Design Floor/Exercise Tool

Sitting quietly,
doing nothing, spring comes
and the grass grows by itself.
–Basho

OK, it’s not exactly quilting, but this is one of my favorite haiku, and we certainly need spring. Enough said.

On to quilting…

We’re presently in transitional housing while our new home is being built, and I’m putting nothing on the walls. Here are a couple of improvised design wall alternatives as well as a report on the progress of a couple of quilts.

The Temperature Quilt

I love the idea of a temperature quilt and started this one early in 2020.  Then we got going on the new house and my attention was elsewhere for several months.  Finally I got back to the temperature quilt and hung the first 6 strips (January-June) on my improvised design wall.  FYI, this beige flannel backing fabric (108″ wide) makes a great design wall when hung over the stair rail.

Unfortunately, I found it tedious and not every interesting to carefully transcribe temperatures to colors and arrange them in order.  Therefore, this quilt has been abandoned.  I have no idea what I’ll do with these strips, but the remaining yardage has been repurposed already 😀

The 9″ Swap Blocks

One of my quilt groups has been exchanging swap blocks each month and we now have more than enough for a quilt or two.  Here’s a layout for my first quilt, shown on the design floor.

The design floor has been a feature of several of our houses.  As long as there’s a loft  on the second floor that overlooks the first floor (usually the living room) I can get both a design floor and an exercise plan.  Here’s how it works:

Lay out blocks on floor

Run up the stairs and look down to evaluate the layout

Run down and move some blocks

Run up and re-evaluate

Run down and move some blocks

Repeat, repeat, repeat…

So you see, having a design floor is a great exercise tool 😀

And here’s the quilt top sewn together:

Anyone else have quilting exercise programs to suggest? 😀

2020 Quilt Review, Part I

Every problem being an opportunity, I think we’ll review the projects completed in 2020 because of the opportunity to spend much more time at home 😀  In fact, I got so much done that I’m splitting it into two posts so my head doesn’t spin.  Here’s part I:

Plaidish was made from a free pattern available from Kitchen Table Quilts

I designed the quilt above based on a barn quilt I saw every time I drove to town.  The design was created in EQ8 and Eileen Fowler at McCall’s Quilting transformed it into a design of her own, giving me credit for inspiration.

The above quilt was designed in EQ8 and made with scraps.  Studio Stitch offered the pattern free with purchase.  I loved using all my colorful scrap strips.

I made a bunch of postcard-sized art quilts as samples for a class I plan to teach on making landscape quilts.  COVID happened, so the class hasn’t been offered yet.

I designed and made this little neighborhood after seeing similar projects online. Isn’t the internet a great source of inspiration?

I made a bunch of donation quilts, including the two above constructed from orphan blocks.  Several quilts went to a local at-risk infant project, and there’s another pile waiting to go to Ronald McDonald House.

I took a class with friends at A Stitch in Time and made this fall quilt.  They still have the pattern if you want to make one, too.

I made this orphan block up into a little quilt for the SAQA auction.

Like everyone else, I made a zillion of these. At least my model is cute 🙂

I enjoyed making this quilt and the templates from Elisa’s Backporch made it easy.

That is surely enough for one post!  To be continued…

Avoiding Half Square Triangles

Half square triangles are an important design element in many quilts. The split value and diagonal line allow a variety of dynamic designs.

This is a Half Square Triangle (HST)

One of my quilt groups has been discussing HSTs because some of us love them and some have limited tolerance for them. It matters because we regularly do block exchanges.

One member recently sent a picture of a beautiful depression block quilt, and that got the discussion going again. A depression block quilt is made entirely of HSTs!

This is a typical block from a Depression Quilt

 

This is a traditional Depression Block Quilt made entirely with HSTs

Not being much of a rule-follower, I got to speculating about how we might make this quilt using strips instead of HSTs. (Yes, I get that the original idea was to use up small scraps, but what if you just wanted the overall effect without all those HSTs?) My friend Mary B encouraged me to develop this idea, so here we go.

I did a number of experiments with Electric Quilt 8 (EQ8), which produced all the illustrations for this post.  I learned that the most important element in the success of this quilt is contrast between the values (rather than the colors) of the fabrics. (All the illustrations use Fossil Fern fabrics from the EQ8 fabric library.)

I first tried drawing a block that used strips of lights and darks in place of the rows of triangles. This would simplify construction significantly.

Here’s the block:

Depression block effect without the HSTs

And here’s the quilt:

Then I tried a traditional Courthouse Steps block set on point to mimic the depression block effect.

Here’s the block:

And here’s the quilt:

Finally, I changed up the color arrangement in the traditional Courthouse Steps block to provide more variation.

Here’s the block:

And the quilt:

So! I’m not sure my variations are a good substitute for the traditional Depression Block quilt, but it was fun and I do like the quilts. What do you think, Mary B? 

Designing to Avoid Intersecting Seams

My friend Chela asked about designing to avoid intersecting seams.  The goal is to make a quilt less “fussy” to construct. Here are 3 ways to do that. Thanks for the idea, Chela!

One of the easiest ways to avoid intersecting seams is to move alternate rows over 1/2 block. This can create interesting designs that you wouldn’t have suspected if you hadn’t tried it!

My most recent example is a quilt I designed for Studio Stitch:

Lightening. Read about it in last week’s post if you like.

Of course, many traditional patterns depend on the blocks lining up exactly to create visual interest.  They might not benefit from shifting half a block!  Just look at this:

Another favorite way to avoid obvious intersections is to partially frame blocks so that they appear offset. The intersections get lost in the background and the design is much more interesting. One of my favorite examples of this is the BQ2 pattern by Maple Island Quilts. 

I taught a class with this pattern and called it “Easier Than It Looks” because it is! The design looks complex but in reality it is just a matter of framing and rotating blocks. Here’s the quilt I made as a sample for the class:

Another example of partially framed blocks is my recent “Little Jewels” quilt:

And good news!  I tracked down the origin of this design and you can find instructions for it free on this website.

Here is an example of one block.

The “trick” is that each block is framed on two sides, making it asymmetrical.  Then alternate blocks are rotated 180 degrees so that any sense of quilt rows is lost!  Make a couple of scrap blocks and try it–it’s magic!  In truth, there are the usual intersections between blocks but the corners are almost impossible to see 😀

Finally, making blocks of different sizes certainly can be used to avoid intersecting seams. I consider this a design-as-you-go process and it does take both time and confidence, but it works well.  Here is one I made ages ago:

art quilt, gwen marston

Refrigerator quilt inspired by Gwen Marston. Bev Manus came up with the idea for refrigerator quilts.  Finished size 12″ x 12″

And here are some recent blocks up on the design wall to test a potential background fabric:

These blocks are all the same size (will finish 6″) but the sashing will be variable.  I’m setting them in vertical rows with variable distances between the rows, and variable distances between the blocks within each row!  No way will there be anything to line up 😀

Have a good week and share any tricks you have to avoid fussy intersections!

Little Jewels

I found a quilt like this somewhere online, and you know I love improvised scrap quilts, so I just had to make it!  (Sadly, I have lost the link, so if you know where this came from originally, please let me know.)

It’s always a great idea to offset the intersecting seams!

My quilter was able to use Minky Dot for the backing and quilt it with no batting. That makes the quilt nice and cuddly without being too heavy.

I have been informed that the grandchildren prefer the quilts backed with polyester fleece for cuddling. The lighter weight of the quilt without batting also makes it ideal for dragging around the house or building forts and tents.

Polyester fleece can be a challenge to quilt because it stretches in at least one direction. The quilter told me that a midarm or long arm quilting machine does not have feed dogs, so stretching was not a problem, though the tension was a problem at times.  I suppose I could do free motion quilting with the feed dogs down on my domestic machine, but walking foot quilting might stretch the back.

Minky backing with no batting allows the quilt to drape nicely

Quilt stats:

Name: Quilted Jewels

Pattern source: anonymous picture on internet

Finished size: 46″ x 62″

Quilted by: Julia Madison

Class With Maria Shell!!!

COVID rolled over my plans to attend the Vermont Quilt Festival (VQF) this past summer and take classes there with Maria Shell.  So imagine my excitement when I got an email from VQF offering one of Maria’s classes online!  (Here’s the link if you want to learn more.)

This is the Announcement from VQF

I signed up immediately and started gathering the materials–there really isn’t much needed in that department since I’ll be in my own studio for the class!  The class will be interactive, and the student information included lots of funny reminders like “Remember, we can see you.  Wear pants if you plan to stand up!”  I have no idea how to mute my microphone or much of anything else, so there’s no telling what they’ll see/hear from me, but I’ll be sure to be fully clothed 😀

As you may know, I love Maria’s book (here’s the link if you want to know more about the book.).

I’ve made some “mat-cut stripes” inspired by her, though I haven’t figured out yet what to do with them next,

as well as a little art quilt for which I used her method for making free-cut flying geese.

This quilt is titled “Blue Ridge–Cardinal”

One thing that is different about Maria’s technique for improvising is that she does NOT just combine fabrics randomly.  She looks to see if they go together visually before she sews.  Her quilts are graphic and striking, and I look forward to learning more from her.  I’ll let you know how it goes!  And here’s the link to Maria’s site if you want to explore her work more.

Just a reminder:  The links in this post are for your convenience; they are not affiliate links that generate money for me!

A 60 Year UFO!

My granny made quilts entirely by hand.  I watched her piecing, sitting by the window where the light was best.  I played under the quilt frame in the “front room” when a top was finished.  I never knew her to have friends over to help with the quilting; she did it all herself.  She tried to teach me to piece; the main thing I recall is the idea of loading multiple tiny stitches on the needle before drawing the thread through.  I remember a lot of her fabrics and was surprised to find these identical-appearing reproduction fabrics some years ago:

The darkest blue is an Aunt Grace print; I don’t know about the others

Based on the way her life went, I suspect Granny started quilting in the 1930s.  She would have stopped around 1960.  When Mother closed her house in the 1990s, I inherited Granny’s unfinished final quilt, which would mean Mother had it in storage for about 30 years, and I’ve had it about 30 years now.  In a closet.  In 5 different houses in which we’ve lived during that time.  Yikes.

vintage quilt

Some of the pieces I inherited

I’ve caught up with a LOT of UFOs during quarantine, and decided it was finally time to do something with Granny’s project. By my calculation this is about a 60 year UFO.

My guess from the sections already assembled is that Granny was working on Boston Commons.  I have a Boston Commons quilt she made, and didn’t want to mix reproduction fabrics with her fabrics to complete this one.  Therefore, I checked the size of her pieces and started picking them apart.  Then came the fun.

Granny used a seam allowance of LESS THAN a quarter inch, and finger pressed her seams open

Her stitches were so tiny that they are quite difficult to see and pick out, AND she backstitched at the beginning and end of each seam!  I pressed one seam closed, and when I blew the picture up to show the stitches I discovered holes from a different needle in the yellow fabric–the fabric was from a feed sack!  (Grandpa was a farmer.)

Her stitches were so tiny that they are very difficult to pick out! And she backstitched at the beginning and end of each seam!!!

Granny’s squares measure about 2-3/4 inches unfinished, and, as you may be able to see below, she trimmed off a little corner from each piece after she stitched the seam.  I guess she was determined to decrease bulk when she quilted it by hand!

Once I got a few pieces taken apart, I treated them with Terial Magic in the hope of avoiding further fraying.  I cut the squares down to 2-1/2″ to square them up and get rid of ragged edges, and I’m ready to put some of them together.  The plan is to make them into Arkansas Crossroads:

I tried out two yellows for background and decided on the lighter one, which is on order.

The first block of my Arkansas Crossroads

This may take a while to complete, but that will give me time to look for a “longest UFO” contest in which to enter it 😀

Barn Quilt to Wall Quilt to Lap Quilt

We live in a rural area and one of the barns I pass on the way to town has a quilt block on the end, where it is easily visible as you come around a big curve.I enjoy seeing the “quilt trail” quilts wherever I encounter them, though sometimes they look like something nobody in her right mind would make out of cloth.
This one is different. Its relatively simple design has a striking visual impact and it is something a person COULD make from cloth!.I thought it would make a good wall hanging or an unusual center for a medallion-style quilt.  Because of that, I drew it out in Electric Quilt. (I’ve been an EQ user since EQ5, and am now on EQ8!)

I submitted the design to a publishing group for a magazine, where it was accepted.  Then there were changes in publishing world and nothing happened for several months.  Eventually Eileen Fowler at McCall’s Quilting made a design of her own, giving me credit for inspiration.  It’s in the July/August 2020 issue of McCall’s Quilting, page 35.  Her quilt is lovely and easy!  Check it out!

And Melanie, please note that McCall’s Quilting was very ethical.  I probably wouldn’t have recognized Eileen’s quilt as based on mine, but they asked permission and gave credit.  It’s always nice when that happens.

Fiddlesticks!

I finished this quilt last month, but I’ve been doing a lot of quilting due to quarantine, so I’m behind on showing my work.  This is a scrap quilt, of course.  I’ve been seeing lots of quilts with little strips inserted on Pinterest, and finally got around to developing my own.

First, I got out all my solids, including the Grunge, and cut a 12″ square from each for background.  I planned to trim the blocks to 10.5″ after I finished inserting strips, since I have a 10.5″ square ruler 😀  No point making things difficult; let’s plan for easy!

Then I got out all my scraps and cut them into strips ranging from about 1″ to 2.5″ in width.  I made strip sets and cut them crosswise into strips for the quilt.   The inserted strips were cut in widths varying from 1″ to 2″, which of course means they finished 0.5″ to 1.5″ wide in the blocks.  I made more skinny ones than wide ones.

I just slashed the blocks at random angles.  I did slash and insert only one strip at a time. 

After I’d inserted enough strips to suit me, I trimmed each block to 10.5″ square.

Just look at the fun flower design my quilter used!

And yes, I left 3 blocks unpieced to add interest.

Quilt stats:  Fiddlesticks

Finished size: 49″ x 69″

Designed by me, based on multiple inspirations from Pinterest

Technique: Improvisation

Quilted by Julia Madison

7 Years and Counting!

As of this month, I’ve been blogging here every Sunday for 7 years!  I’ve debated what to do for my blogiversary, having largely skipped it last year.  My decision is to show my favorite quilt from each year I’ve blogged.  So here we go…

First year blogging:

scrap quilt

My entry for the Quilt Alliance Challenge 2014; I think it won a judge’s choice award

Second year:

I designed this quilt for Modern Quilts Unlimited

Third year:

Improv Table Runner for Modern Quilts Unlimited

Fourth year:

Quilt I designed from a QR code used by Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Northwest, shown here with their staff

Fifth year:

My donation to the Quilt Alliance auction was used in their publicity

Sixth year:

My “Little Green Man” quilt included Kraft-Tex applique

Seventh year:

I’ll have more to say about “Fiddlesticks” next week

Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned for Year 8 🙂