Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Seeing Stars

A few years ago I took a triangle class at The City Quilter in NYC.  Each month we met up and worked with a different kind of triangle.  Then we would work on our own to create something to share with the group for the following class.  I made a child size quilt top when we worked with equilateral triangles that I just never quite liked.  Then it sat in my unfinished top pile because I didn’t want to put the time into hand quilting something I wasn’t crazy about.  A few months ago I decided I needed to learn how to machine quilt and that was the perfect place to start.  So I did.  And here’s what I ended up with…

Original Star Quilt, First Try
I tried all kinds of ideas, and just used it as a place to experiment.  I did some writing, I tried pebbles, I think I quilted a star or two, and lots of scribbles.  Even though it’s a mess, I really like it now.  I even like it enough to try the top again, only bigger, using different fabric.  I thought I’d try a different color scheme, maybe less color.  Here’s what that looked like…

Star Top, Second Try

I didn’t like it, at all, so I changed out the calmer colored stars for something with a little more energy, and I organized the background blues so they were less chaotic.  Here’s what I’ve got now…

Star Top, Third Try

The two top rows are missing a bunch of triangles because I ran out of the Rashida Coleman-Hale fabric that I was using as the predominant background fabric.  Now I have it and need to get it cut.

All four of my kids need new bed quilts. I’ve been spending a lot of time on quilts for my girls’ room, so I thought this would work well as an everyday quilt for my older son, especially since we are trying so hard to convince him that his bed is awesome!  I'd like to make one hand-quilted bed quilt for each of them, something that represents that child and can go with them through their lives.  And then an everyday quilt that’s more fun, something they don’t have to worry about destroying.  I don’t want anybody to end up with an anxiety disorder from trying to decide how to approach lounging in bed.

After I get this together, I still need to add some color to each side, probably a red on one side and an orange, or maybe a light blue on the other.  We’ll see.

Because of all the pieces, this will stay on the wall until I get it put together.  I'd like the wall space back, so I'm hoping to have it done within the next few days.  Then I'll give machine quilting another go!  Maybe tidier loops?

Linking up with Freshly Pieced Modern Quilts for WIP Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lucia’s 9-Patch

We’ve lived in our house for about a year and a half now and the kids rooms have changed three times since we moved in.  We now have a girls room and a boys room.  The girls decided that they want their room to look like a jewel box.  They want it to be bright blue, glowing wouldn’t be too much.  They even have a bright blue glass door handle.  Each of them have a quilt that I’ve made on their beds, but they were made many years ago so they don’t reflect who they are now or what they envision for their room.  
Lucia's nine-patch

I am nearly finished quilting a log cabin for my older daughter, Paolina, but my younger daughter Lucia needs a quilt that will work with their vision and still be great for her on its own.  I had a couple of ideas that I liked, but Lucia saw a picture of a nine-patch, pointed to it and said she wanted it on her bed.  The one Lucia saw was made by Kaffe Fassett, and I think was made entirely of his fabric, but I chose from fabric I already had.  My first attempt lacked a cohesive color scheme, which I did kind of like but it didn't fit Lucia's taste.  She's not into pink right now.  

First try

I took apart my first attempt and started again using green as my base color and some blues. I’ve completed the top, and so far I like it, but I need to make some decisions about quilting and get it on her bed before she grows up and moves out! 

Lucia's blossoms

This quilt top also gives me lots of room to embroider designs into the 9 inch squares that alternate with the nine patch blocks.  I can use that space to capture who Lucia is now, a little bit like a scrapbook.  Lucia loves frogs and seeing animals in the natural world.  She's a really good watcher.  A few days ago she brought me some blossoms she found on a neighborhood walk because she thought they were really beautiful.  She's the kind of person who can see beauty in small things (like ant lines and snail trails).  She sees their intricate parts and loves to study them.  It's something I really love about her and I'd like to capture that excellent quality in her quilt.  I'd like to use the blocks to embroider things like the blossoms she brought me, some frogs, and her beta fish, Frilly.  

Lucia's Blossoms with Floss Options

There's also a poem by Robert Frost that I think I'll embroider onto the quilt somewhere:

The Rose Family

The rose is a rose,
And was always a rose.  
But the theory now goes
That the apple's a rose,
And the pear is, and so's                            
The plum, I suppose.
The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose.
You, of course, are a rose--
But were always a rose.

I'm linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced Quilts

Monday, March 9, 2015

5 Ways to Personalize a Baby Quilt

Maggie with her baby quilt
Baby quilts are a beautiful way to welcome a new soul into your community.  And truthfully there are lots of very cute, pre-made quilts to choose from.  Etsy is full of lovely handmade options, or you could find a super cute quilt from a big store like Pottery Barn Kids, or Land of Nod.  It will look great and might even be more cost effective than making your own.   So, I can see the draw.

Although the finished product is important when considering a baby quilt, it isn’t the only thing.  The energy and time that goes into the project is at least as important.  After all, if you’re giving a baby a quilt, you are hopefully giving the new baby an heirloom.  Something to use but also something to keep.  A well-made, well-cared for quilt could easily make it to the next generation.  It could be featured in baby pictures, or used for a play mat (or a cape, or a fort top, or a picnic blanket) when baby gets a bit older.  A quilt isn’t just to keep the baby warm, it's to be weaved into the fabric of the baby’s childhood.  Making a baby quilt for a new arrival is a labor of love, so giving a quilt that is as unique as its recipient is worth your time.  Here are some ideas for personalizing quilts:

Trip Around the World

  1. piecing —
There are thousands of different ideas for pieced quilts.  You can choose  something traditional, or go with a fast and easy modern pattern like a zig-zag quilt, choosing colors and fabrics to match your tastes.  You end up with a quilt that is handmade and fairly unique.  I made a “ trip around the world” quilt for one of my daughters to play with when she was two.  I wanted it to be colorful and have lots of energy.  I had a good time making it and I’ve always been happy with that quilt.

Sasha's Heart

I also like to experiment with pre-made patterns and then branch off to suit my personal tastes.  For example, I am currently making a quilt for my sister’s baby Sasha that started out as an experiment with a “broken dishes” block.  As I started playing with the block I realized I could change the designs in some interesting ways as I turned them.  Then I started to change the block assembly and ended up making a heart out of half square triangles.  I liked it and it reminded me of my sister and my feelings for her and her baby.  Then I started working on growing the quilt in a way that felt right for her.   

2.  pictures —
Froggy Quilt
There are lots of ways to include pictures in quilts.  You can transfer an actual photograph to fabric and incorporate them in that way, or you can illustrate quilts in other ways.  I like to appliqué pictures that I have drawn (or found) onto quilts.  I used Darcy Ashton's Aquatic Creatures to make my son's froggy quilt.  Paper piecing and embroidery are also really good ways to get an image onto a quilt.  I made a quilt for my sister-in-law Frankie in which I appliquéd family handprints onto the quilt.  I love this idea because it gives you such a tangible connection to important people in your life.  

Embroidered Poem on Sash's Quilt 
3.  words —
I referred to a book that I enjoyed in an earlier post called Quilt Talk, which includes a paper pieced alphabet for incorporating messages into quilts.  This is a great technique.  I also really like to embroider messages.  I used embroidery in the above mentioned sister-in-law quilt to write names under each handprint, which I felt was particularly effective.  I also chose a beautiful verse from a poem to embroider onto my niece Sasha’s quilt.  It sums up my feelings of love for her and the promise of childhood and I like the way it looks on the quilt top.  It has become a feature of her quilt. 

4.  quilting —
Quilting detail for Scarlet's quilt
The way a quilter chooses to quilt her quilt is a big deal.  It makes a huge statement about what the quilt means.  Was it machine quilted in an hour or two or was it hand quilted over a longer period of time.  (Beautiful machine quilting is a skill that should not be scoffed at.)  Messages or images can be stitched into the quilt.  I  have been hand quilting a bed quilt for one of my daughters for years now.  It is a straightforward log cabin, nothing exceptional about it, but the quilting is where I have chosen to personalize it.  It includes her initials, and some birds.  We are toying with the idea of adding an Emily Dickenson poem, “Hope is a thing with Feathers”.  I love this poem, and it is such a great message to send forward with a child.  I’ve also quilted handprints into my quilts, one of my favorite things to do.  Really, though, you are only limited by your imagination.  Looking at old heirloom quilts you can find grids, feathers, hearts and wreaths.  You can make your quilt specifically for its intended recipient by the choices you make in its quilting.  

Prairie points

5.  binding
Sometimes the binding on a quilt can be an afterthought.  But you still have plenty of choices to make when it comes to finishing your quilt.  What color will you choose?  Will you choose one fabric or make it scrapy.  Do you want it to blend into your quilt or frame it, or do you want to do something completely different, like add prairie points, or a scalloped border?  

These five things to consider here aren’t an exhaustive list.  Really it is only a beginning.  There are plenty of other choices that need to be made when creating a quilt.  Each quilter must make them as she moves through the process.  Her aesthetic and the recipient of her quilt will guide her as she works. 

Scarlet sleeping under her baby quilt

Each of the choices made along the way add up to a finished quilt, but they also add up to something that is completely personal and unique.  This is why a quilt from The Land of Nod will never be an heirloom.  The care, effort and attention to detail put into a quilt that has been made for a specific person is what makes a quilt an heirloom.  This is the value of a quilt.  And this is the process that separates your quilt from anything you could buy in the marketplace.   

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sing, Sing, What Shall I Sing?

First block of Milo's nursery quilt
I have four kids and I’ve made a baby quilt for each of them.  Since it's impossible to know the baby ahead of time, the quilts really just reflect where I am while pregnant with each one.  The first three were fairly straight forward; a kaleidoscope quilt for my first, a HST quilt for my second, a froggy appliqué quilt for my third, but for my fourth?  I had some trouble with that one.  I had an idea to make a quilt using nursery rhymes and games that I have loved singing with my other kids.  My first thought was to make the quilt using only Mother Goose Rhymes, but they aren’t as child friendly as you’d think.  And when I referred to my annotated version to further investigate the ones I liked, I didn't like their meanings.  So I decided to broaden the scope.  We sing tons of songs; in fact, sometimes we make up songs to entertain ourselves.  Last week on our walk home from school with my boys we made up songs for sidewalks, trees (specifically climbing), lions who like to roar a lot, and roads.  It’s always been an important part of our day.  

Anyway, after some reflection, I settled on a nature theme.   All children love animals, and we have especially enjoyed a singing/storytime at our local botanical garden where we have even learned some new songs.  Clearly, there is plenty of material, so I had to decide which songs would translate to a block, and come up with some drawings that I could appliqué and embroider.  I love this idea.  I even made a few blocks that I really like.  But they weren’t coming together for me as a completed quilt.  Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t going to finish this on time and I set it aside for later, settling on a very simply pieced quilt from Modern Minimal by Alissa Haight Carlton.  I drafted her design to fit my desired size and pieced it using Kaffe Fassett's shot cottons.  They are very soft and cozy, not to mention beautiful.  I quilted it with perle cotton 12 and some sashiko thread, using sashiko designs that were interesting to me.  Here's what it looks like.  

Milo's Quilt
I ended up being very happy with the quilt, but it’s never felt like his quilt.  What I  mean is that it isn't the quilt that was supposed to be his baby quilt.  I owe him one...

He will be turning one at the end of this month and I’ve been spending time with my nursery rhyme blocks to see if I could complete it for him.  Here are a few more blocks:

I have another couple of blocks that I’d like to make and then I’m going to try putting them together with some traditional pieced blocks.  I’m hoping that it feels right this time.

I am going to link this post to 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Why I Quilt

Quilting allows us to give warmth to people we love.  It connects us to the past while giving us a way to express ourselves and our feelings.  I recently bought a book, called Quilt Talk.  I love it because it's sarcastic, mostly, and funny.  It is full of paper pieced messages and it includes a paper pieced alphabet to make your own messages.  I love it for being outrageous and for providing tools that let me, theoretically at least, say what I have to say.  It’s fun.  But quilts don’t have to include script to talk.  I have two heirloom quilts passed down to me from older women in my family.  I love them.  They are beautiful examples of what can be done with fabric and many, many hours of work.  The colors are vivid.  The stitches are tiny and even.  When I look at them I imagine the hands that worked on them for so many hours, maybe stretched out on a frame with friends, maybe alone at night after their children were sleeping - like me.  I can feel a connection to them when I touch their work. 
Grandma's Quilt
Aunt Blanche's Quilt
When I make a quilt I send out into the world a message of my own.  I have been quilting for a long time, but I have never been one to churn out quilts.  Each piece that I have made has been for a specific person in a specific time.  Some of my favorite quilts have included the handprints of loved ones.  One of my daughters sleeps under a quilt I made in college that includes the handprints of my 
family, including my grandfather who is now gone.  When she struggles to sleep we pull the quilt around her and I remind her that each handprint is a hug.  They will protect her and they love her.  I have seen her wrap it around herself when she is sad.  My other daughter sleeps under two of my quilts.  One is a lap quilt and the first I ever made, when I was 13.  It’s a log cabin.  It’s ratty and ugly.  One side caught on something and is torn.  But she seems to understand what it represents. It is my first attempt to access something that is much bigger than me.  To connect to the past and stretch to the future. It is an important piece of me and she keeps it now.  It has begun its journey into the future, just as my great aunt’s and my great grandmother’s quilts have moved forward into my care.  My daughters’ connections to my quilts makes them more special for me.  

Frankie's Quilt
My quilts will tell my story.  When I’m not there to hold my children, I hope they will always have one of my quilts to wrap around themselves.  I hope it will help them feel my love.  I hope this is just the beginning for my work.