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?


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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!

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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!

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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.

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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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