BMQ YouTube Series – Ep. 15: Virtual Trunk Show #6

BLACK LIVES MATTER — Please click on the link to find out what you can do to help end the oppression and killing of our fellow human beings.

The next quilt in my virtual trunk show is called Baby’s First Chevron. This quilt was gifted long before I shot this video, so I can only show photos. I made this quilt out of a collection of chevron blocks that were made by members of the Brooklyn Quilters Guild for one of our block of the month raffles. Because I wanted the finished quilt to be bigger than the number of blocks I received, I decided to use this as an opportunity to design a more contemporary-looking quilt with a lot of negative space. Thank goodness for my design wall!!

BMQ YouTube Series – Ep. 14: Virtual Trunk Show #5

BLACK LIVES MATTER — Please click on the link to find out what you can do to help end the oppression and killing of our fellow human beings.

This very special episode of my continuing virtual trunk show required a new location because my fifth quilt — Cabin Windows – Verona, PA ca. 1768 — was made as a housewarming gift for Shannon Reed and can normally be found draped on her bed. Similar to my previous quilt, Caged Cacophony, this quilt organically evolved from a very nebulous idea into what has become one of my favorite quilts I ever made. It was such a joy making this knowing that I would be giving it to my dear friend who would appreciate everything that went into it. Be sure to watch the video to hear about the process as well as to see some close-ups of the very dense free-motion quilting in all of the sashing.

BMQ YouTube Series – Ep. 13: Virtual Trunk Show #4

BLACK LIVES MATTER — Please click on the link to find out what you can do to help end the oppression and killing of our fellow human beings.

This fourth video takes us on a little tour of the first bed-sized quilt I ever made — Caged Cacophony. It kind of all happened without any real plan at the beginning. In fact, I didn’t even plan on making a bed-sized quilt when I first started working on it. I’m a big fan of flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to designing and making quilts, and this quilt epitomizes that philosophy. Watch the video to learn more!

BMQ YouTube Series – Ep. 12: Virtual Trunk Show #3

BLACK LIVES MATTER — Please click on the link to find out what you can do to help end the oppression and killing of our fellow human beings.

The third quilt in my virtual trunk show — Beyond the Machine — is very near and dear to my heart because it is the first quilt I designed myself. This quilt was made as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the Brooklyn Quilters Guild. I wanted to make an industrial-looking version of the New York Beauty pattern, so I created a template that came together as cogwheels. Watch the video to find out more!

My Christmas Tree Skirt

My Christmas tree is the most beautiful Christmas tree in the world. Many people disagree. They are wrong. I was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, which is the Glass City due to its history of glass manufacturing for the past several decades. Luckily, that means there are amazing glass artisans throughout the area, and the Toledo Museum of Art houses one of the most impressive glass collections in the world. Many years ago, my mom began gifting my siblings and me with a glass ornament each Christmas, so I have an AMAZING collection at this point and I am deeply in love with each and every one.

One of the most beautiful characteristics of glass ornaments is the way they interact with light. Because of this, I decided I wanted a tree that allowed the natural sunlight to fully shine through them during the day and the Christmas tree lights to cause the ornaments to twinkle at night, which meant I wasn’t interested in a traditional tree with pine needles that would block the light. After MUCH searching, I finally found the perfect tree — a simple birch-style tree with built-in lights at the tip of each branch. I truly love how my ornaments shine and sparkle hanging from this tree.

This is all a very long build-up to explain how I came about creating my Christmas tree skirt. One of the ornaments my mom gave us a few years ago was a fused-glass star, which I use as my tree topper. It’s super modern and colorful and awesome, and it inspired me to create an improv-pieced tree skirt using up some of the billions of scraps I’ve collected over the last few years of quilting.

Because I have a very non-traditional tree, I decided I wanted a very non-traditional skirt. I really love Justin Stafford’s Squareburst quilt, and I thought a square tree skirt would work really well with my tree. So I took some of the craft paper that’s been used as packaging and that I save for moments like this. I decided on the size and drew out the pattern. I then cut it all up to use as templates.

Then I had to go through all of my scraps and sort them by color. That was a process. Oy. However, it was necessary and made the piecing process so much easier. I wanted to use all of the colors that are on my tree, which is pretty much everything, so I decided on red, orange, yellow, chartreuse, green, blue, purple, and pink.

I set up my improv piecing station, consisting of my Martelli Round-About Cutting mat and Rotary Ergo cutter on one side of my sewing machine and my ironing board on the other. At that point, it was just a matter of sewing, pressing, and slicing, sewing, pressing, and slicing, sewing, pressing, and slicing, over and over again in each of the colorways until I had pieced enough scraps to fit with the triangular template.

The trickiest part of this tree skirt was binding the center hole. I have never sewn a curved binding before, so I needed to look up a few different YouTube tutorials to figure it out. Other than that, everything went together pretty quickly and easily, resulting in what I think is a pretty darn gorgeous Christmas tree skirt!

This will most likely be my last blog post of 2019 as I will be traveling to the Glass City in a couple of days to visit my family for the next couple of weeks. Happy holidays to all and have a very happy new year!!

Creating a Quilt: Part 7 – The Finishing Touches

All right, folks! If you’ve been following my “Creating a Quilt” series, you’ve seen my process from thinking of an idea all the way up through the quilting design. There are only a few details left, but I assure you they’re just as important as all of the rest!

First, I need to trim off all of the extra batting and backing and square up the whole quilt. When I square up a quilt, I try to find some element of the quilt that I can use to measure with that will get me an even trim around the whole quilt. In this case, I used the outer black border. I then place the largest square ruler I have in one of the corners of the quilt, line it up so I’m cutting off an even amount on both sides, and trim up the right-hand side of the ruler and then over the top. Then I use my long 24″ ruler to continue the cut all the way to the next corner.

I tend to switch between my long ruler and my square ruler, but you could just as easily use your long ruler all the way around once you’ve decided on the amount you want to trim. Ideally, I trim as little of the actual quilt top as possible while still making sure that no batting will be seen once I attach the binding.

Speaking of binding, that’s the last important design decision that must be made. Actually, before even deciding what kind of binding you want, you need to decide if you want to actually bind your quilt or use a facing instead. Binding a quilt is definitely the most common way to cover up the raw edges of a finished quilt, especially quilts that you want to snuggle under. A binding creates a lovely frame around your quilt top while making sure all of your raw edges are securely enclosed. Depending on what kind of fabric or print you choose for your binding, it can either blend in or really pop out.

I’ve also used facing for several of my quilts, though usually for quilts that are meant to hang on walls. When you face a quilt, you basically pull the raw edges over to the back and cover them with a different kind of binding that won’t be seen on the front. This gives the quilt a frameless look. I really love facing my quilts when I want the viewer to imagine my quilting designs continuing off of the quilt.

In the case of this quilt, I had already decided to add the black outer border as a solid frame, so I decided a simple black binding that blended in would be the perfect way to finish it. I generally machine sew the binding onto the front of the quilt and then hand stitch it to the back. I really love how it looks on both sides when I use that technique.

Once the last stitch of the binding has been sewn, I usually consider my quilt D-O-N-E. However, when a quilt is going to be displayed, it needs a couple more elements added to it — a hanging sleeve and a label. There are different ways to display your quilt, so if you’re entering your quilt in a show be sure to read the guidelines for how that particular show wants you to attach a hanging sleeve. I went ahead and used some more scraps from my quilt to construct this hanging sleeve. I like how it kind of blends into the back, though I don’t always care so much about that since it won’t normally be seen by anyone.

As for the labels, I like to make mine by hand. I include the name of the quilt, my name, my social media handle, my location, and the date the quilt was completed (I just use the month and year). Because I’m not selling my quilts at this point, I’m not too worried about how professional my labels look. I’m kind of digging the homemade vibe they have right now.

One thing you may remember from one of my earlier “Creating a Quilt” posts is that I was planning on calling this quilt “Dear Brooklyn,” as an homage to the Dear Jane quilt pattern. However, as I started actually making the quilt, I realized my quilt really looked nothing like a Dear Jane quilt and instead my blocks looked more like Polaroid snapshots. So one of the last design decisions I made was to change the name to “BK Snaps.”

And now my quilt is officially finished. Huzzah! I really loved the entire process of creating this quilt, and I’m so glad you came along on the journey with me. I’d love to hear about your own quilt-creating process or any sort of creative process you use whenever you’re crafting anything. Please leave comments or questions in the Comment section below, so we can all learn from each other and continue to thrive as a creating community! Happy crafting!!

Creating a Quilt Part 6: THE QUILTING!!!

The journey for this quilt is nearing its end, and in case you didn’t get it from the above title, this is probably my favorite part of the whole creating-a-quilt process. While many quilters find their joy piecing a beautiful top together (which I agree is super fun and fulfilling), I personally feel that coming up with and actually creating the quilting design is what elevates a beautiful quilt to a spectacular quilt.

When I’m creating a quilt, I start thinking about how I’m going to actually quilt it from the very beginning of the process, but I don’t really know what I’m going to do until I’ve completed piecing the top. Then I just stare at the top and think about how I want to quilt it sometimes for days. I’m one of those people who have to let things marinate in my brain for a while before I figure out what to do.

For this quilt, I decided pretty early on that I didn’t want the quilting design to distract from the 20 “snapshot” blocks, and instead I wanted the quilting to make them pop even more. To me, that means the quilting in the sashing needed to be an overall consistent pattern that could somewhat fade into the background. Because my blocks are all based on urban visuals of Brooklyn, I thought a brick wall quilting design would be perfect. The more I thought about it, the more I really liked the idea of making my blocks look like they are displayed on an exposed brick wall, which is a pretty desirable feature in many Brooklyn apartments.

Then I had to decide how I was going to quilt each of the blocks. They definitely needed some quilting just from a practical standpoint because I didn’t want them to be completely puffy, and the quilting would flatten them down a bit.

When you’re coming up with your own quilting designs, be sure to think about how you’re actually going to use the quilt and whether or not you will be washing it regularly. If your quilt is going to be regularly washed, you will want to make sure that it is quilted all over so that the batting inside the quilt doesn’t start to distort in between the top and back of the quilt. However, if you are just hanging the quilt on a wall and don’t plan on washing it, you can basically do whatever you want with the quilting.

Back to this quilt, I had to decide if I wanted to quilt each block to help the viewer figure out some of the more abstract blocks or if I wanted to keep it as basic as possible so that they were still very abstract. I decided on the latter. So I only quilted in what I considered to be the background of each block, allowing the foreground to slightly pop out.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know that I am obsessed with free-motion quilting (FMQ), and that’s how I generally quilt all of my quilts even if I have a design that’s all straight lines such as the brick wall motif I’m using in the sashing of this quilt. I’ve tried using rulers, and I don’t like them. I’ve tried using a walking foot, which I still use for some of my quilts, though quite rarely, but ultimately I really prefer the freedom that FMQ gives me. I also really dig how my quilting designs end up looking like a doodle or drawing, which you can really see on the back of this quilt. As much as I am truly in awe of all of the free-motion quilters out there who do phenomenal work with rulers to create geometrically perfect quilt designs, my personal style is a little more free hand.

Now that the quilting is all finished, it’s time to square it up, bind it, and attach the hanging sleeve and label. I’ll cover all of that in my final post for this “Creating a Quilt” series. I’d love to hear about your own preferences for quilting designs. Do you quilt your own quilts, or do you always send them out to a professional? Do you ever think about how quilting can enhance the overall design of your quilt top? Share your stories with all of us, and let’s all grow together as craftspeople and artists! Happy Crafting!!!

Quilting 201: Preparing for FMQ

If you’ve read some of my past posts you already know how much I love free-motion quilting (FMQ). I find it not only visually stimulating but also completely freeing when I sit down at my sewing machine to finally stitch all of the layers of my quilt together. I pretty much FMQ all of my quilts these days with rare exceptions, and I love whenever I have the opportunity to FMQ a mini quilt because I’m able to quilt more meticulous designs without taking hours to finish like it would take on a larger quilt.

Continuing the trend that the co-presidents began in 2018, the Brooklyn Quilters Guild will have a President’s Challenge for our upcoming biennial quilt show in March of 2020. The prompt is a quote by Maya Angelou.

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

The quilts must measure 36″ x 36″ and incorporate six to seven of the colors of the rainbow in some way. Otherwise, they can be any style, pattern, etc. I decided to take this as an opportunity to go a little crazy with my FMQ by creating a quilt top that is mostly negative space which can be brimming with free-motion quilting.

The pieced portion of the quilt is quite small, so this is almost a whole-cloth quilt. Some of the quilters I follow suggest using a double layer of batting for whole-cloth quilts or any quilt where you want the quilting design to really pop. The general suggestion is a layer of 80/20 cotton batting and a layer of wool batting, so I’m going to give it a shot.

Once I pin baste my quilt sandwich, I start thinking about the thread color(s) I want to use. I’ve decided to extend the pieced design onto the negative space of the quilt, so I’ve picked thread colors that match each of the pieced stripes.

Before I start quilting any project, I like to plan out my quilting designs. I get out my sketchbook and start doodling. Not only does this help me clarify some ideas before putting thread to fabric, but it also starts getting those designs into my muscle memory.

Once I’m ready to actually start quilting, I set my machine up by installing my FMQ presser foot and bobbin case, lowering the feed dogs of my sewing machine, and placing a Supreme Slider mat over my needle plate. I want as little friction as possible when I’m sliding my quilt under the needle, and the Supreme Slider really helps me with that.

I also always make a tiny quilt sandwich out of scraps of my actual quilt to test the tension before I ever start quilting on the real one. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. ALWAYS TEST YOUR TENSION BEFORE STARTING ON YOUR REAL PROJECT!!!

And now I’m ready to start quilting. I can’t wait to see how this turns out! I’d love to hear any pointers you have to share when it comes to FMQ prep. Add them in the Comments section below so we can all benefit from each other’s experience. Happy crafting!!

Creating a Quilt: Part 5 – Backing and Basting a Quilt

To piece a backing or not to piece a backing? Many people don’t realize that Shakespeare’s original idea for Hamlet was about a young quilter being driven mad by the various design decisions one must make during the quilting process, but the queen ordered him to go in a different direction. Alas. But seriously, this is one of the many questions we must ask ourselves as we’re getting ready to put together our quilt sandwich.

I am always very impressed with the Instagram posts I see of quilts with beautifully pieced backings, while at the same time thinking, “That is an awful lot of work for something that will rarely be seen.” By the time I’ve put together the quilt top, I generally want to take as little time as possible putting everything together because I really want to get to the quilting. That means I usually opt for a simple whole cloth backing.

However, for this particular quilt, I had a bit of a dilemma. By the time I had finished piecing my quilt top, I still had a good amount of yardage left over of the pear fabric. I thought it would be fun to use that for the backing, so I went ahead and pinned my completed quilt top to my design wall and taped an outline around it so I could make sure I had enough fabric to use as the backing.

Surprise, surprise — it wasn’t quite enough fabric, which meant I either had to go out and buy more, or I could take my scraps and piece together a back. I opted for the fiscally responsible choice. My first idea was to make a super scrappy section of the backing, which would have been totally fun but was going to take way more time than I wanted to spend on it. Then I realized I had a nice long strip of the pear fabric that could be used as the centerpiece. I went ahead and surrounded that by some long strips of the gray and black I had left over, and — voilĂ ! — I suddenly had a very cool-looking, contemporary quilt back to complement my very cool-looking, contemporary quilt top (I mean, very cool looking in my opinion at least).

Once the backing was complete, it was time to make the quilt sandwich. Just as a reminder, a quilt generally consists of the top and the backing with the batting in between. Because this quilt wasn’t terribly large, I was able to clear out a space on my apartment floor and tape the backing down. I put a safety pin in the very middle of the backing so that I could line up the batting and quilt top, ensuring everything was perfectly centered.

You may also notice that my batting looks a little wonky. That’s because I am a firm believer in using every scrap of batting I have before opening a new package. That means using the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine and “Frankenstein-ing” all my batting scraps together.

Once everything was laid out, I pin basted all three layers together. Pin basting is how I originally learned to baste, and it’s really my preferred method at this point. I am very reticent to use any sort of adhesive with any part of my quilting process, so I plan on sticking with pin basting until my body forces me to pick another way to keep my quilt sandwich together. By the way, for those of you who might not know, basting a quilt sandwich is how you keep all three layers together during the quilting process. If you didn’t baste the layers together, they would shift all over the place while you’re quilting them, and your end result would be quite a mess.

Now that everything is pin basted together, it’s time to start thinking about the overall quilting design, but I will save those ponderings for a later date. Going back to the original question at the top of this post, how do you feel about pieced backings? If you do piece your backings, is it for artistic reasons or is it because you don’t want to waste any fabric? I’d love to hear the stories about your own process, so please share them with all of us in the Comments section below! Happy crafting!

Creating a Quilt: Part 4 – Construction and Layout of Quilt Top

Come up with an idea – check! Make some prototypes and confirm that my idea is a good one – check! Decide on the color scheme – check! Now it’s time to start putting it all together! Yay!! While most of the steps of creating a quilt are exciting, this is where I really start to have fun. This is also the point in the process where I might deviate a little from some other makers because I prefer to fly by the seat of my pants a bit more than is comfortable for many people.

This particular quilt is very much improv based. The only parameters I set for myself were the finished size of each block and the color scheme. I did make prototype blocks for several of my designs, but I was getting very bored with that so I decided it was time to start in with the real fabric and just see what happens. I always get way more excited when I work with my real fabric and colors knowing that I’m actually creating the final quilt.

I started with the blocks I had already experimented with when I was making prototypes. And even though I had already worked on the designs in the prototype phase, some of my blocks still did not work the way I wanted, so that meant redesigning or scrapping the idea all together.

I did not have a set number of blocks in mind when I started thinking about putting this quilt together, but I did know I wanted it to be a wall hanging. And as someone who lives in an apartment with relatively small walls, that meant the quilt wasn’t going to be too big. As I made more and more blocks, I realized that my final number of blocks was most likely going to be 20. Once I had that number in mind, I suddenly felt like this whole thing was much more achievable.

After creating my 20 blocks, it was time to slap them up on the design wall and decide on the overall quilt layout. Because I had framed each of the blocks in the pear fabric, I already knew I wanted to have sashing in between all of the blocks to keep the bright pear color from overwhelming the overall quilt. (For those who don’t know what sashing is, think of it as the inner borders of a quilt that surround each block.) Once all of the blocks were on the design wall, I was able to rearrange them into an order that felt balanced and also start thinking about how wide I wanted the sashing to be in between each block.

Then I needed to decide what color I wanted to use for the sashing. I pretty quickly decided gray was the way to go, but I was starting to think the pear borders around each block were too strong. Did the blocks need another border of black around them? Then I remembered seeing a bunch of Instagram posts of quilt blocks with a shadow effect that I thought was super cool, and I decided that was going to work really well with this particular quilt.

Once I made those design decisions, I started cutting and piecing everything together. After I had pieced all of the blocks together with sashing, I decided the outer border needed to be a bit thicker and that I wanted a second border to frame the whole thing. But should I add another border of pear? I love the color so much, so maybe I should add just a bit more? Ultimately, I decided there was more than enough pear already, so I committed to a simple black border around the entire quilt. I felt like that was the best design choice to complete the overall graphic look I was trying to achieve.

The next steps will be deciding on my backing and making the quilt sandwich, so stay tuned for my next post about this quilt. I’d love to hear about your creation process. Do you like to fly by the seat of your pants? Or do you prefer having a pretty set design plan in mind before putting everything together? Please share your stories in the Comments section below so we can all learn from each other! Happy crafting!!