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 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.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Another process post

I thought it was time for another post following an idea from the start all the way through to the finished top.

This one started with a small picture clipped from a magazine subscription ad.  I had tossed it in my idea box a couple of years ago and ran across it recently when looking for something fun.  Here's the original idea.
I looked around the internet to see if I could find a pattern, but with no luck.  So I first drew it in EQ, but then drew it out the old fashioned way, with my old drafting tools.   My version doesn't have as many ribbons in each wave but I didn't realize this until after it was sewn.  Oh well, it still works.

 I cut some templates from plastic and used them as guides for cutting the fabric.  I started out drawing around them, but then got lazy.  I confess, I did use them with the rotary cutter which I know isn't exactly safe, but I was very careful.  I promise.
One of the fun things about scrappy quilts is playing with all the different fabrics.  As I was cutting out each piece, it put them on my design wall to make sure I was getting a good mix of colors.  I also check to make sure I didn't miss any letters of the alphabet.  This pattern is particularly fiddly with 6 pattern pieces, 3 are the mirror of the others.  The design wall especially important with this pattern; I couldn't have kept it all straight without it during the cutting phase.

Having lots of fun with this.  Did I mention one of the big pains with scrappy quilts is putting away the fabric after you are done?

Starting out, I was going to mark each piece with alignment marks and pin in 5 places.  I did this for a while, then again I got lazy and tried not pinning.  The curves are pretty large so I tried the method of sewing curves by holding the concave piece on top and feeding it through the presser foot gradually matching up the edge.  I discovered it worked when the curve went one direction but not the other and not on all fabrics.  Darn.  I really wanted the outside edges to match correctly so I wouldn't have to trim.  I knew it would make things easier when I put the blocks together.  I wanted the seams to match properly or the pattern wouldn't work as well visually.  Finally I decided pins really were necessary but only at the start and the end of each piece; since the curve was so gradual I didn't need them in the middle. 
I had to rip and re-stitch several blocks to get those edges to come out even, but it was worth it.  Putting them all together was very simple.  I pressed each alternate block in different directions so I could nest the seams between them but with the curves I needed pins to make sure they lined up properly.
I decided I wanted to add borders to the quilt so I thought I'd show how I measure for borders.  I first fold the quilt in half and then half again.  This lines up the two edges of the quilt with the center.  I lay my first border down on that edge and use the quilt itself to cut the length of the border.  There isn't any need to use a measuring tape.  If it edges are a little longer or shorter than the middle, I use the center of the quilt.  This prevents wavy edges.  I pin these to the quilt, easing in any excess.  Never just start sewing the border without trimming and pinning - wavy borders guaranteed (ask me how I know).
Another trick when using multiple borders is to sew each alternate border together before attaching to the quilt.  For example, top and bottom I sewed the green narrow border to the quilt.  For the sides, I sewed the green narrow border to the wide blue border first, then attached to the quilt.  Then I sewed the last blue border to the top and bottom.
It turned out a very happy quilt.  The little boy who received is happy too.  His last name is Fish and it was a happy coincidence that I included an unusual number of fish fabrics (I didn't know who was going to get it when I started).  I added to my usual ABC poem on the label a line to count the fish.  Hopefully I'll have a happy picture soon with his smiling face.  I might make one for myself using "regular" fabrics, it's such a fun pattern visually.

Discussion about fleece backing

Most of my I spy quilts have fleece backing.  When I first starting making baby quilts I used poly batting with flannel backing (very puffy).  But once I figured out how to deal with the stretch of fleece, I was hooked.  There are many advantages.  I live in North Texas where it's warm a good part of the year and even in winter it only rarely gets below freezing.  So a heavy quilt isn't a benefit here.  Fleece makes the quilt lighter.  It's also always on sale and batting isn't necessary, so it's very cost effective.  It's wide, so it doesn't need to be pieced.  And since batting isn't needed, loading the quilt is that much faster.  I roll an entire bolt of the fleece onto long cardboard tubes left over from drapery fabric purchases.  Then when I need to use it, it's very easy to transfer to the take up bars on my frame.  I can quilt several quilts in a row production line style, then roll the left over back onto the cardboard tube for storage.  This also minimizes stretching the fleece during loading.

Stretch.  That's the big problem with fleece.  The first time I tried fleece on my quilt frame, it was a disaster.  I had to remove every stitch and start over.  The problem?  I didn't load the backing with the selvage on the sides, but instead at the top and the bottom.  And it stretched, very badly stretched.  Fleece like most fabrics stretches the most on the width of the fabric.  It's much more stable along the length.  Loading the fabric on the frame (even cotton) with the length of the fabric running up and down instead of side to side will minimize stretch and subsequent puckering. 

Loading the fabric properly helps but doesn't solve all the problems.  There's still that side to side stretch - lots of it.  Originally I was using the clamps that came with my frame on the sides but this posed lots of problems.  They hung down so that when I was using rulers and the ruler base, it hit against those big clamps.  They also were so heavy that they stretched the fleece.  Fleece stretches very easily on the width of the fabric so it requires more care than quilting cotton.  Somewhere on the internet I saw a solution that I liked.  No idea whose video I was watching so I can't give credit.  Here's my version - not real pretty but they work great.  (That's a scrap of cotton batting there on the right that I use as a thread catcher - important as I have a cat who loves to eat thread and I'm tired of vet bills)

I  took two fabric scraps (one for each side), hemmed and added a casing for the dowel.  I cut a couple of slots where I could wrap the Velcro around the dowel.  The fabric is pinned to the backing on the side, then the Velcro straps are stretched and attached to the frame.   The dowel keeps the tension consistent as does pinning end to end (I typically use 4 large pearl head pins).  Pinning takes a little longer but honestly it's easier on my wrists than those clamps.  The fabric and dowel are thin and light so they don't pull the fabric down and they don't get in the way when using rulers.  I can quilt to within an inch of the edge with no problems.  With the fleece, I only put just enough tension so that the Velcro straps don't sag.  But no more.  This keeps the fleece flat but doesn't stretch it.  Don't pull taut like you would with quilting cotton.  This is very important if you don't want ugly bubbles along the edges of the quilt.

One other trick I've started using.  My machine is only 16" but my frame can accommodate a larger machine (maybe someday).  I had a hard time remembering where I needed to stop as I was quilting.  Nothing more frustrating thinking you have room to do one more swirl and ending up with a flattened donut instead.  I thought why not put a guide to give me a warning when I was getting close.  At first I used the leader from the bar meant for the quilt top (I float my quilts), but then one day I got too close and sewed through it.  Hmm, how about a ribbon.  I baste each side of the border as far as the machine will reach, then use that as a guide to pin the ribbon.  This gives me a visual cue as to have far I can go before I get into trouble.  I've only caught the ribbon once and I just cut it instead of my stitching.

One more thing.  I float all my tops, meaning I don't use the bar on my frame meant for the quilt top. I've found that the fleece holds the top smooth and flat enough that I don't need any tension and it makes loading the quilt faster and easier (not my favorite part of frame quilting).  I leave the bar on the machine and the canvas leader provides a little bit of tension as does the weight of the top hanging down.  As I get near the bottom of the quilt I will pin the top to the backing when I can see it's needed to keep things flat and even.  I've started floating tops like this even when using batting and cotton backing.  It is so much easier to smooth out the batting as I go when the top is hanging loose.  I guess if you are doing heirloom or dense quilting it might cause problems but so far I've not seen any need to roll the top on the bar.  Sometimes I have to chase the cat away as he thinks the quilt hanging down is a toy but then he thinks everything is a toy.  For large quilts and quilts with batting, I made a type of sling or hammock from slippery lining fabric to keep things off the floor (but that cat thinks that's a really fun hammock -sorry, no pic).
In case you were wondering, the red strips in the picture above are called Red Snappers, a system of plastic grips used to attach the backing to the canvas leaders.  They are very quick to use but they take some getting used to.  Initially I had some problems using them with fleece but over time they've loosened up.  I've also gotten the hang of flexing them as I press down but you do need a flat solid surface to do it.  Removing the leaders from the bar helps.  I attach the top of the backing to the back bar first and roll the entire thing loosely onto that bar.  Then I attach the bottom leader, making sure it's 90 degrees to the edge of the fabric.  I carefully attach the leader back on the bar, making sure it's straight, not shifted and the fabric is 90 degrees to the bar, then I roll everything back onto the bottom bar slow and even.  As mentioned above I can get an entire bolt rolled this way unless it's especially thick fleece.
Thanks for reading, hopefully some of the things I learned the hard way (my favorite way to learn) will be helpful and save others some frustration.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Big Influences or I owe it all to Ami

Any time you have a creative hobby, there are going to be many influences that impact your craft.  There have been many through the years where I've gotten ideas, patterns, tips and tricks.  Bonnie Hunter's has given me many ideas for what I call my general quilts.  And Marcia Hahn's is a wonderful encyclopedia for quilt blocks.  I've randomly made 3 quilts designed by Melissa Cory (Happy Quilts) just by stumbling across her blog over a 4 year period and thinking "oh I like that and printing the idea for later.  But definitely the biggest influence on my I spy quilts has been Ami Simms and her book "Picture Play Quilts".

When I first saw the book at the Dallas Quilt show I talked myself out of it.  It's a not a thick book and at the time I thought I really didn't need a book to tell me how to make baby quilts.  The patterns aren't complicated and I felt I didn't need instructions.  I think it was the 2nd or 3rd time I picked it up that I finally bought it.  And read it.  And as they say, it changed everything.  The book isn't so much about the patterns as it is about the ideas and the approach to I Spy quilts.  I  loved her focus on the pictures, her use of color, and her general sense of fun.  Her quilts are to enjoy, to have fun and play, not to decorate the nursery.  Her patterns inspired my philosophy of fabric collecting (see previous posts).  I remember a 6 month period I was on a quest to find every novelty with a white background  I could get my hands on just so I could make one of the quilts in her book (see Folded Stars).  So this post is dedicated to the quilts I made from Ami's book as well as the seeds of ideas that she planted in my brain that are still growing.   

Folded Stars from Picture Play Quilts by Ami Simms

 Folded Stars uses coordinating tone on tone fabrics in folded triangles to make the star points.  It was lots of fun searching for all those white novelty fabrics to make up the background.  I saw the little girl about 6 years after this was gifted and her mother introduced me as the lady who made her quilt.  Her face lit up and she grinned from ear to ear, obviously the quilt was very special to her.  Talk about making my day.

Trip around the World from Picture Play Quilts
by Ami Simms

These Trip around the World quilts go together very quickly (I've made 2).  And of course you need a good selection of each fabric color.  My collection of reds and yellow are much larger now.  These are my first color focused quilts.  My later ones are definitely more complex but the initial inspiration for using color to define a pattern came from these.

Hugs and Kisses from Picture Play Quilts by Ami Simms
Hugs and Kisses used 3D squares which are caught in the seams to make the little diamonds.  The result was great but I got stuck so many times by the pins I didn't every make this one again.

Buttons and Bows from Picture Play Quilts by Ami Simms
This pattern uses quick pieced triangles.  Originally I used the method with a square sewn diagonal and cutting away the waste triangle.  This quilt (and several subsequent ones I made using triangles) started my collection of tiny half square waste triangles that resulted in the Triangle Madness quilt  (see the post titled Fun with Triangles here).  As mentioned in that post, I don't use that method any more but I still love the many different arrangements you came get with this block just by turning them 90 degrees.

These zig zag quilts (I made 2 again) use both 4x4 and 2x2 squares which is handy to use up some of the odd sizes left over from fussy cutting (when you get tired of piano keys).  The mom on the first one asked for yellow (to match the nursery) but I cut way too many scrappy yellow strips.  I couldn't figure out how to use them so I just made a 2nd one and gave it to the big sister of the baby who got the Hugs and Kisses quilt.
Zig Zag Zoom from Picture Play Quilts by Ami Simms

I haven't made any patterns directly from Picture Play Quilts in several years, but the ideas and perspective continue to "color" my recent quilts and definitely influence my fabric stash.  I am so glad I finally purchased Ami's book.  It has made this Novelty journey a lot of fun.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Andrews Road Quilt

I have to tell a story about my little 2nd cousin.  He loves cars.  Really really loves cars.  He's now 7, so he loves lots of things.  But when he was a toddler, cars were about the only things he wanted to play with.  Seems like he had a little car in each chubby fist at all times. I have a wonderful memory of my father with Andrew sitting on his lap.  Andrew kept hiding a hot wheels car under my dad's shirt, kind of a peek-a-boo game.  They were both grinning and giggling and having the very best time, 80 years apart in age.  It's one of the most wonderful memories I have of my dad.

It was because of Andrew's love of cars that I got the idea to make him an I spy quilt entirely with car fabrics.  I had made him a baby quilt when he was born but I really didn't like the quilt much and felt he needed a better one.  As it turned out, I had to include a few boats, planes, helicopters, and tractors too, so it's really a transportation quilt.  I had previously played around with a pattern that used zig-zagging sashing in rainbow colors with half square triangles.  The rainbow colors kind of got lost with all the various colors of the novelty fabrics and I had wanted to try the pattern again but with more contrast.  Aha, how about black and blue and make each alternate stripe a road. 
Andrew's road quilt

 I found the most amazing ribbon that looked just like road stripes to add to the black sashes.  And of course I needed something extra special on the corners so I dug out my old embroidery machine and made some stop signs.  I even found some road sign themed fleece for the backing.

 It was so fun giving this quilt to my little cousin.  He was so very excited and it was interesting to watch him share with his older twin brothers.  He was very patient and let them play with him on his quilt for about 30 minutes (a very long for a 2 year old) but finally he said, "Mine".  And pushed them away (without too much fuss).

Andrew still brings his road quilt when they come to stay the weekend with us and it makes me smile each time to see how special it is for him. One of my very favorite quilts.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Back in Time

When I first started on this blog journey, I had lots of ideas about what I wanted to discuss.  The posts came fast and quick.  But as you can tell given my limited posts since February, I'm slowing down.  So I thought I'd revisit a few more of my early quilts. Some turned out well, others just didn't.  I know the kiddos loved them anyway, but it's helpful for me to think about why some things work better than others.

In the following two quilts I really wrestling with integrating novelty fabrics into a chosen design.  I hadn't really figured out yet what patterns worked well with the novelty fabrics.  On this pink quilt with flying geese and rail fence blocks, the overall effect feels a little awkward.  I hadn't gotten comfortable with contrast or value and I think that's part of why it feels unsatisfying when I look at it now.  Also the novelty fabrics feel like an afterthought, rather than an integrated part of the design.  I remember struggling with fitting the novelty pictures in the geese (not many small scale prints in my stash at that point).
Fly Away Home pattern by Touchwood Quilt Design
 This quilt has a similar problem, the novelty fabrics fight with the pinwheels.  I think it would have worked better with black and white pinwheels.  Something about the very bright blue and yellow doesn't play well with the novelty fabrics.  Viewing the quilt on screen it's difficult to even see the pattern.  There is too much going on and no focus.

Inspired by sample from Cabbage Rose Quilts, Fort Worth, TX
This modified BQ2 quilt works much better with the novelty fabrics.  There is better contrast and you can get a sense of the pattern/design.  The background fabrics support the novelties.  They stay "in the background" and I think that and the contrast are why this one works so well.  The diagonal secondary design gives it a lot of movement too.  Sometimes it's a balancing act when using novelties, between the various novelties and the design of the quilt pattern itself.  I have to admit, this one was a happy surprise.
Modified BQ2 (Maple Island Quilts)
This drunkards path quilt was very fun except for turning all the little turtle heads and tails.  It's a nice idea to make them 3 dimensional but if I ever do this pattern again, they will definitely be machine appliqué.  I also wish I had stuck with a more neutral background.  I remember I had purchased the purple hoping it would be neutral enough but then struggled with where to use it.  I haven't tried a purple background again.
Speedy by Kelly Davis

This spools quilt was made about the same time as the turtles and I think the white background works much better.  I still struggle today with good backgrounds, trying to vary from white or black, but with so many colors in the novelties, black or white are usually the best choice.  The spool pattern worked very well using small scale novelties.  I need to put this one on my "make again" list (when I run out of other ideas). 
Traditional Spools Pattern

Another lesson I've learned.  Don't ask Mom what colors to put in the quilt.  That pink one at the top of this post was a result of that.  I've heard that it matched the nursery very well, but I just didn't enjoy making it, partly because of the constraint of that pink. 
Here is another where mom requested a specific color that I struggled with.  It needed to be green for a boy (his older brothers are twins and their colors are red and blue).  I tried to find a boyish green but was never happy with what I finally chose.  I think it is the main reason I was never happy with the quilt.  I later made the little boy (a cousin) another one and disregarded the green request.  The result was a very happy quilt that I'll talk about at another time (that one needs it's own post).

from Fons & Porter Love of Quilting Magazine
I have to confess.  I have trouble remembering what I've talked about before and which quilts I've posted before.  So early in this blogging process I marked all the quilts in my scrap books with post-it flags.  As I post a picture of a quilt, I remove the flag.  Remember I'm a little obsessively organized sometimes.  This post includes early quilts that just haven't fit into earlier discussions easily.   I don't want to leave any out after all.   There's always something to be learned, even from less than A+ results.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Some more happy faces

You may remember me posting pictures of some of the recipients of my quilts back in January.  Wow, 6 months ago.  Well, since then I've made a number of quilts and given many of them away.  One of them in particular for a little red head named Georgia was a hugs and kisses design that I was very pleased with.  Well, here is a picture of Georgia enjoying her quilt.  What a wonderful bonus, to know that something I enjoyed making is giving someone else such joy.
And a few more.  Don't they look even better wrapped around a sweet baby?

And here's another favorite.  This is a 2nd cousin's grandson (not sure what relation that makes him).  He couldn't decide which side he wanted to play with most, so grandma just wrapped him up.
Thanks for smiling with me.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Another fun color study

I recently had some serious fun at with their search by color feature.  Remember my moaning about not being able to find many purple novelty fabrics?  Aha, well they were very accommodating.  And while I was there I found some oranges and some reds. And greens and yellow.  Told you I had fun.
Isn't this crocodile with shades wonderful!
And llamas!

Anyway, with all this fun new fabric, I had to make a quilt.  Of course.  I went through my box of "ideas" to find one I hadn't tried yet and came across this one.  It was the inspiration for an earlier quilt but I had changed the diagonal stripes to horizontal because I didn't have enough purple to make a diagonal.  But now I did.
The layout uses my standard precut 4.5" squares, paired with a 4 patch.  To keep things simple I used one TOT for each coordinating color (faster than scrappy).  I do love 4 patches, they are very forgiving.  I think this is my new favorite pattern.  It was very easy and stress free.  I like the movement of the diagonal arrangement too.  And so colorful!  Look at the wonderful long stripe of purple!  It's so much fun picking from new fabrics and selecting the TOTs to coordinate.  Overall a very happy quilt and a good time putting it together.

What have I been doing???

Wow, no posts since February?  I'm not sure exactly what I've been doing.  In my defense I have been busy at work.  The company I work for has a February fiscal year end, so March is always extremely busy at work.  But that was 3 months ago.   Hmmm, thinking back.

I have been sewing.  I finished the last two kits I had put together for the AZ retreat and plus one more so I've got a stack of 7 I spy quilts.  I made a T-shirt quilt for a friend and a psycho cat quilt for a favorite crazy cat lady friend.  And I finished an extremely old UFO.  It's not an I spy, but I'm proud of it so will post a pic anyway.

Sunset Stars
  It was a kit that I found on clearance at Cabbage Rose quilt shop in Fort Worth, TX.  Originally I bought it just because it was a great deal for all that batik.  But once I got it home and started looking at the Judy Niemeyer pattern, I decided to give it a try.  Wow, is that lady organized!  She even gives you cutting patterns and instructions on how to store the pieces.  It was fun and easy to do, definitely the best pattern I've every used by far.  And turned out great.  And I have fabric enough to make another quilt (told you it was a great deal).  I did decide to add the gold flange and the borders because I didn't want to fiddle with binding and hanging a quilt with curved edges.  So I sewed on the flange, then laid it over the top of the borders and appliqued it down.  That was I was sure it was flat and even.

Once the top was done, I got nervous.  I was afraid my quilting skills weren't good enough to do it justice.  Besides, I had no idea where I could hang it (rationalization at it's best).  So I packed it away.  Fast forward 5 or 6 years.  Our TV just died in the living room and we decided to replace it with a screen and projector.  Which means I have a lovely large wall to hang a quilt.  I decided to just do some basic ruler work to outline the spikes and geese, then some "hooked on feathers" on the border.  The feathers turned out great but you can't see them - oh well, they look pretty on the back.  Not sure what I was so afraid of, but now it's done and hung and makes me smile whenever I look in the room.   And DH is even being sweet and puts the screen up at night.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Very Fun and Productive Weekend

Each February for the last 9 years I've attended a quilt retreat in Phoenix hosted by a group of ladies from the quilt forum.  It is a wonderful time of laughter, visiting, and sewing.  I start preparing for the retreat around Christmas time, often putting together kits to work on while I'm there.  I like working on kits because all I have to do is sew.  I don't have to think too hard or worry about following instructions or cutting fabrics.  I do all the prep work, planning, and cutting ahead of time.  I worked on 3 kits while I was there, finishing up one that I started at home, completing another, and constructing the blocks on the 3rd.  All 3 are now finished tops.

The first is a modified shadow box.  I had seen the pattern in a Connecting Threads catalog.  I realized it was very similar to the floating shadow box I had previously made except instead of a square in 2 corners, it has a small triangle.  I made the block by sewing the black strips to the center, then adding the triangles using the Perfect Corner ruler.  It went together very quickly.  I love optical illusions and this really looks fun.

3-D Blocks

The idea for this quilt came from a friend who also attends the AZ retreat.  She had made the pattern using hot pink and blue with a large focus print which was very striking.  The pattern is from, called Snowball and Nine Patch, which is exactly what it is made of.  I sewed this one entirely at the retreat, taking about 6 hours.  The secondary pattern is wonderful.

The inspiration for this last quilt was from another forum member who had made one in bright colors and photographed it in the sunshine.  It's called Twinkling Stars and her photo did twinkle.  I had to give it a try in novelties.  At first I was going to use different fabrics of the same color in each star, but decided that would be distract too much from the star pattern.  As well as very time consuming to select the fabrics.  So I stuck with one fabric for each block, using fabrics with small scale.
I get a lot of teasing at the retreat about finishing so many quilts, but I really am cheating.  By having all the prep work done ahead and using relatively simple patterns it makes my job very easy and frustration free.  And then I can focus on enjoying the time visiting with friends.  The weekend always goes too fast despite staying up late.  I can't wait until next year.