Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sleepy Fox - A Finished Quilt

This quilt started as a pursuit for a baby quilt for a coworker. She has a woodland themed nursery in gray and teal. This is her first child. When I was seeking out information about what she would like, the first animal mentioned in the description was a fox. I'm not even sure I heard any other animal that was named. A fox is what I wanted to make.

So off I went to find the perfect woodland fox quilt inspiration. I did not want cutesy or realistic. I wanted sweet. And then I found this blog post by 3rd Story Workshop. Not only was I in love with the quilt but also drawn to the designer. I did not want to be inspired by her quilt, I wanted to make a replica of it. And fortunately, she generously shares her fabric choices and her techniques.

I typically like to use as much stash as possible for any project but this time was different. I went shopping and matched as closely as I could the quilt she made. The fox is paper pieced and was easy to construct. Fox colors are among my favorite so anytime rusts and oranges are in the mix, I am extra delighted.

The birch trees on the original quilt were improv pieced. There is even a tutorial for how to construct them. I was intimidated by these trees. I love some good improv but generally any improv I have tried before was abstract. This improv was actually supposed to look like birch trees. I studied the tutorial and studied her quilt. These trees were constructed at around one a day, and each day I had to tell myself to keep moving forward. A tree alone looks very strange but together in a forest, maybe it would work out. This is the pep talk I gave myself each day during this process. 

It wasn't until the background was added that I started to see that it really might work out. The black strip was to show where the horizon line should be. Because the trees were gently curved and leaning one way or another, each background piece was scissor cut and carefully stitched in so the trees could maintain their natural stance in the quilt.

Finally, the top was completed. At this point, I was cautiously optimistic.

The next step was to hand stitch some eyes on the fox and then to layer the quilt. If this had been my own design, the is where I would have choked. How should this be quilted? The trees, the sky, the ground, the fox... so many elements to quilt. Thankfully, 3rd Story Workshop went with an all over design using wood grain quilting. Please, yes, and thank you for that.

This is a quilting design I had not tried before, but as the quilt was evolving, I was studying. There are quilts on Pinterest, and tutorials galore. The most helpful one for me was Angela Walter's Three Common Mistakes When Quilting the Woodgrain Design. I bet I watched that video five or six times, which is good because I made all three mistakes at some point on this quilt and was able to quickly correct them. 

I was even able to find the same backing fabric as the original quilt. It is so perfect.

The only aspect of the quilt that I did not copy was the binding. Andrea of 3rd Story Workshop used white binding just on the corner where the fox is sleeping. I liked the design element, but I knew the recipient of this quilt would not appreciate the extra effort so I kept it simple and bound the quilt with the same blue that is the sky. You might also say I was being a bit lazy with that step. I was ready to see the finished quilt.

What I love most about this project is that it pushed me to try new things. This one helped me grow as a quilter and conquer some of that irrational fear that creeps into my quilting world from time to time.

This quilt took 19 hours to complete. It was started on February 1 and completed on February 17. It is 39 x 46 inches. Sleepy Fox will be gifted at a baby shower on March 5.

Linking to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Explore - A Finished Word Quilt

Have you ever been in the fabric store minding your own business and then you walk by the cutting table and see something someone else is purchasing and suddenly it becomes a must have? That does not happen to me often, but it did with the map fabric that borders this quilt.

My husband loves old maps and I knew this fabric would be perfect to use in a project for him.

We live in Georgia so I made sure to fussy cut the border strips to capture our home state.

That map fabric has been hanging around for a couple of years and right after I brought it home, I paired it up with this dark brown solid. At that time, I was taking a Craftsy class about quilting with your walking foot. One of the techniques was to matchstick quilt around letters, causing the empty space for the letters to stand out. I loved the result but was not such a fan of matchstick quilting. The result is beautiful, but it is a slow and kind of boring process. I decided to try a small free motion meander for this project.

The first step was to choose a font. I chose something straight from the selection in my word processing software and blew it up to a size 500 font. I printed the letters, then traced them on wax paper with the shiny side down. I centered and lined up the letters and pinned them in place. With the letters pinned, I cut the dark brown to the right size and cut and stitched the borders in place. Once the top was complete, I removed the pins from each letter, one at a time, and pressed the wax paper to the quilt top.

Next, the quilt was layered using two layers of batting. Once the letters were pressed down, I had to be really careful. The wax paper is just sticky enough to stay in place but it comes loose quickly if manipulated too much. The quilting is stitched in a dark brown thread. Each piece of wax paper was removed once the outline of the letter was completed.

I am very happy with the result. The biggest challenge was to keep the meander small so that the letters would really stand out.

If I could change one thing on this project, it would be to choose a lighter fabric for the letters. The light has to be just right for the letters to show.

Without the right light, it looks like a boring dark brown rectangle.

See how much more the letters stand out on the back? Part of this is because of the lighter fabric and part of it is because the thread is much darker than the fabric so all of the quilting stands out more. The lighting is terrible in this picture. The fabric looks gray but it is really a pretty blue.

I thought this would hang on the wall but after seeing it on our living room coffee table and knowing that this room gets lots of light throughout the day, I think we will leave it right there as a table runner.

This project was on my list for both 2017 and 2018. It was a last minute decision to take the plunge and get it made. I knew my husband would like it so it became a Valentine's Day gift for him. We don't generally go for all the commercial hoopla surrounding holidays so sometimes there is a gift and sometimes there isn't. We know we love each other all the time and that is what really matters. This year seems to be an exception though as he surprised me with two mugs to add to my growing Fiesta ware set of dishes.

This project was completed in six hours. The finished size is 34 x 15 inches.

Linking up to Finish It Up Friday with Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Modern Red Rectangles - A Finished Believe Circle Quilt

In December, it was my turn to choose our design, and I chose simple blocks in red and neutral.

They don't look like much individually, but put them all together and they form a stunning modern design.

I love how, with some general guidelines, a group of blocks made by ten different quilters can result in such a lovely finished quilt. And I also love that these projects help use up fabric stash that may have been around for quite a while.

Sometimes it is more than fabric stash that gets used. Thread stash needs help from time to time as well. As you can see, I have tried a wide variety of thread over the years. I'm a fairly die hard Aurifil fan these days and I was ready to see some of these older threads go, especially the ones with such a tiny amount left on the spool.

Normally, I lean toward neutral colors for quilting but for this project, it was going to be all red all the way. What a great way to use up some of that lingering thread stash. The wavy horizontal quilting lines have become one of my favorites for adding texture without overwhelming the quilt.

It's always a tension risk to mix up weights and brands of thread and I thought I was being careful each time I changed thread, but apparently I was not being careful enough. Fortunately, this only happened for a few rows, so the unsewing was not too overwhelming.

Look how much thread was used! Now there is more room for trusty Aurifil.

This is why I don't like using most other thread brands. The lint and build up is so heavy. This is not good for your sewing machine. A good cleaning is in order before the next project begins.

The quilt back includes two extra blocks from the twenty blocks made by our circle.

There was enough extra from one of the backing fabrics to use for binding.

Now to throw this quilt in the wash with three or four color catchers. Hopefully, they will keep those reds right where they belong. The Believe Circle of do. Good. Stitches sends most of our quilts to My Very Own Blanket, an organization that gives quilts to foster children so that they will have something that belongs just to them and can stay with them no matter where they go. That is where this quilt will be shipped later this week.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Scrappy Pineapple Quilt Finish

This quilt originally started out as a gift for my mom. She wanted a quilt. I wanted to make a pineapple block. Perfect match, right? Well, no. This crazy, bright, bold quilt is very much my style but not so much hers. I set this aside to make a quilt she would love. You can read about that one here. I knew when I got back to working on this one, it would be for me.

I had never made a pineapple block before and I used the tutorial from Crazy Mom Quilts. It was a little slow going at first as so many new things are, but once I got rolling, I knew this would be a scrap buster extraordinaire.

The digging through scraps round by round was not a lot of fun, so I hunkered down and cut them all. All 1,140 of them. Yep. There are 1,140 pieces of fabric in this quilt top. I probably should not think about that too much.

The more blocks I made, the more bold and crazy the blocks became. I considered redoing this one because it is a bit over the top, but in the big scheme of the quilt, it fits in just fine.

And once I knew this quilt was for me and not for mom, the nerdy fabric came out.

This quilt finishes at 60 x 75 inches. It is quilted in big, loose, elongated loops using Aurifil 50 wt thread. Light gray (2900) on the top and a khaki tan (2600) on the back.

I did not want the quilting to be too heavy, and it is extra fluffy and crinkly after washing.

The binding is teal pearl bracelet fabric. I could not decide on a color for the binding and at breakfast one morning my husband said, "Teal. Make a teal binding." And so I did. The newsprint fabric on the back matches the backing fabric of the quilt I made for my mom. I like that the two quilts are connected in that way.

This is going to be my cozy sofa quilt for a while. I may take it to my office to hang on the wall after the weather warms up. There are lots of stories in those fabric scraps and it would be fun to be able to see it from my desk throughout the day.

I don't have full stats on this project since I only started tracking that at the beginning of the year. Here is what I know:

Size: 60 x 75 inches
Purchases for this quilt: Backing fabric and thread
The quilt top is entirely stash, the batting was on hand, and the binding was gifted in a give away from Pink Door Fabrics.
Time spent quilting: 3 1/2 hours (that big loose pattern went really fast!)
Binding: 1 1/2 hours

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Orphan Block Pot Holders

It was time to make some new pot holders and my favorite way to make them is by using orphan blocks.

This is just two of the old ones. They had stains that would not come out and burn spots. I wrote about making these in November 2015. Two years is a long life for something that is used every single day, although I probably pushed a little too long with these.

This is my younger boys bedroom back in January 2011. We had just converted their bunk beds into twin beds and these were new quilts for their beds. One of my very early blog entries shares their room transformation.

This long panel was part of the planning that went into those quilts. It was perfect to cut into squares for new pot holders.

Each pot holder has six layers. The heat resistant fabric is Therma-Flec and two layers of batting make each pot holder more sturdy. Since there were so many layers, each binding strip is cut 2 1/2 inches wide (normally I like 2 1/4 inch binding strips). Each pot holder finishes at a little over 8 inches.

The stacks are layered and ready to go so that I can sit and sew them up without stopping between each one. 

The machine quilting is simple with straight lines along each seam line.

The old ones have been disposed of and these fresh new pot holders are ready to go to work. I love finding purpose for orphan blocks.

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