Irish Chain Beauty

I’ve been so busy quilting that I have neglected posting pictures to my blog, but I took the time to download a couple of memory cards worth of photos to the computer today, and found a few shots I wanted to share of this beautifully pieced Irish Chain top by Linda that I had the opportunity to add my quilting to this spring.

The small piecing in the chained blocks needed a motif that would do a good job of stabilizing all of the tiny pieces.  I’ll admit that deciding what to quilt took me a while on this project, as I wanted to do something really unique.  One strategy I use when unsure of what to quilt is to utilize a clear acrylic design board, which I can lay on top of the patchwork and draw different motifs on until I find just the right one.  I didn’t get a picture of this part of the process, but I did catch a quick photo of the motif’s I settled on before using the tool on my next project.
My husband even took some video of me quilting out one of the chain blocks:
For those of you who don’t want to take the time to watch me quilt out the whole motif, here is a detail shot of the chain blocks:
When designing the motif for the lighter blocks, I wanted to repeat a feathered motif, and also create a secondary pattern for visual and textural interest on the finished quilt.  I also wanted to give the wool batting a place to shine, and really show off the loft you can get with this wonderful batting option. I would highly recommend wool batting for clients who are investing in custom quilting.
By utilizing a large circle template, I was able to create a secondary design of rings which can be seen as either large rings or wavy lines depending on what your viewing perspective is.  It was fun looking at it from different angles while it was loaded on the frame being quilted.  I wish I would have taken some shots of it in progress, but sometimes I get so involved in the process I forget little details like progress photos.
I used a light silver thread on the body of this quilt, as it went well with both the very light grey fabric and the purples and greens in the chains.  But I had also gotten this lovely variegated King Tut thread that I knew would really show itself off on those dark purple triangles around the edges of the top. This photo shows how I utilized continuous curve in the partial blocks, and how I divided up the larger purple triangles into different quilting motif’s that echoed some of the elements used throughout the body of the quilt.  Isn’t that variegated thread gorgeous and perfect for this quilt’s colorway?
I really like how all the different elements came together for a gorgeous quilt I would love to call my own.   I even feel inspired to make my own King Size quilt after seeing this beauty finished!

Stash Busting & Quilting Red Batik (Sew Kind of Wonderful: QCR Metro Hoops)

This quilt came into being because I had placed myself on a fabric buying moratorium.  I know I say this quite frequently then come home with more fabric.  But this time, I decided I had to follow through and just make something.  I had jelly rolls, layer cakes, fat quarter bundles, and all kinds of yardage just growing in piles around my studio over the past few months.  I had even convinced myself I needed that bolt of bright red batik last time I went on a batting run to EE Schenks.  That’s right, I said bolt.  That’s a lot of bright red batik.  Of course I realized this after I had gotten it home. And added it to the stash.  And suddenly the idea of the red quilt was born out of a necessity to use up that red batik.

In addition to buying a bolt of bright red batik, I have also come to love using the Quick Curve Ruler by Sew Kind of Wonderful since making a cheerful table runner for my mom’s birthday.  I had so much fun, that I bought several more patterns (yes, I also have a pattern stash.)  For some reason, once I made the decision to forge ahead with the red batik,  I could just see a red Metro Hoops quilt. After that, it all just fell together.  Another trip to my stash led me to a roll of 2 1/2 inch strips in Maywood Studio’s Catalina collection full of prints in red, orange, green and pink.  I wasn’t sure what color to make the triangles, but within the options I had, I settled on this bright yellow.  I really could have chosen any of the beautiful Kona solids that I pulled out to audition, but my husband really likes the color yellow.  So, after seeing how it played with the Catalina fabrics, it was time to make a test block.

I was pleased with the result.  It was definitely going to be bright!  All that red batik was going to give me a great amount of negative space to fill with beautiful quilting.  My goal is to enhance the quilt and make people want to draw closer and see the details.   To do this, I knew this project was going to take longer than any I had undertaken to date.

Whenever I quilt one of my own projects, I try to push myself to do a new technique and learn as much as I can.  After saving up for months, I recently purchased a variety of longarm rulers and templates from Quilter’s Apothecary.  For those of us who quilt without computerized assistance, these types of tools give us a way to quilt perfect circles and nice evenly spaced lines.  I did not want my maiden voyage with them to be on a client’s quilt, however, so this would be a great opportunity to try them out on my own quilt.

I also knew I wanted to incorporate feathers into my quilting design.  I’ve just started quilting feathers, and have ascertained from reading articles and watching videos that feathers are apparently difficult.  Feathers are also very popular – and when done well – are a beautiful addition to quilting designs.  So I’ve been practicing in my sketch book, and feel that I’m ready to tackle freemotion feathers.

So with circles and feathers in mind, my next step was to audition threads and quilting motifs.  I’m sure glad I made a sample block that I could load up on the frame and experiment on.

Since the Metro Hoops do not form a perfectly rounded circle, I was challenged to adapt the design to include perfectly round shapes.   That’s when I thought of changing the shape to a square before filling the center with a couple of concentric circles.  This was my first big project using my new Quilter’s Apothecary Longarm Rulers, and I am in love with them!  The handles on the circles are great for increased control, and The Mystical 45 Ruler made quilting the square border of triangles possible without marking the quilt.

After finishing the sample block, I realized just how beneficial quilting a sample piece can be in refining the quilting design.  Once I had finished the sample, I realized I wanted a bit more definition between the motifs, so on the actual quilt, I modified the design to include narrow unquilted bands to help define the string of pearls.  I also decided to change the center motif from a four petal flower to feathers.  The petals were quilted in such a way that it seemed almost flat – which I wanted to improve.  I had settled on feather motifs in the yellow squares/triangles, so I decided to quilt  the center circle with feathers.  I really like repeating design elements when quilting.  Its speaks to intentionality and forethought.

Isn’t the texture wonderful?  I used two layers of batting – a layer of wool over a layer of cotton batting.  It was quite a treat to quilt!

Here’s a quick peak underneath.  I decided to go for the high contrast look and chose an extra-wide backing fabric in that same shade of bright yellow.  The tension looked beautiful and I was using three bobbins per row of quilting.  
I used Superior’s Omni  and Mono Poly threads.  I was a bit nervous about how my Innova Quilting Machine would like the monofilament thread, but I shouldn’t have worried.  I just loosened the top tension and it stitched wonderfully.  The clear thread really looks yellow on the solid colored fabric. I was really pleased with how much continuous line quilting I was able to do with the clear thread.  I’ll be exploring this more in future quilts.

I love how the natural light shines into our dining nook, so I always try to get a picture on our table.  I just love how the yellow in the quilt  visually connects with the ochre walls – and the red is the same color as our kitchen island lights.

The finished quilt measures 60 x 90 and is perfect to wrap up in.  My next task will be attaching a hanging sleeve to to the back.  (Note to self for next time:  Remember to machine attach hanging sleeve when sewing on the front half of the binding to reduce hand sewing time.)

I really like how the back turned out.  I used Omni Yellow thread in the bobbin with the Mono Poly, and it made the stitching  really define the wedding rings.

This quilt took me over 30 hours to quilt – and helped me use up some of my stash.  On both counts I’m proud of my accomplishments.  I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m looking forward to quilting some simpler designs for a while, but I’m already thinking about what my next challenge quilting project will be.  After all, I’ve still got several more QCR patterns and fabrics waiting in my stash, and I really want to quilt bigger circles!

Judith’s Quilt: "Green Crossroads"

I am so excited to show you this cool quilt I got the opportunity to custom quilt recently.

In January, Judith Quinn Garnett contacted me about finishing a quilt for her.  She had designed and pieced this 42 x 49″ top, and had a specific idea for how she wanted it machine quilted.  As soon as I saw her idea, I knew it was perfect for this quilt.

I was personally experimenting with creating secondary patterns with quilting, and this project explored that idea without becoming overcomplicated (a problem I sometimes deal with when exploring design possibilities.)  I toyed with some alternate quilting plans, but honestly just couldn’t put Judith’s original idea aside because it just worked and seemed the right choice.  Honestly, I have a hard time taking credit for much of anything with this project, because Judith had a vision and all I did was follow her plan.

I chose a variegated green King Tut Cotton Thread and stitched in the ditch around the green piecing.   It blends well with the colors on the top, and makes the quilting pattern really stand out on the back side of the quilt.

To make sure that my lines were straight I used a ruler throughout the quilting of this project.  This worked well for the inside blocks of the quilt and stitching in the ditch around the green piecing, but I had to improvise a bit to get the pattern correct on the outside edges since it cut the star motif in half.  I quickly figured out a way to get the lines and angles correct so that I could get this finished up for Judith.

Some clients like to do their own bindings, and some ask for me to provide a binding service for their project.  For this project, Judith prepared the binding for me using a continuous bias binding method and I attached it and machine finished it for her.  It was nice having a continuous strip and not having to deal with the extra fabric of seams that can sometimes be bulky.  I would definitely use this method if I were doing a scalloped binding, because it would have a nice stretch for getting in and around those curves and points.  It also worked well for this project.

When I machine finish a binding, I like to have fun with the decorative stitches on my Pfaff domestic sewing machine.  For this project, this “plus” stitch repeated the piecing pattern and just seemed like the right way to finish it.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to finish this for Judith, and by following her design instincts, I think we ended up with a great finished product.  Being able to stitch out her vision helped me rethink the way I approach some projects, and has me itching to try my hand at more designs like this in the future.

And as a final look, I offer this full sized photo of the backside.  I love the fabric Judith chose!

I look forward to collaborating with her again!

#11: "Whirlygig" and Secondary Patterning

When I have the chance to quilt for myself, it tends to be about skill acquisition.  I spend a lot of time thinking about different quilting patterns, but not all of them quilt out the way I envision them.  When I pieced “Whirlygig,”  I was determined to create a secondary quilting pattern to explore.  I had a colorful layer cake and wanted to keep the piecing simple since I’m such a quilting newbie.  I started with one idea in mind, and after I had cut all the layer cake up – I changed my mind.  After all, it’s my prerogative, right?

What I ended up with was two different blocks – what I proceeded to refer to as “the big pinwheels” and “the little pinwheels.”  (Original, huh?)  After I finished piecing it, I took some time away from it to cook up an idea.  One early morning when I couldn’t sleep, I drafted up a plan:

If you look closely at the finished quilt and the original plan, you’ll see I changed it up a tiny bit once it was loaded on the frame and I was stitching it all together.  I shouldn’t tell you this, but I forgot one design element I was planning on using once I got the machine going – so it got edited out.  It was just an idea, after all – and I was fine with it changing during the process.

Working on this quilt soon became all about marking and ruler work.  Having a master plan to refer to was really helpful when working on individual sections of the quilt.

I chose the fill motifs as I went along – The photo above shows the last and probably most difficult decision I made while quilting this.  I just had no idea for a while as to how to fill this hourglass shape.  Since a friend had commented on liking a particular pattern on a previous quilt, I decided to try it out and it ended up giving a nice texture to the piece.

Needing a unifying design element, I chose these spirals to go in the center of each of the pinwheels – regardless of whether they were small or large.  My second unifying theme was using secondary patterning to reverse the visual details on the large and small pinwheels.  For example, if it was a small pinwheel, I quilted it as if it was a large pinwheel.

I also treated the center block as a sort of medallion and gave the quilting a focal motif that was different from the surrounding blocks.  This also gave me an opportunity to practice my micro-stippling!

If I were doing it all again, I would have used more variety in the filler size.  Sometimes the secondary patterning isn’t as visible as I intended.

But once you turn it over and get a look at the back, you can see it way more clearly!

Actually, I liked the way the back turned out so much that I’m contemplating designing my first whole cloth quilt.  It’s amazing how one idea so quickly leads to another.