May 7, 2018

Spin Cycle Quilt for Northern Ireland

If I had to pick my top 5 favorite quilts I've ever made, this would be one of them. It recently arrived at its new home in a little village near Belfast, Northern Ireland, and I have to admit that it was hard to let it go. As I made it, I started thinking about someday making another one to keep for myself. I often think that as I make a quilt, but by the end I've changed my mind due to the amount of work involved. But this one? I'm pretty confident there's another Spin Cycle quilt in my future (even though it did take a lot of work!).

Interference in the cutting stage

So here's the story of this quilt. My dad's grandmother, Margaretta, grew up in the countryside near Belfast, Northern Ireland, and later moved to Pennsylvania, where she married and raised a family. As a result, I have a lot of distant cousins still living in Northern Ireland. One in particular, Ella, is a genealogy junkie who reached out to my dad many years ago. In college, I spent a semester studying abroad at Queen's University Belfast, where Ella worked in one of the libraries, and she introduced me to many of my relatives. Everyone was so warm and welcoming, and there was even a tinge of family resemblance.

Early block layouts

Finished blocks before the addition of sashing

My dad has kept in touch with Ella over the years, and they met up again last year when my parents traveled to Ireland and Northern Ireland. After their trip, he asked me to make a quilt for Ella. He had no requests for pattern or fabric -- my favorite kind of commission! -- so I started brainstorming. I bought the Spin Cycle quilt pattern from Cluck Cluck Sew a long time ago but never got around to making it. The circular design reminded me of the ancient Celtic burial mounds that Ella took me to visit when I was studying there, and it's a generous throw size at 75x75 inches, so the pattern seemed like a good fit.

I've been collecting a mix of Denyse Schmidt fabric for years, and her prints inspired by New England textile mills and small towns seemed appropriate given Belfast's history as the center of the Irish linen industry. Two sides of the same coin, in a way.

I won't lie -- it took a LONG time to piece all these blocks. But when I started chain-piecing 8 or 9 of them at a time, things sped up. Still, there's a lot of time, determination, and Netflix-viewing in this quilt!

For the quilting, I decided quickly that I wanted straight lines for simplicity and no distraction from the fabrics and piecing. My local longarmer, Pat, quilted it for me.

The back is ... a little crazy. I wanted to do something interesting and patchwork-feeling, but with such a large quilt, it needed to be big piecing. So I cut 18-inch strips of varying lengths and arranged them in an order that pleased the eye (my eye, at least).

Finally, the label. A hand-embroidered label felt like a must for this quilt, since it's going to family far, far away. I hope it becomes an heirloom, and I wanted to do it justice with the label. All the way from Knoxville to Dromara.

March 21, 2018

DIY Block of the Month with Mom - February

I've been quilting for a long time (see this blog), but my mom has gotten more into it in the last few years. Lately she's been cranking out an impressive number of quilts for donation to our local Project Linus chapter. If you don't know about Project Linus, it's a volunteer-based organization with chapters all over dedicated to providing blankets to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need. The name comes from the Charlie Brown character who always has a firm grip on his security blanket. Project Linus blankets come in all sizes, colors, patterns, and forms -- knitted, crocheted, quilted.

Back in December, I received an email from Art Gallery Fabrics that had a collection of links to free quilt block patterns featuring their fabrics. I thought the blocks were cool and would be fun to make, and I had an idea to turn them into a block of the month project. Of course I roped my mom into doing it with me. Here's my plan:
  • I created two identical fabric bundles using my stash -- one designed for a girl quilt and one designed for a boy quilt. Then I split the bundles in half, keeping one and giving one to my mom, so we each have a boy bundle and a girl bundle. (The bundles have similar color palettes, which just happened because of the fabric in my stash. Also, we can add any coordinating solids we like.)
  • We use the bundles to create two blocks each month, using the same Art Gallery block pattern.
  • We're not allowed to share or confer until we've both finished our blocks. It's a surprise to see how we used the same fabrics in different ways.
  • At the end of the year, we'll combine our blocks to create two quilts (boy and girl) to donate to Project Linus.
Sounds like fun, right? We started in February with the Squares and Diamond Block:

These are our "girl" blocks -- Mom's on the left and mine on the right:

And here are our "boy" blocks -- Mom's on the left and mine on the right:

Check them all out together:

February 26, 2018

Ultra Violet Baby Quilt

Sometimes I forget to share a project here, and then it kicks around in my head FOREVER because I just can't let it go -- especially when it's as pretty as this baby quilt that I made over a year ago for my cousin Amy's baby girl. I've been intending to write this one up for a while, and then it hit me -- the Pantone Color of the Year is Ultra Violet, and this quilt is spot-on.

I think that I originally saw this quilt block pattern on Pinterest, but I can't find it anymore. Luckily I sketched it out for reference. The smaller size of baby quilts make them the perfect opportunity to try new blocks and new ideas.

When I heard that my cousin was expecting, I wanted to make something special for her first baby. My aunt shared that Amy and her husband were planning to decorate the nursery with a mix of neutral tones and purples, so I pulled out my purple and periwinkle Tula Pink fabrics along with a mixture of white, ivory and cream solids for the background. I've hoarded those Tula Pink fabrics for a long time, and it felt SO GOOD to finally sew with them. It was a reminder that I should use the fabric I love -- it's not doing any good just sitting in the closet. These blocks were fun to put together because I was using fabric I loved. That's a good lesson to keep in mind.

After assembling the blocks into a top, I added a pieced border using the scraps and put a moody Tula Pink print on the back. My local longarmer friend Pat did the quilting for me -- graceful loops that echo the swirls in some of the prints but also contrast the sharp lines of the block pattern. I shipped the quilt off to be enjoyed by the new baby, Viola. A violet quilt for Viola -- seems fitting.

The setting sun really shows off the texture after washing.

January 8, 2018

Lucy Boston Blocks In Progress

It has been more than 6 months since I started this hand sewing project, and I still love sitting down with it almost every night, so it's time to share. I know I'm not the only sewist out there who got hooked on the Lucy Boston blocks thanks to Alewives Fabrics, a shop in Maine. Their Instagram posts of the English paper piecing blocks and kits drew me in, and I had to try this design out for myself. And now I can't stop.

My first Lucy Boston block

This pattern is also referred to Patchwork of the Crosses. There's a book by Linda Franz called Lucy Boston: Patchwork of the Crosses that a lot of folks uses as a reference, but when I get an idea to try something, I want to start right away, so I didn't wait to get the book. I ordered 1" honeycomb paper templates and a coordinating acrylic honeycomb template from Paper Pieces and starting coming up with a loose plan for fabric. Oh -- the other part of this story is that I was flying to Dallas for a week visiting a good friend and her twin babies, and I wanted a hand sewing project to take with me. So while I had enough time to order the templates, I didn't have all that much time to audition fabrics and prep it for the trip.

Block #2, playing with a little fussy cutting for the pineapples

I decided to forego the intense fussy cutting that a lot of people do for their Lucy Bostons. I don't have the patience for that, and I didn't want to delay the gratification of finished blocks. So I grabbed a stack of Cotton + Steel fat quarters that I won in a swap with my guild (the Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild -- check us out), some low-volume neutrals, and a stack of Andover chambray fat quarters that have been waiting for just the right project.

Andover chambrays

Here's my approach to each block:
  • One low-volume fabric for the center
  • Two coordinating prints for the next round -- sometimes they're fussy cut, but sometimes they aren't. It just depends on the fabric design and how much I want to play with it vs. get started sewing already.
  • One Andover chambray in the corners, to coordinate with the prints

Block #3 started out with yellow corners before I switched to orange

Block #3, final

Block #4, when I decided to brighten things up a bit

I started with one package of 100 paper templates. When I finish a block, I remove and reuse the papers from the center but leave them in for the outside ring, since I'll need them in place to sew the blocks together later. But then I ran out of papers. So I ordered more, but this time -- 200. I'm still working through that batch. I don't know when I'll consider the blocks done and ready to be assembled into something bigger...I have started thinking about a final layout, and I think I've landed on a plan. But with plenty of paper templates left to use, I'm not itching to work on that next step just yet. Instead, I just keep choosing fabrics, making blocks, and loving the whole process.

Block #5

Here's a look at the backside of one block. I glue-baste the fabric to the papers and then use an old manicure tool to loosen the edges and pop the papers out after the block is finished. I only take the 8 papers out of the center section, leaving them in around the edges so that I can easily sew the blocks together later.

I started out using a whipstitch to sew the honeycomb pieces together, but I didn't like that my stitches were so visible, so I switched to a flat back stitch, and I like it a lot. I just found a different version of the whipstitch, though, where you stitch through each layer separately and alternately, and I may have to try it out.

Block #6

Block #7

Block #8 - things were getting dark again, so I brightened it up with the orange

Block #9 - my friend and fellow quilter Kelly helped pick out this combination

Block #10 - this is one of my favorites

Block #11

Block #12 - another favorite (the colors are hard to photograph on this one)

Block #13

So that's where my Lucy Boston project currently stands. I have to take a little break while I spend my evenings knitting a baby blanket for a friend, but I'll be back with more blocks soon!

October 31, 2017

Spooky Book Nerd Quilt

I have a very good friend whose birthday is just a few days before Halloween, so the holiday has always been her favorite. I think it was last year when I came across these fat quarter fabric bundles at my local Tuesday Morning store. They're quilt-shop quality fabric, and I couldn't pass them up. (They're from the Spooktacular and Spooktacular Too collections by Maude Asbury for Blend.) I bought two bundles, thinking that I'd use them to make something for my friend, but I wasn't sure exactly what.

When I saw Angela Pingel's Book Nerd Quilt pattern, inspiration struck. These large prints would make perfect book covers. Plus, my friend is a serious book lover and collector, so the fabric and pattern were a perfect match. The pattern required more fabric than I had from the bundles, so I went to one of my local quilt shops, Mountain Creek Quilt Shop, to supplement the stack. It turns out that they had just received an order of new Halloween fabrics and they hadn't even unpacked the box yet! So I helped them out, breaking into some of those bolts for small-scale prints with bats and spiderwebs. I got the text prints to use as the pages and the oranges for book spines. The mummies are a Cotton + Steel design from last season, and I bought a bunch of them to put on the back of the quilt.

Assembling these book blocks was a lot of fun -- after I ran a test and figured out what sizes to precut all the sections for the foundation paper piecing. Everything went A LOT faster with precuts, so if you ever have to foundation paper piece a bunch of the same block and the pattern doesn't suggest precut sizes, take the time to figure it out.

(Pretty proud of my print alignment on this one!)

The pattern includes the option of cornerstones in the layout, and I decided to include them and use a dark print that I wasn't able to use in the books. If I were to make this quilt again, I think I would either leave out the cornerstones or add them to the outside intersections as well to finish framing the design.

For the quilt back, I didn't have enough of the mummies to use them exclusively, so I had to figure out how to piece it. My mom was heading out to Mountain Creek again, so I had her pick up the black with little white cat faces (another Cotton + Steel print, but from this season). I've made pieced quilt backs before, but I usually don't like how they turn out. I'm not sure if it's the size of the pieces or how I lay them out, but it never turns out looking like I expect. So I laid this one out and played with all my leftovers until I felt pretty confident about it.

My friend Jennifer agreed to quilt this on her longarm, and we picked an edge-to-edge spiderweb design. It turned out so well - I was blown away. Even the white thread on the dark backing worked out. I rounded the corners off and used a black and white stripe on the bias for binding.



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