Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sewing inspiration from Topstitch Studio

It often feels like there are too many project potentials, inspiration and WIPs [works-in-progress] filling my world... and my studio. "The point is?" you ask.... 


Recent inspirational finds at Topstitch Studio and Lounge (from left): Selvedge magazine,
the Collins Top pattern from In the Folds, and Frankie magazine

I recently re-fueled my inspiration with these goodies I found at Topstitch Studio and Lounge at the Ponce City Market in Atlanta. I was familiar with Selvedge magazine, but the Australian publication, Frankie, and patterns from In the Folds were new to me. 

The diagonal seams and the potential for using multiple fabrics (see the line drawing below) led me to the purchase of the Collins Top pattern. It's also designed for wovens, rather than the usual knit fabric (but I'm sure it could be adapted to a knit if one chose).

Pattern back of the Collins Top showing line drawing.

Topstitch is located on the second floor of the Ponce City Market complex. The Ponce Market is housed in a wonderfully adaptive makeover of a former Sears, Roebuck & Co. building on the city's south side. Not unlike the remake of the Sears building in Memphis.

Ponce City Market, Atlanta, GA.

The proprietor of Topstitch, Leigh Metcalf, makes it a point to stock garment and project patterns from "indie" [independent] pattern designers. The store's pattern wall contains printed patterns from companies such as Merchant and Mills, Grainline Studio, Deer and Doe, True Bias, and Untitled Thoughts (which has THE coolest recycled packaging—a fabric drawstring bag). I also met the designer behind the Untitled Thoughts brand, Brittani Bumb, who designs and creates patterns and cranks out beautiful garments at the blink of an eye (follow her at @untitledthoughts on Instagram).

On a side note, here is a recent "finish" from my garment WIP pile. A long sleeve knit top made from Vintage Florets Trinkets knit from Art Gallery Fabrics. I love its warm red color.

Long sleeve knit top. Knit fabric: KF-1402 from AGF.
The pattern I used for this top is one drawn from an existing top. I've made it several times and it gets easier and quicker with every make.
My latest long sleeve knit top.
So, can one have too much inspiration?   
OK, what's next on the pile...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Winter weather sets the mood for scrappy patchwork

While tidying my studio space earlier this year, I uncovered a small stack of 3.5" squares amidst the plastic boxes and grocery bags of fabric scraps and UFOs. They were cut several years ago... for a project I can't recall. (Can you relate?)
Red and green 3.5" squares from scraps and leftovers.

Devising a Plan and a Process
As quilters, we don't throw any scrap away. As a former corporate Project Manager, I needed to devise a simple—yet functional—plan to use these pre-cut squares: Red and Green 4-patches.

I also implemented a process to use them as "leaders" and "enders" [Bonnie Hunter terms for patchwork multi-tasking] when working on other chain piecing projects. First, they are sewn into 2-patches... and then they become 4-patches.
Pairs of 2-patches eventually get sewn together as 4-patches.

The auditioning process of pairing the red and green prints is fun... and sometimes becomes a stroll down Fabric Lane when one is pulling from a "deep" stash.
Auditioning the pairs of red and green prints for 4-patch assembly.

Occasionally I cut more patches from leftover fabric chunks and trimmings... feeding my red and green piles. The scrap piles get diminished and the 4-patch block collection grows. The fabrics in these blocks have become a mix of older and current prints—but all reds and greens.

With this year's guild Challenge behind me, the design wall was available to see what my eclectic group of 4-patch blocks looked like so far.
4-patch progress on the design wall.

The weather outside is frightful... Let us Sew, let us Sew, let us Sew!
Last week's wintery weather certainly must have put many sewers and quilters in a patchwork frame of mind because the quilt shops I visited had a steady stream of customers. This photo shows the beautiful snow covered landscape of eastern Kentucky.
A late November snowfall covers the eastern Kentucky landscape.

Visit YLQS [your local quilt shop] and infuse your scraps with a few new fabrics to bring a twinkle to your quilts. Snow or sunshine... it's always good weather for patchwork.

(Isn't that right, my blog stalker friend??)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

"Oh My Stars" guild Challenge offers possibilities for exploration, learning and development

My guild's annual Guild Challenge for 2018 was called "Oh My Stars." My entry, which won a 3rd place prize, was inspired by Australian aboriginal fabrics [M&S Textiles Australia] and aboriginal Dreamtime designs. 
2018 Choo Choo Quilters Guild Challenge by Veronica Hofman-Ortega.

Challenge Requirements
The Choo Choo Quilters Guild Challenge is presented to guild members at the beginning of the year. It allows a good 7 to 9 months for members to contemplate, plan and execute their piece before the big reveal in November. The requirements for the 2018 Challenge were minimal... and the size was quite manageable:
  • Design: the quilt must have at least three different star patterns.
  • Size: minimum of 12" on any side; maximum of 45" on any side
  • Must be quilted and finished.

With about a week before the deadline, I realized my "Stars" solution had been traveling with me since February—samples of English paper pieced [EPP] hexagons using Australian fabrics. (See this blog post.) Using these blocks in a guild Challenge would give them a purpose, I thought, and they could be showcased in a finished piece. My EPP sample blocks included two star designs so I just had one more star variation to come up with. (The three star variations can be seen in the photo above.)
English paper pieced [EPP] stars using Australian fabrics
from M&S Textiles Australian

The Process
The EPP hexagon stars were hand pieced and the blocks were hand stitched together. I experimented with a few layouts and block placement on a background. The circle patterned fabric was chosen for the background because circles are a major design element and symbol in the Dreamtime designs, and the lime green was the complementary color to the reds and oranges in several of the stars.
Auditioning layouts of the stars.
(Note: fabric colors are not accurate due to inside lighting conditions.)
Once the layout was determined, guidelines for the quilting were drawn on the background with a chalk marker. 
Guidelines for quilting are marked.
The quilting techniques include walking foot quilting, free-motion quilting and rulerwork. The English paper pieced star blocks were appliqu├ęd to the quilt after the background was free-motion quilted. The stars were then ditch quilted with a 60 wt. polyester thread.  
Background free-motion quilting.
The quilting designs were inspired by the motifs in the Australian fabrics and the story of the Dreamtime designs.
Detail: free-motion quilting.

For the backing, I used a leftover piece of a 110" wide backing [Westrade Textiles]. The color and value of this fabric made it easy to choose a bobbin thread to match the color of the top thread that was used for the quilting. Here are views of the quilting from the back.
Back detail.
A facing was used rather than a traditional binding. The same 110" wide backing fabric was used for both the backing and facings.
Back detail: free-motion quilting and quilt facings.

The finished piece: 26" x 38.5"
26" x 38.5" finished size.
Quilt Stats
  • 80 wt. soft poly thread for EPP hand piecing hexagons (DecoBob from WonderFil Threads);
  • 50 wt. cotton top thread (Konfetti from WonderFil Threads) for quilting; 
  • 60 wt. poly top thread for ditch quilting (Bottom Line from Superior Threads); 
  • 60 wt. poly for bobbin (Bottom Line); 2-1/2 bobbins.
  • 13 hrs. quilting: walking foot (curves and circles); free-motion for background and fillers; ruler work for ditch and outline quilting.
  • fabrics from M&S Textiles Australia (pieced hexagons), Art Gallery Fabrics (background); Westrade Textiles (quilt backing and facings)

Why participate in a guild Challenge?
One of the things that my guild does during our Challenge Reveal is to have each Challenge participant give a brief explanation of their piece before the prizes are awarded. Their explanation could be about their inspiration, their thought process behind meeting the Challenge requirements, the trials, roadblocks and successes of the creation process, the materials used, or any pertinent information they feel contributes to the "story" of their Challenge entry. I think you can always learn something from listening to another person's creative path to solving a problem—especially when we were all faced with the same problem to solve.

One of our newer members commented that she could never enter a piece in a Challenge. Quick yet gentle encouragement came forth in response.
  • Guild Challenges are a great way to experiment with new techniques and concepts in a safe environment (in the presence of your fellow guild members who support you and your endeavors).
  • You can learn from working on your own piece as well as from what others present.
  • What better way to try new things than a Challenge? You will become proficient and gain confidence by doing.
  • Challenges keep your brain active as you problem solve and research solutions to make your vision a reality.
  • The Challenge Reveal is a "quilt show" we give to ourselves as a guild. It's a well-deserved treat for the entire group!
Congratulations to all the Choo Choo Challenge participants! Well done.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Fussy cutting Australian aboriginal fabrics for the Siena shirt

Want a shirt that gets you noticed? This is my latest Siena Shirt [pattern by Linda Lee from The Sewing Workshop] made with two fun and colorful aboriginal 100% cotton fabrics from M&S Textiles Australia.
The Siena Shirt [from The Sewing Workshop] with
cotton fabrics by M&S Textiles Australia.

Working with the Sandy Creek stripe design
The main fabric in this shirt is an aboriginal design called Sandy Creek from M&S Textiles Australia. This print has wide stripes running with the crosswise grain of the fabric (perpendicular to the selvedge). 
Sandy Creek design with a wide stripe.
To make the garment look cohesive, conscious decisions were made when positioning the pattern pieces on the yardage. First, I needed to determine where the stripe would lay on the body so I could then "fussy cut" (as quilters would call it) the pattern pieces.
Matching stripes across the front of the shirt.
The pattern pieces were cut so the stripes matched across the front. The stripes aligned from front to back of the shirt and between the back bodice and the back yoke. The front button band was carefully fussy cut to preserve the flow of the design across the shirt's front. 
Back yoke and pleated back bodice.
Another "fussy cut" was on the sleeves so the darker part of the "creek" design would carry through across the shoulders. 

Construction in progress: collar, fronts and sleeves laid out.
The upper and lower collars were cut from two different areas of the print. Depending on whether the collar is worn up or down, the design will blend or contrast with the yoke and front.
Upper and lower collars show contrasting prints. 
A coordinating fabric—Spirit Dreaming from M&S Textiles Australia—was used for the sides and one front band of the shirt.
Contrasting sides and front band.

Using quilting cottons for garments
The M&S Textiles Australia fabrics lend themselves quite nicely to garment sewing. These cottons have a soft surface quality, good drape and are breathable. I completed the shirt and was able to wear it at Quilt Market. It received several compliments. 
Siena Shirt pattern and Australian aboriginal fabrics.
When considering fabrics with specific or directional motifs—such as the stripes in this Sandy Creek print—I would recommend purchasing a little more fabric than the pattern calls for. This would allow flexibility to position pattern pieces, fussy cut the motifs, and match motifs as needed.
Siena Shirt pattern from The Sewing Workshop and
Sandy Creek and Spirit Dreaming fabrics from M&S Textiles Australia.
Give the Siena Shirt and Australian aboriginal fabrics a try. A little extra thought and time in the cutting will yield great results... and some well-deserved compliments.

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