Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 41

Front Side of Wrapped Gifts aka
Invasion of the Pods.
The yet to be quilted section is on reserve
for a future assignment.
"Invasion of the Pods" is the catchy title that Leah Day gave to this week's assignment. The mission, should I choose to accept it, is to quickly knock off  the quilting necessary to turn a WIP or UFO into a gift for some lucky person this holiday a season. I might have chosen "Gift Wrapped with Love" as the title. In fact that is just what this free form pattern has you do. First you create the "gift" and then you wrap it with love by surrounding the gift pattern with echo quilting. You can give the same gift multiple times on a quilt or custom select a different gift for each section.

Detail of Snake Paisley including the gift wrapping echo.
My first step was to create a practice quilt. I wanted something large enough to practice on and I like to have a few seams, just for the challenge of crossing over them. I also like to select multiple fabrics, since most quilts are not have the same hue and with a varied value. I went to my stash and chose five compatible fabrics from my violet/fuchsia stack. I cut each of the five into 12.5" wide sections by the height of the fabric. Sometimes this was 14" and at other times it was closer to 20". I alternated the violets with the fuchsias, seaming them along the 12.5" side until I had a length of fabric approximately 90" long. I cut this in thirds and this time seamed the resulting three segments along the 30" length. Viola! Instant quilt.  I think this method would be a great way to use fat quarter packets. One of the advantages of various lengths of fabric is that the "blocks" are randomly staggered.
Detail of Flowing Leaves

Now it was time to select the "gifts" or free motion quilting pattern that would be at the center of each segment. I turned where I often do for inspiration, to Leah Day's 365 Quilting Patterns and looked through her pivoting patterns. I thought I should wrap four gifts in order to both practice the wrapping and how to move from one quadrant or section of the quilt to next. I choose Snake PaisleyFlowing Leaves (one of my all time favorites that I have used in numerous quilts) Pebbled Paisley and Dandelion Puff.The first gift I created was Snake Paisley. I had no problem with free motion quilting the design. Nor did I have an issue with echoing the outer perimeter of the clump of paisleys. However, I did struggle with what to do about echoing the sections near the outer corner and along the edge of the quilt, because echoes assume an even border, but this was substantially wider. I "faked" it. If I were to use this method on an actual quilt, I would either want to make sure my paisleys did a better job filling a segment evenly or work out a better method of echoing large, open sections.

This is where the four gifts come together.

An even closer view of the juncture of the four gifts.

The rest of the gifts/segments basically went without a hitch. So, perhaps I learned sufficiently from the first segment to adapt the final three. As for using this method of quilting to rapidly quilt a UFO or WIP, I think not. Other than stippling, which I could have chosen, any free motion quilting pattern takes time and so does echoing to do well. However, if you have time, this could be a lot of fun, especially if you theme the various gifts to go along with the quilt's theme - say leaves and flowers for a garden path quilt.

Backside of Wrapped Gifts

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Following Leah Day - Week 40

Leah Day's current assignment is another in her series of large scale designs that quickly secure a quilt's layers and is recommended for utilitarian quilts. The basic premise is a flower with multiple petals branching off a central spiral. Let's just say that I took great liberties with this design.

Front Side of Floral Garden
24" x 24"
First, I prefer to start my spirals from the outermost point, spiral my way into the center, than do a u-turn, spiral my back out and connect the circle. Like many things in quilting every teacher and student has their favorite way of doing things and reasons for their preferences. It doesn't make one way better or worse, just different.

Detail of Floral Garden
Showcases how I create my spirals
Leah overlapped her petals and had rounded outer points. The design just wasn't calling to me. I prefer petals with pointed ends and the overlapping looked like bad travel stitching. I played with the design on paper and created a 16 petal design that filled the space and was more pleasing to my eye.

I could have practiced the design on a whole cloth quilt sandwich, but I thought it would be more fun to whip up a simple garden quilt that would allow me to practice the design in several scales, multiple times. So, that is just what I did. The quilt is 24" square. The three floral block sizes are 12, 8 and 4 inches. I tossed in some vegetation/path sections just for fun and filled them with leaves. If this were to be a more formal piece, versus a practice piece, I would have nestled the leaves right up to the floral design, much the way stippling can surround a design to provide change in texture.

Backside of Floral Garden
Note how the tightly compacted leaves contrast
with the looser larger scale flowers, allowing the
flowers to steal the scene.

 I did opt (no surprise here) to mark each floral square with water soluble crosses on the diagonal and horizontal over vertical lines. This gave me a guide to orient the petals. I also tried Sharon Schamburg's method of hand basting the sandwich. It definitely took more time than pin basting, BUT the quilt was much easier to maneuver without pins. It folds and bunches more easily and your hands grip only the quilt, versus awkwardly resting on pins. I highly recommend giving it a try.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 39

"Matrix" - Front Side
Executed on an 18" x 18" Block
No more flowing lines - sort of. Leah has us moving on to handy quilting patterns  that quickly secure quilts that are meant to be used. I honestly can't recall the last time I quilted with this as my focus. Even when I quilt charity quilts I can't resist having fun and therefore opting to quilt some pattern that relates to the theme or fabric. However, just because Leah labels "Matrix" a utilitarian, fast overall pattern doesn't mean that is all that  it is good for. I can imagine Matrix done in white pearl cotton to create fishing nets, or a lighter weight thread for a butterfly net or my favorite thought a snood with beading at the junctures.

"Matrix" was the perfect design to follow flowing lines. It is formed by creating an undulating line from corner to corner of the area being filled. The first line is the guide for creating parallel lines across the rest of the area. Once that is completed a second undulating line perpendicular to the first line, starting and ending at the two other corners, is stitched. This line is the guide for lines perpendicular to the first set.  What is formed is a free flowing grid.

Detail of "Matrix" Practice Piece
Note how I used the piecing junctures as a guide to keep
my diagonal line on track.

Even following Leah's advice to readjust my hand position every 4" or so, I find I struggle not to jerk off line from time to time. I suspect this is not exclusively a free motion quilting learning issue. I have noticed similar issues with my handwriting as I age. No matter how assiduously I concentrate, flowing smooth lines are impossible for me to achieve when writing.

Actual photo of "Matrix" practice piece not enhanced by cropping.
Not the travel stitching along the outer perimeter of the block,
thus avoiding any need to cut and bury threads.

I made the conscientious decision NOT to follow along with Leah when it came to cutting the thread at the end of each line of stitching. My rationale was multiple fold and one that works best for me. First, my block was 18" x 18" and not a full sized quilt. This was one reason why my work wasn't constricted by the throat (the space to the right of the needle, between the needle and the machine.) Second, I opted to quilt this on my George that has a 20" throat versus my Bernina that only has an 8" throat.  I have near zero tolerance for cutting and therefore having to bury thread even with the aid of a cheater needle. Instead I ran off the edge of the quilt at the end of each line of stitching and sewed to where I needed to be next alone the outer perimeter where the travel stitching would be hidden by binding. Much easier and faster!

Back of "Matrix"

Detail of "Matrix's" Back

Once again, I am left with a feeling of close enough. I should be able to "fake" this pattern as needed.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 38

Lost Data - Front
Leah Day's assignment this week gave me another much needed pass at Jagged Lines. My struggles with last week's Jagged Lines assignment helped me zero in on my area of confusion (how to start and end the gaps.) When I watched Leah's video for Lost Data (Jagged Lines filled with Zippling) I paid particular attention to this trouble spot, pausing and rewinding the video multiple times until it sunk in. Then I practiced a few rounds with pen and paper.

Got it! One more free motion quilting pattern to add to my repertoire.

Detail from
Lost Data

Lost Data - Back

Detail from Lost Data - Back
The learning curve on Lost Data was typical of so many of life's challenges for me. It isn't that I am completely befuddled. Instead, I am missing one key component. The problem is discovering what that is and mastering it. Once it is learned the question becomes why was it so difficult in the first place? I choose not to dwell on that. Instead, I accept there will be many more moments of confusion in my life. I take heart in the knowledge that eventually I figure it out, all the more satisfied for having done so.