October 31, 2017

Spooky Book Nerd Quilt

I have a very good friend whose birthday is just a few days before Halloween, so the holiday has always been her favorite. I think it was last year when I came across these fat quarter fabric bundles at my local Tuesday Morning store. They're quilt-shop quality fabric, and I couldn't pass them up. (They're from the Spooktacular and Spooktacular Too collections by Maude Asbury for Blend.) I bought two bundles, thinking that I'd use them to make something for my friend, but I wasn't sure exactly what.

When I saw Angela Pingel's Book Nerd Quilt pattern, inspiration struck. These large prints would make perfect book covers. Plus, my friend is a serious book lover and collector, so the fabric and pattern were a perfect match. The pattern required more fabric than I had from the bundles, so I went to one of my local quilt shops, Mountain Creek Quilt Shop, to supplement the stack. It turns out that they had just received an order of new Halloween fabrics and they hadn't even unpacked the box yet! So I helped them out, breaking into some of those bolts for small-scale prints with bats and spiderwebs. I got the text prints to use as the pages and the oranges for book spines. The mummies are a Cotton + Steel design from last season, and I bought a bunch of them to put on the back of the quilt.

Assembling these book blocks was a lot of fun -- after I ran a test and figured out what sizes to precut all the sections for the foundation paper piecing. Everything went A LOT faster with precuts, so if you ever have to foundation paper piece a bunch of the same block and the pattern doesn't suggest precut sizes, take the time to figure it out.

(Pretty proud of my print alignment on this one!)

The pattern includes the option of cornerstones in the layout, and I decided to include them and use a dark print that I wasn't able to use in the books. If I were to make this quilt again, I think I would either leave out the cornerstones or add them to the outside intersections as well to finish framing the design.

For the quilt back, I didn't have enough of the mummies to use them exclusively, so I had to figure out how to piece it. My mom was heading out to Mountain Creek again, so I had her pick up the black with little white cat faces (another Cotton + Steel print, but from this season). I've made pieced quilt backs before, but I usually don't like how they turn out. I'm not sure if it's the size of the pieces or how I lay them out, but it never turns out looking like I expect. So I laid this one out and played with all my leftovers until I felt pretty confident about it.

My friend Jennifer agreed to quilt this on her longarm, and we picked an edge-to-edge spiderweb design. It turned out so well - I was blown away. Even the white thread on the dark backing worked out. I rounded the corners off and used a black and white stripe on the bias for binding.


September 27, 2017

Graphic and Modern Baby Quilts for Twins

I met my friend Eryn our freshman year of high school when her family moved from California to Tennessee and she showed up at band camp. We became fast friends and have remained close for more than 20 years through college, multiple moves, and more. I was on a quilt retreat last October when Eryn, who now lives in Texas, texted me to say she and her husband were expecting twins! I was more than a little surprised by the news (not one baby, but two!) and so happy for them, and my mind went straight to "I have to make quilts for the babies!"

I sent Eryn to a couple of online fabric shops to pick some fabrics she liked and give me an idea of her preferred color palettes. I also created a Pinterest board full of quilt patterns to share with her, again to get a feel for what she liked. She ended up picking fabrics that fell into two distinct palettes -- navy/aqua/cream and bright primary colors -- which was perfect for two distinct quilts. Eryn wanted the babies to each have their own quilt with its own look. They'll be twins forever, always paired, so a little individuality is nice.

The patterns that Eryn chose are Succulent Garden by Crimson Tate and Quilt Bars, a free pattern from Camelot Fabrics.

Here are some of her pinned fabrics:

That candy-colored circle print in the top row reminded Eryn of some bed sheets she used to sleep on at her grandmother's house when she was a kid, so I knew I had to use it as the basis for one quilt. That one ended up being the Succulent Garden pattern for baby boy Ryker. The aqua and navy prints became the Quilt Bars pattern for baby girl Sophie.

The Succulent Garden pattern, with its oversized hexagons, comes together really quickly thanks to the strip-piecing method. I cut my own triangle template for the wedges.

My friend Jennifer got an AMAZING longarm quilting machine while I was making these quilt tops, and she agreed to quilt both quilts on it for me. We stood there and watched it go -- it was magical. And the quilting turned out perfect.

One of the fun things about this pattern is that you're left with wedges that make a secondary scrappy hexagon. I wanted to use as much of the fabric up as possible, so I put the scrappy hexagon on the back and then filled in around it.

The Quilt Bars pattern also comes together really quickly. I think my biggest challenge with this quilt was figuring out which fabrics to use and where. With my fabrics, I couldn't get the same gradient effect as the original pattern, so I decided to go with dark vs. light, with the creamy pug print at the center and corners. After a lot of back and forth -- and a lot of photos texted to my mom for her opinion -- I'm happy with the final fabrics and placement.

This is honestly the fastest baby quilt I've ever made -- I highly recommend the pattern, and I'm confident I'll be using it again.

For the back of this quilt, I used the creamy pug print by designer Bari J for Art Gallery Fabrics. Eryn has a beloved pug named Auggie, so this fabric was a no-brainer. I actually saw it and planned to use it as a surprise before Eryn found it and added it to her "love these" fabric list.

And of course a show-and-tell of these quilts wouldn't be complete without photos of them with their new owners, Ryker and Sophie. I packed up the quilts and headed to Dallas earlier this summer to deliver them in person and snuggle the babes, who were just 2 months old. I can't wait to see them grow up with these quilts.

August 9, 2017

Needle Felted Frannie

Instagram is a great place to discover insanely talented artists. I'm not sure how I first found Dani Ives a.k.a. @begoodnatured, but her felted wool artwork is incredible. From dogs and cats to mice, toadstools, and even slices of pizza, Dani creates the most realistic portraits with only wool fibers and felting needles. If you're not on Instagram, you can check out her work and watch time-lapse videos of her pieces coming together here.

In celebration of National Pet Day back in April, Dani posted an auction and a giveaway. For the giveaway, she asked people to share about the pet they would like a portrait of. I had a little free time and wrote about my cat, Jack, who I had for around 12 years and said goodbye to in 2014. It turns out that I WAS THE RANDOM GIVEAWAY WINNER! I couldn't believe it - what a great prize to win! I communicated with Dani and tried to find a good photo of Jack for her to use as a reference for the portrait, but I just didn't have any that would have worked. So I asked her if I could use my current cat, Frannie, instead. I had the perfect picture:

We agreed that Frannie would be a good subject, and after a lot of agonizing, I chose a coral-colored wool felt background. Dani shared a few peeks of her process on Instagram, and I saved screenshots because I was so excited to see the progress. She always starts with the eyes and nose and then works outward.

The portrait finally arrived, and after admiring Dani's thoughtful packaging, I was floored when I saw the portrait up close. The level of detail is incredible, down to the reflection in Frannie's eyes and the little hairs in her ears.

Dani captured Frannie's personality so well -- she looks so serious (and maybe a little judgy?) but really she's just intent on getting your attention and compelling you to give her a good head rub or throw a toy for her to chase. This portrait was such a surprise to win, and I feel so lucky to have a piece of Dani's artwork in my home.

June 16, 2017

Big Finish: Modern Crosses Baby Quilt

When I was a kid growing up in southern Indiana, my best friend Chrissie and I spent a lot of time together swimming in her above-ground pool, going to cheerleading camps, and having sleepovers (she had a waterbed!). We lost touch with each other when my family moved out of state, but we were reunited a few years ago on Facebook. She commissioned a quilt back in 2012 for her 4th child -- check it out here -- and reached out again earlier this year to commission a quilt for Baby #6.

I shared a few pattern options and she chose this one, Modern Crosses from Susan Beal's book Modern Log Cabin Quilting. It's the cover quilt and the reason I bought the book ages ago, so I was happy to have an excuse to finally make it.

Chrissie requested a color palette of cream, gold, tan, gray, and teal. I was able to use a lot of fabrics from my stash, which is a satisfying way to keep expenses down.

About the back... Even the most experienced quilters make mistakes, and I made a big one when I tried to outsmart the pattern with a tweak that I thought would make the piecing process for the front of the quilt more efficient. Well, I was wrong. I messed up a ton of the cross blocks for the front and lost a couple of days' worth of time and a lot of fabric that I didn't have more of. After I recovered, I decided to try to use those mistake blocks in the back, which I planned to piece with remnants anyway. That explains all the little L blocks, turned this way and that. I still have a stack of them, but they may be too much of a reminder of my folly to ever want to use them again.

The quilting is straight lines done with my walking foot -- 2 lines on one diagonal and 1 line on the other. I like the effect, which reminds me a little bit of plaid. It's enough quilting to add texture without distracting too much from the piecing. I put this quilt in the mail to Chrissie and found out the next day that baby Finn had arrived, so it was waiting when they got home from the hospital. I hope it is well-used and well-loved.


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