Barn Door (BQF: Part II)

I love working with patterns (I was an English major, not a math major) but there’s something extra special about designing a quilt yourself.

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Barn Door is my original design but I know it is the result of inspiration from a variety of sources. I spend a lot of my stay-at-home-mom-free-but-not-really-free time online looking at quilts. I’m a really obsessive focused person so quilting is much more than a hobby for me. I have a hard time not cringing when people refer to it that way actually. So when I have to step away from the sewing machine because I have something important to do (like eat) my natural inclination is to stay quilt-focused by reading books and magazines about quilting and more often than not, reading quilting blogs.

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I am constantly inspired by the quilts I see you all making. I know that this design springs out of the many, many quilt images that are constantly floating around inside my head. But I did have a few more specific inspirations at the time that I made this sketch.

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My primary inspiration was this quilt by Meg Callahan. (I know. Genius.) My fabric and color palette inspiration was master of low volume Red Pepper Quilts, whose blog brought this fabric line to my attention. The inclusion of dots instead of solid white is definitely inspired by Sarah Fielke, whose declaration “I don’t use solids” in the forward to her book Quilting From Little Things really got me thinking.

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I originally intended to piece the strips by joining the fabrics with 45 degree angle seams, like when you’re making binding. This would have given the whole quilt a smoother appearance (fewer seams). But when I got started I realized that the math involved would be way beyond me, at least if I ever had any hope of sharing this pattern with anyone else. So instead I opted for half square triangles and a lone hourglass unit at the center.

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For the back I knew I wanted to use up some of the leftovers. Of course then I got a little carried away playing with letters.

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As usual I did straight line quilting because I like the fabric and piecing to be the primary focus. And also free motion quilting scares me.

I would definitely consider sharing this pattern with you guys if there is interest. Maybe a 2014 quilt-a-long?

Linking up for Blogger’s Quilt Festival! I can’t wait to see what everyone else is sharing.

Also linking up for: Fabric Tuesday, Needle and Thread Thursday, Thursday Threads, and Finish it up Friday.

Blogger’s Quilt Festival: Part I

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My first entry for the Blogger’s Quilt Festival is this wall hanging I just completed as part of the machine paper piecing portion of the Penny Sampler class. I intentionally chose a much different style and feeling than my main penny sampler quilt (you can see my most recent blocks here). This quilt is softer and prettier with a somewhat matchy and limited color scheme. It also employs cream and beige whereas my penny sampler uses bright bleached whites. I was going for a bit of a vintagey vibe, can you tell?

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I like that I can picture this fitting into a real kitchen without trying too hard and stealing the whole show.

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This was only my second-ever attempt at machine paper piecing (the first being these pretty awesome airplane pillows). It’s not as hard as it looks! I love the crispness and precision of it. For me, it will never replace traditional piecing and appliqué but I definitely think it’s a great tool to tackle tricky shapes. And it’s just plain fun.

Oh, and for those of you who are worried that I am not going to follow through on this teaser, do not fear! My second entry in the BQF is coming. Watch for that sometime over the weekend!

I’m linking up with the Blogger’s Quilt Festival (of course!) but also with Finish it up Friday and the Paper Piecing Party at Quiet Play.

Tease Tuesday

Just a tiny sneak peak today at something I’m working hard to get done in time for Blogger’s Quilt Festival.

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Unlike a lot of my projects lately, this one is my own original design. I really hope you guys like it!

Linkups for BQF open Friday and run through the following Friday (October 31). The week after that is voting! The festival is such a great source of inspiration and connection. Definitely check it out if you’re not already planning on entering.

For now, I’ll be linking up for WIP Wednesday… as soon as it’s Wednesday.

Fancy fabric

It doesn’t get any fancier than Liberty does it?

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Soft. Shimmery. Ornate.

I was first introduced to Liberty of London’s famous fabric by Alexia Abegg’s book Liberty Love, the source of the ubiquitous Marcelle Medallion.

I purchased six 9 x 12 pieces from Ali of Very Berry Fabrics, just to try it out and participate in a swap on Flickr. She was so sweet and fun to work with! I couldn’t believe how fast the fabric arrived all the way from the UK. The packaging made it feel very much like getting a present. No of course she’s not paying me to say that. It’s just true!

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I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with it yet. I’ve been toying with the idea of 3.5 inch simple square patchwork for my own bed. It’s so light (very similar to voile) that I’m concerned I won’t enjoy doing complicated piecing with it. I’m also concerned that this fabric (and its price) is going to take my obsession with small scraps to new heights…

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I sent my twelve 5 inch squares off for the swap yesterday. Of course I will update you when I receive my squares back. This is my first swap, and I’m very curious to see what I’ll get.

In other fabric news, I realized that Anna Maria Horner has not one, but two lines coming out in November! One is her usual gorgeous, artsy work (Dowry) and the other (True Colors) is specifically designed to be helpful blenders for quilting. How cool is that? They are definitely at the top of my wishlist.

I have been sewing away this week but I can’t show it to you yet. Keep your eye out in the next couple of weeks for a blog hop from Michelle at Factotum of Arts for her new block pattern! I won’t tell you what I made but I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a quilt!

Linen: use with caution

A while ago I blogged about quilting with linen and voile. You can read that post here. In short, I made a mini that mixed regular quilting cotton with voile and a linen blend to see if it would all come out ok in the wash. It did, so I wholeheartedly encouraged you to try it! Now I feel it might be necessary to amend with a few words of caution.

Recently Rachel from Stitched in Color shared about some problems she’s had with linen unraveling after multiple washes (click here to read her post). Tragedy! We work way too hard on our quilts to have them unravel. Right away I was concerned that I may have steered you wrong. So I threw my mini in the wash with several loads during a recent laundry marathon and I’m happy to report it is still intact.

Ok, this is an old picture but I promise it still looks like this.

Ok, this is an old picture but I promise it still looks like this.

One reason I may be getting different results than Rachel is that the Anna Maria Horner linen may be better suited to quilting than the Essex linen that unraveled in Rachel’s quilts. AMH is a quilter after all, so I’m sure she chose her blend carefully to be suitable for patchwork.

Rachel is performing some tests of her own so be sure to watch for those results if you’re interested in working with Essex linen. For now, I feel comfortable with any of AMH’s linens (she has some real beauties!) but I would not want to use others without more tests.

Go buy a lottery ticket, Sarah

What are the odds, math geniuses? Sarah of Mila and Cautro won again! She was lucky comment number 7, chosen on my honor by Random.org:

Awesome to have finished your tutorials, you obviously spent a great deal of time on them. I’ve pinned them to my ‘Quilting Tutorials’ pinterest board – http://www.pinterest.com/pin/169870217168354576/

She previously won here. Crazy!

I have to say a huge thank you to everyone who shared my tutorials in any way! The “Your 1st Quilt” tab will be a permanent feature here so feel free to point people to it if they want to learn to quilt. Better yet, hold a class of your own! The more quilters the better I always say. Did you know it’s a $3.5 billion industry? (That’s PER YEAR!) My husband would say that I’m definitely doing my part to add to those numbers.

Here are some pics of the hand-cut charm pack Sarah won:

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You can see these fabrics at work in my penny sampler here and here.

Don’t forget there’s still a giveaway open to beginners! If you use my tutorials to make your 1st quilt and email me a picture of it, you’re entered to win this same charm pack. As soon as I get 10 entries I’ll do the drawing!

My Juki, my love

Sew Mama Sew is doing a linkup for sewing machines and I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk a little about my love for My Juki.

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There she is, glistening in the morning light.

This is the Juki TL2010Q and I got it last May from Sew Vac Direct for about $800. It would have been $900 but at the last minute I googled “sew vac direct coupon code” and found a 10% off coupon. Score!

There are a few key features I was looking for:

  • I sew every day so I was very concerned about durability. I wanted a heavy-duty machine that would last a long time. (I’d rather spend my $$$ on fabric than have to buy a new machine every 5 years). For that reason I specifically looked for a minimally computerized machine. Computer technology changes too fast.
  • I knew I definitely wanted an automatic thread cutter! In case you don’t know what that is, it’s just a button that you push and something inside the machine cuts the thread for you. That is an A-MAZING feature for a quilter because we sew such short seams all the time. I almost never have to trim threads anymore and my family’s socks are happier too.
  • I wanted a table extension for quilting because I quilt all my own quilts and I tend to make large quilts more often than small projects.

I knew those were the features that mattered, but I didn’t anticipate the best part: my sewing accuracy really improved with this machine. I am definitely not saying that beautiful and wondrous things cannot be created on cheaper machines! I made a lot of lovely quilts with My Old Singer and also every curtain and pillow in my house (there are a lot – just ask my husband). But if you are having trouble getting the results you see others getting, it just might be your machine.

Here’s a big thing I noticed when I got My Juki:

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See those feed dogs right under the presser foot? Now look where they are on My Old Singer:

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The feed dogs on the right are out of range of a 1/4 inch seam! This makes accuracy really tough, especially when sewing triangles or anything else that requires a scant 1/4 inch seam (if you wonder what I mean by that you can read this tutorial about piecing or this tutorial about sewing perfect half square triangles).

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If I had to say something negative to balance out all the gooey show of emotion, I would say that My Juki and I did need to spend some time getting to know each other. For some reason the first 2 days of sewing I had a lot of tension problems. Part of it was because I was using both tension discs. Apparently even though the instructions tell you to thread through the second disc (on top near where it says “Juki”) that’s actually an extra tension disc for sewing with silk thread. Things got better quickly when I was instructed by Sew Vac Direct to bypass that disc. Unfortunately in the process of getting that all figured out I managed to bend my automatic needle threader. I just thread it manually for now but I’m sure I’ll eventually need to get it fixed.

So that’s it! She’s My Juki and I love her. She gets me through the most stressful days of raising 2 toddler boys… One of whom is being a true stinker this morning.

Going post-modern

I didn’t get to go to Quilt-Con, but I eagerly read all the blog posts about it and also enjoyed the lectures on Craftsy. I remember it got a lot of people talking about labels and in particular the Modern Quilt Guild’s definition of “modern quilting.” I don’t think it was long until all the hullabaloo caused the MQG to adjust the definition to be a lot more inclusive.

This is the definition right now:

Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.

The thing is, I’m not sure this definition goes far enough yet to include quilters like me. I’m not inspired by minimalism and negative space and solids. I admire it, but I don’t enjoy doing it. Clearly that last sentence tacked onto the end of the definition is supposed to make me feel included. They’re trying. 🙂

I want to make it clear that nothing I’m saying here is meant to be controversial or negative in any way. I recognize the tremendous contribution the Modern Quilt Guild has made and continues to make to the quilting community. I just find this topic really interesting and fun to discuss. Truthfully, this is more about me finding my place in the community than about me making judgments on the kinds of quilts others are making or should make.

One reason I find this so interesting is that I’ve been searching for my own style and I think I’ve been able to narrow it down this year. My goal is simply to make really educated decisions about what quilts I choose to spend my time making. I want to love my quilts when they’re done. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • For me, life is too short to use solids, even for backgrounds. Why use plain white when you can use polka dots or a subtle text print? A huge part of my enjoyment of the process has to do with how absolutely stunning printed fabric can be.
  • I prefer scrappy quilts – the more fabrics the better. It’s too repetitive to make the same block over and over in the same prints. I love to vary the background fabrics too.
  • I think it’s really fun to “deconstruct” large scale prints by using them for piecing and not just large borders or backings.
  • I like low-contrast quilts that need to be really examined for the design to come out. High contrast is good too but not necessary.
  • I like really elaborate quilts that take a long time to make: true modern heirlooms. On the other hand, I always like square patchwork- especially when it’s really scrappy.

So the question I’m asking is this: are we going post-modern? I feel like I’m seeing less of the truly minimalist super-modern quilts. Maybe I’m just more likely to follow the blogs of people who make quilts like mine. But I’m really curious whether you guys think the tide is turning back to more traditional designs.

And just because I know you don’t want a post with JUST WORDS here are my latest Penny blocks:

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Apparently I was in a bit of an Anna Maria Horner mood.

Apparently I was in a bit of an Anna Maria Horner mood.

Thoroughly post-modern if you ask me!

Linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday  and Thursday Threads since I’m never ready in time for WIP Wednesday lately! Oh, and this new one. Check it out.

Finish it up friday: celebration giveaway

Whew, I gotta tell you, those Your 1st Quilt tutorials were a lot of work! I didn’t get a chance to post any final pictures of the mini in the tutorials because I wanted to leave some binding unsewn for demonstration purposes at my class, but I can show you now:

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Cute huh? I can definitely see a poinsettia on top of that this Christmas. Ooh, or maybe a bowl of red and green M&Ms. Or my Mom’s peanut brittle! (Hi, Mom).

To celebrate finishing all 6 tutorials, I’m going to offer a very special giveaway. I’ve got a pretty pile of neatly starched and pressed coordinating fabrics that I am pulling from for my Penny Sampler. I am going to cut 2 charm packs from those fabrics for 2 giveaways. This will be a pretty exciting little set of fabric because I’ve been using only my absolute (of-the-moment) favorites for this quilt: plenty of Denyse, Anna Maria Horner, the new Alison Glass text prints, some Violet Craft Waterfront Park, Leah Duncan Tule, etc. You can see these fabrics at work in my sampler so far here.

To enter, I’m asking you to in some way spread the word to your beginner or non-quilting friends that I have these tutorials available on my blog. I’d love it if you’d mention it on your blog, but you can have an entry for any form of spreading the word – even an old fashioned face-to-face conversation. We’re on the honor system here people. Just leave a comment telling me you did it. I’ll leave the giveaway open until midnight next Friday, October 11.

Yes, I will ship internationally. It isn’t a real celebration without all my quilt friends around the world!

The 2nd giveaway is for beginner’s only! The first 10 people to email me a picture of a finished quilt they made using my tutorials will be entered to win the 2nd charm pack. I’ll also feature a picture of the quilt on my blog (if they don’t mind). I’ll leave this giveaway open until I receive 10 entries.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the class I had at my house last Saturday was an absolute blast! 9am – 2pm was the perfect amount of time for them each to sew their own mini. When they left they were all about half done turning their binding.

I provided these cute little bundles:

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Each one contained nine 5-inch squares, an appropriately-sized piece of batting, a fat quarter for backing, and a length of binding I prepared in advance. They were all so enthusiastic. One in particular has already gone out and bought fabric for her next quilt! I could see the fire in her eyes. She’s totally hooked. (Hi, Vicki).

I will say that I’m glad I had the tutorials to refer everyone to. It took the pressure off to know that they have something to go back to later if I didn’t make something clear enough or completely forgot to say something important.

Celebrating my big finish (the tutorials, really) by linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Fabric Tuesday!

It’s starting to look like a real quilt

I laid out all my penny sampler blocks on my bed today.

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Pretty super exciting. I love this quilt.

Here’s what’s new:

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This one caused me to break my general “it’s not fun anymore if you sew it twice” rule. I had to sew the first diamond 3 times before I got it right. The other 4 were easy-ish after that. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of working with diamonds!

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I’m proud of this one though! That’s a lot of HST (half square triangles) to get right. They line up pretty well! Not perfect but definitely enough that I smiled when I opened that last seam. And I only used my seam ripper a little. (You can’t really tell in the picture, but the white fabric is a white on white text print with a bit of shimmer to it. It really adds to the ribbon effect the block is supposed to have.)

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Kinda spooky? Appropriate for Halloween I guess. That green didn’t photograph well. It’s a nice emerald green – Lizzy House Jewels.

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This is my new favorite. There’s just something about it. Rachel (our teacher) has been encouraging us choose a light, medium, and a dark fabric for some of these blocks to add dimension. I’m really liking that strategy.

Come back tomorrow to hear about my next giveaway!

Linking to Thursday Threads and Needle & Thread Thursday.