sewing curves, part 1

I saw a very inspiring exhibit at the Fuller Craft Museum a couple of months ago, Circular Abstraction: Bull’s Eye Quilts.  It was amazing!  Huge quilts, freehand curves, bright color and some of the most interesting work I’ve seen in a while.

I was so inspired by the exhibit, that I decided to teach myself to sew curves.  In the quilting world, there’s a bit of a mystique or fear about sewing curves.  I’ve also been intimidated by curves, with my only experience being on the Meadow Quilt, which found really frustrating once I learned that thin fabric has way too much stretch.

For this attempt at curves, I decided to just wing it – no pattern, no paper piecing, no pins, just play.  I don’t think I do enough of “just play” in quilting and I’d like to do more.  I watched a bunch of YouTube videos (this one and this one were the best!)  to get the hang of sewing curves and pulled out some polyester fabric that I bought by accident and just went for it.

You know how they say that you need to practice something for 10,000 hours before you become an expert?  Let’s just say that I have many more hours to go!  I think there’s something to be said, however, for admitting that you’re learning and you’re not an expert.  There are days/weeks/months/years where I feel like every quilt I see on the internet or at a quilt guild meeting is perfect and the quilter was born knowing how to perfectly piece, sew and press.  My first few sewn curves, were kind of a hot mess:

sewing curves

sewing curves

sewing curves

I cut all of these freehand – no pattern, following a chalk line or using a plate as a “curve guide”.  It took a few times before my muscle memory kicked in.  (and there are a lot more samples that were such failures I immediately used them as dust rags!)  When I sewed the pieces together, I didn’t use pins so it took a few tries to figure out where to match up the seams.  Working with the polyester was kind of a nightmare – the stretch was unbelieving and when I tried to press, it smelled like I was burning down a Barbie factory.  What gave me hope was this one perfect block:

sewing curves

So beautiful!  :-)

sewing curves

Once I felt comfortable with the polyester, I moved on to a much heavier weight fabric and the difference was unbelievable!  The fabric didn’t pull when I cut it and it held its shape during the sewing.  This is when I realized that I was on to something!  I pulled a bunch of fabric, figured out the measurements and just started playing.

sewing curves

This is the start of my latest quilt and I am loving it!  For size reference, each finished block measures 8″.  This has been such a fun experiment and learning opportunity for me.  Now that I have all the blocks cut out, I can see how tentative I was at the beginning with my cuts and re-cuts, and how much more creative and confident I got as I made more blocks. This project has been such a great reminder of a couple of things: everyone has to start somewhere; if you mess up – it’s just fabric; and wow is it fun to learn new things!  Stay tuned for the finished quilt . . .

Simply Fun by Maywood Studio

Simply Fun quilt

When I turned in my last few quilts to Project Linus, I picked up a fun-looking project for the next round of Project Linus Quilts, Simply Fun by Maywood Studio.  The pattern directions weren’t what I expected so I altered the pattern a bit to make 12 separate blocks, instead a more row-by-row design.  I tend to think better in blocks, don’t you?  I went with pink and yellow to make it extra girly :-)

http://cdn.maywoodstudio.com/media/stash-item/file/s/i/simply_fun_update.pdf

The finished/trimmed blocks are 15.5″ square so it made a decent size quilt.  I hadn’t planned to do anything but shadow the suggested pattern colors but in pink and yellow but realized that the quilt would be a bit more interesting if I alternated the pink and yellow so there was some variety in the inner and outer triangle colors.  I also reversed a couple of blocks to use the “white” as a color.  I think these changes made what is a pretty simple quilt, a little more interesting.

http://cdn.maywoodstudio.com/media/stash-item/file/s/i/simply_fun_update.pdf

I finally found a use for that pink camouflage fat quarter I’ve been holding on to (see bottom left block)!  I did end up making a couple of blocks slightly scrappy so as to fully use up a couple of fabrics.

camouflage

I used some random fabric for the back – isn’t that striped fabric great (no crazy piecing!)?

I’m glad I adjusted the pattern to make it into blocks – this turned out to be a fun, quick and easy quilt to make and I’m really happy how it came out.  Sometimes you just need something quick!

This quilt is for Project Linus .

jelly roll quilt

I inherited a jelly roll quilt from my mom, who got it from a friend of hers who got it at an estate sale.  This friend has amazing luck at estate sales!  She once got a brand new in the box Bernina sewing machine for $5 and in her most recent stroke of luck, landed at an estate sale of a woman whose only hobby was quilting and whose house was full of quilt tops, fabric and other sewing supplies.

The jelly roll wasn’t really my thing, to be honest, mainly because the colors are so dark.  But I thought it would be fun to play with so I sewed all the strips together, cut them up and sewed them back together again.  Though I don’t love this quilt, it was kind of fun to work on.  The fabric reminds me of neckties which reminded me of a promise I made to my brother of making a quilt out of our grandfather’s old neckties.  Not exactly the inspiration I was expecting :-)

jelly roll quilt

I used every scrap of the jelly roll.  I ended up with a few orphans which fit perfectly into the corners with some bright yellow fabric I had.  Normally I’m kind of jazzed about having left over fabric scraps, but as I said, these colors aren’t really my thing, so I’m please to have made a “zero waste quilt”.

jelly roll quilt

I used an old sheet for the back.  This batting is a little different than the batting I’ve been using – it has a little less fluff – which made for really easy quilting (no puckering!).

jelly roll quilt

This quilt is for Project Linus.

half-rectangle quilt

half-rectangle quilt

My mom and I are new members of the New England Quilt Museum.  Last month we went to check out a couple of exhibits and as we entered, we were asked “Are you here to see the quilts or the fabric sale?”  Fabric sale?!?  Apparently we picked the one Saturday they have each year to hold a gigantic fabric sale.  We checked out the exhibits and yes, went to the sale – it was for a good cause, after all :-)  The idea was to fill a bag for $X, with all the money going back to the museum.  This was one of the most exciting and overwhelming experiences I’ve ever had as a quilter!  So much fabric!  So many decisions to make!  I’m so picky!  And I didn’t really have any quilts on my to do list, so I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with all of the fabric!  We each ended up with ~7lbs of fabric and as a testament to how stressed it made me feel to have that much fabric in my home, I bored my bf to tears with taking about my anxiety over it all weekend.

So I did what any self-respecting quilter would do – I whipped together a quick quilt just to get some of that 7lbs of fabric out of my house!  It’s a half-rectangle quilt and due to the fabric that was available at the sale, is kind of a throwback to all those calico quilts the pioneer women made.

half-rectangle quilt

I swapped a couple of rows to make them upside down just to make the quilt a little more interesting.

half-rectangle quilt

half-rectangle quilt

Isn’t this backing wild?  It’s from IKEA and I just love it.  I love how traditional the front of the quilt it and how modern the back is.

half-rectangle quilt

If you look in the upper right corner of this picture, you can see a stack of fabric on top of a plastic bag.  The bag has all of my quilts that are ready to be turned into Project Linus; the stack of fabric is just *some* of what I got at the sale.  Eeep – time to make more quilts!

large courthouse steps quilt

a quick quilt – courthouse steps-ish

I’m going to file this quilt under “I had an idea for a quilt but then forgot what it was and by the time I remembered it, it was too late so I decided to just power through and get it done.”  Has this ever happened to you?  This quilt totally didn’t turn out the way I planned and once I realized what my plan was, it was too late so I just played a bit and it ended up as a large courthouse steps quilt.  It still kind of worked out and I enjoyed just playing a bit.

large courthouse steps quilt

large courthouse steps quilt

The back is a fun numbers fabric that, honestly, is just fine for a bright quit like this.

large courthouse steps quilt

I must confess that the biggest mistake I made with this quilt is the quilting.  I had used my zigzag stitch for something just before I started quilting and forgot to change it back.  Instead of picking out the stitches, I just went with it and used zigzag stitching for all of the quilting.  It kinds of adds a nice texture to the quilt and I may just have to make this same “mistake” again sometime :-)

large courthouse steps quilt

This quilt is for Project Linus.  I’ll do a better job of planning out my next quilt to avoid the same frustrations!