Hills and Valleys: 2016 Riley Blake Challenge Quilt

This year’s Modern Quilt Guild / Riley Blake fabric challenge was one of the best challenges I have ever participated in, and I am very excited about the resulting quilt!

Hills and Valleys full view

The print that was selected for the challenge fabric has almost endless possibilities since it contains so many different designs.  I had the fabric draped around the studio for a long time before I decided what direction I wanted to go with it.  I still wasn’t entirely certain what I was doing when I ordered the solids to coordinate.  Emerald green has been very appealing to me lately, and I decided to draw my color scheme from it.

Challenge Fabric

I enjoy taking linear prints and cutting / reassembling them into a star formation, and I started out thinking that was where this project would lead.  In an effort to step out of my star-shaped box, I decided to consider other options that could produce a similar effect with the pattern of the print.  I drew the fabric print to scale in AutoCad and started to experiment.  Ultimately I landed on this design based on a traditional clamshell configuration.  I thought that the greens I had selected would create the illusion of abstract rolling hills, and the black and white print would look like giant flowers bursting forth from the landscape.

Hills and Valleys detail c

I developed and printed templates for each shape using AutoCad.  Since I had already planned the design with the fabric in mind, I was able to print the templates with guidelines that matched the print.  Cutting was super easy this way!

The clamshells are machine pieced to one another.  I used the templates to mark the start, center, and end of each seam which helped me to accurately position and pin each seam.  The top row of clamshells is hand appliquéd to the light blue background fabric.

Hills and Valleys detail b

The quilting was the most fun part of the process.  Solid fabrics give so much room for play, and I loved the idea of creating movement in this piece.  Each “hill” has a different texture from those directly around it, and the quilting thread matches each section.  This is also my first project to incorporate hand sashiko stitch quilting.  The large stitches in contrasting thread helps to draw your eye around the quilt.

Hills and Valleys detail a

I was excited to submit this quilt to the challenge, and I was absolutely ecstatic to find out that it received second place!  If you would like to see the other fantastic quilts that placed in this year’s challenge, you can find them on this Modern Quilt Guild blog post.

Quilt Stats

Title:  Hills and Valleys

Size:  41″x43″

Techniques:  Machine piecing, Hand Applique

Quilting:  Freemotion and Ruler work on an A-1 Longarm machine, hand sashiko accent stitching

Fabric:  Riley Blake black and white sashing print and Riley Blake solids

Batting:  Hobbs 80/20 cotton blend

Thread:  Pieced and appliquéd with coordinating Gutermann Mara 100 thread.  Quilted with five colors of 50wt Aurifil cotton thread.  Sashiko stitching done with dark grey Aurifil Floss.

Binding:  Faced with Riley Blake fabric

Goal #3 is Finished!

Goal #3 is Finished!

Crystalized Citrus: A Hoffman Challenge Quilt

Crystalized Citrus is my first Hoffman Challenge quilt, and I am thrilled with the result!  I was cutting it really close time wise, so it was quite a relief when they extended the deadline by a week- it saved me a late night getting the binding on!
Crystalized Citrus full view

For many years I had seen the Hoffman Challenge quilts exhibited at the Rotary Quilt Show that coincided with the AQS show in Paducah.  It was my first introduction to the concept of a challenge quilt, and I was intrigued.  This year was the first time I was able to find the fabric in a local shop before it completely sold out, and it is the best fabric challenge print yet!  The butterfly print on the right is the required challenge fabric and the print on the left was an optional coordinate that I really liked, but didn’t end up using in the finished design.  Both of these fabrics are printed digitally so there is an almost infinite range of colors since the process isn’t limited by traditional printing processes.

Hoffman Challenge Fabric

When I’m designing with a specific print in mind, I like to alter it to see it in a new way.  I had thought about creating a “Butterfly Garden” by turning the wings into flower petals, but as I was starting the idea of vibrant citrus came to mind.  The butterfly wings turned into the flesh of the fruit and the neutral space of the print became the membranes.  I pulled a variety of prints from my stash to create the skin of the fruits.  My main goal was to keep the challenge fabric the star of the show.

Crystalized Citrus detail

 

 

I intentionally chose to balance the representational aspects of this design with the abstract.  The pieces of fruit do not overlap and the improv piecing in the flesh of the citrus doesn’t create an ultra realistic image.  These aspects of the design allowed for quilting that defies realism and creates a more abstract overall design.

The primary quilting design is matchstick quilting going both horizontally and vertically.  Most of the horizontal quilting is done in white with guest appearances from purple and the local color of each fruit to create a grounding shadow.  The color of each piece of citrus infuses the background above it with colorful vertical matchstick quilting.  Free motion quilting further defines each piece of fruit in the composition.

Crystalized Citrus

 

Quilt Stats

Title: Crystalized Citrus

Size: 24″x21″

Techniques:  Machine Improv Piecing, hand appliqué

Quilting:  Matchstick and free motion quilting done on my A-1 Elite longarm

Fabric:  Hoffman Crystalia digitally printed fabric in opal, assorted cotton prints and solids.

Batting:  Hobbs 80/20 cotton blend

Thread:  Pieced and appliquéd with Gutermann Mara 100 in coordinating colors, Quilted with six colors of 50wt Aurifil cotton thread

Binding:  Facing done with the same white fabric used for the background and backing of the quilt

Goal #1 is Finished!

Goal #1 is Finished!

The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting

Have you seen the new book by not one, but two of the most prominent (and awesome!) current modern quilters?  Angela Walters and Christa Watson have joined forces to create The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting, a resource that is a must have for any quilter.  The title of this book is perfect because it really does embrace machine quilters of all types:

  • Longarm Quilters
  • Sit-Down or Domestic Machine Quilters
  • Anyone contemplating purchasing a longarm or sit-down longarm
  • A Quilter who is interested in sending a quilt out to be longarm quilted (more on this later)
Image Courtesy of Martingale

Image Courtesy of Brent Kane and Martingale

The format of this book moves fluidly between longarm quilting with Angela and sit down machine techniques with Christa.  This creates a conversation between the experts and the reader.  The projects provide a common starting point for each artist to demonstrate quilting options on their respective machines.  This is where things get really interesting- for each quilt pattern in the book we are given two possible quilting options.  So many people worry about making the “right” choice when it comes time to quilt their painstakingly created quilt tops.  By showing multiple options for quilting the same top, the idea that there is only one correct design is thrown out the window.

Image Courtesy of Martingale

Image Courtesy of Brent Kane and Martingale

Beyond showing us quilting options, Christa and Angela openly discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of each type of machine.  This is a topic that I have hardly ever seen discussed, and this is some seriously useful information for everyone who quilts.  I love my longarm, and I do use it for almost all of my quilting, but if my sit-down machine would be a better option for a design that I would like to do, I’m going to use it instead.  It can be really tricky to determine what is the best tool for the job, so it is exciting to see these comparisons included throughout the text.  This information is valuable for everyone, even quilters who send their projects out to be quilted.  Longarm machines do have some limitations, so this will help quilt top creators to have an informed conversation with their quilters.  A perfect example of this is the “Exploding Star” Quilt on page 104.  Christa quilts this project with large, stunning spirals, and then Angela tells you why a spiral design would not be the best choice for a longarm before offering up her lovely quilting options.

Image Courtesy of Martingale

Image Courtesy of Brent Kane and Martingale

Even more than the specific projects, I love the information at the beginning of the book and all of the fantastic tips in the sidebars of the pages.   The first 19 pages are packed with information regarding the different machine types, thread options, tool recommendations, and general quilting tips.  Then as you work your way through the book, the sidebars provide tips that specifically address the techniques and challenges presented in specific projects.  Directional quilting, thread amounts and weights, starting and stopping (or how to avoid it!), using two layers of batting, quilting fusible appliqué, and turning corners are just a few tips found throughout the book.

This is one of the most exciting machine quilting books I have used, and I really think most of you would like it too!  It is available on Christa’s website, Angela’s Website, Martingale, and Amazon as well as other quilt shops and book stores.  (Full disclosure:  I receive no compensation for your purchase through any of these websites, but I did receive an advanced digital copy of the book for this review. This review is my honest opinion of the book.)

Color Challenge Mini Quilt

In February the Central Ohio Modern Quilt Guild began its first member challenge, and I was excited that it was based on color.  Each participant drew two crayons from a bag and combined them with their tints/shades and a single neutral to create a quilted project.  I pulled out carnation pink and cornflower blue crayons and this mini is the result.  For an added bonus, these colors are pretty much the Pantone colors of the year!Finished EPP Challenge Quilt

The initial designing was done on AutoCad, and from there I was able to print out my templates for English paper piecing (EPP).  Pattern Drafting

I debated about which technique to use for assembling this design, but ultimately I decided that EPP would allow me to eliminate some of the seams, creating a more streamlined visual design.EPP on Challenge Quilt

I was intrigued by the idea of embracing the color gradients as a design element for this project, so I decided that the most effective way to achieve this look would be to dye a set of fabrics in each color.  Since this was not a particularly difficult dye process, I went with the relatively simple (and mostly mess-free) liquid RIT dye.  I had a large piece of white American Brand Cotton, and used it throughout the project.Detail Finished EPP Challenge Quilt

Recently I have done quite a bit of ruler work with lots of starts and stops in my quilting, so for this project I challenged myself to quilt with no rulers and no design based starts and stops.  This was a lot of fun, turned out cute, and went super fast!Back EPP Challenge Quilt

We have had lots of wind this month which has made it challenging to get decent photos, but this shot of the quilt trying to blow away does show the quilting off nicely!EPP Challenge Back Detail

Quilt Stats

Title: Gradient Geese

Size:  24″ x 24″

Techniques:  English Paper Piecing

Quilting:  Free motion quilting with A-1 Longarm

Fabrics:  American Brand Cotton Solid, dyed in gradients with RIT dye

Batting:  Warm and White

Thread:  White Aurifil

Binding:  Dyed blue bias, machine stitched to the front, hand stitched to the back

This project was my One Monthly Goal for April.

 

Goal #19 is Finished!

Goal #19 is Finished!

Modern Improv Round Robin Quilt

Improv is one of my favorite techniques, and it was even more fun when we added a group of quilters and some time limits!

Modern Improv front view

Last Fall, one of my local quilt shops offered a Round Robin Improv class that was loosely based on the book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously, by Sherri Lynn Wood. (I currently have no affiliate links)  For the class, we each brought a bin of scraps along with a larger piece of our signature fabric and two other pieces of fabric.

Yardage to mix with scraps for the upcoming improv class

Yardage to mix with scraps for the upcoming improv class

For my signature fabric, I selected the colorful Alison Glass print shown above.  I loved the print, and I thought it would be fun to have a piece that held lots of opportunities for fussy cutting and had plenty of colors that would coordinate with a variety of fabric types.

The round robin format meant that we each worked on every quilt top in our group of six. Our scrap bins, along with our other fabrics (except our signature material) get passed around the group in half hour increments.  In the first time slot we each worked on our own quilt, using our signature fabric and any of the other materials we brought with us.  To make this even more interesting, for the entire day, we weren’t allowed to use any rulers or rotary cutters- scissors or tearing were our only fabric cutting options!

The section of the improv quilt that came out of the class

The section of the improv quilt that came out of the class

When the first time slot ended, we passed our quilt top and all of our fabrics (except our signature material) to the next person in the group.  The main goal was to incorporate our signature fabric into each quilt and make sure our contribution to the quilt top was attached before the end of the half hour time limit.  This is where my background working in theatre may have given me an advantage:

  1. I am used to working on other people’s designs/projects so I was not afraid that I would “ruin” their work (As a side note- everyone’s quilt tops looked really good, so this fear that a lot of people in the group expressed proved to be unfounded!)
  2. Time limits are a fact of life in theatre- Over the years I have learned to do the best possible work in the time allowed.

As we went through each top, I fell into a rhythm where I looked through the fabric in the first minute or two and determined how to incorporate my signature print.  My signature print went really well with some fabric collections, but not as well with others.  Fortunately, we could use any amount of the signature fabric, and my material had lots of different colors that did help it to tie in with various color schemes.  I found it really helpful to have a print conducive to fussy cutting because it gave me a jumping off point, and then I could design on the fly for the rest.

Churn Dash Improv block with my signature fabric fussy cut in the center

Churn Dash Improv block with my signature fabric fussy cut in the center

My goal was to sew steadily until the final five minutes, then attach what I had done to the main body of the quilt top and press the entire piece before passing it on.  My personal goal was to always hand off a piece that was relatively square.  We weren’t allowed to cut off anything that another group member added, so I tried to be nice and not give anyone a difficult shape to deal with :)

I tried to not let the lack of rulers limit the designs I used.  I made half square triangles (HST) by pressing (instead of drawing) a diagonal line across a square and stitching on either side, and made flying geese in a similar manner to how I would normally approach the task.  I tried to not let the fact that it wouldn’t be perfect deter me from trying different designs, and I ended up making variations on lots of traditional blocks including log cabins, pinwheels, flying geese, churn dash and wonky stars.

Modern Improv Wonky Star block

Modern Improv detail A

Modern Improv Flying Geese

I wish I had taken photos of everyone’s project, but in the heat of the moment, I was much more focused on just getting my contributions finished!

By the end of the day we each had a top that was a bigger than a mini, but smaller than a lap quilt, so I went home and added to mine to create a generous lap quilt.  I stuck to the no rulers or rotary cutter rules and tried to work at a similar pace to what I had done during the class.

The backing is constructed using several different fabrics, but these were all larger pieces than those used on the quilt top.

Modern Improv back view

In keeping with the spirit of the class, I did the quilting with no rulers and tried to move quickly while embracing a wide range of designs.

Modern Improv pinwheel and quilted geese

The binding is created exclusively from my collection of binding scraps that I connected randomly and continue the improv feeling all the way to the edge of the quilt.

Modern Improv binding detail

I cannot recommend this type of class enough- it was so much fun!  If you are in the Columbus, Ohio area this class is being offered again in March at Quilt Beginnings.  It was a great opportunity to move out of my comfort zone and work collaboratively with a wonderful group of quilters.

Modern Improve Quilt draped

 

Quilt Stats

Title:  Modern Improv Round Robin

Size: 53″x71″

Techniques:  Improvisational Piecing (no rulers or rotary cutters!)

Quilting:  Hand guided free motion (no rulers!)

Fabric:  Alison Glass print, two prints from the Zen Chic line, lots of scraps

Batting:  Warm and White

Thread:  Pieced with Gutermann Mara 100, Quilted with white cotton 50wt Wonderfil

Binding:  Scrappy

This was my One Monthly Goal for February:

Goal #2 is Complete!

Goal #2 is Complete!