Same Quilt, Different Fabrics

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The PBQ

Sometimes a fabric just speaks to you, other times a pattern does.  For this quilt, let’s call it Portland Baby Quilt (PBQ) because the ladies from Gee’s Bend say that every quilt must be named, the fabric called out to me.  Once I saw the Victorian outlined buildings, the rain drops and the black kitty on a red bike I knew the perfect person for the fabrics.  A very dear friend of mine from the old Portland days and her husband just welcomed their first baby boy. All of the fabrics were absolutely shouting out their names but what pattern could I use to highlight the fabrics and not the pattern.  Aha!  I could use the pattern for my very first quilt, the pea quilt, because the center blocks are huge by many quilt pattern standards at 8″.  This pattern allowed me to focus on the fabrics and see how different two quilts can be using different fabrics.

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My favorite of the three

The first fabric that really grabbed my heart has  red vintage bikes, a black kitty and tulips.  This trifecta reminds me of my dear friend:  she used to own a cute burgundy vintage bike, owns a sweet black cat and loves flowers.  The second fabric has raindrops and nothing says living in the Northwest like some raindrops, for despite what some people say it does rain a whole heck of a lot up there.  The third fabric has vintage Victorian style buildings, which is where I first met this dear friend, me as her apartment manager and she as tenant.  We used to have dinner parties in our tiny studios and eat on the floor in our slippers.   This was a simpler time in our lives and one filled with very good memories.

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The apartment building during a rare snowstorm

This simpler pattern allowed me to highlight the fabrics while still working on the ever present and technical star points.  I chose colors that appeared in the two multi-colored fabric for my star points – red and navy.  I then chose a gray background.  I went a little outside of the palette when I chose the light yellow for the interior but I really wanted to lighten up the quilt and not have it be so gray; the sun does shine in Portland!  I like the splashes of red because the quilt still has that bright kid quality to it.  It is traditional with the primary colors but modern thanks to the fun fabrics. I  used a totally different fabric for the backing of this quilt: a bright red squiggly owl print.  It has a similar color palate as the front but is definitely kid friendly.  To finish it up, I had the quilt long-armed by a talented local quilter with stippling in a variegated gray thread.

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Cute swirly owls

I really love how this quilt turned out and know that it will provide many good snuggle and fort building sessions.  It was really fun to take a familiar pattern and play with it and see it become something completely different.  This is the joy of quilting, there are always surprises to be had.

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The original pea quilt

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The Simple Joy of Binding

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I know that this may sound strange to some of the quilters out there, but I find great joy in  binding my quilts.  After all of the (countless) hours of cutting and sewing and quilting are complete, finishing the binding of a quilt by hand allows the quilter the opportunity to test the quilt out (if working on your lap) and to savor the accomplishment of a another big project well done.

There are so many modern techniques that we employ today:  machine piecing, fancy rulers, long arm quilting, that binding by hand seems to be one of the few traditional techniques.  And yet this is the one time where we really get to sit with our completed piece and be with it before it goes to a new home.  Binding is like the grande finale when you get to see all of your effort come together into something really unique and special.

Despite the fact that I nick my thumb constantly and must steer clear of citrus for days after hand binding, I relish the time to just be with the quilt.

Reflections on Resolutions

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Welcome 2016

This morning marks a new beginning and a new year.  We are encouraged to be reflective and motivated right now.  I haven’t spent too much energy looking into the past and projecting into the future for I am currently involved in the present working on projects and cooking a bunch.  And these activities are a good representation of my 2016 resolution which is simply to be more present.  I need to focus on what is here and now and enjoy what I’ve got.  The goal is to not ruminate on what may happen or what has happened but to just be.  So that is my resolution, my  one all encompassing goal for 2016.

In looking back at last year’s resolutions, I was able to complete the majority of them.  My most significant accomplish was downsizing and making a major life change in my household.  I did get in a few more baths and will continue to enjoy this simple luxury when able.  I did not knit a sweater but I have been busily crafting several baby blankets, so I feel satisfied.

I think it is important to look back and reflect upon what has been accomplished and lessons learned in the past year.  I believe that it is powerful to set a goal for the upcoming year.  However, I do not buy into all of the pressure to completely reinvent yourself in the new year.  I believe we should be happy and accepting with who we are and not feel that a diet or an organized closet must be achieved in order to have a good year.

Whatever 2016 may hold, I am hopeful for another year full of adventure and crafting.

When the Plan Doesn’t Pan Out

Planning it out

Planning it out

I recently embarked on my most challenging quilt yet, a quilt that once the pattern was opened and digested, completely overwhelmed and perplexed me.  If I would have had access to these instructions, I would never have purchased — and (spoiler alert) succeeded — in making the aforementioned quilt.  Once I opened the pattern and recognized the sheer scale of the effort ahead me, I knew that I had to be proactive with my planning in order to avoid utter chaos.

Color pencils are good stuff!

Color pencils are good stuff!

Organization began immediately.  After copious hours of cutting 1-inch pieces into even smaller 1-inch pieces, I used envelopes from our recycling to stash each pile of strips.  Because so many pieces were so similar in size, it was important that I label each so as to avoid confusion when putting the strips together.  Another tool that I utilized throughout the whole process was my larger cutting mat. Instead of moving it aside after cutting, I left it on the table, a seemingly simple strategy that made a big difference in ensuring that all of my pieces were exactly the size I needed.  Also, this quilt required a great deal of space for something comprised entirely out of 1-ince pieces that will become a wall hanging.  Part of my organizational strategy was to utilize a space that didn’t feel cramped.  Our kitchen table has been a work station since the last major national 3-day holiday weekend with envelopes, pattern pieces and strips taking up nearly every last spot.

After all of the cutting, came the organization of the pattern.  Looking at it, I knew that colored pencils would be my best friend is deciphering the pattern.  Like the pieces that make up this quilt, the pattern was tiny. Even with all of my color coded instructions, mistakes were still made as I it was difficult to determine what on the pattern (which was coded in different patterns for different colors) was what.

Keeping the strips straight

Keeping the strips straight

Once the pieces were assembled into pairs of strips, I simply labeled them with masking tape to keep track of each.  My masking tape trick was great as I could see the pattern unfold in front of me.  I could also see many of my piecing mistakes and fix them prior to sewing the top together.

The reason this post is titled “When the Plan Doesn’t Pan Out” is because despite all of the aforementioned planning, I still spent an inordinate amount of time ripping out and fixing erroneous fabric pieces.  Some days it felt like I was doing more correcting of mistakes than actual sewing.  There were still challenges despite having been so proactive.  And that’s okay.  This whole quilt was a bundle of many lessons, both in quilting and in life.  No matter how organized you are, crap still happens.  The most simple things around the house (think chalk, rubber bands and tape) can be extremely helpful tools.  Perseverance is key to getting things done even when you feel overwhelmed.

The quilt top is done and I will begin the next process of hand quilting.  I’m sure that even then, I will face a few more bumps on the road to completion.  What I continue to learn through quilting, which resonates in life too, is that things always happen no matter how much you prepare otherwise and rarely are we unable to correct our mistakes.

Hokey Pokey. Times Two.

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That’s what it’s all about!

I have a very dear friend that became a mother last year — of twin girls.  In thinking about what I would like to make them, I debated between the adorable kid-friendly fabrics available (hello, sock monkeys!) and something that was bright and would not be outgrown.  I decided on the latter mostly because my former local shop had a fantastic fabric kit full of color and texture available that I could modify into 2 similar yet different quilts.  Perfect for twin girls!

I will be honest, this Hokey Pokey pattern was not my favorite during the piecing stages.  There was a lot of keeping pieces straight between left and right and this is where I learned the value of using chalk to mark my pieces.  However, beyond getting my rights and my lefts confused which, again with the honesty, happens not just with quilting, this pattern did become quite cool once intact.

Stitch in the Ditch Quilting.

Stitch-in-the-ditch quilting.

These two quilts not only hold a place in my heart because of who they belong to, but also because they are my first quilts that I quilted (free-motion) on my own that are larger than a wall hanging size.  For the first quilt, I opted to do a modified stitch-in-the-ditch pattern with the free motion foot.  I quickly learned that this is a very tedious way to quilt a top.  I was continually stopping and starting and afterward, I had what felt like a million threads to hand sew into the top.  Despite the time consumption of this method, I am happy with the way that the individual pieces are emphasized with the stitch-in-the-ditch pattern.

See, each piece has been stitched around.

Yes, every single ditch was sewn.

After completing the first quilt top, I was less scared of an epic mess-up on the second quilt (kind of like a second child) so I decided to be bolder with the quilting.

Free-motion in action

Free-motion in action

This time around, I just went for it and was amazed at how much faster the process was then my prior quilt.  It took me about 5 hours straight to complete the top, which really didn’t feel all that exhausting.  Once I was in zone, or sewing with the flow, or whatever it is called when something just works, I felt the quilt top almost completing itself while my hands guided fabric this way and that.   This quilt certainly came out much more textured than the other.

Swirls and more swirls.

Swirls and more swirls.

These quilts are awesome because of the fabrics.  The tops are bright and bold, subtle and strong and I love the juxtaposition between all.  I found the most perfect backing for the quilts, one of those moments where a sunbeam falls upon you like a spotlight as you hoist the fabric bolt into the air in celebration.  The backing and the binding are the same on both of the quilts continuing the theme of similar and different.

Best match ever!

Best match ever!

The twin quilts were fun in many different ways to create.  There is a satisfaction in finishing the whole project yourself and not farming out of some of the work elsewhere.  Although neither of these are ready for inspection by the county fair quilt ladies with their magnifying glasses, I am sure that they will keep two little sweet peas cozy and warm for years to come.

Chalk Full of Ideas!

Who needs fancy fabric pencils when you have chalk?

Who needs fancy fabric pencils when you have chalk?

Do you ever have that moment where you feel like your project is getting out of control and becoming stressful?  I have these kinds of moments quite often and the solution is to step away before I get flustered.  After all, crafting is supposed to be my antidote to the stress in life, not another instigator.  Over the weekend, I was working on what will become a baby quilt and getting overwhelmed by the explicit instructions to keep quilt blocks labeled left and right.  This directive sounds much more simplistic than how the pattern really is, trust me.  Anyhow, I went to the garage to kvetch with my sweetie who was working on his own creation.  He suggested writing on them, or marking the separate sides with chalk.  Holy cow, my problem was instantly solved!  Armed with chalk, I was able to label my pieces (on the back, naturally) so that during the process of creation, there is no mistaken direction.

I love that the simple solution of chalk was brought up and how quickly I was able to move past my previous hurdle.  Armed with my chalk, I was no longer stressed out about mixing up my pieces.  I am going to keep this piece of chalk with my quilting tools for future projects.  Sometimes, you just need someone to point out the obvious, simple solution.