Many Ways With Walking-Foot Quilting

Despite the fact that it typically takes longer than free-motion quilting, I usually prefer to quilt with my walking foot.

I’ve been working on samples for a class on walking-foot quilting I’ll be teaching later this year.. Some of these samples confirmed my previous preference for Superior brand threads, and for polyester threads particularly.

This sample was done with a famous brand of cotton quilting thread. The stitches with this thread did NOT want to sink into the quilt sandwich. They came loose at every opportunity. That was a particular problem because of the number of stops and starts in the design. I generally have good luck using the lock stitch on my machine at the beginning and end of each section, but this thread just popped right back out. Ugh.

This background was quilted with Superior Bottom Line in both the bobbin and the needle. That combination did its usual great job of showing the lines without making the thread stand out. I often use this pattern as background for fusible applique, so that’s what I did with this example. After all, what else was I going to do with that orphan block from which I cut the circle?

Then I just made a bunch of straight lines with various threads and stitches. I expect this is what most people will want to do.

There are a lot of fun quilting threads out there. So far I’ve been happiest with polyester for a number of reasons, but I also have some King Tut (cotton) that works quite well.

What’s your favorite thread for machine quilting? Maybe I’ll find something new!

Eight Years

I’ve now been blogging weekly for 8 years. One of the best things about it is “meeting” people from all over the world and reading about what they are doing. Some of them have been at it even longer than I have, though many of the bloggers I’ve “met” have since quit writing.

Here are my current favorite quilts from each of the years I’ve been blogging.

Rising star art quilt

Rising Star, made for the Quilt Alliance TWENTY contest in 2013

quilt photo

My Zippy Star Quilt and Pillow as shown in Modern Quilts Unlimited, Summer 2014

modern quilt

Happy Squares, designed and made by me, 2015

improvisational quilt

Cherrywood Toss, 2016.

scrap quilt

Scrap quilt made with strips that finish 1″ wide, 2017

Equilateral Triangles, 2018

My “Little Green Man” quilt, June 2019

“Clamshells? Really?” 2020

I’m going to delete many of the older posts since I doubt they are serving any purpose at this time. I have had a book made for each year, as suggested by my friend Linda, so I can always look back at them if I want.

My Favorite Color Update

I bought the pattern for “My Favorite Color is Moda”, thinking I would repurpose the fabrics I had decided not to make into a temperature quilt.

Block 1 was big (36″ square!) and bright:

Then I found that many of the other blocks were repeated in different color combinations. Oops, I don’t like making the same block twice. Made a few anyway.

Things went sideways for me from there, though two of my friends finished their quilt tops and one even has it quilted and on her bed already!

So I simply made block 1, which was 36″ x 36″, into a quilt to be donated to Ronald McDonald House. They send that size to the hospital for use on preemie incubators.

Anybody else doing this pattern? How’s it coming along?

Landscape Quilting Books

I’ve been making landscape quilts for years and have collected several books on the subject. Since I’m going to be teaching landscape quilting again soon, I thought I’d list the books I am familiar with as a resource for anyone interested in the subject. This absolutely is not an exhaustive list of all the books available; it’s just brief reviews of the books in my own collection.

Create Landscape Quilts by Meri Henriques Vahl, C&T, 2021. This is by far the best of the bunch if you want to put people in your quilts. She covers all the basics but particularly excels at detailed directions for including realistic people. Since I have a “hang-up” about drawing people, this was especially helpful for me. Of course, she has a number of examples of art quilts that do not include people, as well. Her technique is basically collage with a tulle layer on top. Look at the amazing detail in this sample of her work!  Book available here.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Happy Villages by Karen Eckmeier, 2nd Edition, The Quilted Lizard, 2014. This book presents step-by-step instructions for making a number of landscape quilts. It is easier to jump right in here because of the specific instructions, but some of the pieces she uses are tiny. I used tweezers. This is another collage technique with a tulle layer on top. Connecting Threads had it here for less than the used book site I generally go to.

I made this little landscape based on the ideas in Happy Villages

Mickey Lawler’s Skyquilts by Mickey Lawler, C&T, 2011This is a fabric painting book, entirely different from the previous two. It does address some basic principles, and if you enjoy fabric painting this is a good place to start. The author uses several different dyes and paints, which are explained in the book. I did not invest in most of them, but did enjoy using my Setacolor dyes and her ideas. I particularly like her suggestion to use tracing paper over your finished quilt to decide where/how to quilt it, since quilting lines can make all the difference in any type of quilt. It is available from C&T as an e-book here, or I found a good price on a used copy at Abe Books (use their search feature to find what is available).

This pine tree has green flannel for foliage and lots of free motion quilting for texture

I “painted” the sunset here with markers, and attached a little charm I found in my stash

Easy Batik Landscape Quilts by Patricia L. Brown, AQS Publishing, 2011. The technique here takes advantage of the natural variability in batik fabrics to make more realistic looking landscape quilts without having to apply paint or other media. Ms. Brown makes paper patterns and uses piecing and applique to assemble her quilts, so a tulle layer is not necessary. There are examples of both realistic and abstract designs with specific instructions for making a number of them. I have found that batiks are, indeed, excellent for landscape quilts, but I don’t have the patience to make paper patterns the way she does. (I made one landscape quilt using patterns I designed in a workshop with Georgia Bonesteel years ago, so I did try!) At the time of this writing, Connecting threads had a good price on it here.

The mountain in the background is made from a batik so did not need to be painted to have the right appearance. The commercial prints in the foreground were altered with markers.

Accidental Landscapes by Karen Eckmeier, The Quilted LIzard, 2008.This book has an excellent discussion of the elements and techniques that make a successful landscape quilt without resorting to technical language or going into too much detail. The sample projects she uses to teach techniques are easy and helpful. Her examples are much less elaborate than those in most of the other books, which is especially nice if you’re just getting started. The publisher sells it through Amazon.

Batiks and markers were used in this little quilt, and I put a UFO in the sky 🙂

Points of View by Valerie Hearder, Martingale, 2007. This book covers a variety of media that can be used in landscape quilts, from commercial prints to fabric crayons, paint sticks, and embroidery. She constructs the quilt on a muslin base, which I have found helpful. She shows how to use tulle and batiks as well. If you want just one book that covers a variety of techniques, this is a good one. I particularly like the way she plays with scale to add interest to some of her designs. This was available through Thrift Books at the time of this writing–use the search feature to find available copies.

This one was made with fused fabric, using techniques I learned several years ago from Laura Wasilowski

The Art of Landscape Quilting by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell, Krause, 2007. I love Nancy Zieman’s practical approach to sewing and quilting, and this book starts with how to generate ideas and goes right through to finishing the quilt. There are no instructions for making specific quilts. Instead, the authors use many pictures of landscape quilts they have made to explain a variety of techniques for making your own designs. At the time of this writing, the book was unavailable through Thrift Books and available but not cheap at Abe Books. It was $71 on Amazon, so better check your library!

I think I made this one so I could use those round red buttons!

Landscape Quilts for Kids by Nancy Zieman and Natalie Sewell, Krause, 2004. This is a fun book that covers all the basics. I especially enjoyed her idea of cutting out people and animals and applying them broderie perse style to the quilts. She gives tips on how to print pictures of your own kids on fabric for use in landscape quilts. Amazon had one left at a reasonable price as of this writing, but Abe Books had a better price for a used copy; use the search boxes to see what they have available.

I found pre-printed fabrics for everything I needed to build my husband his ideal woodshop 🙂

There are many more landscape quilts waiting to be made from the pictures I’ve taken at beautiful places we have visited.

One of these days I’ll use this as inspiration for a landscape quilt

Please note: the links are for your convenience; they are not affiliate links for which I get paid. I do receive books from C&T for review, but I only review the ones I like!

 

A Preschool Project

Our younger grandson is energetic and curious about everything, and one day he walked over to the sewing machine and said, “I want to see what this does!” He selected some scraps and sewed them together with a little help and a lot of watching to keep his fingers out from under the needle! Luckily, my machine has a speed control so I was able to slow it way down to lessen the risk.

The next time he came to visit, we got out the scraps. He chose everything he liked and we glued the scraps to a piece of paper (8.5″ x 11″, which we used to call “typing paper”!). I didn’t help with selection or placement, only encouraged him to cover the paper completely.

We then went to the sewing machine, where I operated the foot pedal and he guided the fabric-covered paper. He learned how to guide the piece under the foot, and we turned the speed up a little! (Note: If you do this, don’t let the child see where the speed control is!) We used a zigzag stitch to cover the edges more easily, and tried a few other stitches, too.

It took several visits for him to finish the piece with all the edges tacked down. He enjoyed the sewing and was very good at clipping stray threads. I then let him choose a tote bag to which we attached his art quilt 🙂

No, he isn’t old enough to have lost that tooth yet. It was a playground accident!

He was very proud of his creation, though he’s still at that age where kids do the fake smile when they see a camera. The lovey got to ride home in the bag along with a couple of other toys he had brought along.

If you have children who try this, please send me pictures of their creations so I can share.  And have fun!

 

Teaching Again!

Hooray! The pandemic is finally well enough controlled around here for Studio Stitch to start offering classes again!  We’ll still all wear masks, which means classes will be scheduled for half days so we won’t have to figure out lunch.  But it is SO encouraging to have the opportunity to be with other quilters again and feel a little bit normal.  Most of us have now been vaccinated, so it feels much safer, though we will continue to take care!

Here’s what I’ll be teaching in the next couple of months.

Better Binding Painlessly, May 11. This is a basic binding class that teaches techniques and answers common questions about how to bind a quilt without going crazy doing it.

Little Landscapes, June 1 in the afternoon and June 2 in the morning.  This is an introduction to landscape quilting.  We make little landscapes in class to learn the basics so you’ll be ready to make landscape quilts of any size on your own.

Plaidish, June 10 afternoon and June 11 morning. This is a free pattern available from Kitchen Table Quilting. It’s a great way to learn about color, value, and matching the corners on tiny pieces.There’s more information about all of these classes, plus many others, on the Studio Stitch website.  If you’re near Greensboro, I hope to see you 🙂

An Unusual Fabric Find

It has been our privilege for the past 15 years to live in the woods on land that backs up to a national forest. Even better, there is a waterfall just a mile above the house and we hike there often. The mountain is rocky, so there are numerous other small cataracts everywhere.

We love it, so we hike often (especially now, when we know we’ll be moving away).

Although we do see signs of other people on the trail, we have never in all this time met anyone in the woods! Recently we saw another sign of someone on the trail:
Since it appeared to be fabric, I picked it up and turned it over.

And took it home and washed and dried it.Now it will be part of a quilt. I’m still thinking, but it may be an art quilt commemorating that trail.

Designing Your Own Tessellations

Now that most of us have access to the internet, there’s a ton of good information out there about tessellations, so I’m not going to repeat it here.  Rather, here are just a couple of examples and then some references you can use on the internet or get at a book store.  With regard to the printed material, I have great luck finding used books to order online, mostly through AbeBooks.

The book I used most in learning about tessellations is Introduction to Tessellations by Dale Seymour and Jill Britton.  It’s an old book, but math doesn’t change much and it should be available second hand.  The take-home from this book is that tessellations are easier to design if you use graph paper of various kinds to guide your drawing.  Options include regular graph paper with squares, dot paper, and triangle paper, as well as paper pre-printed with hexagons.  If you check the internet, you can find places to print any of these, or there are samples in the back of the book for you to reproduce. The links above go to places that allow you to print various dot or triangle papers, but full disclosure: I haven’t tried them, since I have the book!

Another common way to make tessellations is to start with a piece of paper, cut a hunk out of it, and move the hunk to another edge.  There are many variations on this, and I suggest you get some index cards and just go for it.

Here are some tessellations I have made to illustrate various possibilities.

I cut a triangle out of the left side of the square and added it to the right side. Then I colored alternate squares differently so the pattern would be obvious
In this example, I have cut a square out, moved it to the other side, AND slid it down. The shapes still interlock just fine, but my head begins to spin at this point.
In this example, two squares were cut from each block and both moved directly across. We’ve all seen “puzzle block” quilts made like this.

It’s also possible to cut off a piece, move it to another location on the block, and then rotate it. At this point things become much more complex, and lead to the kind of tessellations that make almost anybody’s head spin! Luckily, there is an excellent step-by-step tutorial on how to do that at http://mathengaged.org/resources/activities/art-projects/tessellations/.

For a detailed lesson on how to make more complex tessellations (more like M. C. Escher), look at artist Juliana Kunstler’s website.

And here are a few of the many books available about tessellations:

Introduction to Tessellations by Dale Seymour and Jill Britton. This one is practical and relatively easy to understand.

Designing Tessellations by Jinny Beyer. This book goes into a lot of detail on how to make complex tessellations, but is easy to understand despite this. She has some beautiful examples of tessellated quilt patterns.

Tessellation Quilts by Christine Porter

For those in the Greensboro MQG, I hope you will design some tessellations and bring them for show-and-share in April! See you there!

Please note: As always, the links in this post are provided for your convenience only; they are not affiliate links that pay me if you click on them.

What Shapes Tesselate?

In addition to the practical way of designing tessellations presented last week by Jean Larson, there is a whole field of mathematical theory and practice related to tessellations.  I loved geometry in high school, but the theoretical stuff quickly gets beyond me.  Here is a summary of more practical implications.

A shape is said to tessellate if it can cover a plane without gaps, extending to infinity in all directions.

The regular polygons that will tesselate are:

  • Triangles.  All triangles will tessellate.
  • Quadrilaterals (4-sided shapes) all tessellate, and all can be divided into triangles, just by drawing from corner to corner.
  • Hexagons (regular hexagons) will tessellate, as we know well from English paper piecing.

From there it gets complicated as to which figures will tessellate and which will not, but to go on with practical information:

It’s perfectly OK to draw lines inside your tessellating shapes, which may mean they don’t all look alike anymore.  An excellent example is this pattern by Alison Glass.  The design is composed entirely of equilateral triangles, all the same size, BUT she has drawn lines within some of the triangles to create secondary designs.

Illustration from AlisonGlass.com

It’s OK to use more than one shape to cover a surface, or more than one size of the same shape, as long as the whole pattern can be continued to infinity.  (Who knew?)  Here’s are examples, drawn in EQ8:

This tessellating design is composed of squares of 2 different sizes

This tessellating design is composed of 2 different shapes.

Many of our traditional quilt patterns are actually tessellating designs.  The second example above is just a recoloring of Tumbling Blocks.

There are many, many ways to create tessellating designs, and I’ll direct you to some additional resources next week.  Meanwhile, one of my favorite easy ways to create tessellating designs is something called “pattern blocks“.  The link takes you to a fun site where you can develop patterns consisting of one or more shapes.  This works because the angles of all the pieces are either 30, 60, 90, or 120 degrees.  I just love that the site is intended for kids–it’s all I can do to wrap my head around it!  And I have no idea how to tell which combinations will tessellate except to try.  Here’s one I made on the site that I think will tessellate:

And FYI, the MQG published a brief article on tessellations back in January.  Access it here.  You’ll have to log in with your usual password first.

Next week: more resources to help you create tessellating designs.

Tessellations again!

In a moment of madness, I agreed to do a program on tessellations for my MQG in Greensboro.  I’ll be posting the same information here so we can all share it and so that these blogs can serve as “handouts” for my presentation.  To start, here’s a blog written by my friend Jean Larson, who has designed and made several award-winning tessellation quilts.  To view some of Jean’s quilts, click HERE.  –MJP

Tessellating designs make me happy.  Tweaking those designs is even more fun.   I want to share the joy of starting with a very, very simple design and watching it blossom.  

Start with a simple gridded block and create a light/dark design.  Here, I’ve started with a 3 x 3 grid.  Then re-color the same block with the lights and darks reversed

.The grid lines are only for design purposes, and each block can be constructed with a single square block with 2 corner triangles attached using any method you prefer.

Here are some design possibilities…Quilt_1A simple “cat head” quilt using only 2 colors.

Different looks can be achieved with variations in the color placement.

Blocks can be inverted and turned for even more quilt designs.

Just imagine all the possibilities with color in these!!!!!

It’s even more complex when you design with a 6×6 grid.  Here are the positive and negative versions of another block.

These blocks can be constructed using half-square triangles integrated with larger fabric pieces.  If these blocks were to finish at 6 inches by 6 inches.  The center column on each block would be a single 3.5 inch wide by 6.5 in long piece of fabric.  The side strips would include some half-square triangles.

A couple of the quilts that can be made:

Looks like spools, some gray, some white, all standing up.  Same quilt with alternate blocks turned a quarter turn yields a different  clearly recognizable tessellation.  Reminds me of tessellating doggie rawhide chews 😉

Now back to the spool quilt from above.  The “thread” areas have been colored in.  No blocks have been turned.

Jean spool 5This shows the power of color and value (lightness and darkness).   The colored part, being next to the gray and being closer in value to the gray, unites those parts of the block, and gives the illusion that we have all gray spools on a white background, some standing up, some lying down.

I hope these examples can be the seeds to sprout some design experimentation with tessellating shapes.

  1. Start with 2 square grids
  2. Create a positive design, and its negative design
  3. Alternate them in a quilt layout
  4. PLAY!
  5. And play more with color!

Happy Quilting (and Designing)!!   –Jean Larson