Friday, April 29, 2016

The Big Kahuna!

The one big project I haven't posted about yet is my largest quilt ever - 102 x 102, designed for a king bed. The quilt is actually a commission for my friend. I don't do commissions - ever - but she told me she wanted something with cats on it and she was willing to go with literally anything I wanted. So I said sure! We mulled ideas for several months, I wasn't sure if it was going to really happen or not, and then I sent her this photo that I had seen on instagram.

Now I don't know why this Cat Lady quilt hasn't gotten more play on the interwebs, but it's totally adorable! And Free! So on Superbowl Sunday, we sat down and agreed to make this quilt happen.

My first step was deciding how to enlarge the pattern to king size. I scaled up the squares from 5" finished to 6" finished and added several rows.

To add some flavor I decided to randomly intersperse New York Beauty blocks throughout the top. NYB's are an item on my bucket list, so I could check them off by sneaking them in here. I figured it would work with the kitty bodies, which are basically modified NYB blocks themselves.

Now for color scheme, I tried a lot which I'm not going to bother showing you, until I came up with this one:

I really liked the ombre idea, and my friend was game, so I dove right in! After a lengthy shopping expedition, I ended up with the following array of fabrics:

Conveniently, they match my trash can ;)

I then proceeded to take over our bedroom floor, the only space big enough to hold this thing. Aaaand that space has been taken over for the past two month.

Pepper is modeling the current state of the quilt. The top is about halfway pieced. I went into several weeks of not working on it because I felt the colors were too disjointed. So I said what the heck and tossed several pieces of fabric into a vat of blue dye.

Drying the fabric out.

The before and after of my test dye batch. The actual dye batch came out a lot darker.

I really think dying the fabric helped a lot with the top - or maybe it's all in my head, but it got me going again. Here are some closeups of the various NYB's. There are little ones and big ones - for the big ones I am doing no two designs alike.

After some wonky blocks, I tried the "six minute circle" method, which you can see in the block on the left. The block on the right is traditional curved piecing. I decided that even though my curves have wibble wobbles, the traditional piecing looks better than the six minute circle method.

So that's where we are at today! I continue to chug along and I'm hopeful to have the top done by the end of May.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Rosemaling in Baltimore

Every year I try to do one block of the month. It's fun, easy, and has an air of instant gratification. The year my BOM is the free Rosemaling in Baltimore quilt offered by AQS. It's technically a mystery BOM since they have no photo of the finished product.

I happen to LOVE Baltimore applique. Here is an example of a Baltimore quilt from one of my visits to PIQF:

I'm not very good at describing what makes a Baltimore - but you know it when you see it! What's cool about classical Baltimore quilts is that each block had symbolism and indicated something personal to the maker. That's why they are known as Baltimore Album quilts - because the finished quilt was an album of your life.

Here's one more Baltimore from PIQF. I just love them.

Why do I love them? I appreciate the intricate details and the dynamic layout. Each block is a unique joy to explore. Each one has hidden treasures. Plus there are lots of fun bright colors!

One of my favorite applique designers is Pearl Pereira who has made several fun modern quilt designers in the Baltimore style, including a Baltimore Halloween, spring, autumn, Christmas, and more! I have bought her Baltimore state blocks for Alaska and California but have yet to tackle them.

So anyways, back to Rosemaling in Balitmore. The idea of the quilt is to combine Rosemaling motifs in a Baltimore layout. I looked up Rosemaling (I had never heard of it), and it is a traditional folk art from Norway often featuring painted stylized flowers.

Here are some Rosemaling snaps:

Pretty stuff, right? I have been greatly enjoying working on the quilt so far. I intentionally chose colors well outside of my usual bright comfort zone.

These were based on a Joel Dewberry bundle I won at my guild sew-in. Unfortunately a lot of the fabrics in the bundle have big, bold prints which don't work well with tiny applique pieces. But hey, let's try it anyways! It's my challenge to myself and my attempt to somewhat modernize the pattern with my fabric choices.

I also tried to be a bit modern with my background fabric. I picked a fun geometric print to offset all of the curves in the applique.

So, as you may recall, I taught an applique class in October. For the class I bought a TON of different applique supplies, with the intent that my students try them all out. Well, they didn't really try them all out, which left me with a lifetime supply of fusible web.  So I decided to try it out on this project For my first block, I used Heat N Bond Featherlite.
This is a new product from  Heat N Bond that is supposed to be lighter than their other fusible webs. Heat N Bond lite is my favorite fusible but I will admit that it is a little stiff. So I was very hopeful about the Featherlite.

Verdict: a massive disappointment. Do not buy. I had nothing but headaches with it. It's hard to describe how many thing went wrong. The webbing is certainly light - too light. I couldn't get anything to stick. On one fabric, the paper accidentally peeled off and I couldn't even get it to stick back onto the webbing. Nothing stuck. I had to use my Roxanne glue baste it to glue everything in place on my background. And while it was noticeably softer than Heat N Bond lite, it flat out couldn't get the job done (and it was no mistyfuse!)

You can see from this angled picture I took that literally nothing is sticking down. It's only held in place by inertia and positive thinking.
After this block I actually gave away my remaining Heat N Bond Featherlite at my guild freebie table.

But the block came out fine in the end anyways:

For the second block, I used Steam a Seam 2 Lite.

This stuff is super popular, but it's noticeably more expensive than other brands and Joann's (where do I a lot of my notions shopping) doesn't stock it. I had never tried it.

The verdict: Love it. I found the double paper annoying but I loved the tackiness. The hook of steam a seam is that it is super tacky so you can lay it in place on you background and it will stay. For this block, with tons of tiny pieces that needed to be positioned just so, it was perfect. I laid everything out, rearranged until I loved it, and only then ironed it in place. I had no trouble with fraying edges (like I get with Pellon), and the finished product was surprisingly still soft. I may have a new favorite brand!

Here are my finished blocks 1 and 2:

This is definitely my fun, "anything goes" quilt. I have another project I am working on (to be posted soon!) where I do a lot of agonizing. I always seem to have one of those, so it's important to have something fun and easy to offset that. Block 3 just got released, so I am off to work on that! This time I will try Pellon EZ Steam. Verdict coming soon!