Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Then and Now: Free Motion Quilting Growth

Then..and Now Linky Party | DevotedQuilter.blogspot.com

I'm coming in under the wire on joining this link up, but I've been thinking of making a post showing my early quilting to my current quilting for a while now.  The Then and Now link up at Devoted Quilter finally got me motivated to get some pictures together!

Let's start with my very first free motion quilt (FMQ) and some of my most recent:

My Hippocamp and my first bed quilt.

That large stipple was done while I was 8-9 months pregnant with my first kiddo (awkward baby bump to quilt with!), was on my mom's small Janome from the '90s, and it was a queen sized quilt!  Seriously, it was my first at pretty much everything quilty.  You can see from the photo that my curves are not very smooth and my stitch length is far from consistant--and often as large as a 5, and sometimes as small as a 1!  After almost 7 years of heavy use (including 3 bug infestations, which require hot wash and drying to get rid of!) it definitely shows and there are holes in the binding, a lot of broken stitches, and the cheap fabrics are significantly faded.  PSA: always buy the best quality you can afford!  It was last far longer and age far nicer than the cheaper options.

(same quilt as above) Whoa big stitches.  I'd rip and redo that stitch size if that happened now.

About a year later I started getting into more detailed FMQ and made this red mandala quilt on my Janome 6300, and 4.5 years later my interest in mandalas and paisleys is still going strong:

Red quilt from 2011 and lavender quilt is the back of the Night Camping mini quilt from 2015.

The biggest improvements I see are the smooth curves in the swirls, consistant size of the scallop borders, and the density and diversity in the designs.

Here is another one, focusing on the feathers:

Pink feathers are from my Lone Star quilt and the dino feather is from my Dinosaur mini quilt.

That pink quilt marks a big turning point in my quilting journey!  It's when I decided to stop pining for a long arm and focus on what I could do with my domestic machine.  The whole quilt was an experiment to see what I could do, to see what would result if I pushed myself to focus more on the quality and details.  I was (am) so proud of the result!  It won 1st place at the NM state fair that year (wall hanging category, I think) and was juried in to MQX New England.

Of course now I look at it and also see the wobbly lines, the inconsistent feathers, the ugly stems and the poor travel stitching.  But I see that and am still proud and still recognize that that quilt was the gateway to the my current style and voice in the quilting world!  It hangs in my living room, though I am thinking of moving it to my daughter's room soon.

Reverse side of the Lone Star quilt.

To those that are at the beginning of their quilting journeys I say this: keep going, keep pushing yourself to try new things, focus on small improvements!  Don't stop practicing and experimenting!  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fractal Friendship Star mini quilt

Fractal Friendship Star, measures 18" x 18"

Back in January I came across this photo on Instagram and immediately wanted to make a quilt out of it:

Photo by ParisianFloors on IG

A month or two later Yvonne at Quilting Jetgirl and I decided to swap mini quilts again and I knew that photo would inspire the quilt for her.  Our guidelines for the swap were to push ourselves out of our comfort zones--for me that meant doing a quilt with straight line quilting (instead of my usual detailed and dense free motion quilting) and for her that meant doing detailed free motion quilting (definitely go check out the gorgeous quilt she made!  She killed it!).  I drew out a quilt idea and figured out fabric requirements:

Fractal Friendship Star: quilt designing, size of blocks and fabric requirements.

Next I had to pick fabrics, which I really struggled with.  Finally I decided to use some Artisan Cottons by Windham Fabrics that I won through Hawthorne Threads earlier this year.  The fabrics are a shot cotton--meaning the warp and the weft fibers are different colors that create a really lovely shimmer.

Fractal Friendship Star: checking that the layout works!  The smallest squares are 1", and finish at 1/2.

It was pretty simple to piece, though lots of little squares!  There are 96 of the smallest square, but they came together into 4-patches quickly.

Fractal Friendship Star: Keeping my squares organized.  Yes, I pinned EVERY seam intersection.

Actually piecing the whole thing was all 4 and 9 patches!

Fractal Friendship Star: Piecing together the quilt top.

I like how this photo shows how the fabrics change depending on the direction of the dominate fiber color:

Fractal Friendship Star: basting.

I did try dense straight line quilting, but ripped it out because I really didn't like how it camouflaged all my careful piecing!  In the end I went with just stitch-in-the ditch!  I used Quilter's Dream wool batting for the light weight loft, which works well with the sparse quilting:

Fractal Friendship Star: finished quilt

It was a little strange only doing straight line quilting, but this was a definitely a case of Less Is More!  I'm much happier with each of those squares standing out.

Fractal Friendship Star: detail shot of the 1/2" and 1" squares.

Here's the back, I like how it turned out too!

Fractal Friendship Star: backing.

I was lucky enough to be able to gift it to Yvonne in person during our Oregon beach vacation (you can see pictures of our sewing vacation on Instagram: #YandROregonBeachRetreat)!  

Fractal Friendship Star: puffy squares.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Wholecloth Quilt Challenge with Jess

A while ago I came across an interview with street artist/muralist Kelsey Montague (IG: kelseymontagueart).  Immediately I was inspired, and my brain started working out how I could turn those wings into a quilt and how it would look.  Once I realized that I was serious about making it into a quilt I knew I needed to get artist permission, especially since I'd like to show this quilt!  I emailed Kelsey and explained my idea and asked if using her art as inspiration would be okay.  She gave her blessing and I've been itching to start ever since!

But I was so intimidated by the scale of this project!  To make large enough wings I knew it would need to be queen sized, and the largest wholecloth quilts I've made were wall hangings:

Recent small wholecloth quilts from my Mythological Creature series.

Earlier this year while chatting with Jess at Quilty Habit we both mentioned having large wholecloth quilts planned for this year and she suggested having a friendly challenge between us (mostly as a way to encourage and motivate each other!).  Finally this month we were both ready to start the challenge!  You can follow our progress through our blogs (see her intro post here) and on Instagram under #wholeclothquiltchallenge

So, to get started I finally picked out fabric and threads!  I chose to use the new wide backing Luxe sateen solids from Michael Miller and a variety of 28, 40 and 50 weight threads from Aurifil.

Michael Miller Luxe in Fog and Charcoal, and a selection of Aurifil threads in teals and greys.

Aurifil has generously agreed to sponsor the threads for this project, I am so excited to get the 28 and 40wt threads to play with!  

Jess and I will be checking in on our progress about once a month, but you can also see real time photos on Instagram (Jess: QuiltyHabit, me: quiltsNfeathers).  My next blog post will include the sponsored Aurifil threads and progress on the wings design.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ombre Stars (mini quilt swap)

A few months ago the other ladies in the Blue Moon Quilters group (Yvonne at Quilting JetgirlAfton at Quilting ModSara at Blue Quail Studios) and I decided to do a swap using the V and C Ombre fabrics.  We were inspired by a swap we saw happening on Instagram, but wanted a smaller group to swap with.  Smaller groups seem to have better results in terms of quality and each person taking responsibility for their part in the swap (at least in my experience, but I do know many people have had amazing success in larger groups!).

Ombre Stars quilt, measured about 18" square, I think.

I made this quilt during a sewing slump and at times felt like I was dragging myself through the process.  Honestly if there hadn't been a deadline I wouldn't have finished it this summer at all.  But I pushed through and enjoyed it as much as I could (and got it done in time!).

Ombre Stars quilting detail.

To make the stars I followed the Sparkle Punch Quilt tutorial, but sized things down so I would have 4.5" finished stars.  I played with the layout a lot, but settled on the saturation gradient so the stars look like they are rising.

Ombre Stars, star and quilting detail.

 I quilted fancy pebbles around the stars using Aurifil Silver Fox (4670), a grey variegated thread.  I really wanted contrasting texture to the stars, but didn't want the quilting to disappear completely into the background fabric (Cotton Couture grey, maybe Fog?).  In the large open grey spaces I quilted airy swirls with Aurifil Maragesh (3817), which is a variegated yellow-teal-navy-pink, then did echo quilting with Aurifil Grey (2605).

Ombre Star swirl quilting detail.

I quilted the stars with matching (or near matching) Aurifil, and kept the quilting really simple so they would pop out.

Ombre Stars rainbow thread selection for the stars quilting.

The backing is a pieced Alison Glass Handcrafted print, and the binding is some Koi voile I've been hoarding.  The colors are perfect with the ombre stars though, so it demanded to be used!

Ombre Stars back.

Here is our grouping of swap quilts together:

Blue Moon Quilters ombre swap quilts!  Made by (left to right): me, Sara, Yvonne and Afton.  I received the quilt made by Yvonne, and my quilt went to Afton.

To read more about the other quilts:
Sara's cubes
Yvonne's Double Goosed
Afton's Cocklebur

Friday, August 5, 2016

2017 QuiltCon Charity Quilt: Fabric and Thread

Even before the official announcement for the 2017 QuiltCon charity quilt challenge, a small group of friends and I had been discussing participating as an Individual Members group.  We decided to name our group the Blue Moon Quilters, which consists of Yvonne at Quilting Jetgirl, Afton at Quilting Mod, Sara at Blue Quail Studios and me!  Once the challenge came out we immediately started discussing which of the colors we wanted to use:

Quiltcon Charity Quilt Palette 2017
2017 QuiltCon Charity Quilt color palette 

Then we started talking about designs.  Yvonne was amazing with being able to take some discussion points and turning them into designs (and tons of edits!) in what seemed like the blink of an eye.  Definitely go check out her blog post about the charity quilt to see more about the design process!  Here is the final design we all agreed on, based off of the Storm at Sea block:

Double Rainbow Society Final Colored Design
Blue Moon Quilters QuiltCon charity quilt design: titled Four Greater Than One

Once we had a finalized design Yvonne figured out fabric requirements and I contacted Michael Miller Fabrics to inquire about them sponsoring the fabric for this quilt.  We reached out to Michael Miller because we all have used Cotton Couture some and love the colors and softness of the fabric.  They responded enthusiastically and sent the fabrics right away:

Michael Miller Cotton Couture fabrics in Royal, Gold, Fog and Lagoon.

Next I contacted Aurifil to ask them to sponsor the threads we would need to piece and quilt our charity quilt.  You all know how much my machine and I love Aurifil!  Thankfully they were happy to contribute thread for our charity quilt and sent us these lovely colors:

Aurifil threads for the Blue Moon Quilters charity quilt, left to right: Dark Delft Blue (#2780), Medium Blue (#2735), Dark Turquoise (#4182), Aluminum (#2615), and Mustard (#5022). 

I specifically asked for slightly darker blue thread for the quilting, but matching blue threads for the piecing.  Also I wanted to branch out from using Aurifil's Dove (#2600), so I asked for Aluminum (though Dove would be a nice match to Cotton Couture's Fog too).

Aurifil threads with the coordinating Michael Miller Cotton Couture fabrics.

Next week we have a meetup planned to start cutting fabrics!  We've broken the quilt into 4 sections and will distribute the fabric and blue threads to everyone (the other thread colors will stay with me until it is time to quilt!). I am so excited to get started on the piecing and getting to work with the other ladies!