear paw blocks stand out, but I'm really happy with how it turned out! Persistence. I wrote more about the process of piecing this quilt and how my fabric buying has changed here. Looking back, I really love the secondary designs that appear between the blocks.

Finally, the quilting: I quilted three different motifs across the colors of the quilt (Bear Claws by Christina Cameli, Bare Branches by Leah Day, and big crazy squares/rectangles). This quilt was asking for an organic, geometric feel, and I used Aurifil threads to make the magic happen (1320 Medium Teal, 2735 Medium Blue, 5017 Shining Green, 2870 Green, 4012 Copper Brown, and 2360 Chocolate).

I'll be suggesting these tutorials in upcoming months of the Modern FMQ QAL - hint, hint!

I've heard that the quilt was well-received and already being used. That's everything I could ask for! The process was a great way to reflect on another year of making and my family. Now, on to finishing up some UFOs and WIPs in 2018!


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