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.

April 5, 2017

Personalized Name Pillows

A few years ago, I made an applique name pillow for my niece Piper. I didn't think about making any more until my sister Emily asked me to make one for her younger daughter Judy. I gathered some leftover fabric from her nursery (my mom made her crib sheets and changing pad covers), downloaded my favorite letters for applique from Skip to My Lou, and got to work. I use Heat 'n Bond on the letters and applique them to the background panel. Then I add borders to get it to size and layer it with batting and a piece of muslin or solid fabric, just like a quilt. I add some hand quilting to the center panel, around the name, and secure the rest of the front with straight line quilting. The envelope backs of the pillows are just fabric, no batting or quilting.

Judy at 4 months
And Judy at 13 months, just the other day (the pillow has seen better days, but it's being used and loved!)

Emily then asked if I could make a pillow for her nephew on her husband's side of the family. (She seems to be under the impression that I'm in need of projects. For the record, I am not. But I have trouble saying "No.") So I made another pillow for Toby. Same process but without the hand quilting in the center panel.

THEN somehow it came to my attention that Emily's other, older daughter also needed a name pillow. Em had asked me to recover a couple of long pillows that had previously sported panel prints from Penny's woodland nursery. After redecorating her room in pink and turquoise, new pillows were in order. I made one patchwork cover and one personalized with her name.

Penny has had this patchwork pillow for a little while now and is very attached to it. She's getting her name pillow for her upcoming 3rd birthday.

So that covers 3 of my 5 nieces. I've been thinking about making pillows for the two oldest girls, and I think simple initials -- M and H -- will be a good alternative as their names are a little long for pillows. After struggling and sweating to get the long, rectangular pillow form into Penny's pillows, I've sworn off that size. So simple squares with initials are the way to go.

January 18, 2017

4-Patch Butterfly Block Tutorial

The Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild is ready to make another quilt for a graduate of local nonprofit The Restoration House of East Tennessee, and we've decided to collect these 4-patch butterfly blocks in cool solids from our members. Consistency is one of the challenges of charity block collections, so to help ensure that everyone's blocks fit together well, I've put together a simple tutorial.

4-Patch Butterfly Block
Unfinished size: 12.5" inch using scant 1/4" seam allowance
Finished size: 12"

Step 1: Select 4 solid fabrics in cool colors (blue, green, purple) and cut four 3.5" squares from each color. Cut four 2.5" white squares and then cut each one on the diagonal, resulting in 8 white triangles. (You can also use larger triangles to make piecing a little easier.)

Step 2: Place the white triangles on the corners of two diagonal colored squares as shown. Make sure that when you sew a 1/4" seam from the long edge of the white triangle and then flip it down to cover the corner, the white extends beyond the colored corner. Sew the white triangles in place and press seams open. The triangles do not need to match each other - wonky butterflies are fine!

Step 3: Flip the triangles down and press. Then trim to 3.5" square.

Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with each of the other colors.

Step 5: Make sure that all of the butterflies are going in the same direction. Sew the squares of each color into pairs, and press seams open. Then sew the two halves of the blocks together, press open, and sew the four blocks together to finish the block.

December 29, 2016

Pineapple Mini Quilt and Swap

In August of this year, we did a big family vacation at Wild Dunes in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. From Colorado, Tennessee, and the other end of South Carolina, my parents and siblings with their kids gathered for a week at the beach, and we all had a great time -- especially all 5 little girl cousins.

Three years ago we planned a similar vacation (with fewer children at that point) in Folly Beach, South Carolina, and that's when I reached out to my old friend, fellow quilter, and Charleston resident Kelly about getting together and swapping table runners and scrap bags. Here's the result of that swap, which was loads of fun. I love my table runner from Kelly and have it hanging on the wall of my guest room now.

Since I was going to be in Kelly's neck of the woods again, I asked her about getting together and doing another swap. This time we settled on mini quilts, and we both got to work, sharing a couple of sneak peeks along the way.

And when I was on vacation with my family, Kelly came by for a visit with her parents, who were in town to see her from Ohio. The other thing about me and Kelly is that we went to college together and her parents are my godparents! Long ago our parents were best buds in Indiana, and they haven't seen each other in 18 years -- how cute are they?!

Back to the quilts. I decided to make this patchwork pineapple for Kelly because it's crisp and bright and the pineapple is a symbol for welcome. I'd seen it here and there online and thought it would be perfect for her. I added some simple hand quilting in perle cotton to accent it without being distracting.

And Kelly! She made me this amazing mini quilt of kittens, with lots of low volume fabrics and bits and pieces of pastel prints -- including some from the scrap bags we exchanged three years prior! Surely we're quilting kindred spirits, because Kelly hand quilted hers with perle cotton too, giving the kittens whiskers and adding decorative x's and stars and lines to add texture and interest. I just love it and it has found a home on the wall in my house where I can admire it as I walk past it all the time.

I love this little tradition of ours and can't wait to see what we swap on our next visit!

December 27, 2016

Two-Sided Toddler Quilt

My niece Penny, who is almost 3 now, loves little blankets and got very attached to a small doll quilt that I made her last year. In the majority of the pictures my sister sent me, the plainer back side of the quilt was always facing up! For her birthday earlier this year, I decided to make Penny another small quilt that was two-sided, meaning that it would be cute and colorful regardless of which side ended up.

On one side, I used small patchwork squares in bright colors to create a heart with a background of mixed low-volume fabrics. Extra strips at the top and bottom brought this side up to size.

On the other side, I created scattered wonky stars in more bright colors. The background fabric on this side is just white.

She loved it -- here it is sideways!

This little quilt has become one of Penny's favorites, and she takes it almost everywhere. It's good for snuggling on the couch, and she's even shared it with her baby sister.

I expect I'll be making more of these small quilts as the girls get older, and I'm not complaining. Small quilts are fast and fun and a great way to experiment with patterns and techniques without committing to a larger project that requires more investment of time and money in materials.

September 5, 2016

4-Patch Hourglass Block Tutorial

The Knoxville Modern Quilt Guild, of which I am a member and secretary, supports a local nonprofit, The Restoration House of East Tennessee, year-round by providing quilts to the women and their children who "graduate" from their program to live on their own. The guild tries to always have one completed quilt ready and one in the works. It's time to start working on the next quilt, and we've chosen a 4-patch hourglass block -- there are four blocks pictured above.

I made one block to test out the technique and fabric choices, and then I decided to write up a tutorial for our members -- and post it here for everyone. After the first block, I made a second one just because. Then I needed to make a third block in order to take photos for the tutorial. And then I thought four blocks would make a better photo here, so basically things got a little out of control. But now we have four blocks for our charity quilt!

4-Patch Hourglass Block
Unfinished size: 12.5" using a scant 1/4" seam allowance
Finished size: 12"

Step 1: Select 4 fabrics and cut one 7.5" square from each. I chose to coordinate the fabrics in pairs but didn't pay much attention to how the pairs coordinate with each other, as the finished quilt will feature many different fabrics.

Step 2: Place the squares right sides together in pairs, pin, and draw a line from one corner to the other.

Step 3: Sew 1/4" away from both sides of the line.

Step 4: Using a ruler and rotary cutter, slice the block in half on the line, then again along the other diagonal. If you're able to make the second cut without moving the block, your pieces will be more accurate. Below I've separated them slightly to show the cuts that I made.

Step 5: Open each of the four sections and press the seams to one side. I pressed all seams toward the print fabrics so that the seams would nest (fit together more precisely) when I sewed them into hourglass blocks. Below you can see how the four sections will come together to form two hourglass blocks.

Step 6: Sew the triangle sections together to create two hourglass blocks. Press the seam open, and then trim the block to 6.5" square. (This darn photo won't flip, but you get the idea.)

Step 7: Arrange your four blocks however you like, and sew the top two together and the bottom two together. Then sew the top row and the bottom row together for a completed block.

 And there you have it -- a 4-patch hourglass block!

July 24, 2016

Big Finish: Mini Quilt to Swap

Foundation paper piecing
Modern quilters like to swap - blocks, mini quilts, pouches, all sorts of things. I've never participated in a swap because deadlines and expectations both stress me out. But when I heard that the Modern Quilt Guild chapters in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville were joining together for a mini quilt swap, I decided to join the fun. Those of us who signed up filled out a short survey about our likes and dislikes in terms of technique, color, and style. We were assigned partners based on this information and given a couple of months to make and send a mini quilt.

My partner lives in Cleveland, TN, and is a member of the Chattanooga MQG. I found out that she's been quilting for 40 years (!), likes bold colors and prints, enjoys improv and twists on traditional designs, and prefers fall colors (not crazy about blues). For her mini quilt, I decided to make a few blocks from a quilt pattern called Garden Chevrons (designed by Kim Cairns) that had caught my eye in the March/April 2015 issue of Quilty. I knew I could size it down for a mini, and it was a good pattern to incorporate a variety of fabrics.

I liked the foundation paper piecing element of this pattern (it's one of my favorite techniques) but did not enjoy the partial seams required to get the hexagons to fit together. I came thisclose to throwing in the towel and starting over with a new pattern, but my friend and fellow Knoxville MQG member convinced me to push through the frustration. So I stepped away from it, and when I tried those partial seams the next day, they worked.

Quilted and ready for binding

Bound and labeled

A few additional treats for my partner

The mini quilt I received came from a member of the Nashville guild. It's amazing!


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