Monday, May 25, 2015

Spring Tiles

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend!  Other than some much needed time with my family I used the extra time to finish my May Aurifil Designer Mini Spring Tiles by Lynn Harris.  If you are looking for a fast easy (possibly beginner) project this little mini definitely delivers.

Lynn's version of Spring Tiles is very scrappy, very happy and very fun!  Pat Sloan also gave us a sneak peek of her version; still the same pattern just a switch up on layout of colors.  After downloading the pattern I headed straight to my stash to search for the right fabrics to make my version.  I wanted to go with a color layout similar to Pat's tonal blues that created three distinct squares.  I chose these poor little fat quarters.  They actually started out as another project but got abandoned some months ago. It was now their turn to shine.
After around 2 hrs (tops) of cutting and piecing this mini was ready to be quilted.  It was time to figure out a quilting plan.  I knew I wanted to highlight the three squares created by the blue/brown and cream fabrics.
This definitely highlighted my three squares but I didn't quite love the dot to dot quilting in the cream.  So I erased and tried again.  Maybe highlighting the three squares shouldn't be the plan.

This was a completely different approach. I thought about using squares to create nine four patch blocks.  No, I wanted my three squares.  So I decided to put away my markers and Plexiglas and start on my stitching in the ditch.  My hope was that something better would come to me.  

The more I stitched the more I thought about the nine four patch quilting version from above.  Then I remembered a pile of charm pack squares left over from the Chubby Churn Dash mini from February.  So I did the only rational thing...I stopped quilting and started piecing a second quilt.

This was probably the best idea I've ever had, because in the middle of piecing the second Spring Tiles this idea came from out of nowhere.
  Now I had what felt like the perfect answer to my original quilting problem.  All of the lines on the darker fabric had given this one a very masculine feel.  The addition of the curved quilting in the center square seemed to soften it a bit.  Problem solved and second mini pieced.

Now 100% of the focus was on the quilting and the Aurifil thread.  I few hours later I had my finished projects.  

One of my favorite parts of quilting is picking out the thread to use. The thread used on the quilt is just as important as the fabrics; they can really make or break a piece.  One of my favorite things about Aurifil thread is that it comes in so many different colors and shades.

I used #2309 silver white in the cream areas, #1285 Medium Bark in the blue/brown quilting areas, #2460 Dark Carmine Red in the red triangles and #2780 Dark Delft Blue for the binding.

For this one I used only two threads.  Aurifil #2405 Light Oyster for the quilting on all of the charm pack blocks and #1158 Medium Grey for the gray squares and binding.

This little project definitely proves that if one is fun, two is better!  And my darling Chubby Churn Dash now has a matching partner.  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Crazy Week--A Wrap Up and Wind Down

The past week and a half has just been crazy and has not left much room for quilting.  Work craziness started off with our server crashing and trying to rebuild it.  It has made for some long nights, but at least I had some company. (My co-worker and best big brother Doug)


This time every year our small town hosts the Strawberry Festival.  Over the years it has turned into a week long celebration of strawberries.  Lots of strawberry shortcake!  The carnival creeps into town.  Stuffed animals are won and some slip through the cracks.

Four parades are held and even a 5k run.  For our small piece of the world it is a big deal.  Oh, and most importantly the local quilt guild hosts a quilt show.  

This year I decided to open myself up for judgement and enter some of my work.  We are allowed to enter one item in up to five categories.  I decided to bite the bullet and enter five things.  I choose four items I had quilted and one that had been long arm quilted by the local quilt shop.  And to my surprise I did much better than I expected.  I took second place in four of the categories and got honorable mention in the other.  I had just hoped to place in one category so this was an awesome surprise!

Falling Leaves--Second Place Large Wall Hangings

O' Christmas Tree--Second Place in Machine Quilted

Sunny Lanes--Second Place Miniature Quilts and Star Pot Holder--Second Place in Misc Division

Carpenter Star--Honorable Mention in Medium Size Quilt Long Arm Quilted
       I couldn't be happier with the results and feel like all the time I have spent at the machine this past year has truly paid off.  However, I feel like I owe Debby Brown a huge thank you for inspiring me to set down at my machine and give it a try!  I definitely owe Kathleen at Kathleen Quilts a huge thank you for helping me when I was stuck quilting O' Christmas Tree and Falling Leaves!  And lastly, Pat Sloan and Aurifil thread.  By finding Pat's awesome blog I finally found a thread that has stole my heart!

Now that the week has finally wound down it's time to get some rest and get back behind my machine again.  It's been too long.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Falling Leaves--A Small Quilt

Early last fall while surfing on Pinterest (I'm a little ashamed how many of these start this way) I stumbled onto a blog of a quilting genius.  Her name is Kathleen and her blog is Kathleen Quilts.  At her blog every friday is Free Motion Friday and it is simply my favorite day of the week.  If you have a quilt and you find yourself stumped on how to quilt it; she encourages you to email her a picture (taken straight on) and she will do a mark up of how she would quilt it (drawn in steps).  I couldn't believe what I was reading, it seemed almost too good to be true.  The best part is it wasn't too good to be true!

After I finished going back to the beginning of the Free Motion Friday blogs, soaking up all the inspiration, I rushed to my pile of UFO's to find the perfect one to send to her.  I came up with a wall hanging called Falling Leaves from 101 Fabulous Small Quilts.

For months the back ground and leaves had me stumped.  I made several attempts at coming up with something but absolutely nothing suited me.  (I wish now I had kept some of them)  I decided this would be the perfect quilt to send her because I was at a complete loss.

A few weeks later when I logged on the check out the Free Motion Friday post I squealed with delight because she had chose my quilt to talk about!  Check out Kathleen's post and what she had to say about it.  Thanks to her big juicy quilting brain, I now had at least some sort of plan for quilting; I just had to figure out what fillers to use.

Even though she had already drawn out a plan for me, I decided to draw it out myself with the fillers.  Drawing can help you figure out what you need to do first and how to move around the quilt.  Since I do my quilting on a sit down machine, I'm not locked into quilting a row of quilt at a time.  I can move the quilt around however I need to.

I made a few changes to her original design.  Instead of doing continuous curves in the small colored blocks I did a little loop and changed the design in the leaves just slightly.  I really had not given pebbling a try so I wanted to stick them in the area around the center.  I went with back and forth curvy lines in the area outside of the center square and inside the center leaves.  Now came the bigger question...could I pull this amazing design off?  Could I do it justice?  Could I bring it to life?  Well, you'll never know till you try.

I started off by stitching in the ditch and working on the center leaves.  

I try to use matching thread colors in my top and bottom threads and almost always match it to the front of the quilt.   Not everyone likes the way it looks on the back, but I do.  It can make for a very colorful back.  Until this point, I used what ever embroidery thread the local quilt shop sold to quilt with.  I suffered through lots of thread breaks and frustration.  I had heard of Aurifil thread from Pat Sloan's blog and decided to give it a try on this project.  I had colors in my thread stash to match everything but the background fabric so I figured I would order an Aurifil to match it.  I have never turned back.  I can't stop saying how much I love their thread and so many colors to choose from.  I started out with the pebbling of the background.  If I had used the cheaper thread I probably would have thrown this project out due to the thread breaking, but this thread held on like a champ and laid nicely.  

This is an up close picture of my pebbles.  They are far from perfect.  You can see all kinds of little eye lashes, which resulted from foot/hand coordinating speed issues.  (After I washed the quilt most shrunk some)  Never let small imperfections slow you down, it's how you learn.  This is a picture of the pebbling form a distance.  To an untrained eye all they see is the fun texture not my tension issues.

Here is the finished project.

I entered this wall hanging and few other projects in our local quilt show today.  I have to admit I'm a little nervous because I have never entered anything I have quilted into a show for judging.  Keeping my figures crossed that the judge will have some good things to say and good advice on how to improve.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Remembering My Dad

I'm not sure which date is harder for me to swallow,  May 8th or Mother's Day.  Four years ago I lost my dad on Mother's Day, May 8th to a massive heart attack.  It doesn't seem possible that it has been that long.  Things have changed so much that when I think about it everything seems jumbled.  For the longest time I had this weird way of thinking about events (ok, I still do it but not as bad) as being either BDD or ADD (Before Dad Died, After Dad Died).

I could not have asked for a better father, period.  He was always very loving and very supportive no matter what my hair brain idea was.  I simply had him wrapped around my finger so much, that I'm not sure if my mom found it endearing or annoying.  I remember one time when I was probably four my grandparents came in from out of town and we took a trip to the local game farm.  It was July or August and super hot and humid outside and you had to walk a really long way to see the bison display.  I begged my dad to carry me to the exhibit saying that I didn't feel well.  The back story is I was always begging to be carried, I was L-A-Z-Y.
Proof I was always on his shoulders.

For once he stood his ground and made me walk and then there was the really long photo shoot of family pictures.  When we got home that evening my mom took my temperature and it was very high.  I really was sick.  My poor daddy felt awful.  I think he carried me for the next five years no questions asked.

I remained the center of his world until 2000 when I gave him the best gift ever (and lost my top dog status just slightly) my daughter was born.  

She absolutely adored him and he her.  Her favorite thing to do on the weekends from the time she could talk was to spend time at grandma and pap-paw's house.  She was with my mom they day she found my dad and my brave little 10 year old held herself together to call me to get to there.  For such a young age I think she handled herself in a horrific situation better than the rest of us.  

It breaks my heart that he is gone and the things he has missed.  Energy can neither be destroyed or created.  I believe that he still lets us know he is around.  

One of the last conversations we had was about getting a pool and after he passed we did purchase one.  We were in the process of setting it up and I was feeling sorry for myself.  I looked up at the open door of my dad's outbuilding and noticed for the first time something I had not seen before.

In the center of the door he had spray painted a smiley face.  

While going through pictures to have at his viewing I ran across a picture from a Christmas when I was smaller.  I never quite understood the picture.  No one was looking at the camera, the grown ups where talking and dad was doing something but I had never paid attention to what.  In that moment I finally saw it.

Flying through the air straight for my mother's head was a wrapping paper ball.  I miss his since of humor and joking.  Always remember to laugh.  

I just wanted to take a few minuets to recognize him on a day that hurts.  Those that knew him would tell you what a great person he was.  He was not showy and did not need recognition for the things he did.  He was one of the few people that just didn't complain.  He was simply put, love.  

One last thing, after everything had happen, I got a chance to go through his camera and look at pictures he had taken.  I realized he was giving me some very important advice through the things he had seen.  It's the simplest moments we should notice, in its own way, everything is beautiful.

I love you and miss you very much, Dad!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Secret Garden

I could not wait to finish my April Aurifil Designer Mystery BOM 2015.  April's designer was John Kubiniec of Big Rig Quilting and he gave us a pattern called Secret Garden.  One thing that is not a secret...I fell in love with the pattern as soon as I saw it.

I knew exactly what fabric to pull from my stash to bring my version to life.  I have a ton of Moda's Miss Kate left over from last years Aurifili Designer Mystery BOM; not to mention I'm doing Pat's Vacation Time BOM in Miss Kate as well.  I just needed to decide on a background fabric.  I pulled a medium gray and white polka dot fabric and a white on white polka dot fabric as possible choices.

I chose the white on white fabric because of the contrast it would provide. 

This one pieced together quickly and I don't recall pulling my seam ripper out at any win/win for me.  When it came to picking out my thread colors I was actually torn between matching threads to the colors in the quilt or just using Aurifil #2021 white.  I wanted to figure out a quilting plan before I committed one way or the other.  So out came the Plexiglas and dry erase markers.  (note: if you decided to try this method make sure you mark the edges of the plexiglas with painters tape.  It's too easy to get into drawing mode and mark on your fabric.) 

I came up with two similar quilting plans.  The biggest difference between the two ended up being the background stitching.

It came down to cross hatching in the background or ribbon candy.  I think both would have looked fantastic on this little gem, but I decided to go with the ribbon candy; it's just fun.  Since "fun" was the theme of this quilt I decided to match my thread colors.  I can never have too much Aurifil thread :)

I went a little crazy with the batting on this one.  At one point I was afraid I had possibly ruined it.  The last mini quilt I finished I used two layers of a natural batting.  On this one I grabbed two layers of a miscellaneous batting I had laying around.  After I finished stitching in the ditch and the other straight lines, it looked too poofy and slightly out of shape.  

But I forced myself to keep moving on, hoping that dense quilting would help tame the beast.  And I'm really glad I did.  Introducing Miss Kate's Secret Garden...

I used scribbling in the white areas around the peach to add shadow and make the peach pop out.  
I need to try to block it again.  It is still not quite square and I think the possible cheap batting maybe to blame.  It's time to get rid of these scraps lying around.  But all of these mini quilts are for me and I love them, imperfections and all.
Chubby Churn DashFlurry, Secret Garden, March's Mini

Can't wait to see who and what the May BOM will bring.  In the mean time, here is a peak of my Vacation Time Blocks so far.  

If you are looking for a BOM to join, please give both of these a try.  Pat Sloan and Aurifil will never steer you wrong.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hindsight is 20/20ish--A baby quilt

One of the biggest fears in learning to free motion quilt is deciding how to quilt it.  How does one determine exactly what fillers and motifs to use on quilts?  Nobody and I mean NOBODY wants to ruin a quilt top that they have spent hours cutting and piecing or that they have used their favorite fabrics to make.  I expressed my fears one time to a quilt shop owner about being afraid to use one of my actual tops to quilt on.  Her response floored me at the time.  She said, "Why?  If you feel like you've ruined it just make another one."  How could she say that???  But honestly she's right.  It is just a quilt top.  Shortly thereafter I actually started using my tops to quilt on.

A few days ago I was thinking back to when I finally got brave enough to start quilting my own quilts.  Really the only thing that I knew how to do was stipple/meander and I wasn't that great at it and didn't enjoy doing it.  But it was an easy answer to most things.  So my thought was, if I could go back what would I do differently?  Everything seems easier in hindsight.  So I thought I would revisit some of my earlier attempts and think about what I would do differently.

When I found out my cousin was pregnant with her first baby, I was over the top happy for her.  I'll never forget her showing me her first ultrasound and pointing out the little "hamburger."  Our family was getting a new baby girl.  I had an excuse to make my first baby quilt!  I had recently seen a pattern in a magazine done in bright pinks, turquoise and yellows and I thought it would be perfect.  The piecing was a little tricky since I hadn't done anything that complex but after a few weeks of work I had completed it.

My next move would be to send if off to a long armer to have it quilted.  A few weeks later my cousin called me to tell me her news had changed.  A new ultrasound showed our "hamburger" as a very distinct "hotdog."  Wait, no.  My quilt top is for a little girl.  I ask if the doctors could be wrong; maybe it was going to be twins.  Nope.  

I had not told my cousin about the quilt I had made so instead of finishing it, I chose to pout over jumping the gun too soon.  After her son was born I did tell her about the quilt top and we had a good laugh.  I told her if I ever finished it I would let her know.  A few years later I got brave enough to finish the top myself.  Since it already had a good story behind it I decided to go all out and quilt it with bright pink thread and back it with dark pink fabric.

Looking back the quilting isn't as horrible as I felt it was at the time.  Time heals.  But by no means is it perfect.  There are a lot of curves that are not so curvy and the spacing is not consistent at all.  But for a baby quilt it is perfect and it was made with much love.  I did send the quilt to her.  

So my question to myself is how would I quilt this quilt top if I had it today?  I recreated the quilt in EQ7 so that I could draw possible ideas on it.

I love putting ribbon candy in sashings and small boarders.  So with all the bubble gum colors in the quilt I thought it would be a fun filler for the sashings.  Next it was time for some continuous curves in the corner stones.  Then it was time to play with the actual blocks.  This was the part that use to  make me run and hide but now I realize it's the part you should have fun with.

The block on the bottom left represents stitching in the ditch.

After several minuets I was able to come up with multiple possibilities for the blocks themselves.  Are some of the choices better than the others...yes.  Are there any that are   

If I was going to quilt this again as a baby quilt I would probably choose one of these designs.  Less dense quilting would make for a softer blanket.

If this was going to turn into a wall hanging or a just for fun quilt I would definitely go with these designs.

As for the designs I didn't circle, all of them would still work.  They just didn't happen to be choices that I liked as well.  For someone else they may actually like those designs better or be able to come up with something that blows any of these out of the water.  Generation Q magazine did an article on "Quilt as Desired" where they created a block and ask various quilters from different backgrounds to quilt them.  It is amazing to see all the different creations they came up with all using the same block.  It's an article that is definitely worth reading.

As for the boarders of this quilt...

 If this were a baby quilt I would probably go with ribbon candy or the wishbone for the inner boarder and swirls or piano keys for the outer boarder.  The wall hanging route may have lead to one of the two designs in the about picture.  (Though I lean more toward the swirls with pebbles)

Now that I've had fun reliving the past, maybe I'll give my cousin a call and see if she would like me to rip out all the stitches and have another go at it.  Just kidding.  I may just pull out some other tops and see what I would have done differently.  We can never have too much practice!

Today I'm linking up with:

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