January 29, 2019

Modern Traditional Texture Sampler

I have two quilts that will be at QuiltCon this year. This is one of them!

I made this quilt to feature different free motion textures in my upcoming book. Rather than quilting a bunch of individual small samples I thought I would rather have one nice finished quilt to show. The stimulus to create it was practical, but I think it turned out really lovely! I designed the quilt during the Winter Olympics last year and I'm pretty sure I was under the influence of seeing all those different flags from around the world!

I picked the colors from the Pure Elements Solids line, and Art Gallery Fabrics sent me some to work with. I forced myself to work outside of usual color scheme and that was downright successful! It feels very energetic.

The most fun thing about this quilt is that my sister helped me make it! So the very first quilt she ever made is already in a quilt show, how about that? As usual I was behind schedule on the book because how does anyone get it all done you guys and she offered to help. It was so fun helping her do cutting and patchwork for the first time! Every block that was squares and/or rectangles she put together herself. The ones with angles I took care of. I think it worked out great.

When we started I gave her free reign to use whatever colors she wanted from the 13 that I had picked, with the recommendation that in any individual block the colors were analogous (lying right next to each other on the color wheel). I am certain that her color instincts are different than mine and that is where she really left her mark on this quilt.

I arranged the blocks and pieced them together. Then I got to quilt the top in all the lovely designs I had put in the book.

It was fun! I'm glad it will hang at QuiltCon. I'm a little self conscious about the back of the quilt: there was some funny stuff with the thread tension on the back in a couple of the blocks and I didn't notice when it was happening. It wasn't terrible, but I thought that some people might look at the back of the quilt too and I felt a little embarrassed. I tried to see if I could darken the red thread with a marker to match the backing better but that didn't work, so oh well. I can be calm about it.

It is sometimes hard for me to pick categories for my quilts from among the ones available for QuiltCon. I picked "Modern Traditionalism" because it is a sampler quilt, with a definite modern flair, incorporating some classic blocks as well as a ton of negative space (because how else are you going to show off your FMQ?).

I kept reasonably good notes of what I did when I made this quilt. Right now I am working on testing the angular blocks to make sure I wrote it down right, so I can get a pattern written! My goal is to have the pattern out around the time the book comes out, in early April. Does anyone who works kind of fast want to help me test a few blocks?

January 25, 2019

An Auction Quilt in the Making

Here is a project I'm working with for the annual art auction at my children's school. I'm working with the fourth graders and it's going SO WELL!!

When I signed up to lead the project for all of the over 100 (!!!) fourth graders I thought it would be fun to do something with fabric. I thought about it for a while and came up with a scrappy quilt (well, two scrappy quilts) based on value. Now unfortunately I would only have about 45 minutes with each class of 26 or so kids. I didn't think sewing machines or irons were going to be feasible or safe with so many students. I assumed hand sewing wouldn't fit in the time provided. So I settled on something verrrrrrrry similar to sew and flip foundation string piecing. I'll call it "glue and flip".

Since a lot of people are liking the look of this and asking me how I did it, let me share quickly how I approached it. I started by cutting a 30" strip for each student. The strips were 2" to 2.5" wide. I made them variable size so that when I inevitably had to cut some down due to mistakes it wouldn't be obvious. I cut up SO MANY of my scraps (if you decide to do this, you need more scraps than you think, or at least I did!). I bought a bunch of glue sticks, the purple ones so they could see where they had put the glue. We stapled each kid's name to the end of their strips to keep the classes straight and make sure we didn't misplace one.

Scraps were sorted into three different groups: light, medium and dark.

I showed them a quilt, I'd made, talked briefly about what a quilt is, told them we were going to make a quilt together and showed them a finished strip I'd made. I pointed out how it was dark at one end and light at the other. I pointed out how you couldn't see the fabric strip between the fabrics, or the raw edges. Then I demonstrated the technique three times.

The technique is:
First, put a dab of glue on the end of the strip and just place your first scrap over that. Show them that the scraps go beyond the side edges and they are supposed to do that. You'll trim them up at the end. For each piece of fabric after the first one, here is how they add it:

Using the glue stick, apply a strip of glue to the raw edge of the last scrap AND a strip of glue onto the foundation piece. 

 Lay the next piece face down aligning the edges. Some kids really do not get this face-down-edges-aligned thing. Clearly point out what you're doing during your demo. After it's in place, press it down to get the glue stuck.

Next flip it back, leaving a little bit of a "seam allowance" (I didn't use this term with them, I called it the folded underside). This was the hardest part for them. Some kids want to pull it back too far and expose all the glue and raw edges, some want to leave like an inch or more. Show them clearly during your demo how far you are folding it back. Double check as they start that everyone is getting this part.

Finally, have them roll the seam flat. I had a few seam rollers available and for the rest of the kids we gave them ink brayers, which the art teacher had plenty of. They worked great! It gives the folded edge a nice crease without needing to sew or iron.

Now, not everyone gets value. And that's why I sorted the scraps for them. Seriously I asked another mom to help me sort them and it was clear that it was stressful to her and based on where I found the fabrics I think seeing value is just hard for some people. If you had more time you could make this part of the project, maybe have some of that red film for people to look through, but we didn't have that. My solution was only putting one group of fabrics on the table at first (the darks) and not adding mediums until they'd gotten about 1/3 of the strip filled with the darks. Then once they were about 2/3 of the way done I distributed piles of lights. It was really fun doing this part, I felt like the fabric fairy and I loved hear audible gasps as I set down handfuls of fresh fabric for them to choose from. Having only a small pile on the table kept them from pawing endlessly through a bag. Only adults got to paw through the bag in the interest of time and crowd control.

A few students work slow, of course. As we were approaching our last 15 minutes the adults started doing 1-on-1 support with kids that weren't going to be able to finish without help. I would glue, they would choose the fabric, they would roll. We had an adult to child ratio of 1 to 8 in the morning. That was doable but 1 to 6 that we had in the afternoon was a world of difference. Some kids got almost to the edge but not quite. For those I just tucked under the final raw edge and glued it down (see the picture above of a finished strip from the back).

Once I got home I did a quick line of stitching up one side of each strip, about 1/8" from the edge, just to make sure no one's creation disintegrated. Then I pressed and trimmed them (I think you could press before the stay stitching if you prefer, I just really wanted all those fabrics locked down). Then I started sewing them together. There is a row of strips on the top and a row of strips on the bottom of the quilt, with the dark ends of the strips meeting in the middle of the quilt. Here's a closeup of the first strips on my design wall.

They sure look pretty and I'm having a great time putting them together! I'll update when there's progress to share. My first session with the kids was three weeks ago and when I was back at the school yesterday several of the students told me they had fun doing the project. I can't wait to bring the finished quilts back and show them what they created together! I hope this helps those of you that want to bring patchwork into the classroom! If you try doing this with kids in your life let me know how it goes!!