Finishing Spree – Quilt-As-You-Go

Ronan contemplating my Talk of the Town quilt (pattern by Amy Ellis) turned Quilt-As-You-Go

Sometimes projects take a turn or two (or more!) along the way and don’t turn out as originally envisioned. I like to reframe these as opportunities for new “design decisions”.   😉

Earlier this fall, I signed up to participate in the Modern Patchwork Quilt Along – Talk of the Town Quilt with Amy Ellis. Little did I know that this was going to turn into quite the series of such decisions…

I read through the pattern carefully and selected the appropriate number of fat quarters specified for the size quilt I wanted to make.

My initial fabric pull for my Talk of the Town Quilt

The pattern was well-written and the diagrams looked very clear. But as soon as I started cutting my fabric, I realized I had a significant problem… the cutting diagrams assumed perfect 18″ x 22″ usable fabric from each fat quarter, and my prewashed fat quarters of fabric didn’t even come close. Most were around 21″, and that’s counting the selvage along one end.  So I didn’t have enough fabric!

I had to improvise.  Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree – Matchstick Quilting

Colorblock Love quilt made by Beth Ann Williams using the pattern by Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio.

Do you know what Matchstitck Quilting is? I didn’t until a few months ago when my friends Ruth and Michele told me about it. Yes, apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock… LOL

I had difficulty wrapping my brain around it at first; quilting lines only the width of a matchstick apart? Why on earth would you quilt so densely? But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. So I did a little research and then let the idea simmer a while.

Meanwhile, my son Jack almost never asks me to make anything for him; so on the rare occasion that he does, I tend to drop everything else and make it.  That was the case for this project. I fell in love with the Colorblock Love pattern by Sam Hunter of Hunter’s Design Studio when Mr. Domestic adapted it to make a Pride Pillow and featured it on his Instagram page to promote his fundraiser for the Trevor Project. When I told my family I was planning to make the rainbow version, Jack asked me why I didn’t make a Trans Pride wall hanging instead. So I did!

Although I usually love the extra patterning free-motion quilting brings to a quilt, I felt that it would be more distracting than complementary to the graphic nature of this quilt. Then I remembered Matchstick Quilting!

There are many different approaches to matchstick quilting. Here is what I did for this particular quilt: Continue Reading…

Finishing Spree!

My most recent sew-along top finish – the Granny Cabin from Then Came June. Now it needs to be quilted!

I’ve been neck-deep in sew-alongs this fall – I find myself really energized by having multiple projects going on at a time. What I like best is that no matter how little time, energy, or physical mobility I have on any given day, there is sure to be something productive I can do on at least one project, whether it is collecting fabrics, playing with relative values to explore interesting design variations, cutting, sewing, basting, auditioning thread colors for machine quilting, actual quilting, or binding. But every once in a while, there is a time of reckoning when there is a pile-up of projects in the last few stages of completion and it’s time to wrap things up!

Now I plan to start a series of posts about my finishing spree – or how I’m turning my pile of quilt tops into finished quilts.

I’ll share some of my favorite ways to machine quilt, resources to help make the process easier, a variety of approaches to quilt labels, and a selection of binding techniques that I find most helpful.

I’m sure there will be some bouncing back and forth between topics as I work on whittling down my UFO (AKA UnFinished Object) pile, but I’ll tag each post with “Finishing Spree” so that they will be easy to identify.

You might also find the tag cloud on my site helpful – it’s usually located in the sidebar on the righthand side of the page if you are on a laptop or PC OR near the bottom of the page if you are on your phone. Just click on the topic of your choice to bring up all of my posts with that tag.

Meanwhile, Happy Quilting!

 

Link Love – FREE Patterns for the Tiki Tote & the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch

I’ve gotten some requests for more information about two projects I posted on Instagram recently – the Tiki Tote pattern from Bluprint (featured on the Midnight Quilt Show with Angela Walters) and the Persimmon Dumpling Pouch from Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness. Not only are both these patterns FREE, but they also have free video tutorials that show you exactly how to make them.

My Instagram post showing the Tiki Totes, Persimmon Dumpling Pouch, and a couple of basic zipped pouches.

I found these projects are a lot of fun – both to make and to use.

It all started with a jelly roll (collection of 2.5″ strips) that I picked up on clearance from Bluprint…

Jelly roll – coordinated collection of 2.5″ strips – a fun way to play with a wide selection of fabrics!

Continue Reading…

What I Did This Summer… Fun with Sew Alongs on Instagram

First block in my Moroccan Tiles quilt

First, for those who enjoy a little backstory:

(if you don’t care about backstory, skip on down to the Sew Alongs – I won’t be offended!)

One of the challenges of pursuing your passion (or something related to your passion) as your vocation is the risk of adding so many financial and/or performance related pressures that what once gave you joy becomes another source of stress instead. Back when I was showing and selling my work in galleries, I found myself in the very odd position of not being able to afford my own work. The amount of money I could make by selling my art quilts was too high for me to justify making anything for myself when I had a family to help support! Later, when I was designing quilts and writing quilting books for Martingale & Co. and teaching both locally and all around the country, I found my sewing and quilting time so limited that I felt I couldn’t justify taking the time to sew or quilt anything just for fun – everything had to be something I could either sell, show, include in a book, or use as a teaching sample. I love to experiment and play the “what if” game, but I felt very constrained in my experimentation – I had to be pretty confident in the outcome in order to justify the expense of time and resources. I couldn’t allow myself to take the kinds of creative risks I yearned to take. 

Another of my Moroccan Tiles blocks

This phenomenon was exacerbated for me when an apparent mini-stroke almost 10 years ago (combined with long term symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis) left me not only reliant on aids like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes to get around, but left me with impaired fine motor control and strength – and mostly unable to cut fabric, sew (by either hand or machine), and especially quilt.  As the severity of my symptoms fluctuated, I was able to do a little sewing, but it was mostly (of necessity) related to my role as Creative Director for Lakeshore Sewing. 

I coped with this by turning my creative focus to writing, drawing and designing fabric – things I could do even when confined to bed, and sewing small items when able.

But something changed this spring. As my mobility, dexterity, and energy gradually improved, I started sewing again. Small stuff at first, like bags and purses; but eventually even quilts. While I am still very much affected by MS, I am physically doing the best I have since 2009/2010. And I am so happy!

But I also know that I want to approach my sewing and quilting differently than I have in the past – I want to keep more of the joy. As I was discussing this with my sister, she mentioned to me that I was reminding her a lot of a book she had recently read by Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. As soon as I could, I bought a copy for myself and started reading. I devoured it!

I won’t get into a full book review here, except to say that I heartily recommend it for anyone and everyone who is interested in living a creative life – not necessarily as a vocation (although it’s applicable for that, too), but as a way of living. One of the most important take-aways for me personally was not to get caught up again in always creating “original” or marketable work, but to allow myself to freely and without the pressure of expectation pursue any rabbit trails that might catch my eye and capture my interest.  Allowing myself to play and to participate more fully in the creativity around me has become a new goal for me.

Which brings me back to what I did this summer… Continue Reading…

Shimmer Quilt – Part 3

My clamshell “Shimmer” quilt has been a labor of love and persistence – for such a relatively small piece, it sure has been labor intensive! But I’ve enjoyed each step of the process as it stretched my creative muscles to experiment with new-to-me products, techniques and approaches.

Below is my completed quilt top. It’s a little wrinkly, as there was an unfortunate incident overnight with a leaky pipe right above my worktable that left my quilt top not only soaked but stained when I found it in the morning, and I had to wash the unquilted top. Not usually recommended! 

I also had some bleeding from the dark purple fabrics. I’ve always prewashed everything in the past; but in this case, I had followed the recommendations from Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) and I did not do so. I will never skip that step again!

The fabric shrank a little when I washed it, creating the appearance of small tucks and wrinkles in the quilt top. At this point, I was hoping they would disappear when I quilted the top.

I was very discouraged by these developments, but decided to press on.

Shimmer clamshell quilt top designed and made by Beth Ann Williams

I considered an all-over free-motion quilting design, as that has been my go-to approach in the past. But in the spirit of trying something new, I opted to treat each individual patch as an opportunity to play with a different motif or style of patterning. But first I stabilized the quilt top by quilting on either side of each patch to create an all-over latticework which I also extended into the white negative space around the outer edges of the quilt.

This left me with very tiny spaces to fill with free-motion quilting, but it was also fun. 😀

Shimmer clamshell quilt by Beth Ann Williams – free-motion quilting in progress.

Continue Reading…

Shimmer Quilt – Part 2

Wow! I really need to catch up! There’s been a lot going on our lives – both good and bad (or at least very challenging and saddening); most notably the passing of my beloved Aunt Peg, aka Margaret Hochberg. She was one of those very special souls who exuded love and comfort to all those around her and worked tirelessly (often behind the scenes) to help everyone she could. She was a woman of deep and abiding faith who genuinely practiced what she preached in the most positive sense of the word. She welcomed and mothered us all.

One of my favorite sewing-related memories of Aunt Peg was the way she always came through when one of us (siblings, children, nieces, grandchildren, etc.) needed a special garment, whether it be for a wedding, performance choir, holiday photos, or just because.  She had an amazing ability to look at the collection of pattern books with us in the store, listen to all of the changes we wanted (which by the end, could render the purchased pattern all but useless), and somehow produce a garment that not only fit, but was just what was wanted. With her example, she taught me to create freely – modifying, adapting, or skipping commercial patterns altogether.

I think it’s especially appropriate to think about Aunt Peg today, as my approach to this quilt was definitely inspired by that freedom. 🙂

In my last post, I showed how I fused the 3″ clamshell templates cut from ink-jet printable, iron-on Wash Away Applique Sheets to the back of my fabric.

Sorting my fabrics into groupings – starting to get an idea of how I might arrange them…

The next step was to use a wash-away fabric glue pen along the seam allowance of the upper edge of each clamshell and then fold the seam allowance over just a little bit at a time, easing in any extra fullness. (I found this the quickest way to get a nice stable turned edge along the top of each clamshell.)

I laid out my clamshells into groupings of 4, overlapping the clamshells so that no raw edges of fabric would show when all the pieces were sewn together. In some cases (particularly with the darkest blues and purples), I used a light box to help me see exactly where the edges of the wash-away applique paper were underneath the fabric.

After playing with various arrangements, I settled on a final design. washing the color from left to right and values from bottom to top. But I needed to cut some more clamshells…

“Shimmer” clamshell quilt by Beth Ann Williams, pondering the layout…

Continue Reading…

Shimmer Quilt – Part 1

This next series of posts will explore the process of creating a new quilt inspired by shimmering sunlight and shadows reflecting off the rippling surface of Lake Michigan.

My initial starting point was this selection of ombre fabric. I’d never worked with fabrics like this before, so I thought it would be a fun challenge to come up with a design that would take advantage of the gradated colors. 

Ombre fabric from shop.mybluprint.com

The next step was to think about what kind of shape or shapes I wanted to work with. I’ve never worked with clamshells before, but I’ve always loved them. It seemed to me that clamshells would lend themselves to the kind of organic movement I had in mind.   Continue Reading…

Cork and the Clydebank Tote

Have you ever heard of cork fabric? I was dimly aware of it, but it hadn’t really registered for me as something I’d like to try until I came across this post on the Sew Sweetness blog by Sara Lawson. In conjunction with an online book club she is hosting, Sara is posting a free project pattern and video tutorial every month. The first project was the Clydebank Tote, and several of the sample projects featured cork fabric on the side panels. I was intrigued!

I first purchased some cork fabric from Fabric.com, but wasn’t quite happy with the color match when it arrived. So I went back to Sara’s site, which has a great selection in a wide variety of colors.

Note: watch out when you are searching for cork fabric – the fabric I’m referring to in this post is high quality cork with a polyurethane backing and a smooth, leather-like hand. It is NOT regular quilting-weight cotton that has been printed to look like “cork”. Cork fabric is also sometimes referred to as “vegan leather”.

Selection of cork fabric and the Clydebank Tote pattern. (I have plans for the Clammy template and Glam Clam pattern later!) Note: the black cork I eventually used in my tote isn’t shown in this photo.

I opted to use fabrics from my Winter Romance collection in my Spoonflower shop for my tote. Continue Reading…

Checking Out Lightweight Cotton Twill

So I’m in love with the Kona Cotton Ultra from Spoonflower.com – it’s my go-to fabric choice when ordering, but when the site ran a promotion on Lightweight Cotton Twill, I took a chance and ordered some.

I’m so glad I did!

Lightweight cotton twill fabrics from my Winter Romance collection in my Spoonflower shop. These are all my own designs; but as far as I can tell, you can buy any of the 750,000+ designs at Spoonflower.com in this fabric.

I find the lightweight cotton twill launders well, is super easy to work with (easy to pin and presses well), has a subtle sheen I really like, and is sturdy enough that I don’t need to add lightweight fusible interfacing such as Shape-Flex as I usually do when using quilting-weight cotton to make bags, purses, or home dec items. (I still use foam interfacing when I want a structured bag – even with the twill.)

Here’s a comparison of the two fabrics (info from Spoonflower.com): Continue Reading…