Subscribe to RSS Feed

Friday, March 26, 2010

Work Quilt #2 by Victoria of Silly BooDilly.

I stumbled onto this quilt on the Silly BooDilly! The front, pictured here, is made of shot cottons; I had no idea what those were, but I surely want some now! From Kaffe Fassett, they are cottons woven with two different colours, given them a really rich and sophisticated dimension. To the basic pattern of mixed rectangles in three shades, Victoria hand applied and hand quilted 31 smaller patches in a brilliantly chosen array of fabrics and shapes. Her quilting, showcased at her Flickr site, is a mix of machine quilting and hand quilting in brilliantly chosen coloured threads.

This quilt, possibly the most beautiful I have ever seen, is a perfect example of how simplicity can set the stage for masterful colour and design elements.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Color Mastery Exercise #1

The first exercise set you in Color Mastery is to constuct a colour wheel out of fabrics you find in your own stash (or failing that, from magazine photos). I dutifully photocopied the blank colour wheel onto some canvas textured card stock, and went hunting through my stash, with the book opened to the colour wheel page.

I needed that page!

Turns out I am terrible at seeing colour in my head and matching it to fabrics in the real world, but this simple colour wheel exercise was illuminating. I had no trouble with blue, red and yellow, the primary colours. My sense of what they were and which fabrics represented them best was quite accurate. But things began to fall apart when it came to green, purple and orange. Turns out I did not have a clear idea of what those base colours really are. I saw a range of colours as being equivalent, which of course they were not. But with the book's colour wheel at hand, I could match basic green to the basic green fabrics in my stash, putting to one side the yellow greens, and the blue-greens, which suddenly I could see were quite different after all.

Things got even harder with purple. I had one in my stash that approximated the purple on the colour wheel. All the others were actually from the much pinker looking red-violet range (the same range from which most of my favourite pinks are drawn, although some pinks fall squarely into the red family rather than red-violet. I don't tend to like red based pinks very much.).

Orange was nearly my downfall. Again, I had only one true orange fabric in my stash. The other "oranges" I had were all yellow-oranges. I had not thought of them as different until I actually compared them to the colour wheel.

The most difficult colour of all turned out to be red-orange. I had absolutely no awareness of this as a hue all on its own. Couldn't even conjure up a mental image of "red-orange". But again, I compared the red-orange on the colour wheel to my stash...and found ONE fabric that fit the bill. And I was surprised to find I really, really liked that colour. How odd I didn't have more of it!

Here is my finished colour wheel from Exercise 1. Yours would look different, depending on what fabrics you have in your stash. And Maria advises making up additional fabric colour wheels in variations: all prints, or all solids, or all polka dots. More practice will refine your eye and build your familiarity with your stash:

At the end of the exercise, Maria asks "What hues did you have trouble identifying in the colour wheel?"

For me, the hardest were blue-violet (again, I only had one and had always thought of it as a blue), and red-orange, which I had never thought about at all. This led me to ask myself "What hues should I be looking for to round out my stash and build my sense of colour?" I resolved to add:

1. Red-oranges and blue-violets...although I will have to take along the colour wheel at first to keep me "on colour"!

2. Colours I had few examples of. My stash turned out to be mostly blues, greens, and violet-red pinks. Period.When I go stash shopping, I will actively collect blue-greens, purples, oranges, orange-reds, yellows.


The elusive red-orange!

Exercise #2 will focus on value...can't wait!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


One of the most frustrating aspects of quilting is the not-so-simple task of choosing fabrics for any given project. For my first quilting class, we were pretty much dragooned into buying our class fabrics from the store sponsoring our course. I had no objection to this, but after choosing a focus fabric, wandered the store for half an hour trying, in vain, to find anything that worked with that fabric. I tried another, and once again had absolutely no luck in finding great coordinates. In the end, an ancient fat quarter from my stash saved the day. But since then, I have often walked into a quilt shop and found that while they may have one or two fabrics that work in a given project, they rarely have ALL the fabrics I need. Even when they display collections, most shops cannot afford to stock all the fabrics in any one collection. They pick and choose.

One of our local stores brought in a particularly beautiful line of Asian inspired fabrics. Ten or twelve different bolts were on the wall, along with a kit for making their display quilt. That display quilt featured a luscious fabric in a dark, plummy purple. But was it available for sale off the bolt? No. They had used the entire bolt for kits.

And so began my first foray into online fabric shopping. Since then, I have often bought lovely fabrics online that I could not easily find local coordinates for. And it is very hard to colour match online, as digital images are not completely true to the colour in the actual fabric. What to do?

I found an important colour matching tool in the Moda Marbles swatch cards (there is a card for cottons and another, smaller card for the Moda Marbles Flannels. The swatch cards don't just show me what ranges of colours might work best with the focus fabric I have in hand, they give me a colour lingua franca. If I ask one of my online sellers to find me some nice fabrics in blue....well, blue can mean a lot of things. Primary blue? Blue-greens and teals? Periwinkles and violet blues? Turquoise? As you can see, below, "blue" encompasses a large range of possible colours:

But if I say "I want a few fabrics that coordinate with Moda Marble swatch 9873 Wine", then we have a concrete reference point to work from.

I have also found the swatch cards of great use in working my way through my latest workbook, "Color Mastery: 10 Principles for Creating Stunning Quilts" by Maria Peagler. When Maria instructs me to find 5 fabrics to complete a split complement colour scheme, I can use the card swatches to give me a concrete example of the basic colours I am after, enabling me to refine my vision before I go fabric shopping. Turns out I am not terribly good at visualizing colours in my head and then matching that vision to what I find in the real world. Using the swatches helps with that translation process. And I can take the swatches to keep me "on colour" when I am shopping!

I have long wanted to make a baby quilt in a range of neutral flannels along with soft, faded colours also in flannel. But it has been really hard to find a range of neutral flannels and coordinates. For that project, I was able to refine my thinking and then search online for the perfect fabrics, using the Moda Marbles Flannel swatch card as my starting point:

Hope you found this fun and helpful! I will end with a few close up shots of the cotton cards:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tidiness Tip #1

**update June 04, 2010 at end of this posting**

I am a terrible housekeeper. Well, to be more accurate, I can clean house beautifully but I choose not to. There are just so many other more interesting things to do in a day. In spite of my lack of effort in the housekeeping department, I really hate a mess. And one of the things I have always loathed about sewing and quilting is all the danged little thread tails you are left with once you clip the beginnings and ends of your seams. They get all over the place, and all over me. My husband was forever tut-tutting and picking pieces of thread off my clothes (he can't help himself, my mother in law was a Home Ec major...), a process neither of us enjoyed. So I was overjoyed to find I could actually prevent thread tail formation.

It is called "a scrap piece of fabric". In a nutshell, you sew off the end of whatever it is you are sewing and onto a scrap piece of fabric, leave the needle down in the scrap and cutting your project off behind it. Simple.

But I am a Virgo. Sons of Home Ec majors are well advised to marry Virgos. We are the only sign that can be relied upon to be as picky as their dear Mamma. This Virgo also loathes random fabric scraps all over the place. So I turned to my trusty unbleached cotton yardage, which I buy locally, trés cheap from a discount fabric warehouse. It is thick, slubby, with a drapey hand, and feels like lightweight raw silk. I love the stuff:

I then take a piece of the cloth and cut it into 4 squares, roughly 2" x 2", like so:

Once that is done, I fold the little squares in half, and iron them flat:

To use the scraps, place one under your needle and presserfoot. This all works best if you work with your needle in the needle down setting:

Sew to the edge of the scrap, and with the needle down, lift your presserfoot, position your actual sewing where you want it (in my case I am usually quilting that all important 1/4" seam with my trusty 1/4" with guide presserfoot) and leave a teensy gap between your cloth and your scrap piece. Note the scrap piece is now to the rear of your needle:

Once you have reached the end of your seam, feed another scrap piece under the presserfoot and into the needle, leaving that teensy gap between the scrap and your sewn item, like so:

Now the reason for the gap becomes clear! It is where you clip your sewn item off the scrap piece:

You leave that ending scrap, the one you have sewn off onto, in your machine with the needle down, waiting for your next sewing adventure to begin:

Of course, the scrap you began sewing with is still attached to your sewn item. Clip that off as well:

In this way, you will never, never, never have thread tails to cut off and put in your waste bag or basket, and you will not find you have arrived at a board meeting with thread tails all over your clothes. The floor of your workroom will be beautifully clean...well, it won't have any thread tails...and your little scraps serve two other very important purposes.

First, even that one inch of sewing across the scrap is a short test of your stitch quality. Better to find out on your starting scrap that the machine is sewing wonky than on your sewn item. Second, I find the older scraps, with their many lines of stitching, quite lovely. When I look at them, they remind me of all the happy work I have done, and if I have used coloured thread, that reminds me of whatever project it was used for. Those scraps hold my quilting history!

Update June 04, 2010

An even better idea has been brought to my attention: leaders and enders! Instead of using a little scrap, take all your scrap fabrics and separate them into light and dark. Cut them all into squares, 2 1/2" is standard but choose what works for you and your scrap pile. Note that a cutting tool is really useful for this, I have used my Accuquilt Go! for this purpose and that really reduces the drudgery.

Load the light squares into one basket or bag, the dark into another. Keep the two baskets close by your machine, and whenever you begin or end a seam, take one light square and one dark one, pair them right sides together and sew together using a 1/4" seam. When you cut them off your sewn work, toss them into a third basket. 

Over time, you are going to end up with a lovely big pile of sewn pairs. Press them open and then start sewing them together into blocks and quilts. Brilliant!

I saw this idea at, which also applies a similar technique to deal with small strips and leftovers, the crumbs technique. Check it out, it's well worth a look!

And send me a photo of your results!