29 December 2012

The Painted Pebbles Quilt (with tutorial!)

I had an idea for this bubbling in the back of my head whilst I was making my log cabin quilt and so I started in on it right after.
The Painted Pebbles Quilt-designwall

It's a Painted Pebble Quilt and it was pretty quick to make.
The Painted Pebbles Quilt

 This quilt is based on this lovely painting by Garima Dhawan of Garima Studio.

I first saw this painting on Pinterest without a name attached (damned orphan images!) I was really pleased to finally learn the name of the artist when it showed up over on the Creature Comforts blog. And then I found Garima over on Facebook, and asked if it would be okay with her if I shared my quilt on the blog and showed her painting and then posted a tutorial with a tip jar. She said go for it! Hooray!

I think what really needs explaining on this quilt is the process I used to get the pebbles into their blocks. I have no idea what the method I used should be called or if I invented it. I’ve tried googling around for appliqué methods and I haven’t found it presented elsewhere, but that might be because I just don’t know the proper name.

 Anyway, I think my brain cooked this up from two things:
(1) Have you seen Lucie Summers’s Porthole Quilt? I don’t think she ever said how she made this or posted a tutorial, but I freakin’ love this quilt and have stared at the pictures enough to have my guesses on how it was made. I think I’m doing something very similar to what Lu did (but I’m guessing.)
porthole quilt block
 (photo by Lucie Summers, used with Lucie's permission)

(2) Jenna (of How to Be Jenna and The Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild) has done some really lovely appliqué on her recent projects and they are using a method she calls “sew-and-turn appliqué.”  She just posted a tutorial on her method over on her blog (Sew-and-Turn Applique Tutorial) which you should check out! The applique method I’m about to describe is the reverse of Jenna’s method.

So, here it is: TUTORIAL TIME!

1. Preparing the Background:
a. Cut a 15.5-inch square of your background fabric (in this case a text fabric with a gray background).
Reverse Applique Step

b. Cut a 10-inch square (approximately) of a fabric (hereafter called the flipping fabric) that matches the main color in your background fabric (an even darker gray would be great!)

c. Trace a pebble shape onto the 10-inch square of fabric, being sure to leave at least an inch of fabric between the edge of the drawing and the edge of your fabric.
Reverse Applique Step

2. Assembling the background:
a. Place the 15.5-inch square right-side up on a work surface.
 b. Place the 10-inch square of flipping fabric on top of it with the traced pebble shape showing.
 c. Rotate the pebble to desired angle then use masking tape to adhere the edges of the flipping fabric to the background fabric using masking tape (I'm using a 1/2-inch wide tape).
Reverse Applique Step

d. Using a smallish straight-stich (a 2 or 3 for stitch length on most machines is advised), stitch ¼-inch around the edges of your traced line. Leave several inches of thread tails at the beginning.  Go all the way around your pebble, keeping a smooth line. Do not worry too much if your stitching wanders a bit away from the line, so long as the line is smooth and you're reasonably close.
Reverse Applique Step

e. When taking your block away from the machine, leave several inches of thread tails attached to your block.
f. Pull thread tails to the backside of the quilt block (either by lifting the last stitch on the back and pulling the small loop through or by threading a hand needle with the top thread and sewing it through to the back). Tie off the thread tails (knot them) and then snip them.
Reverse Applique Step

I use Aurifil Mako 50wt thread (Aurifil on the orange spool) for all of my piecing. This is a really strong, thin thread and so my knots and stitches hold tight and do not create any bulk or bumps in the patchwork.

3. Flip that fabric!
a. Pull the tape off. If there's a lot of excess flipping fabric, trim it down.  I like to leave an inch or two all the way around.
Reverse Applique Step

b. Place the block on your rotary cutting mat and cut out the pebble shape in the middle. Cut about 1/2-inch inside your stitches.  I do this with my 45mm rotary cutter; you may be more comfortable using scissors.
Reverse Applique Step

Sidenote: I saved all my pebble shapes, rather than throwing them in the scrap bin. I’m going to use Jenna’s method to appliqué the pebbles onto another quilt! I stitched them together right after cutting them free.

c. Clip the seam allowance, being careful not to cut all the way to your seam.
Reverse Applique Step

d.  Set your seams by pressing the block.
e. Begin flipping the flipping fabric by folding it into the open hole and around to the back. It's easiest to start with the straightest part of the pebble edge.  Be patient with the fabric and move slowly.  Use the iron to press as you go.  You may find it useful to use a rolling motion with your fingers to get the seams in the correct position.
Reverse Applique Step

Once you've gone all the way around, your background is ready!
Reverse Applique Step

4. Make your patchwork pebble.
Make your patchwork at least 1-inch bigger in all directions than the hole it is going to fill.  I played around with a few variations on these pebbles and discovered that with these bright colors and the texty background prints, it worked best to keep the pebbles simple...one piece of bright fabric with a solid stripe across it (or a solid chunk in corner). I think fancier pebbles might work with simpler backgrounds.
Reverse Applique Step

5. Attach pebble to the background
a. To put the pebble in the hole, lay the prepared background fabric upside down on a work surface and then lay the pebble over the hole, making sure to cover the entire hole with at least 1/4-inch overlap on all sides.

b.Tape down the edges of the pebble, making sure no tape is to close to the edges of the hole (at least 1/4-inch away from the edge.)

c.  Place block right-side up on your machine and stich around the edge of the hole (about 1/8-inch looks great!)  Leave several inches of thread tails at the beginning.  Go all the way around your pebble, keeping a smooth line.  When taking your block away from the machine, leave several inches of thread tails at the end.
Reverse Applique Step

d. Pull thread tails to the backside of the quilt block (either by lifting the last stitch on the back and pulling the small loop through or by threading a needle with the top thread and sewing them through to the back). Tie off the thread tails (knot them) and then snip them.

e. Trim excess fabric. Press block. Trim block down to 15x15."

Reverse Applique Step

6.  Fantastic!  You're done!  Nine pebbles in 15x15" backgrounds will make a 44x44-inch square quilt top (a baby quilt).  Make more blocks for a larger quilt!

The Painted Pebbles Quilt

I'm already thinking of new color schemes for this quilt...what about mixed prints for the backgrounds and solids for the pebbles?  Multiple sizes of blocks mixed together?  There are so many possibilities!

If you use this tutorial, remember to credit me and consider leaving a tip!

Anyone is free to use this tutorial to construct a quilt; However, if this is where you got your design idea or where you learned this method, you should credit me, Rossie, with inspiration and please link back to this blog post (The Painted Pebbles Quilt with Tutorial).

 If you use the tutorial and feel so moved, please throw a buck or two in my tip jar (no obligation). Rest assured, the money goes into my business account and I will pay taxes on it through the business.

Why do I post tutorials with a tip jar?
(a) I often feel that quilt patterns are over-priced, especially if I can tell just by looking at something how it was made. I am almost never willing to pay $8 for a PDF quilt pattern. However, I would be willing to give someone a dollar or two for using the idea they brought to my attention, I think you might be like me.

(b) I'm a copy-leftist. As such, I don't think it is possible or moral to claim ownership over most ideas or to try to control an idea.   I'm interested in people's willingness to volunteer payment for inspiration.

(c) I have bills to pay.  When this goes reasonably well, I can post more quilts on my blog, rather than keeping them secret while waiting for them to show up in magazines or books.

20 December 2012

A Whole Lotta Log Cabins

Remember when this:
sorting out the charm pack
became this?
making log cabins
If not, check out that that old post: Glimma by Lotta Jansdotter

Well, now I've got this:
Glimma Log Cabin Quilt Top

Glimma Log Cabin Quilt Top

It's a generous twin-sized quilt at 68" x 95"
It's always fun to finish a major stage in a project, but getting a bed-size bit of patchwork done is an extra rush.  I mean, it took hours to go from having the top laid out on the design wall to being all stitched together!  I always forget how long that stage can take!

Speaking of a the design wall, I tried to make a video of myself putting the blocks up and then rearranging (and rearranging) (and rearranging) them, but something went wrong and I ended up with no video.  This series of photos will have to do:
picking a layout for a log cabin quilt

My favorite blocks are the craziest ones:
Log Cabin Block

This is a bit of Glimma in the middle, then some solids, XOXOXO from a few years ago, Atelier & Akiko (I just love the line-drawing quality!) from a few years ago, a bit of a gray chevron sheet from Target, then some of Lotta's Bella birds, which I used fabric paint to stamp on with an art stamp from Carolyn Friedlander (bought at Quilt Market this fall) and some stamps from The Small Object (bought years ago at Renegade Craft Fair).
Log Cabin Block

And this one...ooo I just love that Seedpods in Mustard print.  It's a hand-printed fabric; I bought it from from Maze & Vale on etsy not too long ago.  I used up the pieces I had and just might use some holiday money to replace it.  The mushroom print is also from Maze & Vale.  And again we've got a little bit of Glimma, some solids, some Atelier & Akiko.  Plus, a little bit of Heather Ross that has been in my stash for years (I actually had yardage of that one at some point and now I'm down to scraps.)  I just love cutting fabric up and sewing it back together!

Random tip:
I love using these file labels to mark the blocks once I've sorted out their placement.
Tip for quilters: Use file labels to mark quilt blocks
I find them easier to use than masking tape, just mark the labels, cut the block in half, and stick them on the fabric!  They are a little pricier than using masking tape, but I usually get them by adding them into Amazon orders in order to get my order total to $25 and qualify for free shipping.  So, basically, they pay for themselves.  :-)

I'm not going to quilt the Glimma Log Cabin quilt just yet.  I had a lot of interesting suggestions when I posted about the the quilting part of quilting (the comments are worth going back over!) and so I'm going to try to make a few adjustments to my quilting space(get those gloves, cut a hole in the table, etc) and then quilt one quilt a month in 2013!  Woot!

14 December 2012

Book Review: Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

What it is: 
A collection of 19 quilts made by bloggers with piecing instructions for each quilt and a “bio” of each designer, written by the designer.

Basic breakdown of the book's contents:
Introduction (1 page) 1% of the book
In this section, a brief explanation of the book is provided.

The Quilt Patterns (77 pages) 88% of the book
Each pattern begins with a big, beautiful photograph of the quilt.  Each pattern is approximately four pages long. The instructions seem clear and easy to follow; they include step-by-step computer illustrations. If the quilt back is pieced a picture and explanation is included.  The difficulty of the pattern or the skills it requires used isn’t indicated; only one version of each quilt is shown.
Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

Biographies for each designer (10 pages) 11% of the book
These were written by each of the designers and are included at the close of his/her pattern.

Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

**There is no space given over to on basic quiltmaking techniques (1/4-inch seams, binding, etc.) Should you need it, this information can be found on the publishers website! I think this is awesome, it keeps the price of the book lower and most quilters don't need that information.

What it is not: 
This book is not everything it claims to be in its introduction and on its cover.

In the introduction, the editor--actually, it is unclear who wrote the introduction, I’m assuming it was the editor--states that the book, “focuses on a specific aesthetic.” To my eye, there is quite a wide range of aesthetics being presented.

While the variety could be a strength of the book, the quilts aren’t organized thematically and so the book ends up feeling a bit aesthetically jumbled. A little bit more connecting material from the editor could have turned this book from a series of disconnected patterns into a well-curated set of patterns that are not only useful, but could increase understanding of quilt styles. I know a lot of traditional quilters and would-be modern quilters are confused about what makes a modern quilt look “modern,” I don’t think this book will clarify that point, which is unfortunate because the title begins with the words “modern quilts.”

I feel that the editors needed to insert a bit more of a narrative if they are going to claim to capture an important part of “quiltmaking history.” For example, I found the blogger biographies really interesting. Many of the bloggers push on the idea of modern quilting, claiming that they have “never agreed with the idea” (Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew) or have a style which is, “neither modern nor traditional but a little bit of both” (Katy Jones of I’m a Ginger Monkey) or are, “always surprise[d] when someone thinks I am a ‘modern quilter.” (Jessica Kovach of Twin Fibers). I really wish the editor(s) had picked up on these ideas that run through the bios and found something to say about them. A set of disconnected discussions about the (false?) modern/traditional binary is pretty much par for the course in the blogosphere, a book provides the opportunity to do more, but that opportunity is not capitalized upon. Perhaps I hold books in too high of esteem and thereby expect too much, but I can’t help but want books to be MORE than a bunch of separate patterns and ideas bound only by proximity in a physical object; I want some story or argument about how they fit together and what they represent.

The book claims that all of the quiltmakers are “innovative” and each of the 19 quilts is “unique.” Not all of these quilts are going to live up to those claims, especially for folks who regularly read quilt blogs or look at the quilt groups on Flickr.  Some of these quilts will look very typical.
Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

I don’t see any problem with providing patterns for what are arguably “modern standards” like a half-square triangle medallion quilt or a zig-zag quilt, but its weird to call them innovative and inaccurate to call them unique.

Thankfully, between the front and back covers of this book and the “look inside” feature on Amazon.com, you can see the vast majority of the quilts from the book and decide for yourself if you’re interested in these patterns.

Who is it for?
Quilters who collect books showcasing bloggers and their contributions.
Quilters looking for a set of patterns (there are 19!) for quilts with a wide-range of aesthetics, most especially those who like block-based quilts like the following, as that type of quilt is most heavily represented.
Review of Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe

Recommended for quilters who like pretty quilts and following patterns.

Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe
is full color throughout, printed on high-quality paper, and 95 pages long.

Publication date: December 3, 2012
Rossie Crafts review date: December 14, 2012
The list price is $26.99, it’s selling for $23.99 on Amazon.com today.

Review copy was supplied by the publisher; I am not paid to review books; if you click through to Amazon and then make a purchase, I will recieve a small kickback from Amazon.

11 December 2012

the quilting part of quilting

I'm so excited about the enthusiasm over my book review project!  I'll be trying to post one every week or two until I've done the titles on my bookshelf.  I really appreciated the feedback I received about what books to do next.  Right now, I'm planning three ahead, and this is what I've got lined up:

1. Modern Quilts from the Blogging Universe
2. Quilting Modern by Jacquie Gering and Katie Pederson
3. Geared for Guys by Emily Herrick

Other stuff you guys suggested:
  • a way for you all to get involved, like maybe a central place to link to your blog when you write a serious review.  I'm totally down with this!  I just need to figure out how to make it easily navigable.  I've been planning a proper website (around the blog) so that tutorials, reviews and such are more easily cataloged.  I think once the website launches, I can set this up.
  • my personal opinion.  On the website I'm planning on making recommendations for specific categories and subcategories.  I'm not sure if I'll go further than that.  I imagine that what is appropriate and useful will reveal itself.  I guess that I just don't expect that what I want or need in a book is necessarily what YOU want or need, so I'm happiest to just describe what is in the book and who I imagine would want/need it.We'll see!
However, ya'll know that I love to talk about process, so since I just reviewed Free-Motion Quilting by Angela Walters and then went on a quilting binge to wrap up some works-in-progress that were due (at magazines, or as gifts), I figure I can talk about my process in choosing and using quilting designs.

recently quilted

Quilting is probably my least favorite step in the process of making a quilt.  It's also, probably because I send quilts out pretty often, my biggest problem growth area.  I just haven't put in the time on quilting that I need to in order to have those gorgeous even stitches and in order to get onto the quilt what is in my head.

I tend to like quilting that is somewhere between an all-over pattern with no relationship with the patchwork and a one that is micro-coordinated to the patchwork.  Usually, this results in either a fairly minimal all-over design (see the The DoublePlusGood Quilt, Miss Stinky's Particle Board Cabin) or for a long time I have favored straight-line quilting (The Full Stops Quilt, The Green Quilt, The Kelp Quilt).  It probably helps that these designs are pretty straightforward requests for me to make of my lovely local long-arm quilter, Bernie.

I also tend to send things out to the long-arm quilter when I'm short on time or when I've made a large quilt (and most of my quilts are large!)

I recently realized that I need to do more of my own quilting.  Why?  Because I came across this work in progress:
The Martha Quilt

I made this quilt top in 2005.  2005.  2005.  I f**king love this quilt top and it hasn't been quilted because I haven't developed the skills to execute what is in my head.  ARGH!!!!  Time to grow some ovaries, slap that darning foot on my little Janome, and get to work!

I had a few lap-sized quilts in need of quilting, so I decided to woman-up and quilt them myself.  Unfortunately, I can't show you the quilt tops (gifts and such), but suffice it to say that I wanted something non-swirly and non-straight-line and moderately dense.

My go-to-spot for browsing free-motion quilting designs is The Free Motion Quilting Project from Leah Day.  More than 365 designs being given away for free with pictures and videos and explanations?  Yes, please!  They are also, very helpfully, categorized in multiple ways, including difficulty, design type, and directional texture.

I decided to practice on a small quilt I anticipate donating to charity.
Basic Chevron quilting practice

This is the Basic Chevron design.  Pretty easy.  I got much better as I went, so I was glad to be working on a practice quilt as I got the worst of the wobbles out of my system.

I then slept on it (your brain processes skills as you sleep, making you much better on the start of day 2, than you were at the end of day 1.  Seriously, here's my reference: RadioLab. Yay science!)

On the second quilt, I decided to use the Square Spiral
Square Spiral design practice

Again, it was a bit clunky at first, but I practiced a bit, slept on it, practiced a bit more and then was competent enough to do it on a "real" quilt.

My practice quilt doesn't look half-bad though!
Checkerboard quilt used for quilting practice
The actual quilts were similar to the practice quilt in that they had a columns of patchwork and I wanted to quilt in a way that went with the columns. Like the practice quilt, there are two passes of the quilting within each column. I tried the chevrons wider, but I lost control doing something that wide on my machine. I think I am going to invest in some grippy gloves and see if that helps with control. Leah Day sells quilting kits with gloves and sliders, so I'll pick one up from her, since her shop is how she supports her awesome website.

I think I'm going to finish upthe patchwork for  my log cabin quilt next, but in the back of my head, I'm contemplating how I will quilt it and also the Halloween Quilt.  I actually, think I'm pretty close to settled a design for the Halloween Quilt---varying sized squares filled with the matrix design.

05 December 2012

Project Bibliophile

I'm going to start reviewing books here on a regular basis.  There seems to be a need for information-rich, serious reviews of quilting books. Since I'm a major bookworm and happy to make distinctions, I've volunteered myself for the job.

Project Bibliophile

A few things have led me believe there's a need for serious reviews:
  1. Blog hops typically contain only a small amount of information.
  2. Magazine reviews often simply repeat the publisher's promotional materials.
  3. At least five different people have told me, of Free-Motion Quilting by Angela Walters, "I like it, but it's not what I thought it was going to be."  And I've heard that about other books as well.  The fact is that I (and maybe you) rarely get to look at a book in a bricks-and-mortar store anymore.  The shops around me just don't stock the books I'm interested in and so I almost always need to make purchases online, so sometimes a book isn't what I need it to be, and I'm probably missing out on books that would be right up my alley!

My idea is that I will let you know what you might find out by flipping through a book:
  • how much space is given over to what
  • what the book does and doesn't cover
  • the style of writing/instruction
  • the style of patchwork is--block-based? minimal? asymmetical? interesting use of negative space? geometric? improv? wabi sabi?
  • who is this book for?
I'm also planning on only reviewing books that I have a copy of so that I can answer questions about books basically forever after the review goes up. So, let me know which books you think should be reviewed and what you want to know about them and feel free to ask more questions about a book after a review is up! My intention is to be useful.

I'm putting together a page to make my relationships with book publishers clear; but rest-assured that while I'm getting some advance copies of books, I'm not getting paid by publishers.  I do participate in the Amazon Associates program, whereby I earn a small percentage of all sales made via links through this site.  So, anytime you link through me and then make a purchase from them, I get a small kickback, for which I'm grateful.  I'm hoping to use that money to purchase older books based on your recommendations and reviewing them.  I know some of my favorite books have been around for years and I'd love to talk about them and explore some others!

I'm going to begin with review of Free-Motion Quilting by Angela Walters because I own it (bought it myself) and because, as I mentioned above, it might not be what you expect!

Project Bibliophile Book Review: Free Motion Quilting

What it is:
A book with a friendly, approachable,  and encouraging tone.  Walters conveys her experiences, her opinion about the special challenges when quilting modern quilts, her favorite quilting designs, and her methods for deciding how to quilt quilts.

Basic breakdown of book's contents:
Introduction and supplies list (11 pages) 10% of the book.  
In this section Walters introduces herself and lists her favorite supplies.

Presentation and explanation of Walter's favorite quilting designs (55 pages) 50% of the book.
There are 28 designs total, arranged around themes of how they look (curves, lines, etc). The relative difficulty of the designs is not discussed.  The step-by-step explanations of how to create each design are clear.

a page in Free-Motion Quilting by Angela Walters

Show-and-tell of the designs as they are used in a series of quilts (43 pages) 40% of the book.  
These pages are organized around types of patchwork that have been popular lately: for example, log cabins, zig zags, and quilts with a lot of negative space. This section provides clear pictures of many quilt tops, as Walters discusses her approach in choosing quilt designs for each top.

a page in Free-Motion Quilting by Angela Walters

What it is not:
This book is not intended to build skills in the nitty-gritty of machine quilting.  There is no discussion of trouble-shooting tension problems, keeping your stitches even, or burying threads.  The focus of the book is on how to make specific designs when quilting--which is discussed exclusively in terms of where to go next with your needle.

There is no discussion of the best approach to getting a design onto a quilt when you are contending with the small harp on a domestic sewing machine.  While you can use these designs with a domestic sewing machine, you'll have to puzzle out your strategy to working with the harp on your own.

Who is it for?
Quilters looking for a catalog of design options for free-motion quilting (28 designs are included).
Quilters looking for some guidance in deciding what kind of quilting to use with their patchwork.
Recommended for quilters who are already comfortable with the technical aspects of free-motion quilting on their machine.

Free-Motion Quilting with Angela Walters: Choose and Use Quilting Designs on Modern Quilts
is full color throughout, printed on high-quality paper, and 119 pages long.

July 16, 2012
Rossie Crafts Review Date: December 5, 2012
The list price is $22.95, it's selling for $14.71 on Amazon.com today.