Thursday, April 25, 2013

Harmonic Convergence quilts: contemporary and timeless

Ricky Tims' Harmonic Convergence quilt technique has been around for a while, but the results are always so amazing that the technique seems timeless. I was browsing through my iPhoto archives and found pictures of two Harmonic Convergence quilts that my friend, Gerry, pieced and asked me to quilt for her.

Gerry has a great eye for pattern and color, and her piecing is impeccable. I think my quilting did justice to her beautiful workmanship. Take a look... and if you like these quilts, I'll be teaching this class on May 2 at Ready Set Sew in Chattanooga. Join me and I'll walk you through the creation of your own spectacular Harmonic Convergence quilt.
Harmonic Convergence, front detail.
Harmonic Convergence, back view.
Detail of appliqué.
Here is the full quilt (unbound).
Harmonic Convergence, full view.
This is the second in Gerry's Harmonic Convergence series. Like potato chips, you can't have (or make) just one.
Harmonic Convergence, detail.
This one has a unique complementary color scheme with the deep, burnt orange and a powdery light blue. I quilted a combination of circular swirls...
Harmonic Convergence, detail.
... and leaves/flames running on the diagonal. With this complementary color scheme, I changed the threads so the thread color would blend with the fabrics.
Harmonic Convergence, detail.
Isn't the border fabric spectacular? The circles are an excellent complement to the horizontal and vertical lines in the center. Here is the full view.
Harmonic Convergence, full view.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A basting party with the Churn Dashes

My students hit Week 4 of my Beginning Quilting class—basting the quilt in preparation for machine quilting. This is a fun week for me as quilt tops come together and we see final fabric choices for sashing, outside borders and backing. Here is today's Show and Tell.
Louise's Churn Dash
Don't you love the surprise on Louise's backing? She unexpectedly found a coordinating print that was part of this fabric collection.
The backing shows off the coordinating prints.
Sue made her Churn Dash a scrappy version. Last week, she auditioned the layout of the blocks and decided to put the bright yellow in the center. Your eye dances around the other blocks from color to color and value to value. Nice variety!
Sue's scrappy Churn Dash.
The background of the Churn Dash blocks is a Splash blender from Blank Quilting and the border is from the Inspiration collection.
A light backing will show off the quilting.
Sandra is making her Churn Dash for a grandson. Her choice of colors, prints and stripes gives her quilt a masculine look. The dark border will frame it beautifully.

Sandra's Churn Dash is for her grandson.
 Cheryl brought in this 9-patch on point quilt top. The color combination is striking!
Cheryl's 9-patch quilt top.
Everyone in class helps each other basting their quilt tops. With multiple pairs of hands, the basting process moves quickly. This is the best way to baste quilt tops (in my opinion)—with a bunch of quilting buddies!
Group basting is the way to go!
After a discussion about threads—fiber content, weight, color, and reflectance—we did some auditioning...
Auditioning thread color for quilting.
Which thread color do you think she went with—the peach or the mint??

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Just about an inch to go...

Completed vest from my
Cool Cotton Vest workshop.
Ever wonder what stopped you from finishing a project? I don't remember what distracted me from finishing this knitted vest...

... but a lunch out with a few knitters who have been in my knitting classes (one of whom was wearing her finished vest) prompted me to revisit this project.

So, last Tuesday I pulled out the vest from its project tote bag (you can't have too many tote bags, I always say), and there was about an inch left to knit on the right front, and a 3-needle bind-off at the shoulders (the left front was finished)! This vest was knit in the round, so there are no side seams. We're talking all of 16 stitches in the row... that decreased down to 14... and then the bind off. Geesh... that was all!

A little over an hour later the vest was finished—including attaching the button, sewing the pocket linings and weaving in the ends.

The yarn we used for the vest is Cotton Supreme by Universal Yarn (so soft!) and the pattern is the Vaill Island Vest by Gwynn Erickson for Halcyon Yarn. The slip stitch garter pattern is easy and rhythmical and the vertical demarcation from the slip stitch is slimming on the body.
Vaille Island vest in Cotton Supreme.
This vest has a side vent detail. The lined pockets were a pattern modification so my students could learn another technique in the class.
Side vent of cotton vest.
Thanks to my knitting students, I have a great new knit vest, one less UFO (unfinished object), and a new empty tote bag... which is a good thing as I just returned from Stitches South.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stitches South spotlights hand-dyed yarns

"Artful Color,  Mindful Knits" by Laura Bryant.
Stitches South 2013 was a fabulous show once again... with lots of buzz about new techniques, the latest knitwear fashions, tools, fibers, yarns and more.

I attended classes with world-renown knitting gurus Lily Chin, Anna Zilboorg and Rick Mondragon, did my due diligence at the vendor mall (sigh!), and breathed in enough inspiration to make one's head spin.

This year, I decided to attend the Pajama Party (10 pm to midnight) where knitters, crocheters (and a few spinners) came in their PJs, fuzzy bunny slippers and curlers. PJ Party-goers toted their yarny WIPs (work in progress) along with miscellaneous and sundry items for the "Let's Make a Deal" games and antics—knitter's style. It was a blast and winners won some great prizes!

A few of my knitting students and I having lunch at Stitches South.
I met up with a few of my knitting students at the expo. We took a [short] break to get a bite for lunch... then back to the vendors and the show floor...

Back at the vendor mall... XRX, the publisher of Knitter's Magazine and numerous knitting books, and the sponsor of the Stitches expos, always has a booth up front. This year, the XRX booth was spotlighting "Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-dyed Yarn" by Laura Militzer Bryant.
Laura Bryant's new book, "Artful Color, Mindful Knits."
For those that may not know Laura, she is the creative master mind and founder of Prism Yarns and has been hand-dying yarn for 30+ years. A brief demo at the XRX booth on Laura's "Magic Number" concept for using hand-dyed yarns to achieve amazing (and controlled) patterns immediately sold me on the book. (You should have seen the swatches and the garments... OMGosh!) I took a class with Laura 2 years ago at Stitches South, so was familiar with her vast expertise and stunning knitwear designs using hand-dyed yarn. Her book tops this!
Poster showing one of the Artful Color garments.
I haven't digested all the info in the book, but this is a resource every knitter and crocheter should have on her/his bookshelf. It will serve you well as a reference now and for years to come.
The dash into the vendor mall preview for pre-paid attendees.
So, run! Order Artful Color, Mindful Knits: The Definitive Guide to Working with Hand-dyed Yarn for yourself now!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring blooms reflected in "Hop Scotch" quilt

The lamp post cloaked in fuchsia azaleas.
Does Mother Nature's palette influence your fabric choices? Or, do your quilts project your hopes for a brighter color scheme for the color-bland pre-Spring landscapes?

It seems the colors of Spring bloomed in our yard this week. As I finished attaching the label on Hop Scotch, the colors through my window seemed to mirror the colors of the quilted fabrics in my lap.
Hop Scotch: back view of the quilting.
The white accents in the fabrics resemble the delicate leafy petals of our White Perfection irises.
"White Perfection" irises from our wedding reception.
Hop Scotch is a fun and easy, 3-yard quilt pattern by Heirloom Elegance. The quilt is comprised of 9-patch blocks with alternate plain blocks. The blocks finish at 9 inches and I used a 5 x 5 layout that finished at 58" square.
Solid blocks and alternate 9-patch.
The 9-patch in my Hop Scotch combines Splash (in coral) with Sisley (dots), and the solid block is from the Madison collection, all from Blank Quilting. More Splash (in meadow) found a place in the pieced backing.
Hop Scotch: pieced back.
Purple thrift among the evergreen shrubs.
Hop Scotch: back view of quilting on Splash (meadow green).
Purple bearded iris.
Vinca: a sprinkle of blue violet on a ground of green.
The striped binding adds a little zing. The repetition in the stripe complements the randomness of the whimsical flowers and stylized leaf prints.
Hop Scotch: striped binding.
Hop Scotch full view (58" x 58").
No garden is complete without bugs. Here is the label for Hop Scotch—bordered with quirky, big-eyed insects from Bugalicious
Hop Scotch label.
Happy Spring and Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Beginning quilters learn basic block units, and a lesson on design walls

On week two of my Beginning Quilting class, my students learned several basic quiltmaking techniques and are working on two versatile block units—the two-patch unit and the half square triangle. Here is their progress with their first quilt block—the Churn Dash.
Churn Dash blocks from Beginning Quilting students.
We also discussed pressing seams, pressing for construction, nesting seams and design options. A design wall is indispensable for auditioning fabrics, values and determining unit placement. It can keep you organized and provides a visual platform for experimenting with design possibilities.

For class purposes, I carry a flannel-backed plastic table cloth (you can pick one up at the dollar store) for a design wal. It is inexpensive, portable, and folds up quickly for transporting to and from classes. In my studio I have flannel fabric wall that I made with two lengths of white cotton flannel sewn together.

On a recent visit to a quilt shop, the "light bulb" went on during a conversation with the shop owner—flannel wide backings for design walls! Blank Quilting has a new line of flannel wide backs. The putty color is a good "neutral" background color [anyone remember 18% neutral gray from Photography classes?], or you could use the back (unprinted) side. I remember a workshop with Kaffe Fassett where he recommended a neutral gray or taupe color (as opposed to white) as a backdrop for viewing painting, quilting and knitwear designs.

Oh, I wish wide back flannel was available when I was making my flannel design wall. The wide backing is 108" wide, a better yardage buy for your dollar... and you don't have to piece it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

What's inside Brown Bag #1...

My guild, the Choo Choo Quilters, is doing a Brown Bag Challenge this year. We'll be rotating mystery projects—found inside Brown Bags—for the next 6 months. In November, it will be a surprise to see what people do with the supplies and guidelines that we provided in our bag at the beginning of the rotation. So, I won't be revealing much here... just a glimpse to keep you curious.
What's inside the Brown Bag??
You saw the "nucleus" of my Monet-inspired Brown Bag project here. Above are some of the "bits" in the bag I received in the first rotation... along with some guidance and inspiration (below).
Inspiration found in the Brown Bag.
The authors of the String Quilt Revival book did a presentation at a local Chattanooga guild last August. It's fun to revisit quilt history. I can't wait to see what's in the Bag next month.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Annual Easter egg and yarn dying event

This year I was prepared for the leftover Easter egg dyes! I had two hanks of Universal Yarn's Ready to Dye superwash Merino yarn waiting in the wings for the annual Easter egg dyeing event at our house.

While my husband laid down newspaper on the kitchen table, mixed the Paas colors, and got the hard boiled eggs ready to be patterned and dyed, I filled the sink with water, a cup of vinegar, and set the timer for a 30-minute yarn soak. After the eggs were colored and on the drying rack, it was time for the yarn.
2013 Easter egg and  yarn dyeing event.
I pressed out the excess water from the yarn and laid each hank on a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap. There was enough leftover dye to paint both hanks. One was painted with the leftover cool colors—blue, green and purple—and the other with the warm colors—yellow, orange and red (which looks more like pink). If you don't want the pure, bright "Easter egg" hues, I recommend mixing the dye colors in the cups (to get blue-green, blue violet, etc.) rather than on the yarn. I also added more water to several of the cups and the color was still vibrant. This superwash wool took the dye easily.
Painting the prepared yarn with leftover egg dyes.
After painting, the yarn was wrapped in the plastic wrap and individually batched in the microwave. There was minimal residual dye when rinsed—just a tiny bit of pale red/pink—otherwise, the water ran clear from the first rinse.
100% superwash merino wool dyed with Easter egg dyes.
This yarn is soft and springy and I can't wait to see how the color variations knit up. Each hank of this #4 worsted weight yarn has 180 yards—an ample amount for something sweet and special.

Any suggestions for a project? 
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