Monday, July 28, 2014

Gee’s Bend Experiment

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Earlier this year I listened to the MQG webinar about modern quilting.  Heather provided a list of books and resources for further information about the origins and practices of modern art, quilting, and graphic design.

Have you ever heard of Josef Albers?  Please don’t laugh, but I never had.  I didn’t know that those square in a square in a square paintings at museums were actually color studies—how colors interact when different shades are placed next to each other.  I think one of the reasons I was never able to see that is normally there are one or two of those pictures on display.  It takes seeing several together to be able to discern the color play at work (at least for me).

Although I picked the colors for my next quilt from a computer screen, the way the navy and the fuchsia interact is better than I could have ever hoped…the blue starts to look almost purple with the fuchsia next to it.

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So why is this a Gee’s Bend Experiment?  The quilt design is a popular variation of a Gee’s Bend quilt, called the bricklayer.

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And then I decided to approach the quilt construction from a Gee’s Bend perspective too.  The quiltmakers didn’t use rotary cutters or rulers for most of their designs, they ripped strips from whatever fabric they had on hand.  No measuring, just ripping.  The first rip was a little scary, but after a few strips, I wasn’t afraid of ruining the fabric anymore.

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I used a little bigger than normal seam allowance, 3/8”, to make the piecing more stable.  And I just trimmed each strip with scissors, no rulers or rotary cutter.

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I’m not sure exactly how this quilt will develop after I finish the bricklayer section, but I’m using this photo of a Gwen Marston quilt, on the left, as my other piece of inspiration.  The quilt on the right is the Gee’s Bend quilt I studied.

Have a great week!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Churn Dash Cosmonaut {a finished quilt}

Here are the final photos of my Modern Quilt Guild Michael Miller Challenge quilt.


The pattern is called “Unchurned” and comes from the book “Accentuate the Negative” by Trisch Price.  I followed the dimensions for the quilt but made the corner pieces 4 inches bigger than necessary and cut them wonky, but maybe not wonky enough for it to really show.


I tried to include selvages from every fabric used in the quilt.


There are many pieces that read Michael Miller or are the color dots from selvages. 


I thought it would be cool to include the color dots because really this quilt is about using all those colors—from new Michael Miller fabrics like Petal Pinwheels and Just My Type to mixing in Madrona Road and Whimsy Windows.  If the color worked, I tried to incorporate it in the quilt.



Using solids was also a goal for this quilt.  The solid dark gray is Michael Miller cotton couture in charcoal.  The coral is also Michael Miller.  The provenance of the green, grays, cream, and aqua is unknown.


The gray rectangles are quilted densely with back-and-forth lines. 


And each of the gray half-square triangles are quilted with big and small circles.  The top thread is dark gray and the bobbin thread is light aqua.  Getting the tension right took a lot of practice, but overall the stitching is really good.


The rest of the quilt is stippled densely with aqua thread on top and bottom. 


The different quilting styles give the quilt a nice texture that is not stiff at all.

I tried to get creative with some of the piecing.  This flower is pieced from yellow and blue fabrics.


There are several fussy cut cats.


And one bird.


A fun little curved piece.


A pretty yellow flower.


And some flying geese.


The back has a pieced section…and quite a few puckers.  It was a major disappointment on my end.  I made the mistake of quilting the solid sections before the center section, and ended up with too much backing fabric in the center.  The good news is this quilt is going to hang in my living room, so no one will be the wiser, and it’s a lesson learned to always quilt from the center out.


The quilting on the back through these flowers is my favorite part of the quilt.


This quilt is entitled “Churn Dash Cosmonaut” for the fact that it’s a micro and macro view of a churn dash and the cat fabric is called “Atomic Tabbies.”  The song “Low” by Cracker may have had something to do with it too…


The finished size is 72” square.  I’ll be linking up to Crazy Mom Quilts and Fort Worth Fabric Studio.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

MQG Michael Miller Challenge


Finally finished up my quilt for the challenge today…whew!  It was a whirlwind of sewing and I’m hoping to get some good photos of the quilt tomorrow.  Unfortunately the rain kept me from getting any today.  So in lieu of good photos, I thought I’d share a few process photos from along the way.

It all started with putting up a temporary design wall.  I marked out the sections and sizes with painter’s tape so I had a good idea of the spaces I needed to fill with patchwork.  Immediately my human helpers started using the wall for their very own projects.


I really wanted to use some text fabric in the quilt.  The rules state you can use any kind of Michael Miller fabric, so I dug out some Madrona Road from last year’s challenge and decided it added just the right dark depth to the Petal Pinwheel collection for this year’s challenge.  Then I had what I thought was a brilliant idea.


Why not use some “text” fabric in the form of selvages?  I’d never sewn with them before, but it couldn’t be that hard, right?


The pieces were teeny tiny, plus keeping the letters lined up was easier said than done.  But overall, the effect is what I was going for.  My husband had the piggy-back brilliant idea of putting a huge strip of “Michael Miller” across the quilt.  I was digging through my stash trying to come up with enough pieces, but I settled for this strip, about 12 inches long in the finished quilt.  Unfortunately, a few inches of the original strip had to be amputated while trying to fit together the center panel.

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I tried to pay homage to all the designers of the fabric I used in the quilt.  Patty Young’s name got bisected, so one selvage reads “Young Michael” but I thought that was kind of funny and left it in.  You can see I gave Violet Craft a shout out this year.  Too bad I didn’t think of this last year…

I got pretty excited when the pieces started going together and I could get a feel for what the quilt was going to look like.  My daughter made me a cute “good luck” sign that she pinned to the design wall.  I wanted to make sure a few signature pieces were included in the quilt, like a bunch of wonky churn dashes.


Then I wasn’t sure if I had enough recognizable “blocks” included in the quilt top, and I added flying geese even though they aren’t part of a churn dash.  I wanted the judges to see that I could piece points very accurately.  These babies are pointed (except the top point, which had to be sacrificed to make it fit).  There’s also an impromptu curved piece I made just winging it.  Just so they know I can actually sew…lol!

Then it was finally time to sew the nine patches together!  My trusty non-human helper inspected all the seams and fastidiously cleaned up any errant threads.  The bird fabric in this quilt reminds me of him, so this quilt is dedicated to him in thanks for all the quality control support he’s given me on this and many other projects.

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Yay!  The top was finally done and I could sit back and relax, maybe enjoy a celebratory glass of wine?  Uh oh, not so fast, this was Tuesday, and the quilt had to be finished by Friday…

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I got the backing on the long arm.  The center strip of the backing is pieced with the label in another churn dash and the two fabrics other fabrics are Michael Miller Birds of a Feather “Tweet” and Atomic Tabbies.

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See, this quilt is dedicated to a cockatiel, but also to a cat.

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The photo is a little fuzzy because it was taken around 6am this morning as she was helping me finish up the quilting.  She loves scraps almost as much as my children.

And that’s the end of the story.  Oh, and here’s the finished quilt right before it started raining again this afternoon.

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Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Quilting Fail? Part II {a finished quilt}

About a week ago I posted about a top for the scrap basket quilt along I wasn’t too happy with.  Here it is in all its glory:


Things I didn’t like about this top:

  • no visible color scheme
  • too much red in three blocks clumped on left side
  • just way too much going on!
  • no opportunity to do any interesting quilting

Things I did like about this top:

  • it was made completely from 2.5 inch strippy scraps with not a lot of cutting necessary
  • the vibrancy of the dark and light colors together

I thought a lot about what I could do to improve this top and came up with this:


I separated many of the rows from the original quilt top, moved around some blocks with red in them, and resewed together a chunk of 7 rows.  Then I added some negative space in the form of a solid gray border at the top and bottom.  Improvement?

The one thing that was nice about this new arrangement is that it allowed me a lot of blank space to try some different free motion quilting designs.


I have been watching Angela Walters’ classes on Craftsy lately, so the large and small circles are taken exactly from her class.  It took so much thread to do this design that I had to skip it for the bottom of the quilt or I might not have enough gray thread for my MQG challenge due later this month.

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These concentric squares were also part of the Angela Walters class.  I have learned so much from her class and her positive attitude encouraged me to just go for it and try something new.  She was right, even with mistakes and not-so-perfect or straight stitching, the designs still look pretty good.

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Angela suggests using thread that blends when you’re first starting out, but I had this black sheet I’d always intended to use for another quilt but never had.  Also I had this crazy idea that it would be fun to see exactly what the stitching looks like. 

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If you squint and don’t look too closely, it looks pretty cool!

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The binding is also something from my stash, a pearl bracelet fabric in metallic gray.

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The finished size is 53.5” x 66.5”.  It’s ready to be mailed to Margaret’s Hope Chest.

Many thanks to Amanda Jean for organizing another quilt along!  I joined her last one 4 years ago and never finished the quilt.  That was before I could sew a consistent 1/4 inch seam allowance without tears, so maybe I should dig out that WIP and finish it up too?

I’ll be linking up to Fort Worth Fabric Studio and Crazy Mom Quilts later this week.