Thursday, September 24, 2015

Too Much Quilting?

My version of the Charley Harper Quilt
I finished quilting almost every inch of my version of the Charley Harper quilt, designed by Melissa Lunden. The original was on the cover the the International Quilt Festival Quilt Scene magazine (2013\2014). I originally wanted this to be the front of a quilt with a pieced back, but I just couldn't do it. I'd rather have two quilts to FMQ than one!

This is the first quilt larger than a wall hanging that I quilted so densely. I had an absolute ball quilting it. Free motion quilting (FMQ) is sooooo addictive. I was going to practice all kinds of FMQ designs in the rectangles but it only took one block to figure out that they wouldn't show up since the printed fabric was so busy. Really, I should have known that. Oh well, that's what experience is for. After this quilt, I may actually remember this!

Letting the fabric dictate the quilting
So except for two of the fabrics, I did what I usually do with busy fabric; I let the design dictate the quilting. I followed the fabric design and quilted around flowers and leaves, and lines and scrolls. For the maroon fabric, to add contrast, I didn't FMQ it at all. As for the fabric with tiny hexagons, that's the fabric I started practicing my FMQ designs and quilted 3 larger hexagons within it. I quilted them all like this for consistency, but they're practically invisible!

For the circles at one end of the quilt, I FMQ the first one by going around the design and then quilting from the edge of the circle to the inside, following the fabric pattern. I wasn’t really pleased with it, so all of the other circles were quilted using one of Angela Walter’s FMQ patterns from her Shape by Shape book. The FMQ doesn’t show much from the front, but can be seen better from the back.
The back of the quilt - FMQ the circles

I did all of the stitch-in-the-ditch and FMQ in the rectangles and bottom circles using the taupe Superior Thread’s Bottom Line.

To quilt the feathers on the brown background, I bought some WonderFil – Invisifil, which is a 100 wt. soft poly. After my second feather, I knew I had a problem. Even after playing around with the tension, there was no way I could get my machine to play nice with the thread, which kept breaking. I decided to change thread but was in a panic about finding thread that would match. I bought some thread but they weren’t the right colour. Finally in desperation I looked in my miscellaneous thread drawer and found the perfect thread. It was an Omni Thread, poly-wrapped Poly Core, size 30 by Superior Threads. I had gotten it from Superior Threads’ Try Me Specials where you choose the type of thread (at very good prices) and they choose the colour. The Omni Thread was the perfect colour and quilted like a charm.
Close-up of the background feathers

I drew the outline of my first feather, but after that, I was able to just keep going. I love making big feathers and then making smaller ones to fit particular spaces.

The only problem I had while I was quilting the feathers occurred when I was about ¾ finished. I ran out of taupe Bottom Line thread. Thank goodness I have a supplier who came through for me. Crisis averted!

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you will know that I’m not a great planner. That’s why I’m very proud of the fact that I put together my binding before I started quilting.

This week I got to work early and had a wonderful photo shoot with the quilt! I felt like an artist draping my quilt over benches, walls and fences to take photos. It was a great way to start a work day!
The quilt's photo shoot

What I learned:
  • A year ago I would have laughed if someone had said that I would care a lot about thread! I’ve really come to appreciate the effect that thread has on a quilt.
  • I didn’t FMQ the maroon rectangle at all. I’m still not sure if I like it – but if I ever decide that I don’t, I’ll just lightly quilt it. 
  • Have you noticed in the picture of the quilt on a fence, that I used a few inches of the background fabric in my binding (on the left side)? Not good. It looks like there’s no binding there. I think I won’t forget this lesson!
  • I love FMQ but I don’t think that I’ll be quilting other quilts as heavily as this. I’m not sure what the perfect amount of FMQ is for me, but I do find this quilt too stiff. That is definitely a drawback of quilting so densely.
  • In October 2013. I posted a blog called "Too Much of a Good Thing", where I wondered if a quilt so densely quilted would be stiff. It turns out I was right. 
  • This quilt was done as a learning project – from choosing the fabrics to the quilting. I’ve learned so much from this quilt. It was totally worth the effort!

I've linked my post to the following Linky Parties. Check out the fun!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Quilting Expectations

I've been thinking about expectations a lot lately. These thoughts are mostly quilting related, but these could apply to many parts of my life. As with many things, the only time I'm conscious of expectations (mine and others) is when things are not going as I think they should be, otherwise why question them?

Landscape Art Quilt Challenge button
I've decided to re-examine my quilting expectations. I've often said that quilting is about fun and wanting to do things as opposed to having to do them. I'm also about avoiding deadlines - and ironically I started a monthly landscape art quilt challenge! (more about that later).
Still flitting around like a butterfly

I’m thinking about all of this as my list of active quilting projects keeps expanded. I've had a difficult summer and it would seem that I dealt (or didn't deal) with this by starting many projects but not finishing much.

I started by looking at my list of ongoing projects, especially those that have been in the design stage for a long time. It might be time to question these. Do I still want to make this? If I do, what's stopping me from completing it? If I don't want to make it, then is there a reason that I have to?

Block 36 of Grandmother's Choice
Reviewing the list, I decided to remove four projects. One was a quilt that I said I would make for friends, but I'm not interested in doing it anymore. Since my friends don't really have expectations of what quilt I'll make, I've opted for a much simpler quilt made of 5" charm square batiks. This will be much easier to make and probably just as appreciated. The other three projects seemed like good ideas at the time. I did start one of them, but I'm sure I'll be able to use the few blocks I've already made for something else.

Embroidered Frogs
Blogs for Frog Quilt
After making a few of these quick and fun landscape art quilts, I've decided that I don't want to make complicated (i.e. pieced blocks and/or appliquéd) large quilts any more. I do have two of these on my list, but they’re more than half done. I want to finish my Grandmother's Choice quilt (I’m looking forward to designing a medallion centre block for it); and the Frog quilt (it's too cute to stop but may take a while!)

As for the monthly landscape art quilt challenge, I have to say that it hasn't been too stressful, mostly because I can't image anyone in blog land would really care if I do this or not; and it has helped me think of techniques and subjects that I'd like to try. Speaking of which, here are a few ideas that may or may not happen:
  • I saw a flock of Canada geese that was landing on the water. It was so cool. I'd love to find photos of these and try quilting them.
  • I have a really great picture that I took in China of rice fields in the evening. The colours are amazing and it would be a great image to make in the style of Monika Kinner-Whalen, of My Sweet Prairie Studio. I love her mixture of background thread sketching and hand-embroidery.
  • I’ve also fallen in love with Muv's (of Free Motion Mavericks) Free Motion Landscapes. Her friend, Linda Wulf Koenig also made a lovely one using hand-died fabrics. This is definitely on my list!
  • The Great Wall of China would be great, done from photos we took there last year.
  • I love swamps and I want to depict the swamp we had next to our cottage. I've already started gathering photos for a project.
Since it's already past the middle of September, instead of starting a new landscape art quilt, I'm going to complete a landscape UFO. It’s a tree that I started in a course with Elaine Quehl of Ottawa. I thought I had lots of work still to do, but after taking it out last night, it might be manageable in the next couple of weeks. For some reason, I find this project very intimidating. I guess that's another reason to keep at it!

I’ve decided to make the tree in the fall season. I've been intensely looking at the trees as they change colours. Hopefully I'll find the fabrics to pull it off!  

What I learned:
  • I am often my harshest critic and a lot of my crazy expectations are self-inflicted. It's good to take a step back every once in a while and review these.
  • I often get great ideas for landscape quilts on the drive into work (that's because I'm not driving and I get to look at the amazing scenery on the parkway). I think that it's a good idea to put these ideas down somewhere. I don't have to make them all, but at some point I may be ready to try them.
  • I love that the quilt world is so huge and includes so many types of quilting. It's wonderful to be able to try all of these things and see what I like and what I'm best suited for.
How are you handling your quilting expectations?

I hope you have a great week.
I have linked up this week with Free Motion Mavericks.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Yellow Kayak Landscape Quilt

The Yellow Kayak landscape quilt for August’s challenge is done!

August's Landscape Art Quilt - Yellow Kayak
August's Landscape Art Quilt - Yellow Kayak (11½ x 12½)
I wrote about most of my process a week ago. I did get a question in my comments, do I thought I would address it here.

Did I fuse the fabric pieces together? In this quilt, I did. I don’t always but I knew that I probably wouldn’t work on it soon after I layed it out, so I added a little bit of fusable web to the pieces to keep them in place. I do use a light fusible interfacing under by background fabric to ensure some stability, especially when I do the thread sketching. Otherwise the fabric tends to pucker up.

Sky buckling
If you look at the photo after I thread sketched the trees, you can see that the sky fabric is buckling because there is so much stitching in one section and none in the other. It also did the same in the water section, around the flower.

Maybe professional quilters might disagree, but when it’s a small art quilt, as long as you end up quilting about these spots, most of the puckers will leave or not show as much. Around the flower, the water evened out well. In the sky, because I didn’t quilt it much, it comes out puffier – but as far as I’m concerned, this is fine.

I followed the picture to quilt the water. The shading on the fabric was great, so I just quilted around the spaces that had waves, while keeping the still areas unquilted.
Water puckering around the flower

In the area around the rocks and the log, I actually used a black colouring pencil to add some shading. Since I don’t expect this quilt to get washed, this should be fine. Maybe one day I’ll have the nerve to use paint or even markers – but I’m not there yet (especially since I added this near the end of making the quilt. It wasn’t time to ruin it!!!)

For the kayak, I used a metal clip from a lanyard. (I collect bits like that!) I then added a button on top (another collection) and finally, after a lot of consideration, I used 2 black shoe laces.
Original photo

I wasn’t sure what the logo was, but my daughter very helpfully Googled it. I tried using a marker and even machine quilting the design – until my daughter suggested that I hand-embroider it. I’m sure glad she was there :-)

I couldn’t resist adding the butterfly to the finished piece to add a little bit of colour and fantasy I think that might be my signature (when ever it makes sense of course).

What I learned:
  • I love having the help and advice of my kids. They often add ideas or see things that I don’t.
  • The border is some wood fabric from my stash. I love it. If I had planned this ahead of time though, I would have made it a little wider.
  • I’ve read a great tip since I finished this that I hope to try next time. That’s to block the quilt (without cutting it) and then apply 1” painter tape around the edge before quilting the piece so that I don’t quilt on the edge.  If I had done this, the best part of my sky wouldn’t have been cut off!
  • This landscape quilt was for a friend’s birthday – it’s her wonderful photo of her kayak. I’m happy to report that she likes it!

Yellow Kayak
Yellow Kayak
Come back later to see what great landscape art quilt I’ll come up with. I’m really hoping to get struck by inspiration soon!!!

Enjoy the fall.

I've linked my post to these parties. Have a look at what everyone is doing.
Wow! Muv has featured my quilt on her blog, Free Motion Maverick! Check it out! (and thanks so much).

Friday, September 04, 2015

August Update in September

I can't believe that it's September already. It's still crazy hot in Ottawa but the lovely cool fall weather will come eventually, I hope.

background fabrics
Perfect hand-dyed background fabric 
I had all kinds of plans for August - prayer flags and the landscape art quilt. The month is over and lots of things moved ahead, but nothing got finished. What have I been doing? Mostly hiding from the heat! (It's called estivation - what animals do as they hide in the earth from the heat!)

August's Landscape Art Quilt is coming along - there's a long weekend coming up, so hopefully I'll be able to complete it.

Here's some of the process and progress:

I found some amazing hand-dyed fabric that is absolutely perfect for the water. It even had the shading in the right places!

I then went through my stash. I'm so glad that I now have a nice collection of greens for trees and forests. It really helps the process along. I think that auditioning fabrics is my favourite part of the process, especially when it goes well :-)
Fabrics in place
I know that the fabric for the plant is a little much, but I'm hoping to sketch over it. I really wanted the background to help it stand out.

Thread sketching the trees
Thread sketching the trees
I think that I'm finished with the thread sketching of the trees. I love the fact that if I change my mind, I'll be able to make changes as I go along.

I thought that I didn't have a great selection of green thread, but when I looked in my box of miscellaneous thread, I found some great shades of green. What a find! That extra thread gave me so many more options.

Thread sketching the plant
Thread sketching the plant
Last night I worked on the plant. What fun. I love that part too!

This morning I had a few minutes before leaving for work and I worked on the rock below the plant.

Here's what it looked like last night.

What I learned:

  • Inspiration is not the same as actually doing it! Oh well, it was just a plan. 
  • My box of miscellaneous threads consisted mostly of non-pretty colours, like many shades of green. They are not so yukky any more!
  • Since I've thread sketched the trees so much, the fabric is starting to buckle. I'm not finished sketching yet, but I know that this can be fixed in the quilting process.
  • I suspect that every part of making a landscape art quilt is my favourite part. There's no serious cutting, piecing and measuring. What's not to love!

 Have a great labour day! I'll be working at what I love best - my quilting.
Link ups - check out these posts! Monday MakingOh Scrap!, Patchwork Times' Design Wall, WIP WednesdayLet's Bee Social with Sew Fresh Quilts, Needle and Thread Thursday with My Quilt Infatuation

Thursday, August 06, 2015


I'm still making my Monthly Landscape Art Quilt (see below for a peek preview), but for this month's Goal Setting Party at A Lovely Year of Finishes, I'm starting a new project.

Prayer Flags
I was actually going to skip the August goal setting because I wasn't inspired. I just couldn't get into anything - new or old. Not a good place to be. And then I started reading one of my many e-books: Prayer Flags by Quilting Arts Magazine. This was it! This is what my creative soul needs right now.

A project needs a plan to get things going, whether I choose to follow it or not!

Since Tibetan prayer flags, a Buddhist tradition, are hung in groups of 10 and come in 5 colours that represent the five basic elements, in August I'll be making at least one group of 10 prayer flags. Here are the colours and what they represent:

  • Blue is for space;
  • White is the air;
  •  Red is fire;
  • Green is water; and
  • Yellow is earth. 

As Vivika Hansen DeNegre writes in Prayer Flags, "the words and symbols printed on the flags (the prayers) are spread throughout the universe as the flags flutter in the wind. Everyone who is touched by that wind is touched by the prayers. The wind spreads the intentions through the world, extending happiness, goodwill, and peace."

A Prayer Flag Project Button
A Prayer Flag Project Button
Quilters have been making prayer flags for many years now. The Prayer Flag Project is "a collective project spreading peace, good will and kindness, one flag at a time..." It's been around since June 2011. Check out the blog for more information on participating and making prayer flags.

After I was inspired, I started making a list of the prayers and the flags I wanted to create - for specific people and ideas. I may be at this for a while. I want to make flags and hang them up in my back yard before winter comes. Since my garden isn't what I would like it to be, it'll be beautified by the prayer flags.

August's Monthly Landscape Art Quilt 

It's one of my friend's birthday in August. She requested a landscape quilt of her kayak and gave me a beautiful photo. I hope I can do it justice.

What I learned:

  • Don't give up on inspiration. Just be open to receiving it!

The information about prayer flags is from the book, Prayer Flags.

This post is linked to A Lovely Year of Finishes,

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fireworks for July's Landscape Art Quilt

Here is the result of my Monthly Landscape Art Quilt Challenge and the 2015 Lovely Year of Finishes...Fireworks in July.
Fireworks in July (14" x 8")
Canada Day is the 1st of July. I must admit that I haven't braved the heat and the crowds to see the festivities and the fireworks on Parliament Hill in a few years. After my rather muted June landscape, I was ready for some colour and sparkle. Here's my journey.

Parliament before the appliqué
I found a couple of photos of Parliament and cut out the shape in a grey fabric. I put a black fabric behind it to make the grey stand out.

I did some thread sketching of the parliament building with grey thread on grey fabric, which, not surprisingly, didn't show up. I was, however, able to use the stitched outline as a guide for sewing with metallic thread in the bobbin.

Thread painting with metallic thread in the bobbin 
After starting over the sky on my last landscape art quilt, I was more careful with this one. I cut out the colours I wanted in long, wavy strips to blend them into each other. I didn't want to deal with the buildings or landscape around parliament, so I just made it black. It's great to be making a representation, and not trying to copy the real thing.

I've learned that in a landscape quilt, it's important to minimize the details and get to the essence of the image. If you're not sure what to cut out, just ask yourself "What am I really trying to show here?" In this instance, it was the parliament building, the sky and the fireworks. Nothing else was necessary.

Embroidered and beaded fireworks
Embroidered and beaded fireworks

I embroidered the fireworks using as inspiration my favourite embroidery book, The Beginner's Guide to Freestyle Embroidery by Christina Marsh. One of the projects actually includes fireworks. I used the shapes of the fireworks but not the same stitches. For the two largest fireworks, I appliquéd fabric as a background and then embroidered over them. I really like the glittering stars of the yellow firework.

I then FMQ by echoing the fireworks and following the curves of the sky.

The last step was beading the fireworks. I didn't have any mauve beads, but the ivory beads on the mauve fabric look mauve as they reflect the colour around them.

I used a new technique for finishing the art quilt. Instead of binding it I created a facing for it. Here's the link to the tutorial by Terry Aske. It worked out well. I'll probably keep using this technique whenever I don't want a border and binding.

Fireworks in July Landscape Art Quilt
I took some lovely pictures of the quilt one morning outside of the building at work. I thought I was finished, but I forgot something...the Canadian flag! I've looked for a couple of days, but I can't seem to find any small Canada flag pins. The flag will be at the top of Parliament as soon as I find one!

What I learned:

  • The wavy strips for the sky worked really well. I joined the strips using narrow ends. I learned a lot from my first attempt last month!
  • Using metallic thread in the bobbin is really easy and gives such a lovely result.
  •  I liked using a facing instead of binding the piece. It gives it a clean look. Thanks to Terry Aske for the tutorial.

What's coming next in the Monthly Landscape Art Quilt Challenge? You'll just have to come back and see!

Thanks for dropping by.

This post has been linked to A Lovely Year of Finishes, Fabric Tuesday at Quilt StoryWIP WednesdayLet's Bee Social, Free Motion Mavericks and Link-A-Finish Friday with Richard and Tanya Quilts. Check out everyone's work.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Two Quilts Are Better Than One!

Charley Harper Quilt
My version of the Charley Harper Quilt

In the winter of 2014, after reading the International Quilt Festival Quilt Scene magazine (2013\2014), I fell in love with the Charley Harper Quilt by Melissa Lunden (it's featured on the cover of the magazine, at the bottom right).

I had bought many modern fabrics a couple of years earlier and wanted to make something with a lot of negative space for free motion quilting (FMQ). My fabrics were more in the brown, gold and red so I decided to use a darker brown fabric that would bring it all together. Although I'm not a huge fan of browns, it does make for a very rich looking quilt.

While I was at it, I thought that I would make my first pieced backing (as in intentionally pieced, not the "Oh my goodness, I ran out of fabric, how can I make this backing big enough?" version).
Street Art Quilt

My version of the Street Art Quilt

I looked around in my stash of books and magazines for something that would be modern but also not too time consuming to make (right!). I was intrigued by Mary Patterson's Street Art quilt which features fabric by Stephanie Brandenburg in the Quilt Trends magazine, Summer 2014. It had some funky fabrics, large blocks, some of them framed within the quilt. I knew that this pattern would translate well into what I wanted to make. It was also simple enough that I could adapt the size to the quilt top.

It's been a long time since I finished the quilt top and backing. I remember that the Charley Harper quilt went together fairly simply. I also remember that I had to adjust the Street Art quilt quite a bit because I had started by drawing it all out. When I started putting it together, I quickly realised that my pieces were too small and wouldn't have the same effect...and I really got tired of working with the same fabrics for so long (yup, my secret is out! I tried to plan it out but got bored!!!)

 I think that both quilts would have made a fine front and back, but when I looked at both quilts a few weeks ago, I just couldn't bring myself to put them together to make one quilt. I had put too much effort into making both of them, and doing FMQ on the top would not have necessarily been the best quilting for the back.

I'm now in the process of FMQ the Charley Harper Quilt. I still haven't decided what to quilt in the negative space but I've started "sewing every stinking seam", as suggested by Cindy Needham.

I find that this is a great suggestion because when I look at the quilt, I am totally intimidated by all of that negative space to quilt. As I quilt almost every stinking seam, I am getting familiar with the quilt and slowly getting ideas for quilting it. As Cindy suggests, I will also divide and conquer the space so that it won't be such a huge task.

Right now, I'm thinking of quilting feathers in most of the negative space. My feathers aren't too bad, and I find that drawing them out at the beginning gets me in the grove. Eventually I can stop drawing them and I will be confidant enough to just sew them.

What I've learned:
  • I'm not sure that I'll ever be patient enough to piece a whole quilt back. I love the effect of a pieced back but that's a lot of work, when you've already put in so much time and effort into the front!
  • I took my unfinished quilt and quilt top to work with me this morning and had a "photo shoot" before work. It was a lot of fun. The light was good but it was quite windy. This didn't make much difference for the Charley Parker quilt, but the Street Art quilt top was flapping all over the place! I'm going to learn more about photographing quilts and I'll share what I learn.
  • I spent a lot of time looking at the Charley Harper quilt, which is made of fabrics from Charley Harper's wonderful drawings. After I finished the quilt, I went on and bought quite a bit of the fabric which is created by Birch Fabric. It is truly beautiful - but that will be for another project!

Charley Harper fabrics
Charley Harper fabrics
I am linking this Work-in-progress (WIP) with MOP MondayMonday MakingFabric Tuesday at Quilt Story.

If you have time, check out everyone's links.