Thursday, December 31, 2015

Embracing Horses Quilt

Yet another gorgeous quilt from Jane. She has been my best quilting client, hands down. She was the first person who ever paid me to quilt for her, and she's been with me since way before I got my longarm machine. I was curious, so I counted up all the quilts I've invoiced to her. This was the SIXTEENTH project she's hired me to quilt for her!

This will be a gift for her granddaughter, Carolyn. I did some light feature quilting in the "embracing horses" panel in the center. Then all-over quilting in the main body of the quilt - feathered swirls, which I learned from YouTube videos of Judi Madsen, aka The Green Fairy. And tried "piano keys" in the border, with loops in alternating piano keys. I'm still trying to figure out my favorite method for piano keys (straight parallel lines). It's SUCH a time-consuming process. Such a nice look, though.

Jane wanted less-dense quilting and high-loft batting, to make it a puffier quilt for her young granddaughter. Hopefully she likes it!

All quilting is non-computerized, hand-guided on an APQS longarm quilting machine.

It was very difficult for me to refrain from having a heyday with intricate quilting in the black borders and other points of interest. I just kept reminding myself that it needed to be puffy and cuddly. More quilting = thinner, stiffer quilt.

Simple Snuggle Quilts

These quilt tops came from my client, Julie, who wanted them for her own snuggly enjoyment. She was adamant that they should be sparsely quilted with very puffy batting, so I used Hobbs PolyDown, the puffiest batting I carry. I haven't used this batting very much, so I'm hoping this 100% polyester batting wears nicely for her. All quilting was hand-guided.

Both quilts were constructed of scrap fabrics that Julie had been given over the years. The backing she provided is a flannel sheet with striking flowers.

The first one seemed to be made of densely woven, thicker fabric, like upholstery fabric or perhaps drapery or table cloths. It is bright and cheerful. Julie wanted the quilting to be large-scale stippling, with outlining around the birds in the fabric. 

The second quilt top was made of alternating squares of cotton and chenille. I quilted large-scale swirls. This is going to be such a cuddler!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Linda's Chain Links Xmas Quilt

My new quilting friend, Linda, asked me to get this one done for her daughter for Christmas, just a couple weeks before the holiday. With my Christmas quilting list growing, I was worried I wouldn't be able to squeeze this one in, in time. But I toiled away in my little studio, and got it back to her a week before Christmas. In time to get the binding on and everything!

For the sake of timing, Linda asked me to just apply an all-over quilting motif, and I tried to play with my favorite old free-hand standby - swirls. I used some variations in the spacing to see how it would affect the overall look. Probably nobody else notices, but I can see a slight difference in this new approach and quite like how it turned out.

The piecing pattern sorta reminded me of interlocking squares/ovals, so I called it chain links. I have no idea what the actual pattern is called. At any rate, I think it's lovely!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Trio of Antique Quilts

My client, Kim, brought me these quilts a year ago, before I had my longarm quilting machine. She had no "need-by" date, so she agreed that they could wait until I got my big, new machine to handle these queen-sized pieces. In fact, these quilt tops had already been waiting a VERY long time. They were pieced BY HAND by her grandmother decades ago. Apparently this lady was very productive. Kim talked of how she and a friend would sit for hour upon hour just stitching and visiting. People from miles around paid her to make quilts for them. I can tell why - just look at these beauties!

As I look at these quilts, I see so many years of memories. It doesn't even matter that they aren't MY memories. It's still fun to imagine. The Lemoyne (aka 8-Pointed) Star Quilt has scraps of fabric that are obviously from old clothes - seersucker suit, woven work shirt, gingham dress. If only this quilt could talk!

I'm going to guess these tops were pieced in the '70s or '80s. Kim thought the brown one might even have been purchased as a kit. Such bold colors! I wish I had guts like that!

These quilt tops are not technically perfect. Many of the points were loosely stitched, where she had to hand-stitch through several layers of fabric. So I quilted extra densely over those places to tack them down and give the seams more integrity. The tops weren't perfectly square, so I tried to work in the extra fullness where I could. The fabric scraps would have been traced around templates, then cut out with scissors. Our modern methods of rotary cutting are more accurate. Some of the white fabrics have yellowed, some of the dark fabrics have faded. But I think these features make them even more endearing. It gives them character. It makes them family heirlooms.

When you look at these quilts, you can SEE the love in them - sewn with a needle and thread, talking and smiling all the while. I tried to use quilting motifs that would honor the quilting styles of the time. In truth, in-the-ditch or cross-hatching probably would have been more true-to-period, but I needed to do something more free-flowing and dense, to really tack down the quilt tops and give them more strength, so that the seams don't pull apart. And I even learned a little something along the way. Kim said that her grandmother often used old sheets for piecing. I wanted to be consistent, so I purchased sheets to use for the backing fabric. This is a practice that is often scoffed at, in quilting circles. I've never heard an explanation why - it just is. So I was nervous when I started at it. But let me tell you - those sheets were some of the most cooperative, best-behaving backings I've worked with to date! I made sure to wash and dry them ahead of time, to avoid shrinking after quilting/laundering. I won't shy away from using them for myself in the future!

I knew these quilts were going to be given to 3 siblings. Kim has 3 adult children, and her mom would be giving each kid a quilt for Christmas. So I made sure to make the quilting motifs in each quilt "related" to the others. The brown Lonestar quilt features feather wreaths in the white squares, and feathers were the allover pattern on the pink-purple Grandmother's Flower Basket quilt. The inside of the feather wreaths on the Lonestar quilt were filled with stippling, which is the allover pattern on the LeMoyne Star quilt. Both the Lonestar and the Flower Basket quilts also incorporate continuous curve quilting. So, in each piece there are nods to the others. It's like the quilts are brothers and sisters, too!

Update: Kim sent me photos of her kids on the morning they received their quilts. Her mom gifted each child a quilt for Christmas. Don't you love how happy they look? Totally made my day!!! THIS is one of the things I LOVE about my work!

John and his new wife Elyse:



Friday, December 18, 2015

More Christmas Quilts!

In this time before Christmas, I've been burnin' the midnight oil. My clients have been busy, and their family members are gonna be warm this winter!

Sylvia has three grandkids that are really gonna be bouncing when they open Grandma's presents.  She wanted all-over quilting, which makes total sense for kids. I predict these quilts will be LOVED - meaning, they may be drug around, used for tent forts, shared with the dog, taken to the sandbox, etc. Super-custom (more expensive) quilting would be unnecessary overkill. 

I could hardly keep my two girls away from this Frozen-themed quilt for Sylvia's granddaughter. I stitched snowballs, hearts, and snowflakes into the quilting. Since my quilting is all hand-guided (not computerized), just like in real life, no two of my snowflakes are exactly the same!

There were two grandson quilts. For one I applied simple stippling, which kinda mirrors the winding race-track theme in the quilt.

For the second, I quilted interlocking squares. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Quartet of Grandkid Quilts

I recently got a referral for a new quilting client from my babysitter - how great is that! She takes care of my girls, AND she brings me business!

These quilts were all done for the quiltmaker's grandkids. She wanted them to be cuddly, soft, and supple, so she chose NOT to use batting. I've always wanted to try this, to see what it was like. They are very "drap-ey", if that makes any sense. Not stiff, at all. Should make them very cuddly!

The first quilt was the easiest to work with. She used minky fabric, which is thick, fluffy, and warm. She had me quilt little hearts into the yellow border, and hearts and loops into the body of the quilt.

The second quilt was also minky on the back, and the top was fun - take a look! She pieced in old jerseys, t-shirts, patches, and other paraphernalia from the Edmonton Oilers hockey team. Those thick insignias were tricky to work with, because they often caught my machine's hopping foot. So I just had to be careful and finesse the fabric to keep it in place. I quilted in wavy lines across the quilt, which I think makes it look like skate marks on the ice.

The third quilt was also tricky, because the backing was flannel, not minky. So I had to be very careful with my machine's tread tension. Non-sewists may not realize that sewing machines actually use TWO threads to make stitches - one on the top of the material and one on the bottom. They interlock within the thickness of the fabric to make stitches. If the the top thread is being pulled too hard (tight tension), the joints where the two threads meet will show on the top of the quilt, and the strength of the stitching is compromised. The same can be true for the bottom thread. With proper thread tension, the joint where the top and bottom threads meet should be nicely buried within the thickness of the quilt. With just one layer of pieced cotton and one layer of flannel (no batting), there was very little space for my threads to meet. I had to be careful!

I quilted interlocking squares all over this grandson's quilt. Isn't the banana fabric marvelous?!

The last quilt was an ocean theme, and I quilted in my happy place - swirls. If I cross my eyes a little, I think it's reminiscent of curling ocean waves.

This quilt was the only one in the batch to use batting, and that posed its own set of challenges. This piece of batting from the client was the last of a big roll, and it had gotten really, really, REALLY stretched and warped over time as it was handled on the roll. You can see the tape still in place on the center fold. When I started at the top of the quilt, it was fine and flat. And as I worked my way down through the quilt, the batting got more and more stretched out, leaving extra fullness for me to figure out. I tried a trick that I've used before with quilt tops that have "winged out" corners. I applied a hot, steamy iron and just fiddled and finessed that batting. Here's what it looked like before I steamed:

Here it is after finessing and fiddling:

Look how little excess there is at the end - phew! That was close! I had less than an inch of excess at the top when I started, too. Just a friendly reminder to be generous when you measure and cut your batting and/or backing, folks!

In retrospect, I wish I would have tried cutting the batting, removed excess, and re-joined. A wedge-shape, like making darts in a dress/shirt. I would say that I'll "try that next time", but hopefully there won't be a next time that I see stretched out batting!