Friday, May 30, 2008

Baby batik

Here is a small strip quilt I made with about half a batik Strip Club jelly roll from Cozy Quilt Shop. I didn't use the (gorgeous) pattern that was included with this fabric pack--I wanted to do a few baby quilts instead, and this is a non-traditional baby quilt.
I grouped the strips together first into warm and cool hues, and then from light to dark shades. Then I sewed them together in sets of six. Then, I cut large 90 degree triangles from these strips, and arranged them into an inset square as shown.
As you can see, I didn't keep even seam allowances throughout, and my angles could have been cut a little bit more exactly, so my squares would have matched a bit better, but I think the effect is still kind of cool. I also think a true triangle ruler helps in this process.
In quilting, I used my new sewing machine, an Artista, and the Bernina Stitch Regulator, loaded up with Sulky variegated thread. It was very easy--and my first attempt. Click on the photos to enlarge. I was surprised at how quickly this process went!
I used yellow binding because it was what I had on hand, and surprise again, I like it.

Free motion quilting practice

This quilt has gone to live with my mom. I think in order to really learn free-motion quilting, you have to practice on a quilt, not just 10" sandwiches. Also, it's helpful to have someone close to you who doesn't quilt and who doesn't mind keeping your "mistakes." Mom actually likes this quilt.

I used this whole-cloth fabric, which is actually gorgeous fabric, and my older machine without a stitch regulator, to practice several stitches and my technique. Isn't the chartreuse backing fabric just gorgeous?

I think if I do a quilt like this in the future, I'd probably at least cut the fabric at the repeat and rotate it 180 degrees, so the whole quilt isn't quite so repetitive looking. Symmetry is great in quilts, but I don't like repetitiveness.

I'm getting better at stipple quilting. Loops aren't my forte, yet--I think you need to develop muscle or movement memory for them, and I just haven't done them enough. I think I have swirls down, for their shape, but my stitches get too long. In any free-motion pattern with corners or edges, I just get all befuddled. I really need to work on those.

As you can see, my cat thinks this quilt was a success. Lilo is so helpful in the photography process.

Kate's quilt

Here's a quilt my daughter Kate made with a charm pack (maybe by RJR Fabrics, but I'm not sure about that). Quilting is a great activity to do with kids--you have to do math to plan for seam allowances, borders and backing fabric. Plus, you learn artistically about design and color, and it's a great way to get some motor coordination on the sewing machine as well.
Kate chose the fabric she wanted, though I helped a little with choosing the inner border fabric. I helped a little with pressing, especially at first. I also helped with sewing on the inner border and binding. Kate did the rest by herself. She was six when she finished this quilt. She sleeps with it on her bed, and she's very proud of it. She showed it to the ladies at our local quilt store, who (rightfully) fawned over it.
I think at school today you get a lot of credit for trying your best, even if you don't do well or even finish your work. Quilting gives you a sense of satisfaction in the finished item and pleasure in its creation as well (especially a small one--the squares are only 5").

Stains on a quilt

I have always told the recipients of my quilts that I don't see them as works of arts or as particularly special--so if they get spilled on or ruined, I won't be asking about them later on. Well, that may not be the case for the quilts I keep. The attached are a few photos of my second quilt, a crazy quilt I made with an Alexander Henry focus fabric.
I think one of my kids left a marker or an uncapped pen out and open on this quilt recently, and it bled (in dark blue ink) in two places. So sad! The splotches blend in pretty well--one is in the upper left corner of the first inner border, and the second is in the very outer left block.
But I thought I'd post a few images of this quilt just the same. In case you've wondered whatever to do with all those cool decorative stitches your sewing machine came with, crazy patchwork is easy and fun. And it doesn't have to look Victorian when you're finished, depending on the colors and fabric.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Optical Illusion quilt

Inspired by an optical illusion book belonging to (and challenge by) my son, I designed the following pattern and quilt. I haven't used many batik fabrics before, so I thought I'd try my hand at these. Feel free to download my pattern and try it yourself. Let me know if you make one. I think mine came out pretty cool.
Keep in mind your dark and light fabrics have two have good contrast and they need to read as solid, or your quilt will blend. Your quilt will probably turn out pretty cool if it blends, but it won't have the same illusion quality.
Now, the construction is fairly straightforward, but I'm not the best at butting seams. So I used a cheater method and some Quilt-Fuse, which is used for watercolor and grid quilting. I pieced the entire quilt in an afternoon. See a product review here. It's a great shortcut, and it works like this:
  1. Cut your squares (in my case, squares and rectangles) to size.
  2. Line them up, right sides up (pin them in place if desired) on the Quilt-Fuse background (Quilt-Fuse is fusible lightweight interfacing with a printed grid, so it's easy to line up the rows).
  3. Fuse in place with an iron.
  4. Fold the fused quilt over on itself (with the interfacing on the outside, right sides together), and sew each horizontal seam. Be careful to keep an even seam allowance, using your 1/4" seam guide. Don't press yet.
  5. Clip your seams at the intersection of the grids before making the vertical seams. This will allow you to to butt the seam allowances, alternating one allowance up and one down, at each intersection.
  6. Now sew the vertical seams, maintaining the same 1/4" inch allowance, and being careful at each intersection that the seam allowances are butting as planned, as it goes under the presser foot (the top and bottom allowances should be going in opposite directions).
  7. Finally, press the entire quilt.
I made half the quilt at a time and sewed the two halves together. The interfacing makes for very easy machine quilting--the needle slides right through--but it may be too thick for hand quilting, and this quilt is doesn't have the same soft drape that other quilts have. So be aware of this in your planning.
I added thin dark, medium and light borders, and then one larger medium border, and rounded the corners. I've never done this before--I used a rotary cutter and dinner plate, and pre-done binding by Moda (so easy it feels like cheating!).
It was also hard to figure out how to quilt this thing, without blending it too much. So I found some Sulky variegated thread and quilted a straight starburst pattern off-center throughout. You can see the center in the large, lower, left, light square. (And you get extra points if you can say that out loud.)