Circling Gulls Taking Shape

People talk about “the paper piecing bug” and how once you try paper piecing, you are hooked for good. I think I must have somehow fallen into the hive of paper piecing bugs, because I am HOOKED! I love how precise you can be, I love that you can create fabric pictures of just about anything, I love the promise of possibility. Soon after sewing a few paper pieced projects, I started dreaming up new patterns. Leave it to Pinterest to inspire creativity. I somehow stumbled upon this tutorial, and within minutes had my squared notebook in hand.

Sketching designs old school style.
Sketching designs old school style.

As with just about anything, I don’t start simple. I don’t think it’s within my brain function.  My first paper pieced design was for violets. As you can see, this is not the simplest of designs, but they look like violets!!

Violet paper pieced pattern

My brain continued to swirl, and next up came an idea for seagulls circling around a starfish, or maybe a crab. I finally decided on starfish since it would be much easier to create as a pattern, and the design began to come to life.

Designing the Old School Way

I walked through the old-school process for this pattern completely before finding Inkscape, and my first (second if you count the little 4″ star from my art quilt) sewn self-designed paper pieced pattern will be these circling gulls.  The fuzz from photocopies of photocopies aren’t the crispest, but the pattern is proving to be quite functional!

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I finished sewing the first of four blocks while at a Paper Piecing class at my local quilt shop, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply in Belfast.  I can’t wait to complete the last three blocks to see how it looks all together!

Delight in the Little Things

At the end of last year, I joined a 12×12″ Art Quilt group on Facebook, just in time for the word “delight”.  The idea behind the group is that they post a word each month, and members design and create a 12×12″ art quilt inspired by that word.

I am always inspired by the tiny bits of beauty in nature.
I am always inspired by the tiny bits of beauty in nature.

Thinking about “delight”, the first thing that came to mind was “delight in the little things”. I started brainstorming what that would mean in terms of a small quilt.   I have a penchant for color gradient aesthetics, and since 12″x12″ is relatively small, I thought this would be a perfect time to make a quilt out of 1″ squares.  I have always delighted in the little amazing miracles found in nature, so I knew the natural world had to be a part of my quilt.  Sunbursts and the play of light on the world, reminiscent of laying in the grass looking up at floating seeds glinting in the sunlight as they swirl in the wind (an activity frequented by my kids and I during the warm summer months) was the ultimate inspiration for my quilt.  Enough talk. Here’s my process:

After cutting all the 1.5" squares, the next task was to lay it all out and find a pleasing gradient.
After cutting all the 1.5″ squares, the next task was to lay it all out and find a pleasing gradient.
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I created a 4″ paper pieced star to fit into my design. It’s now for sale on Craftsy!
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Matching seams like a boss! I continued to swap squares in and out as I got generous donations of blue scraps from friends and quilting buddies, until I finally settled on an arrangement I liked.
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Attaching the final row… Pins right next to each seam seemed to help me line them up the best. I definitely befriended my seam ripper for this project!
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Next I planned out the applique placement, and started to think about hand quilted embellishments.
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I played with the binding since I wanted to continue the gradient and not completely frame it in. I really like the way it turned out, and the little burst of yellow on the bottom corner might be one of my favorite elements.
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Silver embroidery thread paired with dark blue blanket stitch gives a nice feel of light glinting off the silhouetted dandelion seed.
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Expect the unexpected. The yellow bursts of color jump from a near-black binding.
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I opted for silver hand-quilting around the sunburst star.

Of course, I wanted to photograph the finished quilt during daylight hours to get the most from natural light.  As a stay home mom of two little ones, cameos from the kids were bound to happen. Maddie decided she wanted to help me display the quilt in the best light, and then while photographing smaller details, Max decided to help by flopping right down on top of the quilt!

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I am really happy with how this quilt turned out, and I’m definitely going to be making more art quilts.  This particular quilt will be donated to the Altruistic Art Show hosted by The Kindness Project in Bangor.  Like it? Go enter for a chance to win it while benefiting a good cause.

altruistic art show

Bring on Inkscape

This post was written a few nights ago, before The Night Quilter blog was live.
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Don’t get me wrong: I love graph paper! There’s something about sketching out a design and working through the logistics of turning it into a paper piecing pattern with nothing but your squared notebook, a pencil (and eraser!), a ruler, and your swirling mind.  However, turning that creation into a share-able, let alone potentially sell-able, pattern using the old school graph paper method is less than ideal.
It works! But it's a LOT of work!
It works! But it’s a LOT of work!
Enter, Inkscape.
While I type this post, inkscape is downloading onto my computer. Inkscape is a free vector graphics editor that will hopefully allow me to get started in learning computer-based paper piecing designing.
inkscape logo
At the very least, with a cost of FREE, it won’t break the bank. Woot woot!  Hopefully learning to use it will be easier than my old school method: draw, refine (read: erase, redraw, repeat), photo copy, cut, tape to plain paper, draw 1/4 seam allowances, photo copy, arrange, create word document with necessary text, attempt to format around anticipated paper piecing pattern drawing, print, cut and paste pattern onto word printout, photocopy again, approve? Scan and convert to pdf.  Talk about noise! All of those photocopies of a photocopy of graph paper ends up with quite a fuzzy pattern. Functional, yes. Aesthetically crisp, no.
Bring on Inkscape!