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 Quiltville.com has given me many ideas for what I call my general quilts.  And Marcia Hahn's Quilterscache.com 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 Fabrics.com 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.