Wednesday 19 July 2017

Fussy Cut Sampler - Block 30

Late last year, my friend Elisabeth contacted me to ask if I'd like to participate in a blog hop for her yet-to-be-released book, The Fussy Cut Sampler, cowritten with her friend Nichole. I love a good bit of fussy cutting, so I knew it was something I'd love to participate in - and I'm so glad I did. This book is absolutely brilliant! It goes way beyond just fussy cutting a square as a focal point in a quilt block - Elisabeth and Nichole talk in detail about how to use all sorts of different prints in quilt block. 

The Fussy Cut Sampler has been cleverly written, so that each chapter deals with a different type of fabric (ie stripes, prints with directionality, tossed prints etc) and how to best features these prints in the blocks, so that even simple blocks look amazing and different. Each chapter includes 4 different quilt blocks, with a total of 48 block tutorials in the book. There is a wealth of knowledge shared in here by Elisabeth and Nichole

The block I'm sharing with you today is from Chapter 8 - Prints with Directionality. Directional prints can be quite difficult to use in quilt blocks, as they can be trickier to cut and make any piecing errors quite obvious. This chapter appealed to the obsessive aspects of my personality - precise cutting and piecing are two things I really, really enjoy doing, and they are critical when dealing with directional prints. Elisabeth and Nichole share loads of tips for dealing with directional prints, as either a focal or secondary (and even background) fabric. 

It took me a while to decide on what fabrics to use for this block - and it actually ended up being a group I'd put together for one of my yet-to-be-made Ice Cream Soda blocks (another great quilt for  fussy cutting directional prints). I decided to use a couple of Tula Pink prints, which are always fun to fussy cut, along with one of my favorite prints from Jenean Morrison. All three prints I chose are directional - and I've used them as both a focal print (the Tula tiger in the centre), and also as secondary fabrics (for the two groups of triangles surrounding the centre square). 

I was very careful when I cut my squares for the the half square triangle units, and again when sewing them with the background fabric, so that the print runs across the block. It took a bit of thought when trimming them to size too - I had to make sure the ochre part of the print was trimmed at about the same point for each HST. I think it was worth fussy cutting to this level - although if I made this block again, I would choose to have more of the ochre part of the print visible in the block. 

There is a great quilt along happening for The Fussy Cut Sampler at the moment, with some fabulous prizes to be won along the way. If you check out #thefussycutsampler and #thefussycutsamplerqal on Instagram, there is loads of inspiration to be found! 

I hope you're all having a great week! I'll be back soon (I hope!) with the beginnings of a few new projects :o). 

xx Jess  

Friday 14 July 2017

Symphony Quilt

Today I'm excited to share a quilt I put together last month - the latest free pattern release as part of AGF Stitched, a collaboration between Art Gallery Fabrics and Fat Quarter Shop.

This was a really fast and fun quilt top put together - the blocks are big so it grows super fast. Plus, there are very few seams to match, so it's a very low stress quilt to make. I'd actually intended on only making one block and making it into a cushion, but I enjoyed making the first one so much I decided to make the whole quilt. I think this one will actually be for me to snuggle under on the sofa. And winter has hit pretty hard the last couple of weeks, so it would be nice to finish quilting it sooner rather than later ;o).

Quite a few of the fabrics I used are from Nightfall by Maureen Cracknell, a gorgeous collection that features the owls I've fussy cut for the centre of the blocks. I also used the owl print on the back - so it's virtually a two-sided quilt. The low volume Pandalicious print I used for the background was so fun to use - I ended up deciding to cut the fabric so the print runs in the same direction across the whole quilt. It's only noticeable close up, but I think it would've irked me too much to not do it ;o).

I have started quilting this one (which is why the pictures all feature basting pins), and I'm having fun with it. So far I've only done a bit of the centre block, and I've been playing with a few different weights of Aurifil thread. The ochre/yellow section is quilted with 28wt Aurifil - and I absolutely love the texture these heavier weight threads give it. I'm really looking forward to finishing this one off once I've gotten a couple of deadlines sorted out!

I really wanted to mention an awesome giveaway Fat Quarter Shop is running at the moment - a chance to win a Hello Lovely” Cotton + Steel B350SE sewing machine to give away, MSRP $1,899. Head over to the Jolly Jabber for all the details on how to enter - and it is open internationally!

Have a great weekend, I'm hoping to be back soon with the beginnings of a couple of new quilts!

xx Jess

Friday 7 July 2017

Wild Goose Chase

I'm sharing a quick little block with you today, one I put together earlier this week. This is a newly released pattern from Fat Quarter Shop, called Wild Goose Chase. 

The blocks in this quilt have been cleverly designed to incorporate Triangles on a Roll for making the flying geese units, and they make it so easy to put together. 

Although I've only had a chance to make one block, these colours are making me think a lovely summery quilt might be nice in the midst of winter. Apologies for a very brief blog post today - I've been in bed with an awful cold most of this week, and my head is still full of cotton wool! 

xx Jess

Friday 23 June 2017

Snail Trail {a finished quilt}

I'm really pleased to be sharing a finished quilt with you today! This quilt is made using a newly released pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop. 'Snail Trail' is part of a new Classic and Vintage series of pattern FQS are releasing, and I chose to make the Crib Size version. The Snail Trail block is one of my very favorite quilt blocks (and I have made at least four quilts using this block in the past), it gives such great movement to quilts.

I used a variety of Carolyn Friedlander fabrics for this quilt, mostly from her recently released Friedlander Fabric collection, but also a few older prints (one is from her very first Architextures collection!) In the photo below, you can see the background is actually a grey on white print - I love using Carolyn's fabrics as backgrounds for a bit of subtle texture. I made one small change to the pattern - I decided to piece the second border rather than using a single fabric.

I love using a double layer of batting for small quilts (I love the added texture it gives to quilting), and since this one is only around 40" square, I jumped at the chance to go double. I chose some pretty simple free motion quilting designs for this quilt - pebbles and straight lines, with a free motion quilted 1/2" grid in the background. I love how the pebbles pop against the grid! All the quilting is done in Aurifil 40wt threads. I chose white (2021) for the entire background, and then used a bright orange over the orange fabrics, and a variegated blue for the blues. 

I realise I've been a bit quiet around the blog lately - not for lack of sewing, just lack of time for writing blog posts. So I'm hoping to be back in the next week or so to share some of what I've been up to!

xx Jess

Thursday 25 May 2017

Ice Cream Soda Quilt {Month 3}

Another month, another lot of Ice Cream Soda quilt blossoms! I'm still surprised that I'm 'keeping up' with this block of the month (created by Jodi at Tales of Cloth) - although I'm not making a conscious effort to get all my blossoms made before the next lot of papers arrive, it has worked out that way so far. Having said that, I've doubled my order for month four (I have a grand plan I'll talk about later in this post), and I'm pretty certain I won't get 16 done this month with everything else I have going on.... but we will see! This is how my blocks are looking at the moment (minus one - I need to get a good group photo!) Not totally balanced colour-wise, but I have lots of time to work on that little problem. 

I've been using Aurifil 80wt for pretty much all of my piecing for these blossoms. I think I've mentioned it before, but it is SUCH a revelation for hand piecing. I'm finding if I use an arm-length strand (not longer), it's stitching beautifully without breaking (even though I do put a fair bit of tension on my stitches). And the stitches are virtually invisible. I purchased the Essential Aurifil Applique set from Fat Quarter Shop earlier this year, and I'm finding this set of neutrals are meeting all my needs, even though I'm using a huge variety of colours and values in this quilt.

I'm continuing with the fussy cut animal theme, although I am starting to make a few blocks that are just fussy cut (without the animal cute factor). I'm not sure about this one yet - but in among all the others, it works so I'm pretty sure it will make it into the final quilt.

These two blocks were a bit of an experiement - I used the same Tula Pink print for the middle round, and varied the outer and inner prints. I'm amazed how different they look - and it's made me realise I'll easily be able to repeat fabrics in this quilt without it looking like I have.

I've been having a lot of fun using this radiating stripe print from Heather Bailey's True Colours collection. I love the movement it gives, and how different it looks depending on where it's placed in the blossoms.

This month, I'm going to make a set of low contrast/low volume blossoms with the idea that my quilt might 'fade out' around the edges. We will see how it goes with my month 4 update in a few weeks ;o).

xx Jess

Monday 8 May 2017

Peppermint Bark {a finished quilt}

April was a pretty busy month for me - my son turned 10, we had school holidays for a few weeks, plus throw in Easter, work and me learning how to use a longarm. Let's just say it was a full month! Nevertheless I managed to finish a few small projects, and I'm excited to be able to share one of these with you today. This is my version of the Peppermint Bark quilt, a brand new quilt pattern by It's Sew Emma for Fat Quarter Shop. 

I made the crib-sized version of this quilt - and although I don't have any baby girls to give it to, it's the perfect playmat for my daughter to use when she's playing with her Sylvanian toys. I used a few prints by Sarah Jane I've been hoarding for ages (along with a Joel Dewberry herringbone print), and chose a grey solid for the background. I deliberately chose a solid, as I knew I wanted to have some fun with the quilting on this one, and solids are awesome for showing up complex free motion quilting. It's a great pattern for small and medium scale prints - and these blocks sew together really fast.

I used two layers of wool batting for this quilt, which is why there's that awesome puff in the unquilted areas. I love using two layers on small quilts, especially if the intention is that they're going to be used on the floor. Not only does it mean the quilting shows up wonderfully, it also means it's super comfy for kids to sit on while they're playing. All the quilting is done in my favorite 50wt Aurifil thread - Dove (2600). It has blended flawlessly into the grey solid, and just leaves all that lovely texture.

The back of this is a border print by Sarah Jane, so it's pretty much a double sided quilt. I'm quite certain my daughter will end up using this side for her games (she has been asking for a playmat with water and grass on it for some time - I think this fits the bill pretty well!)

I'll be back later this week with some very exciting news - and I'll have another finish to share next week (I just need to get the binding on it!).

xx Jess

Monday 24 April 2017

Ice Cream Soda Quilt - Month 2

Another month, another set of eight Ice Cream Soda Quilt blossoms. And I am still absolutely loving this project! And exciting news for those of you who may have missed the sign ups back in February - Jodi has announced that she'll be opening up another round of sign ups in May, so if you're keen to join in on the fun, be sure to follow her over on Instagram. 

I'm finding it really helpful to take pictures of all these blossoms together every so often, to get a grip on what colours I'm lacking and to check that it is going to work overall. I love the fact that it is going to be super scrappy and look really unplanned, even though I'm carefully selecting and fussy cutting all the fabrics for each blossom. I need to concentrate on using more pinks, reds and purples this month, especially in the outer rings, to try to make it a bit more balanced. 

Like last month, I'm still using lots of my favorite designers - Lizzy House, Tula Pink, Heather Ross and Anna Maria Horner are all making frequent appearances.

One of my favorite finds for this project has been Heather Bailey's True Colours collection. I bought a bundle of these from the Fat Quarter Shop (in one of their flash sales, so it was something like 50% off - bargain!), and they are so perfect for fussy cutting. The centre of this blossom (one of my personal favorites) features one of these prints in the centre. I find sometimes geometric prints are difficult to fussy cut, as they aren't always symmetrical. Not a problem with these, and I can see myself using them in lots of my blossoms.

No colour is being ignored for this quilt - I'm even including brown (a totally underrated colour in my opinion!) I am SO in love with these hedgehogs wandering around the edge of this blossom!

I wasn't sure about the centre of this one initially (deliberately cut so that the arrows are offset from each other), but it's really grown on me and I have decided I love it.

I haven't forgotten about my promises of some English Paper Piecing tutorials either - between my middle child turning 10, Easter, school holidays, some secret sewing (plus work and life in general) I just haven't had time. But once school is back I plan to get them sorted!

I have some other exciting news too. I've been practicing like mad quilting pantographs on a long arm at one of my local quilt shops, ready to offer customer quilting. So I'm extremely excited to announce that I'm now available to do edge to edge quilting for customers! I'll share more details about that really soon!!

xx Jess

Wednesday 19 April 2017

A wee bit of FMQ {Suzy Q Panel for BERNINA Australia}

Back in March, BERNINA Australia contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in quilting a small panel to be part of a display in their booth at the Australasian Quilt Convention (AQC) this year. Of course I said yes (I mean, what an honour!), and had a LOT of fun quilting it. A group of textile artists and quilters from around Australia have been busy working their magic on these panels, and I really wish I could make it to AQC this year to see them all hanging together - it will be a fabulous display, and it will be so interesting to see how people approach it. If any of my readers are going to AQC this year, I would be forever in your debt if you could snap a few pictures of the display for me, so I can see what they all look like together!

It took me a few weeks to decide how I wanted to approach the quilting on this. The panel measures about 45cm x 75cm, and features a girl's face with flowers in her hair and a really cool geometric hexagon-type design. I knew I wanted to play around with geometric quilting in and around the hexagon, but I was a bit stumped as to what to do around the face. In the end, I decided to roughly outline quilt the flowers and leaves and facial features, and then surround the face with swirls. I haven't done any FMQ since November last year, so it was really lovely to spend a few hours quilting this up last week.

I used Aurifil 40wt (2021) for the swirls and outline quilting. It blends amazingly well into the background fabric, and even for the outline quilting. I probably could have used a darker thread for the facial features, but I love that the white thread has given her face definition without distracting from the printing on the panel. It also meant I could be a bit more 'sketchy' with my quilting (and it wouldn't be too obvious if I didn't quite quilt right on the printed lines), whereas using a darker (ie charcoal) thread would have required far more precision and would risk looking pretty dodgy if I missed those lines!

The geometric quilting is all free motion quilted using Aurifil 40wt in a variegated orange/yellow (4658). I love using variegated threads, and I particularly love how this one plays with the soft, warm colours in the panel. I love doing this kind of random geometric straight line FMQ - it's fast and so much fun to do! Plus it gives such a great texture, and looks pretty fabulous alongside curvy quilting such as swirls or pebbles. 

 If you're lucky enough to be going to AQC over the next four days, please go say hi to my little quilt - and check out what is sure to be a fabulous display from talented quilters all over Australia! If you are on Instagram and manage to get a photo, please tag me (@ElvenGardenQuilts) so I can check it out :o).

xx Jess

Saturday 15 April 2017

Meet the Hosts - Ella from Throw a Wench in the Works

Today it's time to meet another one of the Finish A Long 2017 hosts. This month I'm delighted to introduce Ella, who blogs at Throw a Wench in the Works. I've known Ella online for a long time, and she was actually my swap partner for the Sailors Mouth Swap back in 2012 when I made her my Sweary Tula quilt. I hope you enjoy learning all about Ella! 

Hi, I'm Ella, here at throwawenchintheworks. *waves hello* Welcome to a Meet the Maker Finish-A-Long installment, featuring me!

If you're new to the my blog, let me tell you a bit about me. I'm a teacher in Atlanta. (Still trying to wrap my head around the recent bridge collapse on I-85.) I've moved around a lot in my life, but I think Atlanta is home now. (I do miss the fall in Upstate NY, but I don't miss the winters.) I love Atlanta. It's extremely diverse. I love the blend of big city and neighborhoods. I love The Center for Puppetry Arts (and its huge Henson collection).


I love the Botanical Gardens.


I LOVE Dragoncon!


I live here with my husband (commonly referred to by me as The Pirate...because Pirates are awesome), a smooshy senior cocker spaniel (who has ruined me for all other dogs and who I need to clone into an army of lovey dogs), and a slightly evil tuxedo kitty (think Brain from "Pinky and the Brain").

Obligatory animal pictures:
IMG_0282      IMG_0298

(Sorry, the tongue is a bit disturbing, but I still find her forcible grooming, usually limited to his floofy hair, HILARIOUS.)

I'm new to hosting the Finish-a-Long, but I've been a long time participant (and long time overachieving list maker). I started blogging back in 2011. A bit of trivia about my blog name. I'm also a bellydancer (although my knee issue has me a bit sidelined right now), hence the wench part. I tend to throw myself into things whole-heartedly, but I'm also a, um, the wench in the works. I didn't think about how often folks would read it as "wrench" and have trouble finding my blog. Ah well.

Ironically, I used to teach photography and now most of my pictures tend to be taken in my poorly lit living room at odd hours of the night. I *can* take better pictures; I *should* take better pictures; I'm just mostly working on things in the night-time. I apologize for that.

I started blogging the summer I decided to officially learn how to quilt. I've been sewing and knitting since I was little. (My mom taught me how to sew, by hand and by machine. My aunt taught me to knit when I was in third grade.) I made a quilt for my dorm room in college, but I don't count it as a quilt that was completely mine because my mom hand tied it. It didn't survive many washings.

I don't actually have most of my first quilts any more from back in 2011.
When I started sewing again back in 2011, after many years of hiatus, I was initially obsessed with disappearing nine patches. I gave most of them away. The one below went to a friend going through chemo.
batik quilt

In my first foray into non disappearing 9 patch quilts, I made a HORRIBLE quilt. I used crappy fabric that did NOT stand up to being washed, which was probably also a product of my seams being totally inconsistent. Ahem, I was in a horrible Hawaiian shirt theme for the quilts.

Rockin Robin completed top!

It was part of a Row Robin that was launched online. I loved the community that I found there. Folks were supportive and kind. That led to swaps and lots of groups on Flickr. (Remember when Flickr was awesome? *Sigh.*) I did a ton of block swaps, even ran the 4x6 for a while. I admit, I have not been blogging as much as I did in the past. Now, I tend to spend time over on Instagram, but the online community is still HUGELY important to me.

I felt like, as I had with the bellydance community, I found a "tribe" to which I belonged.  I had space to learn, people were so generous with their knowledge, and I could let my geek flag fly.  I got to meet folks in real life from my first do.good.stitches group visiting Atlanta, Sewing Summit in Salt Lake City, Sewtopia here in Atlanta, Sisters in Oregon, and many years of The Stash Bash.  I'm kind of a spazz and feel incredibly awkward in big social groups.  Going to new places feels like a big deal.  (If you ever meet me, this won't necessarily feel true.  I TALK A LOT.  I TALK MORE when I'm nervous.)  I feel lucky to have met so many awesome, amazing women who remain important to me.  

Charity is still a fundamental part of my sewing.  I run the Serenity Circle as part of do.good.stitches.  My circle makes quilts for hospice.  I do this to honor my grandmother.  She was a maker her whole life, making dresses for mission work, mittens in the winter, newborn items for hospitals.  When she died, I saw how much the crochet blanket a stranger made impacted my mother.  I'd love to do that for someone I will never meet with my quilts, to give some comfort in a really difficult time.  I try to make as many as I can each year.  

I've started doing a kindness project this year.  I was feeling overwhelmed by how mean the world was seeming.  I was constantly stressed.  Sewing helped me deal with that.  So far, I made over 40 infinity scarves to give to women I know to let them know they are amazing and loved and seen.  My next project is pincushions.  This lets me do at least something small to impact others, to spread a bit of love.

I've grown a lot as a quilter in the last 7 years.  I still have a long way to go.  (I still mostly straight-line.  FMQ is still my nemesis.)  I'm still addicted to QALs.  I seem to have to have AT LEAST a dozen things spinning at a time.  I can't seem to walk away from a challenge.  I have only put 2 quilts in shows (the poppy below and the hexy garden).  I'm trying to get braver about that.  Quilting is still my least favorite part.  I want to learn how to use a long arm this year.  Goals!

Here are some of my favorite finishes:

batik challengeBubbles

quilt show!Zelda quilt

Death Star

I have another mahoosive finish-a-long list for Quarter 2 (I'm a card carrying member of Archie the Wonder Dog's #ridiculouslylongFAList)!  

Here are a couple of WIPs that I will hopefully complete this quarter:

sugar skull topViolet Craft lion

I'm looking forward to cheerleading this year. Y'all are amazing!  Thank you to the phenomenal women of the Finish-A-Long for letting me join in the fun.