Friday, December 20, 2019

Starlight Plaid is a pattern!

I'm pleased to present the quilted and bound cover quilt for my newest pattern, Starlight Plaid.

Starlight Plaid by Canuck Quilter Designs

I had planned to quilt this one myself, but there just are not enough hours in the day. The pattern was written, the tester feedback was in, the edits were made, and still the cover quilt was not quilted.  Something had to give so I sent this one out to Liz Meimann to quilt.  It was the right thing to do.  The longer the top sat unquilted in my sewing room, the more the frustration of not having found time to quilt it ate at me.  With that baggage, I started falling out of love with the quilt.  I handed it to Liz and in a day or two (I swear that woman does not sleep!) I had a beautifully textured quilt to bind.  By the time I finished binding it with a pop of solid red, I had fallen back in love again...and promptly lost the quilt to my daughter, but that's another story.

The greys and reds remind me of cozy plaid flannel, so I had to put some flannel on the back to make it as cozy as it looks.  It is so, so cozy as the weather gets colder.

The pattern features four sizes:  baby, throw, twin and queen.  It also has my favourite stars:  the kind whose points you can't accidentally cut off! 

Get your copy of the pattern in my Etsy Shop at 50% off the regular retail price now through Christmas Eve! (Sorry, cute dog not included!)

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Frosty placemats

Here's one of the projects that kept me away from the computer over the last month. These fabrics had been calling my name for a long time but I was a good girl and didn't bring them home until I had a plan for them.  When a customer at the LQS where I work gathered these up and paired them with my Geese Across the Table placemat pattern, I took one look at her stack and knew I had finally found my plan!

It is hard to tell from the picture, but the grey is actually silver metallic, and all the fabrics have silver metallic accents.  You can see the sparkle better in the closeup below.

Sparkling fabric is not usually my thing, but these spoke to me.  Maybe it's because the sparkle is paired with blues.  You know I love blues!

I stitched in the ditch on both the place mats and runner, because really, the gorgeous fabric is doing all the work here!  The binding is machine stitched.  There's a lot of binding in 6 place mats and a runner, and I just did not have the time or inclination to hand stitch that much of it!  

I have some Christmas place settings on my table right now, but come January, my table will be dressed in frosty blues!

I thought my receipt had information about the fabric I could share, but it doesn't.  I'll check next time I'm at the shop and report back.  I'm pretty sure most of the blues are from Timeless Treasures, and the white background is from the Quilter's Linen collection by Robert Kaufman.  And I know Quilting Connection in Ames IA has kits made up and they accept phone orders! (Just note that the kits have a different grey/silver fabric for the accent.)

After working on these I'm in the mood for frost on tree branches and sunlight sparkling on snow.  Right now we have the cold, but not the snow.  I'm sure it will come soon enough, and then I'll be wishing for spring!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

December means ornaments

How did a whole month streak past? I could have sworn I posted just a week or two ago, but it has been a whole month.  My lack of posting certainly wasn't for lack of stuff to share.  I've been happily humming along with my sewing machine in the sewing room.  Come to think about it, that pretty much explains the lack of posts.  I can't sew and type at the same time!

I'll share a bit about those 4 finishes and one top over the next couple of weeks, but tonight, while I listen to Christmas music, I'm in the mood to share Christmas ornaments.

Last weekend I enjoyed an afternoon trimming the Christmas tree with my family, and was overwhelmed at the number of ornaments we have.  I remember the first Christmas my husband and I were married, we had a little 2 foot tree and not much to put on it. Money was tight. We bought one box of cheap plastic bulb ornaments, made a popcorn garland, and I made 4 little cinnamon stick baskets.

I didn't sew at the time, but I did know how to crochet, so the next year I found a book of patterns at the library and crocheted some snowflakes, and the tree was little less bare.

I have a list somewhere of what ornaments we added every year.  One year I finished a cross stitched wall hanging instead, and another year the kids assisted in making a felt tree skirt, but there has been something new every year, and I think for all but those 2 years it has been a tree ornament.  The kids contributed most years from preschool through grade school, and occasionally since then as well. One year we made felt mittens, and another we found instructions for the cute felt and Popsicle stick reindeer.

The sand dollars make me think of mom and dad, as we collected those on the beach together.

I found the vintage cookie cutters at the antique mall with my mother-in-law during one of my in-laws' Thanksgiving visits.

There are many more, each with a memory attached.  Most of the store bought ornaments have stories as well.  Yes, we have many ornaments.  Maybe too many.  I really need to stop adding more.

Except that I remember the joy of making something for that little bare tree 26 years ago, and I just can't bring myself to break 26 years of tradition.

Here are this year's additions for our tree.  I need to add some hanging loops still.  You can find Angie's Bits and Piece's video tutorial here if you also feel the urge to add just one more thing to your tree.  (I'll just add that applying a little bit of Fray Check to the edges and points where I needed to take a stitch, before starting, helped a lot.)

My Ridiculously Tiny Ornaments tutorial is also still available for you to download to make some tiny patchwork ornaments.  These are from Christmas 2013, I believe, and are really not as finicky to make as they seem. I blogged about them here. They are a bit addictive though, so be careful!

Ridiculously tiny patchwork ornaments

I'd love to hear the stories your favourite ornaments tell. Please share in the comments. I'll be reading them while munching on Christmas cookies and listening to Christmas music!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Triple Sunset photo shoot

Fall colour didn't last long around here this year.  Leaves seemed to drop almost as soon as they changed colour.  I was glad to get Triple Sunset quilted and bound in time to have a photo shoot with the last of the leaves!

The wind gave us a little bit of trouble, as you can see.  It seemed to pick up every time we unfolded the quilt, without fail, but we still managed to get a few good pictures.

I love this one on the bridge, though it does look a bit like I forgot to quilt whole swaths of the quilt.  That's a bit unfortunate, considering all the hand wringing that went on in the sewing room about how I should quilt it.  I pushed through it and my favourite picture doesn't even show it!

This one is a bit better.  You see those vertical quilted lines up at the top?  There are some of those filling in all the white spaces that are not quilted with diagonal lines.  My original plan was to quilt half the quilt background in one diagonal direction, and the other half in the opposite direction. As I often do, I changed the plan partway through and ended up with the crossing diagonals.  Then I had to decide what to quilt in the rest of the background.  After opting for vertical lines, I quilted one section and hated it.

"Comparison if the thief of joy."

I don't know who first said or wrote that, but I need it on the wall in my sewing space! I had been so sure that this modern design needed very straightforward, clean lines for the quilting. After seeing some gorgeous free motion work online I started thinking about what someone else would have quilted instead and my plan didn't measure up. That is useless path to go down!

After sulking for a few days, I put the walking foot back on my sewing machine and made myself finish what I started. There wasn't any chance that I was going to pick out what I had already stitched, and there was a deadline looming, so I pushed through.

As soon as I put the last stitches in, I knew I had been right after all and I fell in love with the quilt all over again.  The quilt really did want simple lines.  The orange starbursts make me happy and they are the focus here.  The quilting is the supporting cast. Playing with varying orientations for the groups of quilted lines gave it just enough movement. The orange binding finished things off perfectly, but it would have been overwhelmed by dense, fancy quilting bedside it.

Here's a closeup of the outline quilting in and around the stars and geese.

I outline quilted in variegated orange thread inside each shape for several reasons.  It emphasizes each patch.  It brings a touch of tradition to a modern quilt, as many older hand quilted quilts feature outline quilting in patches.  It avoided some bulky spots in the seams where my ruler foot got stuck when I tried stitching in the ditch.  OK, I admit I used the first two reasons to talk myself into outlining when stitching in the ditch turned out to be a pain!  I do, however, love the end result.

It looks pretty cool on the back too.

Again, my vertical lines disappear in the photos!  All the outline quilting was done with a ruler foot and straight edge ruler quilting template. The background was quilted using my trusty walking foot.

One thing you can't see in these pictures, even in the closeup, is the fabric texture.  The top is made entirely with Moda Grunge fabrics, so there's a little bit of texture in real life.  Seeing these pictures I would say solids would be effective as well.

I almost forgot to explain where the quilt's name came from.  When I finalized the design, I asked my astronomer husband if there was a specific astronomical term for star systems composed of three stars.  Apparently it's just a plain old "triple star system". Hmph.  I googled that term to see if it would be linked to something more interesting and I found an article about a planet detected in a three star system.  The title of the article referenced a triple sunset, presumably because the three stars would be like three suns to the planet, and there would be sunset for each.  I rather liked that idea, so I borrowed it for the name of my quilt.

I'll leave you with just one more picture, just because I am enjoying these colours so much!  I'm trying to hold on to fall just a bit longer.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Welcome IAQ members!

I'm a guest designer for the International Association of Quilters! If you are not familiar with the IAQ, it's an online subscription membership quilting group.  The group hosts online quilt alongs, forums, monthly guest designers and an archive of past IAQ patterns.  It's rather like an online guild. You can hop over to its website for more information.

As November's guest designer, I am pleased to welcome members of the IAQ today.  If you are here from the IAQ, welcome.  I hope you will stay and explore a little bit, get to know my quilts, and perhaps check out a few tutorials.  Also, remember to download your Night Sky Mystery block for November.

Variable Starburst block

Since the mystery quilt theme is the night sky, I felt I really should design a star block.  That's right up my alley. Perhaps being married to an astronomer has influenced me, but I love star blocks.  If you browse this blog or check out my Etsy pattern shop, you'll find just a few star themed quilts.

The block you see above is what I finally settled on.  I used light, medium and dark values of one color, but I encourage you to use this block to play with value and color placement.  Mix up the value placement.  Try different colors.  Try different textures, or maybe mixing different colours rather than multiple values of a single one.

I use EQ8 to design, and it lets me try out different options easily.  I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.  I can make major changes or just little tweaks for multiple iterations of a designs.  I love being able to consider so many options, but it can also be a huge time sink! Just one more minute for one more little tweak, just to see what happens, can turn into hours. I thought you might like a peek into that world.  Enjoy some of my EQ sketches below, showing just some of the possibilities.

First up, a layout with multiple versions of the variable starburst block. Notice how different value placement emphasizes different parts of the star.

The next few pairs of images each use just one coloring of the block, but set with sashing (left image) and without sashing (right image).

I find it fascinating to see how dark and light draw the eye to different features.  I love even more what happens when I set the blocks side by side without sashing.  It's interesting to see how secondary patterns emerge, and how even those secondary patterns have a different look based on value placement. In some of them I even feel the star becomes the secondary element as I see strings of diamonds and triangles first, or overlapping blocks on point.

Just to mix things up a bit, the quilt I designed for this month's IAQ pattern (exclusive to the IAQ for a time) didn't use these layouts at all!

Triple Sunset. Designed, pieced and quited by Joanne Kerton, Canuck Quiter Designs

I enjoyed a beautiful fall day yesterday for a Triple Sunset photo shoot.  Come back soon to see more pictures and read about where the name came from.

(PS: If you click on "subscribe" above, any new blog post will be delivered directly to your email inbox so you never miss a post.  I won't use the email for any other purpose.  If you'd like to follow without inviting my posts into your mailbox, you can add this blog to your blogger reading list, or follow on Bloglovin.  There are signups for each in the left sidebar.  You might have to click the little 3-line icon in the upper left corner of the blog header to make the sidebar appear.)

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Reindeer block

Tomorrow evening I am teaching a class on making a quilt-as-you-go, fully lined Christmas stocking. Since my two mostly-grown children have finally come around to the idea of having new stockings (the old ones are getting fragile) I thought I could start theirs as the step outs for the class, and finish them after.  One of the options for the class is to build around a block or fussy cut piece of fabric so I needed a block.  I checked with the kids to find out what they would each like on their stocking.

I should know better.  Wording matters.  I asked "would you like a snowflake or a star or something else?"  That is what is called, in education speak, an open ended question. If I had asked "Is a star block OK?" I would probably be making a star block.  I didn't ask that.  I left the field wide open and that's how I ended up spending all afternoon making this instead.

Paper pieced reindeer block.  Pattern by Piece by Number Quilts.

This is a 6" block which means those antlers are teeny tiny.  Here is the block again, with a quarter for scale reference.

Paper pieced reindeer block.  Pattern by Piece by Number Quilts.

To be fair, the one who asked for a reindeer did backpedal when he saw my face, saying if a reindeer was too much trouble then a snowflake, or even the star, would be "fine".  However, once he had suggested the reindeer I wanted to rise to the challenge and I browsed online for a suitable pattern..  While I was working on the antlers I started questioning my choice.  The pattern by Piece By Number Quilts includes foundations for a 12" block or a 6" block.  It is well designed, but if I made it again, I'd go for the 12" one!  Of course then it wouldn't fit on the stocking.

I think the reindeer turned out pretty well.  I wish I had used red thread, because the stitches show a little where I had to press seams open between sections, but I don't think anyone but me will quibble about it when it's hanging on the mantle at Christmas.

This was going to be a two-sided Christmas stocking, with a block on each side so the stocking could hang facing either left or right.  I'll see how I feel about it after supper, but right now I'm betting this will be a one-sided affair.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Machine Binding Tutorial

Binding my quilts by machine used to intimidate me, and I was not satisfied with the results.  I was more consistent about missing the binding on the blind side than I was about stitching it down, and I figured it was just easier and tidier for me to sew the back of the binding down by hand.  However, though my speed has improved, I'm still a slow hand sewer. When projects with deadlines started piling up, I decided I needed to start practicing machine binding.

Binding for Triple Sunset

After watching and reading multiple tutorials and tips and tricks posts over the last year, keeping some tips and discarding others, I finally have a process that works for me.  I'll share it here and encourage you to do what I did: use the bits that work for you and leave the rest

I like to use 2 1/4" binding strips folded in half, sewn to the front of the quilt with a 1/4" seam allowance, just like I do when I hand sew the binding.  This gives me a finished binding that looks more like hand sewn binding on the front of the quilt. I shared how I attach the binding to the front in my previous post.

Binding sewn to the front of the quilt

Next, I press the binding away from the quilt top.  Why did I not know this before?  This helps even when hand binding.  It makes the fabric lie in the right direction on the front, so when I'm folding it to the back, it isn't pulling, wanting to go back to lie flat against the front.

The binding miters itself at the corner as I iron the binding away from the quilt center, and I press that too with the tip of my iron to help the miter keep its shape when I manipulate the binding on the back of the corner later.

Next I fold the binding to the back.  I used to pin it in place, but take a look at the picture below.

See how the edge of the binding curves into a little scallop between the pins?  That's why my line of stitching didn't stay a nice even distance from the edge when I sewed from the front.  The edge wasn't straight.  I think it also contributed to the stitching dropping off the binding and onto the quilt backing in spots.

Many quilters swear by washable school glue instead of pins to hold down the binding for sewing, but honestly, I just made a mess of it.  If you love it, use it.  If you haven't tried it, go ahead and see if it works for you.  I tried it, chose to skip it and moved on to Wonder Clips.

At this point I will confess that I used to roll my eyes when quilters raved about Wonder Clips.  Wasn't that just another unnecessary tool taking up my fabric budget?  Now that I have used them I wish I could tell my previous self not to wait so long to try them. (And no, I have not been paid, or given free products, or had any contact at all with Clover to entice me to write this.  I just love the clips!)

Notice that I put the flat side of the clip on the back of the binding, on the back of the quilt.  I stitch from the front side, so the flat part is against the bed of the machine as I sew.  When I come to a clip, I push down on the top to open the clip to remove it, and that flat part just slides out and away without catching and disturbing the binding.

I know what you're thinking about all those clips!  Well, maybe not all of you, but some of you, I'm sure. Why don't you space them out a little bit more?

When I space them out too much they don't keep the fabric where I want it and my stitching slips off the binding.  Rather, my stitching is right where it is supposed to be but the binding is not.  So, I clip closely together.  It really doesn't take that long, and I get better results so I'm going with it!

You may also be wondering how many clips I own to get all around a quilt.  I bought the pack of 50 clips and that's plenty.  I just don't clip around the whole quilt all at once.  I use all the clips, start sewing, pause when only a few clips remain, clip the next stretch of binding, and continue this way until I have bound the entire perimeter.

To miter the corner on the back, I start by folding the binding on one side all the way to the corner, keeping the folded width even all the way.  It will naturally make a 45 degree fold at the end/corner.  I finger press this fold to help it keep its shape.  You could give it a quick press if your iron was close at hand.

Next I fold the top edge of the binding down, using my finger (you could use a stiletto) to make the corner crease in line with the raw edge of the quilt.

As I fold the top edge down, I bring the point of the finger pressed corner fold down to meet the edge of the side binding.

I clip that corner in place.  If the iron is close at hand I might give it a quick press first.

Moving on to the sewing part, let me introduce my good friend, the stitch-in-the-ditch presser foot. If you can find one for your machine, I highly recommend it.

The metal guide tucks right up against the high side of the "ditch" and the needle comes down right behind the guide, stitching right next to the high side of the seam.  Using it for binding, I tuck it up right beside the binding on the front of the quilt and the needle stitches in the ditch, into the quilt top close to the binding.

Here's what that stitching looks like on the front..

To turn the corner, I keep stitching until the needle is tucked into the corner, but not on the binding, stopping with the needle down.

Keeping the needle down, I lift the presser foot and pivot the quilt to bring the metal guide on the foot into line with the next side of the binding.  I then continue sewing.

I keep going until I reach the point where I started.  I stitch a few stitches past that, then backstitch a few stitches to secure the stitching.  That's it!

I still have wobbles now and then, especially at the corners, but overall this process gives me a tidy,  straight stitching line on the back of the binding, and a front that looks similar to what I would get if I hand stitched the back.

If you have any binding tips to add, please share in the comments!