Monday, May 26, 2014

A Modern Day Wedding Ring Quilt!

The time has come to show you the secret quilt I've been working on. It is a wedding gift for our eldest son and his new bride.

They are big fans of the video game Portal. Me, I knew next to nothing about it. Fortunately I had an in-house resource. :- ) Between us, my younger son and I designed and pieced the top. He did the quilting on the Avante (by Handi Quilter) at the shop.

The game involves creating portals through which your character can move from room to room in a lab/testing environment. In this case the portals made ideal representations of wedding rings. There are also "companion cubes" in the game. My son did some of his first piecing to create the cubes out of the basic tumbling block pattern.

Not too shabby for a first effort! Well, technically, his first efforts ended up on the back of the quilt. After he'd pieced them he decided they weren't big enough so he made a second set.

A previous test subject has left evidence around the laboratory. His hand print for example:

And a clue that the promised reward for completing all the assigned tasks is a lie:

The quilting really helped to complete the imagery of the quilt and to fill in the negative spaces. It was laundering that truly brought the quilt to life however! That never fails to amaze me.

This hasn't been the only project in the works in the Magpie's Nest of late but it has been the one with the highest priority. We thought we were sitting pretty in terms of having it done in time but then the second set of tumbling blocks had to be made, we couldn't find the same prints that were used the for the first set, more background fabric had to be purchased and it was out of stock as well... In short, I inked the label the day before my family took off to be present at the wedding. Whew! And via the magic of Skype I was able to witness the ceremony while it took place in another state! Hurray for modern technology! :- )

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Chickens That Came First

Making a chicken themed quilt has been on my Quilt Bucket List almost ever since I started piecing back in the late 1980's. The first block I made for that prospective quilt was an ambitious one, a feathered star. It only made sense to me that a feathered star should feature chickens!

I don't have a picture of the block in its original state. It took several years (try a decade or more!) to actually get the block together. The block was begun in a class setting. It was supposed to be an easy and accurate construction method, which is the only reason I took the class. Well, the long and short of it is that it may have been easier and accurate for a more experienced quilter than I was at the time but it wasn't for me. I was working with a 40 year old machine and did not have a good way to maintain the quarter inch seam allowance that would have given me better results. I got the star points mostly assembled during the workshop and then managed to make a star out of them years later. I had grown enough by then to be able to let go of complete accuracy. I think the finished block was supposed to measure 18" square. Mine was over 19" by odd fractions in its raw state. I could have made my peace with that but there was something else about it that bothered me. It took me a couple more years to figure out what that was: in spite of the fact that I'd used a print for the background there seemed to be an awful lot of empty space around the star. Experience and maturity came to my rescue again. I solved the problem by cutting the corners off and replacing them with another print. The next stumbling block was how to bring the block up to a size I could work with. Well, that wasn't really much of a problem. It was a simple solution really: add oversize borders and then cut the whole thing down to the size I wanted! Here's the end product:

This will finish at 24 inches square. It looks pretty good in this picture. Flaws and compensations are much easier to spot in person. ;- ) You can see that I'm working with limited resources too. One of the border strips is a different print than the other three. That might have bothered me back when I first undertook to make a feathered star. It doesn't bother me now! I'm happy to say that I have grown as a quilt maker, and not only in my technical ability.

So now the chicken quilt has become another place to play with a variety of block patterns. Back in the day I knew I wanted a chicken themed quilt but I didn't really know what my personal taste was. Now I know I enjoy making simply pieced blocks and puzzling them together into interesting and cohesive multi-fabric quilts.

This Card Trick block also features the main print from the feathered star:

I had four color-ways of one print in my stash so I decided to try them in the Card Trick block too.

There isn't a lot of contrast between the "cards" but it will do.

Of course I had to have some Churn Dash or Hole in the Barn Door blocks.

I do enjoy fussy cutting to feature a specific image! These are all 12" blocks.

When my friend C~ learned I was planning to make a chicken themed quilt she made this 10" block for me. This was several years ago as well. Without taking the time to look it up, I think this one is a Sister's Choice.

You haven't seen them all but I think I have enough blocks to begin developing a quilt plan... !

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Fillers and Friendship Blocks

I'm sort of between projects at the moment. There's the one I was working on when the thread tension became a problem on the sewing machine I use every day. It's a gift, so to be on the safe side I'm not sharing it here yet. It may need to be taken apart and re-assembled to meet my standards. I put it out of sight while the sewing machine is in the shop. We'll see how it looks when my eyes are fresh. There are other quilts slowly developing in the background but I didn't feel like working on them when I would be using other than my favorite machine. Scrap piecing to the rescue!

Here's a detail shot of the center patch in the Churn Dash/Hole in the Barn Door block in the middle of the upper row:

The patch was cut from assembly instructions that are printed with the panels for fabric books or other craft items. As usual, these are six inch blocks. There are more, but these are the ones I have a picture of!

I've also sewn up a couple of friendship blocks for members of my local guild. The first is a six inch leaf. The request was for autumnal colors in batiks or tone on tone prints. I chose to use two different prints to get the effect of shading or a leaf drying out.

And then a 12" Windblown Square block:

This time the request was to put a print showing a favorite thing or activity in the center of the block. I used an old Mary Lou Weidman print of a quilt show. I may not get to go to quilt shows or guild meetings anymore but I would still enjoy them if I could!

I'd made Windblown Square blocks a long time ago. Making this one up put me in mind of another print I could get a big 6.5" patch out of for the central square...

Someday I'll have to show you the other blocks I've made for the chicken quilt that's been on my bucket list for... oh, pretty much ever since I started quilting!