Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Quilting and Newton's laws of motion

The other day I was contemplating some physics - okay, that's a lie. But, there was a time, a long time ago, when I was quite embedded in physics and I was pretty good at it. Now, my applied mathematics is limited to calculating the size of a half square triangle, which I often get wrong the first time round.

But, I am a fan of Brian Cox and I'm sure he has never applied Newton's laws to quilting and creativity, so I may be the first. This is ground breaking stuff.
First law: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
This is me and quilting - once I get going, I keep going, but if I stop I stay stopped. What is the force that starts or stops the motion? The stopping part is easy - they are the usual trappings of life: work, kid, pets, weather, cooking dinner, and whatever excuse I can come up with... But what is the force that gets things moving?
Second law: The relationship between an object's mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (as indicated by their symbols being displayed in slant bold font); in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vector.
This one's a bit trickier, but it's all about force and acceleration. Basically, if the mass is constant, you need force to make it go faster. I'm considering my project as the mass, so I need to exert some force to ramp up rather than drift along at the constant speed that law one suggests.
Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
So, as my creativity and productivity accelerate because of the force I exert, there is going to be an opposite reaction to compensate - how about we get take out for dinner tonight (again)?

Stop rambling - tell us how this translates to the quilts?

The blue snowflake quilt is on the frame and I started quilting it (for real) yesterday. I had a few false starts on the weekend, but this quilt is 3+ years in the making and I was a bit nervous about taking the first stitch. Free motion quilting is hard to unpick, so there is a certain amount of commitment required.

I debated the quilting design and changed my mind 100 times. I wanted something that took advantage of the Swiftquilter setup and showcased what could be done. But, there are always those limitations to consider and these are half of the design challenge.

I did a lot of doodling and reviewed Angela Walters' Craftsy class Machine Quilting Negative Space. I took away some good ideas about changing the scale of the quilting design and echoing the piecing motifs in the negative space (thank you Angela). Progress is good and although I'm never 100% thrilled with my work up close, the overall effect is working well for me. I'm 1/3 done, so a few dedicated afternoons should get this one done.

I've also started piecing the center of a quilt that will use the sunrise blocks I won from Block Lotto a few months back. I found a pattern that I originally discovered as part of a New York Beauty Quilt Along a few years ago. The patterns are here (note: they are in German, the English links seem to be broken). I've chosen number 7 and scaled it up to finish at 16 inches.

So far I've finished one quarter and am working on the second. I don't always like foundation paper piecing, but it's the best way to get good results with a design like this. This time I am rough cutting the pieces because they are quite big and it's easy to misjudge the size and placement. I made templates with a 3/8 seam allowance and free-hand cut the fabric with my rotary cutter.

Of course, sometimes I still get it wrong - like this wedge that I sewed on backwards.

I hope to have both quilts done before the end of October. There's also a sewing day Saturday scheduled with a group I belong to - perhaps I will power through the rest of my green HST quilt...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Finished tea towel owl quilt

This little quilt has been done for a little while, but I have had some trouble finding a good spot to photograph it. How do you take photos of your finished quilts?

The lovely Helen hand quilted around the owls for me after I had a nervous breakdown trying to do it myself. And, my mom did the binding because I was too busy. I had hoped to bring it along to the show in Hamilton, but did not quite get there.

The quilt is destined for the wall - the vintage tea towel in the center was a splurge and I suspect the colors will fade with washing. It was started when Sophie organised a tea towel challenge at the beginning of the year.

You can see more posts on this project here.

Blue snowflake quilt top ready for quilting

After a few false starts, I finally settled on a layout for my blue snowflake blocks. The wide sashing and borders makes good use of the feature fabric and makes a real statement. I like that it's different than the traditional narrow sashing with wide border. There is a lot of room for quilting and I plan to make this one a showpiece for what can be done on the Swiftquilter. Of course, this is limited by my skills - improving, but by no means expert.

The usual echoing around the applique is not possible using the frame. The blocks are too big for that. So, I will need to use a fill around them to create some texture and bring out the applique. I was experimenting with tiny matchstick lines while working on our stand at the Craft & Quilt Fair in Hamilton last month. I think it might be an effective technique around the snowflakes. It is dense, which means that the other areas will also need to be quilted with at least a medium density to balance it out

This is always a nerve-wracking process. There's no unpicking dense quilting; once I get started, I can't go back. I've ordered some thread for the job (should have thought of that earlier), so I'll get started when that arrives in a week or so.

Linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Quilting time

After a long period of little sewing, I have managed to move forward on a few things.

Last weekend Melanie and Robyn (from Monday Moderns), my mother, and I started quilting one of the two community quilts that I picked up from the Auckland Quilt Guild at the last meeting. A few of the girls were interested in giving the Swiftquilter a try and I thought it would be a good opportunity to finish off a few quilts for the guild to give away.

After a brief intro on using the frame, we worked through some ideas for the quilting. I admit that this is the hardest part of quilting on the frame - there's a bit of forward planning required. I suppose that this is the case with all quilting. The simple block design on the little quilt made a good guide to quilt around. We ended up with some diagonal squiggles and some spiral-centered daisies in the squares and feathers and swirls in the narrow border.

The group managed to quilt about half the quilt with everyone taking turns. I finished it up during the week and then mounted another one onto the frame. I made quick work of it with an all-over pattern.

Both quilts still need binding - I have a few volunteers, so hopefully, they will be back to the guild soon to give to someone that will appreciate them.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Progess after 3+ years

My blue snowflakes have resurfaced after taking me almost 3-1/2 years to applique 9 blocks. I thought I had decided how I would lay them out and the number of each type (light on dark or dark on light) was determined by this layout. But, after some analysis, drawing, calculating, whining, and recalculating I decided on a different direction.

I admit that my taste has changed over the years and although I still love the colors and the focal fabric (above), I didn't want to use a traditional on-point layout with sashing and borders which was my original plan. But I also do not (I repeat: DO NOT) want to make any more applique blocks. So, I added 1/2 square trianges to the corners to put the blocks on point without needing to mess with setting trianges. This also made all of the blocks one color, so the mix/match of the dark and light backgrounds would be less obvious.

I kept wanting to introduce some green, then maybe use the focal fabric as a few blocks. But this fabric is busy and it all looked too much. But without it, all the fabrics didn't quite go with each other and there was too much white.

So with mom's advice, I have gone back to sashing - wide 4 inch sashing and borders using the focal fabric. It does work, I think because of all that white to break up the busy print and not distract from the applique. The size of the quilt will be a bit odd as a 58-inch square - not exactly a king single which was the plan.

I'm already thinking about how to quilt it. There will be a lot of negative space, so it will require something interesting. Hopefully it won't be 3 years until I get around to finishing it.

Linking up to Freshly Pieced WIP Wednesday.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A sunny Block Lotto win

June's Block Lotto was a 14 x 7 sunrise in aqua, turquoise, yellow, and white. I was so pleased to win because the block was challenging and I can't imagine making enough of them to put together a quilt. I was also happy to win so that I could keep two of the three blocks that I made. I was not pleased with how they came out and was wondering if they were not good enough to send to someone else. Luckily, as a winner I can choose to keep some or all that I made. So, I sent on the best of the three and kept the other 2 for myself.

I will receive 15 more making a total of 17. I'm not sure how I will arrange them or if I need to make a few more.

I made mine using different methods. For one (bottom one in photo), I paper pieced the sun rays, machine appliqued the center circle, and machine pieced the background onto the semi-circular sun. The problems with this one were with the scaling of the printed pattern, which I realized too late was wrong. It did turn out close to correct, but was not perfect.

The second one was entirely hand pieced (middle in photo). I made it while I was moving in to my new house and thought I could do it sitting by the TV in the evening. I don't think I've ever hand pieced something like this. I think the worst part was marking out the pieces. I also had some inconsistent seam allowances. Like the first, it was close to right, but not quite.

The third that I sent away was a combination of the two methods - paper pieced rays, hand appliqued centre, and hand pieced background. This turned out to be the best of both worlds and definitely the approach I will take if I make a few more.

I've received three so far and am eagerly awaiting the rest. It's so fun checking the mail!

Round robin has come home

For the past 3 years I have participated in Julie's Cotton Robin. For those of you unfamiliar with round robins - each participant makes a center block and passes it on to someone else who adds to it. In this round robin the center gets 2 rounds of borders and a third for quilting and binding. When it's finished it heads home back to the person that made the center block.

The process is anonymous so you do not know who is working on your quilt. It's always a creative challenge working with someone else's ideas and integrating your own into the mix. It is one of the things I really enjoy each year.

You can see this year's reveal here and my posts from previous years here and here.

This year I made a (slightly too busy) block from small equilateral triangles. Each one finished at 1 inch tall. I admit that I should have used a less busy background, but I wanted to introduce more colors into the mix. The block was an experiment for me - the round robin is a great opportunity to try out a technique on a small scale. I would love to make a big quilt with lots of these stars in different colors.

The first border was done by Julie who headed towards a color scheme that was a bit quieter that my start. At first I thought it dulled it all down, but now I think it lets the center shine. The piecing really enhances the center.

Maria did the second border and created a checkerboard design in grey and purple. I love the skinny aqua border (added by Julie or Maria) which sets off the two others.

The quilt was hand quilted by Cathy. The hand quilting was the perfect choice and echos the print in Maria's grey fabric. She added little 6-point stars in the checkerboards. I also love the blue binding.

I worked on three other quilts. First was Anne's improv center block. I added a border of little fuschia squares surrounded by dark blue and green batiks. I had trouble getting started on this one. The center didn't lead me in an obvious direction. I thought I wanted to create something with a regular pattern without losing the spirit of the improvisational piecing.

I added a second border to Sandra's tree. Glen had added an unusual curved woven section and I added the darker black strips, blue crosses, and a hot pink/orange outer border. I thought this one needed something bold and quirky to hold it all together. I like the asymmetry of the finished quilt.

The final round was Rachel's applique center. The two borders were so well integrated it was hard to tell where one started and the other finished. I decided against FMQ and did outlining on the applique, continued the circular lines for a while and then added rectangular spirals in each corner. Everything was quilted using a very fine beige thread.

I love doing these round robins. Every finished quilt is a surprise. And, although my quilts never turn out as I expect, they are always fun. Everyone's perspective is different and that's what makes it such an enjoyable process. I can't wait until next year.