Monthly Archives: November 2012

Now Showing on the Design Wall

For the past week and a half I’ve been building a strata inspired by Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison and a pattern called Painted Grass by Valori Wells from her book Simple Start, Stunning Finish.  I’m embarrassed to confess that my “design wall” consists of a cheap ($3.25) flannel backed plastic tablecloth from Big Lots that’s held onto the wall with Command Strips.  However, fabric really clings to the thin flannel, and the grid pattern that shows through from the plastic side is helpful in lining up blocks.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

I began my design with the row proportions and the angled pieces used in Valori’s pattern.  I stuck to the row proportions, but developed my own sequencing and angling of the individual pieces.  The first picture below shows the early stage of my design once I had established a general color scheme. You can see a picture of Bryce Canyon to the lower right – my inspiration for some of the colors. The next picture shows my design close to completion.  As you can see, I’ve taken liberties with the river shown in the picture of the canyon.  There are actually six rows in this piece, but I can’t back up enough to include the whole thing in a picture without moving furniture.

I have another design wall that’s smaller and useful for those little projects.   The latest Quilter’s Newsletter features a column by Pam Rocco in which she talks about trying to develop a simple half square triangle quilt.  I was inspired to play with half square triangles and rectangles from my bin of scraps.  What’s evolving bears little resemblance to Pam’s quilts, but her article was a great kick in the pants.

This quilt is not as far along as the canyon.  My plan right now is to put the blocks off center and fill in the outer areas with Kona Ash.  As you can see, I tend to compose directly on the wall, especially when I’m working with scraps.

Both of these projects are being set aside for now so I can add a hanging sleeve to a gift wall hanging and finish the hand stitching on my flowers quilt.  Of course, those quilts on the wall are a constant temptation to make just one adjustment, and then an hour passes…

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How I Do Freezer Paper Piecing

I love the effects I can achieve with paper piecing, but I’m not so wild about removing the paper afterwards.  So I was happy to learn the ripless paper piecing technique. It uses the adhesive properties of  freezer paper and folding of the paper along the pattern lines to avoid actually stitching on the paper.

With this method you don’t have to use small stitches or rip out paper, and the freezer paper is easily peeled off and repositioned, if needed.  I’ve found I can adapt many paper piecing patterns for this technique, as long as the piecing begins on an outer edge rather than the middle of the block.   It won’t work for blocks like the pineapple, but it’s great for flying geese.

Here’s a picture of the finished block I’m using for this tutorial.  It’s made up of four partial blocks and is adapted from Circle of Geese on  It seems to be a favorite of modern quilters, probably because it makes up well in solids.

If you’d like to try this method, here are the supplies you’ll need in addition to the usual sewing machine, iron, rotary cutter, thread, etc.

  • Freezer paper – usually available in the grocery store aisle with plastic wrap and aluminum foil.  The shiny side is what sticks when heated with an iron.
  • Old sewing machine needle – I tape one to the side of my sewing machine so it’s handy.
  • Rotary cutter and acrylic ruler with clearly marked quarter inch line. You can buy an Add-A-Quarter ruler (I recommend the 6 inch size) which has a lip that helps keep the ruler in place as you cut, but it isn’t essential.
  • At least two fabrics that aren’t strongly directional – no plaids, stripes, etc – or big, multi-colored prints.  However, for the circle of geese pattern these types of fabric can work for the geese if you’re careful to fussy cut.  Yarn dyed solids and batiks are great for paper piecing because you won’t get right and wrong sides confused. Allow for more fabric than you think you’ll need as there’s some wastage in this and other paper piecing methods.  I’ve found my scraps often aren’t large enough to use.
  • Pattern – if you don’t use to use the Circle of Geese, there are lots of books with paper piecing patterns (Carol Doak, Peggy Martin) as well as online sources.  You’ll need to copy or print off at least 2 copies of the pattern – one for your master and one as your perforation guide.

To begin, cut your freezer paper into squares (or whatever the shape of your block is) large enough to contain your whole pattern.  You’ll be able to use each freezer paper piece several times, so your number of freezer paper pieces will depend on how many blocks you want to make.

Take one of your pattern copies and put it on top of a pile (up to 6) of freezer paper pieces with the shiny side up.  Staple the pile together at the top and bottom edges.

Unthread your sewing machine and install your old needle.  You’ll be stitching on the black lines of the pattern to perforate each piece of freezer paper. When you’re done, remove the staples and trim the freezer paper to the outer black line.

Now, figure out what fabric you want to use where.  I mark the colors on my master pattern so I know what color goes next.

Then I number the pieces on each perforated freezer paper pattern on the dull side and write the color names in, too.  If you like, you can crease your paper along the perforated lines and then unfold it just to get it ready for the next few steps.  If you do this, fold it so the shiny side is on the outside.  I also cut apart one of the freezer paper perforated blocks and use the pieces as templates for rough cutting my fabric.

I allow about a half inch on each side of my fabric pieces when I cut them out.  You can stack your fabric to cut several pieces at once, but be sure all fabric in the stack is facing the same way – all wrong side up – especially if your pattern pieces aren’t symmetrical.  Otherwise, you’ll get reversed pieces that won’t cover sharp angles.  Ask me how I know.

So, your machine is threaded and set on a normal stitch length, your iron is set to hot/no steam, and you’re ready to begin.

Put your fabric piece 1 in back of your perforated freezer paper pattern with the wrong side of the fabric touching the shiny side of the paper, roughly lining up the fabric’s edges with the corresponding outline of piece 1 on your paper. You should have at least a quarter inch overlap on all sides.   Iron on the dull side of the freezer paper until it sticks to the fabric – a few seconds. Do not iron on the shiny side unless you want the paper stuck to your iron. The picture shows the back of the paper with piece 1 ironed on.

Take the block to your cutting board and fold back the freezer paper on the perforated line between piece 1 and 2. The shiny side of the freezer paper will be on top.  Cut the fabric a quarter of an inch away from the fold line.  Now take fabric piece 2 and match its right side to the right side of piece 1, lining up the appropriate edges.

Then, turn the fabric and paper over so the fabric is under the paper and go to your sewing machine.  Sew the two pieces together as close to the folded paper as you can without sewing into it.  With a new piece of freezer paper I find it helpful to tuck a strip of regular paper under my presser foot so the tackiness of the shiny side of the freezer paper doesn’t impede the stitching.  Then unfold the paper and dry iron the second piece to the freezer paper, being careful there isn’t a fabric bump at the sewing line.  The fabric seems to stick better if you iron from the non-shiny side of the paper than from the fabric side.

Fold back the freezer paper on the perforated line between piece 2 and the next to be added piece, cut any excess fabric a quarter inch away from the fold, match the right side of piece 3 against the right side of the previous pieces, aligning edges.  Then sew as close as possible to the fold line and iron piece 3 to the unfolded block.  Keep doing this until you’ve sewn on all the pieces.  Your block will look something like the one below.  It’s important to make sure you cover the outer quarter inch seam allowance built into the pattern.  Trim the block to the edge of the freezer paper pattern all around and slowly peel off the freezer paper.

Then admire your block.  I’ve reused freezer paper patterns 8 times without a problem.  Just keep using them until they won’t stick to the fabric when ironed.  To complete the circle of geese make 3 more blocks.  You’ll get faster at this with each block you make.  Here’s another freezer paper piecing tutorial with lots of pictures.  It has you print the pattern on freezer paper using your printer, but otherwise it’s similar.

And of course you can add applique and other frou-frous to your block.  I decided the colors in the block below reminded me of daisies so I plopped a flower in the middle.  You could also change the colors of some of the background pieces, maybe make the outer background pieces a different color than the inner ones.  Try working out alternate color schemes on drafting paper with colored pencils or go high tech with quilt design software.

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The Deity in the Details

What draws you in to spend more time with a quilt after the first glance? The details, of course.  I was reminded of this during a friend’s recent trunk show of her quilts, clothing and bags for our guild.  Her quilts are beautiful and skillfully sewn, but it’s her accessories that showcase her genius for detail.  She creates embellishments with fabric, thread, and beads that leave me gaping and, to be honest, feeling quite inadequate.

She has whipped up purses that could star on runways, vests that should hang on gallery walls, and even slippers.

But what I really wanted to share are the telling details – painstakingly applied little beads, silk ribbon embroidery, ruched flowers.

I could try to fool myself into thinking that one day I’ll master these skills, but after watching this talented embellisher sew a tiny bead on top of a tiny metal flower, I know it’s not going to happen.  So, I’ll take delight in her work.

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Oh Frabjous Day, A New Local Quilt Shop

When I decided to visit Sew Deja Vu, a new quilt shop in my area, I called a friend who understands the lust for new fabric, and off we went.  The store opened October 29 and our visit was about a week later.  We happily entered the drawing for a cute little sewing machine, got 10% off our purchases, and received a $5 coupon for our next visit.

While so far they don’t have the almost solid fabrics I yearn for, they do have loads of lovely prints including some fabulous Jinny Beyer pointillist dot blends in several luscious colors.  I may have to go back for some of those.  The swatches below do not do this fabric justice.

Rajasthan SprayI did buy a charcoal gray solid that feels wonderful, and two prints – one with thin wavy lines in blues and brown (very Missoni as you can see from the top photo) that’s Fusions 4 by Darcel Phillips for Robert Kaufman; and one with shades of brown, gray-brown, red and off white that looks like tiny bubbles.  I can’t believe I’m buying brown fabric.  The brown fabric (actually called stone) is by Jennifer Sampou for Robert Kaufman, from a line called Continuum.  I’m thinking urban landscape in the rain.

Fusions Collection 4: Waves Teal

Yes, I know I can get this fabric a buck or so less per yard online, but I do want to support local quilt related businesses.  Besides, you can’t pet the fabric online, or see possibilities in combining two fabrics that just happen to be a shelf or two away from each other.

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What’s So Funny?

Often quilts are freighted with serious, heartfelt meaning – they evolve from death, illness, divorce, and planetary woes.  However, as that famous philosopher Jimmy Buffet said, “If we couldn’t laugh we’d all go insane.”

So, here’s some quilts that will help you “always look on the bright side of life” when “you’re chewing on life’s gristle.”  (Many thanks to the Pythons.)

“Lady of Colour” is by Jackie from Canada, which explains the spelling. She has a recent tutorial on 3-D flowers at C&T Publishing.  I love her use of spools for rollers.  Remember using empty beer cans as hair rollers?  Oh right, y’all weren’t even born then.

Then, there’s Janet Windsor’s “Idea of Heaven.”  More 3-D fun.

"My Idea of Heaven"by Janet Windsor. Amen.

And here Sunbonnet Sue morphs into Surfer Sue from the Land Down Under, if the architectural wonder in the background is any indication.

"Surfer Sue".  One of the finalists in Ricky Tims’s 2012 Sunbonnet Sue contest.

And still more Sunbonnet Sue, thanks to a recent Ricky Tims block contest.

And for the last chuckle, for now, here’s a scene familiar to quilters.

"Quilters Bolt". A takeoff on the Olympic Games.  Festival of Quilts 2012, photo by Viviane at ViDerTextil (Belgium).  Click to see the quotations!

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How Do You Make Your Sandwich?

Quilt sandwich, that is.  The ingredients are constant – top, filling, back – but the methods used to combine them vary.  After my unfortunate experience with the Project from Hades I’ve been looking for alternatives to pin basting.

And what have I found?  The two main alternatives are spray basting and fusible batting, if you plan to machine quilt.  Hand basting is the traditional method used with hand quilting, but isn’t recommended for machine quilting since removing the basting thread is almost impossible once you machine stitch on top of it.

Of course, every quilting instructor has a different preference, just to confuse us poor quilters.  Lynn Peterson uses spray, Wendy Butler Berns and Leah Day use safety pins.  The chief objection to spray appears to be concern about exposure to noxious chemicals.  Well, if you spray outside or in an open garage that should help mitigate such problems.  After all the talk about inhaling bad stuff from basting sprays I was amused at this video about 505 basting spray.  These two ladies seem blissfully unaware of any potential health impacts.

No one except the owner of a local quilt shop seems to favor fusible batting, and she swears by a Hobbs product.  I’ve used something called Fusiboo with OK results.  Everyone cautions against using a June Tailor fusible batting that has clumps of glue stuck here and there.  I bought some of this stuff once and it is truly awful.  Anyway, the shop owner sold me some of the Hobbs batting.  I’ve seen her quilts so I know the product will work on tops with lots of applique.

As I’ve tried fusible batting I decided to go with a basting spray for my flowers quilt.  It has so many bits of fabric fused on the top that I feared pinning would be difficult and wouldn’t hold the layers together well through all the twisting entailed in quilting all those edges.  And I was worried the pins would get caught in my walking foot as I rotated the top.  Besides, I had already cut a piece of batting.

So, based on Lynn Peterson’s recommendation I bought some 505 spray and sprayed it to the wrong sides of the quilt top and backing, being careful to spray out on my porch. Then, following Lynn’s instructions I pinned the backing to a carpeted floor using T-pins, aligned the batting on top, and then smoothed the top on.  I then ironed my sandwich to further smooth and attach the layers.  I did this with everything still pinned to the carpet.  Since then, I’ve noticed some quilters spray the batting, add the top, then turn everything over, spray the other side of the batting and add the backing.  I think the method may depend on the size of your quilt.

The result?  So far I’ve done some stabilizing stitch in the ditch and about half of the narrow zigzag stitching around the fused pieces.  I’m pleased with the hold of the spray, though it’s a bit loose at the corner edges.  I may have used less spray there.  For this quilt it’s not an issue.

And for the future?  I admit I’m sold on spray basting, though I may have a different answer come winter with snow on the ground.  Maybe I’ll use fusible batting then.


Filed under In Process

Modern Quilting Makes Its Mark

It looks like the modern quilting contingent of the quilty world established quite a presence at the 2012 Houston quilt festival, both in the exhibit area and the classes offered.  Pink Chalk Fabric’s blog reports on modern fabric and pattern trends spotted at market.  I counted 14 classes or lectures under the Modern Quilting heading.

I like how the class program described modern quilting –

“Modern Quilting allows you to explore amazing design possibilities utilizing key concepts like asymmetry, simplicity, and improvisational piecing. Be inspired by the bold graphics and innovative use of neutrals, colors, and negative space. … The projects and techniques feature great visual impact work.”  Note there’s no mention that the product is to be functional, one of the stranger parts of the MQG definition, IMHO.

Enough words.  Let’s look at some quilts, thanks to Kati at From the Blue Chair.

1. by Stephanie Ruyle from Spontaneous Threads,
2. by Karen Anderson-Abraham of Bloomin Poppies,
3. by Krista Fleckenstein of Spotted Stones,
4. by Lee Heinrich of Freshly Pieced,
5. by Jennifer Carlton-Baily of BettyCrockerAss,
6.  by Rossie Hutchinson
7.  by Kati of From the Blue Chair
8. by Tanya Finken from Squares and Triangles

Some of these quilts have roots in traditional quilts, while others appear to be descended more from graphic design.  I’d have to say all of them go in directions that wouldn’t usually occur in traditional quilts. Check out the remix of the drunkard’s path block and the Indian blanket look piecing in the red and orange quilt.  They also juxtapose colors in ways the pretty, pretty quilt folks might find disturbing.  I wonder what a modern version of Sunbonnet Sue would look like?

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Texas Sized Show

The Houston, Texas, quilt market for the trade just finished up but the Houston quilt festival will be going strong through November 4. I’ll have to see what my local quilt shops purchase at market.  It looks like they have plenty of choices.  And I so wish I could attend some of the classes at the festival. Some workshops on working with silk fabric especially caught my eye as I’ve been collecting bits and bobs of silk for some years for that special piece.  I even have a vague design for it, but it keeps getting pushed to the back burner.

But what I wanted to feature were my favorites of the prize winning quilts this year.  As always, medallion quilts took top honors, with many of them created by Japanese quilters. And some names were familiar: Ricky Tims, Caryl Bryer Fallert and David Taylor.

Here’s the Best of Show quilt by Sherry Reynolds, which was featured on a recent Quilters Newsletter Magazine cover.  I can tell you it’s incredible paper piecing.

“Prairie Fire” by Ruth Powers won the award for Contemporary Artistry.

Here’s “A Luthier’s Dream” by Betty New that won first place in the small abstract art quilt category.

And “Cry Me A River” by Eileen Williams took third place in the Art-Naturescapes category.  I like the use of all the different techniques.  Kind of a cross between Vicki Pignatelli and Gloria Loughman’s stuff.

And Georgeta Grama of Roumania won an honorable mention in Innovative Applique with “A World of Many Colors.”

Brenda Roach was the third place winner in Innovative Pieced with “The Other Side of the Rainbow.”  I wonder if this started out as a sampler quilt?

And here’s the first place winner in Traditional Pieced by Kiyomi Takayakanagi, “Departure.”  More wonderful paper piecing, and I enjoy the checkered effect in the middle border.  And those fans!

Phew!  These quilts are daunting, as a friends puts it, and I suspect they were created expressly to win awards.  I confess that I admire the above quilts, but none really melts my heart.  You can view the rest of the 2012 winners at the International Quilt Association website.  Just remember, medallion quilts seem the way to go.

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As you may have deduced from previous posts, SQ is edging closer to the beginning of the quilt creation process through cloth dyeing.  Thanks to Jane Dunnewold, she has produced her own dyed fabric.  Now that the basics of Procion MX dyeing are under her belt, SQ is ready to move on to creating pattern through the dyeing process.

An unsuccessful attempt to use instant tapioca as a resist dampened SQ’s ardor for a bit, but then a stroll through the local library’s science (!) area turned up Lisa Kerpoe’s new book, “Visual Texture on Fabric: Creating Stunning Art Cloth with Water-Based Resists.”

Lisa takes a common sense approach to the resist process and doesn’t insist you buy expensive equipment or supplies.  She gets amazing results with humble oatmeal and sugar syrup.  You’ve got to love someone who uses plastic gutter guard to make a pattern on fabric.  Yes, she talks about the use of soy wax and acrylic medium to create resists, but many of her resists are food based.  She gives seven ways to apply resists and includes a handy chart of recommended application techniques for each resist.  She sets out the best ways to apply color (dyeing, painting) for each type of resist as well.  Bottom line – if you have fabric paint, some natural fiber fabric, and some basic kitchen supplies, you can create patterned fabric using this book.

Here’s some of Lisa’s work.  You can see more at her website

Fault Line: silk/soy, potato dextrin resist, multiple layers of dye painting, metal leaf

Drifting in the Ether: Silk, soy wax resist, multiple layers of dye painting, acrylic paint

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Filed under Books, dyeing