Monday, May 16, 2016

Bat Falcon quilt

Bat Falcon Quilt: measures 42.5" x 31.75"

I'm so happy to finally be blogging about this finished quilt!  I started it back in October, and while I've shared a lot of progress pictures on my instagram (@quiltsNfeathers), I have been lazy about sharing it on my blog.  So here is the entire 40 hour process of making it!

Original photo, taken by me when I worked/volunteered at a local wildlife park.

I took a class taught by Rod Daniels (go check out is gorgeous work!)  through the NMQA on turning a photo into an applique quilt.  I had seen some of Rod's quilts in person at ABQMQG show and tell, and was excited to try a new method to turn a photo into a quilt.  The first thing to do was pick a photo.  I chose the photo of the bat falcon because I consider it one of the best photo I took while working and volunteering at a local wildlife park.  My leaving the wildlife park was really ugly and hurtful, and I wanted to reclaim this photo (though let there be no doubt that it is mine) and my happy memories. 

Next was printing out the photo and then tracing a basic outline of the colors and shadows (I printed extras in grayscale and edits to try and get the most accurate outlines).  The bottom right is the final version:

Then I took my traced outline to the copy store and enlarged it.  I had no idea what I was doing, so it turned out huge, haha.  Then that big version was traced onto a thin muslin, and I started placing appropriately colored fabrics on the quilt (glueing them down when I felt confident with my choices):

Bat Falcon Quilt: Pre-lunch progress in Rod's class.

Bat Falcon Quilt: Post-lunch progress in Rod's class.

I knew if I didn't finish it right away it would be a horrible WIP to come back to.  So the next day I dedicated all of my available time to finishing it!  In total I think I spent about 12 hours just creating the quilt top, and 99% of that on the bird's head!

Bat Falcon Quilt:  Pre-lunch progress, Day 2.

Bat Falcon Quilt: post-lunch progress, Day 2.

The background colors are Kona Silver and Kona Cornflower.  My biggest regret is how the blue on the right side dips down too sharply at the bird's shoulder.  But I wasn't about to re-glue anything!  So I accepted it as a design element, haha.  At the time I was also working on a lot of other projects and knew I didn't have the time to quilt and finish it, so I carefully rolled it up and put it in a safe place.  

Finally last month I basted it (using one layer of Quilter's Dream wool)!  Here is a look at the 22.5 hours of quilting (I took a photo after most of the 14 bobbins I used!):

Bat Falcon Quilt 1: Basted and ready to quilt!

Bat Falcon Quilt 2: started on the face and smaller pieces so they wouldn't shift!  Yeah I was pretty intimidated to quilt this guy, just look at the glare!

Bat Falcon Quilt 3: filling in around the head and chest.

Bat Falcon Quilt 4: worked on the back and wings (the black areas).

Bat Falcon Quilt 5: Decided it was time to work on the background before things got more distorted from quilting on just the bird.  I marked out a 1/2" grid on the silver and did an echo on the blue.

Bat Falcon Quilt 6: I have never quilted such a large area with such tiny orange peels!!  I spent 8 hours and 4 bobbins on JUST quilting those tiny orange peels.

Bat Falcon Quilt 7: four year old for scale.

Bat Falcon Quilt 8: I was definitely questioning my sanity on quilting so SO many tiny orange peels!  But I really love bokeh they create!

Bat Falcon Quilt 9: Finally done with the orange peels!!  My husband and I estimated using various methods that there are at least 6,000 orange peels (as in each little pumpkin seed shape)!

Bat Falcon Quilt 10: That lower left blue area gave me some trouble and I ended up ripping and redoing the center of it.  But look how smooth and nice it looks now!  Also the orange above the nostrils wasn't right (I was overzealous with that color, haha), so I removed most of it and replaced it with a dark grey.  Worth the effort.

Bat Falcon Quilt 11: back to working on the bird--mostly on the grey feathers here.
Bat Falcon Quilt 13:  (photo 12 was indistinguishable, though I know I added stuff!).  This is just before I called it Done.  You can see around the bird the quilt is really warped!  I soaked in in the washing machine all afternoon to remove the marking and dissolve the glues. and then spent an hour and a half blocking it and ironing the face flat (you can see a photo of that on IG!)

Here is the before and after quilting:

Bat Falcon Quilt: Original photo, before and after 22.5 hours of a quilting!

Obviously the finished quilt wouldn't be so amazing without all of that quilting to add depth, texture, blending and shading!  Here are all of the Aurifil threads I used--mostly 50wt because my machine prefers it for dense quilting/overlap, but some 40wt (green spools) because I didn't have those colors in 50wt.

Bat Falcon Quilt: Aurifil threads used!  I bought Dark Pewter (#2630) to use on this quilt and love it for a nice dark grey!  It's the third darkest from the left!

Check out this gorgeous "ghost" on the back!

Bat Falcon Quilt: the grey thread is Aurifil #5004 (the 4th darkest grey in the thread photo), backing fabric is Kona Espresso, binding is Kona Chestnut, 

Just look at this gorgeous grey thread!  I love how the direction of the stitches translates the image so well on the back.  The Aurifil does a lovely job of catching the light and giving life to the "ghost" on the back!

Bat Falcon Quilt: back quilting detail. 

Okay, let's look at the front up close!

Bat Falcon Quilt: detail of the shadow side and background.

Bat Falcon Quilt: detail of the light side of the face.

Bat Falcon Quilt: detail of the sun-lit wing feathers.

Bat Falcon Quilt: eye detail

All that's left is the hanging sleeve and displaying it in my living room between shows!

Quilts Stats
Finished size: 42.5" x 31.75"
Hours spent working on it: 40 hours

Monday, May 9, 2016

Starry Night Over the Rhone (thread painting) [Art with Fabric Blog Hop]

Starry Night Over the Rhone thread painting mini quilt, measures 10" x 8"

I was recently invited to participate in the Art with Fabric Blog Hop and only agreed because this project had been on my mind since last year when I made the Starry Night thread painting!  

Here are two versions of the original Starry Night Over the Rhone painting by Vincent Van Gogh:

I used both pictures for color inspiration and placement.  Here is the process I went through to create my thread painting:

I printed out a version of the painting on fabric that had been pre-treated with Bubble Jet Set (google "how to print on fabric" for numerous tutorials), and then basted it with one layer of poly batting (though any thin batting works, it's just what I had in the right size) and a layer of home dec fabric for stability:

Starry Night Over the Rhone: printed on fabric and basted.  Ready to start quilting! 

Next I went through my Aurifil thread stash (I really like using the Aurifil 50wt because you can layer and blend it nicely without breaks) and picked out the colors I thought would work best:

Starry Night Over the Rhone: thread pull.

Then I started quilting!  I try to anchor the quilt down and then fill in larger areas with whatever color I'm working with at the time.  I took a photo after each bobbin of thread to show the progression:

Starry Night Over the Rhone: 1 bobbin of quilting.  Worked with very dark grey and navy.

It was around this time I realized that I needed more blue and antique-greenish thread colors and put in a quick order!  When they arrived I continued, starting in the puffy areas in the above area.  I put down a base layer (like in the sky, water and reflections) and then add more dense quilting and layers of colors as the quilt progressed.

Starry Night Over the Rhone: 3 bobbins of quilting (I forgot to take a photo after the second bobbin!).  Worked on the horizon/shore line and getting the some quilting down everywhere to avoid super puffy-ness issues that would occur later.

I like to start with the shadows/darker colors and work my way up to the highlights/lighter colors and details.  Then if something in the shadows isn't quite right I can fix it or blend it with later layers to make it look correct.  Also then I can make sure the bright and/or lighter details won't be overwhelmed by the darker areas.

Starry Night Over the Rhone: 4 bobbins of quilting.  Filled in a lot on the ground, water, reflections and sky.

Working on those little people (Van Gogh referred to them as lovers! but I call them the Van Gogh people) was really gratifying!  Though you will notice that the man's hat changes a little on the final quilt.

Starry Night Over the Rhone: 5 bobbins of quilting.  More sky and water.

The last bobbin worth of quilting was used on filing in the last of the sky and details: stars, ship masts and lines, bridge, and other things I've already forgotten!

Starry Night Over the Rhone: 6 bobbins worth of quilting.

I spent over 8 hours just on quilting this!  I think the quilt back really shows just how dense the quilting is (the backing fabric is very blue):

Starry Night Over the Rhone: quilt back, all Aurifil #5004

Here are all of the thread colors I ended up using:

Starry Night Over the Rhone: Aurifil threads actually used!

 Let's see some of my favorites parts of the quilt!

Starry Night Over the Rhone: the lovers. 

Starry Night Over the Rhone: the boat and reflections.

Starry Night Over the Rhone: the big dipper

Making this little quilt made me really miss the Starry Night thread painting I made last year!  They are similar, yet completely different styles.  The good news is this Starry Night Over the Rhone is all mine to keep!

Now, definitely go check out the other Art with Fabric blog hop stops today!

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tutorial: How to Fix the Meadow Quilt Template

NOTE: this in no way provides a Meadow quilt pattern or way to create a Meadow quilt pattern.  This only applies to people that have taken the class  AND already have a pattern template and their own class notes.

If you took the class and had a great experience, love Lizzy, got tons of tips and advice from her, OR get wonderful flat blocks from your template--that's awesome, and clearly this tutorial is not for you.  It is for the MANY others that have continued issues, didn't get a good template, didn't get the super-special extra tips and troubleshooting advice, and despite all their best efforts still get wonky, wavy and bumpy blocks!  It's not just me and a handful of others, it is MANY people that have had issues, and I hope this tutorial is helpful to them.

Last month I took the Meadow Quilt class with Lizzy House in Phoenix.  It was a fun weekend, but the class was very basic.  We were given ONE paper template to make our blocks with, and then shown how to do each step.  If you're new to my blog, you can click on the My Quilts link at the top of the page and see that I am no newb to sewing curves (or fixing patterns/templates, testing patterns, and creating my own!).  Looking at pictures of the quilts and blocks I saw online I thought the gentle curves would be super simple and easy to sew!

Meadow Quilt block test block #1: after a LOT of starch and stretching, and it is just over 12" square (should be 12.5" square), and it's much worse in person than it looks in this photo!

But my test block made in class was super wavy, waAAaay wavier than I like.  My friend Sara took the class with me and had the same issue (actually everyone around us had wonky blocks too, it wasn't just us!).  Lizzy House's only advice towards the wonky-nature of the blocks is that the next ones would be better and everything would be OKAY and it would all quilt out!  Just look at her big class demo quilt!  Angela Walters quilted it out, so obviously that will be true for everyone.

At the end of class Lizzy house explained how to sew the blocks and rows together and said that if the points didn't match up as nicely as we'd like to just rip and redo--no big deal.  She said we needed to know our own "margin of error" we were comfortable with and then do what it takes to honor it.  I almost laughed out loud because my "margin of error" had been passed the moment I finished sewing my block together and it was all bumpy and I was told just to starch it and accept it.  So I knew if I was going to make the quilt I'd have to figure out how to fix that "margin of error" so I'd be content, no, happy with the results!!

So fast forward a month and I am finally going to work on my Meadow Quilt, but first I wanted to try to figure out why the blocks ended up wonky.  I tried trimming down the corner pieces so they would be symmetrical (because they aren't):

Meadow Quilt block test block #2: I added some extra seam allowance to the straight edges of the corner pieces and used this no-pin method (I know! totally against what Lizzy teaches).  Results: super wonky, wonkier than it should be, even without the no-pin method!

Then I deconstructed my template (by removing the seam allowances and meticulously taping them back together).  The results were that the Eye piece is too long.

Deconstructed Meadow quilt block template.  The Eye piece should lay flat, but that big wave in the center creates issues.

Okay, so I trimmed off about an 1/16th of an inch from either end and made another test block, this time using lots of pins like Lizzy instructed.  Technically this block should fit together exactly!

But it turned out still terribly wavy!! I wanted to throw everything away and never look at another Meadow block again!  Something is wrong with the template:  There is no margin of error to allow for the human element (or the bulk of the seam allowance, the threads, the weight of the fabric, the stretch of the fabric, whether or not things were cut on the bias, etc).

Meadow Quilt block test block #3: trimmed off 1/16" from both ends of the eye.  Result: still very wonky block!!  Grrrr!!

But then I took Lizzy's advice: I went to bed (Actually, I asked my husband's advice, he has a better mind for geometry and wasn't emotionally involved in the quilt haha, then I went to bed).  My husband's advice was to add fabric to the corners to help splay them out.  I tried it (pieced using the no-pin method) and this was the result:

Meadow Quilt block test block #4: WOOHOO!  A flat block, without stretching or manipulating it!!

Hallelujah, a flat block! So then I repeated that process and created this tutorial so others that have the same problems can fix them and have a fun experience (rather than frustrating and wonky blocks!).  This tutorial adds a little extra give to the corner pieces so that the eye is no longer pulling the block in and distorting it!!

How to Fix the Meadow Quilt Template Tutorial

Materials needed:
--1 sacrificial meadow block--preferably one with high-contrast fabrics (a nice wavy one is ideal!  Make one out of scraps if you need to)
--Tracing paper

Step 1: Get one of your wavy/bumpy blocks and cut from the corner of the block to where the petal meets the eye (yeah we're cutting it up!  It's a sacrifice that is worth it!):

Cut where I marked those lines!

 Your block should now lay flat!

This block is now sacrificed to the meadow quilt gods.  May they now smile down upon us.

Step 2: On a cutting mat (or something with a square grid) line up one corner of your block (as best you can) with the vertical and horizontal lines, and try to make each of the cut gaps about the same size.  Then tape in place.

I will be using the top left corner, so that is the only one I taped.

 Step 3: Lay tracing paper on top of the block, lining up the up the corner and edges with the mat's horizontal and vertical lines:

Tracing paper over the block, making sure the edges/corner are flush.

Step 4: Trace where the seam between the corner piece and petal and eye is, being sure to extend the line to the edge of the paper.  Also be sure to mark which side is touching the Eye (I didn't do this, but realized the importance later, however some blue tape did end up in the right place on my finished template):

Trace a nice smooth curved line where the seam is.

Step 5: Remove the tracing paper and add a line a 1/4 inch away from the other one--this is adding the seam allowance and will be the cut line (but don't cut it yet!):

The line on the right is the new one--it is making this new corner piece larger.  Also, see that blue tape?  that is marking which side touches the Eye piece, make sure to mark yours too!

This just show the old template over the new template--see the changes?  You should be have a similar looking lines.  Note how there is more to the right point than the left point--that extra fabric is why we marked the Eye side and gives the eye a little more space to spread out and prevent those bumps!

Step 6: Using the old template, line up the straight edge and curved edge at the sharp points and draw a line:

That little line is going to reduce bulk in the seam allowance.

Step 7: Now you can cut it out!

Yay!  Ready for business.

Step 8: Time to make a test block (continue below for my no-pin method and other tips)!  You want to be sure the new template works! NOTE:  If you are using a print fabric for the medallions you will need to flip this template over to make sure the Eye-side is oriented right.  Regardless of print or solid you will need to mark or layout out your block to make sure the Eye-side is in the correct location:

Meadow Quilt Block laid out--the longer points on the corner pieces go towards the eye.

The rest of this tutorial are for piecing your meadow blocks without pins! (if you do the above changes to your block and piece it with pins, let me know what the results are!)  I really believe that if you always piece from the center of the block to the edge you get better results.

Step 9: The petal piecing is fairly simple, just make sure you are: 1. connecting the petal to the petal/shorter-side of the corner piece, 2. sewing from the center of the block (where the petal connects to the eye) to the edge of the block and 3. the petal overlaps the corner piece by a 1/4" (see picture below) at the starting point.  Then sew following this Curves Without Pins tutorial (a 2 minute video!).  You should end up with some extra corner fabric at the edge--this is good.  Press the seam towards the corner piece with a DRY iron (I know this also goes against what Lizzy teaches, but you do NOT want to distort your blocks at this point!).  

Quarter inch over hang to start

Step 10: Next sew the two side pieces to the eye using the same method above, however instead of sewing from one end to the other and trying to gather extra fabric into the curve (as Lizzy teaches it), you will want to start at the center of the seam (find the center by folding the eye and side blocks in half and finger pressing at the fold) and sew to the end of the block.  Then flip over the block and starting a few stitches before the center mark (so there are a few overlapping stitches) sew the other half of the block together.

The beige stitches at the edge of the block are where I already sewed from the center to the other edge.  Now I am going to sew from the center to the edge that is closer to me.

Here you can see that I started before the end of the stitches, that way I don't bust a seam later!
At the end of the Eye you should have some extra fabric--this is good!  Just sew to the end of it and then attach the other side of the block.

That extra fabric means your petal points will be far enough away from the edge of the block!

These are really gentle curves and quite easy to sew without pins!  Just be careful that you are NOT pulling or stretching the fabric, just shift one inch of fabric at a time to meet up (did you go watch that Curves Without Pins video yet??  It's only 2 minutes long!).  Below is a picture of how I use my 1/4" foot (with my needle shifted to give a TRUE 1/4" seam allowance) and gently lining up an inch or so at a time to sew the seam.

I know that sounds slow, but believe me, it's much faster than pinning and sewing and I've been getting much better results letting the extra fabric go to the end of the block then trying to gather it between pins! 

No pins!  Here I am gently pulling the green fabric so that maybe 1/2-1 inch of fabric JUST before the foot is lined up (see that sliver of grey??), which sometimes creates the waviness on the left, but as long as I'm not getting tucks under the foot it's good!

Again, press the seams outwards with a DRY iron.  Once both sides are on it should look like this:

Success!!  A flat Meadow quilt block without massive amounts of starch, stretching and magic!  Also check out how far the petal tips are from the edges!

Step 11: Okay, now you can starch and press your block!  Above it is flat, but if you starch and press it it will be suuuper flat:

Meadow Quilt Test Block #5: Gloriously flat and ready to trim!

Step 12: Now trim your block to 12.5" square, making sure each petal tip is at least 1/4" from each edge.

Meadow Quilt block: fixed, flat, square and a true 12.5"!

You are done!  I hope my Meadow quilt template hack helps you!  If you make a block with this hack and post it to IG, use this hashtag: #FixMyMeadow .

Bonus tip--if you're like me and like have even more margin of error, especially on curved pieced blocks, add an extra 1/4" to the straight edges of your new template.  Then you can trim off more at the end and make sure each corner of your block is square!

Linking up: 
Quilting Mod