Friday, March 24, 2017

Avant Garde Quilt

Every fabric bundle that enters my sewing room is special to me for one reason or another, but if I have to name my absolute favorite fabric collection that I acquired in the past year, it would definitely be Avant Garde by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics. This entire collection of striking hot pinks, teals, yellows, blacks, and whites in graphic patterns and formations is about as my style as it gets. This is a quilt that I would want to look at all the time, so I decided to make my very first queen-sized bed quilt with this collection.

I'm using the pattern New Waves by Elizabeth Hartman, because it doesn't require cutting the fabric into tiny pieces, and in big bands across the quilt, it really helps the prints to shine and take center stage. I've made this pattern once before in the form of a lap quilt, so this is just a bigger version.

However, since this is a queen sized quilt, I'm very reluctant to quilt it on my midarm. I know people have done king sized quilts on much smaller machines, and I admire that. However, for me, it's probably going to be too painful to be fun. I want quilting to always be fun. But that brings me to a little plan brewing in the back of my head ...

I'm thinking about getting a real longarm! I figured this day would come, but I didn't expect it to come this quickly. I have a tough decision ahead, and I want to try a lot of machines (meaning I'll have to go to a big show where it's all there) so I'm not sure when it'll happen, but as long as that's a possibility, I'll put this quilt top aside to wait for it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

An Experiment In Curves

My first experience sewing curves was about a year ago when I worked on the Craftsy Block of the Month 2012 quilt. One of the months had Drunkard's Paths, and I was so frustrated sewing them that I was on the verge of tears. In the end, I substituted different blocks for those curved blocks, and I haven't touched curves since.

Though it's been a year, that experience is still fresh in my mind, and I still have a fear of curves. However, I'm finally ready to try them again. In the past year I've watched every YouTube video I could get my hands on about curves, and I've picked up books about curves. There are so many different ways to do them!

So I thought it'd be a fun experiment to cut some scraps and make some Drunkard's Path blocks, with all the different method I've seen, to see what works for me.

1. The Angela Pingel Method

Angela Pingel, the author of A Quilter's Mixology, wrote about a method in her book, which is all about Drunkard's Paths. I don't want to disclose her method here though because it's probably copyrighted, as I've never seen that method anywhere else.

2. The Glue It Method

Glue-basting involves pre-gluing the seams together before sewing. This is a costly method since the glue pens get pretty pricey!

3. The All-Pins Method

Probably the one that a lot of people still use, but since I usually sew with zero pins, the thought of all those pins makes me want to quit right here and now. I did it for the sake of this experiment, though.

4. The Triple Pin Method

Instead of pinning rigorously, this method just requires the ends and the middle be pinned.

5. The No Pin Method

I consider this method for the ultra-skilled. It is basically like the Curve Master foot, except with a regular patchwork foot.

6. The Curve Master Method

Alright, I didn't actually try this method this time because I no longer own the Curve Master foot, but I bought it last year and hated it so much that I ended up returning it. I had to write that here, though, as it's a method that works well for some people. But not for me.

So how did I do? Honestly ... it didn't turn out as badly as I thought. From the pictures, #1 (Angela Pingel) is the best one, and while the others are usable, they're not ideal. Some of them are too small, and others are distorted. (It might look okay on the pressing board, but I've discovered my pressing board's measurements are a little smaller than my ruler!) As far as pain level goes, #2 (Glue-Baste) and #3 (All-Pins) are the most painful, while the rest are about the same: painful but not excruciating.

In conclusion, after tonight's experiment, I'll probably use #1 (Angela Pingel) and #4 (Three-Pin) together. Sorry I can't share Angela's method here, I don't have the rights. While I can't honestly say I like curved piecing, I'm glad I can at least do it to some degree now.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Playing with Processing

March = flu season. A house full of sick children & sick adults = less time in the basement (quilting room), and more time on watch duty. But even if I can't quilt, I can play with quilting ideas ... digitally.

Awhile ago, I saw a couple of patterns by Libs Elliott called Just Like Heaven and Rebel Quilt that shared something interesting: they were both incredibly striking, and both were designed using a language called Processing. It's described as a programming language for artists. It sounded interesting so I decided to explore more.

After playing with it a bit, I saw its potential for improv-style experimentation. While I would choose EQ7 or plain pencil / paper for slightly more structured and traditional designs, Processing offered a super quick way for the computer to randomly generate designs for improv style quilts.

The fabric bundle / color palette I'm using is Creative Rockstar from Rad and Happy by Riley Blake, which is just crying out to be made into a quilt with geometric motifs. I wrote up my little quilt generator and set out to make some random HST designs. The powerful part of this program is the ability to tweak different parameters for a new look immediately. First, I experimented with having a roughly equal number of 1-patch HST blocks and 4-patch HST blocks.

Then, I decided to try a ratio of 65% 1-patch HSTs and 35% 4-patch HSTs.

I reversed the ratio and tried 35% 1-patch HSTs and 65% 4-patch HSTs.

I can tell right away that I prefer the look of more 1-patch HSTs and less 4-patch HSTs. (Plus that's less piecing to do.) However, I'm still not sure what to go for exactly. It can become addictive to keep generating new layouts, and though I find ones I like a lot, it's hard to know when to stop, for fear I'd miss out on some genius random layout!

Besides ratio of 1-patch and 4-patch HSTs, other things I can quickly experiment with include distribution of colors (for example, if I want more of one color than another), and whether the colors should be randomly scattered, or more clustered together. I'll be playing with it still, and the quilt I end up making may look nothing like what's above.

I'm really, really excited to have discovered this new tool for design! I can just imagine what it might be able to do for me. (The version of Processing I'm using is p5js, which is in javascript.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tokyo Subway Map ~ Ready to Quilt!

The first time I saw Tokyo Subway Map, I was still a fairly new quilter, and though I loved it, I was really intimidated. It looked so tiny and intricate. I put it on my "make someday" list and didn't think about it much. Then, about a year later, I remembered it and suddenly, I had to make it now. Talk about queue jumping!

Making this quilt first consists of cutting 1600 squares. After that, it's piecing those 1600 squares together. This quilt took more than a month to piece the top, just because there were so many little pieces. While it shouldn't have been difficult, I had a hard time with this. I think I just don't do very well with little pieces, but that doesn't mean I won't keep trying.

I love this top so far, and I'm so excited to quilt it. I think I'll have to finally try my hand at improv quilting, or wild quilting. I took a class with Christina Cameli on wild quilting that was incredibly inspiring, and I've always admired the amazing work of Karlee Porter. I can't think of a more perfect canvas to try wild quilting than this quilt, because it's got an urban feel, it's asymmetrical, whimsical, and has so many odd spaces.

Since I've never done wild quilting before, I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to sketch it out some. I just randomly doodled some stuff without thinking too hard about it, but I kind of like the way it looks! In a blending thread, it'll be great. One thing I always have to take into account, though, is contrast, as it's something I struggle with.

Well, I can hardly wait to get started! This will probably take me a month or so to quilt, but it will be a really fun one.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Yoyogi Park Quilt

When I saw the Town Square quilt on episode 6 of the Midnight Quilt Show, I knew immediately that I wanted to make it. Fast, easy piecing, and lots of negative space ... What's not to love?

I tried to make this quilt with some charm packs I had, but it went wrong, because the fabric just didn't work well together. I didn't want to give up though, so after some painstaking fabric auditions, I chose the adorable fabric collection Yoyogi Park by Skinny LaMinx for Cloud 9 Fabrics. I found it by chance on Etsy (which is my favorite place for out-of-season fabrics) and just couldn't pass it up.

Once cut up, piecing this quilt top was very easy. Big pieces mean there's less piecing. I'm working on several quilts with small pieces at the moment, so having this big piecing quilt to work on is a nice change of pace.

While I think the quilting brings it all together, the more negative space there is, the more true that becomes. This is a very similar type of quilt to Starstruck, in that it's a square quilt with a focal point and radiating outwards symmetrically. It's sort of a medallion, come to think of it. I did a combination of dense fillers (but of course) with geometric designs and threw in some feather motifs.

I really enjoyed making this quilt, and I'm very happy with how it turned out. I'm glad I didn't continue with the original top and remade it in this fabric instead. This quilt really makes me smile!

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This post participated in the link party at Busy Hands Quilts, Crazy Mom Quilts, and Frontier Dreams. Link up and join the fun!

Monday, March 6, 2017

It's Cheaper Than Therapy

I've read the phase "Oh, well, it's cheaper than therapy" at the end of a quilter's buying binge, and it got me thinking. Quilting really is therapeutic for a great number of people, in fact, I'm positive my blood pressure drops just by walking into my sewing room. But why?

Turns out, every stage of quilting has its own therapeutic value.

1. Fabric Selection - Looking at and auditioning the gorgeous fabrics, the vibrant colors and prints, the hopes and potentials wrapped in those pretty little bundles ... instant mood boost.

2. Cutting - Need to vent some anger? Stack 'em and whack 'em with the rotary cutter. I speak from experience.

3. Piecing - Nothing takes my mind off my problems better than trying to get that perfect quarter-inch seam ... and achieving (or trying to) that perfect matched seam.

4. Quilting - My personal favorite part, for quilting is like doodling, but with thread. Quilting has the ability to change the mood of the quilt from traditional elegance, to modern edge, or a combination thereof, all just by changing the quilting design. The freedom to play and express and its therapeutic power is amazing.

5. Snuggling - What could be more therapeutic than snuggling under a beautiful handmade quilt using gorgeous fabric, and knowing I made it? Exactly.

And that is why quilting is so therapeutic. It's also cheaper than the other kind of therapy. Well ... to an extent, depending on shopping habits. However, it's far more productive, and it's pretty safe. I used to hang glide as therapy, but one majorly broken arm later, my family is thrilled that I now quilt instead.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Print Shop Tote

I mentioned in my very first blog post that the book that first intrigued me about sewing was Sew Gifts!. The first project in that book was a chevrons tote bag that I really wanted to make, but I couldn't understand the instructions. I'm one of those people who has problems with my spatial abilities, and in sewing-lance, it means I have trouble understanding written instructions for 3-dimensional objects like bags.

So I took a few video courses on bag making, hoping to eventually take that knowledge to paper patterns. I didn't think I was ever going to get there, though. But a few weeks ago, I reread the instructions for this tote (something I did quite a few times in the past 3 years ) and this time, it finally made sense!

So at long last, here is the finished tote. I used some yardage I had in my stash, combined with a few adorable fat quarters from the Print Shop collection by Alexia Abegg for Cotton and Steel.

Being a quilter, the chevron panels naturally were the most fun to put together. For me, the most challenging aspect of this bag came from the final assembly, and that's mostly because of the fabric I used. The essex linen, although beautiful, was very challenging to sew because it was so much thicker, and this bag also has several layers of batting and interfacing. I didn't have any denim needles so I used a topstitch needle, but still came away with lots of skipped stitches over the thickest part of the seams.

Despite the problems, I'm still happy with this tote. Mostly, I'm proud of the fact that I finally deciphered a paper pattern, and that's quite a milestone for me. As for the quality of this tote ... well, I don't know how long it will hold up, but when it falls apart, I'll just make another one!

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This post participated in the link party at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Busy Hands Quilts, and Crazy Mom Quilts. Link up and join the fun!

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