Polar Bear Block Pattern

In last year’s block of the month quilt I designed for Dabble and Stitch, I created a foundation paper pieced polar bear block to represent the Columbus Zoo.  I liked the block so much that I made a cushion with it, and many people who came into the shop loved the design.  This design is now available as a stand alone block pattern!

Polar Bear Block

I made a few adjustments to change the block from a rectangle to an 18″ square block, and I made it up in a new color way that is available as a kit with Painters Palette Solids by Paintbrush Studios. (shown above) For this version I used Aurifil Monofilament so the thread would blend with the fabric color.  The straight line quilting was done with a walking foot on my domestic machine.

First version of the polar bear pillow

It was good timing to release this pattern last month, because the Columbus Zoo welcomed a new polar bear cub on Thanksgiving, and this design was based on a photo I took of another cub at the zoo.  You can read more about the development of the original block in the original post.

Original Block of the Month Polar Bear Block

The pattern is available online or in store at Dabble and Stitch in Columbus, Ohio.  You can choose between the print pattern, a PDF, and a kit with a print pattern included.

Print Polar Bear Pattern

Print Polar Bear Pattern with kit

PDF Polar Bear

Polar Bear Block made into a pillow

I am excited to be participating in this year’s 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge hosted by Cheryl Sleboda of Muppin.com, so I will be blogging a lot more this month!

Machine Quilting the Circle Quilt

How do I quilt a top with lots of bold color? With even more bold color!  This quilt is made entirely with solid fabrics so the quilting is going to stand out as a key design element.  Balancing the impact of the quilting designs with the graphic quality of the quilt top can be challenging, so I decided to match the thread color to the fabric to allow machine quilting to add texture without interrupting the fields of color.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember seeing the blocks for this quilt come together last year.  The blocks didn’t become an actual top until I went to a quilting retreat last month.  All of the components of this quilt were structured improvisation.  Lots of rulers were involved (including the Classic Curves Ruler by Color Girl Quilts), but the quilt evolved organically as I added the various components.

There are dozens of fabric colors in this quilt so I selected 50wt Aurifil in colors that each coordinated with between one and four fabrics in the quilt.

I ended up selecting 19 colors of Aurifil.  The colors are listed from left to right.

Back Row (Cones):

  • 2535- Magenta
  • 4020- Fuchsia
  • 2225- Salmon
  • 2425- Bright Pink
  • 1135- Pale Yellow
  • 5006- Light Turquoise
  • 2740- Dark Cobalt

Front Row (Spools):

  • 4225- Eggplant
  • 4030- Plum
  • 2245- Red Orange
  • 2145- Yellow Orange
  • 1147- Light Leaf Green
  • 6737- Shamrock Green
  • 2870- Green
  • 4093- Jade
  • 2810- Turquoise
  • 2770- Very Light Delft
  • 2730-Delft Blue
  • 2562- Lilac

For me, the best part of using colorful threads is the opportunity you have to infuse just a little more color into the fabric you use it on.  In this quilt there are a few sections of grey fabric, but instead of using grey thread, I selected Lavender Aurifil to add a small amount of color to an area that has the potential to become bland.  Magenta Aurifil is one of my favorite colors to do this with.  It blends with lots of fabrics, but it adds just enough saturate color to enliven the quilt.

The machine quilting for this piece was done on the longarm.  Most of the designs were done with rulers, but there is some free motion quilting mixed in to add some different textural effects.  I incorporated occasional gaps in the machine quilting so I will be able to go back in and add some large stitch hand quilting- Which I can’t wait to do!

Whole Circle Whole Cloth

I love a challenge, and this month Aurifil challenged it’s artisans to create a whole cloth mini quilt using a Paintbrush Studios Painter’s Palette Solid and a coordinating thread in our choice of weight.  I was sent Midnight blue fabric and a matching thread.  This first photo has the most accurate color so imagine that color when you see all of the indoor photos! 🤣

Whole cloth quilting isn’t something I do very often, so I decided to start the process with a little research.  Quilting tends to rely on pattern and repetition, so the books I pulled out had lots of art that embraces those principles.  I was also leaning toward 20th century art for inspiration, but I include some inspiration from earlier eras, just in case something caught my eye.

Ultimately I landed on these two Art Nouveau tile images to use for design inspiration.  I liked the circular quality of both designs, and thought that they would combine well.

I drafted the design on AutoCad, then printed it across two sheets of tabloid size paper and glued them together to form the entire image.  Then it was time to pull out my perk wheel to use an old scenic painting technique to create a stencil.  I placed the image on top of my wool pressing mat and ran the wheel along the lines.  For the tightest curves, I used a large safety pin to poke through the paper.

Once the holes were poked through, I flipped the paper over and used a fine tooth sandpaper to remove the bumps on the back of the template and make sure the holes were completely open.

Then came the moment of truth — would it work?  I taped the fabric to the table and the stencil over it, then pulled out my chalk pounce pad.  I ran it over the stencil in small circles to keep the dust down, then carefully removed the stencil.

It worked like a charm!  The lines were clear and easy to follow.

This project was the perfect time to give trapunto a try, so I started the quilting process by using batting and the top fabric with no backing.  Since I was using such a dark fabric, I selected a black batting by Hobbs.  Since the black batting doesn’t have a huge amount of loft, I used two layers for the trapunto.

Using a walking foot on my domestic machine, I quilted all of marked lines through the top fabric and two layers of batting.  At this point I was using a 50wt Aurifil so it would be easy to quilt over using the final 12wt thread, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is what it looked like from the front:

And most of the back (thanks Monty— I think he knows how hard it is to lint roll batting!):

The next step was to trim away the batting around the areas of trapunto.  I used scissors with a rounded tip for most of the trimming, and only pulled out scissors with a pointed tip for the tightest corners.

Trapunto has the best effect when the areas around it are densely quilted, so most of the quilt has dense free motion quilting.  For this part of the quilting I used 50wt thread on the longarm.  At this point in the process, there is backing fabric, one full layer of black batting, two layers of batting in the trapunto areas only (three layers total in those areas), and the quilt top.  The final quilting step was to use 12wt thread to outline each area and help that trapunto really pop!

After a lot of knotting and burying of thread tails, I trimmed the mini quilt so the edge of the quilt extended 1/4″ past the outer ring of trapunto.  The edges are finished with bias binding to hug the circular edge of the quilt.  If it was more practical, I would curve all my quilt edges.  I love binding a curve!

The image above shows the front of the quilt with the 12wt thread defining the areas around the trapunto.  Since I used 50wt thread in the bobbin, you can see the difference in the image below.  I think the heavier thread makes a huge difference in trapunto effect.  What do you think?

Quilt Stats

Title:  Whole Circle Whole Cloth

Size: 16″ diameter

Techniques:  Whole Cloth

Quilting:  Free Motion quilting on an A-1 longarm and walking foot quilting on a Bernina 1008

Fabric:  Painter’s Palette Solid by Paintbrush Studios in Midnight

Batting:  Black Hobbs Heirloom batting

Thread: Quilted with coordinating 12wt and 50wt Aurifil

Binding:  Bias binding, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back

Ice Cream Quilt

Each Summer I design a Row by Row for a local quilt shop, Dabble and Stitch, and I loved this year’s row so much, I decided to make a wall quilt featuring the design.  The ice cream cone design evokes Summer, so it was a perfect design for this month’s “Seasonal” challenge for Aurifil Artisans.

The theme for this year’s Row by Row is: Taste the Experience.  I like to base each row design on something local, and this year the design depicts Jeni’s Ice Cream.  Jeni’s started here in Columbus, and the shops feature lots of fun flavors. The cone that served as the model for the Row by Row design is Wildberry Lavender and Brandied Banana Brûlée in a house made cone.

When transforming the ice cream block into a quilt, I thought it would be fun to extend the background into stripes.  By adding narrow stripes between the ice cream cone columns, the overall design of the quilt has a beach towel vibe that enhances the feeling of sitting out in the sun with a hot weather snack.

Custom quilting on the longarm was done with 50wt Aurifil in color that coordinate with each area of the quilt.  The stitching is a mix of free motion motifs and straight line quilting done with rulers and digital channel locks. The backing is a Tula Pink wideback fabric, and I love how, in this context, the print has the feel of melting ice cream.

This quilt went with me today to the Ohio State Fair for some photos.

It even met the famous butter cow!

Quilt Stats

Title:  Ice Cream on the Beach

Size: 48″ x 48″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing, Foundation Paper Piecing

Quilting:  Free Motion and straight line quilting with digital channel locks on an A-1 Longarm

Fabric:  Assorted cotton solids

Batting:  Hobbs Tuscany Wool

Thread: Quilted with 50wt Aurifil

Binding:  Bias binding, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back

 

Urban Cabins

Earlier this year a quilt group I belong to, The Columbus Modern Quilters, issued a challenge based on a photograph one of our members took in downtown Columbus, Ohio.  (You can see the photo and challenge requirements by clicking the link above.) In the image, parking garages with painted murals stand out against a bright blue sky.  We were challenged to use this photograph for inspiration in creating any type of sewn project.  Urban Cabins is my interpretation.

This quilt is entirely improvisationally pieced, although I did use rulers to help with construction.  I began with fabric bits from my scrap bin, and incorporated larger pieces of fabric as the project grew.  In the original photo, I loved how the brightly colored murals enlivened the surroundings even though they only took up a small portion of the image.  To capture this overall feeling, I included centralized areas of color that spark into their more subdued surroundings.  Concrete and sky colors of tans, greys, and blues dominate the most surface area of the quilt, but the bright colors give the piece life

With so much of the quilt being comprised of similar subtle colors, texture, both visual and physical, played a significant role in completing the design.  The use of both prints and solids create visual shifts in texture, while physical changes between cotton and linen create further interest.  Occasionally a selvage edge is exposed to further enhance the textural variations.

For the quilting, I decided to use evenly spaced, vertical lines to pull the design together, while not overpowering the design of the quilt top.  Vertical lines evoke the energy and feeling of a bustling downtown environment.

I was excited to discover the perfect backing fabric in my stash.  I had purchased it on clearance a long time ago, knowing it would make a great quilt back at some point.  I liked how the bold print varies across the width of the fabric, giving it a mural-like vibe that relates to the original inspiration image.

A facing was the perfect finish to this quilt.  With an energetic design like this, I think it is important to allow the viewer’s eye to continue all the way to the edge of the quilt without the visual barrier of a binding.  Fortunately, I had just enough backing fabric to line up the printed motifs on three sides of the quilt.  I would have loved a perfect match, but there wasn’t that much extra fabric!  The fourth side had black circles, so a solid black fabric worked to finish the edge.

Quilt Stats

Title:  Urban Cabins

Size: 30″ x 40″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing, Improvisation

Quilting:  Straight line quilting with digital channel locks on an A-1 Longarm

Fabric:  Cotton and linen solids and assorted cotton prints

Batting:  Hobbs Tuscany Wool

Thread: Quilted with 50wt Aurifil

Binding:  Faced with the remaining backing fabric and one strip of solid black fabric.