Complementary Composition: A Michael Miller Challenge Quilt

Complementary Composition grew out of the 2017 Michael Miller/Modern Quilt Guild Challenge.  This is the third year I have participated in the challenge, and this is the first time that my challenge quilt has been selected for participation at QuiltCon.

Complementary Composition full

The fabric for the challenge is Our Yard, and it is super cute!  This actually proved to be a greater challenge to me, because I rarely make quilts that I can describe as cute or even pretty.  I love looking at quilts that are cute, pretty, darling, charming, etc., but I don’t tend to create work that I would use these terms to describe.  Now the question became- How do I incorporate these charming prints into my personal aesthetic?

Michael Miller Challenge Fabric 2017

When I am uncertain how to proceed with a design, I tend to turn to the elements and principles of design.  While the elements and principles of design never exist purely on their own, I find that sometimes narrowing my focus in the initial stages of a design helps to refine my overall vision for the project.  In this case, I initially focused on the element of color and the principle of scale.

There are so many bright colors in the challenge prints that it allows for interpretation in selecting a dominant color palette.  Blue and Orange has always been my favorite complementary color scheme (two colors opposite each other on the color wheel), and I thought that the vibrant combination would honor the energy evoked in the fabric prints.  To add visual dimension, I selected a lighter and darker version of solid color.  I was fortunate enough to make my initial fabric purchase for the quilt while in Paducah, KY at Hancock’s of Paducah.  They carry most of the Michael Miller solids, so I was able to make my color choices with the fabrics right in front of me.  When purchasing solids for a project, I try to photograph the ends of the bolts just in case I need to order more, which did happen during this project.

Michael Miller Solids

The official challenge only required that two of the prints in the line be incorporated into the finished quilt, but as a personal challenge, I wanted to use each one included in the bundle that was sent out.  In order to make this work with my aesthetic and the color scheme of the quilt, scale was going to be an extremely important aspect of the design.  The most graphic print in the bundle is the black, grey, and white print which is the most closely aligned to my aesthetic.  This would be the dominant print.  The black and white leaf print on the mustard and aqua backgrounds is closely associated with the striped print, and I liked that the spacing of the print give the eye a place to rest in the background and allows it to work with the solid fabrics surrounding it.  I knew that this print was a prime candidate for fussy cutting to highlight the leaf image.

Complementary Composition fussy cut detail

The busiest prints were going to be the most challenging to work in, so they were going to be used in the smallest pieces.  The 1/8″ slivers of these fabrics create energetic lines and break up large expanses of the solid fabrics.

Complementary Composition Piecing Detail

This quilt is constructed using a structured improv technique.  The pieces are measured and trimmed as they are sewn, but there is no predetermined design for the piece.  I started the process by constructing blocks loosely based on Log Cabin/Courthouse Steps style blocks.  Many of the blocks are built around a fussy cut square or a simply pieced block.  As the blocks were completed, I added them to the design wall.

Complementary Composition Design Wall

Once I decided the blocks were balancing within the design, I filled in the open areas with strips of fabric.

Complementary Composition Echo Quilting

For the quilting of the piece, I wanted to emphasize the linear qualities of the piecing by using a mix of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal straight line quilting as well as echo quilting.  The echo quilting highlights a visually contained shape while the vertical lines give a sense of strength that is balanced by the calming force of the horizontal lines.  Mixing in strong diagonal lines gives a greater energy and a sense of the unexpected to the overall design.

Complementary Composition Use of Challenge Fabric

The binding is a mix of solids with just a small section of striped fabric to draw the eye back toward the center of the quilt.

Quilt Stats:

Title:  Complementary Composition

Size: 63″ x 69″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing, Structured Improvisational Piecing, Fussy Cutting

Quilting:  Linear Quilting using an A-1 Longarm equipped with digital channel locks that can be set to any angle

Fabric:  Michael Miller Our Yard Prints and Cotton Couture Solids

Batting:  Hobbs 80/20

Thread:  Pieced using Gutermann Mara 100, Quilted with 50wt Aurifil

Binding:  Bias binding in a mix of solids and striped print cut at 2″ wide, machine stitched to the front, hand finished on the back

Overlay: A Riley Blake Challenge Quilt

Overlay is the quilt I created using the Rockstar line from Riley Blake fabrics for the Modern Quilt Guild challenge last Spring.

Overlay front view

I focused on the red and white prints because I liked the idea of using such a classic color combination (such as the popular red & white quilt exhibition!) in contemporary prints.  The design of the quilt also embraced the juxtaposition of classic and contemporary.  The first step for this project was to make a traditional quilt top using a Flock of Geese block.

Assembled Blocks for Overlay

Once the top was complete, I started deciding which areas would be obstructed by the circular overlays.  To assist with this process, I made circles from printer and craft paper so I could experiment with scale.

Overlay Placement 1

Overlay Placement 2

Once the right scale was achieved, I used the paper pieces as templates to cut the fabric pieces.

Overlay Placement 3

After determining the final layout, I cut corresponding circles from quilt top that had a radius 1/2″ smaller.  Then I machine pieced in the circles- thats right- there is NO APPLIQUÉ in this quilt!

For me, the quilting is where my vision really comes to life.  I wanted the texture to tell the story of the quilt even in the sections where the overall pattern is obscured by the circles.  For example- if you were to paint a mural on a brick wall, the color changes with the design, but the underlying texture remains the same.  In this quilt, the Flock of Geese design is carried through the entire quilt top using the quilting.

Overlay front detail

Where the white portions of the Flock of Geese block would fall, vertical matchstick quilting is used. In the red areas, organic mixed motif quilting is used.  The thread color matches each fabric used on the front of the quilt.

Overlay Back

The back of the quilt is a mix of red, white, and aqua Riley Blake fabrics.  A facing finishes the edges of the quilt so there is no visual border trying to contain the circles that appear to float off the edge.

Overlay Back Detail

On the back of the quilt, you can really see some of the thread color changes that blend in on the front of the quilt.

I was able to enter this quilt into the county fair, and it received a first place and a best of division award!

Overlay County Fair

Quilt Stats:

Title:  Overlay

Size: 47″ x 63″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing

Quilting:  Matchstick and Mixed Motif Free-motion Quilting using an A-1 Longarm

Fabric:  Riley Blake Rockstar Prints and solids on the front, assorted Riley Blake fabrics on the back

Batting:  Hobbs 80/20

Thread:  Pieced using Gutermann Mara 100, Quilted with 50wt Aurifil in three colors to match the fabrics used

Binding:  Facing in coordinating Riley Blake prints

This quilt was entered into QuiltCon 2018

Lateral Ascension

Lateral Ascension is based on a simplified drafting of a spiral staircase.  Lateral refers to the suggestion of treads on the staircase, and ascension references the use of stairs to move to an upper level.

Lateral Ascension full

This quilt is a larger and even more simplified version of a spiral staircase mini quilt I did a couple years ago.  A spiral staircase is a really beautiful thing to look at in its drafted form.  The image below shows the beginning stages of drawing a front view of spiral stairs.

/Users/cassandra_ireland/Desktop/Work for Michael/Shockheaded Pe

 

The horizontal lines of the stair treads are emphasized with matchstick quilting done in 12 weight thread in a color to match the fabric of the tread rectangle.  The remaining quilting is also comprised of horizontal lines.  In the background, every quarter inch is stitched in 50 weight thread to match the background.  Between many of these lines are rows of stitching in a variety of colors.  All of the primary and secondary colors are represented in the fabrics and/or thread in this piece.

Lateral Ascension detail

Some large stitch hand quilting is included between some rows of machine stitching.  This is intended to show the balance between the regimented appearance of architecture and the hand done craftsmanship that goes into producing it.

Quilt Stats:

Title:  Lateral Ascension

Size: 65″ x 74″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing

Quilting:  Walking foot quilting on a domestic Bernina 1008, Large stitch hand quilting

Fabric:  Kona Cottons

Batting:  Hobbs Tuscany Wool

Thread:  50wt Aurifil in multiple colors, 12wt Aurifil in three colors

Binding:  Facing in the same Kona as the backing

This quilt was entered into QuiltCon 2018

Improv Trees

This weekend I had the opportunity to teach my first improvisational piecing class at Dabble and Stitch in Columbus, Ohio.  And it happened to be one of my all-time favorite improv inspirations- winter trees!  Talk about being perfect for this time of year!  In the sample piece I used a lot of bright colors.

Improv Trees Sample

I love using unexpected fabrics for the trees, especially irregular stripes or splotches.  We spent the first part of class selecting fabrics, and the students made fabulous selections!  Here are a couple student projects.  I tend to get pretty wrapped up in the class itself and forget to take photos, but I can assure you that there was a lot of awesomeness going on!

For the tree fabric strips she selected a print of trees!  Don’t you love how the print looks all cut up?

Improv student process shot

Here is a finished top.  The tree fabric used in this one was a popular choice and looked terrific with a bunch of different backgrounds.

Improv student project

 

I really hope I have the chance to teach this class again!  If you would like to see another example and read more about the process, please check out another improv trees mini quilt I did awhile ago.

Taking Flight is in Modern Patchwork

Taking Flight is is a contemporary reinterpretation of the traditional Flock of Geese quilt block with an asymmetrical twist.  This quilt is now a project in the November/December 2017 issue of Modern Patchwork.

Taking Flight Magazine

I designed this quilt shortly after completing Overlay (post coming soon), so I was apparently really into the Flock of Geese Block.  The blocks are rather large- each large half square triangle (HST) measures 10″ square, meaning that a full block is 20″ square.  I had drafted the quilt in my usual AutoCad and did a lot of experimentation with possible color schemes.  My top two choices were citrus-y colors with a white background and a play of warm and cool colors with the red/orange/pink and a blue background.

Taking Flight Light Background Illustration

Taking Flight Dark Background Illustration

Both color ways were included in the magazine proposal, and I am thrilled that they liked the blue background the best.  I have done a lot of white backgrounds in the past few years, so it was exciting to work with a mid-value-range color scheme.

Taking Flight Front

The quilting in the warm colored areas is ruler work with a touch of free motion in a wishbone design.  The blue background is filled with mixed motif free motion quilting.  The feathers in these areas relate to the title- Taking Flight.

Taking Flight detail image

Here is the magazine cover so you know what to look for at the newsstand!

MP5_Cover copy

Quilt Stats:

Title:  Taking Flight

Size: 90″ x 100″

Techniques:  Machine Piecing

Quilting:  Mixed motif free motion quilting and Ruler work, all done on an A-1 Longarm

Fabric:  Kona Cotton in Deep Blue, Flame, Cardinal, Bright Pink

Batting:  Hobbs Tuscany Wool

Thread:  50wt Aurifil

Binding:  Bias binding in Deep Blue Kona, cut 2″ wide, machine stitched to the front and hand finished on the back