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?

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! 

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!

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

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.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Visit to the Mercer Museum - African American Quilts: From Traditional to Contemporary

I was thrilled to hear that the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA is hosting another quilt exhibit this year - and a legendary collection of quilts to boot. The Museum invited me and asked if I would write a review. Along the same lines as last year's Mary Schafer exhibit, I heartily believe that if you're:

1. Within a day's drive of charming Doylestown and
2. A quilter and/or
3. Interested in any kind of art

... you should make the effort to visit this exhibit of 30+ quilts before April 15!

"Pinwheel Flowers" -  maker unknown, circa 1860 in Bowling Green, Missouri. This was my favorite quilt! It was hard to capture its vibrancy via camera; like many of the others, it's best seen in person.

If you know of the legendary quilt historian Cuesta Benberry (1923-2007), you might know that she has a large collection of quilts. These quilts are owned by Michigan State University (MSU) and many of them travel around the country. This is a huge service to the quilt world and the world at large who may have yet to see quilts as more than blankets (which Benberry herself first believed before she visited her husband's family in KY, according to the interview at the exhibit).

Benberry's quest was twofold:
1. To showcase the diversity in African American quilts throughout history (i.e. they aren't all one specific style), and

2. To show that quilts, and specifically African American quilts, are worthy of scholarship and serious study.

"Friendship Quilt" - made by friends of Benberry (quiltmakers and historians), 1979.

I've become really interested in quilt history, so the exhibit was right up my alley. Part of the Mercer Museum's exhibit showcases the diversity of the quilt collection, including the only quilt Benberry ever made herself (which was a treat to discover; I'll leave that as a surprise to those visiting) as well as friendship quilts made in her honor.

"Black Family Series #1: The Family of 3" - Carolyn Mazloomi, 1996

Also included were quilts that depicted racial stereotypes (since Benberry believed in collecting all kinds of quilts) and quilts by the also-legendary Faith Ringgold, Carolyn Mazloomi, and Gee's Bend Quilters. The hand-quilting was especially a joy to see both up close and far away. It's definitely not something to miss.

"Memories of Trayvon [Martin]"- Cassandra Stancil Gunkel, 2017; "Barack Obama: 44th President of the United States" -  Rose Miller, 2017

The Friendly Quilters of Bucks County are also exhibiting quilts. What struck me most about these contemporary and art quilts was the passion conveyed for quilting and their guild. It's comforting and exciting to know that quilters all over the world discover fabric and quilty friends in the same ways that I have.

I hope you get a chance to go, if you're in the area! If not, try and catch the Cuesta Benberry Collection exhibit elsewhere. You'll be glad you did.

*Full disclosure: I received tickets to the Mercer Museum to provide this review. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Workshop/Lecture and Gallery Opening


A couple of exciting quilty happenings are going on this week in New Jersey/New York that I'm proud/excited to be a part of! First, this coming Saturday 3/17, there are just a few spots left in my Brick By Brick Improvisation class (3 hours) in Lake Katrine, NY (Grace Church). From 1-4 pm, I'll be teaching my favorite improvisational piecing methods and hope to help you develop your own quilt! I'm also bringing my latest landscape quilt, which is ready to be basted. Cost: $40 - email Linda Armour of the Wiltwyck Quilters Guild to sign up.

I'll also be giving my new lecture, "Modernizing the Traditional Quilt Block" at the guild meeting around 11 am ($5 for guests at the door), with the help of many quilts and some of these traditional quilt blocks. I can't wait!

Finally, "Crown of Orchids" will be shown in the Gallery at 14 Maple in Morristown, NJ through August as part of the approaching VIBRANCY exhibit. The opening reception is this Thursday, 3/15 from 6-8. My husband and I will be there, so if you come, please don't hesitate to say hello! I'll be the one with red hair! There will be works from 39 female New Jersey artists, and I'm looking forward to seeing just how colorful/vibrant the show will be (more info here).

March and April are always busy quilt-wise; this is just the beginning!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Piecing for days


 Two ongoing piecing projects have unquestionably conquered my sewing room of late. Since at least a year ago, I've had a couple of traditional quilt blocks made from Anna Maria Horner fabrics sitting in a project bin. Ready for a new project, I pulled them out and started adding to the group with my stash of Oakshott shot cottons. Some of these will help with my new lecture, "Modernizing the Traditional Quilt Block," next weekend with the Wiltwyck Quilters of Kingston, NY.

I can't wait to put them all together! The colors and fabric selection are the most fun part. I'm also making different sizes of some of the blocks (see pinwheels, below).

The other quilt is for my husband. I was hoping to finish it in time for his late-February birthday, but when I realized how much time the cutting and piecing would take, he got a "whenever it's done" promise. He's okay with that though - it's not like we're lacking in the quilt department around here. :)

Anyway, I chose Elizabeth Hartman's "Awesome Ocean" pattern to make the otters (she calls them manatees, but I think it could be either!). This quilt takes hours of cutting (admittedly not my favorite of the quilting steps but obviously an essential part). The best way to organize myself was to place each otter in a separate Ziploc bag, with the parts labelled according to the pattern (there are alphabet letters A-U for each animal) and clipped with a Wonder Clip. As you might imagine, I very quickly ran out of Wonder Clips and had to use safety pins as well.

The 8 bags sat sadly in a project bin for a couple months, and it started to really bug me. This week, we had some pretty crazy weather (hello current blizzard status), so I decided to finish up my audiobook (After You by Jojo Moyes) and start piecing. I found it quickest to glue small pieces (we're talking 1" x 1" as the smallest) on top of larger pieces before sewing them, rather than using pins. I looked around in vain for a bottle of Elmer's glue and settled on a glue stick, which did the trick. This helped me stay focused and retain my sanity. Some of the otters came out a bit squinty-eyed since I ignored pinning. :) But I love those little faces.

Anyway, the otters are almost done, thanks to a few more enjoyable, nearly-thoughtless hours. Then I'll be ready to create the quilt itself.

What have you been sewing? Hoping it's better weather near you. Within the week, I'll share another quilt using parts of the "Awesome Ocean" pattern, which contained significantly less pieces! Woohoo!


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