Thursday, May 29, 2014

Club member

This month I signed up for my first quilting club - the Fresh Mini Quilt Club hosted by Canoe Ridge Creations. The first pattern popped into my inbox on Wednesday, and I got to work almost as soon as I got home. (Inadvertently setting a dangerous precedent for someone who's a tad too driven by goals, even arbitrarily set ones.)

A few hours later - spurred on by a pacing dog who was beginning to suspect her evening walk had been forgotten and two pushy Siamese cats who wanted their dinner - my mini top was done! I pulled everything from my stash, with Jay McCarroll fabric as the focus. Called Round-n-Round, this modern take on the traditional log cabin creates a circle in the middle of the mini.

As soon as I was finished piecing the block, it joined the #freshminiquiltclub fun on Instagram (follow me! @johannaweidner). This weekend I plan to quilt and bind it. Then I will wait impatiently for the next installment!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Everything old is new again

Lately I've been thinking a lot about modern quilting and what exactly that is as I work on a newspaper article about just that topic as the big annual quilt festival in Waterloo Region approaches. Coincidentally last weekend my mom gave me a few quilting books she cleared from her shelves that were 20 and 30 years old.

Flipping through the books, I was amazed to see many examples of what we would now consider modern quilts. Maybe not the fabrics chosen, but definitely the design. There was also a churn dash quilt, which is traditional block very popular among quilters now.

Then one quilt in particular caught my eye because it sure looked familiar. As soon as I got home, I shuffled through my pile of quilts to make and pulled out this pattern bought just recently.

The book explains this Depression-era pattern was traditionally made using white fabric for the background. White or grey backgrounds are a common calling card of modern quilts. How interesting. I guess there really are no new ideas, just new interpretations.

Thankfully now we have lots of tools like rotary cutters, rulers and sewing machines with all the bells and whistles to make our quilting quick and precise. It wasn't that long ago quilters cut out all the pieces using templates and scissors. Now that was dedication to a craft! Among the books was a 1985 reprint of a 1942 book packed with 500 blocks. Again, there were so many I've seen pop up online and in patterns recently. This one has elements that reminds me of the Swoon block, just a bit different in the centre part. The numbers on the bottom indicate which templates you need to make the block, which were all at the back of the book.

A while ago, a friend gave me some quilt magazines found in an older lady's home when it was cleaned out. I was immediately drawn to one of the quilts in a 1992 magazine called Old-Fashioned Patchwork, but I'd say it is quite modern even in the fabric choices with all solids. Again, a hallmark of modern quilting. (How would a patriotic Canadian make this quilt when we only have white and red? Hmm.)

Among the magazines were newspaper clippings from the early 1930s with instructions for making blocks, complete with templates. Can you believe newspapers used to publish quilt blocks? No going online and finding something new to sew in a minute. Those blocks were precious. Women clipped them out and tucked them away for safe keeping, for decades even.

And again these are quilts I can easily imagine people making today. Dutchman's Puzzle is a well-known traditional block, but modern fabric would give it a whole different feel.

So quilters today really aren't reinventing the wheel. We're using traditional patterns and, at the most basic level, traditional techniques. It's neat to think that even though our quilts are so different from those made a century ago, we're all connected. Quilts used to be made out of necessity to stay warm using bits of fabric salvaged from worn clothing and blankets, and now we sew as a hobby and go online to buy yardage of designer prints. But we all share pride in carefully piecing together fabric into something beautiful that's also meant to be used and loved.

Alright. That's enough uber crafty nerdiness for now.

When hobbies collide

This practice Swoon block incorporated my other favourite hobby, cycling. The bikes in the centre block are endlessly heading uphill, which is kinda how it felt on my 44-km ride today. It was a lovely bright day to be out cycling in the country, but I really began to run out of steam toward the end.

I quilted this with straight lines following an X in the middle (an idea borrowed from this quilty blog). The quilting is pretty dense and took forever, especially since I ripped out the initial X a few times due to annoying tension problems. But I think it looks really nice and gives the wall-hanging sturdiness.

I put aside my perfectionist tendencies when piecing this and didn't worry about getting the bikes all going in the same direction. And I have to say, it doesn't really bother me. Although I may be more careful with my full-size Swoon quilt. But look how these two pieces just happened to come together to make a perfect bike. Amazing! I couldn't have done that if I tried.

And then there's the back ...

I used up the fabric left from the front, including the leftover HSTs cut off from the piecing on front. But I still needed a bit more yardage, including for the sleeve to hang it, and didn't really have anything in the muted purple or orange. So I finally settled the green wavy/bubbly fabric from my stash. My reasoning was that the purple background fabric had splashes of bright green and yellow and it went with the polka dot fabric. But I dunno. It is really in your face. I realize it doesn't really matter because it's the back, but I think I'm still trying to decide what I think about the green. What do you think? Fabric choice fail?

Monday, May 12, 2014

In the meadow

The lush spring grass seemed like the perfect backdrop for the quilt top from my retreat. I love the white with the greens and pops of orange. The overall result is such a bright, fresh quilt. It's a very traditional pattern, especially with the multiple borders, but I think it turned out quite modern by using the white with the subtle crosshatch and virtually monochromatic fabrics.

I'm almost finished piecing together the back, then I think I'll send it off for machine quilting. Maybe a leaf or floral pattern. Then I can't wait to get the orange binding on there!

Monday, May 5, 2014

At last

Finally I had a chance this weekend to give my CFF Darci her much belated birthday present - a very bright and busy version of In Color Order's giant star quilt. Then I enlisted her to hold it in the crazy wind so I could get photos, which proved quite tricky. It's pretty wild with the bold colours and patterns, but I love how it turned out. The hand-dyed fabric perfectly complemented the Tufted Tweets prints.

When I took it to the quilting retreat for show-and-tell, they thought the giant star was the back because they were far more impressed with the piecing on the actual back. I perhaps went a little overboard by making a giant block of smaller stars, and then one for each corner. In a way, it's two quilts in one. I love the deep blue fabric with splashes of colour that looks like deep space with swirling galaxies - perfect for the star theme.

Hand-quilting (not by me) with colourful variegated thread in a cross-hatch pattern finished it off beautifully. Now I just need to wrap up little piecing for the back of my retreat quilt and it will be ready for quilting. The wind proved too strong to get a photo of the finished top, even laying on the grass.