Wednesday, April 18, 2018

All In

As I was planning for the Everyday Improv workshop I'll be teaching with McKinney MQG in a couple of weeks, I was listing all the improv techniques I wanted to share with them, and decided it might be fun to have a sample quilt using all of them. Crazy, no? Probably. Most definitely. But that's how All In came to be.

I chose some solids that I thought would be fun to work with, and they definitely were - Kona Bright Peri, Tiger Lily, Pickle, and Lipstick. I cut and pieced, adding segments to the design wall as I finished them, not really knowing where I was headed. Gotta say I love designing that way.

Of course things get rearranged as more is added, and eventually some trimming and make-to-fit is in order.

And as some point, you just start sewing parts together and figuring it out as you go. When playing with these techniques, I find I usually just squish things together - ie. go very maximalist and dense. One of these days I might think about giving these shapes some room to breathe. Another time!

For quilting I used Aurifil 50wt #2250 [Red], at first because that was the only coordinating thread I had, but the more I quilted, the more I loved the choice, and eventually that red component ended up following into the binding. About the quilting though.... I used the section of dots as a guide to start an organic grid - straight lines, though angled as needed to avoid quilting over a dot - and then just carried it out from there in both directions, approximately 1 1/2" apart. That's less compact than my usual, but I think it really suits this quilt. Maybe that's where I let it breathe a little.

Just for fun, I added in a little pieced scrap into the binding.

And then I chose just one more technique of sorts for the backing - drawing from a traditional block, the Improv Quarter Log Cabin.

Sooo.... there are 15 improvisational techniques pieced into this smallish 32.5" x 34" quilt. Hopefully my students will have as much fun playing with them as I did.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday at the Table

After our son traveled to Germany during college, I remember he told us about how one of his classmates chose what to order at any given restaurant. Not being familiar with the local language, he would order the dish with the longest name, and apparently that strategy served him quite well.

That anecdote came to mind as I began cooking from my newest cookbook, Alison Roman's Dining In.

Truth be told, I tried the Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread, or Why Would I Make Another Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever Again? before ever purchasing the book. And they were delish. So much so that I didn't pause to snap a photo. But they and all the the hubbub on social media [here, here, and here] persuaded me to go for it, and already I'm glad I did.

So far we've tried two more recipes: Baked Summer Squash with Cream and Parmesan Bread Crumbs.... (you can't see the zucchini and garlic, but it's in there and my oh my)

and then Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Hot Honey Browned Butter.

Both dishes used familiar ingredients in a unique way and are dishes we'll make again. And dare I say, this is one beautiful book. I have oodles of cookbooks(!) but this one is unique, with an engaging tone that I'm enjoying (and need right now). It's like it's inviting me in, and I fully plan to keep accepting the invitation.

This is not a sponsored post. I'm just doing my darndest to spend more quality time in the kitchen, and recently, this book has helped! 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Stash Statement

The Stash Statement blog hop starts today, inspired by the new book by Kelly Young of My Quilt Infatuation. When she asked me to participate, it was the byline of Kelly's book that first caught my attention, and as I delved further, I discovered that all the projects had very scrappy beginnings, and that sounded like fun. As Kelly explains, Stash Statement is "all about structured improvisation: using your scraps with a consistent background fabric."

So I'm working behind the scenes on a scrappy project to share in a few weeks, but meanwhile, here's the entire Stash Statement Blog Tour Schedule so you can follow along!

4/16 - Kickoff

4/16- Grand Bazaar 

4/23- Louvered 

4/30- Precarious 

5/7- Beach Retreat 

5/14- Fire Pit 

5/21- Detour 

5/28- Murrina 

6/4- Scattered 

6/11- Bloom Chicka Boom 

6/18- Regatta 

6/25- Catch a Falling Star 

7/2- College Prep 

7/9- Take Flight (bonus digital pattern) 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018 Finish-A-Long :: Q2 List

Considering I should have the project that I'm currently focused on done by the time the Q2 list link-up closes, that will leave just two wips to finish up this quarter. First really needs to be the multicolor wedge slab quilt for Faith circle.

After that, I'd like to get back to the Color Play quilt I started at QuiltCon. I'll need to find my notes, ahem, but with any luck I can get up to speed rather quickly. I'm looking forward to that.

So just two projects, but that worked well for me last quarter, and should still leave plenty of room for starting some yet-unknown projects as well. That sounds good to me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


As the calendar turns to a new month, it's always an anxious moment waiting to see what the new Bee Sewcial prompt will be. Felicity/@felicityquilts chose "Rooted" and my first thought was, "oh yes." It was a prompt I could connect to, and I liked Felicity's fabric request - a bright solid background for each block, with the design in variegated values of a contrasting color.

I took a very minimal approach with the first block, still in the mood to dabble with inset seams, as I had been over the weekend. At 6" x 19", I loved it for its simplicity and of course, its color.

For the second block, I specifically wanted a horizontal orientation, had a design in mind, marked it roughly in hera marker on my background fabric, and in all honesty, had trouble making it happen. That to say, I tossed it aside and started again. The second block went together better, though haltingly, but once it was done, I really didn't like it. Ugh. So I walked away for a bit, and came back knowing I needed to slice into it and trim it up. That brought it to 11" x 18.5" and resulted in a design I could live with. With my two blocks somewhat on the literal side, I'm curious to see how my bee-mates interpret the theme.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Year of Scrappy Triangles

It started back in October, and I'm not sure I've even posted here about it. But Leila/Sewn by Leila started a Year of Scrappy Triangles, offering a free paper-pieced triangle block pattern each week. Admittedly, I've been inclined to make my blocks in batches rather than one a week - that's just how it's worked out.

Though the blocks are designed for using scraps, I'm kind of cheating there, as I'm cutting into my generous stash of Denyse Schmidt prints, making more scraps than I'm using, but I'm ok with that. For 'backgrounds,' I'm using the two DS dot prints, a very pale gray solid, and some Essex Homespun in Natural. Some days I question my choices there, but I'm going with it....

I'm only making one block of each design, so my finished project won't be that large unless I change my tack. Time will tell what I decide to do about that, if anything. Meanwhile, these 6 1/2" blocks are a nice diversion now and then, so I'll let it be that for now.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

2018 Finish-A-Long :: Q1 Finishes

With just two projects on my Q1 Finish-A-Long list, I had high hopes. The table runner for my mom's birthday had an early (mid-January) deadline, so that made it a priority right off.

With a delicious mix of fabrics that mom had a hand in choosing, it was fun to create as I went along. I used a variety of quilting designs and was more than happy with the 32" x 92" finish and it looks great on mom's dining table.

The next project on the list wasn't as easy to face. Looking Up, a carry over from Q4 last year, had overwhelmed me for too long. At the beginning of the quarter, I hadn't even made my block yet. As smitten as I was with my theme and the blocks my mates had made, I really struggled on how to consolidate them into a quilt top.

At long last, I settled on an unconventional framing/sashing and then it was time to face the quilting. THAT I did have a plan for.... inspired by the power lines on our street. I'm moderately pleased with my execution, but even more so that I kept with the theme. At 75" x 60", for better or worse, Looking Up is complete.

Two for two feels good. Now it's time to think about what's next!

Want to join in? Here's all the info!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Teeny Tiny Trip Around the World

Remember the hand-piecing project I started at QuiltCon? Well I'm still working on it! Can't say I work on it every night, especially when there's a quilt to bind or a newsletter to work on, but I am making progress, and I'm good with that!

Yesterday I spent a little time with my iron and tailor's clapper spinning all the seams on the back. It's fiddly and time-consuming, but it really seems to help the piece lay flat and neat... Ie. worth the effort.

I did get an ArtBin in which to store all of my fabric squares and hand-sewing supplies, and that inspired me to cut up all the fabric in the bundle I started this project with. I need to decide if I'll use just these fabrics or add more in the mix. Hmmmm....

I'm hoping by posting monthly I'll stay accountable and moving forward on this project. People have asked, "How big are you going to make it?" And there's no answer other than, "I'll know when I'm done." I have no real expectation to make it a full-sized quilt, but I'm hoping I don't lose interest anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Studio Ten :: Laser Levels

Squaring up is not my favorite part of the quilt-making process, but I gotta say, using laser levels to square and trim my Looking Up was highly successful! A while back I purchased a pair of Bosch GTL2 Laser Squares, which are pretty hefty levels. I should have shot a wider angle for you, but imagine in the photo below that there is another level opposite the first; and same with the square ruler, with all the laser lines lining up.

Mandy of Mandalei Quilts posted a really helpful tutorial on Trimming Your Quilt with Tools from the Hardware Store, so if you're interested in trying them, do check it out. I got mine on sale, as they're a little pricey, but worth considering. Oh, and rather than using painter's tape for marking the edges like Mandy did, I used a long ruler and FriXion pen; I just found it quicker and I was less likely to nudge anything out of alignment as I worked. At any rate, the levels made quick and accurate work of a task that often can be frustrating, and I'm all for that.

For previous studio posts, see hashtag #aqtstudio on Instagram, or individual posts below:

Monday, March 26, 2018

Still Looking Up

From the day I thought of using "Looking Up" as a Bee Sewcial prompt, I loved it, and there was no looking back. A stall, perhaps, but no looking back.

Looking Up :: 75" X 60"

I spent weeks looking up and taking inspiration photos, though I knew my bee-mates would easily find their own, just by taking a moment to look up wherever they might be. And of course, they did!

In the photo above you'll see [top to bottom, left to right]: "Storm" by Leanne/@shecanquilt, "Perception" by Silvia/@astrangerview, "Bridge" by M-R/@quiltmatters, "Dormant" by Stephanie/@spontaneousthreads, "Timber!" by Hillary/@entrophyalwayswins, "Ceiling" by Felicity/@felicityquilts, my own "Swinging", "Fascinating" by Marci/@marci_girl, "Aspire" by Anne/@playcrafts, and "Redwoods" by Karen/@capitolaquilter. Each block so unique and individually inspired.... I've spent alot of time looking at them and appreciating them.

I also spent alot of time fretting over how to puzzle the blocks into a whole, and at long last settled on an improvisational sashing using Kona Overcast, which besides being the perfect color, just added to the sentiment of the design prompt.

For quilting, I used Aurifil 50wt #2600 (light gray) to create a free-form mesh inspired by the power lines on our street. So mostly there are groupings of parallel lines angling across the quilt, grounded occasionally by a trio of vertical 'poles'. It was one more aspect in keeping with the theme, and I love the idea still, though the execution left some empty spaces larger than I would have liked, many of which were secured by just following the lines of the fabric. It all worked well enough for me to be satisfied for trying it, knowing just the same that another choice might have been better. I can live with that.

This one called to be horizontally oblong, and why not? Measuring 75" X 60", I finished it off with a faced binding. Though pulling my bee-mates' remarkable blocks into a cohesive whole nearly did me in this round, I love the finish for the thoughtfulness that went into it, for the admission (by me) that indeed, the struggle can be real, and especially for the reminder, as always, to pause for just a bit.... and look up.

This project was on my 2018 Finish-A-Long Q1 list.
Linking up with Finish It Up Friday and 2018 Finish-A-Long Q1 Finishes!

Thursday, March 22, 2018


Truth is, I had no idea what 'Kilim' meant when Marci/@marci_girl announced her prompt for Bee Sewcial this month. I quickly learned that "A kilim is a flat tapestry-woven carpet or rug traditionally produced in countries of the former Ottoman Empire, Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkic countries of Central Asia. Kilims can be purely decorative or can function as prayer rugs." Oohhh! Now I know.

Marci offered an inspiration pin board, which was helpful in familiarizing myself with possible motifs, and I selected three to focus on, two types of triangles in bright colors, and a Greek Key in neutrals. I chose to create the Greek Key very 'true', ie. it was improvisational in that I made it without a pattern, but it wasn't as free-form as the triangles. In hindsight, I really like the contrast between the two styles in one block.

Per Marci's request, the block measures 14 1/2" by 20 1/2", and I think the 'chopped off' aspect to bring the block to size kind of adds to its appeal. For not knowing where I was headed during most of the construction of this block, I'm happy where I ended up!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Untitled in Raisin

It's unclear to me why, but I do not have a positive inclination towards monofilament thread. I used it years ago, but I don't believe (ever) for machine quilting. It just wasn't done. Until I saw the stunning work of Jill/Pie Lady Quilts, who uses it often so as not to 'alter any of the color work' in her quilts Let's just say it was seeing Jill use it to such great effect that I thought I might give it a try.

So the project that finally seemed right to try it on was the small half-square triangle quilt I started in Season Evans' Two-Color Quilt Composition class a few weeks ago. After first going to Instagram to see what advice I could garner, it dawned on me that it might also be wise to check the website of the specific thread I planned on using, which just happened to be Aurifil. And they actually had some suggestions as to needle size, thread in bobbin, etc. Luckily all the tips were fairly consistent, and here are the adjustments I made:
  • Used regular 50wt in the bobbin [if you choose to use monofilament in the bobbin, wind it very slowly to prevent stretching]
  • Reduced top tension slightly 
  • Increased the stitch length to 3.5
  • Used a top-stitching needle, which has a larger eye
Of course your machine may handle it differently, so adjust accordingly.

At any rate, my experiment with monofilament went really well. On another project, I may have chosen to quilt more densely, but the half-square triangles on this 34" square quilt just didn't seem to call for it.

For backing, I had found a perfect match in a stashed Lotta Jansdotter print. And as far as match goes, if you've never seen Kona Raisin, which is the color of my HSTs in this little quilt, it's a rich dark purple.... and as you'll catch a peek in some of my photos - exactly the color of the doors of our home. How's that for random?{grin}

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sidewalk Chalk on Asphalt

When I flipped the calendar to 2018, I had no idea I'd be working on a bed quilt by the end of the month, and actually be sleeping under it by the start of spring. glory be! Yes, a new quilt for our bed had been on the list for at least a couple of years, but it took Rachel/Stitched in Color hosting The Big Bed Quilt-Along to actually get me going on it.

I'd been collecting low-volume fabrics for months on end, having no idea what I'd actually do with them. I had in mind maybe an improv pineapple quilt, but when I saw Meghan/Then Came June's Sidewalk Chalk pattern start popping up in Instagram, I changed my mind. It was a pattern, yes, but with an improvisational feel, and it seemed oh so doable - you know, like it might actually get done in a reasonable amount of time. And truth was, I loved loved! every version I saw. So that was settled, and I started in.

Rachel had been posting a variety of helpful posts along the way, and near the end of sewing my rows together, her Planning Quilt Size post turned on a light bulb. so I got my measuring tape out pronto and realized I would need to add an extra row and column both to make my own quilt sized appropriately for my bed. It's a good reminder to take a look at those dimensions listed on any pattern you use - they're all relative. Luckily, with Sidewalk Chalk, it was really easy, and after a good review of the pattern, even keeping that improv feel was a cinch and adding on didn't hold me up too much.

By mid-February, I had a finished quilt top! Measuring 96" x 112", it was BIG! Ie. too big for me to want to quilt myself. My decision was quick, easy, and logical (to me) - purchase a few yards of the crisscross in black wideback by Carolyn Friedlander, which was one of the low-volume fabrics in my original pull, pack it all up, and send straightaway to Rachel/Stitched in Color herself for long-arm quilting. We conferred briefly about thread color (off-white) and quilting design and density, and before long, my quilt was on the frame.

I wanted to comment since I mentioned it in a previous post - Stitched in Color uses Quilter's Dream Select batting, which I was unfamiliar with. I've always been a Warm & Natural/White gal myself, so I didn't know what to expect. But I'm more than happy with the feel and drape of the finished quilt and honestly can't really tell a difference. (yay!) 

So for binding, all 416" of it, I used more of the Backgrounds Crossstitch in Gray by Lori Holt. And with that, I have a brand new bed quilt and am ecstatic to cross that one off my list.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

WIP Wednesday

Throughout 2011 and well through 2014, I participated weekly in Lee/Freshly Pieced's WIP Wednesday link-up, where we would show progress on everything we were working on, basically encouraging us to, you know, keep sewing! It was really motivating and a fun group to be a part of. By the time it ended, I wasn't posting as often, but sometimes I miss it.

I'm actively working on three different quilts right now, waiting for blocks to arrive for another, weeks behind in a sew-along, and antsy to get back to piecing one and quilting on another. And of course, should really be working on something else that has a hard deadline. It all gets to be a bit much. So for old time's sake? Simple accountability? Whatever, it seemed important to gather them all together and report in.

Sidewalk Chalk on Asphalt - So nearly finished! It's back from being quilted by Stitched in Color, and I'm half-way through 416" of binding.

Looking Up - I've been quilting a few lines whenever I have a chance, and I'm close to finishing. It's unique, inspired (at least I think so), and imperfect.

Faith Circle Multicolor Wedge Slabs are still rolling in and I absolutely love them! After all of the neutrals I've been handling lately, this one's a delightful chance of pace.

My Two-Color Composition from Season Evan's class is really what I feel like getting to - something small and quick to finish. I may use it as a breather between finishing those top two and moving on to my deadline project.... a bit of a pause.

I'd also like to get back to Color Play, which I started in Tara Faughnan's class at QuiltCon. This one will probably wait a bit, but I'm excited about it.

The hand-pieced Teeny Tiny Trip Around the World is another one I'm working on consistently. Begun with Chawne Kimber at QuiltCon, I was sewing on it a bit every night until I started in on binding. So I hope to get back to it in a few days. This one will obviously be a long-term project. I'm hoping I don't lose interest any time soon.

And lastly is the #yearofscrappytriangles. I'm way behind, but have every intention of catching up. These blocks are quick to do, so I just need the right space. It'll come.

So there. Thanks for letting me air things out.