Thursday, December 21, 2023

Color Value Woes Part 1

A couple of months ago, I happily cut into fabrics for a new quilt.  I wanted to stretch a bit and use a background that wasn't very light or very dark.  I don't have a picture of the yardage, but there's the fabric all cut out.

I love the red, orange and yellow together, and that background is rich but not too dark or light.  Looks good so far.

Next there was sewing and trimming.  So much trimming.  I think the trimming monster looks pretty good in these colors. 

Trimming monster

 The units look pretty good too.

Once all those geese were sewn and trimmed, the pace increased and blocks came together quickly.

Things were looking good and I was excited to sew blocks into a quilt top.

This is where I started to worry.  Something is not quite right here, but I thought adding the sashing might pull it all together.

Nope.  The shapes in the yellow blocks seem to fade into the background.  This fascinates me, because the yellow seemed strong enough when looking at individual blocks.  Let's see that again:

That looks sharp enough, but put them beside the much stronger red and orange blocks, and they look weak and ineffective.

It all comes down to color value.  Color value refers to relative lightness or darkness.  If you look at fabrics through a red filter, or apply a black and white filter to an image, you'll see the color value rather than the color.  Here's the first photo in this blog post with a grayscale filter applied.

When viewed in black and white, there isn't much difference between the background and the yellow (top left square).

Here's the design wall in grayscale.  

You can make out the shapes of the yellow fabric, but they are much, much lighter than the red or orange, which makes them fade into the background by comparison.

In color, you can see the yellow, but because it isn't as strong as the red and orange the design looks unbalanced.

This was meant to be the pattern cover quilt, but I don't think it's going to help sell the design!  I'll need to pick out different fabrics for a cover quilt.  This one is headed to the UFO stack until I decide whether to finish it as is (it will still be cozy on the couch) or try to find an alternate fabric to substitute for the yellow.

Have you ever viewed your fabrics in grayscale before making your final selection?  I knew about this, but never bothered with it.  This project and Color Value Woes Part 2, which I'll share in another post, are encouraging me to add that little step to my fabric shopping.  Cell phone cameras make it easy now, so I won't be skipping this step again!

I'm off to sew now, using fabrics that do not blend into each other!

Happy quilting,

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Slab blocks for a pieced back

In Thursday's post I shared the start of the pieced backing for my Sliding Screen quilt.  If I have time to spare,  I like to use up scraps in a pieced quilt back.  It's a fun, low-pressure and low-stress creative exercise.  If it doesn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, it's mostly hidden on the back so no worries.

This time around I'm very happy with how it turned out.  I think I like it more than the top. Oops!

With that in mind, I decided to send the quilt out to be quilted with an all-over design that will play well on both sides.  I had planned to quilt it myself, but I'm not great at the style of all-over design that would look good on both sides.  The custom quilting I would have done instead on the top would look odd with the piecework on the back so the quilt wouldn't really be reversible.  


Here's a bit more info about how this backing came together.

Many of my pieced backs start with one length of yardage the desired length of the backing. I add a pieced strip down the length of the back.  This makes the most sense when the backing will be less than 1 1/2 times the width of fabric (WOF).  This lets me buy half the yardage I would have to buy otherwise, and allows me to use up scraps from the top. 

In this case,  I didn't have any yardage long enough to span the length of the quilt, so I built some from smaller WOF cuts.  The different fabrics were all slightly different widths.  I could have just sewn them together, then straightened the resulting ragged side, then sliced the whole thing down the length.  

I actually find trimming long uneven edges to be a bit of a chore, so I chose to cut two segments from each piece of yardage then sew them together into two separate columns.  I could cut a 15" segment and and a 25" from the narrowest yardage, so those are the measurements I used for all the fabrics.  I matched centers and ends and pinned before sewing to keep the columns straight.   Note that one column is wider than the other, so that the improv pieced strip would look purposefully off-center.  I didn't want my longarm quilter to have to fuss about centering the top perfectly over the back to center the pieced middle column on the back.

Notice the wide plain panels at the top and bottom of the pieced center strip.  Those were planned so my longarmer wouldn't have to fuss about centering things top to bottom either.  Whether the quilt is loaded with more or less extra backing at the top, the top and bottom edges of the quilt top will fall somewhere within the dark brown plain panels, rather than ending up with a panel at one end, and cut off piecing at the other.

Piecing the center strip was a fun exercise in slab piecing.  I didn't measure anything. I just sewed two pieces together, then trimmed a side straight before adding another piece. 

Longer strip sewn to pieced section.

After trimming away excess

If I didn't have a piece long enough to span the side of the previously pieced bit, I sewed scraps into a longer strips until I had a new piece that was long enough.

I just kept adding scraps until I had panels the width I wanted.  If they turned out a little wider because of the size of the scraps, I just trimmed the panels down to size.  I needed the backing to be about 63" wide.  The side columns accounted for 39.5" (40" minus seams where the center will be sewn in) and vertical strips between the side columns and the scrappy center column to set off the pieced section a bit added 4".  With that in mind, I pieced the panels to be 20" wide, to finish at 19" wide.

Before I sewed the pieced column between the two side columns, I toyed with the idea of slicing the pieced column at an angle in a few places to insert some light strips.  I laid some strips across the panels to audition what that might look like.

I left everything on the wall overnight before slicing, because if I sliced, I couldn't change my mind!  Coming back to it all with fresh eyes in the morning, I decided the angled slashes would be more work for no added benefit, so I left them out.

The last step before sewing the columns together was to trim the center column to the same length as the side ones.  I laid the columns one on top of the other to measure and mark directly on the fabric, skipping measuring tapes.

VoilĂ , one pieced quilt back, nice and flat and square.  Well rectangle, but straight and with square corners :)

I dropped off the quilt top and backing for quilting yesterday and will have it by the end of next week.  Next task: make the binding, also with scraps from my stash.  

I'd love to hear if you make pieced backs. Why and how and how often?

Happy quilting

Friday, December 8, 2023

Quick gift project

Last weekend I made a set of coasters for my quilt guild's holiday gift exchange.  It was fairly quick, and I dug into my Christmas  fabric scraps to start getting into the holiday spirit.  A little bit of Christmas music on Spotify helped get me in the right frame of mind.

These use fabric squares folded into rectangles or triangles and no patchwork piecing.  I made some with the 4-patch design years ago.  I don't remember exactly where I found the tutorial at the time, but it may have been this one from the blog Quilt Piecer.  This year I saw the variation using folded triangles at AppleGreen Cottage here.  

I chose to add batting inside my coasters, which made them a little thicker, and made it harder to get crisp corners.  It bothered me especially on the triangle variation because the triangle points didn't end up quite in the corners as you would see in a pieced quarter-square triangle unit (QST). 

Though the tutorials didn't call for it, I added topstitching to embellish each coaster.  It helped make them less floppy, as well as drawing my eye away from those troublesome points.

I also added batting.  One tutorial suggested leaving it out, while the other used fusible fleece.  I just used scraps of 80/20 Quilter's Dream batting.  I will say fusing it to the fabric for the back of the coaster would have made things easier.  If I made these again, I might use just a touch of basting spray to keep the batting in place while I stitched around everything.  Not a huge deal though, and I could have used pins.  I just chose to skip them.

Another tip if you use batting:  pay attention to the order to stack the batting and assorted fabric pieces.  You stack the pieces, sew around the edges, then turn the whole thing inside out.  If you stack the batting inside,  between the fabrics at the start, you'll end up with batting on the outside of the coaster when you turn things inside out.  No need to ask me how I know.  Just look at the picture:

That's what happens when I don't read the directions and don't think through what exactly I'm trying to accomplish. This led to a little grumbling and seam ripping, but I really had no one to blame but myself.  

I gifted these at the guild gift exchange, and received a lovely hot pad, chocolate-peanut clusters and a jar of marmalade.  Not a bad trade, I think.  There isn't much of the chocolate left, and the marmalade will be lovely on my breakfast toast.

And I think I need to make myself a set of  coasters to keep...

What's your quick go-to gift project?  Or do you have an ornament pattern you particularly like?  I haven't decided  what to add to our tree for 2023, so I'm open to suggestions.

Happy quilting, 

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Sliding Screens got me sewing again

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post or sent an email.  Your encouragement meant a lot, and spurred me on to a weekend of sewing.  Yay!

This post is later than anticipated, because once I started working in the sewing room to move the winning project forward I lost track of time.  Also, when I emerged from my sewing frenzy I had the sudden and inexplicable urge to deal with some life stuff that I had been actively avoiding - vacuuming, groceries, bookkeeping, folding laundry.  Honestly, actually wanting to do those things happens rarely so I figured I should just go with it and get those done.

So, feeling all organized in other parts of life (not all, but I'll take what I can get), I'm sitting at my desk ready to share Sliding Screens, the top vote getter. Here's where it stood last week.

Sliding Screens (pattern coning soon) in progress

I've been thinking about ways to showcase a large scale print for a while now.  There are some prints that are just too fun to cut down into small pieces for an intricate block where the piecing is the star.  Sometimes, you want the fabric to be the focus.  As many of you suggested, you could also use a small panel (the center is 20" x 27") or fussy cut part of a larger panel to fit.

Ooh, or how about an improv scrappy pieced panel for the center ?

I digress.

I chose to showcase these Cafe Culture prints from Northcotts's 2021 collections. They have been on my shelf for two years and it seemed time to use them.  A larger scale print might have been even better for the center, but this is what I had on hand, and when seen in actual size rather than the tiny scale in a photo that center fabric is great.

 Here's a closer look at the prints.  I'm not even a coffee drinker, but I love these.  

The quilt is essentially a set of borders around a center. I considered constructing it like a large log cabin, but the sashing got trickier that way.  Rounds of borders worked better. The pattern will include a page of tips on measuring and adding borders to minimize the risk of a puffy center or friendly (wavy) borders.  

My preferred method of measuring borders is to lay the border strip directly on the quilt and mark it.  I just wasn't very accurate when I used a measuring tape to mark the length on a strip, and quilting rulers are just not long enough.  Just sewing a longer strip to the quilt and hacking off the extra is easy, but sometimes leads to wonky quilts if one layer stretches more than the other.  

(Side thought:  Should I write a tutorial post about borders? Let me know if you think it would be useful.)

Sliding Screens quilt top (pattern coming soon)

I'm sure you can guess it didn't take me days to add the final rounds to finish the top, but after getting that done I still had some sewing energy left.  I made a little something for a gift exchange at my guild.  I haven't gifted them yet, so I'll hold off sharing for now.  Let me just say, the order in which you layer fabrics and batting does in fact make a difference.  More on that later :)

After the gift sewing, I was still in the sewing headspace and didn't want to waste it, so I started thinking about a backing for Sliding Screens.  Might I have enough to piece a back and skip a trip to the local shop? Checking my fabric shelves, I was surprised to fin a full bin of brown leftovers ranging from yardage (all under 1 yard) to small scraps.  Honestly I was surprised how much was in there, because brown is not a go-to color for me.  I can identify some of the fabrics from Starlit Courtyard and one from Connecting Geese (whose finish it seems I never shared on this blog).  Otherwise, I'm drawing a blank.

I decided to start with the WOF pieces I had available and add in panels made from the smaller scraps. 

Quilt back in progress

I have to say I think I had more fun working on the back than the front, though it is taking shape more slowly than the simple front. You can see above the stripes I made with yardage, and the start of the smaller pieced panels.  I considered making traditional blocks for the middle part, but decided that wouldn't use up enough of the odd sized scraps in the brown bin.  Improv slab blocks aren't fussy about scrap sizes, so I started making those.  I've said it before, it's counter-intuitive but improv blocks take me longer to make than planned ones.  It's a fun, no-pressure creative activity though.

I'll share more about the back later.  For now, I'm off to the annual guild potluck, where I will gift my weekend project and partake of too much good food.

Happy quilting,

When you make a purchase from my Etsy shop from a link in this post, I may receive a refund of some of the transaction fees Etsy usually charges me for a sale.  There is no additional cost to you.

Friday, December 1, 2023

What should I share next? (help, please!)

For the last several weeks, maybe even a couple of months I've been either severely unmotivated to do anything at all, or jumping from task to task, not ever settling on one to actually do.  

That's not quite right  I did manage some sewing. Not as much as I would like, because I'd head down to my office/sewing space and feel guilty for not having done all that other stuff, so then I'd dither about the other stuff and not sew.  But, I did in fact sew a little, and I have some earlier projects I never got around to sharing, so I have projects to share but that decision paralysis is a little bit crippling.  

Could you help me out?  I'm going to post a few pictures below.  Please let me know what you'd like to read about first.  I'll tally up the replies and get writing next week.   I'm hoping that will help me crack this lack of motivation and decision problem. Your votes, please and thank you!

 Rosie thanks you in advance.  My restlessness as I wrestle with indecision is interrupting her naps.


Here are five current possible post topics.

1. Quartz Clusters remake

2. New pattern test quit - Sliding Screens is for small panels or a large scale focus print

3. Color value woes part 1

4. Color value woes part 2

5. Christmas cookies - not quilting but, hey, it's cookies :)

There you have it.  Let me know which one intrigues you the most.  Even if you also can't decide, please share your strategies to get out of a slump. 

Take care and happy quilting,