Tag Archives: improv

Summer Adventure Quilt Beginnings

I’ve recently begun a really fun summer project to help replace the absence of Finn’s milestone quilt, now that that’s completely finished (blog post coming soon!).

summer adventure quilt milestone quiltIn the spirit of documenting our days through the creation of a quilt, I’ve decided to create a Summer Adventure Quilt with each block representing a different family adventure. Each block will accompany us on its adventure, be photographed along with our fun, and then become a part of a quilt stitched together in the fall.

summer adventure quilt milestone quiltSince our adventures primarily consist of hikes and beach days, I am making an improv tree block for every hike and an oceany, quasi-improv block for every beach day. The beach day blocks are entirely inspired by the Beach & Boots block from Piece n Quilt’s 30 Days and 30 Blocks sew along in 2015. I really wanted the white negative space to be a big part of the block to match the aesthetic of the trees and this block fits the bill! To go with the improv trees, I am making mine a bit wonky and imperfect, so I’m not using the exact measurements in the tutorial, but the overall design is the same. I decided that I will be making mine in full and half blocks to increase the wonkiness of the quasi-improv nature of my piecing.

tall ship quilt blockI will be making a few unique blocks here and there to represent other adventures, such as a tent for when we go camping in the Adirondacks with my parents, a bridge for when we visit my husband’s dad and stepmom (GrandDude & GrandPrincess) in Pittsburgh, and a big sailing ship I made for a Camden Harbor tour we went on last weekend while GrandDude and GrandPrincess were visiting us here in Maine, shown above. I hope to fit these blocks in smoothly with the rest of the quilt and think it will work nicely!

summer adventure quilt milestone quiltHere’s my progress so far!! As of today, we’ve been on 8 hikes and 1 Camden Harbor tour (on a lobster boat, but the tall ship is representative of the harbor, not the vessel!). We have not yet “earned” the ocean block to the right of the ship block, but I included it for the photo to help show how the block will work into the overall quilt.

birdsacre trails ellsworth maine silly kidsPerhaps the most fun aspect of this quilt is that one block accompanies us on each adventure, and therefore appears in memorable photographs.  I’m hoping to be able to put a photo book together at the end of the summer with photos from each adventure. It’s a big hope, since my list of hopes is endless, but I really think it would be the icing on the cake for this project.

hiking friends summer adventure quiltI’m grateful to have a wonderful group of mom friends who also have kids the same ages as mine and who love to get out and hike. We have created a Mommy Hiking Club (unofficially coined Mountain Mamas Lugging Babies & Towing Trekking Toddlers… it’s a bit of a mouthful, but gets the idea across!!) and we are determined to hike at least once per week with all of the kids. Our hiking groups vary from 3 moms plus kids to up to 5 or 6 moms plus kids, just about every mom is also carrying a baby or toddler in an Ergo or similar carrier, and everyone is welcome. Sure, sometimes there are crying babies, whining toddlers, bug bites, scratched knees, and I’ve been known to have to carry both of my boys (ages 2 and 5) simultaneously on some hikes, but it’s all worth it! Here are some memories from a few of our hikes (since we are 8 hikes in, I am not including every one, but from here on out I will try to share regular updates!).

Blue Hill Mountain, Blue Hill, Maine
The FIRST hike of the summer!!blue hill mountain summer adventure quilt blue hill mountain summer adventure quilt blue hill mountain summer adventure quilt blue hill mountain summer adventure quilt blue hill mountain summer adventure quilt blue hill mountain summer adventure quilt

Great Pond Mountain, Orland, Maine

great pond mountain hike great pond mountain hike great pond mountain hike great pond mountain hike great pond mountain hike

Ecotat Garden Trails, Hermon, Maineecotat garden trails hermon maine ecotat garden trails hermon maine ecotat garden trails hermon maine ecotat garden trails hermon maine ecotat garden trails hermon maine ecotat garden trails hermon maine ecotat garden trails hermon maine
Camden Harbor Tour, Camden, Maine

camden harbor tour camden maine camden harbor tour camden maine camden harbor tour camden maine camden harbor tour camden maine camden harbor tour camden maine camden harbor tour camden maine

BirdsAcre Trails, Ellsworth, Maine

birdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quilt birdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quilt birdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quiltbirdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quilt birdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quilt birdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quilt birdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quilt birdsacre trails ellsworth maine summer adventure quiltHere’s to many more adventures, and to keeping up with the quilt blocks so that there’s always one on the ready for any given adventure. I currently have 3 extra trees and 3 beach/ocean blocks ready to go, so right now I’m feeling ahead of the game!

What adventures do you go on with your family? I’m brainstorming other blocks I could make, and *might* make a few rainbow segments to include for every time we see a rainbow this summer. Rainbow sightings are always exciting!

I’m linking up with Let’s Bee Social since it’s been a while!

Happy stitching, and happy adventuring!

 

5 Steps to Sewing Perfect Curves

I am so excited to finally share this technique with you, since it makes sewing curves SO simple. I especially love that it can be used on both improv and exact curves, even circles. Mastering curves was on the top of my list this year in terms of quilting goals, and I’ve been working hard at it! While my traditional curve sewing still needs about 900 hours to hit the 10,000 hours that will result in mastery, I’ve found that this method results in perfect curves in five (that’s right–5!) easy steps.

5 steps to sewing perfect curves tutorial nightquilterI first saw this method being used by Hillary from Entropy Always Wins, Stephanie from Spontaneous Threads, and the other #beesewcial-ites, and was intrigued by the way they created such flat-laying, wildly curving improv pieces again and again and again. With some extra guidance from Stephanie, I was able to figure out the technique and have been using it on most of my sewn curves since. You can see where I’ve used it here, here, and here. This technique is derived from the six-minute circle method, but can be applied to any curve.  I love using the technique, and so I thought I would share it with you.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterSo let’s get started! First, gather your supplies. You will need:

  • your fabric pieces (I used three approx 5″ square pieces of fabric to help demonstrate the stacking of the layers, but you can use any scrap that fits the shape you’re trying to sew!)
  • fabric scissors
  • washable school glue – Elmer’s works great
  • fine glue tip (optional but helpful! I use the Fineline regular tip from Pile O’ Fabric)
  • zipper foot for your sewing machine (optional but makes sewing the curve much easier)
  • iron and pressing surface
  • pencil or other fabric marking tool for drawing your line
  • paper on which to draw your desired curves (only needed if you are sewing an exact curve–you can free draw or cut improv curves, too)

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterBefore you begin, decide generally how you want your curves to look. I like to sketch mine out on paper more for a visual than for an exact plan. Think of your fabrics in terms of layers: the bottom is the inside of the curve, moving upward and outward. Keep in mind that if you want to have a convex curve next to a concave curve, simply switch the way you view your “top” and “bottom” layers. The inside of the curve is always the bottom, and work from the bottom up.

Once you have an idea of generally (or exactly) how you want your curves to look, it’s time to get started. Five easy steps, I promise! Ready?!

Step 1:
Draw desired curve on the wrong side of top fabric piece.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterDraw your curve on the wrong side of your top (or in this case, middle) fabric with a pencil or other light fabric marking pen. If you want your curve to be exact, you can trace the line from your paper sketch by holding the fabric and paper up to a window or other light source. Be sure that the right sides of both the paper and fabric are facing away from you, since you want the line drawn on the wrong side of your fabric, but also want the curve to go in the proper direction.

Step 2:
Cut 1/4″ away from the inside edge of your drawn line.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterNext, cut between 1/4″ and 3/8″ away from the inside edge of your drawn line. This is your seam allowance.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterClip your curves to help make your curve smooth. Be sure to cut only halfway to the drawn line, not all the way to the drawn line.

Step 3:
Press seam allowance.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterNext, carefully press the seam allowance along your drawn line. Take your time here to make sure your curve is pressed smoothly and exactly along your drawn curve.

Step 4:
Glue baste to bottom layer.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterNow it’s time to glue baste this curve onto your bottom layer. Using a fine glue tip and washable school glue, create a small beaded line of glue along the seam allowance. Carefully lining up the outer corners of your squares, layer the middle fabric (with right side facing up and your cut, pressed, and glued seam allowance tucked under) on top of the bottom piece of fabric. This step is why I like to begin with three squares that are the same size. It makes positioning my curves as easy as pie!

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterPress with your fingers, making sure the seam allowance is in the right spot and fully folded under. Press with a hot iron to set the glue. Admire your perfect curve… but it’s not sewn yet! Just one more step.

Step 5:
Sew along drawn line.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterOnce the glue has been set and fabric cooled off, carefully lift up the top layer of fabric to expose the seam allowance. I use my zipper foot with my needle moved all the way to the left, since the narrow foot helps ease around tight turns. Carefully and slowly sew along your drawn line.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterAs you sew around the curves, carefully move the top fabric out of the way, being sure not to allow folds or puckers to form under the needle. Backstitch a bit at the beginning and end of your sewn line to secure the stitches.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterViola! Press again and you have a perfectly sewn curve!

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterTrim away the bottom fabric that extends beyond the seam allowance, and save for your next scrappy project.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterRepeat those five easy steps for your other layers: Draw, Cut, Press, Glue Baste, Sew.

five easy steps to perfect sewn curves nightquilterThere you have it. Smooth curves, either traced and perfect, or free cut and improv.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful! I know I can’t stop sewing crazy curves now that I know I can sew them like this. Next week I’ll be sharing a block tutorial for the Cloud9 New Block Hop, and *hint hint* part of it will use this method! Get your practice in now!

I’m linking up with Let’s Bee Social, and will link up with Tips & Tutorials Tuesday when Stephanie & Yvonne get it started again in a couple weeks!

Nurturing One Layer at a Time

This year I’ve dedicated myself to focusing on nurture–nurture of my children, my family, myself, and well… my sewing know-how! With a big project finally wrapped up (I’ll share more about that a bit later), I allowed myself to stretch WAY out of my comfort zone a bit and begin to work on fine-tuning two big aspects of quilting into which I haven’t yet delved too deeply: improv and curves.

back of improv curves block inspired by beesewcial
Isn’t the back fun!?

For the past week or so, I’ve been playing and experimenting with improv in response to the Bee Sewcial theme for March, which was suggested by Hillary from Entropy Always Wins. For those of you who are not yet familiar with Bee Sewcial, it’s a sewing bee with a bunch of super talented improv quilters, where each member suggests a general theme/prompt and color scheme each month and the bee members have free reign to sew their interpretations of the prompt. I’ve been blown away and inspired by the blocks these uber talented women create, and I’ve been meaning to play along using their prompts as inspiration.

Layers screen-shot-2016-02-29-at-6-48-14-pmThis month, Hillary invited her Bee Mates (and others playing along with #inspiredbybeesewcial) to “explor[e] the idea of layers (components that appear to be in the foreground and components that appear to be in the background) in your block design using the colors of this peeling paint image by Richman as a guide.” She asked that we bring at least two “layers” to our designs but said that we may add more.  She requested specific Kona colors consistent with the Richman image. I encourage you to read her post for more details, here. I was immediately smitten.

layers color palette
Suggested Kona color palette (left to right) Robin Egg, Capri, Breakers, Cyan, School Bus, Persimmon, Carrot, and Orange

I ordered the suggested colored fabrics, reviewed an impromptu lesson on the six-minute circle style form of improv curve sewing that Stephanie from Spontaneous Threads was kind enough to walk me through a month or so ago on Instagram, and began plotting.

layers improv curvesI added two already-stashed Kona oranges (orange and persimmon) to add a bit more depth to the foreground and got started. I began with the lightest robin egg blue and built out from there.

improv curve glue basting processA really fun aspect of being active on Instagram is the immediate feedback and visible spread of inspiration. While I was working on this creation, I posted updates along the way, as is my style, and a number of people expressed interest in trying it themselves (a couple have even sewn up a block already!). Since this is my very first time trying this method in earnest, I gave the best basic directions I could and directed them to the “six minute circle” technique. I applied the six minute circle basics of cutting the shape plus seam allowance, clipping curves, pressing the seam allowance with an iron, glue basting down, and then sewing along that pressed seam (from underneath the top fabric, so the stitches are hidden).

Note that in the photo above, I pressed the seam allowance on the orange piece and sewed it that way. In hindsight, because of the sharp curve of that mountain on the right, I should have done the reverse and cut and pressed the seam allowance on the layered piece and sewn down to the orange. This may seem clear as mud, but I’m hoping that as I practice this method and get more well versed in what consistently works, I will be better able to show you how to do it!

hand stitching tight curvesTo solve my steep mountain, tight sewing space problem, I decided to hand-stitch the steep part of the mountain down. The sewing machine foot (I used the zipper foot since it’s skinny!) didn’t want to fit up in that curve without sewing over bunches of fabric, so rather than make a mountain out of a molehill, I just hand stitched. Granted it’s wonky as anything, but it’s sewn down! No rules, right?!

improv curves layers inspired by beesewcialI’ve finished my base, but plan to build one more layer with needle-turn appliqué. I think I did a fairly good job of eliciting “layers” with this block, so I technically could stop here and call it a win. But, as is often the case, my initial vision included one more layer. Hillary mentioned depth of field in photos as a potential inspiration source, and so an image of looking through a field with a sun glare behind came to mind. This block looks a bit like a martian landscape at the moment, but with a little needle-turn appliqué that will soon change.

next step in improv layers inspired by beesewcialI want to try to play once more with a more modern take on layers, since as hard as I try, the natural gorgeousness of real life works its way into my quilting more often than not. Don’t get me wrong–there is nothing wrong with realism in quilting; but if I’m wanting to stretch into a different world of quilting for a bit, I may need to leave the tangible objects behind and play purely with geometry, color, and shape.

I’m really happy and excited with the outcome of this block so far, and feel like it opens up a whole new world of textile creation. I’m already plotting projects that incorporate this technique, and I’m thinking I’m getting really close to being ready to finally finish my Dropcloth Sampler Rainbow Color Wheel project.

What new techniques are you itching to try? What’s holding you back? This week, I encourage you to jump in and try it! No fears, no worries, no expectations. Just play. You just might be pleasantly surprised!

I’m linking up with Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts.

 

 

A Finish is a Finish, No Matter How Small (x4)

Lately, I’ve been sucked into the world of mini mini quilts, sparked by an Instagram post by my quilty blogger friend Michelle Bartholomew. The Mini Mini Quilt Swap, as far as I can tell, is an open swap of teeny tiny quilts (finishing usually between 3 – 5 inches square). It’s entirely independent, and up to you or a partner to send the invitation to swap, on you and your swap partner’s own set timeline, and open to as much fun and interpretation as you want. As Yvonne from Quilting Jetgirl said, it’s the perfect “Squirrel!” activity for quilters.

I have a big project to fini…. Squirrel! Off to the world of mini mini quilts.

mini mini quilt
The first two mini mini quilts I made.

I’ve finished four mini mini quilts so far and have at least two (more like three or four) in progress. You can see my mini minis in progress HERE. I have promised mini mini quilts to 9 people and have received 4 (5, technically, since Allison sent me two!) so far. They are a perfect little brain-rest in between bouts of completion on larger projects.

mini mini quiltThe first mini mini quilt I finished was inspired by Chawne Kimber’s Roberta quilts and her idea to sew SMALLER (check #sewSMALLER on Instagram to find her amazingly tiny and detailed quilting @cauchycomplete). I had played around with the idea after meeting Chawne and seeing her amazing work in person at the Slow Stitching Retreat hosted by Sam of A Gathering of Stitches this summer, and this mini mini was originally one of my play pieces. Michelle claimed it, I quilted it with a spiral and bound it with as much skill as an elephant threading a needle.

mini mini horrible bindingAs my first mini mini quilt bound, I was silly and tried a normal binding method, except thought it would be a good idea to join the binding at a corner (like a miter, right!?). Trust me, don’t do that. I’m seriously strongly considering ripping off the binding and giving it another go. In fact, I think I will. Sorry, Michelle, it will be a bit longer before your mini is in the mail.

mini mini quiltThe second mini mini I finished is for Yvonne, who said she liked rainbows and that I could have free reign. I first made the rainbow strips 1/4″ wide, but it ended up far too large.

mini mini quilt rainbowSo I channeled Chawne and sewed smaller… these finished rainbow bars finish at about 3/16ths of an inch. In my typical style, this mini is rainbow with a black/grey contrast (it’s either that or low volume, right!?).

mini mini quilt rainbow place to call homeI added a little meticulously cut bit of Medrona Road that says “a place to call home”. Without going into too much detail, one of the projects Yvonne is undertaking in an ongoing manner is her Reclamation Project, where she creates quilts with a personal statement. As she says, she “decided to take seeds of inspiration I found in song lyrics to create my own unique poetry in the form of a simple haiku. Once I had derived my own original work, my goal was to use my poetry as design inspiration for a mini quilt.” (from her Reclamation Project intro) From these projects, and through knowing Yvonne for nearly 2 years (really!?), I know that Yvonne has moved quite a bit in her life. I mean this mini mini quilt as a positive reminder that now that she’s found quilting, she will always have a place to call home. Home is where your sewing machine is, right?!

I quilted this mini mini with 50wt Aurifil 2600 – Dove around the text, and then used 12wt Aurifil in coordinating colors to hand quilt a single stitch above and below each rainbow bar. I think it’s the perfect amount of quilting to bring out the colors without detracting from the overall clean aesthetic of the quilt. I hope Yvonne loves it!

improv mini mini quiltNext, I attempted my first improv and resulted in this mini mini. I love the scrappy binding and the gold 50wt Aurifil works great to bring out the pops of gold in the quilt. This mini mini is not yet claimed, but I figure I will make a few more and then email the folks with whom I agreed to swap and let them choose a mini mini of their liking.

improv mini mini quiltI like the backing, too, which is a scrap of a fun low volume print called Passport Charcoal Etchings by 3 Sisters for Moda included in the low volume fat quarter bundle I put together for Fiddlehead Artisan Supply early in the summer.

mini mini modern hexiesFinally, I made what is perhaps my favorite mini mini to date: my ultra tiny modern hexies mini mini, with 1/4″ EPP hexagons glued and sewn according to Nicole at Modern Handcraft‘ awesome Modern Hexies tutorial, and finishing at 4 1/2″ square.

teeny tiny modern hexies mini mini quiltI wasn’t sure if these tiny hexies would work, but with forgoing actual basting (I just used a hot iron and Flatter to press the fabric around each tiny cardstock template), and using a toothpick for fine-tuning placement, it all worked quite smoothly! I quilted with 50wt Aurifil 2600 – Dove and bound in one of my favorite Carolyn Friedlander prints from her Botanics collection.

teeny tiny modern hexies mini mini quiltNow that I’ve bound four of these mini minis, I think I’m beginning to get the hang of a method that works. A single fold binding, joined before it’s attached to the quilt, and sewn to the back before top stitching to the front seems to work the best for me. As you can see, the bottom left corner of the modern hexies mini is a *bit* mis-calculated, but the rest of it is spot on. I’m planning to send this one to Jennifer at Little Black Cat quilting, since it’s somewhat inspired by the gorgeous mini mini she made for me!

I’m linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts Finish it up Friday for the first time in a LONG time. But, hey! A finish is a finish, no matter how small.