My favorite finish so far

I love this quilt.

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As soon as Rachel started posting sneak peaks of the projects for her penny sampler class (now available as an ebook), I knew I would be first in line.

I learned a lot of new skills and honed some others.

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But what surprised me was how much this project changed the way I think about all of my projects. (I wrote some of my initial thoughts about this here.)

I wanted to understand why I love this quilt so much, and why I didn’t tire of it during the process. Certainly some of it has to do with the sampler nature of the quilt. Each week brought different challenges and experiences. And then there’s the fact that I used just under 100 different fabrics. That kept it interesting – always something new to look at and enjoy.

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But I don’t think it’s just that. I think I enjoy challenging, complex quilts. Quilts that you don’t let anyone touch for a year after you finish it. True present-day heirlooms.

In 2014 I really want to choose my projects carefully. For me, I think a little extra planning and deliberation are worth it. I’d rather make fewer quilts, but really love them.

My color scheme developed quite a bit over the course of the project. It started here:

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Various shades of teal and aqua and pool blue. A touch of purple.

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I thought my accents would be the pink and orange fabrics on the right.

Over time my pinks and oranges softened to peach and I added more purple.

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I didn’t realize it at the time but now I’m certain I was influenced by this post about peach and jade. So pretty together, especially against the white background with just a little black here and there. I didn’t set out to make this my color scheme, but I loved it so much that I started buying a lot of peach fabric… and then just started adding them to the quilt!

About 1/3 of the 100 fabrics I used are Anna Maria Horner. I think that helped to ground and focus the color scheme.

I challenged myself in this quilt to avoid solids almost entirely… unless absolutely necessary or beneficial. The reason being that many of the quilts that have made me gasp aloud with delight this year have been made without solids (off the top of my head: Sarah Fielke, Sarah @ No Hats and Jess @ Elven Garden).

The citron is the only true solid in the quilt. It caught my eye at a quilt shop and somehow ended up in my penny sampler stack. I used it to create a “lights on upstairs” effect in my little village. (By the way, how amazing would a little village tree skirt be?)

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Otherwise the fabrics that appear solid are actually quilter’s linen or Architextures crosshatch. Up close that little bit of visual texture makes a difference.

I kept the back of the quilt simple, but I used one of my favorite Anna Maria Horner prints to make it special.

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I like to think of it as “the dark side;” a little surprise when you lift the corner and peak underneath. It’s hard to see in this photo, but the side panels are a thin black and white stripe.

I chose my quilting design and binding with complete disregard for the backing because I don’t consider this quilt to be necessarily reversible. I outline quilted all of the “picture” blocks and diamonds and put a cross or X in most of the others. It took a while! But I was concerned that anything else would take away from the beautiful block designs and fabrics. (Except maybe hand quilting, as Laura of Little and Lots plans to do with her gorgeous Christmas version. If I didn’t already have a big hand quilting project going I would definitely have done that).

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I really wanted to use this stripe as the binding, but I was worried about how it would look with the backing fabrics. I decided not to let that stop me, but in the end I think it actually isn’t too bad even on the back. Perhaps even mismatched fabrics look like they belong together once they’ve been sewn?

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This quilt will live in my guest room, but it’ll be a while before I let anyone sleep under it.

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(It should go without saying that I’ll be obnoxiously linking up with every link party that remotely applies: Finish it up Friday, Paper Piecing Party, TGIFF, ASWC).

Penny sampler: last update before the BIG finish (I promise)

I have been hard at work sewing the final stages of the penny sampler quilt top. (You can see my most recent previous post here).

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It occurred to me that it won’t be quite as exciting to show you the finished quilt if I show too many pictures now that assembly has started, so I’m only going to show a few sneak peaks and ask for some backing advice.

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Is it totally OCD that I plan to take the time to count how many fabrics I used in this quilt? I’m curious! It felt like a lot, but that may be because I was cutting from yardage (mostly half yards) and not scraps. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the very end that I ordered anything specifically with this quilt in mind. Most of it has just been pulling anything aqua, teal, purple or orange from my (overly) copious recent fabric orders. At the end I did need more white quilter’s linen (which is not linen, by the way, it’s normal quilting cotton with a linen-like tone-on-tone print) and the white Architextures crosshatch. I used almost no solids in this quilt, but I reluctantly admit that this quilt needed at least a teeny tiny bit of negative space to provide structure. Rachel’s design includes sashing that forms a cross that I didn’t want to lose in the chaos. Almost every other background besides that sashing is a print.

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I’m going to keep the back really simple, because let’s be honest the party’s in the front on this one. The back is not likely to see the light of day, but of course I want to know in my head it’s pretty. And on the off chance I ever allow anyone to sleep under it I’ll want them to enjoy the back.

I love using beautiful large scale prints on my quilt backs so I’ve been stocking up on yardage whenever I see a sale on fabric that fits the bill. I pulled these 4 Anna Maria Horner options because #1 I’m completely in love with AMH lately and #2 there is A LOT of AMH on the front so it seems appropriate.

My plan is to use the WOF (width of fabric) of one of these prints down the middle and then fill out the edges with something subtle. That’s kind of my go-to backing plan because it avoids any complicated pattern repeat alignment.

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I’m leaning toward one of these choices but I’m not going to tell you which because I don’t want to sway your answers. I’m curious what you guys will think!

Ok, I promise the next time you see this quilt it will be quilted and bound!

Linking up with Quiet Play’s Paper Piecing Party since most of what’s new here is paper piecing.

Going post-modern

I didn’t get to go to Quilt-Con, but I eagerly read all the blog posts about it and also enjoyed the lectures on Craftsy. I remember it got a lot of people talking about labels and in particular the Modern Quilt Guild’s definition of “modern quilting.” I don’t think it was long until all the hullabaloo caused the MQG to adjust the definition to be a lot more inclusive.

This is the definition right now:

Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism” or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.

The thing is, I’m not sure this definition goes far enough yet to include quilters like me. I’m not inspired by minimalism and negative space and solids. I admire it, but I don’t enjoy doing it. Clearly that last sentence tacked onto the end of the definition is supposed to make me feel included. They’re trying. 🙂

I want to make it clear that nothing I’m saying here is meant to be controversial or negative in any way. I recognize the tremendous contribution the Modern Quilt Guild has made and continues to make to the quilting community. I just find this topic really interesting and fun to discuss. Truthfully, this is more about me finding my place in the community than about me making judgments on the kinds of quilts others are making or should make.

One reason I find this so interesting is that I’ve been searching for my own style and I think I’ve been able to narrow it down this year. My goal is simply to make really educated decisions about what quilts I choose to spend my time making. I want to love my quilts when they’re done. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • For me, life is too short to use solids, even for backgrounds. Why use plain white when you can use polka dots or a subtle text print? A huge part of my enjoyment of the process has to do with how absolutely stunning printed fabric can be.
  • I prefer scrappy quilts – the more fabrics the better. It’s too repetitive to make the same block over and over in the same prints. I love to vary the background fabrics too.
  • I think it’s really fun to “deconstruct” large scale prints by using them for piecing and not just large borders or backings.
  • I like low-contrast quilts that need to be really examined for the design to come out. High contrast is good too but not necessary.
  • I like really elaborate quilts that take a long time to make: true modern heirlooms. On the other hand, I always like square patchwork- especially when it’s really scrappy.

So the question I’m asking is this: are we going post-modern? I feel like I’m seeing less of the truly minimalist super-modern quilts. Maybe I’m just more likely to follow the blogs of people who make quilts like mine. But I’m really curious whether you guys think the tide is turning back to more traditional designs.

And just because I know you don’t want a post with JUST WORDS here are my latest Penny blocks:

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Apparently I was in a bit of an Anna Maria Horner mood.

Apparently I was in a bit of an Anna Maria Horner mood.

Thoroughly post-modern if you ask me!

Linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday  and Thursday Threads since I’m never ready in time for WIP Wednesday lately! Oh, and this new one. Check it out.

It’s starting to look like a real quilt

I laid out all my penny sampler blocks on my bed today.

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Pretty super exciting. I love this quilt.

Here’s what’s new:

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This one caused me to break my general “it’s not fun anymore if you sew it twice” rule. I had to sew the first diamond 3 times before I got it right. The other 4 were easy-ish after that. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of working with diamonds!

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I’m proud of this one though! That’s a lot of HST (half square triangles) to get right. They line up pretty well! Not perfect but definitely enough that I smiled when I opened that last seam. And I only used my seam ripper a little. (You can’t really tell in the picture, but the white fabric is a white on white text print with a bit of shimmer to it. It really adds to the ribbon effect the block is supposed to have.)

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Kinda spooky? Appropriate for Halloween I guess. That green didn’t photograph well. It’s a nice emerald green – Lizzy House Jewels.

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This is my new favorite. There’s just something about it. Rachel (our teacher) has been encouraging us choose a light, medium, and a dark fabric for some of these blocks to add dimension. I’m really liking that strategy.

Come back tomorrow to hear about my next giveaway!

Linking to Thursday Threads and Needle & Thread Thursday.

Putting the “penny” in penny sampler

I’ve been working hard on these tiny beauties:

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They finish 3.5 inches! They broke my back but I love them. I think I like the pink Anna Maria Horner rose one best, along with the similar Amy Butler blue rose on the top row. We hesitate to use large scale prints in these situations but it can work!

Here they are with a few other recent penny sampler blocks:

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The 4-patch block is called a “4-penny patch.” That is how the quilt got its name. I keep saying this, but I am definitely going to make a whole quilt of those in the future. I think they’d make a great bee block.

You can see this post here to remember my previous penny sampler blocks. I love this quilt. It is making me feel very contemplative about what kind of quilts I love to make and how. I’ll write more about that soon.

In the meantime, I am teaching my beginner’s class this Saturday! It is going to be so much fun. I’m also finishing up my last two Your 1st Quilt tutorials and I hope to have them posted before Saturday.

Penny progress

We are almost done with the appliqué portion of the Penny Sampler class!

Here are my blocks to date:

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These are the new ones from this week:

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My style tends to vacillate between “pretty” and “funky.” The quilt was feeling more on the funky side so I purposely did 2 things this week to start to soften it a bit: I chose floral fabrics for my sunflowers and I forced myself not to sketch stitch them. I think it was the right choice. When we add some of the large sections of borders I plan to use large scale florals and that will do a lot to prettify things as well.

I am going to love the heck out of this quilt.

I missed you/ What I’ve been up to

Guys! I’ve missed you. 🙂 I hope you all had a fantastic holiday weekend. The weather here was a little iffy but we still managed to have a really great visit with friends and family.

We’ve been having trouble with our laptop and I’ve been hesitant to blog from our older computer. I have no idea why- it seems to be working fine! I guess I just get thrown off when something changes my routine (“oh no! I’m going to have to login! What’s my password? Maybe I should wait until the computer gets fixed…”)

But I can’t wait any longer now that I’m ready to show you this:

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How cute is this block? I keep thinking each block I make for the Penny Sampler could make a stunning full quilt. But this block has lodged itself deep in my quilt heart and I just know I’ll be getting it back out and doing a full quilt in the future. Maybe in Christmas colors? With a row of mittens on the back?

I’ve been laminating all my templates from this class because I know I will be using them in the future. This quilt is too awesome to do just once.

That’s not all I’ve been up to! My Mom visited last week and we spent a lot of our free time on a rescue mission: a QUILT RESCUE mission. I’m excited to share more about that tomorrow, but here’s a sneak peak:

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It’s good to be back. 🙂

Linking with Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story and Sew Cute Tuesday at Better off Thread.