Friday, August 12, 2016

Round Peg, Square Hole - a New Quilt!

You've seen this design from me before - I made a 4-patch version and called it Quarter Round last year for the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild's Modern Mini Showcase exhibit. It also proudly hung in the Small Quilts category at QuiltCon 2016. I did a digital mock up of the design in Touchdraw and I got so excited about all of the design possibilities available just by colour-blocking certain strips and making more blocks to repeat the pattern.

When I sent a picture of the 4-patch to my creative genius friend Berene looking for name suggestions (Quarter Round was her idea), she also thought I should try making it with an ombre effect. I held that thought.

Recently, RJR Fabrics asked if I'd like to participate in their What Shade Are You? feature on their Quilt With Love blog. The blog hop showcases their Supreme Cotton Solids. This was my chance to choose as many colours as I wanted to make any project my little heart desired. "Yes please" was my reply!  Of course, actually choosing the fabrics took me f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

Cotton Supreme Solids from RJR for my Round Peg, Square Hole quilt.

The last couple of years I've been enjoying working with the contrast of warm and cool colours in my improv work, so I thought I'd do the same with this quilt. Here are the colours I finally chose from the Supreme Cotton Solids colour card.  They are listed in ombre order from lightest to darkest in their colour groups.

Shell Pink 175T
Candyland 86T
Hot Pink 217
Rhododendron 181T
Ruby Slippers 286

Glow in the Dark 204
Peridot 342
Wimbledon 205
Clover 128T
Kelly Green 127T

Goldenrod 92T
Carrot 131T
Tangerine Dream 276
Mandarine 159T
Chili Pepper 49T

Seafoam 301
Nile Green 90T
Toy Boat 366 C&S
Horizon 354
Twilight 353

and finally, Kerchief 364 C&S as a warm white background.

Round Peg, Square Hole by Poppyprint

And here it is! All 38" square. Because I can't stop myself, there's a lot of straight line quilting 1/2" apart in concentric squares and it's all on the bias grain of the fabric. There was definitely some distortion of this little quilt (even with ditch-stitching the edges of the blocks to stabilize them first).  A full wash and blocking was in order, so I did that prior to finishing the edge (see below). I can honestly report that these fabrics are 100% colourfast in cold water. No running, no fading. I used a mild, unscented powder detergent in a front loading machine and the colour catcher came out completely white. 

Round Peg, Square Hole by Poppyprint

The quilting is all done with Aurifil thread #2026 in 40 wt (with white Aurifil 50 wt in the bobbin). 

I love this positive/negative star that happens when the 4-patch blocks meet in the middle! Every one of the sixteen 10" blocks in this quilt are built with the same pieces. The resulting illusion of round edges within the square block are all about the colour placement and which strips are designated "background", or in this case white.

Round Peg, Square Hole by Poppyprint

I just couldn't bear to border the blocks in with a binding, so I chose to face the quilt. I've done this before using different techniques and always been very pleased with the results. This time, I followed a tutorial by fellow VMQG member Terry Aske. You get such nice, sharp corners! (I used the method of cutting out a 1/2" triangle of batting in each corner of the quilt).

Round Peg, Square Hole by Poppyprint

Round Peg, Square Hole by Poppyprint

Here you can see both a front corner and what it looks like on the back where the facings overlap.

I'd like to thank RJR for the opportunity to work with their lovely solids. I'm excited about issuing a pattern for the Quarter Round block with some layout suggestions and colouring pages so that you can try it, too! I've got a couple of pattern testers raring to go, so hopefully I can finalize the pattern early in the fall.

Round Peg, Square Hole by Poppyprint

Monday, July 25, 2016

Abstract Quilts in Solids - A Workshop Review

Last year I felt so fortunate to spend two days in workshops with Gwen Marston. Her work has long been an inspiration to me, even though it took several years to work my way to improvisational design after borrowing her book Liberated Quiltmaking from my traditional guild's library about 10 years ago.  In last year's workshop, Gwen taught us techniques used in the making of her sublime 37 Sketches quilts (that have been published in their own gorgeous hard cover book).  You can the two pieces that I created in the workshop here.

Fast forward to last month when I received an email from Gwen asking if I'd be interested in reviewing her latest workshop, an online class on the American Quilter's Society iquilt platform.   The workshop is called Abstract Quilts in Solids - of course I immediately said YES!  This would be the perfect opportunity to learn more from one of my quilting idols while playing with a box of strippy scraps I recently bought from an IG destash. The colours are not my usual fare, so I figured having specific class techniques to try would be the perfect way to just use them and not obsess over what to make.

Blowing My Hair Back I
Strippy scraps purchased on IG destash from Pink Castle Fabric. These are leftovers from their Mocassin BOM. A fun colour challenge for me!

Gwen's class is divided into six lessons. The entire class is 2 hours and 20 minutes long, but there's no need to watch it from start to finish. Instead, I watched the intro, then one or two lessons at each sitting.  That's the beauty of an online class: sipping your favourite drink in your jammies while learning from a master teacher on your own schedule!  It is my goal to make a mini quilt from each lesson to practice the techniques, but also to force myself to use these crazy bright colours and (gasp) brown together.

Blowing My Hair Back I
The centre block of my string quilt.

It doesn't take long into Gwen's introduction segment to know you are in expert hands. Gwen's ease and relaxed approach really set the stage for her no-fuss lessons to come. I especially loved her explanation of why she finds solid fabrics painterly: she says "when you buy paint, it comes in solid colours, it doesn't come in Aunt Gracie." In addition, Gwen goes on to say that solids allow you to see the piecing angles and shapes and even lines of quilting more clearly. So true!

Blowing My Hair Back I
I've modelled this layout on one of the example quilts Gwen shares in her "string quilt" lesson.

Each lesson features a different style or technique of improv piecing done in Gwen's way. She's been building her quilts using these techniques for years. Her comfort in working this way is obvious and the language she uses is so encouraging and supportive that any student would feel they are able to try and succeed in creating their own versions.  I love that she describes blocks as having "a rollicking good time" together. Gwen doesn't fuss about colour theory; she admits to using colours that she enjoys looking at and that "are friendly beside each other". What great approach! Whether you are a tried and true traditional piecer, or a newbie adventurist in the quilting world, I'm quite certain you'll take a lot from this class; if nothing else, the permission to explore your stash with creative abandon and enjoy yourself while doing it.

Blowing My Hair Back I
Here's my string quilt called "Blowing My Hair Back I" it measures around 22" square. The name comes from the hilarious expression I learned from a taxi-driver in Juneau who said "whatever blows your hair back" - equivalent to "whatever turns your crank".  In this case, these wild colours are literally blowing my hair back!

Working in Gwen's style is definitely playtime at the sewing machine. If you're looking to expand your improv piecing repertoire, or just take a break from precision pattern sewing, I highly recommend this class.  You'll quickly see why Gwen is a beloved teacher and highly-respected maker of liberated, improvisational quilts.  Plus, it's just nice to spend time listening to her wise words and watch her masterful hands at work. Grab your scrap bin and have some fun!

I'll be sharing more class work from Gwen's lessons soon...

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Variegated Threads - A Modern Spool Quilt

About 18 months ago, I was asked by the MQG if I'd agree to publish my Chess on the Steps pattern in Simply Moderne magazine (produced in France by Quiltmania).  I happily agreed! Quiltmania editors were impressed by the free pattern of the month quilts on display at QuiltCon 2015 and enquired about running a monthly feature on MQG quilts and modern quilting techniques written by MQG Communications Manager Riane Menardi.  Soon the terms changed and the folks at Simply Moderne requested new, fresh patterns in lieu of the previously published free patterns of the month. I was so pleased for the opportunity to be a pattern contributor for a piece on Improv Quilting (although, as you know, actually writing a pattern for improv is a daunting prospect and sort of counter-intuitive to the process).

Hmmm, what to do? I knew I wanted to incorporate my Improv Under the Influence technique because I think it is such a fun gateway for quilters venturing into improv from a traditional quilting background.My inspiration came in the form of Oakshott's new Colourshott range. This gorgeous, luminous fabric had served me so well with Chess on the Steps, but I wanted to use more fact all of them! Looking at a unit of improv strips sitting on my design wall from another project, it came to me that it would make a perfect thread spool. There are so many ways to make spool blocks and I've long admired vintage spool quilts. I've even made several fun spool quilts using selvages in the past.  This time, I decided to take advantage of the colour range and create variegated spools, each with four different but related colours; just like you'd see on real thread display racks.

Variegated Threads by Poppyprint

Ultimately, the pattern is part 'planned' improv (the thread units of each spool are built using my Improv Under the Influence technique) and part traditional piecing. Once trimmed, the thread units are pieced into the spool block, then joined together to form the wall hanging. One fun element of the pattern is that two rectangular spools sewn side by side form a square block, so the quilt could be laid out with alternating two horizontal/two vertical spools. That way, the light and dark grey backgrounds would zigzag, forming a secondary pattern.  I've also created a table runner sewing 7 spools side by side. I can't wait to use it on my dining table for Stitch Group days!

Variegated Threads by Poppyprint

I had a lot of fun quilting this piece using my collection of rainbow Aurifil 40 wt threads that I'd initially purchased to finish this quilt a couple of years ago. That custom box of Aurifil thread (purchased from my friend Carola) seemed an extraordinary extravagance at the time, but I have used all of the colours time and again, so I don't regret it for one second!  In the background areas, I used a medium grey and quilted a swirling loop to resemble pooling threads. In each variegated spool, I tried domestic ruler work for the first time (sewing the straight lines with a darning foot beside a thick ruler) so that I could go back and forth in both directions without having to turn the quilt to avoid the dreaded 'fabric drag' between the quilting lines. Each spool features a coordinating or matching thread colour. It was a great success on my Juki!

Variegated Threads by Poppyprint

Simply Moderne #5 features my Variegated Threads pattern and an article on Improv Quilting by Riane Menardi of the MQG.

I just love this little quilt.  It is a great introduction to improv work, which of course can evolve into a much freer, creative process where the maker begins with a toolbox of techniques and an inspired idea instead of a pattern. 

Want to make your very own? The Oakshott company has prepared full kits for the front and binding of the quilt, conveniently made with charm packs of their luscious new Colourshott range of shot cottons. If you are luck enough to attend the Birmingham Festival of Quilts next month in the UK, you can see my quilt in person at the Oakshott stand as well as purchase a kit - otherwise they are available online right here.  You'll also need a copy of Simply Moderne issue #5 for the pattern, available here.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Quilt Canada - A Ribbon!

I've just returned home from the National Juried Show put on by the Canadian Quilters' Association. The show was held in Toronto very near to the airport at a convention centre. On the opening night, I was thrilled to discover that Orange Grove won 2nd place in the Modern Bed or Wall Quilt category!! I happily shared the prize with Krista Withers, who no doubt secured the win with her outstanding modern quilting on this quilt.

Photo: Brent Kane, Martingale 2014, all rights reserved

Photo: Brent Kane, Martingale 2014, all rights reserved

A huge thank you to Brother, who sponsored this generous award! Several representatives from the company were at the show, so I was able to thank them in person. I'm thrilled to have a beautiful CQA Rosette to hang proudly in my sewing room. It was my desire to support CQA in their expansion to include modern quilts in the national show and was so pleased that the jury also chose to hang Chess on the Steps and Ice Road.

I volunteered for 8 hours over two days as a white glove host and had several interesting conversations with show-goers about modern quilting. The vast majority of visitors are very supportive and enthusiastic about quilting moving forward in an inclusive direction, but there still others who look on with a puzzled expression and willingly admit "I just don't get it". I did meet lovely people and had a great time hanging out with Daryl and her gorgeous fabrics in the Fabric Spark booth. I happily signed copies of Make It, Take It there on Friday afternoon - it was fun to reignite my enthusiasm for all of the great projects in the book and even more fun that Orange Grove (a pattern in the book) is now a prize-winning quilt! 

For a full list of prize winners and photos of their quilts, check here. Have a look for Leanne and Terry and Cinzia's quilts!  It was also fantastic to see the work of other friends hung in the juried show, including Marianne, M-R and Janet. I also thought that the Toronto Modern Quilt Guild put on an excellent invitational display of members quilts and small challenge quilts.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Will I Remember Colour?" - a Quilt Show Challenge

It is time once again for my traditional guild's bi-annual show this weekend! I'm always very excited about our show for many reasons: we have a very active guild of talented quilters who go all-out to make beautiful quilts for the show, we encourage & celebrate all kinds of quilting styles, the venue is amazing with lots of space & natural light, there's a fabulous member's boutique (that I coordinate), a tea room and a big merchant mall!

This year I am pleased to say that I managed to complete a challenge quilt.  The theme was "Quilt Me a Story" and the idea was to create a small quilt no more than 60" in perimeter inspired by a favourite story or book.  Of all the books I've read recently, I was most affected by reading the Still Alice by Lisa Genova.  I resisted this book, thinking it would be horribly depressing, but I'm very glad that I read it, because while it is indeed incredibly sad, the story left me with a peace that is hard for me to explain.

While considering the quilt challenge, I thought about my creative life, my loves and how memory loss might affect me (my paternal Grandmother lived to a very old age, but suffered severe dementia in her last 10 years). What would happen to my work if I could not remember the names of colours? Would working with colour be the same, just without the words? Would colour still bring me joy? How would I put colours together?

"Will I Remember Colour?" A quilted response to the book Still Alice. 11 2/2" square. Piecing techniques à la Gwen Marston.
Will I Remember Colour?
 11 1/2" square

This quilt was made using the Small Studies techniques I learned from Gwen Marston last spring. I used Oakshott scraps that I had on hand and tried to work fairly quickly without giving much thought to colour theory or what I normally like together.

In addition to finishing up this challenge, I've been busy making items to sell in the boutique. I really enjoy doing this for every show. It is a great way to support the guild, enhance our show and also bring in a bit of cash for summer fun! (sorry, only iphone photos, no time for proper photography this week!).

Wool card wallets by Poppyprint. Used off its of expensive industrial wool to make these.
Industrial woolfelt off-cuts were turned into card wallets

Rope bowls by Poppyprint
I love making these rope bowls!

Tiny scraps of Liberty tana lawn on their way to becoming earrings!

And finally, here's my show ribbon. We started a fun tradition a few shows ago, inspired by the Parksville Quilter's Guild, to award home made ribbons to fellow guild members in fun categories. Each member of the show-organizing committee gets to choose their own category and award the ribbon to the quilt of their choice. Member's love it and it gives an opportunity for everyone to have a chance at a ribbon!  For this show, I chose "1/2 Square Triangles" (last show, I did Best Use of Solids and the show before that I did Travel Inspired Quilt). 

The ribbon I made to be awarded to a quilt with impressive 1/2 square triangles at my traditional guild show this weekend.

If you are local, I hope you'll visit us this Friday or Saturday at Capilano University. Come find me in the boutique!


Friday, May 20, 2016

All the Acronyms

So, recently I took an advanced FMQ class with the VMQG and made a QAYG baby playmat with the results.

I like to take Free Motion Quilting classes every couple of years just to work up my mojo and build confidence while trying new designs. There are so many great books, classes and teachers out there to learn from.  This class was taught by fellow Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild member Stacey Murton (hushrules on IG). She recently learned from some of the best modern quilters at QuiltCon and brought back some of her new found knowledge to share.

FMQ practice by Poppyprint

Ideas for free motion designs are endless, but it is always a good idea to start at the beginning and get into the flow with some simple swirly, loopy, meandering lines. While I regularly revert to my safe swirly stipple for a quick finish, one day I'd like to take more time with a special quilt and custom FMQ elements of it with individual motifs. It is wonderful that authors Christa Watson and Christina Cameli are supporting those of us working on domestic machines!

FMQ practice by Poppyprint

FMQ practice by Poppyprint

FMQ practice by Poppyprint

Some of these designs came from Stacey's class handouts (overlapping whorls, swirls + hooks, water and pebbles seen above), while the ones you see below came from Christina Camelli's book First Steps to Free Motion Quilting (puzzle pieces, interlocking circles & lines, tendrils and mussel shell thingies seen below).  I didn't mark anything on these practice sandwiches, I just started quilting. I think that with something like the puzzle pieces and interlocking circles & lines on a real quilting job, I would use a hera marker and ruler to lay out a grid of lines to follow in order to keep things fairly uniform and parallel.

FMQ practice by Poppyprint

FMQ practice by Poppyprint

FMQ practice by Poppyprint

I like medium sized motifs, like the swirls and mussel shell and paisley flower shapes. I find it more difficult to work smaller, as with tiny pebbles. Stacey suggested drawing pebbles like figure 8's but when I tried that it was tough to stay circular - mine ended up looking like tear drops. More practice required!  I thought the tendril/vine one would be super hard since backtracking with a darning foot is rather daunting for me, but turns out it wasn't too bad after all. 

Having the new Juki TL-2010Q has been a major help for me.  The machine purrs along beautifully and I do not have any difficulty with tension or thread breakage. The fairly low extension table is a bonus as well. I keep my speed in the middle range of the machine's tortoise to hare scale and actually move my quilt fairly slowly. I learned to do this from Christina's Craftsy class  "Free Motion Quilting Essentials" which is on sale for $24.60 Cdn* until Saturday.  I must say, slowing everything down helps to keep my shoulders more relaxed and I have more control over motif shapes and stitch length (no more 1/4" long stitches on curves!).

I didn't do all of this work in the class - these are fairly big FQ sized sandwiches. I completed two of the four while on retreat the week after class. After trimming them up, I joined them together using Marianne's tutorial here.  I've sent this off with some VMQG members to display and possibly be our raffle prize at Vancouver's Mini Maker Faire, June 11-12.

*I'm a Craftsy affiliate, which means if you click on the link and end up purchasing a class, I will receive a small commission. I promise to think of you when I buy my next latte.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Happy Birthday, Queen Victoria!

It is a long weekend here in Canada thanks to Queen Victoria having a birthday. The Monarchists among us like to refer to this weekend as May Two-Four (hehe). In other words, the number of beer bottles there are in a full case. It's a well-known camping/bush party/bonfire kinda weekend. Ahem. I have a feeling Vicky was more of a sherry kinda gal.

BUT, you can party in your jammies while enjoying some great sales this weekend!!  First up is Sew Sisters, offering 20% off on continuous yardage cuts with flat rate shipping in Canada and to the U.S. ON MONDAY ONLY.

There's a 15% off sale happening Saturday till Monday at Fabric Please! with code QUEENSBDAY

And a little bird told me that a perennial favourite, Drygoods Design will celebrate their 5 year online anniversary with a great (online only) sale TOMORROW, Friday May 20th!!

If you're looking to pick up some Cotton & Steel at 33% off, Mad About Patchwork has some Lucky Strike for you in their amazing sale section!

Picnic: Picnic Blanket in Teal

Have fun shopping!