Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One Quilt, Two Ways

Ever since I first started quilting, I was always looking at ways to take something, how it was, and change it around to make it my own. I wanted my own spin on the typical pattern directions so I could challenge my creative ability. I have done this with SEVERAL quilts and had great results every time.

When I took the beginner's quilter's series at Creative Fires, I made the first project, a rail fence, I made it exactly as I was supposed to. But then when it came time to show them off to the other class mates, mine just seemed to be blending in with the crowd. I wanted to make sure I stood out. So, for the next project, a log cabin, I decided to sew my 16 block on point to make a table runner, rather than the traditional wall hanging. With such few log cabin blocks, I couldn't find a layout that I liked very much, until I looked at it from an angle. Then I knew that I could make mine stand out. The next project in the series was the friendship star, and I kept to the true layout of that one. But then for the flying geese project I did something really cool (and at the time, the most challenging thing I had ever done before. I loved the fabric that I had picked out for the back of the quilt, but since it was a beginner's class, and it was a directional print, the instructor recommended that I not use it on the front of the quilt. As I was piecing the geese, I was loving the wonderful pinwheel shape that they created when sewn into a square. But then I noticed a "window" effect that was created from four pinwheel blocks. Then, I had an idea to cut off part of the geese and sew in a picture from the backing fabric. I was very pleased with the results. And don't you agree? That Currier and Ive's Print was way too cute to just be on the back of the quilt!

Another quilt that I made was an applique sampler from a pattern. I LOVE this quilt. I also love the layout, and as I thought about it, I saw that I could also rearrange the layout and use it for all seasons. Right now I have only done the fall one, and I am currently working on a pattern for this quilt. The snowman was from the pattern and the fall quilt is one that I designed for the same layout.

Maybe I am just biased but I love the fall one the most! It will look even better when it is quilted. I need to commit myself to getting this quilted....It isn't big and obviously won't take that long to do, I just need to do it...along with all of the other UFO's I have stacked up!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Quilting:Beyond the Blanket

I have been making lots of throw and bed size quilts lately but I quilt much more than just blankets. I make quilted things for every room! I love to have different monthly place mats and table runners, pot holders, and wall quilts for my kitchen. Quilted items for the kitchen also make great gifts! 

I made these fun bright "mug cozies" at Christmas time. They fit around mugs perfectly and simply beg your to drink a hot beverage. I love they they are quick, simple gifts to make and can be customized to anyone's liking or kitchen style.

I also made these Christmas Pot Holders as a gift. I have since made many others for wedding gifts, Valentine's Day. 

I enjoy making quilts for every room, but since I love to cook so much, the kitchen is my favorite!

Take 5 meets the Queen

I am a graphic design student, and thankfully have a light enough schedule that allows me to still get some quilting done while balancing school work. But, this past week I was on spring break and was able to get A LOT done! I just started cutting this quilt on Wednesday night at 11 pm, and pulled it out of the dryer last night around 10 pm! I was a busy lady! This one is another commissioned Mother's Day quilt. A woman from my church is giving it to her mother, and she is going to LOVE it!
The typical Take 5 pattern is five rows of four 12" square blocks. This one, I kept the block size the same, but made seven rows of seven. With borders this quilt measures 96"x96" This is the one that I was able to quilt on the Tin Lizzie long arm quilting machine at Creative Fires. That definitely allowed the quilting process to go much faster! I have done several Take 5 blocks because they are so fun, easy and colorful, but also because they work well in all sizes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Long Arm Quilting

Originally I had planned on posting a new quilt that I just finished today but it will have to be postponed due to the weather we are having right now...basically it is a great day if you are a duck! So instead, I will be talking about the fabulous experience of long arm quilting that I just had.

My Bernina 830 is currently in the shop, waiting on a part to come in but it is on back-order. So I have been using my Bernina 440 QE for the past few days. I had two queen size quilt tops that needed to be quilted, and she generously allowed me to borrow her 830 to quilt them. I got one done fairly quickly, and then she offered me to use her Tin Lizzie 18 long arm machine to quilt the second one. I was more than ready to jump on that offer! So today, I got to Creative Fires at 12:15, and had the entire queen sized quilt loaded and stippled in 1 hour and 47 minutes! I had NO IDEA that it was so quick and easy. Now I have the long arm fever and must own one soon.

So what did I like about it? From start to finish the Lizzie had a very user friendly approach to it. I quickly had the top loaded, and was ready to start quilting. Very fast and easy to do. I LOVED how fast it could stipple! The stitches all looked even with no matter how fast I was sewing. I also enjoyed how easy it was to move. It was not hard to move around like some long arm quilting machines that I have tried before. The Tin Lizzie machine was easy to thread and change bobbins which was very helpful being that it was a queen size quilt and took three full M sized bobbins.

After a nearly year long process of deciding on what kind of machine I wanted. I had it narrowed down to two different machines and just could not decide between them! Now that I have quilted an entire top on the Lizzie, I'd say I am leaning strongly towards it. It is cheaper than the other brand, the local dealer lives right down the road, and it is getting revamped with many new upgrades. It will be available for purchase in April!

I did not know how wonderful it was to quilt on a long arm. If you are a quilter, who is looking to try one out, I recommend you do so! This will make your life much easier! And if you already own a long arm...you have no excuse for UFO's! I am telling you they make such quick work of quilting. If you own one, I would love to know what kind you have.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mystery Quilt Series 2012

Hello Everyone!

I am pleased to announce that starting in April I will be starting a mystery quilt along! I will hopefully be posting fabric requirements soon. This quilt will include a variety of techniques including piecing and applique. This is my first one and I am so excited to do it! Hope that you will join me on this fun endeavor! Look for details soon and the First of 9 blocks in April!

A COMPLETED quilt fit for a queen

So I haven't posted the past couple of days, but that is because I have been quilting like a mad woman! Yesterday alone I worked on logo sketches, played with fabrics for the QUILTCON challenge, quilted a queen size quilt top and cut and sorted fabric for another queen size quilt that I hope to have pieced today! Whew! And that was just from 3pm to 11! (My hubby works second shift and we don't have kids so I was able to sew uninterrupted from almost the entire time!)

 But  now I have a great follow up on a previous post for you all today. I have finished the quilt that I was making for Mother's day for my friend's mom. I LOVE how it looks with the pictures on it and the quilting looks great!
"Apple Pie" block with photos of children and grandchildren appliqued on

In the corners of the inner border I made a small orange peel flower, and then along the borders did a leaf and vine free motion quilting. The center was gridded on point with 3 inch spacing and the outer border was simply a decorative stitch on my Bernina 830.

Close up of mini orange peel flowers, and decorative quilting
Close up of Orange Peel Vine Quilting

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's a Modern Kind of Monday

Wow! I am not sure where you are from, but the weather here is perfect! I have spent the day outside drawing inspiration from nature for my fabric designs (I hope one day to be a fabric designer). While I thought that I would always design something traditional, today I was looking for modern inspiration. Despite the fact that I am only 24 years old, I have always thought of myself as a traditional quilter, using mainly Benartex fabrics, and primitive prints unlike other young quilters my age who love the modern look. I liked the look of the fun P&B, Moda, and Michael Miller fabrics, but never saw them fitting into my primitive country house.

So, when I first started quilting 2 years ago, I decided to just write modern quilts off all together. But I have recently started appreciating these modern quilts. They are a great quilting style no matter what you age and definitely something that I want to have a better appreciation for. While I love prints, and don't think I would even do a totally solid quilt, I am starting to warm up to the simplistic fabrics used in modern quilts. So much so that I am entering the QUILTCON challenge. I ordered fabrics from Sew Modern and will be entering three blocks into the challenge. I am new to modern quilting but very inspired by it and hope to better appreciate it through doing this contest. I just love the fabris I will be using! I went with this bundle of fabrics because it had prints and solids. The other two were just solid fabrics. I also plan in adding in a few fabrics from Creative Fires just so I can represent my hometown as well!

So what is modern quilting? Well first of all, the QUILTCON website asks "What does modern quilting mean to
you?" So I am going to answer that first.

To me, modern quilting is clean, simple, high contrast fabrics in a minimalistic design. Modern quilting can be completely wacky, new and innovative, or it can be a new spin on an old classic. Colors that I associate with modern quilting are orange, red, black, white, gray, and turquoise. I also can see bright colors as a whole working with modern quilts. Modern quilts have basic shapes used in them like circles and squares, and designs are typically asymmetrical. I also associate modern quilting designs with a lot of background. Sort of a "less is more" design concept with modern quilting.

Now that I have given my opinion of what a modern quilt is, I have an excerpt form The Modern Quilt Guild that tells what modern quilting is:

Modern quilts and quilters:
  • Make primarily functional rather than decorative quilts
  • Use asymmetry in quilt design
  • Rely less on repetition and on the interaction of quilt block motifs
  • Contain reinterpreted traditional blocks
  • Embrace simplicity and minimalism
  • Utilize alternative block structures or lack of visible block structure
  • Incorporate increased use of negative space
  • Are inspired by modern art and architecture
  • Frequently use improvisational piecing
  • Contain bold colors, on trend color combinations and graphic prints
  • Often use gray and white as neutrals
  • Reflect an increased use of solid fabrics
  • Focus on finishing quilts on home sewing machines

So, with that said, there are definitely some things that I didn't know about modern quilting. I did not know that they were seen as functional rather than decorative. That one really stick out to me. And I like that idea! I want a quilt that I can use. I want it to be loved on and cherished. While quilts look great hanging on the wall, I love having one that is functional for everyday use and isn't a high maintenance item.

I also didn't know that modern quilts relied on negative space. I love that in quilts! When I design a block in EQ7 and realize that my first block also creates another visual element in my quilt with negative space, I feel like a kid in a candy store. Or perhaps in this case, a girl in a fabric shop!

Anyway, no matter what kind of quilting style you may have, I encourage you to have at least an appreciation for all types of quilting! Also, I urge you to enter in the QUILTCON challenge. I am so excited to do it! Good Luck and Happy Quilting!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Star Flower Quilt (cont)

TA-DA! After being up late last night I finished this colorful top! I was prepared to just cut the piano key border, but then I was just too excited to not sew it on. Then, once I was to that point, I just had to finish the last border. Needless to say I was up until 1:30 am and the alarm to wake me up for church came very quickly! I am so pleased with the results. Now I am working on an idea for the backing. I think I am going to use my scraps and make a striped back so the quilt can be reversible! For anyone who missed the first post, this was a block that I made from an Ellison Lane Quilt tutorial. Such a colorful and creative blog! If you happen to make one of your own, make sure you share a photo on my Facebook page and on the Flickr stream for Ellison Lane Star Flower blocks! Happy Quilting!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Star Flower Quilt

I just made this quilt this week. I originally found the block on Pinterest and fell in love with it. I just had to make one of my own for the back of my couch this summer! Between this quilt and the Watermelon log cabin, I am set for the warm season! I am going to be using a variegated rainbow thread to quilt this with. I still need to add borders, I think I will use a 1" white border, then a piano key rainbow border, and finish off again with a white scalloped edge border.
I got this tutorial from Ellison Lane Quilts. Hers is just beautiful, very crisp and clean. I am so excited to have re-created it! I was going to make a tutorial for you but her's is just so perfect, I will just let you see how she did it. I did use this method for piecing all of the HST's! It was much easier! I cut my blocks at 8" (I got 5 blocks out of a strip of fabric), and then followed the tutorial and squared them all up to 3 1/2." The only other thing I did differently is I did NOT press my seams open, however there was a lot of bulk in some seams. If I do this again, I WILL press them open.  If you make one, I would love to see it. Also, there is a flickr photo album for everyone to post in for Ellison Lane Quilts, so make sure you share it there too!

Required for this quilt:
8 different 1/4 yard cuts of colors (I think this would also look good in pastels, or jewel tones, even if you did fewer colors, but for this one you will need 8 different ones)

2 yards white background (I am using this for the border too).

I bought 1/2 yards of each color, because I was originally planning on making this quilt a queen size. I changed my mind, but with my remaining 1/4 yard scraps, I am making the piano key border and binding. If you chose to do it this way too, you will need 1/2 yards of the 8 color fabrics.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Feature: Lazy GIrl Design

I love to quilt, as you obviously know, but in addition to making quilts, I also enjoy making other handcrafted items as well. I love to make bags and my FAVORITE patterns to use are the "Lazy Girl Designs." They have such great easy ways to make their handbags.

So what makes these so great? First of all, I love how easy and simple the instructions are. They tell me what I need to know in a concise manner. Some patterns I come across have so many foot notes and parenthetical notes that I can barely digest what is being said...let alone actually understand it and successfully create it!

Lazy Girl Designs also has the BEST methods for making pockets, handles and putting the bag all together. I made a diaper bag using a different pattern (from a rather trustworthy designer) and HATED it! I love making things from the other designer but that bag was not a hit. I put the bag together and it resulted in a lot of bulk in the bottom and it was difficult to sew through. Once I finally got it all sewn together the seams were way off. I was disappointed in how it turned out; and the handles were a nightmare! Trying to sew them and then turn them was just a stubborn mess. Even when I make my own bag patterns, I use the methodology of the Lazy Girl Designs. I have made the Miranda, Mini Miranda, and Claire bags several times. The Miranda and Mini Miranda (below) are quilted bags, but I have made them without quilting before too, and it works out great.

The Claire bag is my go to bag for gifts. I love the outside pockets! I have made this bag countless times, I just may be able to do this one in my sleep!

I love their methods and love to make them my own. I add yo-yos and buttons to the closure flaps to dress them up, insert magnets into bags for closure, and add zippers or more pockets to them so I can customize each bag for my needs. I STRONGLY suggest that you familiarize yourself with Lazy Girl Designs and learn their shortcuts to make great bags WITHOUT the headache!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What to Look for in a Rotary Cutter

I'm a gadget and notion nerd, I really get into all the specialty tools made for quilting, and I love sharing what I've learned with you the reader. As a natural follow up to our rotary cutting mat post, I'll be discussing the in's and out's of rotary blades. If you're still cutting out your squares or strips with a template and a pair of scissors, STOP! Save that for your applique. There's a faster more efficient way to do it! For just about any straight cut and even some curves you should be using a rotary cutting tool. Just make sure you have a mat down on your table to protect it from the blade; unfortunately this isn't something you can do in your lap.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping around:

Brand - Many of the same companies that I mentioned in the cutting mat article also make a rotary blade. The three I've noticed most often are Olfa, Gingher, and Fiskars. Olfa is easily the most common and has the largest variety. If a quilt shop cuts their fabric with a rotary cutter, there's a 90% chance they'll be using an Olfa. Gingher only makes one type of rotary cutter, but it's built like a tank. Gingher is better known for their large variety of scissors (many of which are all metal construction and they're NICE). Make sure you're paying attention, because one is for righty's and the other for lefty's. My wife has a few Olfa's, but prefers her Ginger's. I believe part of it is what you get used to, because the instructors at Creative Fires swear by their Olfa's. In a not too distant third is Fiskars, not to say they aren't as good, I just haven't had the opportunity to use their rotary tool yet. Like Gingher, they're better known for their scissors.

Size - Olfa takes the cake when it comes to various blades, I've even seen a few decorative blades for pinking and scallops. Olfa has an 18mm and 28mm that are better suited for precise cuts and cutting curved quilt pieces, a 45mm which is the industry standard all purpose size, and a large 60mm that's good for cutting multiple layers or thicker materials (the larger blade should stay sharp longer, when cutting regular fabric, since its blade will contact the fabric less often). Fiskars offers multiple sizes as well but you may have difficulty finding the smaller replacement blades in stores. Gingher only offers the 45mm size, but that should be fine for most, plus they have some designer ones with fun prints on the handle. For a beginner, a 45mm blade is all you'll need to start, and I would recommend an Olfa because replacement blades are more affordable. You're bound to knick a few blades while you're learning to cut along a quilting ruler.

Handle - Like I said earlier, the type of handle you buy will really depend on what you get used to. Some manufacturer's try to create more ergonomic handles to make it more comfortable for longer cutting sessions or for those with arthritic hands. All brands and handles will have a safety cover that extends past the blade to help prevent accidents. Olfa has three main handles: their original which is held more vertically and pressed down, a deluxe rotary with a larger handle the reduces the angle you're cutting at a little, and their quick change rotary that cuts more horizontally like the Gingher model. Olfa's handles are a bright yellow hard plastic, while the Gingher is mostly metal like many of their scissors. I won't comment much on Fiskars since I haven't used them personally, but they have many choices comparable to Olfa.

Replacement Blades - Typically, you will buy the rotary handle of your choice and it will come with one blade. Once that blade becomes dull you can buy replacement blades, Olfa most commonly sells their straight blades in a five pack ranging from about $37 for the 45mm to $55 for the 60mm. Their original 45mm handle starts at $22 and goes up to about $50 for their 60mm ergonomic handle. Gingher is downright expensive at nearly $70 and their replacement 45mm blades are about $11 for just one! I'm checking these prices at Joann's online store, so remember to use the coupons they offer to save a considerable amount on your investments.

A few tips when learning to cut with a rotary blade... when you first start out you're bound to run your blade up onto your ruler or into the side of it. Do this enough and you will get a knick or dull spot in the blade that won't cut the fabric every time that part of the blade rolls over it. Watch out for pins and needles! These will definitely cause a knick in the blade, remove them before cutting a certain side or segment of your fabric. Also its best to use one long firm swipe or cut, don't run it back and forth like a saw, that'll just dull it more quickly. Press firmly, but not so hard that you cut your cutting mat in half, you'll get the feel pretty quickly. Don't fret, my wife says that by the time you finish your first project you'll be a pro.

Sometimes it's nice to save an older blade for cutting paper (not that you'll use it for that too often), many manufacturers say cutting paper can dull your blade more quickly. That also applies to many fabric shears as well, Gingher scissors shouldn't be used to cut paper, get a pair of Fiskar's crafting scissors for that. I've heard that cutting batting can dull your blade more quickly too, my wife prefers to cut it with her Gingher shears. Part of this is probably because she doesn't have a large enough mat to cut the width of it without moving the material. When it comes down to it ANYTHING you cut will dull your blades, its just about prolonging their life. A 60mm blade would probably be more suitable for batting if you don't mind the additional expense, but using your 45mm or scissors will be fine until you build up your notions stash. =)

One last thing worth mentioning. There are a few tools out there that are used to sharpen rotary blades to help extend their life. Dritz makes one that consists of two pieces that you fit the blade between and a coarse surface rubs over the blade as you turn it. My wife and I haven't had much luck with it, but our blade was knicked, so if it were just dull we may have faired better. Also, my wife saw on Pinterest that you can cut aluminum foil to help sharpen your blade... haven't tried that either, so try at your own risk.

Hope this article helps everyone, feel free to add your input in the comments too so we can all learn!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Planning a Quilt Design Part 3: Value

Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. Value is achieved by adding black (shade) or white (tint) to a color. Value can add a lot of DEPTH to a quilt. It takes it from looking like a basic easy level project to one that looks like it was an advanced challenge. It is important to understand how value can play a role in a quilt. Value is the use of lighter and darker hues of the base color. So if I would like to add movement to a quilt, say with highlights and shadows, it is important to understand different values of the colors I am using.

This quilt is a beautiful hollow cube quilt, completely strip pieced! It looks MUCH more complicated than it actually is. This quilt is from Capital Quilts in Maryland. They did a class on it in January. I would love if they did it again. I would enjoy taking this class!

Below is a picture of three colors, red, green and blue with a tint and shade of each color. See how the value of a color can really make a BIG difference in your quilts.

This is especially useful if you are making a landscape quilt where highlights and shadows will be important, like this one by Daphne Greig below.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Choosing and Caring for a Rotary Cutting Mat

A quality rotary mat should be a staple in any quilter's arsenal.  Believe it or not, when my wife Nicole started quilting I thought we were supposed to cut everything out with scissors, like we all used to do in elementary school!  AGH!  Now there is a time and a place to use scissors, such as when cutting out patterns for applique, but any straight cut (like for squares or triangles) can be done MUCH faster and more accurately by using a cutting mat and a rotary cutter.

One last rant and then I'll move on with the rest of the article… =)  It has always bothered me that so many shops cut the fabric we purchase with a plain old pair of scissors.  First of all… have you ever tried to cut a straight line in fabric with scissors?  Unless you draw a line with chalk or something else, I can almost guarantee it'll be skewed and then you'll have to square it up again later.  Now some shops DO use metal tracks as guides, but that only helps so much.  Creative Fires, our local quilt shop, uses cutting mats, rulers, and rotary blades to cut, which I feel is the natural way to divide and cut fabric, but I guess I'm just biased.  Perhaps it is cheaper to replace a pair of scissors than the mat and blade every so often. *Rant over*

So what do you look for when buying a cutting board?  Well… let's do bullet points to make it a little easier to digest.

- there are NUMEROUS brands, many which may be familiar if you've been crafting long.  The big ones are Olfa, Omnigrid, Fiskars, and Dritz.  I've also seen Gingher.  You really can't go wrong with any of these, when it comes down to it, its a "self healing" barrier between your blade and the counter or floor.  Self healing meaning it'll take quite a bit of cutting before your mat starts looking chewed up.  My wife and I have been happy with Fiskars lately because many of their mats have measurements on both sides, so when one side starts to wear out, just flip it over, they also have a different color on each side.  YAY!  Our local quilting shop has been happy with Dritz.

Size - mats come in a few various sizes, there are a few I might consider standard, but like quilting rulers there are many specialty sizes as well.  Currently we have two.  A smaller one that is easy to maneuver for small quick cuts (18" x 24"), and a larger more all purpose work area size (24" x 36").  The larger size is the standard, most common size you will find. Below is a picture of both sizes that My wife owns

There are some HUGE mats as well that can easily take up your entire work area, but many come with some caveats.  I believe Olfa has one that is actually three of the larger size mats that clip together.  Another, from an unknown brand, is a single LARGE piece, but the one's I have seen are more of a hard plastic and not the self healing material most mats are made of.  This can make it interesting to store, unless you plan on leaving it out.  You can roll them up, but don't coil it up too tightly because it may conform to that shape and not lay flat later, just read below.

Measurement Layout - you should look for a mat with a grid that is easy for you to read.  Most mats are done with a square inch grid over the surface, and fourth inch dashes in between, as that will be what most patterns call for when cutting.  Also many mats have a few lines, called bias lines, at 30, 45, and 60 degrees for cutting diagonally. 

 My wife said she looks for a mat with lines that aren't too thick, so as not to contribute to imprecise cuts.  In other words, use your mat to square up your fabric, but use the edge of your quilting ruler for measuring and cutting.

- while price should definitely be a deciding factor, don't cramp yourself by buying just the smaller size to save twenty bucks.  If you'll only be buying one mat to start, I would definitely recommend the larger size.  You can expect to pay between $20-$25 for the smaller (18" x 24") size, and between $45-$60 for the larger (24"-36") size.  Also, some craft stores, such as Joann's, will frequently offer sales or 40% off coupons to save even more.  So look before you buy.  Small disclaimer: PLEASE support your local quilt shops, they can't always match big box stores for price, but often offer a better quality fabric and a more personal experience.  So use that extra money you saved from buying notions at chain stores to buy extra fabric at local quilt shops!  =)

A few things to consider, most cutting mats are comparable to a soft plastic, they should NOT be folded and should not be exposed to extreme temperatures.  I wish I had a picture of the first cutting mat we purchased.  My wife happily put it in the back seat of the car along with her other quilting supplies and machine; she was on her way to a class at Creative Fires.  Once there she was told that her cutting mat was not necessary, so she left it out in the car… on a hot summer day.  When she came back the mat had molded itself to the seat of the car and was more in the shape of an 'L' than a flat mat.  Try as we might we never did get it perfectly flat again… even by laying it out on the porch in the hot sun hoping it would remold itself flat.  It's still usable, just not ideal.  So unless your mat is laying flat don't get it too warm!

I am a firm believer in checking out reviews before purchasing an item, just to get some additional input from other users.  Might as well learn from those before you, but sometimes it is necessary to take the advice with a grain of salt.  For example, one of the largest complaints I have heard about rotary mats is a chemical like smell that accompanies them when they're new.  Often this smell fades quickly, but it is a big turn off to some people.  Personally, I have barely noticed the smell if any, maybe my nose is just less sensitive than others.

Hope this helped everyone to be a more savvy shopper!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Planning a Quilt Design Part 2: Symmetry

Another step to consider in planning the design of your quilt is Symmetry. Symmetry can really help make the eye flow. You can really wow people (perhaps even clients) with the design of your quilt if it has good symmetry. In fact, beauty seems to be based off of symmetry, or at least that is what I've learned in art school. The more symmetrical the face, the more attractive it is to more people. But, it is important not to be an exact mirror image, as this gives an eerie feel. Now, apply that to quilting. There are several ways to achieve symmetry and it doesn't have to be boring.

First let's talk about kinds of symmetry. Symmetry can be achieved in many ways. Three I will discuss are
reflection, translation, and rotation.

Translation is when a shape is repeated in a quilt, without being flipped or rotated. It is just repeated one after another.
This quilt below is a good example of translational symmetry in the borders.

The shape in the border is repeated, but never rotated or reflected. Each side just repeats itself.

Another type of symmetry is reflection. Reflection is when a part of a quilt is mirrored. Often times it is mirrored left and right, as well as top and bottom. This is called
H-Symmetry, because it is mirrored in the same manor as the letter H. The example below is very visually interesting. I can feel my eye moving in this block. That is because of the H-Symmetry, AND the complimentary color harmony. The purple and yellow vibrate off one another.

While this catches my eye and is very visually interesting, I will say that it is very BOLD, and not always the look you may want in a quilt. This is what I was talking about when I said that if something is too symmetrical it can give an eerie feel, like something is not quite right. The shapes can still be symmetrical without having the colors also needing to be symmetrical. Keep in mind though this is all happening in one block, and we are aiming for an entire quilt.

Finally, there is rotation. Rotation symmetry is when the orientation of the shape stays the same but is rotated around a central point. This monochromatic quilt block shows an example of a shape being rotated.

No matter how you turn the block, it will always look the same. So now that you've seen how symmetry can be achieved, below is an example of a quilt that is symmetrical and also has a great color composition. This is a triadic color harmony of red-violet, blue-green, and yellow-orange. See how well they work together? They are all equally spaced on the color wheel (in the same way that the primary and secondary colors are).

What I LOVE about this quilt is that most of the fabrics pictured above are hand-dyed by the quilt designer, Nancy Watkins. This quilt has reflected symmetry, although I also believe that you could argue for rotational symmetry as well.

When I design, I try and put the same block, or the same fabric in opposite corners of a quilt. If I put a star block in the top right of a quilt, chances are I will also put one in the bottom left. I just feel that this helps anchor the quilt and give it a sense of balance. I hope this further helps you with your designing process. 

Ok, this is an add on to what I posted originally. Today (3/9/12) I looked at Keepsake Quilting's Facebook page and they had posted this article. Just thought I would share since it also deals with symmetrical quilts. Take a look!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Planning a Quilt Design Part 1: Color

I love to just look at pictures from other quilter's blogs, Google images, even store catalogs like Kohls and J.C. Penny. I immediately start trying to figure out how the quilt was made and how I can make it to fit my needs. Can I enlarge this pattern? Can I make it smaller? I love to make mini take 5 quilts! But, as I shared yesterday, it takes a little bit more than just seeing a picture (otherwise, you may end up with a deformed bag like I had! OOPS!).

If you know just a few tips about color, value, and symmetry, you can really design a beautiful work of art. I remember learning this from a fellow quilter. She pointed out that on my very first quilt, even though I had many different fabric patterns and prints in one quilt, it all worked because all of the greens. The 9-patch blocks were all a green, with a yellow undertone. Had I have chosen a blue-green print, the entire quilt color scheme would have been thrown off. When I originally bought the fabrics, I did not consciously pick all yellow undertone greens, but my eye just naturally knew that a teal, blue-green wouldn't work. But now that I understand more about colors, I make much more of an effort to pick out great color combos that are concordant rather than conflicting. Below is the jungle quilt, with all of the yellow-green patches for the 9-patch blocks:

It is important to really know the color wheel when quilting. I used to think that it wasn't, and that my eye knew what looked good together. And while it usually served me right, I was not being creative enough. I would look at colors that were ALWAYS "matchy-matchy." I never challenged myself until I understood color harmonies. I can now make more visually complex quilts through color and even have movement in a quilt based on where dominant colors are placed. Below is a fabric color wheel that I made, just out of my scraps

For an explanation on color harmonies you can check out this website. it gives several basic examples of colors that can work well together. And remember, they don't always have to be a 100% pure hue of that color. 100% red with 100% green may look good at Christmas but may not be the look you need. Try adding black or white into the colors. Perhaps a sage green and a pink will better suit your needs. Just don't be afraid to try something that you normally wouldn't! If you are wanting to try a new color harmony, but you are not confident enough to actually take it into fabric, try designing with paint chips. It gives you plenty of options for colors in different shades and tints (just be aware of how many you take, they are free for you, but not for the store!). If you own quilt design software like EQ7, you can also try colors options there, however I feel that the paint store has MANY more options.

I will soon cover more designing tips but I hope that this helps you improve your quilts for now! Let me know what color harmonies are your favorites, and what works for you! Happy quilting!

Today (3/9/12) I found a post on Facebook about symmetry, that tied into part two of this post, and then, just now I found another post from American Patchwork and Quilting on facebook about the colorwheel. Check it out, it has a couple of links on the page, all dealing with colors and quilting. Hope this helps!

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Quilt fit for a Queen

So, I have just finished piecing this beautiful queen-size quilt top. I made this quilt in EQ7 with a block from the library. I have made SEVERAL with a 9-patch, and was determined not to do another quilt with 9-patches...so, I decided to try flying geese...128 geese later.....WOW.

This is for my friend Kelly. She is giving it to her mom as a Mother's Day gift. I am adding photos of all of the children and grandchildren to the black squares. I cannot wait to quilt this one, and get the photos on it. I bought the fabric from Joann Fabrics. Typically I use fabric from Creative Fires but as I was gathering samples for my friend to pick out (shades of purple was the overall goal), I was stunned by these colors. So glad she picked them! They are just beautiful in here. (and not to worry, I'll be at Creative Fires again this week. They are still my main fabric store!)

This one went together pretty well, but because I was just playing with size and blocks in EQ7, and did not have a pattern, I did make a few mistakes. In the picture below, you can see how I improvised.

The inner border was suppose to be solid purple, but ended up being scrappy. And because I cut fabric incorrectly there was some wasted scrap on the outer border. I had a decent amount of fabric left over, but it was cut up into 3" strips and I needed 6" strips. So I put a 6" border on the sides of the quilt, and then did a 3" strip of the same fabric with a 1" purple border, and then repeated the 3" border. So, I guess the moral of the story... measure twice, cut once! But, when you do find yourself in a predicament like mine, it is all about improvising and making it work!

UPDATE: See the completed quilt here

Thursday, March 1, 2012

10 Minute Quilt Block!

Yes, you have read that headline right! This is a new book that I learned about tonight at Creative Fires. Every first Thursday of the month they do a free one hour "Bits & Pieces" where they show creative ways to use up all of those wonderful scraps. Then all of the ladies attending bring in their Show n Tell projects. And let me tell you, Springfield has some very talented quilters! WOW some of the things these ladies do. Tonight there was a great showcase of talent. From the art of "scrappy" to the tiniest QSTs I've ever seen! But my favorite was probably a stamped cross-stitch quilt that was hand cross-stitched and quilted by an 80 year old man! It was beautiful! And then I of course shared with them my HST tutorial that I recently learned!

But onto what I really want to tell you... The 10 Minute Quilt Block (also a volume 2!), is a great new book that Creative Fires is now carrying.

It is a quilt block made with three seams. Tonight Kathryn showed a cute bow tie block for a baby. She also showed a block that used jelly roll (I LOVE precuts!) strips, and it can be made in a variety of sizes! I love all of the ideas that I get from the ladies at Creative Fires, it is always so inspiring. If you happen to be traveling through Springfield, Ohio on 1-70, this is definitely a place worth stopping off at! While you're there pick up a copy of this book and tell them Nicole said Hi (trust me, I'm there enough they will know me!)