Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Back in the Day

After posting my latest applique block for this year's Seattle MQG BOM, I confessed to Jonna, our hostess, that I actually had done plenty of applique back in the day, and of course she wanted to see. I had already posted about one of the quilts when I was a new blogger - a Sunbonnet Sue quilt I made for daughter dear back in 1995.

Well there was actually another that came before - Gazebo Garden, completed in 1993. I'd taken a class with Carolann Palmer, who I can't find anything about on the web, but she was a popular teacher at my local quilt shop at the time.

It was machine pieced where applicable, with needle-turn applique blocks and border, and then hand-quilted. Because for the first 20+ years I quilted, hand-quilting was all I knew.

The quilt measures 94" square and was the first quilt I ever made my mom. Besides the hand-quilting, it also has a muslin backing, since that's all I used to back my quilts for ages. And of course, the binding was bias, because that's what I first learned to make and I just thought it was what one did.

So even though Gazebo Garden might not fit with my current style and taste, it holds fond memories and looking at it at mom's the other day, I realized just how much work went into it! And of course it's a reminder of just how varied this quilting journey of mine has been.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Improv Alliance

Whenever a quilt comes together really slowly - such as a block-of-the-month like the one I'm sharing today - the satisfaction at its completion is usually quite high, for obvious reasons. But this time, there are a couple of extra reasons why I am simply over the moon, and I think you'll see why as we go along.

It all started when my guild-mate, Matt/odditease, presented the 2016 BOM plan for Seattle MQG. In his words, we were going to "exercise our improvisation muscles. We will be exploring nine different shapes/techniques, creating a slab of improv patchwork each month that will come together to become a one-of-a-kind quilt. Ruler free, ruler assisted, wild and crazy, simple and controlled…you get to decide and set your limits and comfort level for each technique." Oh yeah! Matt even had a sample quilt top all ready to show us (yes, go look real quick!), and I was so excited for it all to begin!

But as BOMs go, there's always that lag-time when you need to choose your fabric, right? Wanting to somehow incorporate the Kona Color of the Year into my sewing, Highlight seemed a perfect choice as my focus fabric; Kona neutrals Natural, Bone, and Oyster were chosen for the 'background'; and then Pickle and Wasabi as accents, and Fog for some random pops of color. I loved the mix right off, and throughout the year of sewing, with my only complaint being that the neutrals really were too close, and I doubt you'll be able to pick them out in the finished quilt.

So each month, Matt presented us with an improv technique to try, and a suggested "slab" size. It could really go any direction we took it, and in the end, the indicated sizes were helpful, but as you'll see, non-standard blocks allowed for some more personalization as the blocks were all assembled. Come about September, we were thrown a curve ball and told to make an improv adaptation of a traditional block of our choice! Decisions, decisions. Stay tuned, and I'll share a follow-up post with all the block types I used and links to helpful tutorials.

So month by month, I kept up, and creating my newest improv slab was about my favorite thing. And then..... It came time to put all nine of the slabs together. Yikes. Obviously, there were some holes to fill in (see above), and I mulled that over for days, looking through my books on improv to get some ideas. And lo and behold, it was in Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking II that I found my solution: Improv Spikes.

I loved that Gwen has unknowingly led me forward, and the spike segments were fun to make. Between trimming blocks and adding in three rows of spikes, my top measured 58" x 82" and surely could have been called complete. But something didn't feel right to me.

What it needed was more width and the logical way to achieve that was with more spikes. I tried adding a narrow column to each side, but no, that didn't suit me. I kept making more and playing with the placement until I was satisfied. And then, boy was I.

For a backing, I opted to purchase my very first wide-back, thinking surely there were already enough seams in this crazy quilt. I found a fun design in the perfect color in Starlight, a Rhoda Ruth Wide Back by Elizabeth Hartman for Robert Kaufman.

OK then. The top was done and I was thrilled. The backing had been an easy decision. Now what about the quilting? What design? What color? Goodness, at 68" x 82", it felt big and overwhelming. How in the world would I do it justice? Was this one I should even do myself?

And in a spark of what I consider brilliance, it dawned on me that I should ask Matt himself if he'd consider quilting it for me. He had designed our BOM, led us through the process, and once I thought of it, he was the only logical choice. I didn't even know if he quilted for hire .... so the next time I saw him, I trepidatiously broached the subject. And he agreed!

Now I had been at the guild retreat in 2014 when Matt first dabbled with free-motion quilting. He was a new quilter then, and we were in awe of his obvious gift for every aspect of it. As I handed over my quilt top several weeks ago, we chatted briefly about our ideas for quilting. But I gave him free reign, and never doubted for a moment that whatever he chose to do would be perfect.

So fast forward to last weekend, when he delivered the quilt and we pored over every inch of it, admiring our joint workmanship. 

Quilted on his Juki 2200QVP-S, Matt used Aurifil 50wt in three colors: 2886 (Light Avocado) was used in the upper right-hand block, but he wasn't thrilled with the look, so that's the only area that has it. The majority of the quilt was then quilted with 2000 (Light Sand) with occasional accents of 2715 (Robin's Egg Blue) - see the blue triangle in the left of the photo above, for example.

The use of the neutral thread definitely lets the piecing shine, though Matt's beautiful quilting is in no way hidden. I think it melds them together beautifully, and the bits of blue are just plain fun.

I like how Matt quilted around the spikes, letting them stand out a bit. And one of my favorite details is how he used those large 'pebbles' to create continuity throughout the quilt. You can very nearly follow a trail of them from the top of the quilt down to the bottom, weaving to and fro along the way.

The last detail was up to me, and I added a simple binding in Kona Natural.

And with that, an improv escapade is complete. Begun as a simple exploration of technique, it became so much more, and I gotta say I love the collaboration it represents. From puzzling my own blocks together with Gwen-inspired spikes to finishing off with Matt's quilting artistry, this one has become a cherished piece. Many of the blocks were inspired by age-old designs but as a whole, they became something new and speak to a happening time where working together only made things better.

Quilting by Matt Macomber/[odditease]

This quilt was on my 2017 Finish-A-Long list!

Friday, March 17, 2017


So did you hear? Rebecca/Bryan House Quilts and Sarah/No Hats in the House are spear-heading the 2017 Pantone Quilt Challenge featuring the Color of the Year, Greenery!

I've taken time to focus on the COTY for several years now (Tangerine Tango, Emerald, Radiant Orchid, Marsala) and even Rose Quartz + Serenity when no one else wanted to play. So it's really no stretch that I want to join in the fun again this year. And boy am I ready, as daughter dear stocked me up for my birthday! (Let's just say after creating my Crop Circles and Ultimate! last year, my green stash was about depleted!)

Part of the gift was an official Greenery swatch card, which helped her determine Kona Parrot as a close match, along with Aurifil 1114 (Grass Green), so that's where I'll be starting.

I honestly have no ideas yet, but time doesn't need to be too rushed. The challenge runs from March 14 until May 29, 2017, with a link party open during the last ten days. Do check out Sarah or Rebecca's announcement posts for all the details. There are esteemed judges, enviable prizes, and all the key details there, including other suggestions of fabric choices, though nothing really needs to be that perfectly matched, so no worries there. 

So you joining me?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Improv + Paper Piecing

There's a good chance that when you heard the title of Amy Friend's new book, Improv Paper Piecing, you went "what?" just like I did. But really, it's a thing, and Amy/During Quiet Time shares it well as 'A Modern Approach to Quilt Design.'

In Amy's words: "By creating a block from an improvisational sketch and then repeating it methodically  with paper piecing, you harness the power of repetitive design. But because the block design is improvisational, the patterns feel fresh and unexpected."

What a novel thought, right? Besides sharing the expected paper piecing essentials, Amy also shares how to group and number paper-pieced templates, design your own improv block templates, and some advanced paper piecing tips - all so helpful in creating your own masterpiece.

After perusing Amy's book, I can honestly say that I love the quilts she created for it, and that I 'get' her concept. Yes, I totally love improv - the random one-of-a-kind creating one can do with it. But I've often had improv creations that I love so much I really would have liked to recreate them, which is where improv paper piecing comes in and makes that totally possible. Look at it as another option.

Here's one quilt that called to me - Amy's "Sixty Seconds."

Photo by Amy Friend. Used by permission.

Rather than strictly following Amy's quilt design. I chose to use her block patterns and go my own direction - you know, sticking with the improvisational theme, right?

On close inspection, you can see that the triangle blocks are not identical, and fabric placement appears slightly angled. I actually printed the templates at both 100% ("Sixty Seconds" uses them at 150%.) and 75% to add even more variety to my project.

I also scaled down the final project, creating a table runner rather than a full-sized quilt. For quilting, I tried a new-to-me design at a random 50-degree angle - a 'diagonal grid with gentle curves' from Jacquie Gering's Walk book [#walkbook]. I like how it kind of complicates the main elements while still letting them be the focus.

And then I finished it all off with a bit of an accent in the binding. And why not?

It was nice to take a little foray into this new concept of mixing improv and paper piecing and I look forward to exploring it in my own work.
I received a complimentary copy of Amy's book, but be assured that my opinions and recommendations are always my own, and that I would never suggest a product that I don't actually use and enjoy.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Minimal Day :: Fringe

Who would have thought I would be so enamored with this year's Seattle MQG block-of-the-month which is all about needle-turn applique? Certainly not me. Truth is, once this month's assignment was published, I got right on it the first chance I got.

This month's "fringe" block had a little tighter curves than last month's "quarter opals", but definitely manageable. 

The directions for this, our second block, suggested we flip our template for one of the pieces, which I totally forgot in the moment. Oh well. I'm kind of loving it anyway.

Friday, March 10, 2017


Well so much for my great commitment to starting out the year planless. I boldly put just two wips on my Q1 Finish-A-Long list, and gave the others (albeit only two) away. That felt good, and I was really hopeful that I could and would improv my way through the year. So about that.

I have made progress on the two wips and am still holding out a thread of hope that I can finish them this month. The Patchwork Forest top (above) is pieced, measuring 65" x 80". I need to come up with a backing and then get quilting. It doesn't need to be fancy, but it'll take some time of course. We shall see.

Below is the finished top of my Seattle MQG improv block-of-the-month from 2016. Brace yourselves.... I sent this one out to be quilted! I KNOW! I've gotten a few sneak peeks, and I love what I've seen. There's still a chance I'll get it back in the next couple of weeks with just enough time to bind it up before the quarter is over. Fingers crossed!

Ok, so that's all the old news. Here's what else I've got going....

So remember, two group quilts were started with the Pantone and Kona colors of the year? One was when I was host for Faith Circle's February do. Good Stitches quilt, and I've just received back all the blocks for that, so this quilt needs finished up soon.

And, I have over 30 gorgeous improv blocks from Seattle MQG for our current giving quilt, all using Kona's Pink Flamingo. Aren't they cool? Sorry, the lighting wasn't the best, but I think you can still get a hint of how awesome they are, right? I'm anxious to get them all up on the design wall!

Stay tuned for a review on Amy Friend's new book, Improv Paper Piecing: A Modern Approach to Quilt Design, coming soon. I'm digesting it a bit with a small project, so you'll see this finished before long.

And lastly, I started the project below for a challenge that's due in May, so I've set it aside for now. The rules are very particular regarding color and size and theme, so I'll share more of this as I go, but at least I have my idea in place. I just need to make it happen.

Whew! I hardly know what to work on first....the maker's dilemma, right?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday at the Table

The youth group at our church has a biennial dinner theater event, and I've been cooking for it for a dozen years now. The blog's been around long enough that I've already shared two events' worth of recipes (2013 & 2015), so I figured I might as well share from the most recent event last Friday night. Planning and cooking for over 100 was exhausting but very fun thanks to my terrific team of shoppers and sous-chefs. Here was our menu:

artwork by Josiah Greenlee

In the hubbub of it all, I didn't get photos of every course, but at least I have links for the recipes!

Yum, right?

Monday, March 6, 2017

What Shade Am I, You Ask?

When I was approached by RJR Fabrics about participating in their What Shade are You? blog hop, you totally would have thought I would have said "green" or at least "green and blue!" But on the particular day I had to give a definitive answer, I was feeling very teal and gold and gray.

Now, I had seen many participants choose bundles that were large and colorful, yet when it came right down to it, I chose just six colors. RJR's Demi, who first approached me about participating in the blog hop, really loved the improv pineapple blocks I'd included in my Seattle MQG SeaSLAB BOM, so all along I was planning to create something with pineapple blocks, and I didn't want to lose the design in too much color, if that was even possible. 

Part of participating in #whatshadeareyou is that RJR gives away a bundle just like I used to create my quilt, and I get one to giveaway too! The great thing about that in this case, is longer fabric lengths are up for grabs! Here are the Cotton Supreme Solids I finally chose and how much is in that gorgeous bundle: Here are the Cotton Supreme Solids I finally chose and the amounts needed to make my quilt.
Argento 362 (Background) - 1 1/2 yards
Riviera 274, Turks & Caicos 292, Horizon 354 (Mains) - 1 yard each
Goldilocks 368, Silver 125 (Contasts) - 1 yard, 1/2 yard
***ETA: The giveaway is for 1/2 yard of each color I used. Apologies for the misunderstanding on my part.***

Anyway, wanting my quilt design to be relatively easy to recreate if one chose, I made three sizes of blocks - 20" square, 10" x 20", and 10" square. Thus they were easily arranged in an orderly way, while still giving the quilt a very improvisational look and feel. 

If you've never made improv pineapple blocks, check out the MQG blog. There you'll find technique tutorials for whole pineapple blocks as well as the "half log cabin" version I used.

For quilting, I chose four Aurifil 50wt threads to quilt a design inspired by Jacquie Gering's "Fancy Straight Line" found in her WALK book. I used #2600 (light gray) and #5006 (light turquoise) for the straight vertical lines, then #2810 (turquoise) and #2975 (brass) for the intermittent zig zags. 

I really love how this quilting design adds to the wonky shapes of the quilt itself without overwhelming it.

The finished quilt, which I've dubbed "Pineapple Upset," measures 60" square, and was bound in two shade of teal.


Thanks much to RJR Fabrics (#rjrfabrics) for including me in the #whatshadeareyou blog hop! I had great fun playing with their #cottonsupremesolids, that's for sure! The fabric has a lovely hand and such clear colors - a perfect way to #quiltwithlove.

Watch both @rjrfabrics and @aquilterstable later today for opportunities to win a bundle of the #cottonsupremesolids!