Sunday, January 27, 2013


Remember these?

Well, I am happy to report that I got to spend a day on that euphoric high after completing Lynette's quilt.  I actually cut into the silk.  That said, I can also say that I must have found some design inspiration as well.  I won't bore you all with the many perturbations I went through to get to this point.  It has rotated a couple times, had some color switches.  In fact, the outer border isn't this shade of blue at all in my final rendition.  It  has the smokier shade of blue. it is.  I found it.  This is just a little bit softer than the one above.  I probably don't have enough of that lighter aqua (as Murphy always comes to visit me), so we'll see when I get closer to that point.
Despite all my efforts to make this be a little smaller, it would appear to be about 60" square.  I was challenged because I really want to include many of the gorgeous shades of the silk.  In person, they are so pettable and yummy.  The beauty of it, however, is that the piecing is larger, and will not take as long.  Unfortunately, it has a good bit of paper piecing, which I really don't love.  I'll get over that.  I am seriously vowing that this WILL NOT take 9 months to complete the top!  So far, I have the 28" central diamond done and stitched together.  The picture below is of it when it was still in pieces, but you can get the idea of how pretty the silk is. 
As beautiful as this silk is (and trust me, it is more pretty when quilted), it's not the easiest fabric to work with.  Slippery, shifty, and sensitive to water spotting (so I am told) - so no starching it to hell and back to whip it into submission.  Before I cut into it, (months ago in fact), I emailed Jenny Lyon because I knew she'd worked with the silk Radiance a bit.   If you aren't familiar with Jenny's quilts, you should be.  She's a domestic quilter and does divine work.   Anyways, she told me about interfacing the silk with Pellon Bi-Stretch Lite interfacing.  It really does not alter the hand of the silk, so the fabric is still soft and thin-feeling.  Other light-weight interfacings can pucker the fabric, but this does not.  My primary feedback is that it is wicked expensive - $7.30 per yard and it is only 20" wide!  I have been lucky to get it at Joann's on a 50% off coupon, but still that makes it more expensive than the silk fabric (which was largely only about $5/yard!).    I predict that it will probably take 12-15 yards of this interfacing to do the entire quilt, assuming I use it on all the borders.  One other drawback is that it makes seams just a little thicker.  I have noticed that on this particular design where the acute points come together, there is more bulk than I really like (or can match to my liking).  I'm getting around this by appliqueing a diamond over the joint, and then cutting out the bulk.  It's just how my pea-brain thinks...I used to be such a meticulous piecer.  Or I should say "I used to be a very neat piecer".  Now with my limited time, I am a piecer who has to spend wasteful time thinking up coverup alternatives to my errors.  Whatever works.  In the end, this will.

Stay tuned...I have one baby quilt to do Monday & Tuesday, and I will work a little on the next 12 blocks this week.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The largest Custom I have ever done

When I thought that my Big Green Dresdens quilt (yes, it's about to get a more respectable name before the spring shows are here) was the largest custom I'd ever do, I was wrong.  I just finished quilting Marianne Elizabeth's Amaretto Cottage for Lynette, and this beastie is a whopping 20% larger!  It measured 112" square before I started quilting!   Because of it's massive size, the only place I have big enough for it is my longarm.  All pictures taken of it will chop off large sections since my hallway is only about 7' across.  You can look at the link for Lynette's blog to see other pictures of this quilt.

One thing I can rely on when I receive a quilt from Lynette is how impeccably it is pieced.  I did a Patriots & Petticoats quilt for her last year, so I am familiar with how meticulously she pieces her blocks.  Even the sections of blocks are so well pieced.  The quilt laid flatter than most quilts I make (and you know what a stickler I am for my piecing).  I knew that it was all in my hands to make the quilt look good, because Lynette had most definitely done her job already.  Talk about nerve wracking.

The quilt does not disappoint, in my humble opinion.  I set out to quilt this with a few simple goals.  For me, sampler-style quilts can be discontinuous and difficult to meld into a cohesive quilt.  They are made from many different fabrics.  Although the blocks are repeated 4 times in this quilt, they are of all different constructions - some are a 4-patch, some are a 5-patch, and some are things different still.  As a quilter, these differences make it hard to select a stencil that works for all blocks, or choose a design that works uniformly for all blocks.  I do not care for the look of quilting each block differently, just to say that you custom quilted each block.  I feel strongly that these different sampler blocks need to be melded into one quilt through the quilting.  You can see how I did this on her Patriots & Petticoats quilt with a feathered wreath.  This would have worked nicely here too, but I just wanted to do something different.  
 So I got sketching and here's what I came up with.  The shape reminds me of a Christmas ornament or bauble.  The feathering within them has so much movement.  I'm really pleased with the look.  It is different and effective.  It also allows me to do the curved cross-hatching that provides terrific texture against the multitude of feathers.  These fabrics are lovely, and frilly, and floral - just screaming for lots of feathers.
 You will notice that I don't shy away from quilting outside of the lines.  If you only fill the "blocks" of the quilt, then you are left with a rather mundane framework for your quilting.  That is not to imply that the quilt is mundane.  It is anything but that, but to quilt inside of a bunch of log cabin blocks would deprive me of all kinds of great options!  Despite the florally and feminime fabrics, the quilt is largely linear.  To offset this, I quilted the scalloped feathery swags between the sampler blocks.  I allowed the swags to flow down into the green border.  These should hang off the edge of the bed and look lovely.
Lynette sent a Hobbs Tuscany wool batt for this quilt.  That is partly why the feathery relief is so nice.  It shows the texture of the quilting so  much better than cotton.    I used three colors of Glide thread - most of the quilt is in a gold that coordinates with the fabrics.  There is also a little bit of pale green and light purple. 
 I was pretty glad today when I got down to just this center 18" purple square!  I had basted it off and left it since I knew it would not be stitched in the gold thread (which 90% of the quilt was stitched with).  In fact, I think I used over 2 miles of thread on this quilt!  I'm telling you, it is BIG.
 As you go from border to border, some are stitched in a semi-traditional manner where the stitching stays in the border, and some are just more avant garde.  I hope the creative approach is appreciated. It moves the eye all over the quilt.
I have a few shots of the back too, since they show the quilting superbly.  The backing is a soft lavender solid, despite appearing grayish in the photos.  This shows the scalloped border, and where the sampler blocks are.  But from the back, you are left wondering what the front might look like!
Here is one corner.  I LOVE this shot.  The texture is amazing.  Feathers are just a beautiful form, and bring this to life.
 Here's the center, rotated 45 degrees...  You can get a good look at the 1st border that quilts through the smaller sampler blocks - it has large egg & dart (semi-circles) filled with feathers, then a row of scallops & more feathers.  And then some curling feathers.  Hmmm...did I quilt too many feathers?  Na - no such thing!
This will be flying its way home to Lynette later this week.  I truly hope she loves it as much as I do.   I will treat myself to a day of playing with that tantalizing pile of silk Radiance I showed last week.  Believe it or not, I may have a plan.  Either way, I will take scissors to the fabric tomorrow!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Seeking inspiration

...but finding nothing.  My brain is taxed and empty.  I am finding little to no creativity no matter where I look.  And I find it frustrating.  I have all but finished up the 2 show quilts that need to be done by month's end.  I am puttering with the mosaic floor quilt started last summer.  But I have this luscious stack of Radiance half-yards that I am itching to work with.  There is something so gorgeous about how silk quilts, and I just want to be quilting these.  I want it NOW.  Therein lies the problem!
I did design (and start, sigh) a quilt using these.  I got so far as to make about 2 dozen quarter circles.  I just am not in love with the plan, and don't wish to continue.  I find myself drawn in too many directions with this fabric.  It is a little bit slippery and stretchy to work with.  The wise person in me thinks it smart not to overdesign complexity into the quilt.  I suspect it may be a bit harder to nicely align all the points, and if there are lots of straight lines, then they might be hard to maintain during the quilting.  

I have sketched several things.  Just last night, I drew out a companion to this quilt.  Scroll down for a full quilt shot.  I love the look of the interlocking lines.  That satisfies my innate need to make things that appear complex.  In the case of working with the silk, I fear it would be rather complex, and maybe would not come out as desired.  I have pondered going very simple, and allowing the quilting to take the front stage.  But that plan leaves my analytical side feeling underwhelmed.  Yes, sadly, I am one of those people that has strongly conflicting left and right brains.  I can be very artistic, as in the quilting, but I need a delicate balance of both to feel satisfied.  Plus, I want all the tones of the gorgeous fabric to be used, so how to do that "simply" mystifies me.

I have thought about doing a traditional design, but twisted.  I like the Birds in the Air and Orange Peel designs.  I'm not sure I am committed to doing the hand applique using the silk that the Orange Peel would require.  

When I see the fabrics, I think in Autumn.  Yet, I really don't know how to appropriately incorporate that into the piecing.

My latest whim for a design concept is a complete whim for me.  How about a strata quilt?  It would be easy to incorporate all the fabrics.  I could free piece this, and not have to worry about matching points and seams (within reason).  But then that concept has obvious concerns it complex enough to enter into shows, and receive any respect?  How would I quilt it?  I would have to make sure that some of the pieces were large enough to enable a nice development of quilting designs.

I know that when the design is right, it will flow forth from my mind like warm molasses.  The Giverny quilt I showed initially (with the interlocking) was designed in only a couple weeks, and made in 1-2 months.  No messing around there.  So why is my brain overthinking this one so much?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snowflake Wall Quilt

I quilted this 41" wall-hanging last week.  It is pieced from Fairy Frost materials, a mystery blue-black background and a black batik border.  Quilting on black is definitely not for the faint-sighted, as it takes a ton of concentration.
 I quilted the border on the black and part of the curved-crosshatching with a Wonderfil silver metallic thread.  It is my all time favorite for metallics.  It is smooth and never gives an issue with the machine.  But, quilting with a starkly contrasting color gives me hives, so I chose to limit it to just outlining the key motif.  The rest of the detail would have to show with the relief of the quilting.  This piece has wool and 80/20 batts to help with that job.
 I quilted wonderful swirling and undulating feathers into all four corners.  They are so much fun to stitch out.

As you can see, the client chose a black backing fabric (more hives).  I use a white bobbin with my silver and clear thread, and it shows most prominently.  It shows every good and bad stitch.   Not my favorite thing, but part of this job.
 This shows the piecing, and how it is really done with 4 or 5 different Fairy Frost materials.  There is an ever-so subtle change of color here.  And I stitched in the center with silver.
 There are several small fills stitched out in black Glide thread.  The dense fillers help to make the feathery details pop out.  Little swirls, flames, bananas, pebbles...maybe more.
The client told me to be careful with using the piecing as a reference because some of it was off a little bit.  I hope that the "overlay" style of quilting helps to hide this.  I like to make a design for the quilting that is different, yet one that enhances the piecing.
Though I spent 2-3 hours longer on this than I budgeted, it is just the kind of project I love.  It had a well and easily defined design.  I quickly got my head into the work, and couldn't care less that it was going long on the budget.  I knew that I was creating something I would love in the end.  That is what it is all about.   It's the kind of project that you can practically see the end right from the beginning.  Love that.

Right now, I am 3-1/2 days into the polar opposite quilt.  The one on my frame now is enormous.  It is equally as detailed in it's own and different way.  I am still wondering what day I will catch a glance at the bottom border, and I know that even when I do, I will still have a few more days finishing places here and there that I left empty.  Huge quilts are not for the faint at heart, or those like me that need instant gratification.  Harder than that, while this has been on the frame, eight new quilts have come in, and I have received numerous inquiries.  I need a clone of me to work at night when I sleep to make a feeble attempt at keeping up!  I'm not a fan of being behind, or feeling like I am behind...even when I am not really behind.  It's like my perfect world would be to get a new quilt the day one is picked up!  But the world doesn't work that way - as someone told me earlier, it sucks much worse to have no quilts in the cupboard than to have too many!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sweet Flannel Baby Quilt

As many of you know, I don't get very many really simple quilts.  I seem to quilt one custom after another, which does get tiring.  It's a mental game.  Sometimes it really is nice to have a quilt that is just not calling for the "over the top" custom treatment.  Erin sent me this baby quilt.  It's (give or take) 45"x55", and is made from the nicest flannel fabrics.  She did a nice job on the appliques.  She asked for something a little simpler, as overquilting the flannel would have made it stiff.
I still wanted to make the quilt as cute as possible - childlike and sweet.  I have done several quilts like this one, with a scene at the top of a pieced section.  I knew that the spray of free-flowing feathers would look great -- kind of like the wind above the characters.  Dontcha just love the whim of the chick's wings (especially #3!)?!

The pup needed a little something else, so he got a collar with a heart.
 And each of the three puppies sitting (or sleeping) within the section of squares, got an alphabet block to perch on.  This treatment seemed fun and whimsical when I did it, and has brought me SO many comments from my facebook buddies about how great it looks.  I really love sleepy here...
 You can see the blocks a little better from the backside.  
 It's not exactly an edge-to-edge by a longshot, and it's not exactly simple.  But the design ideas flowed out of me like a faucet on this quilt so it just came together easier, simpler, faster.  Struggling on what to quilt takes time and energy, and I love it when that does not happen.  Hopefully the owner will like it as much as I do :-)

I took yesterday off to putter on my mosaic floor quilt.  I have a 112" custom staring me in the face, and I decided I needed a couple days to get it loaded and review my plans, rather than diving right into the quilting of it yesterday.  Go figure, the day you take off from quilting is the day you receive 2 more custom quilts to quilt!  Talk to you soon...

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Helpful comments...

Helpful comments lead to tweaking of the outer mosaic border.  I agree, it needs the darker green and peach to be repeated.  Again, I'll comment that the computer generated colorings are not as good as the real fabrics, but I am trying to draw these colors outward.
Thoughts on the outer borders (I only played with the bottom ones)?...Or do you have another suggestion?...

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Design Delimmas

With the new year upon us, my mind is a muck with new quilt designs and dreams of starting new projects.  One of these is a silk wholecloth quilt and the other involves some Cherrywood fabrics, but first I will vow to at least get one of my 2 in-works tops finished.  I have this Italian floor quilt mostly together.  I have the large sections done, as shown below, if you don't consider the fact that I plan to redo the large-ish green-gray-B/W striped triangles.  They just are not working for me, and the paper piecing has too many places with poor points.  I have this deeper green fabric that I want to be more prominent too, as it helps to counterbalance the salmon color.  First, though, I have ordered ink for my out-of-commission printer, then next week I hope to get onto some piecing.
The big question in my mind, though is how this quilt will finish.  Initially, I had a 5-6" solid black border (no mosaic) to ground the busyness.  But then that was growing on me like a boring plague, so I chose to add some 1/2" mosaic around the border.  It's a total PAI to make all of this, and lots of bulk to quilt, but I like the look.
Something is still off though.  Maybe it was the black and white striping? I made it a more subtle black & brown.  Not really sure which is better black & brown or B & W.  Thoughts?...since I am repiecing this anyways.
Mind you, these are EQ7 colors and are not as good or perfect as the actual Stonehenge fabrics.  I realize that green looks a little out of place here, but in reality it is just right.  My next step was to place a large black or charcoal border around the original center.  I think that this border is 3-1/2". 
Then I played with putting the second mosaic border on the central diamond rather than the outer border.  The thought was that having the black outer border larger would further ground the quilt.  The mosaic just muddied the already busy center, I think.
The last idea is using a 4" inner dark diamond border and the tiny mosaic around the outside.  I may also do a small scroll applique on the black border in a deep charcoal (aiming for subtle details), but keeping with what would be consistent for a mosaic floor.  The floors of Italy are, afterall, opulent, ornamental, intricate, and , well, just plain detailed.
 I welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Back to the Grind.

The holidays are over.  The first part of vacation week prior to Christmas was anything but relaxing, and I got little quilting done.  The day after Christmas, we took off to DC for the week.  It's about 600 miles, which is the longest car trip we've done with the kids.  It was really fun taking them to a multitude of museums, and getting a well-needed dose of American history along the way.  DC was cold, but we have returned to Maine with 15" of new snow and temps today of about 10F!  I am still battling a cold/sinus infection for which I visited an ER on Christmas day for antibiotics.  Looks like I may be going back to the doctor soon for something stronger.  Being sick has zapped my energy to quilt, but today I started on the quilts that will be done this month.  

This is a client's McKenna Ryan wall hanging.  It is all batiks.  She fused the pieces and left them unstitched for me.  It worked OK, but I am not immensely fond of raw edge applique and the way it can be thick and stiff in places.  I gunks up my needle now and then.  The purist in me would just as soon hand stitch these instead of glue them.  In the end, it is a nice looking wall-hanging.  Only being about 20"x24", you might think it would be fast.  You'd be wrong though.  It took me about 3 hours to quilt.

 I stitched around the fish and the borders of many items with Monolon, before stitching with the colored thread.  I have used a sea foam Glide on the water, a lavender Glide on the fish, a horribly behaving Superior Rainbows in variegated green for the border and Khaki Glide (which looks gold) on the seaweeds.  These are all shiny threads that add a nice texture to the quilt.  It also has 2 layers of Hobbs 80/20 batting since it is a wall-hanging.  This helps to give lots of relief.
The fishies are stitched in a fun purple.  It works with the batik fabrics, and gives them a somewhat irridescent look as they might naturally have.
 I have left the rocks unquilted so that they really pop out.
Now, off to figuring out what quilt might be entered into the spring shows.  I have 2 quilts that need names, and I am presently devoid of inspiration on that front.  Somehow I need something better than "that dang quilt"!  I will have more great quilts to show in the coming days.