Friday, December 28, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - A Year in Review

Sometimes a picture says it all. What follows are images, one from each month of quilting along with Leah and five more images of the quilts I made between assignments. If you click on the first image you should be able to see all 17 as a slide show.

Thank you, Leah for a fabulous year of lessons. You are the best!

January - Stippling varying scales in channels

February - Using varying scales of stippling to help a design element stand out

March - Starting a small whole cloth quilt

April - Sharp stippling

May - Zippling incorporates sharp angles and straight lines

June - the basics of Circuit Board

July - using starch and freezer paper templates to turn over the edges of labels

August - auditioning quilting patterns with pencil first

September - Lava Paisley, one of several pivoting designs

October - Flowing lines with pockets of pivoting paisley

November - Large, larger and largest scale of flower

December - Overlapping hearts that weren't overlapped. :)

Hibiscus Haven - my original design

Marvels of the Deep - a tweaked pattern made for my granddaughter

Tree Serenade - Note every section except the tree was cut from a practice piece
made executing a Leah Day assignment. It was assembled using the Quilt As You Go
method that was taught by Leah.

Seagulls on Parade - a tweaked pattern made for my first grand niece.

Beach Stroll - my original design.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 45

Front Side of Week 44 & 45 Practice Piece
December 21, 2012 has come and gone and the world did not to come to end. Not that I was worried. However, I have been struggling with the idea that Week 45 of Quilt Along with Leah Day would be the last assignment. I have truly enjoyed the process of tackling each new assignment. What would I do next to keep the momentum going? It seems that Leah has a whole new series of assignments she has been working on for 2013. Guess what I will be doing?

Back Side of Week 44 & 45 Practice Piece
When I am not blogging about my experience of creating under Leah's tutelage, I plan to share my personal work as well as Tricks and Tips of the Trade. Here is my first tip - there is no right way to do what needs doing in quilting. What is important is to try various ways and understanding what they are and are not good for. Which way to press a seam is a perfect example. When I started quilting, back in the Jurassic era, the hard and fast rule was to press the seam towards the darker fabric. Why? There were three reasons. One, the dark fabric, if pressed towards the light fabric might shadow through. Two, batting tended beard and therefore by covering the seam by pressing fabric over it, batting threads wouldn't sneak out through the seam to the front of the quilt. Three, most quilts were hand quilted. The quilting motif could be designed so that it never had to go through more than three layers (top, batting and backing) versus four layers (top, seam allowance, batting and backing.) My preference today is to press my seams open. Why? The seam allowance doesn't shadow through. The quilt is flatter. I choose a batting that doesn't beard. Finally, I no longer hand quilt. My machine can handle going over seam allowances.

Detail showing a tweaked "Heart Confetti"
quilting pattern. 
What that tip is really saying is that you are in charge of your design and your technique. There is so much praise I could heap on Leah, but I will share one thing here that I appreciate about her. Leah encourages experimentation. She does not insist that things be done her way. Of course her way has come from experimenting and learning what works best for her. In this week's assignment, "Heart Confetti" I diverged from Leah, once again. What I liked about the design was the hearts, the echoing and the pivoting. I'm still not sold on overlapping designs. I did overlap a few hearts in the beginning, but quickly swapped out the overlaps for tripling and even quadrupling my echoes instead. I actually find it less confusing to pivot and echo a design than to overlap. Of course my goal wasn't to cover a big area quickly with an overall pattern. I just want to quilt hearts in the star section of my quilt.

A back side detail of my version of "Heart Confetti."

Once I completed "Heart Confetti", or perhaps I should rename it "Throbbing Hearts", I tried out my own pattern, "Starry Night" in the border. It is done by creating a short curvy line, then a five pointed star, followed by another short curvy line which precedes to spiral first in and then back out again (much easier than travel stitching) then repeat.

"Starry Night" seen from the front.
"Starry Night" as it appears on the back.
I am so grateful that our journey with Leah is not coming to a halt, but will continue on into 2013. I hope you will join me in a year filled with the joy of creating.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 44

Starry Night - Front
24" H x 24" W
Have you ever started a quick and easy project, then decided to change one or two things only to find yourself hours later enmeshed in a project that is neither quick nor easy? That is precisely what happened to me when I took on the assignment of doing a "Starry Mess" practice piece.

"Starry Mess" is the latest in Leah Day's free motion quilting patterns of overlapping designs. The idea behind the designs are that they are easy to do and quickly secure the quilt top, batting and backing together. They are best used on comfort versus show quilts or art quilts.

What I realized when looking at "Starry Mess" was that this design just didn't call out to me. I liked the stars, but not the mess. I knew I had to tweak it in order to keep myself engaged in the lesson. I began by asking myself where I would like to see stars quilted. I visualized them in the sky background of traditional star blocks.

Tweak number one was to piece an oversized star block I could practice on. It took more time than just selecting a night sky fabric from my stash, but not that much more time. Tweak number two was to add a border to the block. Also, simple, but more time. The problem started when I debated about which fabric to use for the border. The one that made the most sense was the night sky. This lead to tweak number three. How did I distinguish the border from the block? I would add a folded strip in the seams  between the block and the borders. That tweak was a major learning experience.

Detail from Starry Night

The final tweak was modifying the free motion quilting pattern so that each star stood out, but so that it was still one continuous line of quilting. I achieved this by adding a line with a loop in the middle or alternating stringing stars with loops. A modification I am considering for the border is to alternate stars with spirals along a string. I think it could be quite effective.

Detail from the Back Side of Starry Night

Working on a project like "Starry Mess" to a point where it morphs into my interpretation of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" is precisely why quilting calls to me. I may think I want quick and easy. What I thrive on is discovery and seeing a project take on a life of its own.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Quilting Along With Leah Day - Week 43

Front Side of "Scribble"

This week's free motion quilting design was named Cat Hair Ball or Scribble. The way it turned out when I let it flow naturally was reminiscent of a pretzel, just without the cross. This is definitely a quick, easy and soothing pattern. Leah recommends it for sashings. I tried it as an all over design. My recommendation would to be to use it for a young child's blanky.

In Leah's instructions for executing Scribble she mentions that the "bird's nest" or what I think of as eyelashes that can be seen on occasion with this pattern, on the back of the quilt is NOT a tension issue but an issue of how it is easy to be change the speed of your hands as you swoop around a curve, thereby getting out of synch with the speed of the needle, controlled by your foot on the peddle. Although I rarely get an out and out bird's nest on the back of my quilt any more, I do have a tendency to get eyelashes. So, I challenged myself to reduce them when practicing Scribble. They are there, but in general the eyelashes are less frequent and most are mere stubbles.

Backside of "Scribble"
Note I wrapped it with echo quilting

Another goal I gave myself with this assignment was to keep the quilt fairly open or at a midscale, versus my tendency to go for small scale and even micro scale quilting. This keeps the quilt more supple. However, I find it trickier to avoid the eyelashes and maintain an even scale in mid to large scale quilting versus small scale quilting.

Detail of the backside of "Scribble"
In some areas the eyelashes are obvious. In other areas
you have to look closely to see hints of them.

Backside of the "Pod" practice piece.
An excellent way to compare the designs
from the last three assignments.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 42

Front Side of Tangled Lights

I really should go back and check Leah's video before I launch into doing my assignment.  I tend to remember the gist but not the details. On the plus side I often end up with a cousin of Leah's designs, giving me double the patterns to play with in the future.

Back Side of Tangled Lights

The plan this week was to rapidly quilt sashing by "stringing" spirals one after the other. I can't recall the last time I pieced a top that included sashing. This put me in a dilemma. Should I piece a new practice top with sashing or tweak the design to be a filler pattern. My time was very limited this week since I was on the road. I opted to tweak the pattern and title the new design Tangled Lights. 

Detail of Tangled Lights

In order to execute the filler pattern I started with a wobbly spiral baseline, working from the outside towards the center of the space I wished to fill. Once I reached the center I added the spiral ornaments/lights, working my way out along the wobbly baseline. I left gaps between the ornaments because that is what I thought the design called for. Oops! However, those gaps allowed me to stagger the ornaments, which left room for the next concentric row of an ornaments out. Finally, since I added Tangled Lights to my Wrapped Gifts practice piece, I wrapped my ornaments with some echo quilting.