Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Change Of Pace

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that my week has been more about snip, snipping than it has been about stitch, stitching... which is highly unusual for me. When I work on a quilt, I usually cut a few blocks at a time, and then throw them under the machine, because if I'm being perfectly honest, then I might be a little impatient in that way. 

I suppose there are two main reasons for this: firstly, I need a constant change of pace - I don't think I've cut a whole quilt before I started sewing it... ever! Perhaps it's because I just can't wait to get to the best part - sewing! I know, I know, it can really be a time saver to cut everything ahead, but it feels like pure torture to me to not just sit down and get started when the inspiration hits.

Secondly, I like to make things up as I go... it's just that sometimes I just don't know where I'm going with a quilt until I start. Once the first blocks are done, then they give me hints on how I should address the next ones. It somehow give me a freedom to go a different direction than previously planned if needed.

I get teased sometimes that I usually don't know how big a quilt top will be until I've actually finished it. (which is why I often end up with much bigger quilts than I'd planned) But there is something to be said about letting the quilt tell you how big it wants to be rather then me putting too many limits on it.

So now that it's not even two weeks until our fall retreat, I've decided to pull my Penny Sampler back out to have something to work on... I have to say that these are pretty labor intensive, one-thousand-bits-in-one-block blocks. But just to mix things up a bit for a change, it will actually be nice to just sit down and sew.

Do cut everything before you start sewing or do you let your quilts tell you how big they want to be?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All Work And No Play

I've been so consumed with pattern writing these last weeks, that it feels like there's hardly any time to sew... well, at least not on things that I can share. Since my Lovebirds' Garden is an almost 30 page pattern, perhaps it might make sense why I've been so caught up... that's a lot of T's to cross, and I's to dot!?! With that being said, it's actually been nice for me to sit back, relax, and have others doing my work for me... what do I mean? Well, the blocks from my busy bee members have started coming in for my Summer Smoothie quilt. (tutorial for the block construction found here)

I've added a few new blocks of my own, first in cool colors, and with Melanie's #30minssewingdaily #octsewingchallenge on Instagram it's been a good motivation to get a few more cut and ready to go. I have decided to save stitching them together until the end of the month at our patchwork group fall retreat. 

I think I am just as excited about some of the new low volume fabrics that I've added to the mix as I am the block itself... library cards, fun text lettering...

... and a new favortie of mine, this cursive writing from Bee in My Bonnet, from Lori Holt. Her new Bee Backgrounds line is just simply fantastic.

I still have several blocks to go for a finish, and as usual, I'll find out what size it is when it all gets together. I'm actually thinking something on the small side... well, at least for me anyway. I had first thought to finish the on point sashing with something pieced, but have decided to go with just a simple low volume instead. Hmmm... there's a little figuring to do.

So, I hit the "send" button this week to get my Lovebirds' Garden pattern to my testers, and then I get to sit back again and watch them do all the work. (wink, wink) ... after that a short breather because, all work and no play, makes this girl a dull quilter.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fly, Fly Away

I've always enjoyed mixing a variety of mediums... especially when one of them is fabric. I was recently inspired to re-visit a previous project of mine, and make another wool felt applique project. With using freezer paper as a template, it's an absolute dream - no marking, no slipping templates, just cut.

Since I've been working so much on pattern writing, I needed a project that I could simply retire to the couch with instead. I find that if I work too long at the computer, it's hard to then jump onto the sewing machine, so ... writing patterns by day, crafting by night is the plan.

What I love about working with felt is that you can layer the shapes with fabric. For me, this gives the project so much more depth, and I love adding all those pretty little unexpected details and accents with favorite fabrics.

It's interesting that when I work on a project, I usually have a very specific and very definite colorway that should be used. Somehow these days, a little touch of grey has been slipping into the mix, and I don't know how it happened? I love to work with a cool color palette, and grey (in a small accent form) is a nice contrast.

Any colors that "sneaked" their way into your projects that you weren't exactly expecting?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Behind The Scences of Pattern Writing

I've been spending way more time behind the computer screen than I have behind the sewing machine these days. Writing a pattern, at least if it's a fairly extensive one, is not exactly a weekend project. I always love it when others share those behind the scenes moments of what it really takes to make something happen, so I thought I would do the same and share a bit of my pattern writing process.

While EQ7 has its many ins and outs that have to be learned, overall I'm pretty satisfied with what the program can do. When I work on a pattern, I usually hand draw what I am working on first, and then I have to translate it into a usable form, and for this I usually end up doing a lot of work in the PatchDraw + Motif section. This is where I can make applique shapes that I can layer on a quilt.

After scanning my drawing, I can import it into EQ7. From there I go to the Tracing Image tab, at the bottom of the worktable, and select the image that I want to work on. There is an option to crop the image and then fill the image in for editing.

At this point, I can then  use the Line Tool, Bezier Curve Tool, and the Shape Tool to trace and then manipulate the illustration.

Once I am finished with an image, I can also export it to use for block assembly illustrations and instructions, or whatever decorative additions I would like to add.

When I was catching up on the pattern writing series last year from Meadow Mist, one of the guest designers passed along one of the best tips for me. Sew Fresh Quilts, shared that she uses(d) Power Point for some of her illustrations.There is no doubt that there are some really fancy-schmancy graphic programs out there that perhaps make it look like kindergarten, child's play, but I have to say for a not-so-computer-savvy person like myself, I'm impressed and surprised by the ease of use with decent results. Both of these assembly illustrations were make using Power Point:

One of the most beneficial websites that I've stumbled onto recently is The reason this has been so valuable to me is that I can create PNG images for free. Basically, these are just images where the shape is "cut out", or transparent, and the background is not visible. The advantage is that you can layer the EQ7 shapes without having the background in the way. Here's what I mean. In this illustration, you can see the leaf on the right cannot be layered because the background belongs to the image.

There is a really great YouTube video that shows you step by step how to make an image transparent that can be used for layering, and looks instead like this:

So whether you are a hobby quilter or looking to turn your hobby into a career, perhaps these might be a few useful tips to use in your own quilt designs . Do you have an helpful quilt design or graphic design tips to pass along? Any favorite free online programs?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

More Is Just More, Right?

As a general rule, I tend to avoid highly quilted projects. I think in part because sometimes more is just, well... more. I'm a fabric, color, and print girl, so I'm naturally inclined towards simplicity in quilting and letting those elements shine. But secondly because I've not reached the comfort level that I would like to "over-quilt" a project, at least not on big ones anyway. With each new small project that I've taken on recently, I've decided to push myself when it comes to free motion quilting... and with my latest "Lovebirds" bonus project, I really wanted the quilting to go beyond my usual "keep it simple" mantra.

Quilting designs are not always as obvious to me as I would like them to be. I have several quilty friends, that immediately see a quilting design when they get ready to sit down and start quilting. Actually it was my husband that encouraged me on a few of the designs, and voted for favorite motifs. Like the pebble filled pomegranates and simple feathered bird wings...

 ... I'm thinking that I might like to revisit these simple curves to embellish my favorite orange peel designs.

Hmmm... ask me if I'm brave enough to go this dense on the big one? I may just have to get back to you on that one.  Any stories of quilting bravery to share? 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Lovebirds Reveal: The Story

This spring, as a special treat for my birthday, my husband took me to one of the finest and best-kept secrets in the area... a monasterial grounds since the middle ages, that was later a private hunting spot to a 17th century duke. The Forsthaus Heiligenberg, delivers everything that one could wish for when it comes to historical charm and quaintness. Mixed with fine delicacies made from regional products and attention to every last detail, it might be easy to understand how a romantic like myself could get completely swept away with the whole atmosphere....

As I sat across from my husband, I found that I was absolutely fascinated with the embroidery piece on the wall behind him. My gaze shifted back and forth between the vintage piece and my date. Later, as I studied it more closely my eye started seeing quilting shapes... and then a whole quilt. Even though I was soaking in the all too rare one-on-one time, my fingers were itching to get the idea on paper.

My first design was with large feathers similar to the original embroidery, but I found that the shapes were too graphic and dominant for the soft and organic shapes of the focal lovebirds. As usual, the design grew and evolved as I starting getting it into fabric form, and a medallion quilt seemed to be the most natural progression of things. 

The applique borders were a later addition to my original design, and I was able to incorporate a softer applique feather into it as well as smaller birds that I also used in a second extra project that I will be included in the pattern.

There are certain projects, where it seems as if I cannot imagine it in any other colors but those specific colors. Even though blues and turquoises are not the usual color palette that I tend towards, these verigated Basic Grey's and Alison Glass blues were the direction that I knew I wanted to go. I've always love a blue and green combination, and the coral pomogranates, give it the contrast that I was looking for. 

I hope to get first draft to pattern testers by the end of the month, so if you are interested (or you know someone who might be interested) then let me know. This quilt pattern is for an intermediate to advanced quilter with experience in applique. I am requesting a finished top (with or without applique borders) by February, with a February or March release date.

Oh... and I'm still not settled on a name. Here's a few that have been thrown into the suggestion pot...

Spring Lovebirds, Nested Lovebirds, Birds Of A Feather, Fly Away Home, Lovebirds In A Perch, Birds Of A Feather, Bluebirds Of Happiness...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Center Of It All

Perhaps you've noticed already that Wednesdays are my posting days. It was actually something that I had started after I had re-joined the blogging world, and was linking up weekly with WIP Wednesdays. (ah, remember those days?) Having a set date actually keeps me motivated to keep up with posting, but it doesn't always match the current progress of projects that I might be working on. Right now, I'm literally just a day or two away from sharing my finished medallion quilt top, but that would mean you would have to wait... hmmm. But you certainly didn't think that I would leave you with the Wednesday high-and-dry's, did you?

So this week, I'm sharing the center medallion of the quilt pattern that I am currently writing. Next week is the flimsy finish with the applique borders, including the story behind the inspiration. After that, comes the fun part of continued writing and editing the pattern to get it into the hands of pattern testers - goal is end of September with a February release...

 ... but until then, I'll just let these two lovebirds take center stage.

Interested in pattern testing?... just let me know. Oh, and keep those name suggestions coming in.
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