Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Underwater Trip

No, *I* didn't go underwater! but my menfolk did! My husband and oldest son took Scuba lessons this past summer, as a 16th birthday gift for my oldest son (and a lifelong dream of my husband's). Then we went on a family dream beach vacation, which included a scuba dive for the two new divers.

They plan to do this again and again and again, I'm told, so I thought a fun underwater themed quilt would be a good idea for a summery couch throw; I like to have a blanket to snuggle with on the couch, even in the summer, because often the air conditioning (now that we have that again!) is too cold for me. And I like, no, love, having my quilts around in the living room, so I figure, the more, the  merrier. Also, we're building a house which will have three separate couch areas --- a downstairs living room, an upstairs media room and an upstairs game room. We'll need lots of quilts to cover all of those!

I bought the fabric for this quilt with no pattern or idea in mind, which means I just bought 1 yard of each fabric and figured I'd make it work. As I bought 10 or 11 different fabrics (I ended up using 9 of them), this was plenty of yardage for a throw-sized quilt (and then some...). 

Underwater Trip -- quilted & bound, hanging over the back of the sofa
Searching the internet for ideas, I found a tutorial for a strip-pieced Trip Around the World quilt, and I knew instantly that was the one. Underwater Trip! yes!

Quiltville's Strip Pieced Trip Around The World Tutorial was fantastically easy to follow, and while the example is done with 5 fabrics (so that you get a repeat of the circle) she does give instructions for a 9 fabric version (yay!) which is what I did, and it worked beautifully. I toyed with adding a few extra strips so that the red circle would be complete, but in the end I chose not to. I had chosen the placement of the red based on the outer corners, without figuring in whether the larger circle would finish up or not; since I used the red binding, though, I think it is fine.

I managed to get this entire quilt top done in a weekend, while juggling all the home duties and three boys while my husband was out of town. It really goes together just that fast! Then I quilted it in concentric circles in a dark blue thread, using my walking foot. I did not start with the very very center circles, but started by following the inner red circle. Then I quilted outwards from there, and when the quilt was done, then I went back in to do the tiny circles in the center.

the back, which really shows off the quilting
Here are photos of the process, from strip sets, to one quarter assembled, to the 4 quarters laid out waiting for those middle strips to be added, to finished quilt top & back.....
4 strip sets; then you sew into loops, subcut, open, and sew into panels
one panel, on my "sewing table" (aka, dining table) and yes, the machine I used for the whole thing

the 4 panels, ready for the middle strips to be added 
the top, all assembled, after I ripped out the middle strip and scooted it over;
it's important to line up that 1st central circle, especially if using a high contrast color as I did. Oops.

the back, debuting fabric placements 

 If you've ever wanted to do a Trip Around the World, I highly recommend the tutorial over at Quiltville. She's got a similar tutorial for a Scrappy Trip Around the World, as well, if that is more your style. This quilt went together so very fast, I could easily do this over and over again.

Next up, working on some Mug Rugs for a swap, still working on an improv Christmas quilt, and planning some home decor items.....not sure what quilt I'll get to next, but having fun with smaller projects in the meantime!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Nothing Negative About It -- film strip wall hanging

The story of this wall hanging goes back to August 2013, when I showed my finally finished Diary Quilt top to my grandparents, and my grandma cried over it. :gulp:  I knew then I wanted to make her something really amazing, to give her a piece of the quilt in some way. Of course I couldn't dismantle my quilt top, but I could, and did, make duplicate blocks that held particular significance to her, and turn them into a wall hanging.

I've been asked why my grandma cried when she saw my Diary Quilt quilt top in person; the answer to that is because she's been reading all my blogs since I started, and on my personal blog I journaled every story, about every block, as I made it. All the "why" and "who" and "what" that each and every block represents, and my grandma shows up in lots of the blocks. I honestly didn't realize, until making the quilt, just how huge of an influence she's been in my life, but she has been. Almost 20% of the blocks (4 out of the 25 blocks) are direct representations of some aspect of her influence in my life. She'd read all those stories, and the letters I sent to her about each one, and the stories about all the other blocks, and so it touched her, deeply, to see it in person. She knew that she was seeing a tribute to her, to all the people in my life, and that she was a very big part of that.

When I realized, seeing her cry over it, just how much it meant to her that I'd done this, I had to come up with a way to give her a piece of it. So I recreated "her" blocks, in a style more fitting of her love of all things contemporary, set it as a 35mm negative/film strip as a tribute to my grandpa, the family photographer, and I finished it just in time for Christmas. Barely.

I did elaborate custom quilting on the blocks, or at least, what for me passes as elaborate custom quilting. From the very first free motion hearts I quilted into the argyle baby quilt, I've come a long way!

"Nothing Negative About It"
filmstrip wall hanging, completed December 2013

On the Christmas Star block, I quilted a Christmas tree; since I'd swapped all the colors for black & white, it needed something to identify it as a Christmas star.

"Christmas Star"
outlined the star, quilted a Christmas tree in the center of the star
On the airplane block, better done this time than the one in my actual quilt, I quilted inside the outline of the plane and then quilted "wind" or "airflow" lines to show movement, and quilted echoes around the propeller for the same reason.
"Airplane Block"
outlined the plane, wind/air flow behind the wings, and echoes around the propeller

 For the center block, I made a new block, which I called "Ojos de Dios" as a representation of the traditional Christmas decoration comprised of sticks & yarn, or toothpicks & embroidery floss. My grandma used to sometimes decorate her tree with these, and taught me how to make them. My original idea on the diary quilt involved a pinned-on Ojos but I haven't found a way to incorporate that after all. I did want to include it in my grandma's wall hanging, though.

new block, "Ojos de Dios"
spiral/reverse echo quilted to resemble the traditional "ojos" Christmas tree ornaments

The Thrifty block was one of the more emotional, as it was a tribute not just to my grandma but also to my late uncle, her son. On the original block, I hand embroidered the words "love" "laugh" and "live" but I felt this needed something simple, so I just followed the pattern of the block.

a simple echo/outline quilting to highlight the pattern
 The final block is Jewel Box, a nod to my grandma's art gallery (which carries a fabulous array of Native American jewelry); beginning in high school, I have worked at the gallery, starting every day after school + Saturdays, down to just on an "as needed" basis; for this block I chose to enhance the "jewels" in the box by quilting diamond shapes into them, and then enhance the "box" by straight line quilting it to show distinction between the jewels and the box. Then I just outlined the corner triangles to give definition.

"Jewel Box"
I did diamonds (jewels) in the squares, and straight lines in the "box" part of the pattern,
then outlined the triangles on the corner

 I know that the quilting is nothing outstanding, but remember that I'm only quilting on a Janome Magnolia 7318, have only owned that machine since August 2012, and this is only the 4th thing I've even done partial custom quilting on. These were all done with the walking foot, not free motion foot, but still. I'm really proud of my work on this one!

I added a hanging sleeve and supplied the way to hang it, and gave it to my grandparents in late December; they both really loved it, so it was definitely a success!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Yikes! Been a While -- So, an update, from Texas!

Oh my word, has it been forever since I posted! Yikes. I am so sorry. We moved in December, from Brazil to Texas, and have been settling in,  house hunting, getting situated, looking for a church, etc. Craziness. Absolute craziness. I do have some finishes to show you, and will go back and tell the stories later on, so check back soon. I am making it a goal to post here at a minimum of once a week, and hopefully more often once I manage that for a while, so keep coming back!

In November/December, I was determined to finish a few Christmas gifts for people back home. Yes, in the midst of prepping for an international move. 'Cause I'm just crazy like that. Still, I managed! Two lap quilts & a wall hanging. Whew!

The two lap quilts started off as Sister's Ten BOM quilts, but bed quilts for my boys got in the way of finishing the BOM blocks, so I had to improvise in order to finish these. The pieced blocks are from the BOM, the background fabrics are whatever I had in my stash that worked and the settings/quilting on each were designed with the recipient in mind.

Sometimes Short on Spoons, done in purples for Chiari Malformation Awareness
machine quilted with spoons and zig zags/zippers 

Not the Old Rugged Cross, done in red (off)white & blue, for a patriotic feel
machine echo quilted to show off the cross design
Nothing Negative About It, wall hanging for my grandparents, story coming later
this was done to resemble a 35 mm negative, with the colors in the blocks reversed
(lights where the darks would go, darks where the lights would go)
Those are the only things I've finished since my last post way back in November, yikes!, but I do have some other things in progress; more on those in the coming days/weeks. Stick around, come back soon, I promise to do better updating this!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Well, I didn't win....

So, the color change/You & I quilt didn't win in the Blogger's Quilt Festival, but I had so much fun entering and want to thank all those who did go vote for my quilt -- thank you!! It was amazing to see the other quilts in the contest, and to hear from some of you that mine really was one of the better quilts. Sweet!! I don't quite believe it, but it was nice to hear anyway :)

I have been busy working on a few projects, but they are all Christmas gifts so I can't show them off. Finished up a black & white wall hanging for one gift, and I'm assembling the blocks I did in the Gen X Quilters BOM into the two quilts for those recipients.

I am excited to show those off, when I finish and gift them.  I got busy doing other quilts this year and so only finished 6 blocks/3 months' worth of the BOM. To finish the lap quilts, then, I cut 9.5" squares of coordinating & background fabric to get up to a 7 x 7 block arrangement (making a roughly 63" x 63" quilt, good for a lap/throw size) and arranged the blocks I had, intermingled with the fabrics, and wound up with two very different quilts.

Each one was arranged with the recipient in mind, and I know they are both going to love the end result. And it turned a UFO, orphan blocks, into finished quilt, FAST. Super fast. Love that. All the fabric came from my stash (thank goodness I used to just guess and buy a ton of fabric instead of calculating, so I had lots of leftovers of the main fabrics...), all I had to buy was batting and thread, making these really inexpensive gifts, too. Yay!! Love that.

I just hope my recipients don't expect new quilts every year.....eek!

I have some mug rugs to work on as soon as I get the lap quilts, quilted; those I can show off as I go. They're for an on-line swap with a group of forum buddies, and I found some more fantastic Brazil-ish fabric to use so I finally have a good idea what to do for them. Can't wait!

Hopefully I still get them done in the midst of moving......Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

BQF: "You & I" Color-Change Quilt

Hi & Welcome! If you've stopped by from BQF/Blogger's Quilt Festival, thank you! My name is Heather, aka The Reader, aka Learning-as-I-Go, depending on where you bump into me around the web. I've been quilting for only a handful of years (since 2010), though have only been using a machine for a year now (since August 2012). In the year since I bought my machine I have finished a baby quilt, a bed quilt for each of my three sons, a Christmas tree skirt, Christmas stockings, place mats, assorted other small projects, a quilt top for my bed (which will be long arm quilted by someone else), and now this quilt for my husband.

Most of my projects are completely original designs, imagined by me then drawn up in EQ7 software, then machine pieced, appliqued (if needed), and quilted all on my little Janome Magnolia 7318. I fit quilting in & around my life --- I'm a homeschooling mom to three boys, ages 16, 12 and 8 --- but then, who doesn't?! Quilting is my sanity saver, hobby, favorite pass time, creative outlet, etc.

Enough about me, though; on to my Blogger's Quilt Festival entry quilt! I entered this quilt in the Bed Quilt Category; voting runs November 1 - 7, so be sure and go back and vote for my quilt next week if you enjoy this post :)
You & I: The Q-H Bond
 blue-to-red color change quilt
twin sized, original design
machine pieced, machine (domestic) quilted

This quilt, titled "You & I: The Q-H Bond" was a gift for my husband. Just as I finished the quilt for our youngest son, we found out that we will soon move back to the United States after six years of living in Brazil. Unfortunately, my husband will have to travel back & forth, back & forth, back & forth, spending two weeks in the US and then two weeks in Brazil, until the transition is complete and the replacement is properly trained. This schedule could last up to a full year, though we hope not.

Immediately, I wanted to make him a quilt. He'll be renting a room from friends, and I felt very strongly that his home away from home should have its own quilt, so he could sleep under something I made, could feel that he has a little piece of me, of us, with him even while he's away. Sappy, I know. I can't help it.

Then I obsessed. For ages. This quilt needed to be perfect. Stunning. Masculine. Something he would *LOVE* and not just like okay. Finally I enlisted his help, and he said he'd like a quilt that "faded from blue to red."  Egads. Does he not realize how much purple is between red & blue on the color wheel?! How would I make that masculine???? I was not thrilled.

I headed to a little quilt shop and wandered for ages looking for just the right "masculine purple" fabric. Ha! I think the shop owner thought I was nuts, but I did finally find it --- a Ricky Tims Rhapsodie Coloree in red/blue. Perfect! From there I found the rest, choosing to go light blue to red-orange. The YLI variegated thread to quilt with was the perfect extra touch.

the fabrics & thread

Next up, size. The quilt would not be landing on a bed once it came home to our permanent home, so I didn't want it to be truly full sized, but it did need to be big enough to sleep under. Hmmmm. I measured a bed of the right size and based my measurements on that, tweaking the EQ7 design until I got a quilt the right size, using only the fabric amounts I had purchased (one yard of each color) as now back in Brazil I couldn't buy more. Tweak, tweak, tweak. This is when I'm very glad I draw my own patterns/designs. The end result is a quilt that fits a twin sized bed perfectly, even though he'll be sleeping on a full sized bed, so that we can use it for a couch throw later.

the EQ7 drawing; my road map for piecing the quilt
Border chain fades from light, medium, dark, medium, light;
1 strand in blues, the other in the reds, traveling around the quilt

I chose an elongated chain for the border, as a stylized DNA strand; one side blues, the other reds, to represent him & me, me & him, "you & I," intertwining our lives, as "two become one" in marriage. And because he's a chemist, who once upon a time wrote me a poem that likened him & me, me & him, "you & I" to a basic molecular bond, the C-H bond, the building block of life. Only we were the Q-H bond. Such is what happens when chemists decide to write poetry, but it was sweet, we were young, and I still treasure that imagery and wanted to honor it by including it in this quilt for him.

the quilt top, ready for the border

Piecing the border, as genius an idea as it was, gave me fits. I always forget to pay attention to things like placement and what-not, and with these little bits I chain pieced, assembly-line assembled, and then discovered that one block per side is mirror-image of the rest, which means I ripped out a LOT of seams. Seventeen total in this quilt, all of those in the border. Egads. You can see below where I pieced one wrong; I made a lot of these sorts of mistakes on the 1st side of the border.

oops. Notice that the "red" is sewn on wrong on the corners
that 4-patch unit had to be taken off, then taken apart and resewn in reverse
before being reattached correctly. Oops.
Still, lessons learned on the first side means fewer mistakes on the other three sides. I kept working, payed close attention through the rest of the quilt assembly, and within a few more days, the border was done & on, ready for quilting.
and now, with the border on, but not trimmed yet

For the back, recycled denim, made from various bits & pieces of discarded jeans once worn by each member of our family.

the back, fading from dark to light as it moves top to bottom
completely pieced from our old jeans
A ripped knee, with a bit of purple fabric behind like a reverse patch. Half a pocket, by his request. Fading dark to light to mimic the color change of the front.

ripped "knee" detail, with reverse applique patch

half a pocket, by his request

Jeans, because we're frugal. Denim, because he wanted to leave out the batting as it will be summer in Brazil when he begins his travel schedule, and because I feared just cotton would be too thin without any batting at all. Our jeans, so that he can carry each one of us with him and be tangibly reminded of home, every single night. Like I said, I'm sappy. I can't help it.

the quilting, from the back -- vertical double-helix lines throughout the quilt,
with over-sized double helix lines following the colored chain of the border, in both directions
Backing and top both ready to go, I pin basted and quilted on my little Janome; vertical double-helix strands, running every 3.5" or so, in the color-change thread on front and a blue-to-white variegated King Tut in the bobbin. DNA, his & mine, mine & his, intertwined. Holding the quilt together, as together we support, encourage, hold up, and hold together each other and our family.

close-up of the double helix quilting on the front

I left the border intentionally plain, per his request. I did follow the colored chain and quilt over that to stabilize the border some, but the black is left empty for contrast. The label was printed on fabric, then machine appliqued, and the binding was done by machine.

the label, created in Word, printed on fabric, machine appliqued
(the same blue from the lightest side; color is off in the photo)

I hope you love this quilt as much as I do. It's my favorite quilt so far; I really think it's my best yet. I hope you agree!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Mario Quilt, Finished

Finally done! This quilt was a lot of fun to build and put together, all at the direction of my eight year old son, who dictated each aspect of the scene --- from having half a "Goomba" (that funny looking, one-eyed creature on the bottom left corner), to the shadows under the floating-in-midair coins (top right).

I absolutely loved collaborating with him, although I did suggest in the beginning that we do the scene so that it fit just on the center, the part that would actually sit atop his bed, and thus be able to see all of it. We could do a border around the edge. He didn't like that idea, and wanted the border to be further extension of the scene. The other boys claimed too that the quilt needed to be edge-to-edge in order to have the level of detail we wanted; I was not willing to compromise on how small to make each patch, and so edge to edge it is.
on my bed, showing the full scene, edge to edge

Even though it does, in fact, hang over the sides and mean the whole scene is not fully visible at once.

on his bed, scene not fully visible
Still, I quilted it up this week --- I used YLI Invisible thread for the quilting, and King Tut variegated blue to white in the bobbin, to match the sky blue backing fabric. The two threads worked beautifully together!

This quilt was easier to quilt than some of my others, due to a couple of things. One, I bought actual pins while in the US, so it was much easier to baste, and the basting stayed put. Huge difference that made. Huge. Also, I ironed/pressed everything before I started this quilt and as I went along. The fabrics were all ironed and starched before I cut; the sections were all pressed as I finished each one; huge difference. Next time I will remember to give a final press to the top and iron the backing fabric, tedious as those jobs are. The other factor was size; the last two quilts I've done have both been for a full sized bed, while this one is for a twin. That little-bit-less bulk made it so much easier to handle!

It's now been washed & dried --- love using Shout Color Catchers --- the red next to white, and the black against the yellow and light blue both had me worried. I threw in 8 color catchers (which all came out just barely the lightest peach color, so maybe the fabrics didn't bleed terribly anyway) and it was totally fine. Whew! I'll probably keep using color catchers for the next few washes just in case; better safe than sorry!

I'll start cutting the fabric for my husband's quilt next week....this weekend, I need a break!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Shopping Trip! aka, What's Next in Line?

My family & I recently went home for a visit to the US, and of course I hit my favorite quilt shops while there. Fabric in Brazil is expensive, not as fun, expensive, harder to find, and expensive. As I loaded up on yard after yard of fabric, a little worried about the price, I reminded myself  "it would be four times this in Brazil....."  Amazingly, I stuck to my plans for shopping and didn't go crazy with extras.

First up -- backing for the Diary Quilt. I failed to snap a photo before I sent it off to my very dear friend & long-arm quilter, who will finish it for me, but I got a really yummy butterfly batik in blues & greens. I kind of think it's too modern for the front, and a little part of me wishes I'd stuck with the cream colored print that was old letters, or else the tone-on-tone cream & beige that was dandelions. I shied away from the creams because I didn't want the back to show dirt. I am probably going to second-guess that decision for a while, but I'm telling myself two things to help --- one, the butterflies are significant, and I do love that I found a great butterfly print. Love it. Two, I think a modern back to a traditional front fits since I'm a more modern quilter; it gives one more level to the "past, meet future" aspect of the quilt. And anyway, it's done now; too late and too expensive to change it at this point. (yes, I did consider buying the other fabric and saving the butterflies for something else.....but that many  yards is a lot to just buy extra.....).

Second up -- backing for the Mario Quilt. My boy requested sky blue, so that's what he got. I had a moment of panic last night thinking I forgot to get thread for the bobbin -- I'm using clear thread by YLI for the front -- until I remembered I have some blue-to-white variegated King Tut I can use, if it's not too much for the bobbin.....

backing fabric for the Mario Quilt
Third and almost last, the next in line -- a quilt for my husband, The Chemist. We are facing a move soon, back to the US, but he'll be traveling back & forth quite often. I wanted to make him a quilt he can keep at his "other home" so he's still sleeping under something I made, even while he's away. Sappy & sentimental, I know. It will be an oversized couch quilt when he gets done traveling.

I had him look through images online and pick out a rough idea of what he wanted. He found a strip quilt that was sort of color-blocked, and said, "That one. I like that. But in a different color scheme.....I want it to fade from blue to red...."

I panicked only a little trying to figure out how to get from blue to red without so much purple that it stopped looking masculine. Then I took my mom & sister shopping and we wandered a quilt shop for a really long time, looking at every single purple fabric in the store. I almost gave up, and then I found it, a red & blue overlapping thing. Once we had the purple, the rest was a cinch. I even found a perfect variegated thread to quilt it with; can't wait to get started!
fabric, in order, for The Chemist's color-change quilt
 For real last, I did buy a few things just because. The multi-on-black Sew Heavenly print, which is now out of print, which I have loved and wanted since its debut. I still hope to find the cream tone-on-tone of it, but no one seems to have that one.....(sigh). The Chemist got me the all blue version and the multi-on-blue version for my birthday last year.....I couldn't resist snagging some of this, too. I think these will be incorporated into a back for another couch quilt. I really have a thing for bold, busy backs as a way to showcase fabric I love.
SewHeavenly by Dan Morris for RJR fabrics
 and, who can resist a few fat quarters?! The 2 dark blue are to replace some I borrowed from my stash for the Diary Quilt border; the rest are just 'cause they seemed awesome. Fat quarters are my downfall.....I have yards and yards of stash made up of fat quarters.

just for fun
 What fabric style do you buy? Yardage? Pre-cuts? Fat Quarters? What is it you just can't resist in a fabric shop??