Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Border decisions

A good border can really add to a quilt.  And a bad one can just make it Eh.  I thought I'd share a couple of quilts where I struggled with what to do on the borders.

This quilt started out as a baby quilt, but my daughter and I liked it so much I decided to make it bigger and keep it.  I talk about it in the AZ retreat post.

I wanted to add a border but could decide on one that worked well with the center.  It is such a dramatic design, I wanted something that set it off.  I tried a solid black to match the sashing, but that looked strange, like it was floating.  Then I did this pieced border.  In my head it looked great, but in person?  Yuck, it didn't add anything at all and even seemed distracting.  And so I ripped it off.  I think I'll just stay with the narrow black, though it will make quilting a bit harder.  I'll have to be especially careful to keep it square on the quilting frame or it will get trimmed off when I square up.

This quilt I also tried a solid border - again not good.  It just didn't add much.

So I tried a pieced border again.  This time I think it works. The quilt itself feels scrappy and the border goes well with that.  I used some of the miles of piano key scraps I make from the fussy cut trimming.
A little more about this pattern.  It is from a video by Jenny Doan at Missouri quilt company, called Exploding Block due to the way it is constructed.  I like the pattern though decided I didn't like the bias on the outside edges created in her construction method.  So I just cut the triangles with the grain going the normal direction.  I started with my precut 4.5" squares as the center, so all I had to cut was the white and then the corners.  I even used up some large precuts from previous novelty swaps.  The best thing about this pattern is you chop the points off, on purpose.  Yippee.  Here is a close up of the blocks on my design wall before they are sewn together.  Fun block to sew, scrappy result.  I'll be doing this one again.

What I did this spring.....

Hole in the Wall pattern by Eleanor Burns.  I got this pattern off the donation table at our AZ retreat and had been holding it for a while.  I didn't use the construction method in the pattern as I wanted to use novelty fabrics (of course) and needed to keep the direction of the fabric consistent.  I used mostly large scatter prints to camouflage the seams as much as possible.  As mentioned before it is always fun to collect and arrange novelty fabrics by color.  Makes me feel like I'm playing with jelly beans.

Pattern from Connecting Threads, double pinwheel.  The border used up the left over triangles from previous projects.    I'm not all that pleased with how the contrast works in the pinwheels but it was an interesting experiment.  If I ever do it again, I think the center pinwheels need to be solid or TOT and not novelty.  The novelty in the middle of novelty looks too busy or muddy.

This was just a fun quilt to use up scraps.  It goes together quickly and doesn't have any points to match!

Majestic Mountains.  Unlike the previous quilt, this one has LOTS of points and seams to match  But it was still fun selecting the fabrics, working on the contrast.  Cutting is easy as you put a light and dark square together and cut on diagonal, sewing is easy too.  It's just putting the blocks together gets fiddly, pressing the seams open works best between the blocks.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lots of fun in AZ - the results of a quilting retreat

In the last post, I mentioned that I had sewn a top at a quilting retreat.  I've been going to this retreat in Phoenix for 10 years now.  Frequently I put together kits to work on while I'm there.  The main point of the weekend is to see friends and get away, but I do like to gets some sewing done too.  The last couple of years I either worked on string quilt blocks or last year it was a bargello group class.  Since I hadn't done any novelty quilts in several months I decided to do kits again.  And as often happens (I've probably posted this before) I get started making kits and end up with more ideas than I have time to sew.  Including the top I sewed the weekend before I left (couldn't wait) and the blocks I sewed into rows after I returned, I completed 5 tops - though technically I only sewed 3 1/2 while I was there - still pretty good for a 3 day weekend.  Here are the remaining tops.

This one was an idea from a catalog.  It's half square triangles arranged in a swirling pattern.  The finished blocks are just over 5", started with 6.5" squares then trimmed - I always like to trim as I'm not great on my 1/4" seam. Since I started with whole squares cut in half, this has the advantage of not only being I spy, it's also a matching game.  The extra one will have to go on the back (odd number on the front).
Since grouping fabrics by colors work so well, I had wanted to try this design for a while.  I love the colors and contrast.  Black does always look great with bright colors.  The idea came from the Corridors pattern by Marjorie Rhine.

This quilt was a fun exercise in using up some extra 2" squares.  And with the precut 4" squares, prep was very fast.  I have done this one before, previously using only kitty fabrics and TOT squares.  But it works great with novelty scraps too.
This one was fun, but I think it fall in the "probably won't do this one again" category.  I think I'm definitely favoring grouped colors or a more orderly arrangement of the novelties.
So now I've got a significant stack of I spy tops.  At some point soon I'll need to have a quilting binge.

Deciding on fabrics - the process

My eye has a tenancy to not really "see" what a fabric looks like overall but instead focus on the picture.  I've tried taking my glasses off, squinting, etc.  But a small picture on my phone screen works well.  I do this when determining block placement, but as I've started doing more color study type quilts, it also works well when selecting the fabrics.

This photo was to determine if I had a good arrangement of color and value.  The quilt will be 4 x 5 blocks so I laid the folded fabric out that way (you can see the EQ layout of the pattern at the bottom of the screen.  

The pattern will use one 4" square and four 2" squares, so I picked 2 fabrics that have a similar color value and read approximately the same from a distance.  I have to keep in mind that the 2" squares need small patterns or the picture won't be identifiable.  The 4" squares can have a larger picture.  I could use the same fabric for the large and small squares, but where's the fun in that!  I took this picture to see the arrangement on a small screen and only focus on the color, value & contrast instead of the individual figure on the fabric.  Some fabrics are extremely close, others are more of a blend but I think they will work. This quilt will have white background/sashing, so I couldn't use white fabrics.  I'm also putting a kit together that uses black sashing, so for that one I excluded black fabrics.  Knowing that I'm going to work on quilts that need small print fabrics that read almost as a TOT (almost) I have started watching for those as I shop (as well as looking for specific items).

This kit was sewn at the AZ retreat last February, having pre-cut the fabrics it went together extremely fast.  This one may get sewn again.  I think it needs a border but for now I goes in the stack of tops for future finishing.


Old Favorites Worth Repeating

Here is another post written 18 months ago but never posted.  I have to admit I've only made 1 of these in the last 18 months, I've decided I really like color studies better.  But it's still relevant.  These are all pretty quick and easy and effective.

I previously did a post was about quilt patterns I won't likely ever make again.  So this time I thought I'd talk about the reverse.  Here are some patterns are just so fun or easy (or both) I've made them several times.  A few of these I've posted before but felt they should be included in this post again, sort of an I Spy Hall of Fame.

Disappearing 9 patch - this pattern is very basic and easy but the secondary pattern is somewhat of a surprise.  I've made 3 of these though 2 of them were in black so I've only shown 2 here.

Disappearing 9 Patch
Disappearing 9 Patch
Woven strips - This patterns is a good way to use up some of those fussy cut left overs that weren't quite 4.5".   It uses 4.5" x 3.0" cut rectangles with 1.25" side strips.  One thing I learned in this quilt is that 1/4" seam is very important or it won't go together easily.  The last version I arranged the rectangles in groups of 2 and by value and color to give it some additional organization.  I like the result.  I've made this one 4 times, one in lilac, one in hot pink, one in black, and one in blue.

Pink and Purple Woven
Woven Graduations

 Bricks and Stepping Stones.  This pattern by Bonnie Hunter at Quiltville.com is super easy.  4 Patches are one of my favorites to sew.  They go together very easily but are very forgiving if your 1/4" seam isn't perfect.  The first of these I was using up some swap fabrics that were oversized.  The 2nd one I used my standard 4.5" precuts.  Combined with strip sewn 4 patches it went together very fast.

Bricks and Stepping Stones
Bricks and Stepping Stones

Leaning Stars or trellis pattern uses the same block.  It starts with a standard 4.5" square, then add a small triangle on alternating corners.  Depending on the color of the triangle and the arrangement of the block, the secondary pattern changes dramatically.  The only "downside" to this block is all the tiny triangles left over that I feel guilty about tossing.  I'm still trying to use them all up - my tiny Triangle quilt is still growing.

Orange Leaning Stars

All About Me
All About Me by Attkinson Designs is a great pattern that works well with large print novelties.  The repeating colors add unity to the overall design.   Another nice thing about this pattern is you aren't limited by the background color.  Normally if the background color is white, I can't use white novelties or the same with black.  With the various colored frames, you can mix in every color.   I've made this one twice and it's on my "need to make that again" list.  Since the last time I made it I've gotten much better at that 1/4" seam, I think it will go together better now.  I remember I had to ease or stretch in several places to fit the pieces together.

Frugal Patch by Quilterscache.com is a wonderful way to use up piano keys.  This is another example of a pattern I modified to work better with novelties.  Instead of the standard square in a square that Marcia Hohn's instructions indicate, I changed it to a 9 patch on point so that I could have 1 full light colored novelty square in the center.  I made two of these several years ago, then two more again recently.  I used lots of starch and pinned when sewing those little setting triangles and I'm proud to say I didn't lose any points/corners in the most recent versions.  The pink one below was a quick donation quilt, using up some of the pink and purple piano keys left over from another quilt.

Frugal Patch
Frugal Patch

Frugal Patch
The Shadowed Squares pattern is always a big hit.  I wrote some instructions for this one to utilize strip sewing on the sashing/shadows that makes this one super simple to sew.  The second version of this I substituted small half square triangle on the corners which makes the blocks appear 3-D, but you can't use the strip piecing so it takes a little longer to piece.  I do love the optical illusions.  I've made this one 4 times (plus the T-shirt quilt made recently which turned out great).

Shadowed Squares
Shadowed Squares

 Since I had a specific post about Attic Windows I won't show those again, but variations on attic window always work great with novelties.  I don't tend to repeat patterns as much as I used to, mostly because I keep getting ideas for new patterns to try.  But these are some of my favorites for many reasons.  They work well with novelties and they are straight forward to construct.

Some Extra Fun

I'm not sure why but I just realized I never posted this.  But it looks ready, so here goes.

Hearts and Jars - These are a couple of patterns that are obvious stars for novelty fabrics.  For a while there were Jar quilts everywhere and I kind of resisted following the pack.  But eventually I gave in and here is my version.  The patterns is easy and effective - but honestly a little boring to make, basically just a rectangular snowball.  But I had to do at least one.

Hearts - I originally saw this pattern at my first Houston Quilt Show but later they seemed to be every where too.  But they are such a great quilt for a little girl I have made several of them.  And I still have a big stack of large triangles left over from them.
Black  Sashed Hearts

Green Sashed Hearts
Pink Sashed Hearts

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trying something different

Sometimes I've seen a pattern and thought, hmmm, I could make an I spy out of that.  And then I try it.  And part way through I think, oh dear, not having fun here.  Or else, this really isn't turning out too well.  Other times the resulting quilt looks great but the construction was so fiddly that I won't likely ever make the pattern again.  So here is a collection of some of those attempts.  Some worked great, other's not so much.  These are likely to be one and onlys, a very limited edition.

Tic Tac Toe
This tic-tac-toe pattern was from Quilter's Newsletter magazine, designed by Pamela Rocco.  Cutting was challenging for me, mostly because I don't do "wonky" well.  I'm the kind of person who straightens pictures in other people's houses.   I tried following the directions but my wonky strips kept ending up weird looking.   I also struggled with only using 24 fabrics.  I had to select very carefully in order to have all 26 letters of the alphabet and still have good contrast.  And it made me sad to only use 24 fabrics when I've got baskets and baskets full.  It needed a border but I couldn't figure out what would work, so it never got one. 

Clam Shells
Clamshells.  I can honestly say that I hate this quilt. I should have just tossed this when I realized how bad it was going but I hated to waste the fabric so I stuck with it.  It was another pattern from Quilters Newsletter called Quick Bias-strip Clamshells by Barbara Barber.  I thought it would be fun to try the technique but I did not enjoy it.  It used A LOT of fabric to make the bias edge on each shell and left lots of weird rounded scraps.  And it wasn't particularly quick either (Sorry Barbara).  It's way too busy.  Perhaps I should have used a solid fabric mixed in somewhere.  Fortunately the lady who bought it from me loves it.
My friend Shelley from the About.com quilt forum found this pattern by Rachel Griffith called Smitten.  I modified the way it was constructed to work better with the novelty fabrics.  But I made the little triangles in the sashing too small; they sort of disappear or look like a mistake.  The border was an attempt to get rid of some triangles from another project and I'm not happy with the different thicknesses of the whites strips.  I couldn't figure out the geometry properly - too long since I had to use that knowledge.  Overall I think it would have been better if I had followed the instructions in the original pattern.
On the Go
This is a happy quilt and the pattern is by one of my favorite bloggers, Melissa Cory called On the Go (I've done several quilts based on her blogs).  It was for a little boy adopted from China so I thought the arrows indicating movement and travel were appropriate.  I like how it turned out, but I didn't enjoy the process enough to do this one again.  Too many triangles and lots of scraps left over.  Also I didn't like how the novelty fabrics had to be pieced which chopped the larger pictures in half.

Another happy quilt but I probably won't do this one again for similar reasons as some of the prior ones.  This pattern is called Dragon's Lair by WhistlePig Productions.  No idea why it's called that.  I like how it turned out but there were lots of left over triangles that I'm still trying to figure out what to do with.  The math on this was fiddly too as I constructed it different than the pattern indicated.   The pattern called for quarter square triangles but I didn't want all those little pieces so  I used my 4.5" standard cut squares instead.  I would have preferred the white strips to be all the same width but couldn't get it quite right.  It reminds me of cut jewels.

Fletcher pattern by Shiney Happy World was another attempt to use triangles but to limit the waste.  Rather than start with a large rectangle and cut off each end to make the point, I cut off one end and attached it to the other.  I tried to chose fabrics with scatter patterns so it wasn't be as obvious.   I don't really like how much background fabric this pattern needs, so I probably won't make it again.  It was quick and easy and I liked how it ended up over all.  I did add some extra 4" square novelties as a border after this photograph was taken (primarily to make it larger for a toddler) and I think it helped pull everything together better.
As the title of my blog indicates, this is a journey.  I've learned a lot through the years from all my quilts.  I've learned how to better evaluate a pattern to determine if it will work with novelties.  I've learned that sometimes you can modify the pattern but sometimes you should stick with the instructions.  I've learned to have a variety of scale and color in my stash.  I've learned the importance of contrast as well as the need for a place to rest your eyes (think Clamshell).  I've learned how to handle the construction to minimize waste (see Fletcher).  Most imporantly I've learned to have fun and enjoy the process.