Our book includes a chapter about our Special Techniques with “how-to” photographs. One of my favorites is “Quilting to Batting”. Ages ago, when I taught myself to free motion quilt, I started quilting to batting first. I covered up the hideous bobbin thread stitching lines (poor tension) with the real fabric back (connected with more quilting). By the time my free motion quilting looked good on both sides, I had other reasons to keep using this method!
My current quilt in progress gives me a chance to show quilting to batting in real time. You’ve already seen the first stages. From the left: fabric strips quilted to batting (colors, neutrals); cut rectangle units; pinning and sewing the rectangles into blocks.
Assemble the quilt top as usual, by sewing blocks into rows, and then sewing rows into pairs, until the entire quilt top is together. Here’s the difference: press the seams open then whipstitch them in place, by loosely stitching through the batting only. Follow the sequence with the photos:
TIP: As a self-taught quilter, I always pressed my seams open. I developed the “Pin Poke Method” to line up the seams. When the pin is vertical, I place a pin on either side, then remove the vertical pin. Like anything else, it takes some practice, but it works for me.
TIP: I adopted the practice of sewing only across the seam intersection first before stitching the entire row. If it doesn’t line up, it’s easy to rip it out and do it over. When satisfied, sew the entire seam.
Here is the quilt top in progress. With two pairs of rows sewn together, I have a few seams to go to finish the quilt top. The next Sneak Peek #4B will show how the quilt top gets quilted to the fabric back. I think the pro’s outweigh the con’s, which I will argue next time!
“Yarns and Fabrics” (www.yarnsandfabrics.co.uk) posted a review of our book and we’re so excited! We love the “fiber fix” you get when browsing their website. Some excerpts from their review: “This book is full of beautiful quilts” and “It’s all about discovering the quilt inside you” and “The techniques section is superb” and “there’s enough ideas here to keep you going for months. In fact, one thing usually leads to another, so you might find enough inspiration here for years” and finally “highly recommended“.
We think this book is all about discovering the quilt inside you, but I don’t think we’ve ever put it quite that way. One of the challenges, called “Pass It Back and Forth (Do Not Speak)”, is a good example of that. We were inspired by central Oregon artists- twin sisters Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer (www.lubbesmeyer.com). Their fiber art is created by each starting “something”, then passing it back and forth, without speaking, until it is declared finished. Pat and I don’t have that special twin-speak, but we wanted to try it for ourselves.
“Silent Reflection”, started by Wendy (photo 1), passed to Pat (photo 2), with two more passes to Wendy & Pat, and finished by Wendy (photo 3).
“Square Dance”, started by Pat (photo 1, something like this), passed to Wendy, Pat passes back to Wendy (photo 2), Wendy passes back to Pat and Pat passes to Wendy (photo 3), and finished by Pat (photo 4)
Each time the quilt-in-progress got passed, we could do anything to it. We really were discovering the “quilt inside us” each time it came back. For “Silent Reflection”, it seemed like I kept putting the pieces back together while Pat kept cutting them apart. (Scratch seemed like: Pat did keep cutting it apart!) With “Square Dance”, both of us kept playing with the idea of “squares”, with the additions of squares, raw edge collage, and thread texturing. Without talking, we were on the same wave length.
We began with complete trust in each other. We didn’t expect to doubt our selves during the process: we really didn’t want to let the other person down. In both cases, what started as “something” grew into cohesive surface designs, all without talking. Perhaps this exemplifies the idea that when creating, we might think less and do more. (Okay, that advice is especially meaningful for me.)
We are doing another similar exchange for our upcoming special exhibit at the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara, October 13-16, 2016. Come see the book quilts and new challenge quilts at PIQF!
All challenge themes have a focus and some kind of rules, including the 7 challenges presented in our upcoming book (February 2016), but the fun is found in the diverse interpretations of the very same theme. The first two sections introduce our book and explore “the challenges of challenge quilts”. Next you’ll see Challenges 1-7, with a beautiful two page spread for each challenge, showcasing our two quilts made in response to the theme. The Special Techniques chapter gives how-to instructions for our favorite methods and techniques.
You can challenge yourself to any one of our themes or you could grab a friend, sweet-talk your small sewing circle, lasso your guild, or connect with people from around the globe. Let’s take a peek at some of the challenges and the quilts that Pat and I made.
The Value of Value
Left: Marsh Scene by Pat Pease, 48″ by 24″ Right: ColorBlind by Wendy Hill, 92″ by 92″
These quilts, shown on the cover of our book, are our interpretations of the theme about value. There is a saying that color gets the credit while value does the work. Color is a visual language, but it goes hand in hand with value. Value is the way that colors can look light, medium or dark depending upon the neighboring colors. When value is used effectively, you can make secondary patterns stand out, create focal points, suggest dimension, create mood and movement, make designs stand out, and so on.
Pat grew up in Wisconsin. She used value to create a mood and a sense of place with her quilt, Marsh Scene.
Wendy started quilting a long time ago using traditional blocks. For her quilt ColorBlind, she used random value placement, so that individual stars and secondary patterns either stand out, blur, or recede.
When a challenge theme inspires you, it’s an opportunity to try something new with either materials, color choices, methods, patterns and so on. How many times have you read that value is the relative lightness or darkness of a color and then promptly forgotten about it? Instead of trying to book learn about value, this theme allows you to experiment and learn by doing. What value preferences do you have that give your quilts your own personal style?
NewsFlash: Creative Quilt Challenges, Take the Challenge to Develop Your Style & Improve Your Design Skills, by Pat Pease and Wendy Hill (that’s me!), will be in stores and virtual bookshelves around the world in about a month. Here is the backstory of how we came to write this book.
Here we are at Angeline’s in Sisters, Oregon with Wendy on the left and Pat on the right. We have fun galavanting with lunch and fabric shopping.
Little did we know that our first challenge of 2008 would leave to more challenges, a special exhibit at the Pacific International Quilt Show in Santa Clara, October 2013, a book, and a sequel special exhibit at PIQF coming in October 2016!
First Challenge- Unconventional Materials Challenge: As big fans of the Lifetime television show Project Runway, we decided to adapt the challenges each week. The contestants generally have one day for each challenge, but we couldn’t keep up with an entire week! For our challenge, we said all materials had to come from a grocery store. I made a tote bag with Tyvec envelopes, mesh fruit bags, mop strings, & melted plastic veggie bags and Pat made a small quilt with sushi grass, plastic bag, plastic placemats, & cupcake liners.
Both of us have participated in many challenges over the years. Challenge themes can inspire ideas and send the maker in new directions that might not have otherwise happened. We think there is even more to it. Pat and I discovered that challenge themes push us towards more consciously explore our own personal design process and our own understanding of color and design. There is something liberating about taking on a challenge theme.
Here are two earlier challenge quilts that exemplify how a challenge forced each of us to explore our own design process and understanding of color and design:
“Frida” by Pat Pease
Some years ago, Pat challenged herself to make a portrait of her award winning and loving dog, Frida. She combined her signature strip piecing method for the background with raw edge applique and thread texturing. She’d never done a portrait quilt before, and she hadn’t used raw edge applique with thread texturing much either. Pat learned-by-doing with this challenge to herself. At the time, many quilters advocated always facing “art quilts”, but because this is a portrait, the image reminded her of a photograph. She rounded the corners and added a narrow binding, which really suits this quilt. (Photo credit: Gary Alvis, Bend, Oregon)
“Autumn Textures” by Wendy Hill
In 2009, I challenged herself to use zippers as a material to capture the hillsides of her 40 mile commute in the Rocky Mountains in the fall of the year. I wrote to her parents in 1982 that the colors were so vivid, it wasn’t believable. Today I would say the colors seemed photoshopped. This imagery stuck with me and I finally had to get it out of my head. I had to figure out many construction issues while choosing colors and values that evoked the feelings I had when seeing the actual hillsides. Since I’d tried other ideas over the years without success, I think it was this challenge to myself to use zippers that opened up a way to get this imagery out of my head. (Photo credit: Craig Howell, Brainard, Minnesota)
With our book, we invite readers to Take the Challenge with our 7 challenge themes. We’re inviting you to join us in the Land of Color, Design and Imagination with our 14 quilts made in response to the themes. But we’re not giving you a map. Instead, we’re encouraging you to find your own compass to navigate this landscape, and along the way you’ll continue to develop your own style and voice.
Next week: more sneak peeks!
I have been working on my “author questionnaire” for my publisher, C&T Publishing. Yes, my 5th book, Creative Quilt Challenges with coauthor Pat Pease, is less than a month away from being on bookshelves in the physical and virtual world!
How did I get started with all this making of stuff?
You might have heard my stories about how my father advised me not to draw a standard tree, but to really look at trees, and draw my own tree with personality. Or you might know that in high school I made a vinyl bikini bathing suit and a bread wrapper raincoat.
What about quilts? I remember helping my mother make a small quilt for my doll when I was around 4 or 5 years old. This is odd, because she hated sewing. Only two things made her swear and sewing was one of them. In 1998, I found the quilt stuffed in the very the back of a closet at my parent’s house.
I didn’t make another quilt until 1971, at age 19. I wanted to be a part of the a makers’ cooperative in Palo Alto (The Artifactory) and they needed a quilt maker. I stretched the truth and said, “I make quilts!” Okay, it was a lie, but I didn’t think it would be that hard to learn. I made a few baby quilts and some sewing accessories to populate my booth. A Stanford student (Thaddeus) wandered into my booth and commissioned me to make a quilt, for a king size bed, in corduroy, using the pattern of the floor of the Taj Mahal. I agreed! (Where is this quilt now?)
Sadly, this is the only photograph I have of that 120″ by 130″ quilt. My brother Leith helped me draft the pattern when I couldn’t make it work. He discovered my blocks were about 1/32 of an inch off from each other. For this kind of pattern, accuracy is everything!
The experience of teaching myself to quilt using my own sewing skills, common sense, and tips found on the wrappers of Mountain Mist polyester batting gave me a kind of confidence that I could making anything if I put my mind to it. There was no one to tell me I shouldn’t or couldn’t do it.
The next year, in 1972, I found Quilts & Coverlets, A Contemporary Approach by Jean Ray Laury in a bookstore in Berkeley, California. I loved this book but I continued to make traditional quilts using my own color schemes. It wasn’t until 1986 that I made an original quilt intended to hang on a brick fireplace wall: Bricks Gone Wild.
As I think about “how did I get here?”, I can see a 45 year story arc from the Taj Mahal quilt to may latest bed quilt, Zig Zag (2015). But it hasn’t been a straight path from A to Z. Instead, I’ve taken side roads, hot air balloons, rollercoasters (with all the ups, downs, twists and turns) , and all manner of traveling to get where I am now.
As I followed my ideas, I let one quilt lead to the next, letting my experiences shape my style and improve my skills. This is my underlying message of my 5th book, Creative Quilt Challenges: just keep making quilts and all will unfold in front of you.
I’ve been making quilts for almost 45 years and generally making stuff since a very young child. There is a story arc to this life of making. With each quilt or other completed project, the story arc gets adjusted a little bit, as the new item gets integrated into the overall story.
In January 2014, I signed a contract for my 5th book with C&T (along with coauthor Pat Pease). Now, 2 years later, our book will be on literal and virtual shelves all around the world after February 7th. It’s an exhilarating process to bring a book into the world. More about this book- and sneak peeks- in future posts.
Zig Zag the Quilt is finished.
I spray baste the layers together using swim noodles. For large quilts like this, I have to push the furniture against one side of the room. I tape the batting to the carpet. After centering the quilt top (or back) over the batting, I roll up one end on the swim noodle, about halfway across. I spray the 505 basting product over the batting, then unroll the quilt top (or back) smoothing it as I go. Repeat with the other half. This works so much better than asking my husband to help! (After allowing the spray basting to dry- at least 2 hours- I flip over the quilt and follow the same steps with the other side.)
I wound 17 bobbins of Aurifil 40 wt thread, hoping to have enough to quilt the gigantic quilt. I did not stitch until I ran out of bobbin thread (because connecting wavy lines evenly- with the stop & start- is hard), but I came as close to the end of the bobbin as I dared. If I ran out of bobbins, I hoped to be able patch together the final stitching lines with the leftovers. But I finished the quilting with about 30 inches to spare (plus the leftovers).
Next came washing the quilt (before adding the binding). It was about 91″ by 92″ after stitching closely spaced parallel wavy lines across the surface. I had to wash out the spray basting & the water-soluble thread basting along with shrinking the quilt (for future washings). It finished at 88.5″ by 89″ with the binding.
Creative acts usually involve a certain amount of chaos followed by restoring order. In this general way, making a mess in the kitchen followed by doing the dishes is a creative act. Our son Luke and his girlfriend Colleen have been visiting, and Colleen and I baked cookies. Our sugar cookies turned out great (and the Corgi cookie cutter makes very cute cookies), but once again we failed at the French macaron. It’s our second attempt- third time is the charm, right? The texture is better this time, but no feet, and no “melting in the mouth” bites. We made 3 fillings- vanilla bean icing, mascarpone cherry, and lemon curd. YUM.
I finished the quilt on December 31st, so now I’m zigzagging into 2016. Life rarely offers a straight path; instead we zigzag our way, encountering obstacles, floating on highs, believing we’ll get through lows. I can’t wait to start “making” in 2016!
I had so much fun with Flat Stanley and the Half-Square Triangle blocks, I had to make my own quilt using half-square triangles.
This quilt saved my sanity while working on ZAG. Started in October, the simplicity of cutting squares, making the pair of half-square triangle blocks, and auditioning the placement provided an alternate reality to the cutting-sewing-ironing of making new fabric for ZAG.
NOTE: The white piece of paper on the square shows me where a mistake in cutting resulted in a skimpy seam allowance. When I sew the blocks together, I can allow for this.
I HAVE MY WAYS: Oh yes, anyone who knows me can testify to my “strategies”, which work well with a repeat block pattern like this.
I used recycled paper to help me take the 5″ squares off the wall and assemble them into blocks (2 by 2) so I can put them back up in the same order as before. There are 7 rows of 7 blocks (plus a half row of 7 rectangles). For this step, I’m piecing the 4- 5″ squares into a “block”. You can see the rest of the quilt on the wall- minus the first row of 7 blocks.
NOTE: I used Post-It Notes in 4 different colors to show me the distribution of the different kinds of dotty fabrics (Confetti Dots by Dear Stella; Mochi Dots by Moda, assorted dots of all sizes and graphic dots). The dots aren’t perfectly distributed- that would be boring- but this method did prevent all the same kind of dots from clustering in one area of the quilt.
Here are the first 5 rows of 7 blocks per row— I’m actually quilting the quilt now, so check in next week to see how it’s turning out.
Question: This is a reversible bed quilt, with a repeat half-square triangle block, using over 100 different fabrics. The back is symmetrically pieced using 4 different fabrics. The quilting is a uniform wavy line (Stitch #4 on my Bernina 155) in parallel rows. As you can tell, I had a firm idea of how to design this bed quilt.
Given this situation, if you discovered that one of the fabrics on the back was an inch too short, could you slap a few inches of a 5th fabric on the end of the panel and feel good about it? If you ran out of thread with a few inches to go, could you use a different color and feel good about it? Where is the line between rigidity and flexibility, or between perseverance and laziness?
I Googled Kransekake and discovered a wealth of images, recipes and information. My brother Leith and his wife Sylvia gave me a set of 18 rings, ranging from small to large, maybe 40 years ago and I’ve been making Ring Cakes ever since. I use Sylvia’s recipe with good quality almond paste and a cookie gun (from 1960) but her relatives made Kransekake the old fashioned way, starting with ground almonds and hand rolling the logs.
I read that Kransekake are served on special occasions. That’s probably because it’s at least a two-day affair to bake, stack and assemble the cakes. The kitchen quickly becomes a mess as the rings get filled, baked, cooled and stacked. David helped me use the pastry bag and he stood by to stack the rings as I created the frosting loops that hold the rings together.
Sylvia’s Kransekake are perfection with even baking/color, size of rings, stacking, frosting and tasting. My Ring Cakes are pretty good looking but also scrumptious. You can’t eat just a bite!
Always eat the Kransekake from the bottom ring up, so that it keeps it’s cone shape!
In 2012, I made a baby quilt for my nephew’s new baby. I cobbled together fabrics to make each block, a process that is like making “new” fabric. After constructing the oversized chunk, I squared-up the chunk to the block size (plus seam allowances).
The process to make ZAG is similar, only I cobbled together fabrics in long strips, which I cut up into oversized rectangles (see previous post).
I planned for 5 different types of blocks to vary the widths of the darks and lights. Here is the pile of trimmings from squaring up 64 blocks.
I randomly grabbed blocks from a bag for this very first audition of the block layout. You can see how the zigzag lines vary in width. Since then I’ve moved blocks around, but that will be or next time.
Catching Up This is my variation of the traditional Rail Fence pattern, with two “rails” or rectangles per block: one light and one dark. The value contrast needs to be great enough to see the graphic zigzag pattern.
1) I made my own “new” light fabric by piecing together an assortment of lights. I collected dozens and dozens of white/off-white fabrics with bits of colors in the pattern or prints. I repeated this process to make my own “new” dark fabric using an assortment of colored prints. To help unify these prints, I used a piece of a multi-color print with birds about every 6″ to 12″. I quilted the “new” fabric to batting and preshrunk it all to be ready for the next step.
2) The traditional Rail Fence blocks use equal sized rectangles to make the zigzag pattern. While matching intersections between the blocks make a stronger zigzag line, the rectangles can be any width. I planned to make 64 blocks with a variety of rectangle widths. In theory (and based on my quick sketches), the zigzag line should go from narrow to wide to narrow in a random way when I’m finished.
Step 1: Cut up the pieced, quilted strips into 8″ chunks. These are oversized so I can square-up the block later.
Once paired up, I square-up the center seam edges. Now the two rectangles are ready to be sewn together.
Like many quilters, I do each step in larger batches: all the pinning, all the sewing, all the pressing, and so on. The “seconds” of time saved really add up over the whole project. I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of the stack of pinned rectangles- what great texture!
After pressing the center seam open (and whip stitching it in place through the batting only), I squared-up the block to 7 5/8″.
One block finished, only 63 more to go! Will the zigzag line look as cool as I hope? Has all this been a big waste of time? How do I finish a quilt constructed with my “quilt to batting first” method?