Friday, October 15, 2021

The Return of My Gypsy Wife Quilt / Beauties Pageant 149

In September, Leanne of Devoted Quilter launched a 100-day WIP challenge. There were three projects that she wanted to wrap up before the end of the year, and she decided that if she worked on them bit by bit over the course of 100 days, she’d likely accomplish her goal. After solidifying the schedule and lining up some prizes, she invited other makers—not only quilters, but anyone who stitches—to join her. 

I’m pretty good about not letting projects linger. There is one, however, that has become the crafty albatross around my neck: my Gypsy Wife quilt. I started my Gypsy Wife project back in 2018 with a group of guild mates. It’s not the most straightforward of projects—following the instructions requires more brain power than I expect to devote to a pattern, far more than I’d ever ask of people making my own patterns—and after a few focal blocks, I lost steam. Then, in 2019, I joined an online quilt-along and tackled many other blocks until the lack of a design wall, a problem that has since been remedied, hampered my ability to make smart fabric decisions. Could the last quarter of 2021 be the time I finish this beast of a project once and for all? I hope so!


One of the reasons I’d like to wrap up this quilt from my WIP list is that I’m using my stash of Bonnie and Camille fabrics to make it. B&C has a signature palette, and homing in on a subset of those colors makes the task of selecting fabrics more manageable, especially in a quilt top that requires many, many choices. I would like to make other quilts with all those B&C fabric, though. Gypsy Wife is the logjam.

As a first step in restarting this project, I arranged my completed blocks on my design wall and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was further along than I had remembered. In fact, I started adding the long vertical strips to some of the completed blocks and already have 4 of the 10 sections fully pieced. This process has been so much fun that it’s been hard to return focus to the deadline-driven projects I have on my to-do list. Who would have guessed I’d be looking forward to chunks of time I can devote to Gypsy Wife?!

Thanks, Leanne, for the motivation to return to this project!

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Friday, October 8, 2021

An Ombre Jelly Roll Quilt / Beauties Pageant 148

Some quilts and fabrics just insist on getting together. Such was the case with my Ridiculously Easy Jelly Roll Quilt pattern and Vanessa Christenson’s Ombre Fairy Dust Metallic collection. I have zero need for a rainbow quilt in my life, but I really wanted to see how Ridiculously Easy would look in all those luscious ombre fabrics. Would I have been satisfied with mocking up the quilt in EQ7? Perhaps, but the Ombre Fairy Dust line includes 34 different fabrics. It seemed simpler just to sew the project!

I’ve made this pattern a bunch of times. This was the first time, however, that I was a super stickler for fabric placement so I could get that awesome color-gradation effect. I cut each of 29 jelly roll strips into four segments, per the pattern, which resulted in two dark and two light pieces of each color. Then I labeled those strips 1 through 29. I sometimes sew at night under artificial light, and without the labels, I would have struggled to differentiate between some of the colors.

In the top foreground chevron of my quilt top, I placed a dark rectangle of each color. The next two chevrons feature light rectangles, and the bottom one used the remaining dark segments. I also alternated the order in which I laid out the ombre fabrics. The result is that most of the warm oranges and reds live in the middle of each row, which I like. I used a dark navy as the background. I am slightly obsessed with orange and blue quilts, and with the warm colors concentrated in the center, the quilt almost seems more like a homage to that complementary combination instead of a rainbow quilt.

I chain-pieced to keep the project pieces organized. I sewed all the base units first, per the pattern. Then I added the end pieces to the tops of the base units. Next, and without cutting anything apart, I chained-pieced the end pieces to the bottoms. (Some strips didn’t require an end piece. I sewed them into the chain, too, just to keep them in the right order with everything else.) I should have taken a picture … All that fabric connected together looked like a hot mess when really the technique saved my sanity!

So, as I mentioned, I don’t need a rainbow quilt in my life, and to be honest, the dark background here, although lovely, is not practical with two Golden Retrievers in the house. I often gift quilts to friends, but I can’t think of anyone who would especially like this beauty. 

All of this is to say that I’m considering selling this quilt once it’s completed. I recently opened an Etsy shop without promoting it anywhere (I have all of two sales—I’m considering this iteration of my shop a soft opening while I get a few things straightened out!). In the past, I’ve been pretty against selling my quilts. I’m convinced the only people who would pay what a quilt is really worth is another quilter, and why pay several hundred dollars for something that you can sew yourself?

I welcome any and all advice on this front—on selling quilts in general and on selling through Etsy in particular. 

Just a note from your friendly neighborhood fabric enabler: Ombre Fairy Dust Metallic debuted a while ago, but you can still find jelly rolls of it. Check out the stock at Lark Cottons, Fat Quarter Shop, and Shabby Fabrics

PDF versions of Ridiculously Easy are available through Quilt Pattern Mart and my Etsy shop. Print versions are available only through Etsy.

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Thursday, September 30, 2021

She's No Angel / Beauties Pageant 147

If you stopped by earlier this week, you know that I participated in a blog hop for Scrappy Improv Quilting, Kelly Young’s recently released book, and created my own version of her pattern Cherub Wings. Before even beginning, though, I realized that the latest addition to the Cain family, a rambunctious Golden Retriever puppy named Gracie, might work for a specially styled picture with the mini quilt. Once the project was finished, I couldn’t resist making the photo shoot happen! It wasn’t easy, but with the help of my husband and a handful of treats, I snapped the pic at the top of the post.

Miss Gracie is now more than 30 pounds, and I assure you: She’s no angel. She’s embarked on her journey as an adolescent, which means she’s ramped up the obnoxious, boundary-testing puppy behavior. She eats books, digs through the trash, chews on the furniture, and harasses the wildlife in our yard. Just minutes before posing her in front of Cherub Wings, she went missing from our house. After many minutes of searching, I found her in the front yard exploring as if she hadn’t a care in the world. See what I mean?! No angel!

I wanted to share some more (dog-free) pictures of Cherub Wings, mostly because I love the quilting. (This is a complete one-eighty from last week’s post about straight-line quilting.) Kelly’s own version of Cherub Wings features beautiful free-motion quilting. It’s amazing work but outside of my current skill set. 

I chose to stipple the scrappy improv background on my Cherub Wings mini quilt and then use my walking foot (the same one I was complaining about last week) to make a double line of scalloped quilting to mimic feathers. I did so using 12 weight Aurifil in my needle and 40 weight Gutermann (my usual piecing and quilting thread of choice) in my bobbin. I’m over the moon about it!

The smart approach would have been planning the scalloped quilting from the get-go and creating a template to make the left- and right-hand wings identical. Instead, I unsewed some quilting I wasn’t crazy about and sketched the quilting free-hand on the left side. After falling in love with the results, I had to replicate them on the right. A few pieces of tracing paper, a hole punch, and a water-soluble pen helped me duplicate the placement of the points on the right side. Then I used the marking tool to re-create the swoops of each scallop. It worked well!

I had always planned to snag a pic of Gracie with this quilt. I even pieced a few Golden Retrievers into the improv sections.


Don’t get me wrong, there was room for improvement—like, what will it take for me to consistently cover up my feed dogs when I use my darning foot for meandering?! Yes, I did the last chunk of stippling with my feed dogs intact and am living with the less-than-perfect results. Blerg. : /

I hope that your time at your machine this past week included some comparable triumphs. Please share them with the rest of us in the linky or comments below!

Linking up to Favorite Finish!

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Monday, September 27, 2021

Scrappy Improv Quilting: Cherub Wings

Hello, there—and welcome to my stop on the Scrappy Improv Quilting blog hop!

If you’re new around here, I’m Michelle, a quilt maker and independent pattern designer based in Massachusetts. I am a long-time fan of Kelly Young’s work and am happy to share my version of a design from her new book today!

I made Cherub Wings, pictured above, a 29-inch by 30-inch mini quilt. : )

Me and Improv

I should start off by coming clean: I’m not much of an improv sewist. The truth is, though, that anyone can learn to sew improv, and Kelly’s book provides a framework to do just that. 

With Kelly’s technique, you sew large improv pieces—Cherub Wings requires chunks as big as 13 inches by 18 inches—and then cut them down to use in a regular pattern. It’s the best of both worlds for quilters, like me, who are hesitant to delve into improv.

Me and Scraps

I should also talk about the scrap situation at From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters: I am a disciplined scrap keeper and organizer ever since I participated in FeelGood Fibers’ scrap overhaul event, back in 2020. (Psst ... Another one is starting soon.)

When I’m done cutting a project, I store larger scraps by color in neat piles in a drawer. (Yes, a single drawer. Photographic evidence can be found here.) Smaller bits are cut into 2-inch or 2.5-inch squares for future projects.

For Cherub Wings, I went right to my scrap drawer. Even though those scraps are not super small, once they were sewn into the required units and cut down, they were perfectly scaled for this quilt.


The Results

I couldn’t be more pleased with my finished mini quilt. I let my scraps determine the palette and ended up focusing on cool greens, aquas, teals, blues, and purples. Orange scraps added a necessary and effective infusion of warmth and interest. The result is a bold background that contrasts well with the white wings. 

Following Kelly’s lead, I bound this beauty with even more scraps, which makes the binding blend into the background instead of frame the quilt. It was definitely the right choice for me.


More on Scrappy Improv Quilting

Cherub Wings would work beautifully as a wall hanging in a nursery or as a stroller quilt—something that will keep a kiddo warm without taking up too much space. If you’re not into making mini quilts, Kelly devotes a full chapter to finishing your project with options to sew a pillow or create a larger project.

Like Cherub Wings, the other designs in Scrappy Improv Quilting require sewing simple, bold shapes. With big swaths of scrappy improv, either in the foreground or in the background, these designs come to life, creating something that’s one of a kind. Click on the blog hop links at the bottom of the post to see what others are making from this book!

I have more to say about this project and, in particular, about the quilting, which I consider a triumph. (For those of you who read last week’s Losing My Love for Straight-Line Quilting, you know this is noteworthy!) Swing by on Friday for more insight into how I created this project, a photo shoot with a special guest, and my (potential) plans for what to do next with this quilt.  

You can find Scrappy Improv Quilting wherever you buy craft books. For a special signed copy, visit Kelly’s Etsy shop here.

Blog Hop Links

Bunches of quilt bloggers are making their own Scrappy Improv creations. Follow the blog hop!

8/31: Intro, Single Block Beauties, and Simple Shapes

9/27: Funkytown - Vasudha @ Storied Quilts
Cherub Wings - Michelle @ From Bolt to Beauty (that's me!)

10/6: Birds of a Feather - Preeti @ Sew Preeti Quilts
Fall Foliage - Susan @ Quilt Fabrication

10/11: Ornamental - Gail @ Quilting Gail
Churn, Churn, Churn - Cynthia @ Quilting Is More Fun Than Housework

10/13: Sunset Crossing - Kate @ Katie Mae Quilts
Positivity - Sarah @ Sarah Goer Quilts

10/18: All Dressed Up - Linda @ Flourishing Palms
Shockwave - Anne-Marie @ Stories From the Sewing Room

10/20: Sweet Bee (a bonus thank-you pattern), Finishing, and Wrap-Up - Kelly @ My Quilt Infatuation

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Friday, September 24, 2021

Losing My Love for Straight-Line Quilting / Beauties Pageant 146

My Norway Quilt, pattern by Camille Roskelley/Thimbleblossoms.

This is likely something youd never expect to hear from me: Im starting to lose my love for straight-line quilting. 

For the past eight years, straight-line quilting with a walking foot has served me well. Its complemented my predilection for not-so-traditional quilt patterns. Its enabled me to finish my projects myself, allowing me to take full credit for my creations as well as save money that I might have otherwise spent on longarm quilting.

The quilting is more evident in this picture of the back.

But more often than not, my straight-line quilting proves to miss the mark. Despite loosening my presser foot pressure, starting in the middle of a project and working my way out, and taking my time to spray-baste carefully, I encounter puckering when I quilt grids. Puckering makes me grumpy. : /

One way around this is to quilt parallel lines only and forgo the perpendicular ones necessary for a grid. Actually, thats how I quilted No Negativity and my Norway Quilttwo rather large throw-size quiltsand it worked well. With both of these projects, however, I did start all of the longer lines in the middle and quilted outward, which required burying a ton of threads.

Parallel straight lines complemented No Negativity’s big, bold plus signs.

I also quilted my Pretty in Pluses cover quilt with parallel lines and was pleased with the results.

This is a very Michelle back—I framed out a leftover fat quarter and featured it here.

When I recently sat down to quilt one of my economy block quilts, however, I was excited for the opportunity to practice my free-motion quilting skills. Ultimately, I ended up talking myself out of FMQing because, I reasoned with myself, it would be just as easy to quilt allow the seams with my walking foot. Guess what. Puckering happened. It wasnt horrible and I suspect a trip through the washer and dryer may camouflage the problematic spots, but still, I should have done an allover meander on it.

So thats my rant about straight-line quilting. My love affair with it has come to an end! I hope that means Ill step out of my comfort zone (that is, meandering) and youll see different FMQ motifs here on From Bolt to Beauty soon, but it may just mean that Ill be spending more money on longarm quilting. Ha, ha!

Getting back to Pretty in Pluses ... I released that pattern last week, and it’s on sale at Quilt Pattern Mart for $9 right now!

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Friday, September 17, 2021

Pretty in Pluses Pattern Release / Beauties Pageant 145

Hello and happy Friday!

Any week that I get to close out with a pattern release is a success in my book, and today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Pretty in Pluses.

Pretty in Pluses is a modern spin on the traditional plus sign block. (And you’ve seen my affinity for plus sign quilts lately, here and here!) It’s a whole-composition design—the throw and twin sizes are created by enlarging the plus signs, not by adding more blocks. Its big, bold design is especially suited for large-scale prints.

Pretty in Pluses comes with instructions for three sizes:
  • Baby: 40½" x 48½"
  • Throw: 60" x 72"
  • Twin: 79½" x 95½"   

Its currently available as a PDF that you can view on a device or print on 8½" x 11" paper. It also includes a coloring page to plot your fabric placement and a label page to use to keep all the cut pieces organized.

Perhaps Pretty in Pluses’ best feature is that it’s a super-quick sew—like, piece-the-top-in-a-day quick!—making it perfect for beginners or more seasoned quilters looking for a fast finish.

I developed this pattern specifically for fabric a bundle of Anna Maria Horner prints that I couldnt bear to cut into tiny bits. When I scored a bundle of Heather Rosss Far, Far Away 2, I knew that I had the right prints for my cover quilt!

Pretty in Pluses is specially priced at $9 right now. Snag your copy now at Quilt Pattern Mart!

Psst ... For some Pretty in Pluses inspiration, check out last weeks post and the tester quilts at #PrettyInPluses on Instagram!

This is the throw size (minus the border), made with Hindsight by Anna Maria Horner.

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Friday, September 10, 2021

Coming Soon! / Beauties Pageant 144

I’m putting the final touches on my Pretty in Pluses pattern—if all goes according to plan, it will be available to purchase and download next week at this time—so I thought I’d show you what some of the pattern testers have been sewing.

Pretty in Pluses is a whole-composition design. In other words, the larger sizes are created by increasing the size of the pieces, not by adding more blocks. Each size in the pattern looks the same: a series of chunky plus signs, skinny plus signs, and mini plus signs, all circling a center plus sign within a plus sign.

My brain is hardwired for whole-composition designs—it’s my default mode. I find it much easier, however, to write patterns for block-based designs. That’s why I’m so thankful for these testers. Even though Pretty in Pluses is a simply constructed pattern—and appropriate for beginner quilters—I needed two groups of sewists to bang on it a bit and help me figure out how to improve the instructions.

The beauty at the top of the post was made by Nancy, of Grace and Peace Quilting. I’ve had my eye on those same prints since their release, and the large-scale plus signs are perfectly suited for the oversize butterflies. I’m especially smitten with the scrappy binding—it adds a layer of the unexpected to an otherwise ordered and symmetrical design!

The second quilt top was made by Jesi, whom you can find on Instagram. My favorite part of this project is the polka-dot background! I’m famous (perhaps infamous?) for using solid white backgrounds, but those nondirectional polka dots are right up my alley. When paired with the soft palette of blue, green, orange, and yellow, the smattering of dots makes for a sweet baby quilt.

And the third quilt top, below, is the work of Michelle, who is also on Instagram. The colors here are so sweet and feminine, with an infusion of bright and happy right in the middle. Between the mostly muted palette and less contrast between the background and plus signs, Michelle has achieved a softness in this quilt that I find soothing. 

I’m really thankful for the sewists who have helped me fine-tune Pretty in Pluses. I can’t wait to show you more of their work here on the blog and in my Instagram feed! : )

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Friday, September 3, 2021

More Plus Signs! / Beauties Pageant 143

If you stopped by last week, you know that I am rather single minded these days: My creative life is all plus signs until the release of my pattern Pretty in Pluses in mid-September. And that fact has me looking back at my past plus sign projects. 

Last Friday, I revisited four quilts; here are an additional four. The ones pictured today have something more than the plus sign in common, though: Cheryl Brickey, of Meadow Mist Designs.

If you’re unfamiliar with Cheryl’s work, her patterns are, in my experience, well written and easy to make. The quilt at the top of the post, Outlined Plus, lives with me. (Almost anything I create with Basic Grey fabric, including the Mon Ami collection used in that project, stays at From Bolt to Beauty world headquarters!) The quilt below, from Cheryl’s Check Plus pattern, lives with a quilty friend.

The next two projects, both sewn from an old Moda Bake Shop tutorial called Candy Circle, went to two newborns. I don’t know if Cheryl considers this pattern part of her plus sign oeuvre, but when I look at these quilts, I see a big plus sign! 

The first project below was sewn with Corey Yoder’s Sundrops collection.

This second one was sewn with PB&J, by Basic Grey. (It was my first Basic Grey project, and I didn’t know enough to hold onto it for myself. Ha!)

If you have a charm pack on hand, all this design entails is a bit of two background fabrics to complete. The tutorial is hard to find on the Moda site, so I dug up the URL for you. Click here to make your own Candy Circle quilt. : )

So let’s do the math: I showed four plus sign quilts last week and four this week. I also made a plus sign runner, which you can view here. And I’ve already made two versions of my upcoming Pretty in Pluses pattern. Eleven projects? That’s a veritable trend/borderline obsession!

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