Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guess what I made?

WhooHoo!  Look what I found in the scrap basket!  This 4" x 6" scrap got me to thinking.  What if I pulled some colors to go with this and started playing?

First I found these purples and blues.  Just perfect.

Then these.  There are some end cuts from the Bali pops and some hand died turquoise.

More extras from another border.  I just love this fabric.

Wow!  Orange!  This will be perfect!

These are going to make a really cool block.  What should I do first?  Where should I start.  I know, what about flying geese?

I have wanted to try my hand at curved flying geese for a while.  I grabbed some paper and drew some curved lines.  Then I made random cross lines and connected them for a paper piecing foundation.  I found some left-over hand dyed green for sky and started grabbing scraps and sewing.

Then I needed to make some fabric to sew the geese into.  I love this part.  All the colors and patterns are so fun.  Finding places where each piece fits is a challenge.  This is at the stage where I needed to start adding pieces for size.  I wanted this to be 12" x 12".

Voila!  I am thinking the orange strip is calling for some hand embroidery.  I am not sure what it will be yet, but it will come to me.  It is so much fun to go back and forth between more traditional block styles and this more abstract style.
Joyous quilting, everyone.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The quality of Cotton

Over at Chasing Cotton, Quilting 101 classes have started.  Today's lesson is about fabric.  Rebecca has some good information to share.  I decided I wanted to add a bit about cotton quality and the difference between big box cotton and quilt shop cotton.  I will share some great links at the end of my post so you can go check out my sources for yourself.
I work exclusively with cotton right now.  I use 100% cotton fabric and thread.  I simply decided I don't want to use any more petroleum products than I already do, and polyester is a petroleum.  I love the feel of silk and linen, but they are pretty pricey right now, so I will stick with cotton for a while.  That being said, I am getting more picky about what cotton I use.
I, like most of you, am on a budget, and use my stash as much as possible.  However, I don't have a large stash and it doesn't include much in the way of yardage.  This means I have to purchase fabric now and then for borders, backs, and bindings.  When I first started quilting, I was fine with big box fabric.  By big box, I mean the chain fabric stores like JoAnn Fabrics.  After a short time, I discovered that there is a reason their fabric is less expensive.  It is all about quality.

Quality fabric is more expensive because it is made better.  Cotton fabric is woven in what are called greige (pronounced gray) lengths.  This the the raw fabric before dying and coating.  With quality fabrics, the thread count is greater than 60 x 60 threads per square inch.  If you purchase bed sheets, you will always see higher thread counts on more expensive sheets.  The cotton fibers are also different on quality fabric.  The diameter of the fiber is larger and they are longer.  Egyptian cotton is known for its long, strong fibers.  You can feel the difference when you run your hands over the fabric.  With cotton flannels, this difference is even greater.
The other important difference is in the dying process.  Higher quality fabric patterns are made using more screens and colors.  While the colors might look the same on big box fabric, they are made with fewer passes and are more subject to fading.  One of the things I have noticed between batiks from big box stores and those from quilt stores is that the colors seem to be muddier at big box stores. 

I don't mean to put down the big box fabric completely.  There is a place to use these fabrics on items you don't expect to last a long time.  Quilts and clothes for growing children are well loved and used, so using expensive fabric for something that will probably get glue or glitter paint on it seems like a bad idea.  On the other hand, if you are making a quilt that you hope will be loved and admired for generations, it is advisable to choose that higher quality fabric. 

To learn more about fabric quality for the quilter, here are a few links: for fabric identification tips. for information about cotton, including definitions of the different kinds of cotton available. for quality information.  The last letter on the page has very good information.
Quilting For the Rest of Us is an informative podcast about fabric quality and the difference between quilt shop fabric and big box fabric.
Cat's Quilt Chat for a well written piece about today's topic.

Joyful quilting, everyone.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Playing with fabric, and a few favorite blogs

Sometimes, I spend a long time in the studio, but have nothing new to show because I spent time playing with fabric and looking through mags and books for new patterns.  This happened to me yesterday and today.  Yesterday, I did sew a border on a table runner, but I don't want to post it until it is finished.  I also looked at several pattern books and found one I wanted to make with the Bali Pops (Zinfandel) I picked up at Sisters in Chehalis.  I found one in Kim Brackett's Scrap Basket Surprise. I found a perfect background fabric in the box from Carol Doak.  I cut all the rectangles (576) and squares (288), then I marked my diagonal lines on the squares.  This takes a bunch of time, and it is very boring, but I know that if I don't do it, I will be very sorry.  By the time I finished, I decided to call it a day in the studio.
Today, I looked at more pattern books.  I am in charge of the 2012 Raffle Quilt for my guild, and I need to find a couple of patterns to submit to the board for approval.  I am also the president of the guild this year, so I essentially have two votes one this:  One to select a few favorites, and one to vote for my really favorite.  That would be so much easier if I didn't fall in love with half the quilts I see.  The guild wants to do a more traditional quilt for 2012, but using modern fabrics.  I saw one online that I think might work.  I just have to find it again.  And that brings me to my next topic.
I love quilt blogs.  I spend some time each morning and evening reading about what other quilters are doing.  I am often inspired to head into the studio overflowing with ideas.  I would like to share some of what I found this week.  First, I love this small quilt tutorial over at Don't Call Me Betsy.  This is a very cute small bookshelf quilt where she uses selvedges on the "spines" of the books.  I have already started a small pile of selvedges so I can make one of the gems.
I also enjoy the daily posts over at Stash Manicure.  Each weekday, there are guest posters who bring a real variety of ideas, some tutorials, some give-aways, and general fun to the blog. Today's post has a fun tutorial about making a cathedral window pillow using machine sewing.  Each month, the blog host, Madame Samm, designs a new banner using quilts submitted for consideration by regular readers.  It is always fun to see what she picks.
I couldn't do a post about blogs without mentioning Bumble Beans.  This is the main blog of Victoria Findley Wolf.  She is also the host of 15 minutes play.  Victoria has a fabulous eye for color, and she is a wonderful inspiration for quilting outside the box.  When I came back to quilting after way too many years,  I was sure I would be a very traditional quilter.  After stumbling on 15 minutes play, and after a year creating abstract collages, I have embraced this style of creating quilts as well.  Both of these sites are great fun, filled with beautiful eye candy.
There are many more wonderful blogs out there, but I will wait for another post to share a few more.  In the meantime, you can see who I am following by checking my blog roll.
Joyful quilting everyone.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Two new borders

After seeing the beginning of this quilt on the design wall, Tom pulled one of his Hawaiian shirts and gave it to me to use.  I cut it up, then cut the strips into units to sew together for this border.  The stylized drawings and the white flowers are all from the same shirt.  The colors go perfectly with the fabric in the original piece.  With this border, the project began taking on a definite island trend.

I pulled out a larger piece of the same anthurium fabric I used in the center section, and created a wide border.  Now, it is 41" square.  I want to grow it to at least 60".  I am not really sure what comes next.  I will leave it on the design wall while I work on other projects and see what it says to me.
On another note, there is a wonderful new online quilting class starting over at Chasing Cotton.  It will start on April 6, and it is free. The first week will be all about fabric.  This is aimed at people who are relatively new in the quilting world, but Rebecca is asking that experienced quilters tag along as well.  I will be heading over there each week.  I am looking forward to learning new things about my chosen obsession.
Joyful quilting, everyone.