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.

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.


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