Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Twenty-Eight Quilts

I spoke to the ladies of the Bedford Friendship Quilt Guild yesterday, at their meeting room in the basement of the Bedford Presbytarian Church, pictured above. And if there is a more iconic New England image than a tall white church on a hill, I don't know what it is.

The group had their show and tell first, and the ladies who took the bird class two weeks ago were asked to come to the front of the room and show off their creations. As you can see, Judy, second from the right, has been busy since the class. I think she has made a dozen birds.  One lady in the audience asked "Those are paper-pieced, right?"  I was more than happy to say a resounding "ABSOLUTELY NOT!"

After the guild had their business meeting I gave a trunk show. I brought 28 quilts with me. How much room does 28 quilts take up?

About 8 bags.

When I was getting the talk ready over the weekend I was a bit freaked out that I had ONLY 28 quilts at home, but it turned out to be a good thing, because 28 quilts is a lot of quilts.

I had a grand time, and the group was wonderful. While I answered questions after my talk, guild members folded up all my quilts, packed them in bags, took the quilt stand apart, packed that, and then asked for my keys where they then went out into the parking lot trying to find the car that unlocked when they clicked the remote, and then carefully packed my car for me.

Comments that made my day:

[told to the Program Director and then relayed to me] "I think that was the best speaker we ever had."

"I don't belong to this guild, I'm just a GUEST, but YOU!  YOU are WONDERFUL! I haven't had as much fun in a long time as I had sitting here listening to you talk. Where are you from? [here] Can you come to my guild [a town an hour's drive away] and talk? Oh good!"

"Where did you grow up?" [New Hampshire] A frown. "Really? Because you don't sound like it. I mean, you have such confidence and such personality, I thought you were from New York. I mean that as a compliment." [I took it that way]

"You're still WORKING?" [most of the ladies were retired.] "How do you DO it all?"

"Have you got a tutorial for the letters?" [Um, no.] "Well HURRY UP!" [accompanied by laughter]

Yeah, it was a great morning. I actually didn't mind going to work afterwards.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Lies, Lies, Lies!

Remember this quilt? It's Wavelength, the scrap slab quilt I made in January.

Ostensibly, this was the inspiration for the quilt.

That was a lie.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED... was that my brother, the retired guy who lives in his van and spends his winters in Mexico kitesurfing... wanted me to make a quilt [as a surprise] for a woman he wanted to be his girlfriend.

He wanted me to make a quilt based on the colors of her workout clothes - hot pink, purple, teal blue and lime green.  BUT!  I couldn't tell that story because he told the woman about me and my blog, and she followed it for a while. I couldn't tell the real story, or she might figure it out.

So when my pal Julie sent me the picture of her grandson's Winkel toy, I knew I had a plausible substitute.


The other night I got a text message from said brother. "Ha! Well don't ask but it looks like I'll be giving that quilt to someone else."


Now he wants the quilt ASAP so he can give it the new person (who lives in Mexico) and there is a friend who will be driving down to Mexico in a particular date range (I have a week after I pick it up from Janet-Lee, who is quilting it) to get the finished quilt (somewhere) where said friend can get it in time before (she/he?) leaves the US and travels down to Mexico with quilt for the new person.


It's a damn good thing I love my brother!

What a story THIS quilt has! I wonder if he'll ever tell the person he's giving it to?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

And Sew She Goes

Once I have designed a diamonds quilt, I make sure I have a good photograph, and then I start sewing it together using the photo as reference. I work one diagonal row at a time. I sew the mini four patches to the medium sized diamonds to make diamonds as big as the giants.

I like the edges of this quilt to be outside of a row of the tiny colored four patch diamonds, so I have to add fabric to do that. So there is an additional medium sized diamond sewn to one end of those diamonds.

At the bottom of the quilt, I'll trim off the points of these diamonds after it is quilted. I could cut these as triangles, but why bother?

Then it's sew the rows together.

I'll lay the rows out on the floor before I pin them together. It's easier to keep them organized, easier to handle them, and leaving them on the floor helps keep them from stretching.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Oh Lynne, Can you please...

I have now heard it at least five or six times...

"Oh Lynne, can you please write a tutorial for the Diamond Quilts, because I would love to make one."

The mechanics of the quilt are easy. They are 60-degree diamonds

I cut them out using this ruler. And yes, I cut around one end, flipped the ruler over, and cut the last point.

Yes also, the big diamonds are all fussy cut. Like I said the other day, when you cut diamonds this size, make them look beautiful. The big diamonds in this quilt NEED equally BIG prints.

Don't wimp out on these. They make up the backbone of the quilt. For the average quilt, you'll need 35 of these giant diamonds, arranged 7 across and five down, and you really should have at least nine different prints. These are the fabrics that will define the color story for this quilt, but their background is very important.

Because it's these little suckers...  It's these four patch diamonds...

that are the real stars of the diamond quilts.

and you will need a lot of them. You will need 80 of these four patch diamonds in your quilt, but you should make more. For ALL the colored mini diamonds, I chose blenders in intense colors that picked up the colors in the giant diamonds. For the newest diamonds quilt, I have fourteen different colors. I cut 2-1/2" strips of all the colors I wanted. Usually I cut two strips of whatever color I wanted. Each WOF strip pair made six four patch diamonds. You do the math.

 However it is the BACKGROUND color of the diamonds that is the most important color selection you will make. This fabric must disappear into the quilt itself, so if, as in Dairy Cream, the main color is whites and creams, the background diamonds should be cream (for each Diamond quilt I have made, I used two yards of this fabric). For Tickled Pink, the background had to be a light pinkish fabric. Search through this blog and then find photos and double click them to enlarge if you want to see what I used.  This is not a trivial decision, and will determine the success or failure of your quilt. I am not joking.

Once you get your giants cut, arrange them on your design wall the way I discussed in this post here.
Do your best, and take your time. It's fussy, but it's worth getting right. You will probably change at least one or two fabrics by the time you start sewing the quilt together. This (above) is the original layout of the giant diamonds for the Diamond Jubilee Quilt. Those dark diamonds got removed later.

Next, you'll fill in the spaces with the medium sized diamonds.

You'll need about 96 of them. I cut mine from a 4-1/2" strip of fabric, and I got 6, but sometimes 7 out of each strip.

 I used blue painter's tape to mark off the size of the medium diamonds.

Many of the medium sized diamonds in this photo never made it into the final quilt.
These fabrics need to support and compliment the big diamonds, but they shouldn't draw attention to themselves.

In the final version of Tickled Pink, I removed all the medium sized diamonds with cream backgrounds.

Although the four patch diamonds are stars, don't really design your quilt around them. Lay out the big diamonds first, fill in with the medium ones, and then place the small four patch diamonds in a way that makes the quilt sing.  

Take your time. We all know when it's right, and we know when it's wrong. Don't settle. Place your four patches, then step away (at least eight to ten feet) and look back. Take pictures. Sometimes you'll see something you don't like in a photo that you might not notice in real life. I've made several changes to Dairy Cream, above, since the photo I posted yesterday.

When the quilt is designed to your satisfaction, you can start sewing it up. I usually leave it on the design wall for a day to just look at it to make sure. One very important note: Because this quilt is made from a ruler/template, you MUST sew an accurate 1/4" seam, otherwise your points will not line up.

You'll sew the four patches to the medium diamonds to make diamonds as big as the giants, then you'll sew them all together. Because the blocks are diamonds, at least two edges will be on the bias, so be careful. This is a quilt I do not show off until it is quilted because I don't want it to stretch.


Like I said, the mechanics are "easy."  The hard part is the fabric selection, and this quilt's success will live or die based on the fabrics you choose. What I LIKE BEST about these quilts is the way the diamonds disappear and reappear, form larger ones, and break apart and I love the way the tiny four patch diamonds sparkle and dance.

When I designed Diamond Jubilee (above), I literally cut one medium sized diamond, placed it on the quilt, and then figured out what I wanted for the next one, looked through my stash, pulled a piece of fabric cut it out and placed it on the design wall.  I designed that quilt one piece at a time. I did NOT choose all my fabrics at the start.

Here it is obvious the cream background of the four patch diamonds is wrong. No marching butterflies!
 In EACH ONE of these quilts, I changed my mind, removed fabrics I originally loved, and replaced things I did not like. If you do not allow yourself to make changes like this, then you are doomed to fail. There is no way to adequately anticipate what happens when you start working. If it doesn't work, change it.

You can go back through my blog posts (I worked on Diamond Jubilee at the end of September 2015; made Jewel Box and Dark Majesty in the spring and summer of 2017 and Tickled Pink and Dairy Cream in February and March of 2018) and read what I was going through. There's a lot more detail in there, including a step by step process of making the four patch diamonds.

It may not be the easiest quilt you'll ever make, but when you get one that works, that knocks it out of the park, it's a damn good feeling.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Just Add Color

Before I filled in the medium sized diamonds, I threw some of my leftover pink four patch diamonds on top of Dairy Cream just to see if I was heading in the right direction. I thought it was going to be okay. Nothing special, but I have learned not to worry if something is just so-so when I am barely midway through.

However.  After yesterday's post, my friend Mary wrote me, "How does your Mom see subdued colors? Notice how dark and vivid the pink quilt and hers are."

Um yeah. But I hadn't shown anybody the photo above, so although Mary's point was right on the money, I wasn't really worried.

Yesterday New Hampshire was affected by the big snowstorm. We got almost 20" of snow, and I worked from home.  All day.

During one of my breaks, I drifted into the studio and threw some of the colored four patch diamonds on the design wall, to see what they'd look like. They looked pretty good, but I could see I'd want more colors than pink. I chose a green, an orange, a purple and a blue. I'd make four patch diamonds with those.

Here it is really looking good, and it is taken while it was still daylight, so the colors are more true.

A few hours later (dinner, dishes, reading) I had this, and THIS I like a lot. It's not the same as Tickled Pink, but it's going to be lovely. It also reiterates something I said when I finished Tickled Pink three and a half weeks ago:
I have learned something about this quilt, and that is that the TINY diamonds will make or break this design. They - not the large diamonds - are the star of the show.
Knowing that little nugget of information helped me design this quilt.  And it must be a record for me. I started working on this design on Sunday, and as I write this it is Tuesday evening, so 2-1/2 days. It'll take me a week or so to sew it together - I have a trunk show to prepare for - but when I sent a photo to my Mom earlier, she was very happy and said, "It says Spring to me."

Remember you can click the photos to supersize them. That way you can really check out the fabrics I used. One last thing. This quilt was made completely from my stash.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Variety of Cream

It took me a while to get the big diamonds more or less arranged... Here are my rules:

1. As much as possible, don't repeat the same print in the same row or column as itself.

2. Absolutely do NOT have them next to each other. Diagonal neighbors are OK, adjacent ones are not.

3. Don't have all the light ones clumped together, and don't have the dark ones clumped together. (This ought to be obvious.) Likewise, contrast organic shapes with hard edged ones; sparsely filled ones with densely filled ones, etc. 

4. Distribute the prints all over the quilt. In the middle, along the edges, etc. Don't limit one print to the edges.

5. It's not a bad idea to alternate, light, dark, light diamonds in rows and columns. You can tell they are light and dark by walking across the room and taking off your glasses. The values will show up and you won't be distracted by the pattern of the print. If you can see clearly across the room without glasses, then squint when you do this exercise.

6. When you cut out your big diamonds from giant prints, fussy cut them so you end up with a beautiful block. When I was in art school I brought in a painting of milkweed pods. My professor took one look at it and said, "In real life these are beautiful, you made them look ugly. Don't do that."

7. When you have a directional print, and you cut a diamond with a pattern facing one way, MAKE SURE YOU FLIP AT LEAST ONE BLOCK. Yes, that means making a bouquet of flowers point down.

8. Don't be too matchy-matchy. Ever. Just because you can buy eight fabrics in a designer's "line" DON'T DO IT. That's a recipe for a boring quilt.

9. Have some fun, dammit. All quilts tell a story, even if you're not aware of it. This is a pinkish quilt, so fun pink pigs work. And it's a quilt of flowers, so bugs work too.

 10. Don't worry about being too perfect. There's nothing worse than a quilt that is "overworked." You don't want your quilt to look like a machine made it.

11. Relax. It's only a quilt. And though it kills me to admit it, most people will never notice the little details you put into it. So leave them some surprises to find later.

The same rules apply to the medium sized diamonds.

You can click all the photos to supersize them so you can check out the little details.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dairy Cream

A few days ago I was talking to my Mother. Since I have been using quilts on my table, she has been covering her table with the Sunburst Rainbow quilt I made for her a few years ago.  "It's time I got a new quilt for my table. I saw a nice one on your blog a few days ago. Can I have it?"

Which one, I asked?

She said she'd look at the blog and let me know.  A few days later I got my reply.

"I really like the pink one."

"Yeah, No. Not happening. You and six million other people. Nope, nada, no way. Not getting it. That quilt is mine."

"So make me one."

(Sound effect of Lynne banging her head on the desk.)

I love my Mother, and I know she's the only one I'm ever going to get, and I know she's in her mid-80's and won't be around forever. 

So when I went into the studio this morning and started to clear the pink explosion, I put the rejected pink diamonds up on the design wall.

Then I started cutting diamonds from fabric I found in my stash.

A couple of hours later I had this.

We'll see where it goes, but I'm pretty sure this will end up at my Mom's house.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

BFQG Birds!

I love teaching classes to quilt guilds. The guild members all know each other and the vibe of the room is always friendly and happy. The ladies of the Bedford Friendship Quilt Guild were no different. I had a grand time with them, and didn't take nearly enough pictures.


This was a very thoughtful group. 

They had a lot of fun determining how long the bird's legs had to be.

One student had a hard time maintaining the 1/4" seam allowance while making the legs because the presser foot on her sewing machine was so wide. A quarter-inch foot generally works just fine, but she didn't have one. "Could I use a zipper foot?"

I thought it was a terrific idea and said so.

And check this out...

 I had mentioned that having a central table with a big cutting mat would make it easier for the students as individual worktables get cluttered quickly. The ladies of the BFQG did one better and put two cutting tables up on these bed risers, making it easy and comfortable to work on. I ended up spending most of the day at one of these tables, giving demonstrations, advice and a lot of one on one attention.  This is an idea I plan to steal!

If you'd like to make your own birds, you can get the tutorial here, at my Etsy shop. It's an instant download, so you can get started right away.