Sunday, July 28, 2019

Guild workshop: small numbers yield big results

I'm always amazed and delighted at the dedication and productivity of the work my quilt guild, the Choo Choo Quilters, has when we get together for our annual Cuddle Quilt workshop. We have a small guild—a roster of about 25 members—but our small numbers are mighty when it comes to supporting our community service project.
Ginny (left) and I hold a colorful scrappy quilt top made by Linda.

This year, the Choo Choo Quilters are digging into their stashes and wallets to make bed quilts (twin and queen size) for a local organization. During yesterday's workshop, three bed size quilt tops were completed and great progress was made on several others.

Tea Cup quilt blocks
The completed Tea Cup blocks went up on a makeshift design wall (a flannel-backed tablecloth over a stand alone white board) early in the day.
Tea Cup quilt blocks on a portable design wall.

We gathered 140 blocks that guild members made. It was determined that the bed size quilt required a 9 x 11 layout, so we began arranging the numerous blocks on the floor. 
Working on a 9 x 11 block layout.

Ta-daa! A finished Tea Cup block quilt top (99 blocks).
Cristy (left) and Kay with the completed Tea Cup quilt top.

Crazy Patch blocks
Sherry and Ginny, the Big Quilt Coordinators, made pre-cut quilt block kits for workshop participants. The block was a stack-slice-shuffle crazy patch block. Here are blocks from two of the three colorways.
Crazy Patch quilt blocks on the design wall.

More crazy patch blocks.

Plaid Surprise blocks
The instructions for the Plaid Surprise blocks was distributed at the July guild meeting. Some of these blocks were turned in at the workshop.
Left: Plaid Surprise Disappearing 9-patch blocks.
Right: trimmings from the blocks will be used to create another block.

Easy Woven and String quilt blocks
Batting was measured and cut for the Woven Block quilt top and others.
Sherry cut batting for completed quilt tops.

Earlier in the year, the guild members made string blocks. This top is ready for quilting.
String quilt top ready for quilting.

Cutting tables and ironing boards were set up for shared use.
Cutting stations.

And we all enjoyed the sewing and camaraderie.
Cuddle Quilt workshop attendees.

Surplus Tea Cup blocks
I offered to take the additional 41 Tea Cup blocks home with me. This is a fast and easy block that I enjoyed making (and using up fabric scraps). I'll be piecing a few more blocks with the hope of getting enough for another quilt top.
Tea Cup blocks on my design wall.

2019 Cuddle Quilt Goal
This year's goal is 20 bed size quilts. We already have 17 that are in various stages of completion. I'd say that's quite an accomplishment for a small guild!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Need inspiration? Go to a museum

Need inspiration? There are abundant resources to crack a creative block and take your imagination and focus to a new place. Recently, I had an infusion of inspiration that I found in Kentucky museums. 
Danny Amazonas exhibit at National Quilt Museum
Freehand Patchwork exhibit at the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY.

The National Quilt Museum has a collection of wonderful and stimulating exhibits. Currently on display is the amazing "freehand patchwork" work of Danny Amazonas. Stand back to get the full impact of these colorful fabric collages.
Danny Amazonas, National Quilt Museum, raw edge applique
Detail of "Goldfish" by Danny Amazonas.

From the archives of historical textiles is a beautiful exhibit of carved block resist shibori textiles. The "Love Stories" Jiaxie exhibit features blue and white cotton bridal coverlets with images that depict Chinese dramas about love, marriage and wishes for a good life.
Love Stories exhibit of Chinese wood block resist dyed textiles.
Jiaxie "Love Stories" exhibit at the National Quilt Museum.
I found the wooden dyeing boards interesting artifacts of the traditional clamp resist dye [shibori] technique. Often, when the image began to deteriorate and the boards began to wear out, they were burned as firewood. So these 19th century dye boards are quite rare to have survived.
Wooden dye boards used for the Jiaxie dye technique.

A retrospective of the quilts of Victoria Findlay-Wolfe is also on display a the Quilt Museum. These quilts, like the ones by Danny Amazonas, are a contemporary counterpoint to the blue-and-white Jiaxie textiles.
Quilt retrospective of Victoria Findlay-Wolfe and pieces from books she has written.
It was fun to see a few of Victoria's first quilts—with sizeable hand quilting stitches, cotton/poly blend fabrics, and one attempt at painting on fabric—among her more current work and quilts made for the projects and techniques in her books.
Quilts by Victoria Findlay-Wolfe at the National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY.

Traveling east from Paducah is the Lincoln Museum, located in Hodgenville, KY. Life size wax figures in dioramas depict the life of Abraham Lincoln, the country's 16th President, form early cabin life though the civil war and the fateful night at Ford's Theater.
The Lincoln Museum, Hodgenville, KY.

Outside the museum in the center of the historic town square are two bronze statues of Lincoln. One depicting him as a boy, with his voracious appetite for reading and books, and the other as an adult, a statesman and presidential figure. The museum also includes civil war artifacts and a few quilts commemorating the President and the times.
Abraham Lincoln bronze statues located in the town square in historic Hodgenville, KY,
about 3 miles north of Lincoln's birthplace at Sinking Spring.

Contemporary quilts, historic textiles, ancient dye techniques beside masterful machine quilting, and a look back into US history can clear the cobwebs from the brain and be an impetus for a new course. From the placard beside one of Victoria Findlay-Wolfe's 2018 quilts: "... let the path unfold before [you]... love sitting in that place of discovery... wonder what will be next... and have fun finding out."

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Destashing yields 49 Tea Cup blocks

Sometimes a "simple sew" is just the ticket needed to move miscellaneous fabric pieces from the stash... to something useful.

tea cup quilt blocks
Fabric pieces from my stash and several completed Tea Cup blocks.

Last month, my quilt guild, the Choo Choo Quilters, introduced the Tea Cup block and proposed a color scheme for a quilt for our charity quilt project. This block pattern was a welcome change from the precision patchwork I've been doing on my #100Days100Blocks and Farmer's Wife projects. So, I sent myself on a hunt through my fabric stash.

The Tea Cup block

I'm not quite sure why this is called the Tea Cup, but it's as relaxing as a brew of English Breakfast or Earl Grey in one of Gram's green depression era teacups (complete with a saucer!). It's an easy quilt block that can be made with pre-cut 10" squares or, in my case, stash fabrics. Here is a video for this block's cutting and assembly.

At first it was challenging to find fabrics in the coral/peach and dusty blue color scheme, but after digging a while in the stash, I uncovered pieces I thought would meet the requirements.
tea cup block pieces
Pre-cut pieces ready for chain piecing the Tea Cup blocks.

As some of my fabric pieces were not 10" squares, I calculated the size of the block's units and cut individual pieces as needed.

Tea Cup blocks in a 7 x 7 layout.

The Tea Cup block has only 4 seams and trims to 9" square—a fast sew. It was not long before I had 24... then 30... then 42... then 49 blocks.

easy tea cup quilt blocks
49 Tea Cup blocks.

My guild is making bed-size quilts this year for our charity. A solid block setting (no sashing or borders) in an 8 x 9 layout will meet the size that's needed. If time permits, I may do another dive into the stash and make a few more Tea Cup blocks.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Tips for making quilt blocks with yarn-dyed textured wovens

The #100Days100Blocks2019 Kinship sew-along that I'm participating in began July 1. The fabrics I chose for this project are yarn-dyed textured cottons from Diamond Textiles. Momentum hit and with less than a week into the project, I've got 28 blocks pieced... and 4 more cut and ready to be sewn. In the process of making my blocks, I've learned some things about working with yarn-dyed wovens.
Block #15 from the Kinship sampler made with yarn-dyed cotton fabrics from Diamond Textiles. 

Characteristics of yarn-dyed cottons
Yarn-dyed wovens are cotton fabrics that can be used for patchwork, quiltmaking, accessories (bags, pouches, pillows, etc.) and garment sewing. Some unique characteristics of these fabrics are:

  • a yarn-dyed fabric has color on both sides of the fabric. So, when you purchase and use a yarn-dyed woven, you get the "right side" and the "other right side." Use whichever you prefer!
  • some yarn-dyed woven fabrics might have a softer drape and feel compared to printed quilting cottons—this makes them so lovely for sewing garments as well as in quilts.
  • the patterns, or textures, in the fabrics are created during the weaving process. You can see the "floats" in the photo below that create the pattern designs in the cloth. Some designs are created with a contrasting colored yarn or even a thicker/heavier weight yarn. 
  • some yarn-dyed cottons use one color of yarn for the warp and a contrasting color for the weft. These are often referred to as "shot cottons." The combination of two colored yarns woven together creates a new, rich and more complex color with more depth than a plain solid fabric.

Examples of various yarn-dyed cottons (by Diamond Textiles).
Textures and patterns are created in the weaving process.

The yarn-dyed fabrics I'm using for the Kinship sampler are Diamond Textiles' Tweed Thicket and Nikko IIITweed Thicket has a flatter surface while Nikko III has a raised diamond pattern and a slight more drape.
Tweed Thicket (top) and Nikko III yarn-dyed cottons.

After piecing several blocks, I've become more familiar with working with yarn-dyed wovens and learned some tips for easier and more accurate patchwork.
Blocks for the Kinship sampler quilt made with yarn-dyed wovens.

Tips and Tools for better patchwork
As with any patchwork—especially small blocks or those with many small pieces—good workmanship is paramount to accuracy and success. The blocks in the Kinship sampler quilt finish at 8" square and 4" x 8". Some of the units within the blocks are cut 1", 1.5" and 2.5". The tools and processes I've discovered to improve success when working with these fabrics are:
  • starch the fabric before cutting. I use spray sizing (it's what I keep on hand).
  • put a new cutting blade in the rotary cutter. (A good practice for any project!)
  • account for the "turn of cloth" [the amount of fabric taken up when fabric is folded]. The turn of cloth seems to be 1-2 mm larger for these yarn-dyed wovens.
  • spin the seam allowances when possible to minimize bulk. (A good practice for any patchwork.)
  • and, as with any patchwork and small pieces, a consistent and accurate 1/4" seam allowance is important.
Block #10 (front).

Block #10 (back) showing spinning the seam allowances at the intersections.

The Bloc_Loc ruler has expedited the trimming and improved accuracy of HST [half-square triangles]. Many of the Kinship blocks incorporate 1.5" and 2" triangle units. 
Bloc_Loc ruler is helpful for trimming half-square triangle units.

I'm also finding that I like the blocks that have a mixture of Tweed Thicket and Nikko III. The variations in texture make them more interesting to me.
Block #7 (left) and Block #5 of the Kinship sampler quilt.

Design principles: variety and texture.

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