Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I really do feel a perverse sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at cleaning this much crap out of my machine, after a big project wraps.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Our guild was one of the many that participated in the MQG Madrona Road challenge.

Challenge participants were given a handful of pieces of the Violet Craft "Madrona Road" fabric line and asked to complete a project, preferably a quilt, using only additional solids.

I found this challenge difficult, primarily because some of the colors in the line aren't favorites of mine, particularly the mustardy yellow and tan.  In addition, I was sad we didn't receive any of the small-scale florals, which were my favorite from this collection.

I borrowed the concept for the quilt and the quilting from this insanely good quilt

I didn't want to buy additional fabric, so I plumbed the depths of my stash and wound up pulling a series of polyester and wool apparel suiting remnants, silk remnants, and other solids.  I prewashed to make sure I wouldn't have weird shrinkage.  The quilt is backed with the lowest thread-count sheet I could find at Target, and bound with a black-on-black dot I bought because I'd run out of stashed fabric. 

Clearly my quilting, done on my genius friend Linda's longarm, is not as precisely done as the inspiration, but I think it turned out pretty well.  The solid bars were supposed to have been inset with circles, but precise circles are HARD on the long arm, so mine are more freeform-y and blobular.   I am describing them to my friends as "mod marshmallows" in the hope their lumpiness will seem intentional.

Friday, February 15, 2013

One small thing off the list

I've been dreading piecing the back for my mom's enormous LeMoyne Star Quilt.

The reason:  the fabric is an exuberant, large-scale chintz, and I knew I wanted to do pattern matching at the seam.  Alice recommended the Oh Fransson glue-stick matching tutorial.  I bit the bullet and did the seam 2 nights ago.  Never have I been more satisfied by an hour spent on a single seam:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fielke flowers

'Fanciful Flowers' baby quilt
completed December 2012

My quilt friends have been raving for years about the Material Obsession books, specifically the work of co-author Sarah Fielke.

Sarah Fielke schoolhouse session
Sarah showing off samples from "Quilting From Little Things"
via Fat Quarterly

Laurie loved Sarah's Dotty for Dresden quilt so much, she made a beautifully faithful version that fills my heart with joy.  And red is my least-favorite color!   I mean, seriously:

Laurie's beautiful "Dotty for Dresden"
via Dresden Lane

And my friend Lia made this amazing eagle quilt, modeled on another Material Obsession quilt. Here it is on display at our Lowell Quilt Festival show this past August:

Lia's eagles

We were at Quilt Market last year, when Sarah had just released Quilting From Little Things, and were able to stand in line for autographed copies.  I didn't know her, but was just happy to get a nice book.

via Sarah Fielke
Cut to the next day, when I read the whole thing cover to cover on the plane home, and fell in quilt love.   (No joke:  some random middle aged dude leaned across the aisle mid-flight, gestured to the book, and said:  "Those blankets are really nice looking!")

Sarah Fielke quilt via blickfangquilts and knits
I have since plowed through all her other books, and am now moderately obsessed with Sarah's exuberant, more-is-more use of pattern.  She has a way of mixing a million discordant prints, and still winding up with a harmonious and calm finished product.

'Fanciful Flowers' quilt, from Material Obsession

When one of my work friends announced his wife's pregnancy,  I took this as an invitation to go Full Fielke.  I was quickly up to my elbows in my stash and scrap bin,  pulling hoarded pink Amy Butler prints, repro fat quarters, and every Flea Market fancy scrap I could lay hands on.

The baby quilt I made is based on the Fanciful Flowers quilt, from Material Obsession.

I only made a few changes from the pattern in the book.   I changed the layout from a 3x4 arrangement to a 3x3 arrangement, and left the seed pods off the blooms.

My corner repeats were done in soft greens instead of oranges.

I'd originally purchased a cream-on-pink dot to back the floral applique blocks, but didn't have enough to support the 18" x 18" scale of the blocks.  I grabbed a very pale peach Lizzy House pearl bracelet print at our Gather Here sew-in, and turned out to be even happier with it than the original selection.

The quilt was backed with another Amy Butler that I've always loved.  I quilted this on the long arm at my friend's Linda's house, using a big loopy daisy concept.   Linda lent her steady arms to helping me highlight the shape of flower buds, so they'd show on the back.

I LOVED making this and was really sad to see it go.  This is the first gift quilt I've ever really considered re-making, so that I can have one of my own.   Don't be surprised if you see this again.  Even if I don't re-make this one,  I suspect this is not the last of my Fielke quilts...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hexie Rings

I began casually making hexagon flowers a few years back, when hexie paper piecing projects were beginning to spring up everywhere.

I  travel a bit for work, and we tend to be in airports a lot, since we live in Boston but our family is in Texas, New York, and Seattle.  Hexies really are great for taking along - tiny and nothing too pokey is required, to trip you up at the security scanners.

I started with no end in mind, aside from eating up scraps.   I figured anything I did would rely on the standard 7-hexie flower form, so I just kept making those.

I used the freezer paper method and cut the hexie papers by hand, which was a total pain in the ass.   I would NEVER do that again, now that I know that you can buy them in bulk, online.

Ultimately I had a huge stack of hexie flowers, but no plan. Then, it dawned on me that these could be strung into rings.  I decided to make rings of different sizes, and arrange them over a field of linen.

I wanted to use linen because of how much I enjoyed using it for Laurie's baby quilt. I have become slightly obsessed with how pleasant it is to quilt on, and how beautiful the quilting looks after washing.

The problem was I'd somehow mired myself in a plan to use a very light neutral background color.  White was out:  I have kids, people.  And all the cream/tan/beige options seemed make make the rings look muddled and drab.  Nothing looked right.

I ended up putting all the rings away for several months out of pure frustration.

Then, I stumbled upon a 3-yard remnant of teal apparel linen at a garment fabric store near my house.  I didn't actually intend it to be used for this, but when I got it home, I remembered the rings.  BOOM, a perfect color fit.

I made the biggest square I could using the linen, and arranged/pinned the rings on.  Then I carefully removed the papers from the hexies that sat on the rings' outer and inner edges.   I sewed the rings down with 2 lines of stitches that echo the ring edges, one 1/8" from the edge, and the other about a quarter inch inside.

Once the lines were in, I cut out the interior of the rings through the linen back, and yanked the remaining paper.

The quilt was backed with a large-scale house fabric that my friend Linda nabbed at IKEA a while back.  I edged it with a strip of large-scale Lanna Jansdotter fabrics that I'd been reluctant to cut into small pieces.

Pebbling was used for most of the quilting because I felt it would add a lot of texture to the negative space.  In a few spots, I traced a ring or partial ring, and did an echo of the outer-line stitching, with the interior left as a sort of quilting "dead spot".

The quilt is bound in an Amy Butler lavender dot.  I love it against the teal.

I give a lot of my quilts away, but this one's staying put.  My son especially loves it, and I have so many hours into it, I don't think I could bear to see it depart.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Amrita's Kaleidoscope

I cannot believe I haven't posted in 3 months.   What can I say?   I have the usual bag of time constraints to blame, chief among them a project at work that is zapping all my energy.    I've had 3 months of 'blog or sew?' moments in the evening, and in every case I've chosen to sew.

This has made for lots of finished quilts, but fewer blog posts.   So, time for a little catch-up on all the stuff I've made.

I made this quilt for one of my oldest friends, Amrita.  I will not go mushy on you, but she is a delight and I wish my children both have friends as great as her one day.

She was here to visit last summer, and I had her pull some inspiration from my stash.

Amrita picked fabrics in a palette I don't usually work with - tans and oranges and darkish reds.   I had a great time jumping out of my comfort zone a bit.

I wanted a kaleidoscope-ish effect, so I pulled a ton of fabrics, and sewed strips of 3-4 irregular bands in colors that ran from light to dark.   The bands were pieced randomly side by side, with lights all together at one end and darks at the other. I then used a homemade plastic template to cut a wedge shape.   The wedge was finished on the 2 corners with triangles of Free Spirit "Raw Sugar" and cut down to 12" blocks.

After piecing 16 of these, I realized the quilt was way smaller than I wanted.   That's when I remembered a suggestion of Aimee's, and used a bunch of leftover color bands to create a stripey border.

The back was finished with this beautiful Anna Maria Horner print that I found at Marden's in Sanford, Maine after our BMQG retreat last year.  It was like $4 per yard, and I can't deal with how perfectly the colors match.

I used the super-chocolatey flavor of Hope Valley floral to bind, another go-to fabric that I love.

The quilt was delivered to Amrita in NJ back in December, and I'm happy to report she really loves it.  I do kind of miss it, though.