Tuesday, November 15, 2016

STAGGERED COINS...improve and color

A wonderful repeat customer of mine recently ordered a custom quilt as a gift.  She traditionally picks one fabric, a Batik, and then turns me loose.  This time, the gift was a housewarming thank you for a relative in England moving into her new home.  Mid Century Modern, minimalist, neutral.  She picked a gorgeous neutral Batik with quiet pops of bright sea colors, green and teal and blue.  Perfect to add a stack of coins in solids and use the Batik as the primary focus.

I decided to improv the stack of coins and stagger them in organized chaos.  I took a strip of solid and a strip of Batik and sewed them into a tube.  Then I cut each tube into even strips about 3 inches wide but width of tube.  Then I laid them out to sort a good balance of color for the stack.  In the photo below, the tubes are already assembled and cut to width.  The under side of each strip is a strip of Batik with a seam on each short side.

And then, I turned the tube over and cut each Batik side apart at varying places so that when assembled, the solid area would never line up.

You can see the coins being pressed and that each outer edge has a different length of Batik to stagger the stack.

Then, I added large sections of Batik to each side.  And on to my favorite part, the long arm quilting.  The request was to have the fabric and the quilting be the stars of this quilt, so large areas of Batik were dedicated to swirls and pebbles in order to add texture and detail.  The light tan fabric in the coins is used as the backing, so every stitch shows up on the reverse side on a nice solid blank canvas in contrast to the busy Batik front.

I originally planed a feather for the staggered coin stack, but when I got there I loved the idea of each solid strip getting its own special design so I could show off a whole bunch of different stitches.

So the finished product was a quick to piece color study, that was especially fun to quilt and added subtle pop to a neutral room with great success.  

Starting with one fabric and limiting your palette keeps things simple while with big impact in texture.

Let's get quilting...what colors next??

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Small Project Success: TableRunners, Mats and Hot Pads

TABLERUNNERS:  Perfect Project for Samples!

working with batiks and sashing ideas

jelly roll race challenge made three holiday runners

finding designs that compliment a favorite print

How do YOU learn a new technique or try a new design?  I have had students waste yards and yards of fabric and batting trying out new things.  But we HAVE to practice!!  So rather than throw those swatches away, I try to make small projects with them, and they don't have to be perfect.  There are some great suggestions for what to do with these samplers, even if they're quilted over and over with stitches.  My favorite is:

Dog Beds!!   Take your muslin or sample fabric larger practice quilts and square them and bind them for shelters and rescues as little sleep mats for dogs and cats in temporary housing till they find their forever homes.  For smaller animals, even a rectangle 24" x 20" can make a perfect quilted bed.  Make larger pieces when you have them for larger dogs.  When you have several made up, find your favorite rescue or shelter to drop off.  They'll love them, and your stitches don't have to be perfect.  

I also save the little bits of fabric and batting scraps I trim off when working on all my other projects and use them as stuffing for pillow style donation dog and cat beds.  This is a great project for using up larger pieces from my stash that I no longer want.  (I actually love to go through my fabric bins from time to time to thin out storage for new purchases.)  I take my large scraps, and then my practice quilt samplers and sew them together right sides together leaving an opening for turning.  Then I cut up my bag of scrap cuttings into smallish pieces and stuff the bed and top stitch the opening closed.

In one of my earlier blogs, you'll find a fun tutorial on making journal covers out of smaller quilted projects.  In that case, I did a strata technique for the quilt sample.  But of course, you can use any sample the right approximate size.

But my favorite is to make table runners and table mats and hot pads out of my test stitching.  I just can't stand to waste anything, and these are also great ways to try out different fabrics without piecing to see how they look when quilted.  Often I learn a lot about size of print and size of quilt design, scale and what works and what doesn't.  Theory isn't as good for me as actually seeing the results of my ideas.

I'd love to hear what you do with your practice samples, and see pics if you decide to try any of these ideas.  Pair the runner or mat with a candle or interesting pottery pitcher or bowl and it makes a fantastic and thoughtful gift!

Let's quilt something!  ~Beth

Monday, April 11, 2016

Day of the Dead: The Quilting

In an earlier post, I talked about a repeat client of mine who is not a quilter, but who found a piece of fabric that she fell in love with, and bought a big chunk of it, and saved it for some time before deciding to ask me to make it into a quilt.  She didn't give me many parameters, but did want me to work in the medium blue color into whatever fabrics I could find to accent the very busy and unusual Dio Des Los Metros fabric skeleton band.  And she wanted it big enough to wrap up in to watch TV or read a book or take a nap.

As I built the center fussy cut feature diamond, and worked several complementary fabrics into the simply pieced design (she wanted the feature fabric to be the star) I decided not to quilt a skull design edge to edge as I originally considered, and threw my shoulder into unusual combinations that did not overwhelm the prints, but worked well together and tied the feathers from some of the strips together by adding them to the corner units of the center diamond medallion. 

I circled the fussy cut skelly band in the center diamond, and microstippled around them so when the quilt is washed, they will puff up.  I then feathered the outside of the circle, and echoed out tot the sashing border.

Then a curvy oyster clam design for the side feature panels.

And each strip of accent fabrics has its own border design.  Adding some feathers, and some jungle fern borders kept things curvy but not obtrusive.

Just have to bind it now in the chevron fabric, and make a label with machine embroidery...a little saying she wants to add about life as a journey.  Should be fun when it's finished, and it was a challenging and interesting project.  I'll post again about a particular problem with the blue backing fabric and how to be creative when bad things happen!  Till then, 
happy quilting!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Breast Cancer Quilt in Loopy Edge to Edge

One of the great things about having your own small business is being able to make choices for yourself without hesitation!  Recently, one of my long arm clients decided to make a quilt to donate in honor of some things she's going through in her own life, and I had the great pleasure of quilting it for her.  She wanted a large edge to edge and we decided on a loopy swirl flower design that complimented the rail fence straight lines of the piecing.  And here's the best part:  I split the long arm service with her so that I could participate in a small way in her generous gesture.  I lost my own mom to breast cancer four years ago, and I always try to participate whenever possible in any kindness extended to women fighting the good fight.  (My mom got 27 years more by taking treatment and continuing her fight.  During that time she met great grandchildren, saw many family victories and celebrations and inspired so many with her courage.) 

Geometric piecing of rail fence design is set off nicely with the feminine texture of swirly loopy flowers.

The backing fabric is tiny pink ribbons on a creamy ground, so I used the palest pink thread on top and in the bobbin to set off the texture and not conflict with too much color statement to interfere with the lovely collection of pink piecing fabrics!  (thread is 50 wt. So Fine by Superior, my favorite quilting thread ever!)

So honored to be a part of this kindness.  Great job, Karen!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


I recently was asked by a dear friend to quilt her bargello quilt from a class she took.  She used great autumn colors as well as prints with leaves and nature motifs to establish a theme in her project.  When we got to discussing quilt designs, she knew she wanted whimsy, but also wanted to incorporate her theme of autumn leaves into the quilt designs.  We had fun looking at leaf samples and drawing out a few sketch ideas, and settled on one kind of three section leaf and curls for the outer border, then swirls for a thin sashing, and all over oak leaves (five section leaf) with echoes and swirls for the center bargello section.  Her backing was pumpkin colored flannel, which was soft and cozy, but some of the detail of the quilting was lost on the back, as the thread sunk into the nap and left behind mostly a feeling of texture.  All in all, I was very happy with the outcome, and that the theme was successful in its execution from piecing to quilting.

A couple of weeks later, I heard from another lady in my friend's quilt class who had liked my work and wanted me to quilt HER bargello as well.  I was excited to try a completely different approach to the same basic quilt, but when she brought it to our consolation, she had liked the whimsy of the autumn quilt and wanted to use a theme for her Christmas version as well.  She had picked fabrics with holly in almost every print, and a tone on tone holly and swirl print for the backing.  So we again went to the theme, in this case holly, to help us select the quilting designs.  We ended up sketching the outer border with holly, berries and swirls, and she did not want dense quilting, so I tried to do more curls and swirls than holly leaves.  In the thin sashing, once again she liked the curls, so we did simple reverse curls about two inches apart to keep even this smaller detail more open.  And for the bargello center, we went with a meander of curls, berries, and occasional holly leaves in the busy piecing.  I love how this turned out.  It is somewhat similar to the autumn quilt in style:  whimsey and curls and natural motifs, but used the elements in the fabrics to help us settle on a quilting design that made the whole thing cohesive and theme oriented.

I sort of hope I'm not developing a personal style that I can't break out of, so my next personal project will be something completely different, like ruler work, to keep mixing it up a bit.  Over and over I hear quilt teachers mention your personal style developing over time like a signature.  But it's always a part of a quilter's journey to stretch, learn and grow, and I hope I can keep fresh ideas and emerging skills at the forefront of my own quilt projects to continue to improve.

What a pleasure to work on two such fun projects, and thank you to both quilt makers (Debbie and Karen) for trusting me with your lovely work.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Doing a consignment is like people pleasing with fabric and thread!  That's what I consider when taking a commission.  I have four projects all of a sudden, and each one is so different, all challenging in different ways, but they also each have a lesson to teach me.

The first one is a small project, a table runner, for a charity auction.  I'm throwing in an autographed quilt book, photo, and a note, and signing the back of the quilt, but the fun thing about this one is it was consigned by a lovely fellow I've never met, but have been chatting with online for a long time, and who knows nothing about quilting.  That's kind of freeing, when the client let's you just go for it.  But we still had to talk about parameters.  

First, I asked a few pertinent questions.  What's your budget?  (That tells me how much time I can put into the overall project since I'm designing it start to finish:  picking and purchasing fabric, deciding on construction and quilt pattern, mounting it on the frame and designing the quilting stitching designs, and then squaring and binding.)  Then, what general style do you like?  Traditional, modern, folk art, art quilt?  

He said he liked some of the photos on my Facebook Quilting Page of my Batik work.


So what color or color range?  (he asked for pink since it's for a Barbie Convention)  And what shade of pink?  Lights, darks, and do you want a pop color?  (in this case, pale pinks with green)

Modern in style, out of Indonesian Batiks, and then, approximately what size for the finished runner?  (he let me pick, so I chose a standard size that would fit generously on a large dining table, or hang over each end of a smaller one.)

So off I went to the quilt shop, and found this fantastic figural Batik with birds in the stamping.  Pastels are harder to find than the bolder tones that fabric is known for, and this was indeed bright and bold, but so unique and awesome.  I sent him a picture.

He wasn't quite sure, but said it was interesting, and I promised to work more muted colors around it.

I also had in mind to make it and let him approve or not, and then was willing to make a more traditional alternative if he didn't like it.  

So I gathered the rest of the fabrics from a fat quarter bundle of Tonga Treats, and sent some progress photos on the quilter.


I found a darker pink with butterflies (very Barbie) to frame the bird print, and then pink with green to ombre fade to the lighter green he had in mind.


And then I designed the quilting.  My favorite part!  Did an overall swirl flower in the bird print, a feathered swirl in the sashing, then each end strip got a different treatment.  I decided to back it with pale pink solid to tie it together, and I will bind it with that as well.


I cut it off the quilter and sent more pics in daylight (my studio light is great for quilting, but adds warmth to true color values), and he LOVED it.  (He even capitalized 'love'.)  


So commission success, and he'll have a lovely custom package to donate to his charity.  He was generous and creative, too, finding me to make something special.  (My part is the autographs, photo and signed quilt book.)  

Lesson:  Communicate with your client!!  Show them and listen!

And now on to my next challenge:  dia de los muertos!!  Next week! 

Let's quilt something!!!  xo     Beth