Tuesday, March 29, 2022

collins, a finish

when you first start quilting, you try a lot of different things as you become familiar with the skills involved and begin to figure out what you like. you make a lot of things that don't necessarily reflect your personality or style. somewhere along the way, your own style preference and quilting "voice" emerge. your quilts begin to really feel like "you" and not just a reflection of someone else or what's current and popular. you discover the distinctive nuances of your own as they emerge and take shape.

when i scroll through my completed quilts, now numbering about 50 sewn over the last 11 years, i see lots of quilts that don't particularly reflect me personally, and i can see me finding my way to myself as a quilter. i feel like "collins" is a quilt that is very "me" in style and overall aesthetic. it's a simple pattern i created on my own (but so obvious and intuitive that i'm certain it's been done before). i am very, very happy with this make.

"collins" was inspired by a quilt i saw on instagram by maker megan collins. you can read about it's beginnings and design here. i loved megan's color palette and created a simple pattern to play with her colors in a quick and easy way. i call the block arrangement "coins and cash," because it involves 4 stacked "coins" paired with background rectangles of "cash." i've made one other quilt in this layout already, "summer berry fields," and would like to play with it again.

the backing for "collins" is one of my favorites. i just love the fabrics i used and how they look together. i got a large piece of "heart bloom" by amy butler from her "hapi" line for westminster fabrics, which makes up the bulk of the backing, and used one of my favorite low-volume blender prints, "sunshine" from "sunnyside up" line by corey yoder for moda fabrics, a print i bought in bulk and use a lot. between these two prints, i made a strip using up leftover cash and coin blocks from the top. i love, love, love this backing.

the only thing i don't absolutely love about this quilt is the binding i chose. it works pretty well, i just don't love the print as much as i do all the others in the quilt. and the color is more golden than the other browns i used. i'm pretty sure i didn't have enough of any prints from the top to make into a binding and not wanting to order anything new, pulled this from stash, thinking it would work. i don't hate it; i just don't love it as much as the rest of the quilt. it seems like i always end up using one fabric i'm not happy with in most quilts and this is the one for "collins."

i machine quilted it with a modern loops/herringbone pattern, which always works up very fast. i decided to go perpendicular to the coins with the loops running vertical on the quilt rather than parallel to the coins running horizontally, for some contrast and unexpectedness. this did require me to do more marking of the top with my hera marker, but it was worth the minimal extra effort.

i completed the binding on "collins" last march and it's been loved and used in our family room rotation for a year now. for some reason i never got around to posting it as a finish.

here's a look at the top and backing fully laid out:

it measures 52" x 64".
you can see more photos of "collins" in progress on instagram at #collinsquilt

Saturday, March 19, 2022

spring break stitches

We’ve been Spring Break-ing with our kids for a change. Sounds weird, but we are normally not with the family for Spring Break as we were married the weekend before Spring Break as college students 27 years ago. So we’re usually celebrating our anniversary together somewhere and the kids enjoy their time off at home with a grandparent or whoever is babysitting for us. 

This year we’re all in Mexico together with a bushel of cousins in tow.

I brought along my bright and sunny Cheery quilt to give the handquilting treatment to when I’m relaxing inside out of the bright sun. Of all my quilts, I think this is the perfect one for a Mexico photoshoot, because of the colorful palette.

I also forgot how cold this room is at night (been here twice before) and how thin the provided bedding is, so I’ve been quite grateful for the added layer each night. Who knew quilts were needed for tropical vacations?

I had high hopes for finishing the handwork on this quilt this week, but I neglected to bring all the thread colors with me. I left behind the white for the sun and rays on the yellow blocks, and the golds, too. 

But I should have the colored frames all done before we head home, and that’s great progress.

Most of the frames have involved straightforward stitching around a square. But there is this one block that has a mix of rose and lilac in the strips that make up the frames, not all symmetrical as they were improv pieced.

It took me a bit to figure out how to stitch this one, and I had my best idea after I’d already put some of the rows in. But I think it worked out well and am satisfied with what I did.

The handwork is showing up texturally on the mostly-solid Curry backing quite well. I like the effect. This is one of the main reasons I decided to handquilt the frames in the various colors.

But …

My stitches are coming out so tiny on the back that it’s not creating colorful boxes like I’d envisioned. If you look closely, the colors are discernible, but just barely. Eh, so it goes. No regrets. 

It’s been a great week for my quilting and as a family vacation. Always nice for me when I can combine the two somehow.

I’m really looking forward to finishing this quilt not just so it can be in use, but so I can throw it in the wash. It’s picked up a lot of fuzz and bits of stuff as I’ve carried it around, which is unsightly for photos. I’d like to wash out a lot of the wrinkles and creases while washing in more quilty crinkle. Also, this is another quilt that had spraybasting issues, which I’m hoping will be resolved with washing. If not, the random speckles will just become part of the design.

Happy Spring and happy stitching to you wherever you are and whatever you’re working on, friends!

Saturday, March 12, 2022

handwork, spring and fall


when i dreamed up "cheery" quilt, i envisioned doing some white handstitching in the yellow boxes. i plan to do a sun in one block and have the rays spread out through other blocks. i've already machine quilted between the blocks and around the yellow squares for some structure and stability. now i need to add those handquilting details.

not too long ago i got the idea to also do some handstitching in the colored frames. but rather than stand out, i wanted these stitches to blend in with the quilt top. therefore, i'll decided to get colored threads to match each of the frame colors. this will add texture, interest, and detail, as well as stability to the quilt. i also think all the stitchy colored boxes will look cool on the mostly solid curry colored backing.

 so i placed an order from hawthorne theads for some other colors of aurifil 12wt to match the colors in the frames. i was ordering from digital color swatches online, so i wasn't too sure how close i could match colors.

when the threads arrived, i was pleasantly surprised to see most of them were quite close to my fabric colors. the blue isn't as bright of a light blue - it's more dusky, but i think it will blend quite well once stitched in. the raspberry color was the furthest off, but i think it will also look okay once i get stitching.

the thread i had the hardest time selecting was the coral/melon orange color. there were several colors that seemed like they could be close, so i just ordered them all. 

when they arrived, i found i could have gotten any one of them and been just fine. look how close they are to each other! nearly indistiguishable. yes, they do all have different numbers on them and are technically different colors, but you really can't tell just by looking.

we're heading to the beach for spring break and i plan to take this project with me. let's hope i can get a lot done while lounging and listening to some books on audible. as i already have the quilt bound, if i can get the handwork done, i'll have it ready for spring and easter season this year.

once the "cheery" easter quilt is done, i can turn my focus back to handquilting my fall log cabin quilt. i'm working my way around each side of the log strips in all the blocks.

i have one block done, eleven to go.

winding my way like a snail around and around the interior of the block covers a lot more ground than one would imagine. but i don't mind. i do handwork because i enjoy the slow, methodical rhythm of it, not because i have to do it.

this quilt is also already bound and machine quilted with aurifil 12wt in brass in the sashing. i wasn't sure i wanted to handquilt the blocks, so i did all the sashing by machine until i could make up my mind. the handstitching in the strips is much more subtle, but i think it will add a nice texture to the quilt overall and will increase the stability with the added stitching together of layers.

or i could stay in the spring mode with this lovely avocado green work i haven't touched in ages. i'm still working away at "mildred and ethel," now working on the insides of the green diamonds. 

and i will have my latest liberty+chambray church lap quilt ("liberty blues make do," which is the most fallish in palette of the series) basted very soon; so the queue for handwork is pretty full.

spring, fall, spring, fall.
if i had time, i'd handquilt them all.

i have also considered handquilting my "crossroads" and "aunt bet's mother's day" quilts, but i don't know that i should wait that long to complete them. at the rate i'm going, i won't get to them for another decade. then again, it's not like i've been quick about machine quilting them, either. i suppose if i manage to get these projects handquilted before i get the others backed, basted, and machine quilted, i can reconsider. 

for now, i've got my hands full of stitching with these projects and rarely find the time to work on them. i think i should commit to something like 15 minutes a day or one thread length. either one would add up quickly and seems quite doable.

one hand stitch at a time, quilts get done.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

crossroads joy

last spring i came across a quilt pattern known as the "crossroads quilt" by treehouse textiles, an australian company. i don't know where i first saw it or exactly how i got sucked in, but i surely did get sucked in. 

it's such a simple block and a great opportunity for making a very scrappy quilt. there's something about that red center that ties all the crazy blocks together. i was definitely intrigued, but it was marci warren's description of the quilt as "a rowdy yard sale" that tipped me over. 

i needed a rowdy yardsale quilt. especially one with little red squares in it.

i knew this kind of scrappy quilt could be a project i did one block at a time, here and there, so i decided to just get it started. because the more quilts i start, the more i finish.

it took me a bit to commit to buying the pattern, though. i have a confession to make - i loathe buying patterns i know i could easily figure out on my own. i actually like doing quilt math! often, when i see a quilt i like, the first thing i do in my mind is figure out how it's constructed and what the probable dimensions are. it's part of the fun and challenge of quilting for me.

and this block is about as basic as it gets. but i checked in with tracy and she said i needed to do the right thing and buy the pattern if it wasn't a standard, traditional block. i think she's right. there are patterns for sale out there that reinvent the wheel many times over by using traditional blocks and calling it theirs; blocks that have been around and redone by many quilters for decades and decades. those i do not feel obligated to buy. if i see a quilt composed of, say, log cabin blocks or flying geese, i don't feel obligated to purchase. but i hadn't seen the crossroads block anywhere else, so i supported the designer. even though i paid $15au for one page of instructions given in about two paragraphs and one diagram.

my problem is not at all with supporting designers. i'm all for that and do it frequently. my grousing is about the cost to level of difficulty ratio here. (i'd say this is a $2-$5 pattern. i mean, literally, all i needed was someone to say, "the units are this size, the strips are this size, and the center is this size," and i would have been able to make the quilt.) 

but i paid for it. designers have a right to make money on their intellectual property just like i have a right to share free tutorials if i choose. and when someone asked me about the pattern, i did not give them the dimensions, but referred them to the designer.

now that i've aired my conscience and views on the matter, let's get back to the quilt.

i selected a fiery red, kona "pimento" 865, that definitely has orange tones in it, for my middle squares. i decided on a color palette of sunny yellow, bright greens, baby blue, navy, and orange, with bits of pink or red in the tiny accents, too.

then i got the real pleasure of digging into my scrap bins for my skinniest bits for the "road" strips.

i sat down to make one block and made four. it was just that fun! once i got over the price of the pattern, i've had nothing but joy out of these blocks.

each block is an opportunity for pairing a unique set of fabrics together. mulling over those pairings was quite pleasing. by approaching the quilt one or two blocks at a time, i got to spread the joy of fabric selection out throughout the process of making the top instead of doing all that at the beginning and then just grinding through the assembly.

each block is sort of like a simple mini in and of itself. i go to do all the parts of making a whole top - fabric selection, cutting, sewing - in many small chunks. there was no tedium or slogging through a lot of one chore all at once. it's more like a collection of many little projects eventually coming together as one larger project. making a couple at a time satisfied my itch to quilt very thoroughly. i never felt rushed to get on to more or the next set. for a quilter with sporadic chances to sew, this worked very well.

once or twice i made a single block late at night when i couldn't sleep and it was exactly what i needed to help my brain wind down. there was also little to get wrong, unlike most projects that i have to walk away from when i'm tired. i'm happy to report i never once had to unpick a single block!

i got to use skinny bits of fabrics i love, including several pieces of liberty.

i found myself gravitating toward a vintage look, which lead me to use mostly denyse scmidt, heather ross, and heather bailey fabrics.

part of the fun in this project was i gave myself permission not to press the fabrics before cutting and to use my little roller presser right at the machine when putting blocks together rather than pressing all the individual pieces as i joined them. this gave me blocks and seams that were not perfectly pressed, but it added to the feel of this being a vintage, handmade treasure found in grandma's attic. interestingly, once i began joining blocks i found no more distortion than when i do all the pressing by iron; probably because i'm a heavy ironer not a good little light presser.

this saved a ton of time and really freed me to enjoy the process of cutting one or two blocks and knocking them out without having to get up from the machine and press after every seam. it allowed me to chain piece a block more quickly, too. having to do all that up-and-down for the pressing on each block would have been quite tedious. a small iron and pressing mat next to the machine would have done the trick, too. but i don't have that set up currently. i think it's something i need to consider investing in soon.

i've worked on these blocks here and there, a few at a time over the last several months. for some inexplicable reason they are just so fun to make and quite addicting.

now that i have all 56 blocks completed, i am thinking what other color palette i want to make this quilt in because i will really miss these blocks! i cant remember the last time i enjoyed making blocks so much.

Monday, January 3, 2022

guys and dolls, star and improv, twin finishes

 these two quilts remind me of fraternal twins, although one is really the parent quilt that the other one came from.

but since i finished the bindings on two consecutive days, they feel more like twins. they're the rare twins where one is comes on december 31st, late at night, and the other doesn't make it until january 1st, which means that even though they're twins, they are born in separate years.

i say born, but these twin quilts were actually completed in such a fashion - hours apart, but different years. i'll always think of them as being finished together despite the different years tagged to them.

"guys and dolls" the stella grande star version, first started in february 2017, was finished late in the evening on new year's eve 2021. therefore, it's a 2021 finish.

and although i got more than a quarter of the binding completed on "guys and dolls improv" before midnight that night also, i did the bulk of the binding on new year's day, and the last few stitches on january 2nd.

it always feels strange to me that a quilt which was mostly complete but waited for its binding a long time doesn't get counted as a finish until that binding is done. it feels like it was a quilt well before that. saying "this quilt took two (or four) years to finish" because i didn't get around to binding it for months and months makes it sound like a labor-intensive, difficult quilt, which neither of these two were at all. both were quite simple and easy. i just set them aside for a time and quilted other things instead.

when to call a quilt an official finish is a self-imposed designation, of course, but i don't know how else to call it a finish until that binding is all done and the quilt is ready for a first wash and use, even if the top came together in a day then sat around for months waiting for a backing or if it was sandwiched and quilted right away but didn't get bound for a long time. 

it feels even weirder to call the improv quilt a 2022 finish when it was so nearly a december finish. since i haven't done any quilting in a long time, it really feels more like they were both new year finishes completed over the holiday weekend. yet they aren't.

as i'm the kind of person that likes exactness in definitions and splits hairs, as my mom would say, i have to call one a 2021 finish and the other a 2022 finish.

that's enough puzzling and quibbling over dates. let's look at the quilt details.

"guys and dolls" stella grande version was given the big-stitch machine quilting treatment using aurifil 12wt in brass (2975). i echo stitched on both sides of most seams using a large stitch setting (4 on juki). i love this effect as it feels very similar to handquilting.

the binding is kona cotton in "candy pink" (1062).

the backing for "guys and dolls" pleases me very much. i just adore the mix of navy and pink prints. i got a good variety of scales and values in there and i think it's just fabulous. i feel like the combination of fabrics would make a great quilt of the printed fabric sort if i was so inclined.

the improv version of this quilt came about when i decided against using the hst blocks i originally made for the star quilt's border. i used all the pink colors from the star and paired them with a gold striped fabric. once i completed the blocks, i decided i didn't like the look of them with the solid colored star. there were several other leftover pieces from the cuttings for the star block, as well.

my original intention was to make a baby quilt from the abandoned hsts, but there weren't enough of them. as i was contemplating how to make it bigger using the other scraps i had, somewhere along the way i decided to make a full-sized quilt in an improv fashion.

i wasn't sure at first about mixing the hsts with improv-sized scraps, but it worked out beautifully. i really love the patchwork effect of this quilt.

i cut all scraps i had to a 6.5" height to match the 6.5" unfinished hst blocks and to make it easier to assemble the pieces into cohesive rows that would be easy to join together. i used whatever widths there were in that height to make the rows and just aimed to make them the same width as the stella grande quilt (60" wide). this was a really quick way to join the quilt and made for a fast flimsy finish.

instead of using big-stitch machine quilting for this one, i opted to do horizontal lines spaced at random intervals. i used aurifil 50wt in 4 colors of thread: pink, white, silver, and navy. this had an unexpected effect when threads seemed to disappear in squares that were close to the same color as the thread. i wasn't anticipating this, but i really like the way it looks.

the backing for "guys and dolls improv" is another pretty mix of prints. i was able to use the wood-block looking daisy print from joel dewberry's meadow collection in pink and navy. i love this print and have used it in several quilts in various colors over the last 10 years. featuring it a bit here makes me really happy.

i used the same kona cotton "candy pink" for the binding of the improv quilt. probably because i just made them both at the same time and/or i didn't have enough of a navy on hand. looking at it completed, i wish i had used a navy for this one. it's good enough, i just think a blue would have been better suited to this quilt.


this is the first full-sized improv quilt i've made and i couldn't be more pleased with the results. it has both a modern and a scrappy-traditional vibe at the same time.

it feels really good to have both these quilts complete and in rotation for the first of the year. they've always felt a little like valentine's day to me, so we're right on track to have them done for their season.

together, they were a great way to wind up one year and begin the next one.