Sunday, September 16, 2018

Butterfly quilting play

I have been thinking about how to quilt my Rainbow Scrap Challenge 2017 butterfly quilt.  One idea involved my new Westalee rulers but I thought I should practice on something else to work out the bugs and gain some confidence before I commit to it.  A spare butterfly block would be a perfect practice piece.

Oh wait!  I have one of those.  The first yellow butterfly block I made was much too light compared to the rest of the butterflies and I replaced it with a new block with more intense yellows.  I added some borders to it and started playing.

I have never ever quilted a piece this densely but it was a good opportunity to try various new-to-me quilting motifs so I just kept adding more quilting.

The walking foot came out to stitch in the ditch around the butterfly and both sides of the narrow border.

I used feather and circle templates/rulers for the quilting in the butterfly wings.  I quilted the left wing first, then tried to quilt the mirror image in the right wings.  Somehow, it was all offset about 1/4" but I kept working at it.  I didn't remember until after I had finished my slightly offset right wing design that I was supposed to center the needle in the ruler foot.  Sigh. Still, the overall look worked out pretty well and I don't think anyone but me will know it isn't quite as I intended.

I switched back to the walking foot for the three concentric circles behind the butterfly.  The circle sewing tool that came with my Sew Steady extension table makes these circles really easy on a small piece like this.

That metal strip has two little prongs on the bottom that fit into a series of holes in the  table, and a pin at the other end.  You push the pin through the quilt from the bottom where you want the center of the circle to be.  You adjust the radius of the circle by moving the pin closer or further away from your needle by setting the strip in different holes.  When you start quilting (I used the walking foot) the quilt pivots at the pin as you quilt and you end up with a perfect circle.

One of my two goals for this practice quilt was to quil feathers on a circle using the Westalee feather templates.  I tried figuring it out on paper first, drawing the circle, then tracing the template and trying to figure out what ruler markings to line up where to space the feathers evenly and have them all lay at the same angle to the arc.  No matter what I tried, the feathers ended up getting longer and skinnier as I went along the arc.  I really didn't feel confident enough about all my pencil and paper attempts to try it on the quilt.

So why are there feathers there after all?  I really, really wanted feathers there, so I ditched the rulers, took a deep breath and freemotion stitched them freehand.  I did it!  I feathered!  I used a lot of registration marks to help me judge the size and position of the individual lobes.  You can see my little blue dots in the picture above.  You can also see that they aren't quite as large as I had intended, falling shy of that outside dotted line, but since I consistently missed the mark, no one knows I missed now that the little blue dots have been erased.  Hush!!   Don't tell anyone.

Next I tried out crosshatching with the straight edge and straight line markings on the 12" arc tool.  That worked out very well, though it was a little tedious, even in the small spaces I filled between the butterfly and the inside of the circle.  I really didn't feel like repeating it all around the feathered wreath as well, but I felt I needed to quilt something out there to even out the quilting density a little.  How about vertical lines?  By the time I had one corner stitched that way, I was bored, so switched the direction on the next corner, and again for each remaining corner.

This is where the quilting ended today.  It took me a while to figure out what to quilt in the green border.  When I finally decided, I realized the only green thread I have is too old.  It breaks at the slightest tug and broke when I tried to sew more than 3 stitches.  It makes me sad.  It was such a pretty green variegated thread, and half a spool of it is now useless.

The second goal for this quilt is to try scalloping the border before I try that on the big butterfly quilt.  The plan is to buy green thread tomorrow, quilt the border, take another deep breath and cut into the border.  Bias binding will also be involved, but I have made that before (see tutorial here) so no worries on that front.  Binding the curves and inside points will be a first for me though.  Stay tuned!

PS: The butterfly block tutorial is still available here if you'd like to make your own.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Blaze into fall

School's in and I saw a large pumpkin display at the supermarket yesterday. I guess that means fall but I'm not quite ready to pull out my fall quilts yet. However, Sandra of mmm!quilts made a striking version of one of them that I think works year-round.

Maple Leaf Rag by mmm!quilts.  Used by permission.  Pattern:  Blaze by Canuck Quilter Designs.

This is Blaze made up in Island Batik fabrics.  Who would have thought that little pop of pink would be so effective?  Well, Sandra, obviously, but not me! You can check out her blog post here for other quilty details, lots of close ups of her gorgeous quilting and her signature quilt-in-a-tree shot of the quilt.  Plan to spend a little extra time browsing when you go visit.  Sandra is a prolific quilter and talented designer as well as an all-around fun and kind lady.

Maple Leaf Rag by mmm!quilts.  Used by permission.  Pattern:  Blaze by Canuck Quilter Designs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Quilter's Meet and Greet

Benita of Victoriana Quilts is hosting a Quilter's Meet and Greet. If you landed here from there, welcome! If you landed here from elsewhere, welcome to you as well.

Canada 150 by Canuck Quilter Designs.  2017

I am Joanne, a Canadian quilter and pattern designer currently living in Iowa. The quilt above was my little celebration of Canada's 150th anniversary last summer, down here in Iowa.

I have been quilting since the turn of this century.  Wait.  That makes me sound ancient!  I started quilting in 2000 when I needed a wedding gift for my brother's wedding in spring 2001.  I used the gift budget to buy quilting tools instead. Don't worry.  I gave the happy couple a quilt.  It was a little late (2002?) but it was my first effort and I underestimated the time required.  I'm sure you're familiar with this sort of thing.  I'm very familiar with this still. You can see my latest example in my previous post.

Eclipse Sky by Canuck Quilter Designs. 2017

I'm still not the speediest quilter, but I manage more than one quilt every two years now.  My kids are in their late teens, the oldest in university and the youngest in her last year of high school, and as they have grown up my sewing time has increased.  My sewing space has grown too.  Pop over here to see how that progressed!

My quilting style has changed over time.  While my earlier quilts were very traditional, I gradually began using traditional elements in more modern settings and colours.  How about some flying geese?

Wandering Geese by Canuck Quilter Designs. 2017
 Asymmetry and negative space snuck in as well.

Sparkling Trail by Canuck Quilter Designs. 2016

Starfall by Canuck Quilter Designs. 2018

Then out of the blue, every now and then I swerve back to more traditional designs.  How about this version of Starlight Wishes in progress? I am re-writing this pattern to include multiple sizes.  Stay tuned!

Starlight Wishes by Canuck Quilter Designs. 2018
Playing with color and fabric is my favourite part of quilting. I enjoy seeing how different fabric and color choices change a design.  Here are two versions of Fundy Skies (pattern coming very soon!).  The small stars pop in the first and are more subtle in the second, all due to how the fabrics play together.  Neither one is right or wrong, just different!

Fundy Skies by Canuck Quilter Designs. 2016
Fundy Skies by Canuck Quilter Designs. 2018

Look at what else color can do:

Lucky Bugger by Joanne Kerton. 2016
The background is entirely composed of a traditional ocean waves block.  Color placement makes the stars appear and marks the boundary between water and sky.

Snowdreams, my bestselling pattern

I started writing patterns for some of my designs in 2013, inspired by frustrating patterns.  My goal has been to write clear, accurate, well-laid out and easy to follow patterns, tested by quilters of various skill levels.  So far the feedback has been very positive on that front!

If you have made or ever make a quilt from any of my patterns, I would love to see pictures!  You can email me (, or tag me in posts on FB (Canuck Quilter Designs) or Instagram (@canuckquilter) or use the hashtag #canuckquilterdesigns in your posts.  And if you thought the pattern was well-written, I would really, really appreciate you spreading the word to your quilting community!  Patterns are available as PDF downloads or your favourite quilt shop can order printed patterns.

I hope you will take some time to browse this site.  You'll find tutorials for techniques as well as a few projects under the tutorial tab.  Let me know if there is a topic you'd like me to address in future tutorials.

Next up at Canuck Quilter, some small prairie point projects and re-imagining older designs.  Longer term, snowflakes will return (and not just because winter comes around every year). and butterflies will get quilted.  I hope you will visit again to see what else I come up with!

Please pop over to Victoriana Quilt Design to meet more quilting bloggers, and to enter their giveaway.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Quilting baptist fans

Starlight Wishes, grown up version, has been a top for several months now.  A year ago this month all it needed was final borders to be a completed quilt top.  Becoming a completed, quilted quilt has taken longer because I just didn't know  how to quilt it and it was being awfully quiet about its own preferences.

It finally started talking!

It wanted baptist fans.  I didn't jump right in. All those curves were a bit daunting, particularly for my rather orderly brain that likes to see nice even spacing and regular curves.  My freemotion skills were just not going to result in baptist fans that I would be happy with.

But wait, the second day of Westalee ruler classes offered by Quilting Connection here in Ames in June included baptist fans.  It's like the quilt knew!  I signed up.  You've seen my practice on the Cyclone quilt. It is in timeout while I brace myself to add borders to a partially quilted piece. Anyway, Starlight Wishes cut in line earlier this week.

Here is the ruler I'm using:  one of the Circles on Quilts rulers for domestic sewing machines by Westalee Designs.

I'll be honest, I'm still getting a few wobbles here and there from fabric tugging in directions I don't want it to under the needle, but overall I am getting very good results. I'm also learning how to repeatedly rearrange the bulk of the quilt so things go more smoothly. There is a little bit of freemotion backtracking required to stitch from one arc to the next in the baptist fans design, but I'm getting more accurate with practice.

I was worried about that backtracking, because I decided to use matching top and bobbin threads to avoid seeing little dots of bobbin thread on the top.  I tried adjusting tension to not see them, but when I finally got it right for the top, I had pesky eyelashes on the back of the quilt. Never mind.  Matching thread it is!  However, I really wanted cream thread on the top, and that does not blend at all on the navy blue back!

It's turning out much better than I feared on the back.  It's a little shakier in the center of the quilt, where I am dealing with more bunched up quilt in the machine's throat space, but overall, I can live with it.

I think I have quilted almost half of the center, one row at a time, with breaks to do other things in between rows. Maybe by the end of next week I will be ready to bind the quilt, then I'll start working on rewriting the pattern with additional sizes.

How about a close-up of the front?

All that scrumptious quilted texture!  I think the quilt chose well!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Magnitudes' debut!

Drum roll please!!!!  Finally, here is my newest pattern!

I think we all know by now that I am not a speedy pattern writer. I announced I was working on this back in October 2017, and here it is finally in August 2018!  I really think the result is worth it though.

Like Jelly Bean Stars before it, Magnitudes is constructed in such a way that you don't need to fuss with cutting triangles, and so that you cannot unintentionally cut off any points.  Unlike Jelly Bean Stars, it includes multiple sizes:  baby, throw, twin and queen.  It also gives you alternate fabric amounts for the multicolour version above, or for similar backgrounds for all the stars as in the EQ drawing below.

I strive to be accurate, to anticipate questions as I explain and illustrate every step of the block and quilt assembly so the instructions are as complete as possible, and to organize the pattern in a way that makes it easy for quilters to keep track of what step they are working on.

Once my fabulous proofreader has gone over the pattern (my husband is a man of many talents!) I send it out to generous volunteer pattern testers who let me know if I got it right.  They give me feedback about clarity and accuracy, and sometimes suggest various improvements.  I think Magnitudes was a good pattern, but I know it is better after I added in a few details and tweaked a few others following my testers' suggestions.

I extend a huge thank you to Elaine Williamson, Joanne Harris, Kathi Kivi, Sue Howe and Julie Sheehy for testing this pattern and giving me valuable feedback.  I'll share photos of their quilts later this week.

The pattern is now available as a download on both Payhip and on Craftsy.  For special savings through Labour Day (Sept.3) shop on Payhip and use the coupon code ASTRO2018 for 25% off this brand new star quilt pattern!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

NASA Selfies and star forming regions

Tonight I am going to brag about my husband.  You may or may not know that he is an astronomer.  His particular research interest is star forming regions, and an image of such a region that was taken for his research has been selected as one of the top 30 images taken in the first 15 years of the Spitzer Space Telescope.

To mark 15 years since Spitzer's launch, NASA has loaded the top 30 images taken by the telescope into the NASA Selfies app.  You can download the app on your phone to take an astronaut selfie like Rosie's:

You can choose from 30 images for the background.  Rosie, being a loyal pooch, of course chose my husband's image!

I took a selfie as well, though I think Rosie's is more fun.

I'd also like to note that as knowledgeable as the hubby is about this region, I'm an expert on a much closer star forming region: my sewing room. Look at some what formed in that region:

Star Quilts by Joanne Kerton/Canuck Quilter Designs

Middle row: Forty-Eight, Lucky Bugger, Fundy Skies, Eclipse Sky, Sparkling Trail
Bottom row: Sparkling Thirties, Starfall (batiks), Starfall (Tula Pink), Vintage Sparkle, Fundy Skies.

I hope you'll come back tomorrow for the latest star pattern release! Magnitudes is ready to makes its debut!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Hand Quilting Supervisor

Here's what a hand quilting session looks like at my house.

Sometimes Rosie takes a closer look.

Spreading out the quilt to assess progress also involves paws-on and full-body testing.

Despite all that assistance, I still have not finished quilting Laura's Chic Country. I had resolved in January to sit and quilt every night and planned to have this finished by summer. Chuckle.  I know better than to make that sort of prediction! The best-laid plans were interrupted, but I have continued to make slow progress, even if not every night.

Quilting progress January 2018
Quilting progress August 2018

I recently passed the halfway mark.  I am tempted to name a new target date, but that might be tempting fate.  I'll just keep plugging away when the mood is right and it will be done when it is done.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Making progress?

When I came home from vacation I had grand plans to get a few quilty things finished.  First up was the Cyclone baby quilt. Here's where I left it in early July. There were 5 more blocks plus the border still needing quilting just like the block below.

My grand plans came to a screeching halt when I bounded into my sewing room the weekend I returned to find my machine wasn't in its usual spot.  Don't panic!  I just forgot I had brought it in to the shop to get its annual cleaning while I was away.  Sigh.  I cleaned my space instead. That is still progress, right?

By the time the machine came home I was in the middle of painting a bedroom, covered in paint and achy because apparently painting uses muscles that I don't often use.  My two day painting job took four, but on day 5, I treated myself to uninterrupted sewing. May I say that despite the wait, getting the machine cleaned and serviced was definitely worthwhile?  It purrs like a kitten.  I hadn't noticed how hard it was working until it was clean and humming happily again.

OK, back to the quilting progress.

Sigh.  Quilting the edge of the backing to the back of the quilt is not progress.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who has done this (ahem, more than once).

I took care of that little setback and finished quilting all the sashing, in the ditch around all the stars, and concentric circles in the background of 4 of the 6 blocks.

Before I got around to quilting the background of the remaining two blocks, I started thinking about borders.  Something simple.  Borders...

There we go: progress derailed again!  Thinking about quilting the borders led me to thinking about adding extra borders to make this quilt larger.  My son is an ISU student and he could use an ISU Cyclones quilt, right?  He's 19, years old, with the height that goes with the age, so this baby size just won't cut it.  Don't ask me why this didn't occur to me before I started the quilting!

That's where the quilt stands currently.  Maybe today I will do the math to figure out if I have the fabric I need to add to the top and the back as I have planned.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Anniversary quilts gifted

I have been absent again, but the garden isn't to blame this time.  I enjoyed a vacation in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, visiting family and soaking in the sights and sounds of the coast.

East coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

Both my parents and my husband's parents celebrate 50th wedding anniversaries this year.  What's a quilter to do?  Mark the occasion with  quilts, of course. Did you know that two queen sized quilts can smoosh into one carry-on sized suitcase?

You have seen this one before.  Vintage Sparkle was made with my in-laws in mind.

Vintage Sparkle
What I didn't share before were the personal touches, because Pat reads my blog and she didn't know this one was for her and Bob. I didn't want to spill the beans!

Their last name is quilted in one corner. "1968", "2018" and "50th" are quilted in the other three corners.  I can't take credit for the idea.  Liz Meimann, who longarmed this one, suggested it.

I shared a glimpse of the second quilt before I sent it off to Liz for quilting. Mom knew I was making this for her and dad but I wanted her to be at least a little surprised, so I didn't share again until I delivered the quilt.  Here is Fundy Skies for my parents.

This time I asked Liz to leave some unquilted space in the corners.  When the quilt came home I added some hand quilting.  It was a little bit hectic around here just before we left on our trip and I didn't get as many photos of the quilt as I should have. While I was visiting, I was busy, well, visiting, so didn't take as many photos then either. I don't have close-ups of Liz's quilting, and only of some of the hand quilting.

Hand quilting in progress
Some machine and some hand quilting

I hand quilted mom and dad's last name, Lalonde, in one corner,  Initials in another, and years in the other two.

One little note about the batting.  I chose wool batting for this quilt. I had never used it before but I certainly will again.  Hand quilting through the wool batting was a dream!  It almost makes me want to rip out all the stitches I have already put in Laura's quilt.  Almost, but not quite.

There will be a pattern for Fundy Skies soon, with wall/baby, throw, twin and queen sizes.  I think it is about 95% complete.  If you'd like to be a tester, please email me!

I will leave you with a few more picture of Nova Scotia scenery.  It was so hard to leave this behind!

Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail, Nova Scotia, Canada

Louisbourg Lighthouse, Nova Scotia, Canada

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Playing with FMQ rulers!

Look what I am doing this month:

Let me back up a little. Last fall I made the top for an ISU Cyclones baby sized version of Jelly Bean Stars.

It launched the rewrite of the pattern.  You can read about those thought processes here.  After re-imagining the design I had to make another version,which I named Magnitudes.  That one is quilted, bound, photographed and ready to be the pattern cover quilt, and the pattern is with testers as I type (thank you testers!!!)  After all that, Cyclone Baby remained forgotten in a box, unquilted.

Backing up even more, two years ago I bought a Westalee Rulers starter set to start adding ruler work to my limited freemotion quilting skill set.  I tried a few test sandwiches, had skipped stitches, broken thread and frustration.  The rulers have been in a box until I had spare time to figure out what was going on.  Spare time?  Hah!

Fast forward to last month.  The local quilt shop hosted two classes on beginner ruler work with Westalee rulers!  I'm so glad I was able to take the class. Thank you Teresa for switching work days with me!

After adjusting a few settings on my machine I had great success on practice pieces.
Ruler work practice

I have always had trouble replicating FMQ success when I start working on a larger pieced quilt, so I was a bit apprehensive about just launching into the two big projects I want to custom quilt with rulers.  Honestly, the rulers might have gone back into the box again if Cyclone Baby hadn't whispered in my ear.

Cyclone Baby is larger than a practice sandwich, but not huge.  It's pieced.  It has blocks and sashing providing space for trying different things.  It doesn't have a purpose at this point so I won't be crushed if I mess it up (well, not too crushed).  OK, let's break out the rulers!

I stitched in the ditch around the stars with a straight edge ruler.  I had a little trouble where there was bulk in the seams, because the highest I can set the ruler presser foot is still pretty tight over thick seams, so it caught a little bit.  Still, it was easier overall and a lot easier on my shoulder that wrestling the quilt round and round to quilt around the star with my walking foot, and definitely straighter than I can manage with freemotion without rulers.

I used the "Circles on Quilt - Circles Set 3" to stitch concentric circles in the background of the star block.  Again, doing it with rulers was much easier on my shoulder than moving the quilt under a walking foot.  When I stitched two small circles on each square of Tic Tac Hoot I worked a lot harder than I did to make these multiple circles!

The petal shapes in the sashing are made with the 2" inside circle template.  These gave me trouble with skipped stitches and breaking thread and made me very, very unhappy.  I tried changing the needle. I tried re-threading the machine. I tried cleaning out the bobbin area.  I gnashed my teeth.  Why did it work on the practice sandwich and not on my quilt?

My non-sewing husband came home, took one look at me and gave me a wide berth before asking "Have you tried changing the thread?"

Hmmph. Well. No.  I shouldn't have to.  So there.

OK, I changed the thread and I think I'm back on track.  I'll share again when I reach the borders.  It might be a few weeks.  Summer activities exert a pretty strong pull...