December 31, 2014

FMQ Weekly: About that resolution...

Hello beloved quilters, and happy new year!

Through the wonders of my phone being connected to the internet, it comes to my attention that a few of you are making some new years resolutions about learning FMQ. Hooray!

If I was a smart business woman I would say you should get right on ordering my books and my class.

Alas...I am not a smart business woman. I mean, I'd love it if you ordered those things, and if you want to go right ahead! But I'd like to mention that you don't need to. What you need is a darning or free-motion foot and some gloves (I know there's like 0.5% of you that don't use gloves but based on what I see from my students I'd say if you're a human you should start with the gloves).

And after you have those two things... you need to jump in.

I have a kindergartener right now. And she's learning to write (in two completely different languages!). And sometimes, it's messy. Her 2s and 5s and 7s are often backwards. Same thing sometimes with her Ns. Gs are throwing her sometimes. But because she is 5 and possessed of that kind of determination and certainty that she will get it, she just shrugs it off and keeps going. And I have no doubt that her painstaking attention to each and every wobbly letter will one day give way to smooth, flowing script. Her bizarrely sized characters will normalize and her numbers will all face the right way. I know that will happen because she keeps showing up. Five days a week I drop her off at school and she does it. And you did it once upon a time and now you can write too.

So, the question for you, with your resolution, is not whether you can free-motion quilt. Of course you can. The question is whether you will show up.

Now, you don't need to practice free-motion quilting 5 times a week, that's not what I'm getting at at all. Maybe you only have 30 minutes a week. That's all I had for several years. Take it! It's golden! Those 30 minutes a week will add up to 25 hours by the end of the year.

Have you heard of this book "The 20 Hour Rule"? Probably not, unless you listen to the same podcasts I do. Anyway, the subtitle of the book is "How to learn anything: FAST". Did you hear that? This author thinks putting 20 hours into a new skill is learning it fast! So if you have a FMQ resolution for 2015 I think the first thing you should do, before shopping for books or classes or whatnot is figure out where you can get this minimum of 20 hours to put into your goal.

That's what I want you imagining right now. Where will your FMQ practice fit in? Weekly? Monthly?  Only you know what will work for your life. Pick your time. Plan for it, however you keep track of time, whether that's in your calendar or on little mental post it notes. And then, imagine yourself doing it: putting on your gloves, moving the quilt under the machine, running your hands over that lovely quilted texture.

You'll get there. That's what resolutions are about. Getting there. Show up, my friends, and you'll do just fine.

December 29, 2014

Ah, Improv! Improvising Tradition review

A lovely book is out in the world! And it's my pleasure to tell you about it. Improvising Tradition, by Alexandra Ledgerwood of Teaginny Designs, is a gentle, refined, thoughtful introduction to the delights of improvisational quilting. 

Readers of this blog know that improvisation is my native quilting language. While my interests have lately led me to explore more precision piecing, it was like a drink of cool water to have Alex's book in my hands and see her take on sharing improv quilting.

Alex's style is very refined. Lots of color coordinated scraps and solids. It gives the book a distinctly modern feel, which I find pleasant even though I use more prints in my work than Alex does. Flipping through her book made me eager to return to my sewing room and start playing! I made this little placemat, and I'm pretty sure I was under the influence of the beautiful quilt above that's on the book cover when I picked my colors.

I also played around with curved improv piecing. I wish I'd gotten my strips nice and narrow like Alex's but I'm still thrilled with how the piece turned out. Here are Alex's gorgeous placemats.

And here's the table runner they inspired...

The way Alex structured the book is right on. She shows a technique, like making improv log cabins, and fully illustrates that technique. Then she shows you some projects to try the technique. This is the perfect format because it gives cautious improvisers projects to hold onto to get their feet wet, while allowing the dauntless improvisers to absorb the concept quickly and move on to trying it out in their own way. This is a very thoughtful way to arrange content. This format as well as the careful clarity with which Alex shares her information make it the perfect book for quilters of across a range of experience and confidence with improv quilting.

If you have been interested in learning or revisiting improv quilting, definitely get your hands on a copy of Improvising Tradition, you'll be pleased that you did!

December 23, 2014

FMQ Weekly: Topography Quilting Design

There are two videos in this post, one at the top and one at the bottom!!

You have to try this. It is so fun!

I know it looks complicated. It isn't. It's basically an adaptation of all over spirals (below). If you have ever quilted all over spirals you should do just fine with this design. And if you've haven't done all over spirals, this is even easier! Because all over spirals have to be round but this design is more blob-by. 

So here's your recipe:

a. Start with a wiggly spiral
b. Come back out of the wiggly spiral
c. Echo around the outside of the spiral, come back and start your next wiggly spiral wherever you like. 

What is nice about this design is the way it's so easy to deal with tight spaces between spirals.  See how you can just sneak in and out of a tight space? 

How about several minutes of me stitching this design? Here's a video!

And here's the texture side. 

See you next week! We're off to enjoy some gingerbread house making. Hoping there is peace and joy in your homes right now...

December 18, 2014

Gradient Pillow Tutorial

These simple pillows were perfect for me to showcase some of my new quilting designs, and today the pillow tutorial is up at Sew Mama Sew! Check it out if you need a splash of color somewhere in your life!

December 09, 2014

FMQ Weekly: Wildfire Quilting design

This is a simple design that has a lot of elegance.

I found myself stitching it on the quilt that I posted about last week and I thought, I should do a tutorial on that one! It catches the light so nicely. 

So you start with a drop shape and echo it once. 

Then you make a leaf shape around that drop. 

Echo that leaf shape one or two more times (depending on where you want to end up) and then start the next motif. 

When you get biggish spaces between the motifs fill them in with little echoed drops. 

Want to see me stitching it? Great, here's a video!

This is an emerging type of design (one of the design styles I cover in my Craftsy class) so if you're comfortable with other emerging designs (like the paisley pattern) you should be able to adjust to this pattern pretty well. 

Speaking of the Craftsy class, WOW! So many of you have taken it, and left the kindest reviews! It would take me years to teach this many people in person, I'm just thrilled that we can connect online like that. Thanks for all the support and enthusiasm. I love helping people feel confident and adventurous in their FMQ and hearing that I'm doing that gives me such a good feeling. Happy stitching everyone!

December 02, 2014

FMQ weekly: try it!

I don't have a tutorial today, because this Thanksgiving weekend I was completely possessed by quilting. I mean in a way I haven't felt in over a year. I've been putting a lot of time into teaching quilting or writing patterns lately, but this was for no one else but me and it felt delicious.

The quilt I recently finished cracked open a new part of my brain I guess because

a) this quilt is going to have about 80 different designs in it when it's finished.
b) I was hoping to make the deadline for submitting it to the show at QuiltCon.

That's new for me. I can't even explain what happened, just a flash of inspiration to make a quilt with a quilt block by my grandma in the center and the realization that the Quilt Con deadline was in reach. Everything went so quickly and smoothly, utter "Flow" state. It's the time when being an artist feels more like being a conduit than anything else. I felt gratitude for my grandma over and over as I worked on it. I missed the QuiltCon deadline but it didn't really matter. This quilt has changed me.

It needed lots of variety in the quilting and also freedom in the designs. So I tried lots of new things. I'm so happy I did, they are looking great! I guess that's the point in today's post. Try the new things. Even if you're not sure how they will turn out. If you see quilting out in the world that intrigues you and you want to try it, you should. You might amaze yourself!

I'll be back next week with a tutorial. Happy stitching everyone!

November 24, 2014

FMQ weekly: Windswept quilting design

Such a nice lot of supportive comments on my last post, thank you all! Today I want to share one of the designs I used on that quilt. I asked my Instagram followers to help me name it. I heard a lot of wind and hair references so I'm going with Windswept!

I like really flowing designs and I'm hoping that I share this in a way that it makes sense to you. This is an "emerging" type of design, it starts at a point and each new motif emerges from between two others, which you can probably see above if you look for the start of each new swirl. It's not hard, it just looks hard. I had a new quilter in a class this week who did great with it.

So here is how I make the basic motif:

a. Make a loose spiral/swirl
b. Come back to the point along the inside of the spiral.
c. Echo back around the outside of the spiral to the far point.
d. Echo back along the inside of the spiral to the starting point.

e. Then take a short line up to the curve of the spiral, travel along it a little way and then go back down to the point.

That's it. Do it over and over again! You can make your four-spiral unit in whatever order you want. It doesn't matter whether you're coming back on the inside or the outside of the spiral. The explanation above is just the way I've been doing it, and the way that I stitch it in the video below.

The only other thing you need to be prepared for is that where the round ends of your shapes come together they will leave some odd shaped open spaces between them. Unless those are tiny you'll probably want to fill them with some evenly spaced lines to keep the texture consistent and avoid those areas "popping" forward in your design.

You can see me stitching the design in this video. You can also maybe hear my 2 year old waking up from his nap at the end, so it did get cut a little short. If you watch it I think you'll get the idea of how the design flows.

Here's a shot from the quilt I posted about in my last post. Windswept is in the upper left corner in this picture.

Hope you get some use out of this one quilters. Happy stitching!

November 21, 2014

Trying new things

I usually just quilt my quilts with all over designs. I'm just not very fancy. I don't enter my quilts in shows or anything, it's not something that has felt important to me so far. I like finishing my quilts so I can give them to people I love, and I like helping other people do the same thing. 

So when I agreed to quilt one of the Monaluna challenge tops for the Portland Modern Quilt Guild I thought I would just do something all over. Right? Uhhhhh....wrong. Suzanne had pieced these blocks from guild members in this really unique way, lining up strips of the same print in different blocks. "I was hoping the quilting could highlight that" she told me. I felt stumped. It felt out of my league. It felt like a job for a longarmer. I thought about it for two weeks. 

And then I got busy. I didn't get great pictures before handing it off for binding (that made me feel like a princess!) but you can maybe see a little of the quilting above in the negative space. I left these "pipes" that joined the strips unquilted, so they would pop forward, and I made some circles connecting the pipes. I traced around bowls for that part. Here you see my high tech tools.

In the different sections created by the pipes I used different all over patterns.

It worked really well!

I got a great picture of one section in the sunlight.

I'm grateful for being stretched a little out of my comfort zone.  Thank you PMQG and Suzanne! It's wonderful how a community of quilters improves everyone's skills in ways like this. I doubt I'll get this fancy very often but I know I can when I want to!

November 18, 2014

FMQ weekly: pebble power

I recently made this little sample to show the power of pebbling. It's just a plain piece of fabric and the whole thing is quilted in pebbles. I marked a circle (by tracing around a bowl) in the center of the piece and quilted that in a bright contrasting thread. The rest was quilted in a thread that almost matched the background. I love when you can make a plain piece of fabric amazing with quilting.

In each section I occasionally did something fancy inside the pebbles: a spiral in the center section and an asterisk in the background. I think that's my favorite way to dress up pebbling, just adding an occasional fancy one.

If you need a little free-motion quilting time this week and don't have a project ready, try something like this! Ours is now a little pillow. I've made so many pillows and small quilts lately I might do a craft fair booth this season, I need to make some space in here!

November 11, 2014

Gently Down the Stream

I can't believe I'm saying this, but a quilt of mine is in a special issue of Quilter's Newsletter!

This is their new release, Best Fat Quarter Quilts. I didn't know they had put my quilt on the cover and when I opened my mail and saw it I gasped. What a fabulous surprise. I showed it to pretty much everyone I know. Sorry, coworkers.

Maybe you remember when I was geeking out about 60 degree triangles? Well this quilt is what came out of that playing around. It's called Gently Down the Stream. When a quilt name comes to me out of the blue like that one did, I don't question it. It's perfect for this little 40" x 48" quilt.

Because it has all the colors of the rainbow, my five year old has claimed it as her bed quilt. I do love seeing its happy colors enwrapping her little body every evening at bedtime. It's also the best quilt we have for play-sleeping with, it would appear.

I'm glad I challenged myself with a design requiring more precision than I usually use. It was a fun experience and it worked well. If you read my blog on the web or follow me on Facebook (yes that's new!) you might have noticed that my new profile picture is in front of this very quilt. And of course, a close up of the quilting...

Happily, I get to select a commenter to win a fat quarter bundle. Thanks, Quilter's Newsletter! And if you check out the blog hop you can find more giveaways to get your name into. To enter mine, please leave a comment on this post and I will pick a winner tomorrow, Nov 12.  The giveaway is now closed and I have emailed the winner, Diane H!

Thanks for the lovely comments about this quilt. Happy stitching to you!

November 10, 2014

FMQ weekly: Peapods quilting design

I like to name my free-motion designs, even though I always wonder if I'll choose one that someone else has used, or even one that I've already used and forgotten about. I need a system to keep track of them. I totally lack a system.

For this one I picked Wishes. Then I posted a picture on Instagram and Instagram renamed it for me. Instagram called it Peapods and obviously that's a better description than Wishes. I should have checked with you all first! What was I thinking?

Did I stitch this one in a no-narration video? Heck yes I did. I'm really liking the video thing. It's like we're hanging out and quilting together. Here's the video link for those of you who subscribe by email.

These peapods are kind of fat but I've also stitched it with skinnier ones and that looks great too.

And of course, for those who just want a description:

a. You start with a line and make a leaf shape.
b. Make a smaller leaf inside that leaf (making sure to go all the way to the points)
c. Then come up with a string of pebbles in that inner leaf
d. Travel up the side of the inner leaf to the tip of the leaf and continue your line

You repeat that all the way to the edge of your piece, then come back with another column. Consecutive columns are offset so they nestle together. Then you put some echoing lines between the columns for maximum quilting oomph. If that's confusing just watch the first couple minutes of the video.

I hope you get some use out of this one, quilters.

P.S. Portland folks: I have some upcoming FMQ classes at Modern Domestic!