Sunday, March 1, 2015

Table Runner Times Two

These improv, striped table runners were inspired by Laura's hand knit sweater (which she tells me was inspired by the pattern sample for Tanis Fiber Arts' Lifesavers sweater pattern).  I love the random color changes against the constant background of black Essex linen. I chose a variety of shot cottons from my stash, cut them into strips of random lengths and pieced them end to end.  Next, I sew the length of shot cottons into width of fabric strips of the black linen.  Then I chopped the strip sets into 14 1/2" widths.  It was all very casual and fun.  It turns out, I had enough strips to make two runners.
It's always fun to see what quilting does to differentiate two nearly identical items, as I've noted before.  So, I quilted one with straight lines and one with free motion figure eights.  I think the texture of each is so different but equally lovely. 
I chose to finish the edges with a facing, rather than binding, because I like the look of the stripes running right to the edge, with no border.  I referred to several facing tutorials.  I wanted to use a mitered corners, and I mostly followed this tutorial by Susan Brubaker, although there is a great one by Victoria Gertenbach that is even easier and does not require mitering.  It's a little more trouble than a regular double fold binging, but I'm glad I learned something new. I especially love the backing fabric I chose: four different voile prints from Anna Maria Horner's Folks line.  It was so nice to stitch.
These two 14" x 56" table runners are listed in my etsy shop. One is still available!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Slash Pillow

One of the three sections of Improvising Tradition focuses on teaching Slice and Insert, a fun improvisational technique with many possible variations.  This Slash Pillow is a very simple project and a great way to try out the technique, especially if it is new to you. I used two colors of Essex linen and a bright accent color for a narrow binding. 
photo by Joe Hancock
I played around with the layout slightly in this variation I made recently for a school fundraiser.  I skipped the binding in favor of a quick envelope closure, and I practiced a fun, pointy free motion design.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Strip Set Pillow

In an interview with Angela Pingel recently, I was asked what my favorite improv spin on a traditional "base" block would be.  I didn't have to ponder long before answering: the strip set.  It's no secret that I love sewing improv strip sets.  Some of my favorite, recent quilts made from strip sets are The Therapist and Partly Cloudy, but looking into the archives I found some good ones too like the Trellis Quilt and the Atomic Quilt.  Strip sets are just so simple to sew and so versatile to use! (It is probably no surprise that there are several quilts made from strips sets in my book, Improvising Tradition.)
I had the idea to experiment with strip sets further by combining strip sets of various widths, using value to create secondary designs.  I followed the sensible path of trying out my idea on a small scale to create this 24" pillow. 
The strip sets vary in width, decreasing from the center out.  I used monochromatic sets in two different values to achieve a high contrast, which made the plus stand out.  I really like the design, and I would like to make a full quilt version.  That means a lot of strip sets!  Good thing I find them relaxing and fun to sew (and an excellent use for scraps!).
I quilted the top free motion, trying out a new design called the Lilypad from Christine Cameli's newest book Step-by-Step Free Motion Quilting.  This book is such a great reference for quilters.  I have lots of new designs to practice. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Paper and Plums quilt

This beauty is an improv spin on a very traditional one patch quilt.  If you look closely you will notice that each triangle is made up of strips.  Strip piecing is a favorite technique of mine, and this quilt from Improvising Tradition shows just how versatile strip sets can be.  The pattern shows you how to cut the triangles based on strips sets sewn from either yardage or those pieced carefully from scraps.  Vary the direction of the triangles and maintain a strong contrast between your two colorways, and you will create a subtle yet interesting design.
photo by Joe Hancock
I quilted the purple triangles with a swirl design and the white triangles in a leaf design to emphasize the contrast between the triangles.
If you are in the area, you can see the quilt in person at Sarah's Fabrics in Lawrence Kansas, along with three other quilts from the book. It looks so happy there.

Monday, January 12, 2015

No More Fussy Baby Quilt

This sweet baby quilt is from the slice and insert section of Improvising Tradition.  I pulled out some of my favorite, treasured novelty prints for this project and paired them with a cheerful aqua solid.
Novelty prints are so much fun, but they can be hard to use.  Slice and insert is wonderful technique for novelty prints and fussy cuts.  With improv there is no more cutting the tail off that puppy or having to choose between the cute little moon or star to fit a prescribed pattern size; you can tailor your fussy cut to the image you want to feature!  Just match the surrounding strip to the dimensions of your fussy cut, and you're all set to add it to your row.
I had the pleasure, last month, of seeing one of the first projects a local quilter has made from the book.  Cheryl Brady made this cute version of the quilt using a Good Night Moon print.  She even quilted stars in the center. 
Thanks for letting me share your pictures, Cheryl!  I would love to see your Improvising Tradition projects.  Email me, upload them to my flickr group, or tag them #improvisingtradition on Instagram.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Christmas

Mirrored Sunset is a wall hanging from the strata section of Improvising Tradition.  It illustrates just how versatile strata can be.  In this project I used strata as the background for a Hawaiian applique, inspired by mid century starburst mirrors.  The depth of the strata comes from the Oakshott cottons.  I've used them before, and these shot cotton fabrics are just gorgeous in person.  The different colored threads woven as the warp and weft create an amazing shimmer.  I chose my fabrics from the Oakshott Ruby bundle.
photo by Joe Hancock
In these colors, it strikes me as very Christmassy - almost like a snowflake.  Happy holidays this week everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Secrets of Free Motion Quilting

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen some sneak peeks of a free motion quilting project I have been working on this past week.  I've been trying out some completely new-to-me designs that I learned in a Craftsy class by Christina Cameli called The Secrets of Free Motion Quilting.  I made a set of placemats for my family using Essex linen, matching Aurifil thread, and Kona solids bindings.
Christina generously offered to let me take the class and share a review with you (and a discount code you can find at the end of the post), and I jumped at the chance because I've been an admirer of hers since I found her blog A Few Scraps.  What strikes me about her free motion work is the freshness of her designs.  I think it is easy to get stuck in a quilting rut and use the same few designs over and over, and she uses some really unique shapes and patterns I've never seen before.
a Follow Along Design
a Climbing Design

First Steps to Free Motion Quilting is Christina's book, which is a wonderful resource.  Even if you own this or other books on the topic, I encourage you to try out the Craftsy class.  It offers so much that expands on what a book can do.  This was my first time taking an online quilting class, as well as my first with Craftsy in particular.  I loved the experience!  Not only do you get to see Christina's instruction, but you can post questions (which she answers super quickly!), see classmates' projects, print out an index of the designs, and insert your own notes to return to specific points in the video later.  The class is broken up into seven segments, each about 20-30 minutes long. As a mom of young kids I loved that I didn't need to leave home to take the class and could watch whenever I had a spare moment. You can go back and watch it as many times as you like too, and you can pause the video or put it on a 30 second repeat to practice a particular shape or really focus on particular movement.

Christina is a wonderful teacher.  I enjoyed her warm, encouraging demeanor.  She definitely makes free motion quilting approachable and clear.  I liked that she didn't edit out little mistakes but instead showed how to avoid them or overlook them.  It's true that so many small inconsistencies disappear when you look at the quilt as a whole, and if she has bloopers as an experienced quilter, I feel better about my own quilting. 
Beads on a String
a Beads on a String variation

In the class Christina quilts on solids with contrasting thread, so it's very easy to see just what she's doing.  She also sketches designs on a tablet, so you can see how the designs are made.  Sometimes it can be hard to figure out how free motion designs are made, so Christina also shows you how to decode designs you like and figure out how to reproduce them yourself.  I really can't recommend the class enough!
And right now, all Craftsy classes are on sale!  For those of you reading this post later, Christina has generously offered a discount code of $20 off the class price (although for now I think the sale is the less expensive option, so jump on it).