Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Another Client Beauty

This sweet quilt was sent to me by Doris. It is a Sue Pelland pattern. Though I had a somewhat restrictive budget, I attempted to get the most quilting for the value. Each row of the middle section was very important to be stitched continuously so that I could both outline stitch the orange peels, as well as provide prettier fills.
 She sent me a grainy photo of how she'd seen this quilted, specifically requesting rolling feathers on the alternating corners. This border is like 10" wide, so these are large curling feathers.
 I used a variegated YLI poly thread I have had for ages. It has the reputation of occasionally being persnickitty to quilt with, but happily it ran just fine. It looked pretty on the beige batik because it brought a subtle amount of color. Doris sent the flattest of flat battings, Warm & Natural, so getting relief out of the quilting was not happening. I wanted the color of the thread to at least convey the designs a little bit.
 The orange peels are all fused with the absolute lightest weight fusible. They are not stiff at all. They are also blanket stitched.
I am busy getting my SH*t ready to travel next Wednesday to southern California. The fact that I am going to a place that is 60-70F has been like a blinder to hide the amount of work I have to do from my eyes! It finally hit me today how much of an idiot I may be. The show will pay for 2 checked bags, so I did not ship everything I could have.  Now I am seriously pondering HOW will I manage 2 checked bags AND the one I plan to carry on (which contains all the backings and tops for the 1st day)! one change of clothes in the likely event my other bags do not make the two connections!  Sheesh...I must be nuts. I will have darn near 125lb of stuff, and I have a 6am flight to boot. Shoot me now!

Today was dedicated to getting the applique borders marked for this quilt.I am still assembling the flowers and leaf units for it, but it's getting close to basting the pieces onto the borders. The grayness of the border will be tempered when all of the applique (purple) is added. I think it will tie together with the center too.
The center section got it's scalloped frame too. I am awaiting delivery of a rose fabric that will be used as a bias piping around the scallops. Leave it to me to always love the discontinued fabrics. It was a beast to locate! I'll likely machine applique that on.
Now, just a 3-4" pieced outer border to design and it will be down to the assembly. And, of course, figuring out how to quilt it so that some of the quilting actually shows!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

In Design Mode

 It's no secret that I love Carpenter's stars. The simple pattern of triangles, combined with just the right gradation of color is always attractive. I have made 3 of these quilts that I won't show anybody (it hangs at my mother's house, and it was made before I realized many technical details about quilts!), and the next two.

Zen Garden will forever be one of my favorites. It had that surreptitious perfect blend of fabrics that I still love. All of these fabrics were in my stash at the time it was designed and made.
A couple years later, I started another carpenter's star. It spent a while in a box until I endeavored to finish it. Illuminations (2016) is all batiks, and just never met my current-day aesthetic. I still wonder why on earth I chose all the blues.
Despite having a quilt or three started, I have been day dreaming about making another Carpenter's star quilt. Like seriously...when has numerous started projects EVER hindered the starting of another?
I sat down yesterday with EQ7 and started playing.

I will preface this by saying that EQ is NOT user-friendly for this type of pattern.  The 4 "mis-matched" sections/holes are there because this is the best rendition I could create with a program I still hack my way through. It's good enough for my purposes, though, since all I really want to do is play with color placement and ideas for the setting squares.

Starting out, my goal was to create pieced diamonds that were in greens and turquoises, and then put applique blocks in a complimentary color like orange. How I got to this design is a bit of a mystery.
 Twenty-four appliqued blocks should keep me busy (and probably bored) for ages. What I found fun was to play with the frame and background colors, in search of that perfect combination. Somehow, I always gravitate to the purple.
Then I removed the outer frame, thinking this would reduce the size a bit. Did the frame look redundant?... I may also investigate adding more leafy applique in those corners.
 The lighter frames brought a different look. I kind of like it.
 ...or maybe a slightly softer shade...??
 Nah, deeper has more power. Now I'm cooking with gas.  What you will notice, is that initially I always go to a neutral background color of soft taupe or sage. White and ivory are just too stark and are waiting to be bled on. Soft green usually feels right.
 But then I inadvertently changed the background to my nemesis color -- brown. It is no secret, I hate brown. It is only marginally easier to work with than black, and is just well the color of bark. Or dog turds. Bot, wow!  I mean WOW!  This design just hit me as powerful. I tried hard not to like it, but it may be growing on me because it makes all the quilt's other features pop. 
I fiddled with using two shades of brown. This has a lighter outer area. My thought is that this may be easier to see to quilt on.
 Then I played with lighter on the blocks and darker in the background. Interesting. These both had frames that were read. I never really thought I loved red and brown together, but maybe I will ponder that a bit.
 Maybe I am more of a pink gal...Yes, this I like better than red. It is sassy, and I like it.
 This has a little more color.
 Two shades of pink?
 Pink and orange? It just makes me want to run to my favorite online shop and buy 16 yards of brown fabric. LOL!  It is very colorful, in a happy way. I don't have the faintest idea how I'd quilt brown fabric, but I know I'd be adopting a newer more-colorful language doing so.
First I must ponder a couple of client quilts, get my purple applique quilt pushed a little further and then maybe I will pull some fabrics and actually ponder making this magical mandala!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

New Book Release!

Without further wait, here is the book I have spent the last several months writing. It has been a project in the works for several years, as a variety of feather content has been drawn, quilted and now, finally, written into book form!

The book is for new quilters who have not yet quilted feathers, as well as those that have some feathering ability, and desire more. I cover quilting feathers from the ground up, showing many varieties of feather that you may customize to either your personal taste, or the design of the quilt. I discuss ways to place serpentine and twirling feathers onto borders, as well as more specialized borders.  Dozens of designs are included for quilting feathers into common shapes like squares and triangles.
 There is an entire chapter devoted to feathered wreaths as well.
If you are interested in quilting feathers into background spaces, or in lieu of a pantograph, this is included also. Unfortunately because of book size, I withheld a chapter on narrower feathered borders, but this can be found in my Narrow Borders book.

Please feel free to spread the word. This book is available on my website and from me at the select shows I teach at.  It is 88 pages of color instructions, photographs and illustrations. The cost is $25.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The woes of quilt construction

Unless you are making a quilt that is just sashed blocks, at one time or another you may have (or may will) encounter a design that makes you stop and scratch your head. What I am working with is like the EQ rendition shown here. On the surface it looks pretty straight-forward, but upon deeper study, it is fraught with potential issues if constructed incorrectly.
The center is simple. It is just a square (mine is pieced), and petals are appliqued onto it. It is then rotated 45 degrees to be on point. No rocket science yet. What had me perplexed though were these diamond-pieced corners. As usual, I had these four units pieced before I stopped long enough to realize that this design was a potential train wreck waiting to happen. All of the edges of these diamond units are bias! I know well enough after making 3 lone star quilts to handle these corners very carefully, but it would only take a small bit of stretch to make the lines of that fuscia inner border look crooked. I thought at first I might be able to just stay stitch the edges and then attach them corner by corner, but then I wizened us and devised a better plan. Maybe you have a quilt in the future that this technique could work on.

The way to get the most visible part of the design (fuscia 1/2" inner frame) to appear straight is just to piece it straight.  I carefully cut a 47-1/2" square of good muslin. I used this as the foundation for the diamond units. Each unit was machine basted to this square, as I did below. Now, all edges are stable, stretchable, and all that good stuff. I also have a completely straight edge onto which to sew the fuscia border.
 With 1/2: fuscia border added...
 Here's a closeup of the edge, with mitered corners to match the diamond piecing.
This center section is not ready yet to be added. In fact, the silver outer borders that will be appliqued will be added first, but you get the idea. The only wildcard in this construction is whether I can center the orange-peel center medallion (and two lasers and a good eye say that I can). It will be appliqued on last. But I know that when I do get to this step, the rest of the quilt will be in perfect alignment.
When the center is appliqued down, there is one final thing that should be done. That muslin was not prewashed, and is very likely to shrink at a faster rate than the other fabrics. I will cut the foundation out of the quilt after it is mostly assembled. To leave it is to risk having it pucker disproportionately if this is ever put in hot water.

Have a great week, and hopefully this construction tip helps you out of a similar bind one day!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Currently at the Printer...

Coming in mid-January!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Scattered, Unproductive and Going in Circles

That would be my tag line for 2017. This time of year, people are posting their "word" for next year. Mine was clearly unproductive for 2017. Now, I may have taught several classes, wrote articles, made many nice samples and wrote 4 books, but when it comes to quilting, I have fallen over the cliff. More than anything, I just want to quilt.

I have had 2-3 show quilts completed each of the past 5 years. Some have been smaller, which makes them easier to complete. I did sort of fall into the trap for several years of thinking it was fun to make 70-80" sized quilts. Now, though, as these take longer to finish, there is nothing small waiting to be completed! DOH!

In the summer, I started this 40" whole cloth. It is pretty green silk and I have posted snippets of it previously. It was *supposed* to be my Paducah 2018 entry (due Dec 1). The quilting went well and on schedule in the summer until I just stopped. The black thread, which seemed like a brave and ambitious choice initially, became my demise in the end. I really should just finish it into a nice floor pillow. Yea, right.
In September, when I got a few of the client quilts behind me, I decided to remake the same design as the green silk whole cloth, except with a piece of peach silk and matching peach thread. In many ways this opportunity capitalized on the decisions made on the green quilt which I regretted. I did much of it the same, but got to change some things.
I was right on schedule with it's finishing. About November 1st, I was starting the binding. That's where it all went to hell in a hand basket. The finished binding was too wavy. It would need reblocking. To make it worse, somehow I nicked the back of the silk binding in a way that I'd have to replace the entire binding on about 1/4 of the quilt (ok, part of this was because it just could not lay flat. I have done more scalloped edges than I can count, but this damn serpentine edge was doing me in.  I was losing my patience. I was able to order another yard of the peach silk fabric, despite it being discontinued.
Sadly, I just lost steam and did not bother to enter it. I probably could have fudged the photo with 2-way tape on the floor well enough, but realistically, I still have to fix it, and I did not have that motivation inside me. Maybe next year!  See...the quilting really is pretty decent. I am just scattered, and feeling unproductive. It affects my mojo and how much effort I want to put into anything.
 Anybody remember these blocks?...Here's another of this year's hand-stitched projects. I also did a nice border but at some point thought it was simpler without it. I would create a border with colored thread in the quilting. The blue bias is all stitched down, BUT the damn crap needs fixing because the bottom is not quite symmetrical. Go figure... Somehow just naming it "Cocked a Little Sideways" did not seem kosher.
This quilt will be a relatively easy fix, and "could" be onto the frame this winter/spring. Whether it will or not is another story of motivation.

So this brings us to my most current project. Yes, with a trans-US trip next month, I thought I needed a hand-piecing project to fill my hours on planes and in airports. I really do need something to do sitting in my favorite purple chair each  night too besides snooze. The orange-peel design is one I have pondered making for years. Oddly, the gray fabrics as well as the lavender silks were bought for other designs that never got made. Who knew they were so pretty together?!? That is the glory of a bountiful stash.
One of the lavender silks came from some fabric I ordered for this quilt. It was custom dyed by Debra Linker, but it was just the wrong shade by no fault of her's. I conveniently left this quilt out of this year's list of failed attempts. It was afterall started in 2016. The lighter shades of purple silk also came from this quilt (they were underneath the large star appliques, not yet cut away). 
Oh wise Crystal Ball...will she finish this quilt this year?...
                                                 <>  sigh...

Back to the orange peel quilt...

It is typical when I am working on one part of the quilt to be designing other areas. This was initially conceived to have the center shown above, with large corner triangles with this type design appliqued.  I have even gone to the extent of starting to prepare the edges of the appliques - no small task considering there are nearly 500 pieces.

Then I started second guessing the time to hand applique all of know the spiraling circle of quilt design doubt... I thought maybe I could use a similar concept, but have it not be quite so time consuming.  Narrow (7-8") borders might be faster than large corners, right?

 I'm not so sure. But in my desire to NOT Christmas shop, I let myself believe that theory -- so far that I actually made up these 4 pieced corners between Saturday and today. They have 2 of the silks, which are very pretty in the light. After getting them done, I question having them placed so close to the orange peels. It might be too busy. Not sure if this is reality talking or my procrastinatory non-productive mind. After the applique is added, that gray border will not be nearly as calming as it is there.

So, I did what any non-sane fool would do...Go back to the drawing board, and move the parts and pieces around on the floor in search of a better plan.  My real goal is to identify the "plan" so I can actually start the appliqued borders.  This part of the job I really like to do!
I tried placing the crazy diamond pieced borders further from the center block. This layout has merit. Then, I found a small piece of perfectly colored lavender Grunge without a selvage, and thought - Gee, this might look great with a solid lavender triangle as I layed out below. There are only about 75 colors of Grunge; I'll probably only have to order 10 extra yards in order to find the "right" shade.  LOL!
This layout is WAY too simple though. It relies way too much on me not screwing up the quilting - ha ha! Then the thoughts of 2 semi-failed whole cloth quilts enter my mind.  Better figure out the piecing somehow! 

On the brighter side though, I will have one quilt finished this year for competition. This does already have a binding, and a dang good one too. It only took one try to get it on which is an added plus in my crazy book! I am adding some beading and embroidery, but it is otherwise finished. I absolutely loved designing and making this one, and hope that the process of "Problems in Purple" (all my quilts get sarcastic names during the making; most actually earn them) goes as smoothly. This design just developed easily, beginning with the log cabin blocks, then the appliqued border. 
Part of me knows I am overthinking the process, making this harder than it has to be. What would you do on the purple quilt ?, making a purple whole cloth is flat out of the question! LOL

Have a great pre-holiday week!

Friday, December 15, 2017

For those of you who post questions...

I happily answer any and ALL questions that are asked to me in comments.  This can only be done though IF you either leave an email address OR get rid of your "blogger-noreply" status by entering an email to Blogger.

Becky K. Google Madiera Monolon and you will get a link to the Madiera Store.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Lollipop Trees

Alas, this giant custom is done. I say that like it has been on my frame for weeks, but that's not entirely the real story. I loaded it yesterday, in an effort to get one big custom done before the holidays kick lessen the backlog of harder, longer quilts just a little bit. My 2 month hiatus is nearing its end. It finally feels good to be getting back into the detail work I so love.

This is Lollipop trees by Kim McClean. It has an absolute ton of appliqued circles, and even more Kaffe Fassett very colorful fabrics! There is little background behind the applique, so it is anybody's guess why it takes so blasted long to quilt the background! This is a long job to quilt. Anybody that has done one will definitely agree with me.
It has a single layer of wool batting -- just enough to puff the appliques and show off the relief. 
 I outline (SID) each and every applique and the sashings initially with my standard Madiera Monolon thread. It is truly invisible. 6 to 7 years ago, I got the cone of this thread, and I am finally nearing the end of the cone...its a mere 15000m. To be safe, I ordered another last week.
 This client does beautiful applique. It is so securely stitched, that there would be no risk of it coming loose ever. She's a hard-core applique quilter.   My last quilt for her (I think) was a Ladies of the Sea!

Never the less, these appliques are huge and really need to receive some quilting on them.  It keeps them from sagging and wearing disproportionately, and just gives the many leaves and circles texture and character. This detailing was quilted with 2 colors of 40wt shiny thread. With all the colors in the fabrics, I decided to consolidate the color selection for showy threads would make it easier on the eyes.

The detail stitching is often a very-close double-line echo.  This is particularly effective on busy print because it creates more negative space - thereby making the quilting more visible.
The same concept is true for the background fillers.  This fill is stitched with 4 colors of 50wt So Fine thread, but each block is quilted identically. The threads coordinate with the background fabric colors. This thread has no shine and melts into the quilting in a more subtle way. 
Love this block with the birds...

The borders and sashings received a combination of diamond on point quilting with a filler, and straight lines.  Linear designs are more prone to showing through the prints and colors than something like feathers or another fill.
 Too many lollipops...
 And I will leave you with just one peek at the backside.
Have a good December 6th.