Friday, January 31, 2014

The Importance of Sharing Our Quilts

As a traveling lecturer and teacher, I attend lots of quilt guild meetings and my favorite part is  Show & Tell . . . . at least most of the time.  I'm always interested to see quilts but the number of members that share varies widely from guild to guild.  Even the simplest quilt can give me an idea for a color scheme or wake me up to a block I haven't seen or a new setting idea.   I believe every member of a group has a responsibility to share what they are doing with the rest of the group.  Too often, quilters self-judge the quality and appeal of what they are making and hold it back.  They may be intimidated by the member who comes every month with a "bagful".  In my own group, I always try to beat that person up to the front of the room -- better to go first than last!!  One of the good qualities of a group is the "give and take" -- the "take" is easy but everyone needs to "give" as well.

So why share stuff when it's not "good enough".  Well it encourages newer quilters to see that not everyone is making complex masterpieces.  One of the things I appreciate about the "sharing" I see in quilting blogs is that it eliminates the direct comparison aspect of a face-to-face gathering.  Seriously, I've never seen anyone during a guild "show and tell" "shouted down" for sharing a simple quilt.  I also think it stimulates conversation between members, it generates interest and enthusiasm for quilt making, and that keeps the group vital.  Quilting blogs generate the same interest and enthusiasm through the "comments and replies".

I moderated a group of traditional quilt makers who wanted to develop a more creative approach to their craft.  One of the requirements of the group was to enter a judged quilt show annually.  At first, most were very reluctant, but today (13 years later), I notice that most of the group enters our regional judged show as a matter of habit even though the group has been disbanded for a couple years.  They have grown to enjoy the benefits of participating in the show, not to mention the "free" pass for this six week long exhibition.

So here's my sharing for the week!

This is my only start for the month of January and my finish for the week!   (Look Mary Ann, I finished a totebag -- you weren't expecting that!?!)  It's the Cross Town Carry Regan's Bag by Marlous Designs (   Totebags aren't my favorite project but I got through this one in fairly short order and it is designated as a gift!
And here's a  full view picture of my 6-pointed star sampler, Pieceful Constellations.  I've been posting little peeks of it for the past month holding back until after the judging for the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show.   I apologize for the boring setting (it's my work wall) -- I've since read a terrific post about photographing quilts ( and will do better in the future.
This quilt was so exciting to make and I'm thrilled with the results.  It was completely inspired by quilts that other quilters graciously shared.  The original inspiration is the marvelous Candied Hexagons quilt made by Kerry Dear in 2007 in Australia.  (If you've never peeked into that rabbit hole, google "candied hexagon images" and be prepared to get lost for an hour or so!)  Kerry's quilt has without a doubt triggered hundreds of quilt makers to tackle all things "60 degrees". 
Armed with Marti Michell's Template Set G (hexagons, 60 degree diamonds, and relatives), a big assortment of fabric, and the technique for chain-piecing through set-in seams which student, Mary O'Keefe shared with me, I happily cranked out a couple dozen stars in a short time. (Kerry's original quilt was also made and inspired by the cover of Marti's template set which is a scramble of blocks that can be made with Set G.)

And then it was time to set them together!  Candied Hexagons is a "honeycomb" setting but how to fill in all the space around the stars?  The answer presented itself in a quilt shared by Janet Shannon which I had pinned to my 60 degree diamond board on Pinterest.  Janet's quilt is an inspired piece of art and I love the tumbling blocks cascading down through the center of her star sampler.

I will always be grateful that Janet shared her lovely quilt because it inspired me to go back to the work wall with a new vision.  The "constellations" were a happy accident of moving the stars around and standing back and moving them some more and standing back again.  I was astonished with the ideas that presented themselves right through to the end of the quilt.  It was so much fun to make this quilt but without the sharing of Kerry Dear and Janet Shannon, my quilt would not have been created. 

To continue the sharing, I offer workshops to help quilters begin their own 6-pointed star sampler -- have workshop, will travel!!   And in March, I hope to begin to host a "sew-along" based on Pieceful Constellations through this blog.  Investing in my DVD workshop, Set-in Piecing Simplified, will help you prepare to participate in that!

By the way, did I say it took a blue ribbon at the show?   Wahoo!!!

Mary Huey

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Quilting Designs for Grandmother's Flower Garden -- Part II

Good morning!  Following are several of the experimental designs from my Grandmother's Flower Garden sample which I like.  If you're visiting my blog today from a link-up you'll want to read yesterday's (Tuesday) post with photos of the charming vintage quilt. 

As you can see, I've drawn them out on a large hexie grid (you can get a PDF of the grid to print out here) -- I need to keep a record of what I have done for future reference!

I used a different color marker for each round of a design.  My goal was to do the entire motif with one start and one stop.  The order of the color slashes in the lower left corner indicate my sewing order. 

This is my favorite center design.  I started a the intersection where the orange arrow is pointing and arched (gracefully, most of the time) across the center of the hexagon skipping a "corner" -- follow the orange line -- and back to the starting point.  The green line is the transition to the next corner which set me up to stitch the purple triangle skipping corners and bringing me back to that point.  I finished it off with the little arcs -- the blue line -- ending at the corner where I began.  From here I can start any of the designs that follow.

Below are two options for "swirls" in each hexagon of the first ring.  I found they look best when I filled as much of each hexagon as I could with the swirl.  The ones on the right remind me of a "koru" which you see in the art of the Maori in New Zealand.  I tried to stitch in the ditch to travel from one hexagon to the next.

The diagram below illustrates another center motif I like -- just be sure to end at the corner of the hexagon for an easier transition to the outer ring.  The green lines represent the basic soft arc of the continuous curve quilting approach and it left the hexagons too empty in my opinion -- so I experimented with adding more (the purple lines).  One option I liked was echoing the first set of arcs and the second option is oval petals.  Once again, I stayed in the ditch of the center hexagon to travel to the next section. 

The next design seen below on the right side began with the small petals (orange) and when I got all the way around, once again, it was too sparse, so I added a second line (green) -- still needed more so added a third line (purple).  See the dot in the center of the lower left hexagon? -- that is center point I made with chalk so that the first petal was somewhat consistent. 

The design on the left side has 5 lines starting with shallow arcs and making them deeper with each pass.  I did all the orange arcs first and then came back to echo with the green and so on -- gave me better results that trying to make all 5 arcs in one petal at a time.

This is my favorite design!  It requires three passes around the motif.  Before starting, I put a chalk dot about 1/4" from the outer edge of each hexagon to give me a landing point for the purple archs.  The first line is the orange one and it starts by the little arrow (upper right corner).  It skips a corner and lands at an outside corner of the motif.  Then go back down skipping a corner to an inside corner and repeat until you are back at the beginning.  The second line begins with an arc out to the floating chalk dot in that hexagon and back down to the next inside corner -- this is a transition line to set you up for the rest of the second line (green).  When you land back at that point, you are positioned to finish the motif with the purple line.

After quilting the central motifs, I echo quilted the outline of the center motif 1/4" from the seams and again around the outer edge of the outer ring.  I chose a yellow thread that matched the center hexagons for all this quilting and worked with my free motion foot. 

So there you are -- the best of my experiments.  I hope my method of sharing them is helpful to you and that they are the jumping off point for quilting your Grandmother's Flower Garden.  Use them all or repeat one of them -- add lines or eliminate lines -- make it your own!!

I hope the woman who pieced this quilt is pleased with the way I quilted it!!

That's where I'm headed!! 

Mary Huey

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Quilting ideas for Grandmother's Flower Garden!!

It's a beautiful sunny morning here in Northeast Ohio -- the kind that makes you want to hang the sheets out on a clothesline to dry. . . . . . . except for the -9 degree temperature.   The sun is making the snow sparkle and the sky is a pale blue.  I'm surprised to see so many squirrels under the feeders and the cardinals and chickadees are calling some -- apparently the sunshine has a positive impact on them, too!

I FINISHED a third quilt last evening -- it was someone's cast off and a bit "ugly" so when I started teaching Hexagon and their Allies seminars I decided to use it as a sampler of quilting ideas to share with my students.  As I've been quilting it, I've had a change of heart about the "ugly" thing and now find it quite charming. 

The fabrics seem to be more typical of the 1940's to me and some of them are truly ugly by today's standards, but the woman who pieced the top found just the right solid to bring out the "beautiful" of each print in my opinion. 

Following are some close-ups of the motifs so you can see her fabric combo's and my quilting design experiments. 

The color combo of this print is orange, pink,  and yellow with a touch of  green for contrast -- pink and orange together?  Yet I would love to get my hands on a couple yards of it for a sun dress for my granddaughter!

And here is another print using the same colors? 

And this soft green check with the daisies scattered around it is charming.

The purple solid is the perfect partner for this funky green print and wouldn't it be a perfect print design for a modern print today?
 This print is so ugly and yet, the choice of the green solid which seems to blend with the green in the print enhances the motif.

I thought I would be ready today to share some of my favorite design experiments with you, but I'm still puttering with the clearest way to draw them out for you -- so I'll finish that task today and post those drawings tomorrow. 

In the meantime, you may want to download this PDF with a large scale hexie grid so you can trace out my ideas.  And I'm drawing the lines with several colors so you will understand the order of stitching, so find your colored pencils.    

So I'll see you tomorrow!!

Mary Huey

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Good quilting day, frustrating computer day!!

I'm so pleased with how my machine quilting project for the week has gone!!  And I'm looking forward to sharing all my grandmother's flower garden experimental quilting designs!!

But my computer is not interested in talking with my camera today.  And since I have to pack for the retreat this weekend with a group of my student/friends, I don't have time to figure it out.  Grrrrrr!

Irritating as the problem in, it's precipitated an idea for a way to share the design ideas with you that I think you'll appreciate, so one of my tasks during the retreat this weekend will be to draw out the designs on a flower garden grid I've created to share them with you on Tuesday.

In the meantime, in spite of the black cat's presence on top of the quilt (see the photo at the end of Tuesday's post) for the past few days, the quilting on the vintage flower garden is complete and the binding is ready to apply today once the packing for the weekend is done!  So that make FINISH #3 for January. 

Can I keep up the pace for one more week? 

The suspense is killing me?

It's going to be a good weekend for sewing here in  NE Ohio!!

Mary Huey

Brighten up your day with a visit to Freshly Pieced and enjoy all the interesting links to creative quilt makers!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Adding a hanging sleeve to a quilt

As I was adding a casing to the quilt I finished this past Friday, I recalled how many questions I get from my students here in NE Ohio about the way I do this.  So I took some pics so I can share it this morning and now my students will have the step-by-step of my technique at their fingertips!

I start with the finished measurement of the quilt edge where the casing will be added and the size of the bar/rod/rail that will be inserted into it.  The requirements for the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show call for a 4" sleeve -- normally, I use a narrower sleeve but I'll use this size as an example for my math.  I actually make a separate sleeve/casing, so I need 4" plus 2" for the headers (6").  I double that (12") and add 3/4" for seams.   The fabric I cut for this quilt is 49"  (the width of my quilt) by 13".
After finishing the two short ends with a quick hem, I fold it in half lengthwise (like a hotdog bun) with right sides together and stitch about a 3/8" seam.
At the ironing board, I press the seam flat, then turn the casing right side out and press the tube while rolling the seam to the back side of the casing.  It runs horizontal across the middle of this picture.  (It's easier to roll the seam to the back side than to try to press it straight along the top or bottom edge -- can't tell you how many years it took me to figure that simple trick out!?!?)
At this point the tube is about 6" wide (the math worked!!).
Before attaching it to the quilt, I topstitch two rows approximately 1" from each fold making the sleeve into a casing.
And here I am stitching off the casing onto my current hexie by machine project -- no wasted time here!!  By the time I finished making the casing, I had added two more hexagons to the motif!
At this point, the opening for the rail that will be inserted when the quilt is hung for display at the show is 4" wide and the rail should go through smoothly without touching my quilt.  That's one of the reasons I do it this way.

Now it's time to center the sleeve/casing on the back of the quilt and pin it into place for stitching.  It's important to be sure the sleeve/casing is horizontal on the quilt and attached to the correct edge!!  I like it to be about 1" shorter than the edge of the quilt on both ends so that the rail doesn't extend past the edge of the quilt.
Time for the hand stitching!  I use the longest double strand of thread I can manage and a stitch I learned back 40 years ago during my tailoring courses -- the catch stitch.
Start at the left end, anchor the thread and secure with a couple stitches up and down.  The needle goes through the casing/sleeve from right to left catching the backing and some of the batting without going through to the right side. 
It alternates one stitch up and one stitch down.
As you work towards the left edge of the quilt, the stitches form a criss-cross design.
Stitch both the upper and lower edges of the casing this way and -- Ta-da!! It's ready to go the show committee on Wednesday! 
Two other reasons I prefer this method is that if I want to remove the sleeve, it comes off quickly and doesn't leave any marks.  I also feel that it puts less strain on the top edge of the quilt. 
In the morning, since I don't live in a pet-free zone, I'll take the quilts somewhere and roll the sticky thing all over it until I can't find a single cat or dog hair on it!!
The next finish is in progress . . . . . sort of . . . . .
I keep telling Harry he's not accomplishing anything because you can't quilt while you are watching the birds?!?

Mary Huey



Friday, January 17, 2014

It's a binding sort of day!

Last Friday, I layered up this quilt -- it's a new teaching sample for my DVD workshop, Set-in Piecing Simplified. 
 And today it is all quilted and ready to bind!!  That means by the end of the day, it will be ready for next week's entry day on Wednesday for the Lake Metroparks Farmpark Quilt Show -- wahoo!!!
I'm not ready for a full reveal photo today (I'll post that next week) but the stars with the ivory backgrounds form a constellation of sorts through the body of the quilt.   I fiddled every day for the past week experimenting with ways to quilt that area so it would reinforce the appearance of a constellation. 
This is my scribble sample.  It's a "reject" fabric layered with the batting I was using in the quilt. I drew a grid (with pencil) of equilateral triangles (used the 60 degree line on my rotary ruler), and then tried out all my quilting ideas before moving to the actual quilt. 
I've accepted that I'm very visual when piecing a quilt but I'm just coming to understand that I need the same help during the quilting process.  After my friend, Beth Schillig of Columbus, Ohio, shared her quilting experimentation samples with me last fall, I realized I needed to do more of that before launching into the real deal.  (One look at the dozens of prize ribbons adorning her studio convinced me to pay attention!)
In my head, I thought it would be cool to do the popular pebbly/bubble quilting in the background of the stars.  But after experimenting with it, I decided it didn't fit in with the other design work I was doing (and it's a lot of work to stitch out).
A big advantage of the experimenting is stumbling onto ideas and I am grateful when that occurs!!  This time I found a looser design that blends with the rest of my work (and took less time).  As I was doing it, I thought of my students who have joined me in a growing passion for six-pointed stars and so I'm sharing the design.
This is one of the simplest stars in the quilt -- I did more detailed quilting in other stars but everything is based on "continuous curve" quilting as you can see.

The quilting design for the background diamonds builds on this and begins with arcing around the outer edges of the block.  I quickly learned that it's important to start at the point of the star rather than the corner of the block.  (Don't you love to learn from mistakes?)
This is the first round and outlines the outer edge of the block.
The second round "echos" the first round except that I did not go all the way to the corner of each diamond.  The arc is shallower and stops the width of my presser foot from the corner of the diamond as shown in the photo below.
So there will be a point there and the second half of this arc will go back to the sharp point of the ivory diamond.   When the round is finished, it looks like this.
I like this look, but decided to stitch one more round arcing along the inside edges of the ivory diamonds (but not before experimenting on the scribble sample).  I like it even better!!
I also experimented (on the scribble sample) with adding a fourth line which echoed the inner set of arcs but decided the diamonds in this quilt are too small for that.  I will use that design idea with larger diamonds in the future.
And look at the lovely little design that surfaced where three of the background diamonds meet in the constellation -- I think it would be perfect for the quilting on a tumbling block unit!
The binding is ready and waiting for me to finish burying some thread tails, so after my morning walk, I'm heading into the studio to score FINISH #2 for January.  (Must not forget to add a sleeve on the back of the quilt, Mary!!)
Potential Finish #3 surfaced this week during some studio "tidy up" time -- it's a Grandmother's Flower Garden from the 1930's that I use as a sampler of quilting ideas during my Hexagons and Allies Seminars.  It's layered and about 25% quilted making it a very good candidate!!
I like using the month of January to focus on "finishing" instead of starting and have made a note in my 2015 calendar to do the same next year!!
If you are intrigued by "Set-in Piecing Simplified" and would like to "chat" with one of my students about the effect it's had on their piecing, let me know and I'll put you in touch!!
Mary Huey


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Adapting Patterns -- Part IV (that's 4 for those of you who don't remember "roman numerals")

Do you have a favorite quilt pattern that you've used more than once because you always get good results and recipients love it? 

Mine is a pattern I designed about 15 years ago -- it's simple, only uses 6 fabrics, and I've quilted it so many times, I don't have to think about "how" to do that! 

There it is, hanging on the right while vending at a show sometime in the past!

I call it Sandstone and the pattern is available on my website.   Here is another version. 
I love the fabric assortment in this one!  It belongs to my younger daughter and features the best feather motifs I've yet to accomplish in the large spaces which seemed empty before it was quilted.
Years ago I challenged a group of students to "adapt" this pattern and show me what else could be done with it.  One gal pieced it with all neutrals and then appliqued a beautiful floral motif on it.   Another quilter who also pieced it in neutrals used it as the background for redwork embroidery.  (Unfortunately, it was before the digital photo era, so I don't have photos of either -- but you have a good imagination!!)
But I'm a "piecer" first and so a few years ago, I substituted clusters of flying geese units for some of the larger pieces in the layout.  A lack of fabric was the motivation for my adaptation.  The border print provided the color theme but I had a limited amount of it and so to be sure I had enough for the border, I cut those first which left less than was needed for the body of the quilt. 

Students who saw it loved the variation and so I edited the pattern to include instructions for adding the flying geese.

Here's a crib size top that is waiting patiently on my shelves to be quilted -- just need a baby shower invite to finish it! 

I love the border fabric!  It was the new piece of fabric and everything else was "from the stash".

So now it's time for you to look at some of your favorite patterns.  Do you have Turning Twenty?  That has been a favorite quickie for lots of my friends and one of the pieces is a good size square -- what could you plug in there for some added interest? 
Even better, what do you have in your UFO stash that would plug in there -- maybe a few Farmer's Wife blocks -- I'm never going to finish that project!!
All of the ideas shared in this series of tutorials on Adapting Patterns are from my workshop on the same topic.  I hope they've given you ideas and inspiration!
  I'd love to see any photos of adaptations you've made based on my ideas! 
Check in with me on Friday to see if that "finishing" surge is still active!!
Mary Huey
P.S.  Does anyone remember why we had to learn to read Roman numerals?