20 May, 2015

You Inspire Me To Quilt - Introductions (Part 1)

You Inspire Me to Quilt is out in the world! Such an exciting moment and it never gets old. I can finally tell you all about the book, my amazing contributors, and where to get it.

Have you ever had someone in your life - not a quilter - who suggests some crazy idea for a quilt to you? An idea that you initially dismiss as ridiculous, difficult, or even impossible to translate into a quilt? Have you struggled to work out a design for an idea you wanted to try, for an inspiration that stopped you in your tracks? Well, you aren't alone. You Inspire Me To Quilt is all about that process - from inspiration to finished quilt, from Spark to Binding.

Each contributor to the book shared their process of design and making. That's on top of the pattern itself. We've also included insight from each quilter on a wide range of topics from teaching quilting, finding time for creativity, inspiration, and family. It was such a privilege for me to work with these amazing women, I am thrilled.

Amanda Jean Nyberg's quilt is all about honouring a special date. The inspiration was a clock radio and it took family movie night for her to get the idea from her husband into a way that got her excited. And lucky for readers, you don't have to share her husband's birthdate, she provided the pattern for all the numbers.

This is the quilt that my husband requested - for years. In fact, it was incessant asking for this quilt that inspired the book as a whole.

Never once in a million years could I imagine a quilt inspired by bacon, but here it is. It is so true to the inspiration, yet creates a really cool, modern design. Not to mention that Cynthia Frenette walks you through making a not quite improvised background for this quilt. I've already seen what her pattern tester did by changing up the colours and it makes it completely different.

Like bacon, I never would have gone to role-playing games as a source of inspiration. It isn't my world, but the notion of a story telling map based on hexagons makes perfect sense to a quilter. Rossie Hutchinson designed this quilt for her husband, a man with a passion for role-playing games. I adore the concept of using the quilt to tell a story - perfect for a family history, a wedding present, or bedtime creation. With so much sweet, novelty and graphic fabric available now this would be so much fun to do.

A good Canadian loves hockey. Okay, so that is a stereotype which I know isn't true. Personally, I love hockey. That's what got me so excited for Andrea Harris' quilt. Her husband requested a quilt to transport him back to Saturday night watching the Habs on Hockey Night in Canada. She filled the request with a quilt that mimics the colour and graphics of the hockey ice, but pixelated. In the centre she included a large maple leaf, but you could easily add your own design. I have a few nephews who would love this quilt so much, but I don't think Andrea's husband will give it up! Oh, and you should see the quilting!

Stay tuned for peaks from the other five quilts in the book.

Pick up You Inspire Me to Quilt on Amazon or request it at your local quilt shop.

15 May, 2015

Quilts in the Wild - Of My Home

While I was cleaning up and sorting quilts to put them on my awesome new racks, I decided to take inventory of the quilts at home. These are the quilts being used, abused, loved, cuddled, and slept with in our home. I did not style any of those photos. Just making that clear.

This guy lives for the kids. Needless to say we can't keep him off either of the girls' beds. All day, all night, when he isn't following them around. We rotate the quilts on the bed a lot.

My other daughter's bed. With two quilts, one ostensibly to keep the dog from dirtying the other one, but I usually find it on the floor.

My son's bed. The neatest of the bunch, but when you only weigh 35 pounds and have a full size bed only a small portion gets messy. This particular quilt is from A Month of Sundays.

Two quilts for two people. I've been quite chilly at night lately, so I have my voile quilt layered on top of my QuiltCon quilt.

And, just for the record, the beds usually get made in this house. One of the morning chores for everyone. But the day I took these pictures it was The Evil Genius' birthday and all rules went out the window. She may have had a bowl of whipped cream for breakfast too.

Books and quilts, a perfect combination. My little guy was snuggling with his gift from Amanda Jean and reading this particular morning, when not running around like a maniac screaming.

On the basement couch. Full on TV watching and family snuggles happen here. A baby quilt gifted when the Monster was born coordinates perfectly with one of the quilts from You Inspire Me To Quilt. Photograph by Christy Swanberg.

And upstairs in the living room. The only somewhat neat spot, but I have a habit of straightening it up after I do the dishes every night. Good old Missing U hanging out there, from Sunday Morning Quilts. Shh, but it is covering up a rip in the upholstery.

Between the quilts on the racks, this collection, and various quilts hanging in stores as class samples and promotions, as well as those out for publication, I have 51 quilts in my possession. Woah.

13 May, 2015

Quilt Storage Solution

Forgive me for being cocky, but I have too many quilts. My husband has been saying that for years, but I'm finally cluing in. There are only so many beds in the house, so many forts to be built, so many little legs to cover. I do give away quite a few quilts too, but the supply at home continues to grow. There is just no stopping the compulsion to create.

Over the winter the spot to store the quilts became the table in the family room. It is supposed to be a table for playing games, doing puzzles, and gathering around as an alternative to the TV. We've used it as a fort or secret TV watching space as well. In truth, it's main function was to hold the precarious stack of quilts.

Nothing was functional - including the quilts themselves.

Then I discovered these racks. Long story short, I found myself with unexpected free time and a case of the grumps. So I went to Home Sense, which is a discount home wares store along the lines of TJ Maxx or Marshalls for my US readers. I went in hoping to find a little table for my son's room, but found these racks instead. I picked up the two they had to test out at home.

(See, I thought I had a genius idea for quilt racks that my husband could make, but I also wanted the quilts off the table before 2017. His business builds cabinets so he has all the tools, but not the time. We are the cobbler's kids with no shoes.)

The racks are PERFECT. Each one easily holds 10-15 quilts. I was so pleased with them that I drove across the city (something I hate doing) to another HomeSense, fingers crossed, to get another one. I'm a firm believer that instead of getting more and more storage one should have less stuff, so three will be my maximum.

As for the brand, to direct you to get your own, if so inclined, I can be of no help. They simply have 'Organise' on the label. I've done a quick search on line and can find nothing. Maybe you will have better luck. For reference, they seem to be a painted or powder coated lightweight steel.

There are currently 32 quilts on these racks.

I should address the sheer volume of quilts. As soon as your write books, have trunk shows, and teach, the quilts pile up. And you can't give them away because you need them. Not always, but enough to need them readily accessible. There will come a time when I don't need to pull out every single quilt from Sunday Morning Quilts, but for now I still need all that scrappy goodness around.

Not to mention that I'm still making, still trying new things. And we won't mention what would happen if I actually finished the quilts on my Quilts Under Construction list!

07 May, 2015

The Linden - With a V-Neck and in Double Gauze

To be clear, I've now declared that I will happily sew clothes and it is all the Linden's fault.

Here are two more iterations of this Grainline Studio pattern. I've also made one for a friend, ordered fabric to teach 6 members of my family how to make one (so I don't have to do it for them), and have one more version I want to try on deck.  But this pattern also has me feeling confident enough to make more, sew more clothes. Without the success of the first one and the realization that this is a welcome break from life and work as a quilter I wouldn't be so far gone

There is now a v-neck version. In my regular clothing I love a v-neck. Always have, always will. So of course, I had to try one. No mind that I've never sewn a v-neck and could not find a version of the Linden online in a v-neck. I also made a rookie mistake that could have been fatal - playing with an expensive fabric. Thank goodness it worked out. 

To get through the process I relied on this tutorial from Seamwork.

The neckline isn't perfect. I could have cut the neckband a few inches smaller, it gapes on my shoulders. And my middle seam doesn't lay perfectly flat. But I don't care because I made this and most people can't tell. And those that know, think it is cool. And I have a loose, light sweatshirt/t-shirt that I love.

Another change on this version was to add length. I wanted it to be like a big slouchy t-shirt. So I added 4'' to the length. And I split the cuff. The first crack at the split cuff was good, but I didn't do a top stitch and so pulled the seams when I wore it and stretched it out. I fixed the ripped seams, but unless I gathered it, I couldn't fix the gap. I'm okay with that. More room over my hips.

The fabric is an US organic jersey, designed by Josi Severson. I splurged on it, for sure. But it is worth it for so many reasons. Down the line I might make a more fitted shirt from another fabric from her. Fabric available on Honey Be Good.

The other version I made was one from Nani Iro double gauze. It fact, it was this fabric that got me on to the pattern. I'd seen it online, but when I held it in my hands in the merchant mall at QuiltCon I knew I needed to have it. On a whim, and a distant thought I might make a shirt from it, I picked up 3 yards. Over drinks one night I was telling a friend about it and she told me about someone she saw that day wearing a Linden made from double gauze. As my friend was wearing a Linden at that moment the stars collided and lit the way forward.

This version is the exact same as my first. The only change is that I made it maybe 2'' longer. The first fits well, but I wanted more length. I also wanted, even though I was using the double gauze, to have this still be a sweatshirt. So I hit the local chain fabric store and picked up some pale pink jersey to use for my cuffs and neckband. That was a pain to work with, I picked a super thin one. It all came together for this breezy version.

This is a very good addiction.

05 May, 2015

Some Crazy Vintage Quilt Top

Have you ever purchased a vintage quilt or quilt top? Generally I can admire them but walk by. I might be sorely tempted, but the reality of the number of quilts in my house keeps me from getting them. Then this one came along.

It is just a quilt top. Machine but foundation pieced. A mess of fabrics from different eras and many different substrates. It sat with the other blankets and quilts at one of the local antique malls. I saw it once, then twice. Quite easily I walked away.

Then, after months of not going in the antique mall I took the girls there on an outing our craft supplies. And the top was still there. For $40 I decided it finally needed to come home with me. Frankly, I may have overpaid. The edges are all uneven  - the blocks are various sizes - and there are quite a few loose threads and repairs needed.

I am sure that someone, somewhere put some good love and energy into this. Maybe they are clothing scraps? Family memories tied up in this quilt? Or maybe someone inherited a bunch of fabric and threw it together. There is some thought to design in the placement of the blocks. They are laid out in what I've seen called a Fields and Furrows setting.

All that being said, I think I might use this quilt top to experiment with indigo overdying.

I know. Feel free to comment.

Every since I saw these quilts I've wanted to experiment with this technique. But, I must admit, I'm afraid to do it with one of my own quilts. I've also wanted to play with indigo, period, so that I would try both fabric dying and quilt overdying. With so many different fabrics in this quilt I predict they will take the dye differently. And I wonder if the value work will still be obvious?

The days are definitely getting warmer and I can look forward to a messy few days of experimenting in the backyard.

28 April, 2015

Tips for Cutting and Sewing Voile

After posting my Precious - all voile quilt I've had quite a few emails and some comments about the quilt's construction and working with voile.

Voile, while a woven cotton, is not exactly the same as the quilting cotton most of us are used to sewing. It is thinner and silkier. That means it requires some special handling. Nothing fancy, just a bit of care.

Tips for Cutting and Sewing Voile

1. Pre-washing does not make a difference to the feel of the fabric - so go with what you generally do when it comes to pre-washing.

2. Starch or not? I can't say here as I am not a starch user and did not experiment. Again, I think going with what you are comfortable with is going to work for you. But because you pick voile, in part, for its softness, you will definitely want to wash the finished project before using.

3. The ruler will want to slide while you are cutting. Keep your pinky finger of the hand stabilizing the ruler off the edge of the ruler, right next to it. This helps hold it in place.

4. You can cut more than one layer at a time. Voile is much thinner, so I cut with my fabric doubled up.

5. Make sure your rotary cutter blade is sharp. Of course this should always be the case, but the voile seems to snag a bit more.

6. Be careful to keep it right sides up. It can be hard to determine right versus wrong on some voiles, so stack and keep organized accordingly.

7. Use your walking foot for sewing. Or a dual/even feed if your machine has it. This is an absolute necessity. (At one point my dual feed was turned off and I wrecked fabric trying to sew. It took me a lot of swearing to figure out the simple fix.)

8. If pinning, use thin and sharp pins to make smaller holes and not have snags.

9. If you don't already piece with a 75/11 or 80/12 needle do so for this. Personally, I'm a fan of the Microtex Sharps for piecing.

10. You can absolutely mix voiles with regular cottons. They sew together nicely. Use these same tips, even when combining the fabrics.

As for how I put together this particular quilt, it was totally random patchwork. I collected the fabric, cut out a bunch of random triangles, and sewed them together.

Fabrics were gathered from all over. Mostly on-line sources. The selection of voile continues to grow and there are more and more geometric rather than floral options. That gets me very excited and makes me want to make another all voile quilt.

To cut my triangles I used the 60 degree ruler from Marti Michell. You could easily create your own template too. I liked this ruler because while it did give the options to cut different sized triangles it was a larger triangle when used as a template. Frankly, it was the size of the ruler that dictated my own triangle size. Cutting was made a lot easier that way!

Two other things I liked about this particular ruler. One, the little notches on the corners are great. It is so much easier to cut those triangles off before you sew, rather than after. And you do need to cut them off to reduce the bulk in the corners. And two, the guidelines in the centre help you cut the half triangles for the edges of each row, with the correct seam allowance.

Once I had a pile of triangles cut I sat down and sewed. Working on two rows at a time, I sewed one triangle to the next. For the first rows I kept sewing until I thought I was long enough to cover my bed, checked and rechecked that measurement, then finished each row with a half triangle. Once I had enough rows together I used my bed as design wall. Because it was inevitable to have some triangles line up from row to row I embraced that and moved things around for intentional diamonds.

Thank you so much for all the questions and compliments.

Now, as for those giant pencil crayons in the first photo on the post, wouldn't that be cool? Alas, they are just old posts of some sort.

24 April, 2015

Playing With Circles in Quilting - For the Love of the Half Circle

This design has been stuck in my head for months and months. I had grand plans of making this quilt for Valentine's Day - for obvious reasons - but work deadlines got in the way of quilting for fun. I found myself with few immediate deadlines this week and a free morning. Et voila!

Beyond the design itself, I also wanted to make this quilt for another reason. I wanted to showcase some half circles in a design. So often I see two quarter circles used when the quilter could have easily made a single block. The construction is exactly the same, so why shy away from half circles? Is it fear? The unknown? Pure comfort with a quarter circle? I know that the final result is the same, but if you can avoid a seam, why wouldn't you?

There were some insanely gorgeous and creative quilts at QuiltCon, for example, that used quarter circles when half circles could have been used easily.  It might just be me, because of my circular predilection, but I think we need to bring the half circle the attention it deserves.

That focus is going to start with a pair of lips. Or hearts, depending on your viewing angle. That was kind of the point with this design. One big smackaroonie. And all the love for a half circle block too.

This quilt is scheduled to be in a quilt show in a month so I better get it off the rocks and under my machine. I see some free motion text in my future.

If you want more details on making a half circle block you can check out my Craftsy class on Inset and Applique Circles by Machine or pick up Lucky Spool's Essential Guide to Modern Quiltmaking.