My Modern Sampler: Improv Block I

Sherri Lynn Wood’s book finally arrived,Improv Handbook, Sherri Lynn Wood and I’ve been enjoying it.  I have NO intention of making a full-size quilt for every exercise in the book!  However, an improv block for my sampler quilt seemed just right.

The first exercise in the book involves cutting fabric into squares, then using background fabric as needed to join them improvisationally.  I’ll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves here.

Improv quilt block

I chose  2 fabrics and a background to start–my notes are lying on the background fabric

Improv block

Then I cut a bunch of squares

About half way through, the design looked too static to me, so I cut a triangle of background fabric to set in the middle and throw the whole thing onto diagonal lines.

Improv block

I joined some of the pieces, but then…I decided to add a triangle!

The finished block:

improv quilt block

The finished block, which will be 12-1/2 inches square

This ended up resembling my previous work much more than it resembles Sherri Lynn’s quilts.  I think that may be sort of the point :)  Here are some of my previous improv blocks:

I’ll probably go on to Improv Block II, etc, as I go through the book.  Stay tuned!

The other posts in my modern sampler series can be found here:

My Own Modern Sampler–It May Take A Year!

The Modern Sampler Continues

 

FMQ on a DSM*

*Free Motion Quilting on a Domestic Sewing Machine, that is!

free motion quilting

I started out quilting placemats, because they are a manageable size and not much was lost if I goofed!

I’ve been working on this for years. Here are some things that have helped me, and some that haven’t:

Very Helpful: Taking an in-person class on quilting with a domestic machine. The first class introduced me to the walking foot for relatively straight lines, and to the darning foot for free motion quilting all sorts of shapes. It was helpful to have in-person instruction and feedback.

My most helpful hint: Take some cheater cloth to practice on! That placemat above is one of my original practice pieces.

Very Helpful: After practicing the basics for several years, I took Michele Scott’s advanced machine quilting class at an AQS show.(She teaches elsewhere, too). This covered different types of thread, couching, and bobbin work. She also has a good book and DVD from which one could learn this, but she’s lots of fun in person. And again, the personal feedback was helpful while I was learning. Free motion quilting
Helpful: I got a couple of books on machine quilting and worked through the exercises on my own. After learning the basic skills, it’s mostly practice, practice, practice.

Helpful: Just do it! I found a few free-motion patterns I was comfortable with and quilted whole quilts with them. It went just fine! They turned out waaay better than I expected, so I was encouraged.

Free Motion Quilting domestic sewing machine

Stars and Loops is one of my favorite free motion designs

Helpful: Jacquie Gering’s machine quilting class on Craftsy. It boosted my confidence that what I was doing was just fine.

walking foot quilting

Multi-stitch zigzag stitch is a great way to make interesting quilting lines with the walking foot

Less Helpful: A friend and I spent a lot of money to take a machine quilting class at a well-known craft school. We did not get our money’s worth, but we had a good time because we got to be together.  We should have checked more carefully on the level of the class before we plunked down our money.free motion quilting

Less Helpful: Another class on Craftsy that went through many different free-motion patterns. I got bored with that many slight variations. However, the class itself was just fine and probably would work well for some people.free motion quilting

And finally, I am undecided about the real value of my BSR, the very expensive Bernina Stitch Regulator. I do feel more confident using it because it decreases the problem of toe-catchers, those extra-BIG stitches that are all-too-easy to make when doing FMQ. However, it IS still possible to make uneven stitches if you don’t use the BSR just right.

The BSR’s main value to me is more confidence doing FMQ on things that are really important, when I don’t want to make a mistake.  I continue to use it in preference to going back to quilting without it, so obviously I find it useful.  The leaf designs in this post were quilted with it, and I like the stitching.  The BSR is just not a miracle worker, which I sort of think it should be for the price.

What do you think helps with FMQ on the DSM?

9 Quilts from AQS Paducah

Many quilters consider the AQS (American Quilters Society) annual show in Paducah, Kentucky the top of the heap among quilt shows.  So, I just had to go see for myself this year.

AQS Paducah

For Tanya, by Emily and Miriam Coffey, won first place in the Modern Wall Quilt category

Here are some of my favorite quilts from the show.  If some of them look a little wonky, it’s because they hang the quilts in 3-sided booths and then don’t let you into the booth!  The result is that, unless the quilt you want to photograph is directly at the back of the booth, you can’t get a straight shot of it.  Enjoy the pictures anyway!

modern quilts AQS Paducah

Flowers and Gears, by Robbi Joy Eklow, won a ribbon in the Longarm Quilted Small Wall Quilt category

I had a great time in Paducah, because I had a friend with me and we found COOKIES!  Luckily my friend knew where to find good food and a good place to stay :-)

AQS Paducah modern quilts

It Takes the Case, by Karlyn Bue Lohrenz, won a ribbon in the category of Large Wall Quilts–Pictorial

I have pictures of a few of my favorite quilts here, but on the whole this show had fewer quilts that I really loved than any show I’ve attended in the past year.  Probably because of the emphasis on “show quilts”.

AQS Paducah

In the Marsh #2, by Carol Bryer Fallert-Gentry

However, there were some outstanding quilts like the ones above and below.  I suppose they are “show quilts” too, but they are not so heavily quilted that they appear 3-dimensional, and they don’t have rhinestones!

AQS Paducah

Canola Fields, by Leah Gravells, was made of 199 strips 3/4 inch wide–and she got them all straight!

One of the reasons I go to shows is to be inspired, and these quilts certainly were inspiring!

AQS Paducah improvisational quilt

Boardwalks of Asilomar, byt Jody H. Rusconi, was one of the few improvisational quilts in the show

improv quilt AQS Paducah

Playing It, by Pam Beal, was another nice improvisational quilt

quilt photo AQS Paducah

Windows #1-Antigua, by Brenda S. Wall

AQS Paducah

Rainbow Play by Brenda S. Roach

AQS Paducah

Rhythmic, by Karen Neary

2 Quilts, 1 Set of Instructions

It’s here! The latest issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited, containing a quilt designed and made by me!Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine
The editors did a great job of providing clear diagrams for my instructions, and of photographing the quilt.  It is made from Michael Miller batiks, supplied by the company for this project.  I love MM fabrics, and was happy to use batiks for a little change from the “oh-so-solid” solids that are currently popularModern Quilts Unlimited.And here’s a second quilt made with the same feature blocks, arranged differently. (The solids are Michael Miller Cotton Couture left over from another project.)  You can get the templates from the magazine and make your own blocks, arranging them to suit yourself.

Quilt Pattern

Alternate colorway and block arrangement from the same pattern

modern quilt

Look at this fun quilting done by Joyce Miller!

So go make it your own way!

 

One Quilt, Two Lessons

Check out these fabrics!

Fat quarter bundle

Alison Glass Handprint fabric and neutral linen

A friend gave me the FQ (fat quarter) bundle of lovely Alison Glass handprint fabric and I combined it with a neutral linen fabric I’d been saving for something special. I started with Karla Alexander’s instructions for a quilt, but (as my friends all know) I never really follow instructions so it diverged…improvised modern quilt blocks

The blocks were lots of fun to make.  I followed the instructions for a while, then started cutting the blocks up and inserting strips.  Then decided NOT to trim all the blocks to one size.  I adjusted the sizes of the linen sashing so that all the rows came out the same length, and made the rows of different heights to allow for the different block sizes.

And I slashed the sashing and inserted some strips in that, too.

When I had the top all made, I basted it with spray basting as usual.  BUT I didn’t have enough of the first can.  Then the SECOND can was a different brand and almost empty as well!

Determined to get the doggone thing basted, I resorted to some spray-on stuff that was supposed to bond the fabric to the batting when I ironed it.  This last stuff left SPOTS on the handprint fabric, which is light weight (almost like voile).  YIKES!

Lesson 1:  Be patient until you can get to the store for a can of basting spray.

Finally (after buying basting spray) it was basted and I started quilting.  Enter Lesson 2: this linen is a loose weave of large fibers and doesn’t play well with a tight weave of small fibers. YIKES AGAIN!  No matter how I changed the pressure on the quilting foot or otherwise fiddled with it, the quilting distorted the top and the backing.

improvised modern quilt

The finished quilt

Now it’s finished and I like it.  I appreciate the texture of the linen, but I’m not sure I’ll use it again.  I took this to my last modern guild meeting and people were positive about it, but one of the more experience sewists told me linen is usually stretchy, so at least it’s not just me!

improvisational quilting

Here’s the quilt back–that column was straight when I started!

Well, I try to learn something new every day, so I’m calling this a SUCCESS! ;-)

 

Leaders and Enders–Have You Heard?

One of the best things about the blogosphere is that I get tips all the time from other quilters.

I recently learned from Melissa at Happy Quilting how I can be piecing two projects at once!  What could be better?

I’ve always used scraps for starting and ending a series of chain piecing because that gives me all the pieces at once, still without having to cut off thread tails.

The scraps used to start and end sections of chain piecing end up looking like this--pretty ratty!

The scraps used to start and end sections of chain piecing end up looking like this–pretty ratty!

Here’s an explanation of chain piecing in case you aren’t familiar with it.

To piece a second top as “leaders and enders” instead of using scraps to chain piece, I figured it had to be a SIMPLE top or I’d end up confusing things for sure!  So when one of my quilt groups decided to exchange improvised blocks (sometimes called slabs if they’re all one color), it seemed like a perfect opportunity to make the slabs while working on something else.

Improvisational piecing

This is a pile of scraps..

I’m piecing slabs from scraps and they’re improvisational, so there ARE no mistakes, only opportunities for further improvisation!  Woo-hoo!

Improvised quilt block

And this is a block improvised from scraps and cut to size!

SO, while piecing the tops I wanted to consider for the Quilt Alliance challenge…

I also pieced several improvisational slabs for friends.

Improvised blocks

Blocks improvised from scraps

Win-win!  And most importantly, it was FUN :-)

Review: Kraft-Tex for Bags

I’ve had my eye on Kraft-Tex for some time. It’s a paper product made by C&T

Kraft-Tex review

Kraft-Tex, made by C&T but sold many places

and advertised to sew and wash like fabric but look like leather.  As I’ve probably said before, I’ll try almost anything once :-)  (And just for the record, I purchased the material used for this project and this review is entirely my own opinion.)

I decided to use Kraft-Tex as the bottom of a tote bag.  There was a helpful video on You Tube (of course!) showing how to use it and showing what it looked like both washed and unwashed.  Because I didn’t want to wash the drapery fabric I was using for the bag, I didn’t wash the Kraft-Tex.

The Kraft-Tex was very stiff right out of the package, so I wadded it up hoping to soften it a little before folding it to make the bag bottom.  I didn’t really need to do that; it folded and sewed very nicely.  It remained extremely stiff but was not at all difficult to stitch with my Bernina, even when it came to sewing through 4 layers as I boxed the bottom of the bag.

Kraft-Tex review

Tote bag made with Kraft-Tex for the bottom section

When I got it all put together it provided a nice substantial bottom for the bag, as I had hoped.  It did not even THINK about tearing like paper when I was working with it. However, I really think it LOOKS like a brown paper bag rather than “like leather” as advertised.  Maybe that’s just because I used it to make a bag.  As you can see from this detail, it did stitch very nicely.

Kraft-Tex bag

Detail of Kraft-Tex and Drapery Fabric Bag

However, the claim that Kraft-Tex “handles like fabric” was absolutely untrue!  It was so stiff that I decided to wash what remained along with the rest of the drapery fabric.  Both washed and dried well on gentle cycle, and the Kraft-Tex was slightly softer after washing. It didn’t handle any more like fabric, though–turning that stiff outer bag through the opening left in the lining for that purpose was “challenging”!

Here’s the second bag, made with washed Kraft-Tex.  Sure enough, it looks the same after washing.  I quilted the upper part of the bag, which gave it more substance than the previous one, so it went better with the stiff Kraft-Tex bottom.

Kraft-Tex review

Bag made after washing the Kraft-Tex and fabric

The pattern I used for this bag was free at Bijou Lovely and was very well written and illustrated.  I’ll probably make the bag again, but I’ll find another use for the Kraft-Tex!

 

4 Quilt Tops–Help Me Choose!

The theme of the Quilt Alliance challenge this year is “Animals We Love”.  It gave me a hard time–I tried for weeks to think of something–then all of a sudden I had more ideas than I knew what to do with!  So here are 4 tops I’ve made, and I need to decide which one to submit.  Please tell me which you think is best!  It may help if you’ll tell me why you like it as well (or why you hate it).  All are 16 inches square, which is a requirement of the challenge.

#1: Cat Circus was designed using EQ7 and made using templates.modern quilt block

#2: Barnyard Whirl was cut freehand.  The black fabric is printed with animal sounds.  (Why do we teach little children to make animal sounds, anyway?  Oops, a digression!)Modern quilt block

#3: We Love Clams will have a thread-sketched cartoon clam (presumably looking worried about all that love) as a focal point when I quilt it.Modern Clamshell Quilt

#4: Untitled (feel free to suggest a title) again with the animal-sounds black fabric.Modern QuiltAnd that’s it!  Yes, I made 4 quilt tops!  Please help me choose one.

 

March News x 3

First, here’s the stack of quilts my group made for Ronald McDonald House:Donation Quilts

Second, here are some other projects along the way:

Improvisational Quilt Blocks

Gwen Marston Style Improvisational Blocks (made by me)

Group-block-2

One of the blocks from our group block swap (24 inches square!)

Jerri's start on a BIG Bonnie Hunter quilt

Jerri’s start on a BIG Bonnie Hunter quilt

improvised blocks

Improvised “slabs” for our next group block swap!

Finally, the March finish (as in, I am DONE with this one!)

Storm at Sea

Paper Piecing Gone WAY Wrong!

I bought this paper-piecing pattern for Storm at Sea in 2006 and cut the pieces over a (long) period of time with the intention of making it of scraps from other quilts.  What I FAILED to do was to make a sample block before cutting the whole thing!!!

I wanted to paper piece this design so the points would be perfect.  Instead, carefully piecing along the lines on the paper produced what you see above.  The pattern and paper went into the trash, and the thousands of pieces I cut will be re-purposed!

I almost always make a test block, and now I expect it will be always-always instead of almost-always ;-)

The Modern Sampler Continues

These next two blocks were made from inspirations I found on Pinterest (yes, I love Pinterest!)  The first I simply copied because I loved the colors and their arrangement in the original artwork by Richard Paul Lohse.

Modern Quilt Block

Quilt block based on the work of artist Richard Paul Lohse

Here’s a drawing of how I constructed this block, with measurements, if you want to copy him, too.  There are 4 units, each 4″ finished (4-1/2 inches for each unit before joining) so that the entire block is 8″ finished.  I’ve marked the size to cut each piece on one of the 4 units, assuming you can take it from there :-)

modern quilt block

Layout for block based on art of Richard Paul Lohse

If you look up the artist Richard Paul Lohse, you’ll see that a lot of his designs would make terrific blocks or whole quilts.  Great sense of color!

The second block was made from a tutorial I found at a website called Piece By Number and you can find the free pattern on her site here.

modern paper pieced block

Circle of Geese block made from a pattern at PieceByNumber

This block was easier than it looks thanks to paper piecing.  I enjoyed making it, though I feel no need to make another right away!

I think these two blocks have a lot of ZIP for the relatively little amount of effort they required.  The Lohse block depends very much on choice of color, so be sure to lay out the fabrics and look at them a while before cutting.  Have fun!