Thursday, January 30, 2014

2014 Skill Builder BOM

This year I am excited to be participating in Alyssa's Skill Builder BOM over at Pile O' Fabric. Last year I wanted to participate, but was overwhelmed with projects at the time (and with the fabric requirements!) This year I have much less on my plate and was ready to dive in.

I'll be honest, the fabric requirements are still a little suspect. This thing calls for 11 yards of fabric...that's enough for something like (if I did my math right) 92" square front and back. The finished quilt here is 52" x 56", so it seem likes we are buying almost double the fabric we actually need. Plus I bought a little extra fabric because I wanted shades of a few of the colors. I'll be curious (and terrified) to see how much fabric I have leftover at the end of this year.

Fabric aside, I am impressed with how many tips and tricks I have learned just in the first two blocks. I think of myself as a relatively skilled quilter - yes, I have a ton to learn, but I have been doing this awhile and know at least the basics of all of the techniques we will be covering this year. However, it's those little things that make all the difference between a good quilter and a great quilter. I've already learned a ton of tips about ironing that I would have never thought of before. The main one is to not use steam. I LOVE steaming everything up to get nice flat seams, but it turns out that it really does warp the fabric a bit and cause it to be no longer straight. I had perfect straight seams on my ruler block until I steam ironed it and then they were all wobbly. Whoops!

I'm also ready to take the plunge and spend some time with my machine figuring out where a true 1/4" lies. On the thread spool block, somehow my spool was a 1/2" too big. I spent forever doing the math in my head trying to figure out why it was off, but the real answer came when I held it up to a ruler: my seams were too scant, so each piece was slightly more than 1/2" instead of exact. All those little size changes added up over thirteen strips to create a block that was significantly off!

Plus, solids are pretty unforgiving when it comes to hiding little imperfections. See the puckers along the seams? I should have squared my blocks up prior to joining them, but didn't, and they ended up being off. Lesson: ALWAYS SQUARE UP!

All in all, I am having a lot of fun and hope to continue to document things I am learning about myself through the year. You can join too - it's only $25 which is frankly a steal.  This week we will start quilt-as-you-go on these guys, which I have never done before. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Finished Catvent Quilt

I am pleased to share my completed Catvent quilt!

This is from a quilt-along at Oh Fransson! Go check it out.

The quilt was made completely from my stash, with the exception of the binding. All I had was plain black and I think the white is so much more fun. It might not come through in the pictures, but it's white with silver glitter. :) The batting, backing, sashing, and all other fabrics were already on hand.

I really enjoyed making this. Color is one of my favorite things, and even though I still have a ton to learn about color theory, this was great practice. The trick with this quilt was to travel around the color wheel without varying the value (darkness/lightness/brightness) of the colors. So technically, I should have travelled around the wheel below only on a single rung, without varying into any others.

Did I succeed? Well, sort of. I was limited by the fabrics I had available, and in some spots the colors didn't work out quite right. I note that in the yellow region there's a gap between the darker yellow and pale yellow. There should be some bright sunny perfectly yellow fabrics in between those two, but I don't have any.

Similarly, the green/teal area wasn't perfect. I ended up going into a darker value of green, then into a bright teal, then into a darker teal.

Here is an interesting way to look at the values: a B&W version of the quilt.  See the outliers?

By comparison, here is a B&W photo of Elizabeth's original quilt from Oh Fransson.  See how much more consistent the colors are?

And here is the back. This is the first time I have tried to go for a "modern" back.  I think the idea was there, but the execution, not quite. Oh well. You won't get better if you don't try! (P.S. those are reject cat heads that found a home in the back).

I also wanted to mention that this quilt was my test run for my new Quiltak system. And it worked AWESOMELY! When I got the gun, I was excited but a little confused as to how it worked. Sitting down and using it on a real quilt was the solution. It went super fast and was super easy.

If you've never heard of this system (I hadn't), it basically shoots those little plastic tag holders that you find on clothing at the store into your quilt. You just poke the needle straight down, pull the trigger, and a little plastic tak is there holding the layers together for you. Faster and easier than safety pinning, and more stable than spray basting.

Plus, not having to unpin safety pins as I quilted was a big benefit.  The only annoying thing was that the little plastic "taks" are so small that they were a little tough to snip off without snipping the quilt. I can't wait to use this system on a queen or king quilt and see how quickly it goes! (Plus using the little tak gun is pretty entertaining!)

This quilt will be part of the silent auction at Tenth Life's Sips and Sweets fundraiser next week. I'll let you know how it goes...if the price stays too low I will probably buy it back myself! ;)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Finished(-ish) Celtic Solstice

My Celtic Solstice is finally assembled, for the most part. I am very happy!

I think it came out with a very "Spring" feeling to it. Unfortunately the chevrons did me in as far as accuracy goes. Pretty much none of them matched up with those yellow triangles, so the diamond illusion is somewhat lost. Otherwise I think my seams did okay. I learned with this quilt to square up at every step, even though it takes FOREVER, because it made a huge difference in the accuracy of the final product.

Here are all the blocks laid out for assembly.

 I was able to keep track of my place with pins. I would place a pin in the right hand corner of every other block in a row, one pin in the first, two in the second, and so on, to keep track of the order of pieces in the row.  Once a row was assembled, I would stick a pin in the left most block designating the number of that row. Yes, it meant that some rows had 5-6 pins stuck in them, but it worked and it was easy to implement.

This was my first "scrappy" quilt, and I bought most of the fabrics for it so it doesn't completely count.  Here are my personal takes on scrappy:

  • The more uniform your fabrics are within a color group, the more clear the final design will be. My blues were all very similar and I think it helped them pop. The yellow/orange had a lot of variety which I think hurt it. And the white would have stood out much better if I hadn't used those slightly tan pieces.
  • Make sure the colors not only all get along well together, but have sufficient contrast. My light green and yellow/orange were just too close together in intensity, and honestly too close to the white as well, leading them to really fade in the final quilt.
  • Don't mix your colors up! If I hadn't accidentally switched pink and yellow in the first step, the quilt would have looked very different, and I think potentially would have looked better. Right now the pink jumps out in those diamond blocks, but if yellow had been there instead, as in Bonnie's, the diamond would have stood out much better. The four patches between blocks would have stood out better as well because there is more contrast between the pink and green than the yellow and green.
I had fun on this quilt and I am looking forward to finishing it sometime this year. I have already bought fabric for the borders and backing. I will definitely be participating in more of Bonnie's mysteries in the future!

See everyone else's finished quilts at the link up!

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Yes friends, I have a lot of new goodies to share.

First and foremost, I am participating in Alyssa's Skill Builder BOM (Apparently this is pronounced "bomb?" I always say Bee-Oh-Em but you learn something new every day!) over at Pile O' Fabric. I wanted to participate last year but felt overwhelmed with other projects and intimidated by the fabric requirements. This year I figured it would be the one and only BOM I participate in for the year, and I've earned it by completing a lot of UFOs in the past few months.

So, I spent a loooong time playing around in photoshop with different color schemes.  If you are wondering how to do this yourself, I took some screengrabs to show how to do it. (click to enlarge the screenshots).

First, place the image whose colors you want to play with into a new layer.

Select by color range. This works best in a pattern with nice solids like Alyssa's. 

 Here I have selected the yellow color range. The image shows a preview of what will be selected (in white).

 Create a new layer, and add a layer mask (lower right corner). It will automatically create the mask based on your selection. The mask prevents you from editing anything outside the selection. So now I have a layer where I can only edit the spots that were yellow in the original.

Ta da! I have changed all the yellows to lime with the paint brush, making it really large. You can see on the left I created layers for each major color range and edited them in this fashion.

Time to show you some of the color schemes I auditioned:

This one was going for greens and purples. Didn't come out so hot.

More teals and deeper pinks. Better, but still one dimensional. 

I liked the colors but it reads really nautical to me.

This one was one of the final two. It is very similar to Alyssa's original with some of the shades brightened.

The winner! I decided it would be nice to part from my usual insanely bright colors. This has a nice jewel tone palate. I am excited to try a quilt in colors that are less standard for me.

Yesterday I went out and bought all the fabrics. Yum!

We have dark plum for the sashing, and navy, purple, pink, teal, and lime for our colors. 

Now the store also had a 40% coupon, but it had to be used on a print, not a solid. So, I went ahead and bought a panel I've had my eye on for quite a while.

Isn't is adorable? I may have to get coordinating fabrics from this fantastic line, but for now I'm just hanging onto this awesome print for future use.

Okay guys, we haven't even gotten to the heart of the goodies yet. Yesterday STLMQG had their Jan meeting, which included a raffle of books, fabric, notions, and even some sewn products. Everything in the raffle had been donated by members of the guild. Through this, we were able to find loving new homes for gently used items or fabric we no longer wanted, and were also able to pick up some great new stuff. I LOVE this concept.

Okay, I especially love it because I won big.  Here is everything I got yesterday. I mean, seriously.

Most of this stuff was in one epic bag of notions, which I put a ton of tickets into. Check out all that stuff!! It includes fray block, some paper piecing hexies, borders on a roll, a knob to make holding your rulers easier, a connector to hook up two rulers, extra rotary blades, a mini iron, and sew much more!! Wow!!

I also got a die cutter. Anybody used these before? I am not too familiar with them but I can see their use if I am making a quilt that requires a ton of pieces of the same size and shape. 

Also...fabric! 2 yards of Riley Blake, 3 one yard cuts of some lovely prints, a mini jelly role of white grayscale solids, and a fat quarter bundle of text prints. Whew!

So yes. I have a lot of new toys to go play with!

My first priority of course is to finish Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice mystery. I've got half the blocks done, and am hoping to make a sizeable dent in the other half today.

I am glad I took the time to square up my pieces as I went. It added a lot of time, but I am a pretty sloppy sewer, and without squaring them up these would have looked terribly wonky. There are still definitely some blocks that don't have nice perfect straight seams, but for the most part I am satisfied with how these came out.

Okay, time for sewing!