Thursday, May 21, 2020

Rainbow Road

Rainbow Road, pattern (originally called Prism) and fabric by Alison Glass, is actually a very old quilt top lying in my stash. I've wanted to quilt it for a long time, but I kept putting it off because it is the scariest type of quilt to deal with: the negative space quilt. Negative space quilts offer infinite potential, and also infinite chances to not reach that potential.

As far back as a few years ago, I already had a story and a plan for this quilt. I imagined a futuristic steampunk city with a lot of paths criss-crossing in the air, and at the top of it all was a rainbow road, a (somewhat unreachable) holy grail for the citizens of the city.

To give the quilt a feeling of depth, I quilted a lot of roads that criss-cross in the air, representing a top-down view of the city.

Since the theme is inspired by steampunk, on the background areas between the paths I quilted a lot of gear type motifs. Whether or not it actually invoked a feeling of steampunk, I cannot say, but I love the look!

The rainbow road itself is quilted with a dot-to-dot design that I sort of made up as I went along. I really like how it allows the beautiful rainbow fabrics to pop up.

Rainbow Road isn't my first paths-in-the-air quilt, as I previously quilted Skyways with a similar idea. But Skyways represents a happy futuristic city set in the clouds with flowers and greenery beneath, while Rainbow Road is definitely grittier.

I love the front of this quilt, but I might love the back even more. This is truly a double-sided quilt, and you can really see the details on the back.

I'm so very happy with this quilt because of the story and how it came out pretty much as I envisioned it. It was almost 3 years in the planning, but the end result is so very special to me!

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Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Atmosphere Quilt Along

I really wasn't looking for a new quilt along. I already had several block-of-the-months to keep me busy, not to mention a slew of other projects I had queued up. But when the Atmosphere quilt along was announced, well, how could I resist?

I really wasn't looking to buy a kit. I had bins full of scraps, and shelves full of fat quarters. But when the lovely bundle of 34 Kona fabrics came wafting under my nose, well, how could I resist?

So I fell headlong into the Atmosphere quilt along. Cutting and organizing the fabric was arguably the toughest part!

The blocks are simple and straightforward, just some flying geese and half-square triangles combined with squares and rectangles. But the beautiful array of colors made it so exciting to work with.

This quilt was a joy to put together. All that rainbow goodness was making me super happy. I guess color really acts as a pick-me-up.

I haven't done a rainbow quilt top for quite awhile, and I love this! The quilt pattern also comes with a minimalistic version that I might have to do sometime as well.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

For Want of a Magnet (My Favorite Longarm Tools)

I prepared this blog post several years ago but then totally forgot about it. Due to our season of quarantine and having two little kids stuck at home, I've been very slow on projects and have nothing to show. I thought it'd be a good time to post this instead! Despite this post being old and the links probably not all working, in a way this post is more valid than ever because I've been using these tools for the last few years to know they're holding up well.

***

I've been quilting on a longarm for less than a year, which doesn't make me an expert, but I feel it's a respectable amount of time for me to finally share my favorite longarm tools. A lot of these are total game-changers for me!

Disclaimer: I provided some links to the sites that sell some of this stuff, but I have no affiliation with any of these parties and these links are not affiliate links.

Stapler

But then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn't bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll, I'll, I'll set the building on fire ...

Milton - Office Space

Before I got a longarm, I've researched lots of methods about loading quilts quickly and with as much control as possible. While there are methods I haven't tried, when I found one I liked I stuck with it. And that's staples.

I first saw this method demonstrated by Mandy Lyons, and I admit, I was initially skeptical. But I was so tired of pinning that I decided to invest in a stapler and give it a shot. Immediately, I loved it! It's much quicker than pinning, I have as much control as pins, and I never prick myself or risk bleeding over the quilt.

Spray Bottle

I picked up this tip from Beth of Cooking Up Quilts. While stapling made actually loading a quilt easier, I still had to iron the backing and I haaaated that. But after reading Beth's tip about using a spray bottle to de-wrinkle as I load, I was so tempted that I bought a spray bottle immediately. And it has worked great!

I've loaded a few quilts now with Beth's tip about using the spray bottle, and it was wonderful. I can skip that pesky ironing of the backing stage entirely now. It has made loading so much more pleasant!

Handi Grip

What's just slightly less annoying than a ruler that slides in rotary cutting? A ruler that slides in longarm quilting. I always have to pick those stitches out, and it's not fun. I use quite a bit of rulers in my quilting, so this handy (no pun intended) little Handi Grip tape has really come in handy. It is like a sticky tape on the back of the ruler that pretty much prevents slippage. I have some on the back of each of my rulers.

Needle Alignment Magnet

And I save the best for the last. I hated changing needles on the longarm because I'm never completely sure the needle is pointed toward the right position. In fact, several times when I was sure it was correct, I realized that when I tighten the screw, it likes to shift just a tad. And that tad seems to make quite a difference in how happy my quilting experience is!

Finally I figured somebody has to have solved this problem. I looked for quite awhile before I found these. I couldn't believe they're not more widely available! With this little magnet, now I can see whether my needle is pointed in the exact right position I need it to, and I can easily calibrate to compensate for the shift that usually happens when I tighten the screw. I love it, and changing a needle is no longer guesswork!

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So these are some of my favorite, not-as-widely-known tools. What's yours?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Unintended ~ A Mini Haphazard

If there's one part of the quilting process that I hate more than anything ... it's loading a quilt onto the longarm. After quilting Modern X, I realized since Modern X isn't a very big quilt, I have a little bit of room to put another quilt on there! That's what I call a freebie, since I didn't have to load it.

The only quilt top I have that actually fits is my mini Haphazard quilt that I made late last year. I named this quilt Unintended because it truly was unintended. The fabric came out of my Rock Star quilt, because I made a mistake reading the instructions and ended up cutting twice as much of the black and white fabric as I needed. The fabric was too special for me to put aside, so I made them into half-square triangles and then loaded up my Haphazard generator to get a nice 36" x 36" arrangement.

For the first time ever, I decided to try matchstick quilting on my longarm. Nancy from Grace and Peace Quilting had previously given me some advice for how to do it, and I'm very grateful, because otherwise I would have totally messed it up! Just like free-motion is not as hard as it looks, matchstick quilting is not as easy as it looks.

Matchstick quilting isn't particularly exciting to do, but there's a sort of zen-like calm to it. I think it turned out really well, and I'm very happy with it. It is so striking, and the quilting adds such a lovely texture. I'm not sure yet where it will go, but I think it will look great hanging up in my quilting room!

But after making this quilt, I realize that I really want another black and white Haphazard quilt, except throw-sized. I guess I'll have to do that one soon.

***

Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Modern X

I'm asked a lot what I do with my finished quilts. The truth is ... not much. I've given a few away to family and friends, and I usually have one draping on the couch that I snuggle under (and which I swap out once every few months). I don't even sleep under my own quilts! I know, I know ... but I don't have much of a say in that.

So I'm excited that this new quilt I've just finished, I do have a use for! It is a wallhanging that is going to go in our side entrance hallway.

This pattern is called Modern X by Christa Watson, it is a simple half-square triangle quilt, but made interesting in the fabric choice and fabric placement. That pop of wasabi is just so beautiful!

Since it's a super modern wallhanging, I kept the quilting very, very simple with all straight lines that basically follow the angles of the triangles. In other words, I used the same design that was on the cover of the pattern. But I didn't feel a need to improve on what's already perfect.

I absolutely love this, and I'm so excited to see it hanging in my hallway! But that's not enough ... now I'm thinking I want to make a throw-sized version of this quilt. It'll be quick and satisfying, exactly what we need in times like this.

***

Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Moon Dance ~ Ready to Quilt

All quilts are special. But some quilts are more special than others.

I still remember the first time I saw Moon Dance by Sew Kind of Wonderful. It was during QuiltCon 2018 in the booth of You + Me for Hoffman Fabrics. I stared at it for a good while, completely in awe.

When the pattern was released a few months later, I bought it immediately. But I sat on it for 2 years. I wanted to make sure that I had the right fabric, the right skills, was in the right mood, everything. As usual, fabric is where I tend to mess up the most, and have the most amount of quilter's regret for. I decided to use Observatory by Alison Glass, one of my favorite collections ever.

Cutting and stacking took a long, long time ...

Sew Kind of Wonderful is known for their rulers and their patterns, but my favorite thing about them is that their patterns include a lot of leeway. I consider it curved piecing for people who can't do curved piecing (like me). When the blocks come out, they look pretty awful and skewed. But once I do the trim-down, they actually look pretty good!

The moment of truth comes when I finally place some of the blocks on the design wall and decide whether I like it or not. Usually by this point, even if I don't love it, I'll still finish it. However, I definitely breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that I really, really love this fabric with this pattern! The fabrics truly seems to glow.

Assembling was a bit painful but I got through it by doing it in small chunks. And anyway, the end result is worth it. I'm so in love with this quilt top! If I finish it this year (which is not likely given how much I need to emotionally detach myself from it), it has a good chance of being my favorite finish of the year.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Pisces

About a year and a half ago (has it been that long already?) I was signed up to take a class with Sharon McConnell of Color Girl Quilts. The pattern she was teaching was Pisces, a double curve quilt using her Classic Curves ruler. I had spent a few hours precutting fabric (Dot Crazy by Modern Quilt Studio) the night before and I was ready to go.

But I never made it to class. The weather that day was icy and slushy, and on the way there, my car got stuck going up a slight incline. It took me 20 minutes to extricate myself, and I knew that on the way to the quilt guild, it could very well happen again, so I headed home. I was bummed about missing out on the class, and knew the only way I would feel better is if I made this quilt anyway.

Well ... I did! Through Sharon's instructions in the pattern, I managed to make those double curves. I really liked the finished top with the black / white contrasting background, and the Dot Crazy fabric started to look more Asian the more I stared at it.

The most prominent design I used in this quilt is just straight lines, spaced half an inch apart. But I didn't just want to do straight lines, so I used a few other designs like plume feathers and continuous curves which I carried across each diagonal.

I quilted several different designs for the arches. This is my first time quilting in an arched space, which is sort of like a linear strip but a little more difficult. I think they came out okay, though!

After an intense quilt like Swoon and before the next intense quilt, I usually pick something simpler to work on. Occasionally my plan backfires and my simple turns into something hugely complicated (like Rafters) but Pisces didn't. It was the perfect relaxing quilt to work on.

I think I'm finally coming around to the idea that I don't have to quilt every quilt to death, and quilts that are not quilted to death can still be interesting and beautiful. Because I'm very happy with how Pisces turned out!

***

Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Block Chain Quilt Along

When the Block Chain quilt along was announced by Christa Watson, I was hesitant about joining. I had just gotten home from QuiltCon and I had so many projects I wanted to work on, not to mention the mountain of quilt tops that need to be quilted. Do I really want to add another one to the list?

As it turns out, the answer is yes. A month ago I would never have imagined that we're in the situation we're in today. Schools are closed, events are cancelled, and life is uncertain from one day to the next. If sewing and quilting keeps us sane, then I'm so grateful for it.

The fabric I chose is a charm pack from Ruby Star Society, Crescent by Sarah Watts. It's a lovely line that contains unicorns and critters, but doesn't feel juvenile at all. Although the quilt along only started this week, I already plunged ahead working on mine. The piecing is very easy, and Christa's instructions as always are crystal clear.

The way this quilt is constructed is wonderful because I don't end up having any borders or sashings to add. (I hate those.) I'm in love with the way this top came out!

As usual with quilt tops I really, really love, I can't quilt on it quite yet. It needs to marinate for awhile so that I become less attached!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Swoon

When I'm about halfway done machine quilting a quilt, I start thinking about what quilt top to quilt next. While I was quilting Color Pop, a slew of candidates came to mind. So I was very surprised that when I went to my rather alarmingly large stash of quilt tops, I pulled out Swoon. It was not even on the candidate list!

But it was calling to me, asking to be quilted, while some of my other quilt tops seem rather reluctant to leave the shelf. Swoon is a pretty new quilt top for me, as it's only several months old, instead of several years old like some. But it was a quilt that I was incredibly unsure about due to my wild fabric choices, so I wanted to finish it to put that uncertainty to rest, one way or another.

I wrestled with two choices for quilting Swoon: treating the negative space as one backdrop and doing a lot of improv style quilting over it, or dividing up the negative space to create secondary spaces and filling them. I chose the latter because it is easier for my mind to process.

The Greek cross-like shapes in between the blocks provided a big backdrop for lots of fun fillers, and I used that space to showcase lots of nature motifs such as leaves and feather swirls.

For all of the other negative spaces, I filled it with feathers and wishbones. I wanted quick and easy designs in those areas that had a predictable flow.

The Swoon blocks themselves were quilted very simply with geometric designs. I almost always do this (Urban Mod was a rare exception), because I've found that straight line designs always look good with prints, while more complex designs can be a bit of a hit or miss. This also allows the fabric to pop forward and take center stage.

After so much uncertainty about this quilt, I'm happy to report that I really, really love the end result! It has such a Mediterranean vibe that goes so well with the nature motifs, and I'm not sure if I like the blocks themselves, or the quilting I did in the negative space more. Either way, I'm super happy with how it turned out!

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Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

QuiltCon 2020

Ah, QuiltCon. My favorite quilt show. The only show I feel like I must attend. The place where I feel overwhelmed and inspired, intimidated and rejuvenated, all at the same time.

Last weekend I attended QuiltCon 2020 in Austin, and as always, it was an exhausting but fantastic time. I tried not to overload myself, but still ended up with 4 classes over 2 days. It was supposed to be 5, but I had to cancel one at the last minute.

I took 2 longarm classes (Fill It With Style, More Than Just Lines) with Jodi Robinson where I learned some great ideas for background fillers. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a quilting rut where all I can come up with are swirls and more swirls, so it's nice to take a class to get more ideas! However, I realize that I don't like the longarm portion of these classes. I'd rather they be drawing / design classes so I'm spending time learning new designs instead of spending time on a totally foreign longarm machine.

My third class is called Making Color Work with Heather Black and it's a very interesting class, totally different from anything I've ever done before. The class uses watercolor to explore color theory, and though I knew most of the theory, actually experimenting with them is a totally different experience. Now, I'll never get tint, shade, and saturation confused again! My watercolor skills are horrendous, but it was a fun class and I think I shall play with these color ideas more ... digitally, that is.

My last class is Serpentine Line Designs with Angela Walters. I'm a total Angela groupie so I always try to get a class with her whenever I can. I always feel so inspired being in the same room as her, enjoying her energy, humor, and enthusiasm, and of course learning from her. She is such an idea factory!

Taking classes is great, and form 49% of my reason for being at QuiltCon. But what is the 51%? The shopping, of course! At most quilt shows, I'm interested in about 10% of the booths. At QuiltCon, I'm interested in all the booths. I had originally planned to drive so I didn't have a restriction on how much I can buy (budget notwithstanding) but at the last minute I scrapped my plans and flew to Austin instead, so I could only take home what can fit in my suitcase ...

... which still turned out to be a lot. This is due to me bringing as little clothes as possible so I can squeeze in as much shopping as possible. Hey, I've got my priorities!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Scrappy Market Tote

The Scrappy Market Tote is a class by Christina Cameli on Bluprint, and I have watched it quite a few times, but I kept procrastinating on making one of my own. Improv terrifies me, and scraps intimidate me. So imagine how I feel when I'm faced with a project that's both improv and scraps.

But I finally decided to give it a shot. I'm using a palette of yellows, blues, and greens, and I combed through only the top of my scrap bins and already I was shocked at how much scraps I have accumulated over the last few years.

I then made a variety of improv patchwork, just putting things together however I want. Bias edges? No problem! Weird angles? No problem! Chop up whatever, add whatever. Anything goes. It's both terrifying and freeing at the same time. Improv completely goes against my usual factory assembly process, so it's challenging but also exciting because I never quite know how it's going to look.

After that, I auditioned which of those will make it into the final bag. This is the part I really had to rely on instinct, to tell me what works where, and especially if I need to insert extra things here or there to break up a space, to unify a space, or to add more jazz.

Since the panel is quite busy, I'm really glad for the big solid piece at the bottom of the bag to help tone it down and tie it together, and the matchstick quilting also helps unify it. However, I haven't done walking foot quilting on this scale in years, and now I remembered why I learned to free-motion quilt: because I hate doing walking foot quilting.

After all that, assembling this bag was the easy part. I also made a false bottom for it to give it a bit of structure. I'm super proud of this bag, because it far exceeded my expectations. I didn't think I could handle scraps or improv, so I'm quite amazed at how it turned out. It's a really gorgeous and happy bag to look at, and it's quite big too!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Color Pop

Once upon a time I bought a Tula Pink jelly roll, expecting it to be full of pom poms & stripes. I had a project all planned for it, but when I opened it up, gasp, it was not what I expected! Instead of being all pom poms & stripes, it also had some solids, and the fabric distribution was wrong for what I wanted to make.

But you know how jelly rolls are ... once opened up, they can never go back to that pristine, pretty condition. Once opened up, it's a mess and is demanding to be used instantly. But I couldn't figure out a way to use it up. Imagine my delight when just a few weeks later, Cluck Cluck Sew launched a new pattern ... Color Pop, that uses exactly the jelly roll I had!

Of course I bought the pattern the day it came out, and I really enjoyed putting together this quilt top. It was so easy, so colorful, and so fun. That was more than a year ago, and I finally pulled out Color Pop to quilt. After Santorini which was crazy and intense, I wanted something more relaxed.

I kept the quilting fairly simple on this quilt, as I didn't want the quilting to overwhelm all the gorgeous prints. The low-volume background fabrics in particular, I really really love. They just seem to shimmer.

I filled the background frames with straight lines and feathers, and alternated it between each block for more interest. I love to quilt feathers, but they're not right for every quilt. Here, they felt right at home.

For all the fun prints, I did my usual dot-to-dot geometric designs. They're quick and fun and are a nice contrast to the feathers and flowers.

This is one of the happiest quilts I've ever done. I had some coordinating Tula Pink green / gold yardage in my stash so I used that for a fun and stripey binding. I love the way it turned out, and this was a very low-stress, easy going quilt. It's exactly what I need in between more intense quilts. I had a smile on my face almost the whole time I was working on this quilt. It's just so bright. So fun. So ... pop!

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Linking up with: My Quilt Infatuation, Busy Hands Quilts, Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Cooking Up Quilts, Powered by Quilting, and Meadow Mist Designs.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Camden Road Quilt Along

I love quilt-alongs and it's very exciting to decide to join one, so I was delighted to know that the Camden Road quilt-along has started!

Camden Road is a pattern designed by Cheryl Brickey, and I love that it's fat-quarter friendly. I have way too many bundles, and I know I should stop buying bundles without a plan, but I just can't stop! But I'm always happy to find a fat-quarter friendly quilt that allows me to use up a bundle I've been hoarding.

After a long audition process that involved at least 8 different candidates, 3 last-minute mind changes, a lot of guilt, and more time than I want to admit to spending, I finally decided to use up one of my most precious bundles, which is Hand Maker by Natalie Barnes.

Even though this pattern calls for 4-at-a-time flying geese, I prefer the traditional way of making geese, as I tend to get much better results. Usually I end up with a lot of half-square triangles that I feel guilty about throwing away, but these are small enough that I don't feel that guilt.

I know, I didn't wait for the quilt-along to finish! I usually don't, as once I'm excited about a project, well, I don't want to stop! I really love this quilt top, and certainly this is a better place for the fabrics than languishing, all wrapped up, on a shelf. (If only I can convince myself to cut up precious bundles more frequently ...)

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