September 27, 2017

Graphic and Modern Baby Quilts for Twins

I met my friend Eryn our freshman year of high school when her family moved from California to Tennessee and she showed up at band camp. We became fast friends and have remained close for more than 20 years through college, multiple moves, and more. I was on a quilt retreat last October when Eryn, who now lives in Texas, texted me to say she and her husband were expecting twins! I was more than a little surprised by the news (not one baby, but two!) and so happy for them, and my mind went straight to "I have to make quilts for the babies!"

I sent Eryn to a couple of online fabric shops to pick some fabrics she liked and give me an idea of her preferred color palettes. I also created a Pinterest board full of quilt patterns to share with her, again to get a feel for what she liked. She ended up picking fabrics that fell into two distinct palettes -- navy/aqua/cream and bright primary colors -- which was perfect for two distinct quilts. Eryn wanted the babies to each have their own quilt with its own look. They'll be twins forever, always paired, so a little individuality is nice.

The patterns that Eryn chose are Succulent Garden by Crimson Tate and Quilt Bars, a free pattern from Camelot Fabrics.

Here are some of her pinned fabrics:

That candy-colored circle print in the top row reminded Eryn of some bed sheets she used to sleep on at her grandmother's house when she was a kid, so I knew I had to use it as the basis for one quilt. That one ended up being the Succulent Garden pattern for baby boy Ryker. The aqua and navy prints became the Quilt Bars pattern for baby girl Sophie.

The Succulent Garden pattern, with its oversized hexagons, comes together really quickly thanks to the strip-piecing method. I cut my own triangle template for the wedges.

My friend Jennifer got an AMAZING longarm quilting machine while I was making these quilt tops, and she agreed to quilt both quilts on it for me. We stood there and watched it go -- it was magical. And the quilting turned out perfect.

One of the fun things about this pattern is that you're left with wedges that make a secondary scrappy hexagon. I wanted to use as much of the fabric up as possible, so I put the scrappy hexagon on the back and then filled in around it.

The Quilt Bars pattern also comes together really quickly. I think my biggest challenge with this quilt was figuring out which fabrics to use and where. With my fabrics, I couldn't get the same gradient effect as the original pattern, so I decided to go with dark vs. light, with the creamy pug print at the center and corners. After a lot of back and forth -- and a lot of photos texted to my mom for her opinion -- I'm happy with the final fabrics and placement.

This is honestly the fastest baby quilt I've ever made -- I highly recommend the pattern, and I'm confident I'll be using it again.

For the back of this quilt, I used the creamy pug print by designer Bari J for Art Gallery Fabrics. Eryn has a beloved pug named Auggie, so this fabric was a no-brainer. I actually saw it and planned to use it as a surprise before Eryn found it and added it to her "love these" fabric list.

And of course a show-and-tell of these quilts wouldn't be complete without photos of them with their new owners, Ryker and Sophie. I packed up the quilts and headed to Dallas earlier this summer to deliver them in person and snuggle the babes, who were just 2 months old. I can't wait to see them grow up with these quilts.

August 9, 2017

Needle Felted Frannie

Instagram is a great place to discover insanely talented artists. I'm not sure how I first found Dani Ives a.k.a. @begoodnatured, but her felted wool artwork is incredible. From dogs and cats to mice, toadstools, and even slices of pizza, Dani creates the most realistic portraits with only wool fibers and felting needles. If you're not on Instagram, you can check out her work and watch time-lapse videos of her pieces coming together here.

In celebration of National Pet Day back in April, Dani posted an auction and a giveaway. For the giveaway, she asked people to share about the pet they would like a portrait of. I had a little free time and wrote about my cat, Jack, who I had for around 12 years and said goodbye to in 2014. It turns out that I WAS THE RANDOM GIVEAWAY WINNER! I couldn't believe it - what a great prize to win! I communicated with Dani and tried to find a good photo of Jack for her to use as a reference for the portrait, but I just didn't have any that would have worked. So I asked her if I could use my current cat, Frannie, instead. I had the perfect picture:

We agreed that Frannie would be a good subject, and after a lot of agonizing, I chose a coral-colored wool felt background. Dani shared a few peeks of her process on Instagram, and I saved screenshots because I was so excited to see the progress. She always starts with the eyes and nose and then works outward.

The portrait finally arrived, and after admiring Dani's thoughtful packaging, I was floored when I saw the portrait up close. The level of detail is incredible, down to the reflection in Frannie's eyes and the little hairs in her ears.

Dani captured Frannie's personality so well -- she looks so serious (and maybe a little judgy?) but really she's just intent on getting your attention and compelling you to give her a good head rub or throw a toy for her to chase. This portrait was such a surprise to win, and I feel so lucky to have a piece of Dani's artwork in my home.

June 16, 2017

Big Finish: Modern Crosses Baby Quilt

When I was a kid growing up in southern Indiana, my best friend Chrissie and I spent a lot of time together swimming in her above-ground pool, going to cheerleading camps, and having sleepovers (she had a waterbed!). We lost touch with each other when my family moved out of state, but we were reunited a few years ago on Facebook. She commissioned a quilt back in 2012 for her 4th child -- check it out here -- and reached out again earlier this year to commission a quilt for Baby #6.

I shared a few pattern options and she chose this one, Modern Crosses from Susan Beal's book Modern Log Cabin Quilting. It's the cover quilt and the reason I bought the book ages ago, so I was happy to have an excuse to finally make it.

Chrissie requested a color palette of cream, gold, tan, gray, and teal. I was able to use a lot of fabrics from my stash, which is a satisfying way to keep expenses down.

About the back... Even the most experienced quilters make mistakes, and I made a big one when I tried to outsmart the pattern with a tweak that I thought would make the piecing process for the front of the quilt more efficient. Well, I was wrong. I messed up a ton of the cross blocks for the front and lost a couple of days' worth of time and a lot of fabric that I didn't have more of. After I recovered, I decided to try to use those mistake blocks in the back, which I planned to piece with remnants anyway. That explains all the little L blocks, turned this way and that. I still have a stack of them, but they may be too much of a reminder of my folly to ever want to use them again.

The quilting is straight lines done with my walking foot -- 2 lines on one diagonal and 1 line on the other. I like the effect, which reminds me a little bit of plaid. It's enough quilting to add texture without distracting too much from the piecing. I put this quilt in the mail to Chrissie and found out the next day that baby Finn had arrived, so it was waiting when they got home from the hospital. I hope it is well-used and well-loved.

May 29, 2017

Big Finish: Penny's Stars Quilt

My niece Penny's room got a makeover from a woodland-themed nursery (with a coordinating quilt) to a more bright and cheerful toddler room. And a new room calls for a new quilt, of course. The design of her new twin-sized bed quilt was inspired by this mini quilt I made for her last year. It has these wonky stars on one side and a pixelated heart on the other side.

My sister/Penny's mom requested a larger version of the wonky stars with similar colors. I enlarged the pattern to 5" squares and started gathering print fabrics in colors and patterns similar to the mini quilt. I decided to swap the white background for Kona Pearl Pink for added interest (and a change of pace). The walls in the bedroom are pale pink, so a pink background fabric made sense. The basic pattern is Sparkle Punch by Oh Fransson/Elizabeth Hartman. A tutorial is available here.

Here's where I started, making wonky stars and getting them up on the design wall.

It got too wide for my design wall, so I had to add an extension of batting. Not the most elegant solution.

I had a drawing to reference, but with this sort of design and layout, I find it's easier just to put the pieces up and then move them around as needed to spread out the colors and prints.

The goal was a twin-sized quilt, and even though this came in a little short because I ran out of background fabric, I still had to lay the last row on the floor -- and keep the cat from pouncing on the blocks before I could get them sewn together.

I chose an Art Gallery Fabrics print for the backing and bought all the print yardage available at my local quilt shop, but it turned out to be a little short, so I added some pink to finish it off. If I had to do it again, I would use something with less contrast to finish the back. I was able to use scraps of the print for binding, though.

Due to its size (and my motivation), I sent this one to Pat, a fellow member of the Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild, for longarm quilting. We decided on an edge-to-edge design called Party Streamers - I think it turned out so well and is a good fit for the bright colors and fun pattern.

I gave the quilt to Penny and then tried to get some photos... With a 3-year-old, you get what you get (and what I got was a lot of underwear flashing!). She loves her Penny pillow, though, and was excited about the quilt to go with it. She even recognized some of the fabrics from other things I've made for her. So sweet.

April 13, 2017

Big Finish: MQG Mini Quilt Swap

Last fall I signed up for the first mini quilt swap organized by the Modern Quilt Guild, the parent organization of my local guild. I was a little hesitant -- I don't love the pressure of making something on a deadline for a stranger -- but I went for it.

The partner I received wasn't active on social media, so I didn't have anything on a blog or Instagram, for example, to inspire my design for her. That was disappointing. All she provided was a preference for "most colors, love oranges and yellow greens and aquas. Love solid fabrics, graphic and improv designs." I don't do much improv quilting, but I decided to go with a graphic, high-contrast design with some improv (though precise) piecing and gentle curved quilting.

On the receiving end, my partner in Ohio made me a lovely mini quilt full of hexagons. The precision and color palette (navy!) are so me, and I was delighted when I opened the package. After I saw the picture she posted, I realized she intended for it to be turned sideways - oops! It works well either way, I think.

I love her choice for the backing and the hand-written label.


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