Wednesday, April 28, 2021

piles that want to be quilts


most often, my fabric pulls for a quilt are conscious and deliberate. sometimes they happen on their own when fabric is either stacked together by happenstance as i move items around my sewing room or when i purchase fabrics randomly that end up going nicely together. i can think of a few quilts in the last year that came about because a fabric pile spoke to me: fall paint lake and twelve south, for starters.

and now this one.

i'm not even certain of the origins of this pile of four pretty heather ross fabrics that were perched together on my pressing table, waiting to be put away. i think they were from an order i placed to handcut fabrics (sarah has lots of good picks, especially heather ross). however they got there, i began to notice when passing them that the two low-volume prints and the deep green and vibrant orange went very well together.

yesterday, i was working on a new liberty + chambray quilt that wasn't coming together nicely at all when i just gave up and cut into this stack instead. everything wants to be a log cabin lately, so i didn't argue and got to cutting some large hearth pieces (to showcase some of the unicorns) and 2.5" strips for the logs.

i wanted something to come together easily and quickly. log cabins are like that and make good use of standard cutting sizes, like 2.5" strips. i wasn't sure exactly how i wanted to use each of the fabrics, so i started with just wrapping the low-volume prints around the hearth. i did two of each print in succession, which i now realize is going to give me a secondary pattern to the layout, especially since i am pretty sure i did the deep colors in the same order on each block. we'll see how this turns out in the end. i plan on using sashing, so maybe it won't be too strong.

i quickly realized that i would probably need more fabric, especially because the orange fabric got gobbled up the way i was cutting for the unicorns. there probably wasn't going to be enough of it to use for all the blocks and i didn't want it to just be in the hearth.

i pulled two more low-volumes, two more oranges, and another green from my heather ross pile (and one rifle paper company that looks like a heather ross print). the new fabrics are so close to the original four that it carries the look exactly. (except maybe the frogs? i'm still a little unsure about them. but for some inexplicable reason i ordered a whole yard of them when 1/4 yard would have sufficed for stashing.)

after making 6 blocks with the first four fabric logs, i felt like the deep colors were coming on a bit strong. the block size was also a bit troublesome.
if i added another round of 4 fabrics, i was going to have some very large blocks and a bigger quilt than i wanted.
if i stopped where i was, they were too small.
i could add just another round of the other low-volumes, but didn't feel the colors would get enough play that way.


i decided to trim the width of the color strips down to half, which would allow me to still use the trimmings for additional blocks. this subdued them some and gave me a better block size. i got 6 of them trimmed and the second round of strips started before i had to quit. i'm happy with the direction it's going now. 

i only wish i knew where this color scheme fits or what it says to me. on the one hand, it reminds me of pumpkins. except for all the low-volumes. the orange and green should be sort of fall-ish, but it's not really very fall-ish. there are frogs, and berries, and flowers. maybe summery? except the orange doesn't say summer to me. i really don't know. not that it really matters. i'm sure it will find its fans and its season for rotation in the family room on its own.

Monday, April 26, 2021

summer berry fields, a finish

this very summery feeling quilt began with a navy blue strawberry fabric, and then a few more strawberries from my collection, followed by some blues to coordinate with that original fabric, some low volume picks, and a lush grass green to set them all off. it has a strong modern farmhouse vibe because of the style of fabrics i selected which all revolve around the berry theme, either actually featuring berries or in the same colors as the inspiration fabric.

i've got lots more strawberry fabrics i wanted to use in this quilt, but once i had a color scheme going, i had to take them out. i'm sure there will be more chances to use those other strawberries elsewhere at some point. i was surprised how many different colors there were in them because i thought they mostly involved red, white, green, and sometimes blue.

the quilt measures 52" x 64" and is composed of 8 rows of 13 - 4"x8" blocks, alternating pieced blocks with background fabric blocks.

the pattern is one of my own making which i call "cash and coins" because of the groupings of 2" strips, traditionally called "coins", and the 4"x8" background pieces that remind me of dollar bills (especially in this green), which is the "cash" portion. i first used this pattern when making collins quilt and thought it would be a nice setting for this fabric pull, too. it's such an obvious layout, making use of 2.5" cut strips (like a jelly roll), that i'm fairly certain it's been done before. but i've never seen it, so i've reinvented the wheel myself, i'm sure, and given it a name. at some point, when i use it again, i will work up a tutorial for it.

the backing is nicely structured and tidy, like the front. it makes use of extra coins and background fabric scraps for that strip. i had a large piece of a strawberry fabric that didn't look quite as expected when it arrived, which i used for the major portion of the back. the colors in the piece are slightly less bright and saturated than the quilt top fabrics, but i think it works fine. it was a good place to make use of a large piece of fabric i wasn't likely to use elsewhere, especially because it fits the theme of the quilt.

the rest of the backing is a strip pieced from two blue fabrics i used on the top. i like how it echoes the way i used blue and strawberry fabrics on the front.

an element of the quilt i'm especially happy with is the binding! i used an old october afternoon two-toned floral print i've had stashed away for quite a while. it's not used in the coins, but it coordinates perfectly with the top and really sets off the edges with it's bold red color. it has the modern farmhouse feel of all the other fabrics.

when it came to the layout of colors in my coin stacks, i was very systematic and deliberate. there is a dark/navy blue on one end, a low-volume heavy on red & another low volume in the middle, and a light blue on the other end. i made matching sets with all the fabrics i had in this pattern, varying only when i ran out of a certain fabric. because i didn't have the same amount of each fabric, there is still some variation within the blocks as i had to substitute a few times. this keeps it from being completely patterned and orderly, a little more scrappy. i ended up with 4 different blocks made in this way.

when placing them in the quilt top, i used the pieced sets in order, left to right, and picked up where i left off on the next row. (row 1: block A, green, block B, green, block C, green, block D, green, block A, green, block B. row 2: green, block C, green, block D, green, block A, green, block B, green, block C, green, block D, green.) as there are either 6 or 7 coin blocks in each row, it was easy to keep them spaced out a bit from each other by using a specific order for placement.

i also flipped which blue was on top, alternating every other time, for some additional variety.

i was more attentive to fabric placement than normal so that i could have the fabrics spread out without having to think about it too much. when i mix fabrics in blocks randomly i then end up playing a lot of fabric suduko trying to not get all the same fabrics clumped together. 

the quilting is a basic wishbone pattern, with the rows not interlocking as i sometimes do. it was super fast and easy and there was little marking the quilt because the coins already gave me a line grid to work with on the coin blocks. i can't even remember if i marked the green cash background blocks or not, but i think i did.

this quilt already has some nice crinkle because i've washed it three times. i've noticed with some of my older quilts that have been washed a few times the crinkle sticks around more after multiple washes. 

unfortunately, this one needed to be washed a few times up front because of a spray basting mishap. and unfortunately, washing didn't solve the issue.

i had a can of basting spray that i accidentally broke the nozzle off after just one or two uses. not wanting to waste the spray (it's not cheap), i tried putting the nozzle back on. i sprayed a couple of quilts in succession with it. i thought it worked - but i was wrong.

instead of coming out in a mist like normal, the spray was more like droplets. while it did hold the quilt sandwich together, it also made these obvious spots that are more visible on certain solid fabrics than on the others.

i was hopeful it would wash out once i completed the quilts because spray baste is supposed to wash out. and maybe it would have if i had gotten around to completing and washing them right away rather than letting them sit for months and months like i did. i've just decided this is a new design feature of this particular quilt - the green cash blocks are now speckled.

honestly, i don't even notice it most of the time and i use this quilt frequently when in our family room, where it now resides next to the couches, ready for a cuddle whenever anyone wants a lap quilt.

Friday, April 23, 2021

memories in an improv log cabin

brushing up on my fmq skills and even branching out into new designs. i really should have practiced the new ones a bit first, rather than just going for it on a new quilt i'm rather attached to. but i was too impatient. 

let's back up a bit and talk about this new quilt i'm rather attached to. 

in may 2015 (6 years ago? really?) i was in nashville, my high school years hometown, and got a chance to visit craft south, anna maria horner's shop, on opening day. (and let's not forget my long-awaited first experience with jeni's splendid ice creams a few doors down. it was a good day.)

i brought home a small stack of fabrics: a large AMH piece from the loulouthi collection and several quarter yard cuts that appealed to me. most of it was low-volume, which i was purposefully seeking to build in my stash at the time.

after getting home, i decided the various pieces i had randomly selected actually went well together and that someday i would like to make a quilt from them, sort of a souvenir of the trip. that pretty little stack has been sitting on a shelf next to my AMH stash ever since.

one fine spring day in march, after i'd spent all day in the dirt and sun preparing my garden, i found myself with a few minutes to sew. i didn't bother even getting cleaned up - i seized the moment.

and for some reason i seized that stack of craft south fabric and started cutting.

i'd recently been itching to make a large log cabin in low volume fabrics and this felt like the right stack of fabric for the project. the loulouthi print would make a nice focal fabric and statement piece for most of the backing (too bad i hadn’t bought a bit more) and all the low volumes would be pretty and soft together.  there is one piece of a two-toned french general floral that is quite saturated and dark, but because of all the other reds in the mix, it blends well and sets the other fabrics off nicely.

while i was at work, my oldest son called me and said he needed help altering some pants he bought at a thrift store which he wanted to wear at the decades dress up disco night at the skate rink on the weekend.

altering clothing of any kind is well out of my quilting skill set, but i will take any excuse to get my college boy home, so i told him we'd figure something out. he joined me in the sewing room, looked up some youtube videos, and put his engineer's mind to work on slimming down the waistline and flaring the bottom half of those pants.

i wasn't much help to him on the pants, offering a few ideas here and there and helping with pinning. so while i was hanging around him at work, i kept going on my giant log cabin.

i started with a nice-sized cut of that large scale loulouthi print as the "hearth" of my log cabin block and proceeded to add various sized strips around it. i wanted a rectangle rather than a square in the end, so i have thicker strips on the bottoms and right side, which also shifts the hearth off center.

this didn't take long at all. within a few hours, by the time my son was done working on his bell bottoms, i had a decent lapsized quilt top. i was a little unhappy with the last two pieces i put on and how the proportions ended up, but there was no more time for changing anything because i had to get to another family event. my niece was opening her church mission call and we were all gathering to be with her to find out where she would be serving (brazil!).

both of these events - spending that afternoon with my son sewing and my niece’s mission call opening - are now stitched into this quilt top alongside my trip to nashville, opening day at craft south, and jeni’s ice cream. so many memories in here already.

that night when i got home, i decided to redo the last two pieces i had added to the top, which required extensive unpicking. but i've come to accept this type of quilting chore as just a necessary part of the creative process to getting a project where i want it to be.

at this point, i was determined to use only fabric from the craft south stack for the front and back of the quilt, if possible. so i had to begin piecing a few things together and making some decisions about what to use where, particularly for the remaining piece of the lououthi 2 yd cut.

i did want to use what was left after i cut off the cabin hearth piece as one giant piece on the back. however, when i redid the front, i was in need of another long side piece. i figured out how to do that with a bit left over from the hearth piece and a narrow strip fussy cut off the backing piece.

i tried to pattern match the two pieces and nearly did it correctly. i was so nervous about getting it right! and in the end, even though i was off by 1/4", it turned out pretty good.

originally, i knew i needed to account for the seam allowance on both pieces by adding 1/4" to each line where the pattern would meet up. but somehow when it came to cutting, i forgot and only made allowance for the seam on one of the pieces. oh, well. not perfect, but pretty good.

piecing the back of this quilt was far more work and mental effort than the front, which I actually had a pattern in mind for while i was making it. the back had to be figured out piece by piece as I went along. 

i'm pleased with the results, and was able to make the whole thing from my original pile of fabrics. since i was already taking the time to piece it so carefully, i made the extra effort of fussy cutting the balloon fabric for placement within the strips. the designs on this fabric were very spread out on the fabric, with a lot of white space in between. i didn't want to loose the balloons and kites in the cutting, so fussy cutting was in order. it makes for some fun little "i spy" bits on the back.

now i'm to the quilting phase. i had this fmq book out on my sewing table for some reason and since i didn't know what i wanted to do for this quilt, i opened it for ideas. i've been trying some of the designs out on various parts of the quilt. really, i should practice them somewhere else first, but i'm too impatient for that. angela's designs are so beautifully executed after her years of extensive practice. i shouldn't be sucked in and think i can reproduce them instantly, especially when i'm so rusty. if i had at least doodled by hand a little first, i could have got the proportions of the short and tall bumps down better. i do wish i hadn't picked an absolutely new design for the balloon/kite print area because it's quite visible. but here we are and it is what it is. the final wash and crinkle usually help hide fmq imperfections a bit, too. that's what i'm counting on, anyway.

wish me luck on the rest!

while working on this post, i realized there are 12 fabrics in this quilt. so i'm going to call it "twelve south," which is the district in nashville where craft south resides. i like the symmetry and reference found in that.