Chaos Theory QAL, part 1 is here.
This is a list of the supplies you'll need for the Chaos Theory QAL, with examples from my own quilt. My quilt has nine blocks total, and it's aproximately 45" x 45" square. I'm basing this materials list on that size; adjust up or down as necessary.
Appropriate to the theme, this is a scrap quilt. Get a little wild ("chaotic" if you will.) Be bold. But above all, be true to your asthetic and have fun!
2 ½ yards of background fabric. I used a solid. (This will give you enough extra to make straight cut binding for your quilt if you want. )
Various scraps in shades similar to your background fabric. My background is a muted cool green, so I kept my green scraps muted (I avoided neons, for example). Don't overlook the stuff in your stash that is mostly a shade of your ground color, but which may have a totally different background color! I love mixing feedsack prints, with contemporary, with Asian inspired, with texturey solids, with...
Various print scraps for the butterfly wings. I decided that my butterflies would be in shades of pinks, orangey reds, and purples.
Be bold, and throw in something unexpected! I love to sneak some funky text into nearly all of my quilts. What's your quilting "trademark"?
Scraps of three solids in the palette of your wings. A lot of chaos goes a long way, and, a little sanity goes a long way too! Without the solids my eye had no place to rest. It also makes mixing prints easier in the other sections of the wings.
Scraps for the butterfly thorax. I kept mine all to the same shade of purple, but some are solid, some are batik, and some are hand dyed. Having all the thoraxes the same color settles the quilt down a little.
Hand and machine needles.
Threads to match the colors in your scraps. (More about this later.)
Freezer paper, for foundation piecing and applique.
Next week I'll have the templates available for download, and I'll talk about piecing the wings.
Have fun poring over your stash!
I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a while. Starting a Quilt Along is a little intimidating. What if I throw a QAL and nobody comes?
And then there was the problem of pictures, which was solved on Friday morning when we finally got a nearly-seasonal overcast sky, my favorite weather for taking photos; color is most saturated, and shadows are minimal. There’s probably a setting for this on my camera, but then I’m no expert. Anyway, I just grabbed the quilt and camera, zipped out the door, and tossed the quilt on our picnic table. So if this photo is a little chaotic...
I don’t know what to call this quilt. For obvious reasons, it’s been Dresden Plate Butterflies, which sounds kinda “granny.” I briefly floated (see what I did there?) “Come Fly With Me,” but that sounds a little “mile high.” The project started out intending to be an appliquéd snails trail quilt, but then morphed into something completely different, so I was going to call it Metamorphosis, but I’m just not feeling that one.
My husband says “Chaos Theory” is my brain going off on it’s own little jaunt, and nobody else will get it. But I’m giving you more credit than that, and assuming you know that I’m referring to the Butterfly effect.
Here in Northern California, we’re having an second abnormally dry winter. The Governor is calling for water conservation, and the newspapers are direly suggesting that we may be at the start of a two hundred year drought. The hills are brown-brown-brown when they ought to be green. And speaking of brown, I’ve been recalling that mnemonic from the 1970s drought: “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown...” In short, if a butterfly would please flap it’s wings somewhere, and send us some rain...
Oh, right, the quilt. Butterflies, obviously. Butterflies flapping their wings, perhaps a bit more obscurely. Watching a butterfly flap past in the Rainforest Dome at the California Academy of Sciences inspired this quilt. Have you ever noticed how a butterfly's wings distort the light?
If you’re still here, I invite you to stick around; the next few weeks will bring a series of tutorials for making this quilt. I’ll provide a pattern download. I’ll discuss my fabric choices. I’ll prove that foundation piecing isn’t just for stars. I’ll show you how I like to machine appliqué, and then we’ll do some hand appliqué too!
I hope you’ll stick around, and come quilt, come quilt with me!
I hereby resolve to not buy ahead.
I resolve to not go fabric shopping with my quilting buddies, lest I Zelig.
I resolve not to buy colorways that make me feel queasy, no matter how much I like the designer's other work.
I resolve not to stack and restack and sort and categorize that which no longer thrills me.
I resolve to make room for myself.
Don't worry, it all found good homes.
What are you resolved to change this year?
Debra Lee is the winner of my tea towel give away. Debra, please send your mailing address to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some fun stuff coming up on the blog later this month!
Happy New Year!
2014 draws nearer, and I have my own little landmark moment approaching! As of this moment I have 1,835 pinners following me on Pinterest. and that means I'll have two thousand followers soon! So to mark my little personal moment, I thought I'd have a little giveaway. On the day that my Pinterest follower count reaches 2000, I'll randomly choose one of the commenters to this post to win this:
Voila! A lovely tea towel designed by me! This was my entry for Spoonflower's annual Tea Towel Calendar contest. It's a cotton linen blend, with a nice weight to it. The colors are lovely, with sort of a Provençale feel to them. (Here is my favorite frankoma cup obliging posing with the tea towel.)
The sweepstakes fine print. If you want to be entered for the giveaway, please do the following:
1. Comment on this blog post, telling me what your user name is on Pinterest.
2. If you already follow one of my boards there, please include the name of at least one of the boards you follow.
3. If you aren't following me on Pinterest, please click that little Pinterest button over there on the right, below the sand dollar to get to my boards. Choose a board, or boards to follow, or follow them all!
Meanwhile, here's a little tutorial on how to mitre a hem for a tea towel! Spoonflower prints their tea towels with a nice margin all around them. I started by trimming that down to a quarter inch on all four sides:
Next I made myself a neat little improvised tool. I learned this trick from an independent sewing pattern years ago, and have used it frequently since. I cut a strip of paperboard about an inch and a half wide, and marked it with a quarter (1/4") inch line, and a three quarters (3/4") inch line. Use a pencil, or a fine permanent marker for these lines.
Now I ironed the intended hem lines. First the three quarters inch white margin on each side. And then the one quarter inch hem line.
Now my towel looked like this:
Next I finger pressed each corner, raw edge to raw edge on the diagonal, and marked each with a faint pencil line for the miter.
Notice how the stitching line is at a forty five degree angle to the raw edge of the fabric. I also made a little line parallel to the raw edge which marks the quarter inch turn-under.
On my machine, I began sewing the miter.
I like to start in the middle of the seam, sew to the quarter inch line, then pivot; sew to the inner corner, and then back stitch to the middle again. That way, when I snip the thread ends, the seam doesn't start coming apart at the corner of the miter. Here's that little seam, finished.
Hopefully that's as clear as my nifty acrylic sewing table.
Next, snip the corner off, like this:
I forgot to take a picture of the step where you turn your little corner. That bit is pretty self-evident anyway. If you use a little tool to turn it out, be careful not to poke through! Now start pinning your hem down.
Stitch close to the inner edge of the pressed fold. I forgot to get a photo of that step too. Don't worry, this task isn't that taxing! I started my seam in the middle of the side edge, instead of near the artwork, so it wouldn't be where people are looking.
Have fun mitering stuff! Mitered hems look nice on napkins, and table cloths, and tea towels. The finished hem can be as wide as you want!
P.S. Don't forget to comment to be included in the drawing!
Honestly, I've been in need of inspiration lately. Luckily for me, Pacific International Quilt Festival is in town! My camera and I went together. We argued a bit. As a result, some quilts that I wanted to show you, I simply can't. Mostly this is my fault, because my camera and I haven't been out together in a while, and I need to learn all over again to hold still when I'm shooting. And partly it's due to the abysmal ligting at the Santa Clara Convention center. Why is convention center lighting so universally awful??
Here, in no particular order, are the quilts that knocked me out. Where possible, I've included appropriate links.
Kelp Forest by Barbara Frances really struck me because of the very modern way it played on the Haiwaiin quilting tradition. There's a great Barbara Frances interview on author Joyce Oroz' blog from 2011. I wish I'd got a detail shot of Ms. Frances' handquilting.
The palette first drew me to Kathy Sward's quilt, Linens & Threads: Reusing & Remembering. And then I noticed that she had incorporated pieces from beautiful old linens into this very modern looking quilt. There's a lovely little feature on Kathy Sward and her quilts on the Larkspur Library website from August of this year.
Rene Jennings' quilt Old and Rusty apeals to the part of me that loves industrial artifacts, salvage yards, and wabi-sabi. Judging from another of her quilts, Lost and Found, I'd bet we have that in common. I love those wheel-like blocks she featured.
I love house quilts, so Maria Shell's little (29" x 35") quilt Under the Big Top really caught my eye. It was inspired by a small family owned circus in her husband's family history. I love how she abstracted and fractured the tent shapes, and still left them recognizable. And the matchstick quilting! Take a look at Maria Shell's blog, talesofastitcher.com which includes her teaching schedule.
A detail of the quilting. She changed colors of thread, people!
Who could fail to be charmed by this contemporary whole-cloth quilt, made by Bernadette Mayr, and called (what else?) Millefleur? She says the flowers were easily doodled on her long-arm machine. Looking closely at the quilt, the flower centers seem to be a kind of faced appliqué. Bernadette is the author of several books, her most recent being Modern Nature-Inspired Quilts, which will be available in English by July 2014. (Ooh, she has a book about house quilts!)
Detail of Ms. Mayr's reverse applique flower centers.
One exhibit nearly got by me, but I chanced to stumble on it as I was leaving, and I'm really glad I did. There were several quilts, made by friends Wendy Hill and Pat Pease. Judging by the quilts, they bring out the best in each other. The palettes of their quilts are so much more gorgeous and subtle than my lousy snaps are able to convey. (Oh, that's right, we're blaming the convention lighting. Ahem.)
Here's a quilt by Pat Pease called Enchino Again. Pat is a fan of the Japanese Fabric line Enchino, and if your familiar with those fabrics, you know that they have a look all their own due to the greige goods their brilliant colors are printed on. Just squint, and think "Enchino." Sorry for the blurriness here.
When I saw Wendy Hill's name, it seemed oddly familiar. Little wonder, she's author of several of the most beloved quilting volumes. Just check her books out on Amazon!
Wendy's quilt Colorblinded Again is fabulous. Trust me, the colors were beautiful in their subtlety, so beautiful that apparently my camera couldn't cope. Check out what she did with the sashing!
Fabulous, right? When hunting down her blog just now though, I discovered that this quilt has a secret! Maybe you could call it an alternate personality? Check it out on Wendy Hill's blog! WOW, right?
Now here's the quilt that probably charmed me the most. In Mountain Madness Jane Soules elevated what might have been just another scrap quilt to something unexpectedly fresh and modern, by the use of two red borders, in different prints and differing widths. The borders are only on the top and bottom of this quilt (a fact I clumsily obscured by poor framing) and it's just sorta magic! And look at the quilting! If you can, go see this quilt in person! Jan doesn't seem to have a blog or web page, but there is a brief profile of her on the River City Quilters Guild website, along with photos of some of her other quilts.
I've still got my waterproof wrist band on. Maybe I'll head back for another look tomorrow! If I do I'll share the good stuff here.
P.S. I didn't buy any fabric!?! Wha...???
The Bernina is back from it's spa vacation. Turns out a little spring somewhere had given way. It should work again, though I've not yet tested it.
Meanwhile, I got out my Featherweight, and this happened:
I was inspired by Katy's Mindless Sewing post on her imagingermonkey blog.
Love the churn dash blocks! (My go-to block is the saw tooth star, boring boring boring.) Love that her borders got a little wonky because she boldly and deliberately avoiding measuring! Love, love, love the palette!
So I started into the stash. Avoiding my usual MO, I got out the color wheel! Boy howdy! Why had I never done that before?!? It made the fabric selection so much quicker! I think I'd always thought that the color wheel would cramp my style, make the quilt less "mine." Not so.
I went with a tetrad of blue-green, yellow-green, red-orange and red-violet. I still made the same kind of whacked fabric choices I always make. Dots! Huge florals! Feedsack looks with Kaffe Fasset and Martha Negley fabrics? Yeah, why not?! And some solids tossed in to calm all that chaos a little. Just a bit.
It's a little hard to tell with the light coming through, because it makes the darker red-oranges and red-violets almost black, and washes out the palest yellow-greens. But I'm pretty pleased with it.
Only now I'm three quilt tops behind on my machine quilting!
What are you up to? I'd love to hear it!
I've been working on the machine quilting of the grey quilt for a couple of weeks now. There has been a lot of ripping, some things learned, and catastrophic technical issues.
For one thing, the great long-arm basting hypothesis has yielded a result. I do not like it. I know this is controversial. Lots of quilters loathe safety-pin basting. But here's the thing; you pop a safety-pin, and it's only one of its many brethren (sistern? No, that's not right.) But when you get your presser foot/finger/lever/doohickey caught in one of those long basting threads, it wonkifies a large section of the quilt. So I am pin basting, and snipping out all the long basting threads. *le sigh*
Meanwhile I've been relearning all I'd forgot about machine quilting in my long haitus from it. Keep the bulk of the quilt moving freely. Mainly this means keeping it all up on your machine table as much as possible. Or slung over your shoulder. That works too. (I am working out a crick in my neck as I type this.) Basically the more quilt kept near the moving needle (but not so near as to hamper the process) the better.
I think I may have been overly ambitious in tackling what is very nearly a whole cloth quilt as my re-entry into machine quilting. But any wibbly-wobbly quilting lines will be disguised when I wash the completed quilt for the first time, and the batting shrinks up a bit. This is what I am telling myself. (La la la la...Can't hear you!)
Meanwhile, I'm problem-solving, and solution-innovating along.
There are two differnt shades of grey under the exam table paper quilting pattern, but it's hard to see that. So I'm using white contact paper to mask out the areas I don't want to quilt on yet. I try to quilt an entire area, and then remove the sticky contact paper as quickly as possible though, because it does leave a trace of sticky goo behind pretty rapidly.
Meanwhile my Bernina is in the shop. For reasons I could not determine (despite all my trouble shooting efforts) sometimes the walking foot would just stop walking, leaving the needle to go in and out at very short intervals. Hence much of the ripping. It's no good having your equipment working against you. So I have a few days off from the machine quilting.
My friend Jenny Michael of Finally Finished basted two quilts for me. I love nearly everything about quilt making, except for basting them!
Usually I pin baste, which is fraught with hazzards. Once I actually sewed through the top part of a safety pin! I don't remember how I got out of that one, but it did involved wire snips.
I'm not sure I'm entirely in love with the machine basting yet. Sewing machines have lots of little pokey bits for all those long stitches to get hung up on. But I've got two machine-basted quilts to practice on, so the jury is still out.
So now I'm plotting my machine quilting. I like to use a walking foot, as I've yet to master free-motion quilting.
I begin by drafting possible quilting paths in Illustrator, which I print out on big sheets of paper. Here are two I'm playing with. The bottom one with the red and black lines is two designs printed together to save paper.
I use doctors' exam table paper for my patterns. It's a little strudier that regular tracing paper. And, as is often the way, it's cheaper than tracing paper products made especially for quilters. That is to say that it's cheaper when you can get your hands on it. When I was the notions buyer at a Eddie's Quilting Bee some years ago, we got a carton of rolls for the shop, and I had the foresight to buy a roll. It's been great for clothing patterns too.
I start tracing my designs out on the exam table paper. This way I can test them out, and see if they make any sense.
Here's a design that I thought might be interesting, but as I was working on it I realized that four thread paths would converge at one point. I don't like thready messy quilting intersections. They happen sometimes, but at least I can avoid planning to make them!
I really liked this variation on the classic orange peel pattern, with ribbons. But when I tried tracing out the work path, I realized it would be really confusing to work. And probably unnessecarily fussy too.
I like this simple ripple pattern. It feels modern in a way. The different colors of ink are just an experiment in how I might leave spaces for more visual interest.
I've settled for using the ripple pattern in some areas of the quilt, and the the orange peel pattern in other areas. Sounds strange, but it'll make sense I hope.
I have to do a lot of tracing of my patterns, because next I pin the pattern down to my quilt, and stitch right through. When I've completed an area of quilting, I just rip the paper away.
Here's my quilting set up, with my necessary stuff tucked in under my acrylic sewing table, where it won't interfere with the quilt as it moves around. My machine is up on my cutting table. My studio is so crowded that I opt to quilt standing up. It's kind of like quilters' Pilates or something!
OK, that was a lot of technical pictures of a not very pretty nature. If you've made it this far, you deserve something prettier to look at.