Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild is gearing up for the 2019 quilt show with a challenge! This blog post showcases how my 41″ x 41″ quilt came together. It was an absolute evolution of design.
The challenge issued to our quilt guild was to create a small quilt, no bigger than 250″ perimeter using a fat quarter of this Philip Jacobs print. I fell in love with the fabric instantly. It has every color and is the brightest print I’ve seen!
My design process started with the idea that I wanted to stitch various New York Beauty blocks and add applique shapes at the points. I tried making the block once by paper piecing and once by raw-edge fusible applique.
Each of the squares above measures 10″ x 10″. That seemed like a good place to start.
My test pieces for the quilt challenge quickly became out of control. (No one saw that coming!) I had raw-edge fusible shapes on everything. I was adding stuff left and right in all the bright colored fabric scraps that I could get my hands on.
Instead of roping it in and editing myself, I decided that I love MORE IS MORE. This was my jumping off point. Buckle up, buttercup.
Some days I feel like I’m learning to quilt. Specifically, learning to hand applique small shapes. I don’t know if a perfect circle would look like a circle when appliqued. After all, this isn’t a large Learn to Sew Easy Curves situation, though I did use the facing technique as I added a few quadrant arches. The small fabric circle problem is fixed with FELT.
I thought, “Hey, wool felt applique is pretty popular. I bet there’s a reason.” Then, I priced wool felt. Cough. Cough. Since this was a small challenge piece that may turn out to be a total circus, I treated myself to a rainbow sampler of synthetic felt from amazon.
Ok. Now I’m on my way. I just need some shapes and an idea…
I drafted the New York Beauty portion of the block in Adobe Illustrator.
The pink and white background fabric is a bed sheet. Why not use everything. With the exception of the challenge fabric and felt, no other fabric pieces were added to my stash to create this quilt.
Plaid/Gingham bias tape and multiple arches are FUN. I was nervous that I may use up all my challenge fat quarter too soon. You’ll see I use it conservatively in the beginning.
The next section started out much like the first. I needed some quarter-circles and some applique in my life.
Each of the two blocks pictured below have a paper pieced version of a New York Beauty block. The darker pink fabric is more of a chubby NYB.
Throughout this project, I used all sorts of different applique methods. Here’s how I tackled these fabrics:
- Fabrics have set in sewn curves between arches
- A few seams are hidden behind machine applied bias tape arches
- A couple arches with shaped edges have a facing sewn to them, then applied by machine
- A couple arches with shaped edges have a facing sewn to them, then applied by hand
- Of course, fabric shapes are felt
- A few shapes are raw-edge fusible applique
- Some shapes are prepared and hand stitched using the Appliquick Method.
Really, MORE IS MORE isn’t just for color. It is really for the entire quilt and its processes.
Quadrants Three and Four
The design wall is proving to be invaluable.
As it starts to shape, I started working on the remaining quadrants at the same time.
And sometimes I flipped the quadrant positions to see if the colors and intersections mingled nicely.
I love the bias tape made from the challenge fabric. The arch-tape is created with just an 8″ x 8″ square.
There are also two pieces of crocheted lace trim in the quilt: one black, one white.
At this point I can tell how much challenge fabric is left and how much space I still have on my square quilt. Time to get crazy with the circles!
As you’ll see below, I needed to clean up the lower left-hand quadrant to remove the pink rectangles. I have bonus seams in this baby.
Since I have everything going on in this quilt, I decided to sew a facing around the circle-background in the lower right-hand quadrant and apply piping behind it when I hand stitched to to the next arch.
I thought I might play around with the layout a bit more before I commit to a design. Alas, This one didn’t speak to me like the centered-circle design, so I flipped all the squares back to the way I had originally envisioned them.
Fun fact: There are three different bed sheet fabric scraps in this quilt.
- White with pink flowers, background, used in 3 of 4 quadrants.
- Purple damask-y looking background, upper right quadrant.
- White with blue floral, lower right quadrant
I am not a hand-embroidery guru. I’m learning, but mostly I just wanted to try out the techniques on this quilt. Challenge is the name of the game, right?
Since I didn’t know if this would work, I didn’t invest a lot in fancy embroidery floss. I grabbed thread sampler pack for $6, to go with my felt sampler, from amazon.
I also picked up a small tube of multi-color beads. All the beads are the same size, and they are all plastic.
The Longarm Quilting
This quilt is small. It is only 41″ x 41″ as I mentioned. Sure, there’s much to stitch around, but at the end of the day, it is a small, fast quilt.
In fact, the color and mixed-media-ness of this quilt makes the actual quilting pretty secondary. It is hard to see and ultimately not too defining.
But of course, if a person were to make a mistake and quilt white or light grey all over a dark pink fabric, well, that person would have to find a sharpie to fix her error OR rip out all the quilting. Pretty sure you know which option I picked.
Remember the piping around the large circles? Check this out:
And of course, there’s quite a bit of meandering stitches on this piece.
All in all, I’d say it was a great experiment/challenge. Now I need to get it entered into the 2019 Challenge Contest at the show. And, if you can believe it, I actually have a small piece of challenge fabric left. I may have to add it to the label.
My newest Scrappy Quarter-Square Log Cabin quilt started innocently enough. We had company over the winter holidays and when they were busy or not yet awake, I’d slip into my sewing room and grab a few scraps. (I have LOADS of fabric scraps, it turns out.)
I’d start with small pieces and add longer strips to two sides. It is a surprisingly fast, mindless process.
A few years ago, I made this quilt as a gift for one of my Sister-in-Laws:
I liked that quilt so much, I thought in this holiday-down-time sewing, I’d make a small scrappy quarter-square log cabin. Each block is trimmed square.
It quickly got out of control. I’m sure no one saw that coming. Haha. Setting the blocks on-point made for a really unique design. Now, in my mind, these are completely different quilts.
The blocks just kept going and going. The quilt kept growing and growing. (That sounds like something straight out of Willy Wonka. If only my quilts were made from chocolate!)
Since the quilt was created entirely from fabric scraps, I now needed to come up with a solution for the setting triangles around the edge of the quilt. I snapped a pic, but it is tricky to see, since the design wall is also white.
For the setting triangles, I made templates from white cardstock paper. Then I pieced random white/light/low-volume fabrics. I laid the templates over the white patchwork pieces to cut my shapes to size.
I’m happy to report I have a LARGE bed quilt ready to hit the longarm. I debated on whether or not to post the quilt as just a quilt top. Of course, when this quilt is finished, you will not be able to see the quilting on it since the body of the quilt has so much movement and color. On that note: Here’s the Scrappy Quarter-Square Log Cabin 2019.
Get out there and use your scraps! Sew in brief little spurts when no one is watching. It is crazy what will turn up from, what is essentially a minimal level of sewing/quilting commitment.
Just draw as much as you can. I know that sounds silly but as I tell my quilting students, muscle memory is important.
- the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought, acquired as a result of frequent repetition of that movement.”typing relies heavily on muscle memory”
In college we were required to keep an inspiration journal & sketchbook. At the time it was to add in photos, notes, sketches, really anything.
Building on that sage advice, I’d like to encourage you to keep inspiration at your fingertips. Pinterest boards, photos on your phone from quilt guilds and quilt shows, and sketches from anywhere.
The importance of a sketchbook, to me, is that while I can find amazing photos of cool-looking designs on the entire internet, my sketchbook is the place where I can see what I can actually draw.
From here, I can plan to build on skills sketched on previous pages to create something intricate and useful.
And while it may seem like I’m just sitting there with a random marker-color-of-the-day, I’m actually building muscle memory and creating a resource to flip through at a later date.
I’ve found, though, that I’m even able to break out some designs and add them into my own brainstorming. Recently taking a Handi Quilter class, I used my sketchbook ideas to help draft a couple blocks.
You never know when these ideas will come in handy. I encourage your to just draw as often as you can!
In October 2018, I was honored to be included in C&T Publishing’s video series of book trailers. At the Quilt Market in Houston, TX, we shot almost an hour worth of footage for the promotion.
Take a peak here:
It was a blast to film, but my time slot was 3p. That is 3p after an entire day on the quilt market floor, buzzing around seeing friends and quilts. I promise I do not always look this exhausted. However, I do always talk about quilts.
I asked the producer, Amy to snap a picture of me before I left the shoot. And yes, I did wave a bit of a photoshop-magic-wand on this one.
Inspired by the incredible applique of Kim Mclean, I set out on my own vibrant wild birds applique journey. Her pattern that put me on this path was Lollypop Tree. (You can grab the original Kim Mclean pattern at Glorious Color.) It is an amazing quilt that I’ve enjoyed since I first saw it years ago. My design is a much simpler, plainer version with birds and a splash of asymmetry.
Starting the Applique Design
I’m not much of a hand-applique person, but I thought it might be time to give it a whirl. Recently working on a challenge quilt, which I’ll blog about shortly, I dipped my toe into hand-applique designs.
This project completely started out as a bright-colored, hand-applique improvisational experiment. Lots of adjectives just to say, “I wonder if I can make a block?”
I’m happy to report, that this quilt is made entirely from fabric scraps from my own stash. My scraps are sorted by color into ziploc bags, and holy smokes, there’s lots of ziplocs.
After watching endless videos on applique, I ended up trying the Appliquick method to prepare my shapes. In a very basic nutshell, here’s what I did:
- Trace shapes onto fusible interfacing
- Fuse to wrong-side of fabric
- Cut fabric 1/4″ – 1/8″ larger than interfacing
- Use tools and glue to fold edges around applique
I ended up choosing shapes I liked and making many of them. Next, I’d store them in an unused 8″ pizza box to use them as I randomly created each block design.
To my surprise, the little birds turned out to be a favorite design. Luckily the bird body and bird wing were interesting shapes in themselves. You’ll see them in the blocks, used in many different arrangements along side leaves, bias tape and circles.
Improv Applique Quilt Blocks
For each block, I would start with a 15-1/2″ x 15-1/2″ woven cotton fabric background. Press a center fold, then press three fold lines perpendicular to the vertical center. I don’t know what will be applied to the lines, but they’ll help keep things balanced and symmetrical, if need be.
This isn’t a pattern release or free tutorial. I’m simply sharing a project I made from an incredible inspirational source. To see each block larger, click on it. If you end up making these blocks, that’s cool, but I do not have a paper template or design.
Finishing The Quilt
This quilt has quite a bit going on. There’s bias tape; there’s embroidered beaks, eyes, and feet. There’s circles and layers. I’ve never made anything this colorful, I don’t think.
In an efforts to go full on “MORE IS MORE,” I cut 3-1/2″ squares for a patchwork sashing.
Each block finished up at 15″ square which means I would need 20 small sahsing blocks around each applique. Add a dash of math to get the cornerstones, and I’m all set.
Ok, yes. This will be A LOT of color. Once I had all the sashing on the wall, and after confirming with my art guru, we decided to add some white applique shapes sashing in an efforts to calm the color slightly.
More is more!
The backing is pieced fabric from my stash and the batting is Fairfield Hi-Loft Poly. The thread is White Glide 40wt, Magna Glide 60wt Bobbin, and I’m using my HandiQuilter Avante, free-motion/hand-guided to quilt.
Quilting this was a blast. I outlined each applique shape/unit and filled in the background with all sorts of designs. Swirls, pebbles, and little feathers are featured in most of the space.
I added spine-less feathers in the patchwork sashing. Though you cannot see every quilted stitch, it does make a cool texture.
The white shapes are also outlined, though nothing is stitched inside. I wanted those areas to appear “puffed up.”
Vibrant Wild Birds
With the quilt completed, I just need to add a hanging sleeve on the back so this little baby can be entered into the Greater San Antonio Quilt Show in September.
Prepare to be overloaded with images of my Antiques Linen Challenge Quilt.
My local longarm group issued a challenge to stitch up an antique linen in the style made popular by Kelly Cline and others. There are so many cool ways to incorporate old linens into new designs.
The design I went with is more of a Frankenstein version of a linen challenge. I’ll lay out the reasons why I needed to add all sorts of things to this quilt.
- One Handkerchief
- Four crocheted coasters
- One Bread Basket Liner (cut into quarters)
- Two large crocheted doilies
- Two different bed sheets
- Four kinds of lace
The center of the quilt starts with a men’s handkerchief. It is plain and simple. I bought it at an estate sale and didn’t notice that it had stains on it. I went ahead and appliqued traditional orange peel shapes over the stains.
I created spaces within my quilt using techniques from Free-Motion Framework, my most recent book release. Simply divide the space in to large usable shapes and then practice a quilting fill within that shape.
The bread basket liner with a crocheted trim was next. I cut the liner into fourths and stay-stitched over the crocheted edge. I then appliqued over the cut crocheted edges with a smaller orange peel design.
It was really fun trying to think of different things to quilt into all these spaces. Unfortunately, the pictures jump around a bit. That happens because I was quilting “just one motif” at a time, rolling the quilt up and back on the longarm’s frame.
The lovely tan coasters are serving a fantastic purpose. They are covering seams where I mis-measured the solid fabric borders. That’s right, now you all know all my business.
I had two large doilies that I think are intended for end tables. I decided maybe I should chop those in half. The crochet was so tight that even when I cut the pieces with a rotary blade, nothing happened. There was no fray, no wobble, nothing.
At this point my mom suggested set the center of the quilt on-point to make it more interesting. Man, she was right! I generally quilt with the brightest fabrics I can get my hands on, so this piece was a visual challenge.
Thank goodness for the Glide Presser Foot! I’m 100% certain this quilt was only stitch-able thanks to the bowl shape floating freely over the lumpy pieces in my quilt.
I added some really neat triangles into the second-to-last border. I needed something to still puff on this design as I’ve quilted most of it to death. The batting in this quilt is one layer of American Fiber 80/20 and one layer of hi-loft Fairfield Poly.
This quilt has EVERYTHING, and I’m adding more! I don’t have a photo, but I’ve added four vintage/costume buttons to on-point center of the design. This is to cover up the lack of points on my large orange peel shapes.
I then thought the buttons looked a bit extra, so on all the quilted intersections on the handkerchief: CRYSTALS. Yes. It is out of control. Then I thought, “Well, I own a small cache of crystals, maybe I should put them on every cross-hatched intersection in the triangle border, too.” That isn’t done yet, but man, it will be cool when I’m finished.
Oh, right, you haven’t seen the whole quilt composition. It is very hard to get a photo of this quilt where the features really stand out. I took one, but then altered it to be darker so you may see it a bit better.
You can see it in person at the Greater San Antonio Quilt Show, Sept 20-21, 2019
This is the Good Fortune Quiltville Mystery Quilt for 2018! If you don’t know the Bonnie Hunter Mystery, you should! She starts around the end of October announcing a color palette using paint chips. Then in November, she starts weekly clues for cutting and piecing. The entire event finishes up in January. She’s hosted many mysteries through her blog.
I wanted to try something I’d never done before. I don’t think I’ve ever done a real-deal full-on mystery quilt. Man, it was fun. It was also a bit stressful for me, but it really was fun.
I did create the quilt top entirely from fabrics I already owned. No shopping for this girl!
In Bonnie Hunter’s original design, she includes at least two more pieced borders. Although I sewed those elements, I ended up not adding them to my quilt.
I was on pace to finish along each week with the her blog postings. Once we arrived at the end of the mystery, my quilt went a slightly different direction.
I tried hand-applique!
Turns out, I like hand applique. I ended up adding two featured corners to my Good Fortune Quilt.
The quilt is so visually active that will be tricky to see the longarm quilting. I ended up stitching a simple meander all over the quilt’s center and then swirls + piano keys along the quilt’s borders.
The perfect quilt back for this festive quilt was scored at a local thrift shop. That’s right, the back is an old sheet. The sheet is 50/50 cotton/poly, but the print was fantastic.
After a brief blogging break, I wanted to share more longarm quilting pictures with you.
I’m enjoying free-motion quilting on my customer’s quilts and my own. I think I learn something with each new quilt, which is always good news.
The quilt below is part of my 2019 Challenge Fabric Quilt entry for the Greater San Antonio Quilt Guild’s show on Sept 20-21. I cannot show you the whole piece quite yet. Just know, it is asymmetrical and absolutely bananas-looking.
I’ve been lucky to custom quilt a few projects for some local San Antonio area friends. Check out their quilts:
A new friend found me online and mailed this next quilt from their duty station in Japan. This semi-custom small quilt is so charming!
With a quick turn-around, I was able to get the San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild‘s charity quilt quilted and bound and mailed in time for the big show, QuiltCon, in Nashville last month. It is a conceptual beach scene with sand, sea glass, and breaking waves.
And of course, I love doing edge-to-edge designs all over quilts. An edge-to-edge is any design that I can draw with the longarm that literally travels from one edge of the quilt to the other without stopping.
I recently had the opportunity to take a class from a certified HandiQuilter instructor, Mary. It was an outstanding class. In the class she mentioned making our own custom stencils for longarm quilting, which sounds awesome! The method involved sewing through marked paper with an unthreaded needle. This absolutely works, and you may have seen it before. I’m late to the party.
For my use, I thought, “Custom stencils would be fan-freakin-tastic for Free-Motion Framework quilt markings!” It would be so much more convenient than tracing through light colors and it is ideal for dark color fabrics.
For projects in the book, each quadrant is 20″ x 20″ to mark on a 40″ square of fabric. I wasn’t too sure how to go about sewing through the paper without crumpling up a portion of the 20″ square in the throat of my domestic sewing machine.
As recommended in the HandiQuilter class, punching holes in the paper using a dress maker’s tracing wheel isn’t too effective by itself. But then I got to thinking…
What if there was something spongy for the tracing wheel to punch into? For dress makers purposes, you need to roll the wheel on a hard surface (like a rotary cutting mat) to have the carbon markings show up. If your goal is to puncture the paper, though, as ours is, it is needs some give.
Here’s what you’ll need to give this project a try. Keep in mind, I am going to use it to mark linear designs as guides for free-motion quilting. You could use this for quilting stencils, guidelines, hand embroidery and so much more!
- Craft foam sheets 1/8″ thick
- Dress maker’s tracing wheel
- Pouce Pad with Iron-off chalk
- Paper & pen or printed design
Prepare the Stencil
If you have not printed a copy-right free image from the internet, simply draw a design on paper. Anything will work for this test run.
Notice the difference between the two tracing wheels I have on hand:
The tracing wheel at the top has deep teeth and the one at the bottom has much shallower teeth. Since we need holes through the paper, I opted to use the deep-pointy-teeth tracing wheel.
Take a quick look at the craft foam. The odds are you have this around your house already.
Lay the paper on the craft foam, print side up.
Trace over all the lines with the tracing wheel.
Remember, if you go over a line or run too far past an intersection, at the end of the project you’ll be the only one who ever knew that happened. These lines are meant to be temporary.
The relatively quick process does chew up the foam a bit, but the foam is quite inexpensive and is the perfect tool for this method.
Transfer the Stencil
Now, just like if you had sewn through the paper, flip the punctured design over to use it.
Position the stencil on top of your fabric. I’m still working on the foam, but at this point, you do not have to. Any work surface will be good.
Pour a small amount of chalk into the pounce brick. Shake the Pouce Pad to load the chalk into soft surface.
The watermark (below) looks like a tattoo on my hand. It is NOT. Don’t worry, Mom!
Rub the pad from right to left over the nubby backside of the stencil. I peeled back my stencil every so often to make sure I was achieving complete coverage.
That’s it. That is really all there is to it.
Remove the stencil.
Although this was a test run, I cannot wait to make another larger
Free-Motion Framework quilt using this incredibly easy stencil-marking technique. Thank you so much Mary, from HQ, for getting the wheels turning!
Let’s take a peek at two very different custom quilted sampler quilts. All the quilts featured in this post were created by my customers. I added the longarm quilting to showcase the blocks. Sampler quilts, or block of the month quilts, are so tricky because each block is receiving its own unique design. If you have a quilt you’d like for me to finish, read more at www.reannalilyquilts.com or drop me an email.
Local Quilt Shop’s Block of the Month
First up is a block of the month hosted by a local quilt shop. My customer picked up fabrics each month and created her blocks. I think this is the 2017-2018 project. See my customer’s whole quilt on her instagram.
I kept the borders a bit simple so the blocks would really stand out.
Now onto the ruler work and stitching designs. I tried to apply the Divide and Design method to each block.
For consistency, I also tried to keep types of block units treated in a similar fashion. By that I mean, if a block had a large square, it would get a sort of 4-corner star. If it was a small square it would have orange peel stitching. It didn’t always work, but it helped quite a bit.
And sometimes, I didn’t pay too much attention to the piecing at all. I jumped right in to create new shapes by connecting points with in the block. You can see four “footballs” in the block below.
A Kit Turned Into a Quilt
My customer tells me this quilt has been in progress for quite some time. She wanted to have it quilted to be in a show next year. I cannot wait to see it. You can see more of this customer’s amazing work in her shop on etsy.
I’ll be honest with you, this sampler was incredible and far outside my quilting comfort zone. It has everything.
Flying geese, applique, traditional blocks, sashing, no discernible grid, and more!
I don’t see too many traditional quilts come through my studio. The challenge is incredible, though. That part, I love. I hope my customer loved it, too.
Like with the previous sampler, I tried to stay consistent in my “certain shapes get certain treatments” plan. All flying geese blocks have connected wishbone stitching lines.
The quilt is very densely quilted, too.
Her workmanship was next level. I spent most of the time working on this quilt just hoping I don’t mess it up. It was so complex and stunning.
And Don’t Forget Edge to Edge
For good measure, lets take a minute to love the wispy ribbon swirls of a fantastic edge-to-edge design.
What does edge-to-edge mean? In the most simple terms, it means I can use my longarm quilting machine to stitch from one edge of your quilt to the other without stopping.
These long swirls that look a bit like ribbons are a new addition to my edge-to-edge free-motion stitching designs. If you have a quilt you’d like for me to finish, read more at www.reannalilyquilts.com or drop me an email.