Minimalism and Wholecloth Quilting (?)

I have two (2) things to show off today! The first is a quilt which I made as a birthday gift for someone very dear to me. It’s my first experiment with English paper piecing, as well as the first quilt which is (sort of, I guess) a wholecloth quilt. I’ve been fascinated by wholecloth quilts for ages now, and it might be something I experiment with more later this year. I’m keen to try out multiple layers of imagery in them in subtly different thread colours, because why would I start with something straightforward? That would be the easy way out.

But anyway, a few more progress pictures. I should also mention that the design was inspired by some of the quilts I’ve seen Modern Handcrafts make.

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Arranging the hexagons and deciding on my fabric choices.

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I sort of love how all the tiny safety pins look spread across the quilt – like a school of fish.

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I think this might be as far as  I go with paper-piecing. I’m still chipping away at the (very small) paper pieced block for the Sleigher quilt I started, uh, a year and a half ago. I love the lightness of this quilt though and the quilted lines were also my first experiment with using a disappearing fabric marker. It worker surprisingly well and has me thinking about whole cloth projects with more seriousness.

And the finished quilt, with a black and gold binding.

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The other thing I’ve been making fast progress with has been the nesting quilt I showed some early progress on in my last post. I’ve around 2/3 of the way through sewing the initial four block portions, I think perhaps another few hours and the whole top should be complete. I like naming my quilts, and I’m still tossing around potential names for this series (this is 1 of 7). Part of me wants some kind of play on the ever smaller quilts, or something to do with the repetition and inversion of form and colour that will be apparent through the whole series.

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Presently completed four-block squares.

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Dwindling pile of single blocks.

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This quilt top looks like complete chaos and I love it (this is just laid out to get an idea – the final version will have some sage and yellow to offset it a little.)

The other development is that I finally got shelves for my studio! No more storing everything in a pile of plastic containers inching ever closer to my workbench. Left is all my fabric arrayed by colour, right is lengths suitable for backing or binding and a separate cube for each WiP.

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Variations on a Theme.

So, for the better part of the last two years almost everything I’ve made has been chevrons. Different colours and sizes, sure, but chevrons as far as the eye can see. It looks like 2015-16’s look du annual will be hexagons.

The hexy-rainbow I’ve been working on has continued to come together swiftly. (Also this will be posted in my Etsy store when it’s done – if you’d like to bags it before it goes up, post a comment or email me at contact AT fukitu.com.)

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300 safety pins and the death of the remaining cartilage in my knees later…

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All the free motion quilting done, awkwardly piled over my worktable for trimming before the binding.

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Quilt waterfalls.

So far so good – although there was one casualty of this quilt (aside from my knees and wrists.) My poor little Brother BM-2600 gave up the ghost in a sad fashion part way through the free motion quilting. After probably an hour and a half of running it solidly at top speed it made a very sad noise, slowed to a crawl and started to smell lightly of overheating electrics. I ran it into the ground (I suspect I burned out the motor.) I bought a replacement from the same point in Brother’s line: the GS2510. I’ve heard some people have issues with the longevity of Brother machines, but honestly I’ve never had an issue with their entry level mechanical ones: I used the 2600 for eight years and probably sewed on it for an average of 10-15 hours a week. I should confess I never took it for a proper service, figuring if it blew a gasket in a spectacular fashion I could just afford to spring for a new one and instead just aimed a can of compressed air at the bobbin-zone once in a while. All things considered, given it cost me something like $250 when I bought it I think I got a good deal of life out of it.

I also had a lovely haul arrive from Hawthorne Threads.

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My plan for this is a drunkards path quilt, which should measure about 185cm x 185cm when complete.

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However, when you trim the white L-shapes for this quilt you’re left with a bunch of smaller quarter circles, which seem to suggest they ought to be in a complementary quilt which is slightly smaller.

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And then of course, you’d trim the L shapes for THAT quilt and be left with slightly smaller again quarter circles. Needless to say I took to my high tech design wall.

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Expect some delightful smaller and smaller drunkards paths until I get sick of following this weird little rabbit hole. I find the idea of recursive quilts echoing back and forth very very satisfying.

One last tiny hexagon tease though, something I’m revealing in full next week:

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Further Finishes

Something about the New Year is making me want to finish what I’ve started before I begin anything new. In my last post I showed off the coat I’ve finally finished after some eight months – today I have two more finishes, and one WiP I’m making good progress on.

First! The baby quilt I finished just before Christmas. I recently located the photos I took and then immediately lost among my extensive library of memory cards.

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I love it: it’s soft and lightly quilted and just right for a snuggly floor quilt for a baby.

Next up: I finished the French Braid quilt I started about four years ago. Finished! Done! (Also now listed on my Etsy) The odd thing about working on a quilt for this long is how much my tastes have changed. I still like this quilt, but I can’t imagine I’d do anything with such a deliberate lack of intention or form to the colour arrangements? I find that I much prefer sewing with a strong sense of purpose and a clearly defined outcome now. With this though I cut the strips for the chevrons (chevrons are one thing that hasn’t changed in my quilting) and then pulled them out more or less at random to sew together the blocks.

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This next one is the early stages of quilting together a top I’ve had sitting aside since last May. It’s the twin to the hexagon quilt I made last year: where that one went from a high density center to low density colour at the edges this does the opposite: I used the leftovers from the original to sew it. I’m doing a free motion quilting, same as before, but this time in a regular Gutermann thread, instead of the Sulky thread. Sulky thread gives an amazing finish and looks beautiful, but also broke anytime I changed speeds even slightly while quilting, meaning I had to rethread my machine about every 5-10 minutes through the whole 7+ hours of quilting.

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The patterns not being completely matched is annoying me slightly, I have to admit but it was the most efficient way to use the leftover fabric. I’ve quilted one sixth of this so far, which took just over an hour – the combination of pulling such an enormous mass of fabric around my machine and the extra effort required for free motion quilting anyway completely annihilated my mid-back, so I might have to pace myself when it comes to finishing this off.

I’m waiting on a gigantic order from Hawthorne Threads too, but I’ve told myself I’m not allowed to cut into it until I finished up this hexagon. I’m looking for the perfect 6″ drunkards path template set too, which is a tougher thing than you might think (I suspect I’m going to go for the Marti Mitchell templates) so I can’t cut into it until that arrives anyway. I’m excited to post my next project once it is underway though!

 

Free Motion Quilting is Go

I have a finish and an almost finish to show you all today! First up: the teal chevrons.

Back teal quilt

This is the wideback I chose for the backing – colours were influenced by the request of the friend commissioning the quilt. I mostly pulled the fabrics from my stash, which was exciting – nice to use what I had on hand instead of ordering and waiting impatiently for fabrics to arrive.

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Folded teal

Here’s the finished product – the recipient was extremely happy which is always gratifying. Another commission is also almost complete – I’ll be spending tomorrow sewing up the binding. I wrangled my Brother-2600 into free motion quilting which I’m quite proud of – it doesn’t have droppable feeddogs, so I just turned the stitch length down to 0 and hoped. It worked very well in the end, although I need a higher quilting table because being hunched over the machine for five hours today means I spent a solid 10 minutes working the crunchier bits of my shoulders over with a tennis ball this evening.

Detail hex quilted

Pin basting stage.

Hex yellow in progress

Purple hex detail

I used a Gutermann Sulky 40 weight thread for the quilting. In general I liked it – I love the shimmery barely there quality of it, and how it ties all the colours together. I don’t particularly love how it snaps as soon as I ramp up the speed on my machine (strangely only the top thread, not the bobbin thread) although that seemed to happen mostly in the first 30 seconds after I rethreaded the machine. I had a theory that maybe winding on a new bobbin was pulling at the thread and changing the tension, but winding the bobbins off a second reel of the same colour didn’t repair the issue, so the only solution seems to be to sew slowly.

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Hex yellow quilted detail

 

The inspiration for the colours and shape came from a shot on Instagram I saw of a colour theory talk being given at one of the major quilt conferences in the USA – someone had illustrated a colour wheel using a hexagon and immediately I was drawn to the geometrical possibilities. I chose a forest green for the backing fabric for this one and I’m happily back using the bamboo/cotton blend for the batting. Such a dense quilting pattern has given the quilt a satisfyingly heavy hand.

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Centre hex detail

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