Friday, June 30, 2023

Brightly by Cluck Cluck Sew / Beauties Pageant 222

 

I am always on the lookout for clever quilt patterns. Sure, I appreciate beautiful quilt tops, but any designer who can translate beautiful tops into slick instructions for others to replicate has my admiration. I am an especially big fan of Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew. 

On more than one occasion, Allison has released a pattern and my first response is, Why didn’t I think of that?! Most recently, she unveiled her Kitty Cats. In a sea of cat quilts, the design is unlike the others—it’s both simple and unique.

My rendition of Brightly, another Cluck Cluck Sew project, had been in WIP limbo until earlier this year, when I made finishing the blocks a priority. I opened a charm pack of Allison’s Backyard Blooms (she’s also a Windham fabric designer) to establish the palette and then added coordinating scraps to the mix. That approach—starting with a charm pack and building a fabric pull from there—is becoming a favorite way to plot a quilt top.

I intended to do an allover cross-hatch on this beauty but ended up quilting double lines on the diagonal. I like it a lot. Cross-hatches are a good go-to for me because they’re equally effective on more-traditional and more-modern projects; I may come to the same conclusion about double lines.

The sun shines in the Massachusetts sky at whim these days, and I neglected to take pictures of the back of this quilt during its brief appearances this week. I’ll remedy that in my next post!

If you’ve made any Cluck Cluck Sew patterns, I’d love to hear about your projects in the comments or see them in the linky (go ahead, link up old CCS projects this week!).


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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Perfectly Pieced Quilt Backs Book Review / Beauties Pageant 221

I am no stranger to pieced quilt backs. I find that they’re a great way to use up yardage, fat quarters, and orphan blocks. After I had completed the top to my second Plaid-ish quilt, however, I knew something a little more special than my usual pieced back was called for.

The front of this Plaid-ish is busy. (See what I mean here. I tried to count how many different prints it showcases but gave up once I hit 50!) The back, then, merited something simpler—a creation that was would complement, and not compete with, the top.

For this task, I turned to Kelly Young’s most recent book: Perfectly Pieced Quilt Tops.* You may already know Kelly from her blog, My Quilt Infatuation, and her previous two books, both of which feature patterns and techniques for improv quilting. Perfectly Pieced Quilt Tops is something altogether different. It offers instructions for 30 different quilt backs, and its designs run the gamut from those that bust through tiny scraps to those that incorporate large cuts of yardage—and everything in between.

Because I had so many smaller bits leftover from piecing Plaid-ish, I chose to follow the instructions for Every Little Bit, a design that creates a vertical swath of improvisationally pieced fabrics. Every Little Bit took more time than my usual quilt back, but it wasn’t a big time commitment, either. I chose to sew my column of improv slowly over a week when I needed breaks from all the computer work I had to do. In the end, I can say I enjoyed the process and am in love with the results.

Even though I am a seasoned quilt-back piecer, there is a place for Perfectly Pieced Quilt Tops in my library. I may not need its inspiration tomorrow or next week or next month, but I am glad to have it at the ready for those times when I feel stuck with the quilt back at hand.

And there’s a lot to like about this book. I’m a fan of how the patterns are organized, separating the designs that require small scraps from those that reply on larger cuts of yardage. I also like how each of the 30 designs is accompanied by instructions for three different sizes: lap, twin XL, and queen. The next quilt I make may not fall neatly into one of those categories, but the fabric requirements and sewing instructions provide a good place for me to start.

If you’re new to quilting, this book will check off even more boxes. Kelly makes a good point that these backs themselves are interesting and engaging enough to serve as a quilt top, and she supplements her pattern collection with basic information about building a quilt sandwich and finishing your beauty.

I have to share one more important point: The book comes with patterns for the 18 quilt *tops* peppered throughout its photographs. These patterns are all for lap-size quilts and are downloadable (they’re not contained in the book). In my mind, this is not a bonus—it’s a whole other book!

Perfectly Pieced Quilt Tops is available at all the standard book retailers. For a signed copy, go to Kelly’s Etsy shop.

To see what I made from Kelly’s first two books, visit this post and this post.

A small army of bloggers have created something from Kelly’s book. Check out their perfectly pieced backs ...

Sandra @ mmm...quilts







Vasudha @ Storied Quilts















* I’ve been reading My Quilt Infatuation for 10 years. I checked out this book because I think Kelly is a talented quilter and designer, and because I enjoyed her previous two books. I will not profit from any purchases of her book made from this post, and this review is my own opinion.

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Friday, June 16, 2023

A Plaid-ish Finish! / Beauties Pageant 220

A guildmate once shared a scrap quilt of hers in which there were no repeats—each fabric was used just once. Can you imagine the scrap bin necessary to create such a masterpiece?! Although a challenge like that would be a worthwhile one, my taste in scrappy quilts swings to the other end of the spectrum. 

First, I like my scrappy projects to have a strong geometry. Sharp, predictable lines create an orderly environment for me and my scrap bin to play. Then I need a well-defined palette to reign things in—I can’t handle what I’ve heard others refer to as “scrap vomit”—and my favorite way to develop a color scheme is to use a few fabrics as inspiration. 

My latest finish, a second go-round with Kitchen Table Quilting’s Plaid-ish pattern, meets both of those criteria. I started with a few prints from Kate Spain’s Sunnyside, and from there fleshed out a sizable  enough fabric pull to complete this 64-inch by 82-inch quilt.

Some fabrics make a single appearance, but there are many others that are represented a half-dozen times or more. I like that kind of repetition in my scrap quilts—it creates some cohesion and helps me bust through a few fat quarters while I chip away at my stash of scraps.

I’d be remiss not to mention the beautiful quilting in this finished quilt. It was done by my friend Ophelia and is a pantograph by Urban Elementz called Diamond Plaid. Those angled lines soften the horizontal and vertical seams in the piecing, don’t they?

To read more about how I built my palette (and expanded it when necessary), click here. To see my first Plaid-ish quilt, read this blog post. And to make your own Plaid-ish, visit Kitchen Table Quilting and click on “tutorials.”

 I have more to say and show you about this Plaid-ish finish. Come back next week to see what I did with the back. Spoiler alert: I used Kelly Young’s new book, Perfectly Pieced Quilt Backs, to make it!

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  • Visit and comment on other participants’ finishes.

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Friday, June 9, 2023

Pageant Highlight Reel / Beauties Pageant 219

The recent dreary skies over New England have not lent themselves to photo shoots, so my finishes will have to wait until the sun returns. Oh, well! It’s a great excuse to take a break and look at what everyone else has been up to ...

I am a sucker for white backgrounds, and multiple finishes from Anne-Marie (Stories from the Sewing Room) have caught my eye as a result. Most recently, she shared Loves Me, Loves Me Not. This was a new-to-me pattern, one designed by another blogger, Patty of Elm Street Quilts. I love Anne-Marie’s palette and her dense quilting on all that white space! Click through to read more about her process and the pattern (I’m crazy about the baby size option).

Another showstopper is Blue Medallion Surprise, a collaboration between Rebecca (Rebecca Grace Quilting) and Nanette ...

Blue Medallion Surprise is an original design by Nanette, and Rebecca’s quilting is the perfect complement to the piecing and palette. The thread she chose matches the lowest value in the project, which means it goes unnoticed in parts of the finished quilt but pops along the dark border. Beautiful!

I was also struck recently by all the nonquilting projects appearing in the Beauties Pageant lineups lately. Melva (Melva Loves Scraps) was busy back in April sewing up teddy bears, and CĂ©line (Espritpatch) made her first I Am Hesat blouse in May ...


 

Have those cute stuffies and that beautiful blouse inspired me to sew something other than quilts this summer? I have Noodlehead’s Making Backpack pattern and canvas yardage on hand to answer that very question. : )

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Friday, June 2, 2023

The Perils of Not Prewashing / Beauties Pageant 218

When I first started quilting I was a diligent prewasher. Eventually, though, I came to see prewashing fabric as a waste of water and time, and let it fall by the wayside. And honestly, I prefer sewing with fabric right off the bolt—I like the feel of quilting cotton with the sizing from the manufacturer still in it. 

In general, my no-prewashing policy works well for me, but there have been some significant hiccups. One story, from 2016, is documented here. Another happened last fall, when I was washing the Extra X, pictured below.

It’s hard to see in the photographs, but the Extra X quilt, bled substantially. This wasn’t terribly shocking: The fabrics are all creams and blacks, but I was too excited to start sewing and couldn’t be bothered to wash the fabric first. And because I intended to submit the project to QuiltCon, I wanted to block it before binding it. I put it in a bathtub with mild soap, plenty of cool water, and some Shout Color Catchers, agitating it with my hands and rinsing it in the bathroom before I put it in the washer for a spin.

Alas, color catchers were no match for this quilt.

I quickly discovered that some of the blacks had bled. Additional bathtub washings in hot water (the seemingly antithetical solution to bad bleeding) improved the issues with the black dyes but caused red fabric on the back to bleed. Friends, it was a hot mess and one that likely could have been avoided if I had prewashed.

Since this experience, I’ve returned to prewashing the fabrics that are most likely to bleed. And instead of simply submerging them in soapy water, rinsing them, and running them through my dryer, I dug out an old bottle of Retayne, a color fixative, to address the issue of bleeding before it begins.

All of this brings me to the story of Big Star, the flimsy at the top of this post. It and the Extra X contain many of the same black fabrics, so the likelihood that it will bleed are high. So what should I do? Do I treat it with Retayne now? Do I quilt it and then treat it with Retayne? Do I quilt it and then try to wash it with a different method? (I could follow Vicki Welsh’s advice and submerge the finished quilt in a tub of hot water for hours and hours. Read her process here.)

The Extra X was always going to live with me. It is about my younger son and, despite its flaws, is special to me. I do want to gift this second quilt, however, and I can’t in good faith give away a quilt that will cause someone problems like those I experienced with the Extra X. Any advice on how to proceed?

Related links:


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