Friday, May 13, 2022

Echo Point

 I've been thinking about Echo Point since last fall.  I enjoyed bringing it to life last month, and finally quilting it this week.



Strip piecing made these really quick to make.  Honestly, deciding in what order to place the fabrics, and deciding how to quilt them took longer than the piecing.

The pattern calls for 5 fabrics, so I pushed myself to find 5 that played well together. These five came home from the quilt shop.


When I started laying them out wasn't sure about that stripey one.  I thought it had a touch too much green.  Happily, I had bought a little extra so I was able to play around with repeating one of the other four fabrics to take the place of the fifth one.


I thought this combination did the trick.  Strip sets followed.


I then got sucked into sewing and didn't take any more pictures until the set was finished.


I had planned to use rulers to quilt some circular elements, but none of my ideas quite gelled. In the end I defaulted to straight lines again.  Their crispness pairs perfectly with the clean lines of the pieced design.


I dressed things up just a little with a star motif in the center of the runner. The quilting on the placemats repeats the quilting on ends of the runner.  Not only does it tie the two together nicely, it seems fitting because the runner is actually two placemats sewn to the sides of a center block.  

The pattern is written for six placemats or four placemats and the runner.  It's based on 40" width of fabric, but with 44" wide you could squeeze two more placemats from your strip sets. 



I'm really excited about this design.  I hesitated to write the pattern because there are a few bias edges to deal with, but they're small and really not a big deal in a project this size.  I included tips in the pattern about how to work with those edges, and my generous testers Judy Juhl and Pat Minnick  were very successful.  

I will definitely be making more of these.  Version two in Stonehenge Gradations fabric is already pieced and waiting for quilting.  Like I said, the piecing is quick.  I need a little more time for the quilting part :)

If you'd like to make your own, you can get the pattern in my Etsy shop or ask for it at your favourite quilt shop.


Echo Point is pictured on the cover in two colorways of
Banyan Batiks' upcoming Pebbles and Daisies collection

Friday, April 15, 2022

Knotted sample almost finished

I can say with absolute certainty that I have never sewn as much in so little time as I have so far this year.  Since I had nine new designs accepted for 2022 fabric catalogs late last fall,  I've been scrambling to write the patterns, test them, and make cover quilts for all of them.  I think I'm finally in the home stretch!

Knotted is one of the ones I've been working on.



I designed this one for Banyan Batik's Birds of Paradise collection, featured in the January 2022 look book, but those fabrics are not shipping yet, so I resorted to browsing my local quilt shop.  It wasn't a hardship :)  I came home with this pretty stack in mid February.


In late February or early March (it's all a blur now), I dove into the first, then second drafts of the pattern.



By mid-March, I was finally ready to start cutting.  I really wanted to start cutting earlier using the rough notes I made in the fall, but it's really better, from a pattern editing perspective, for me to actually use the pattern as I've written it. As I make a quilt from a first draft, I always find details I have left out, or things that aren't as clear as I thought.  I like to find those issues before I send the pattern for outside tech editing and/or testing.  So, I waited for that first draft before I started cutting.


Wasn't that a pretty stack of pieces?  Next up was a little bit of chain piecing...


...and trimming. 


FYI, the units from the trimming photo are not the ones in the chain piecing photo. I'm just clarifying that for those of you who might spend some time trying to figure out how flying geese came out of those chain pieced units. :)

All the units tuned into blocks.  It looks more complex than it actually is.  Chain piecing and stitch-and-flip makes these quick and easy, and pressing directions helps the seams nest for nice seam matching.


Adding a little sashing and borders finished up this top.  I'm calling it Knotted, because I think the small pink squares look like knots on a string lattice.

I don't have a photo of the quilted and bound quilt yet, because it's not bound yet.  It's quilted, thanks to wonderful longarmer Liz Meimann, but it's still waiting on me for the binding.  I had a couple of other patterns and quilt tops to work on first, but now the decks are cleared and I can work on binding. 

How are your quilty projects coming along?

Joanne


Friday, April 8, 2022

Shiny Blossoms Plan C

Back in February I shared two test blocks for my Shiny Blossoms pattern.  You may recall I couldn't choose between the two.  I got a lot of good feedback, evenly split between the two options, but I still couldn't get excited about either one as a pattern cover.  I set the project aside while I quilted Modern Lace, wrote a few patterns and sewed a few more things I haven't gotten around to blogging about yet.

Last week, I headed back to the quilt shop to start Shiny Blossoms from scratch. 

What looks red in the photo is really more of a wine color.  I tried different lighting to try to get a truer colour, but my phone camera just wasn't in the mood for it, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  Also, the white and grey solid fabrics have a beautiful shiny, pearlescent sheen, which the camera also didn't pick up very well.

Late last week I cut a bazillion pieces.  There was a bit of marking on the diagonals of squares for stitch and flip sewing.   That's always tedious.  I know there are no-mark methods, including marking the bed of the machine with tape as a guide, but I get better results with marking so I just grit my teeth and take the time it takes to mark.


By Saturday I had made all the blocks.


There you go.  You can see the sheen on the grey in this picture. It's really very pretty, and doesn't it seem appropriate for "Shiny" blossoms? The background color is truer in this photo as well.  I guess the camera was in a more accommodating mood on Saturday.

I played around with this block design quite a bit last fall before settling on this configuration.  The parts with the grey swirl were originally square-in-a-square units, but that created a lot of bulk where the white, grey and swirl meet.  Changing the size of two of the corner triangles moved some of the bulk, and had the happy result of softening the shape too.  I like the softer look.  It seems more like a petal to me.

I paused sewing early this week to deal with admin stuff and taxes.  Not fun, but necessary.  By Wednesday I was ready for another good stretch of soothing sewing.  Strip piecing for the win!  Sashing and cornerstones were made sashing and block rows were assembled.

Thursday I sewed the rows and sashing together, and today I added borders.


Ta da!  My Shiny Blossoms top is done!   You could add a border of some other fabric, but currently I am enjoying quilts that float on the background, with just a contrasting binding as a frame.  I plan to finish this one with silvery gray binding.

I think this will make a lovely cover quilt.  The pattern is almost ready, just waiting on a cover photo.  I think a late April pattern release is definitely possible if my longarmer can fit this quilt into her schedule.

Now, on to the next one.  I just finished writing a pattern called Crossings, and I need to make it to make sure it all comes together as I think it should.  There is some housekeeping waiting for me, but it's really very patient, so I'll keep it waiting a little longer and go cut some teal fabrics instead. 

Have a great weekend!

Joanne

PS:  I have been asked about the fabrics I used.  If you're interested, here are the details:

  • Grey and white shiny solids are Kona Sheen (Silver Filigree and Glacier Grey, respectively) from Robert Kaufman Fabrics.
  • Grey swirls is Winter Village: Gray River by Amanda Murphy for Benartex 
  • Background is Shadow Play from Maywood Studio.  I think the color is Fuschia (MAS513-MJS)
  • The pink/fuschia print is Marrakesh Fusion: Seeds of Marrakesh by Katarina Roccella (FUS-M-2008) from Art Gallery Fabrics


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Modern Lace finish and musings

I finished quilting Modern Lace a couple of weeks ago, then waited for a sunny day and quilt holder availability to coincide so I could get a good picture to share. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided this quilt needed straight line quilting.  I quilted it entirely with my ruler foot and a straight edge quilting ruler on my domestic sewing machine.  I could have used a walking foot, but the ruler required much less wrestling with the quilt, which led to fewer aches and pains in my shoulders.

I bought matching thread to quilt in the colors...


...and promptly decided not to quilt in those spaces after all. 


Eventually I may add more quilting, but for now, after quilting in the ditch, I thought that much quilting gave just enough definition.  The ditch stitching was close enough to meet the batting's recommended quilting spacing, so I skipped additional quilting in the colored parts and moved on to the background areas on the sides of the quilt.  

I like the open crosshatch I came up with.  I think it complements the lines of the pieced design quite well.  I took care to keep the quilting density in these background areas light.  I have found quilting more densely in some areas than other makes the quilt wavy, so I didn't want the background quilting to be much more dense than the ditch quilting in the center.

This quilt will probably make it into my "There's More Than One Way to Quilt a Quilt" presentation.  You can visit the lectures page on my website for more information about that and other Zoom presentations I'm offering to guilds and groups.

The green binding was already made, but I had a moment of uncertainty when I started sewing it on.  It seemed very strong.  Perhaps I should have chosen one of the blues?  Nope.  Once it was finished, I agreed with my earlier self.  The green binding picks up the small amount of green in the blocks just right.

As I was quilting this quilt, I received an email from a customer asking about resizing this pattern to fit a bed.  The pattern is for a throw size only.  At the time I wrote the pattern, I thought there really was no way to size it up and still maintain the lace/braid design.  Half a year later, as I worked on this sample, the email got my brain working in a different direction.

Here's the throw spread out on my queen sized bed.  It fills the center of the bed quite nicely!  A few more block repeats in the length would let the design reach the head of the bed and drape down the foot of the bed.  Adding 15-25" of background on each side would add the side drape.  I initially thought that would be too plain, but isn't the design on top of the bed what most draws the eye anyway? The plain sides would be a great place to showcase some quilting. Maybe this inspiration struck because I was quilting at the time?


Now I think I might need a new queen sized quilt for my bed.   But first, I need to make a full sized version of Cascade for my son's new bed.  All grown up, my hulking son has outgrown a twin bed and needs a bigger quilt.  I was stumped about what design to make, and again, a customer email nudged me in the right direction.  Cascade with a few extra borders will be perfect.

I'd love to hear any creative ways you have repurposed a pattern to make it fit a larger bed, or your thoughts on other ways to make Modern Lace larger.

Happy quilting,

Joanne

Friday, February 25, 2022

A straight line kind of quilter


I have made no progress choosing fabrics for Shiny Blossoms.   I'm still well and truly indecisive. In the hopes that a break will let me come back with fresh eyes and ideas,  I shifted to pondering a different project.

blue and green geometric quilt top.
Modern Lace quilt top, featuring the Mountain Gems collection from Island Batik.

This version of Modern Lace,  featuring fabrics from Island Batik's Mountain Gems collection, needs quilting.  I really want to quilt it myself, because it has pretty blues and greens and it will make me happy to look at the fabric all over again while I quilt it.  Plus, I'd love to have a home-quilted version to contrast with the longarmed version that graces the pattern cover.  It would fit right into my "There's More than One Way to Quilt a Quilt" presentation (click here for more info about that).


Paper, rulkers, templates and pencil strewn over a blue and green quilt top.  Quilting motifs are drawn on the paper.
Coming up with a quilting plan for Modern Lace

I planned to quilt some ruler work curves, perhaps clamshells or a string of small circles.  I really thought it would add pretty frills to a "lacy" quilt, but when I started drafting out that plan on paper none of my ideas excited me.

It turns out I'm in the mood for straight lines.  This quilt is all about crisp lines and angles, and all my curvy ideas were just too busy.  The blue and green fabrics are so pretty all on their own, I don't think they need busy quilting to draw the eye.  I'm going to skip the curvy designs in favour of quilting straight lines to accentuate the block layout.


A grouping of 6 folded blue and green batik fabrics, laid out in a fan.
Mountain Gems fabrics from Island Batik


What about in the background?  Before I pulled the quilt top out today, I thought there was a lot of background space that would benefit from  more intricate quilting.  At the very least I could add a string of circles all along the outside edges, like a string of beads.

Memory is a funny thing.  There really isn't much background to fill at all. The longer the top sat on the shelf, the larger the background space became in my mind. There really is not much background at all, and the ideas that have been hanging around in my head for the past several weeks will not work in the actual space.

So...I'm turning to unassuming straight lines again.  I am coming to terms with the idea that I'm a straight line quilter most of the time.  I see curves on other quilts and love them,  and I want curves too, until I actually start drawing things out.  When I actually start quilting on my own quilts, the uncluttered look of straight lines wins more often than not.  It's actually rather intriguing to see what I can do with straight lines, changing spacing and angles and lengths, and crossing over...

Do you have a "go-to" quilting style?  Straight lines or curves?  All-over or custom? A random mix?  I'd love some links to some of your favourites so I can go take a peek while I wait to start quilting Modern Lace.  I need a trip to the store for matching thread before I can start, and I don't have the car today...

Happy quilting,

Joanne

PS Random thought:  Why doesn't the spell checker ever suggest "quilting" as an alternative when I (often) accidentally type "quiting"?  You would think it would recognize that I use the word a lot!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

I need to choose

 I need to make a sample for a new pattern.  It's written, the design is featured in Northcott's Winter 2022 look book  and it needs a cover quilt.  Unfortunately, the fabric I designed it with will not be available for several months.

Shiny Blossoms mocked up in Northcott's upcoming Dragonfly Dreams fabrics

Since I designed it with a light background, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to make the sample with a darker background.  I spent a couple of hours browsing the aisles of my local quit shop and came up with two possibilities.

Sometimes I can see clearly in my head what the quilt will look like in certain  fabrics.  This time the picture stayed fuzzy.  None of the fabric combinations I pulled together made me excited to take it home.  Still, I needed fabric for the test sample so I ended up buying a little bit of each combo to make sample blocks.  I felt sure I'd know what to pick once I had blocks sewn.



Nope.  I still don't know.  

The center star and the checkerboard cornerstones in both blocks are actually the same light yellow with little speckles.  The photo really washes out its colour and doesn't do it justice, but it's really quite pretty.


I love blues, so I was surprised when the blue version didn't immediately speak to me.  I think the blue floral might be what's holding me back.  I though a print would add interest and that the little yellow accents in the floral would go well with the yellow in the star, but I'm not sure this print fits with the rest of the fabrics.  Also, my eye is drawn to the central star rather than to the whole block. 



I really love the texture in the black background, and I feel the greys I chose emphasize the blossom shape more than the star.  To my surprise, this block actually appeals to me a little bit more than the blue one.  I'm just not sure I want a whole quilt of these fabrics.  I'm also worried all that black without brighter colors will not appeal to customers if I use this quilt on the pattern cover.

One option would be to go ahead and make the black version to test the pattern, but use the Dragonfly Dreams mock-up on the cover.  I'm not excited about that though. I like to have a finished quilt on the pattern cover to show consumers that it's possible to make the quilt.  The few patterns I released with a mock-up on a cover (because I had difficulty getting a good photo) don't sell well.  Then again, maybe that's just a coincidence. I have a few patterns I was excited about that have an actual finished quilt on the cover yet don't sell well at all, so maybe real quilt vs mockup wasn't the issue.

Another option is to go back to the shop and try to pull together another fabric combination.

What would you do?  Ideas are welcome!

Friday, January 28, 2022

First but not fast finish

 Drumroll, please!  I have my first quilted, bound, finished quilt of 2022!


It does not qualify as a fast finish, however, since the top has been languishing for just over 2 years.  It could have been a fast finish, because the top was really quite quick to piece.  I wouldn't hesitate to call Cascade a weekend quilt top.  I just didn't get around to quilting it quickly.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven't found a lot of time to quilt my quilts myself in the last year or two.  Though I sent a lot of other quilt tops to the longarmer to clear a backlog, I held on to this one. I really didn't want dark thread across the greens, or light thread across the black background, so it needed custom quilting. Custom quilting by someone else is not in my budget.  It just had to wait until I found time to do it myself on my domestic machine.


When a shop contacted me about borrowing the quilt for February to help sell the pattern, it gave me an incentive to make time to quilt it.  Two weeks ago, we hunkered down for a snowstorm, and it seemed like the perfect time to get to work on this.  Out came the basting pins and the handy-dandy Kwik Klip tool.  

I love this tool now, but I confess that it sat unused for years before I realized how useful it is.  Mine came with a package of curved safety pins, and I had no idea what it was.  I clearly lacked curiosity at the time.  Now that I know how to use it, I don't baste a quilt without it.  Someone in a Facebook group asked me about the tool so I shot a quick video with my phone to show how it works.



As you can see, it holds the pin steady as I push the clasp down over the pointy business end, but holds the pointy bit up enough to easily get the clasp around the point. The quilt stays flatter than when I grab the pin side with my fingers to close the pin.  This method is also easier on the fingers.

I pondered a quilting plan while I basted, then drew parts of the plan in full scale on a large piece of paper.  I still wasn't sure, but having a deadline motivated me to start anyway.  I knew I wanted to stitch in the ditch, then outline stitch in the green parts, so I went ahead and started that using my walking foot, hoping the act of stitching would wake up my creativity. 



I finished the walking foot quilting by the end of the evening.  On Saturday I started filling in the green areas, following the quilting plan I'd drawn out.  The plan was to quilt a different motif in each shade of green.  I quilted these bits with a ruler foot and a straight quilting ruler.  It would have been possible to quilt these designs with the walking foot, but that would have involved twisting and turning the quilt quite a bit.  The rulers were easier, with no turning required.

By the time I had these two green strips quilted, I decided that two additional designs would make the quilt too busy for my tastes.  I started repeating these two motifs in the other two greens before my machine started skipping stitches.  The tension also suddenly became loose and nothing I did seemed to fix the problems. I quit in frustration.  

Perhaps the machine was just telling me to take a break.  I left the quilt for most of the week, and when I came back to it, the machine was working perfectly.  I quickly finished one strip of green and the grey, then ran out of the dark green thread for the last green strip.  Of course, I ran out after the local quilt shop closed for its Sunday-Monday weekend.

I spent Sunday mulling over how to quilt the background.  I had a freemotion filler in mind, but when I quilted a small practice piece, I decided it looked too messy beside the clean, sharp green lines.  In the end, I opted to put the walking foot back on the machine and do some echo quilting around the whole green shape.  That worked out pretty well, but I was still unsure about how to quilt the black background between the strips.


Quilting ground to a halt as I pondered that and waited for Tuesday to arrive so I could replenish my green thread supply.  Still, I was a little worried about getting the quilt quilted in time to deliver it to Off the Rails Quilt Shop in Bondurant.   Would it be too weird to bind the quilt while I waited?  Nope.  Well maybe, but I did it anyway!  Most of the quilt, and certainly all the parts near the edges of the quilt, was quilted, so I made good use of Sunday, binding the quilt then so I wouldn't be racing the clock to do it after finishing the quilting on Tuesday.  Don't you just love the way that green binding pops?  I'm a little bit in love with that backing, as well.

On Tuesday morning I made a quick run to the quilt shop for thread.  Well, not so quick, as I figured if I was making a trip I might as well pick out fabric for the next three pattern tests.  Still, I was back home in plenty of time to finish quilting the quilt in the afternoon.



I am so happy with how this version of Cascade turned out.  I'm even happier about finishing it myself.  I realized when I looked back at last year's finishes, so many of which were sent out for quilting, that I missed quilting quilts myself.  Quilting the quilt flexes different creative muscles than designing or piecing.  I know I will be sending some quilts out for quilting again this year, but hopefully Cascade is only the first, not the last, that I will finish myself in 2022.

I'd love to know if quilting the quilt makes you happy.  Does doing it all make you happy, or do you get more joy from piecing and letting someone else do the quilting? Or are you one of the people who happily finishes quilts for the people who prefer the piecing?

Happy quilting,

Joanne

Get your PDF copy of the Cascade pattern in my Etsy shop, or ask your favourite quilt shop about a print version.





Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Fixing mistakes - yes, no or maybe?

I make good use of my seam ripper on a regular basis and don't get too worked up about it. Who hasn't sewn a square to the wrong side of a unit, or sewn a fabric wrong side down?  It just takes a quick minute to fix a little mistake and move on.

Can you spot the "oops"?

Recently I've made a couple of sewing mistakes that were not so quick to fix.  When I shared my "oops" on social media, people told me to just leave the mistake in and move on but I just couldn't do it.  Once I saw it, I couldn't un-see it and it would have bugged me forever. 

I still haven't fixed the mistake above.  It's a subtle one, and I didn't notice it until I had added the side borders.  That bottom row of sashing is upside down.  I thought a few choice words and put the project in time-out.  I'm pretty much over my sulk now, and it won't take a huge amount of time to take out the row and flip it around, but a few deadlines have displaced this project on the priority list for now.  Getting the pattern to my tech editor, for example.  Hovering will be released later this year.


This mistake is a little less subtle! It looks like it should be a quick fix, just remove the last row of the block and flip it around, nothing I'd usually get worked up about.  It would not be the first time I've had to do that.  The snag was that I had experimented with clipping seam allowances to help seams lie flatter at the points.  Those clipped seam allowances were not conducive to disassembling and reassembling things.  It was just easier to remake the block from scratch, including all 24 little HST.  Guess who's not going to be doing much seam clipping in future, just in case I need to rip?

Loads of people told me to call it a design element, make the rest of the blocks the same, and plan a layout to run with it.  That's an interesting idea, but I had already made all the other blocks the "right" way.  "Running with it" would actually have been more work, having to make more blocks to match.  

Plus I had a plan, and I don't think the "new" block would have worked in this setting:

Starlit Courtyard by Canuck Quilter Designs

That said, when I remade the block, some of my background ended up wrong face up.  I left it that way!

So, I'm curious.  Are you on team "leave it" or team "fix it" or even team "it depends"?  To be clear, I'm not judging, just curious.  I firmly believe in quilting for joy, so whichever approach lets you enjoy your craft, go for it!

Happy quilting,

Joanne



Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2021: My most productive year of quilting

This Christmas, I received complaints from my children about turning my love of quilting into a business.  In their opinion, that just took a whole bunch of gift-giving options off the table because they didn't want to get me anything for "work".  It's OK.  They aren't quilters.  They don't get it!

So, apparently there are downsides to the business angle, but weighing heavily on the positive side is that I can spend a lot of time designing and sewing guilt-free, because "it's my job".  That made the past year my most productive year yet, quilting-wise.

Here's a quick look at my quilt-related accomplishments for 2021. I finished 13 projects from start to finish.

1. Flipped  2. Fresh Wrapped  3. Breadcrumbs 
 4. Small Change  5. Polarized  6. Positivity Squared  7. Stellar Stacks
8. Glacial  9. Ripples Cubed  10. Modern Lace  11. I Spy Lanterns
12. Fresh Wrapped  13. Breadcrumbs


I moved three projects from the UFO stack to the finished pile.

1. Cascade
2. Focus Squared   3. Soak Up the Sun

Of these 16 finishes, all except Soak Up the Sun are my own designs.  Soak Up the Sun is adapted from the pattern by Sew Kind of Wonderful in their book Mini Wonderful Curves. 

All of these except the placemats, Small Change, Ripples Cubed and Soak Up the Sun were quilted by Liz Meimann and her daughter Stephanie.  I'd really like to quilt a few more myself this year.  I ran out of time to quilt more this year while still meeting completion deadlines, but I'm trying very hard to plan and manage my time better in 2022.  We'll see how that goes!  I'm off to a shaky start with a lot of commitments I made late last fall.



2021 was also a banner year for pattern writing, as you can see above.  I released 16 new patterns last year. Partnering with fabric companies to cross-promote their fabrics and my designs was a big factor.  If I submit a lot of proposals, I take the chance of having to move ahead on several designs, on the fabric company's schedule.  There's always the chance they won't take any, but this year more designs were accepted than rejected, so I was busy.

I also have this stack of flimsies, all made in 2021,  most of which I can't share in detail quite yet.  There are 7 quilt tops and a placemat/runner set in that stack, along with their backings.  



I'll be sharing a few of these soon, but some are from previously released patterns, remade in new Island Batik fabrics which I've been asked not to show until the fabric starts shipping to stores.  I'm learning to be patient! Wait until you see the recolored Blaze. I think it will be worth the wait.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with what I have to show for 2021.  With several new patterns due sometime this year, I'm looking forward to "working" my way through 2022, though I really need to make a plan to make sure I keep my commitments and meet my deadlines.  I'll just let the plan ideas simmer a bit while I go introduce my newest almost-quilt-top to the seam ripper. I almost didn't catch that upside down row...

I wish you all a productive and joyful year.  Are you making plans for your quilting or just taking things as they come?