Ellie the Elephant

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Ellie was sent to me by Pam Fritsche (Dawson Creek, BC) for custom quilting.  She was made from a foundation paper piecing pattern called “Elephant Abstractions” by Violet Craft, and from the back story I heard about the assembly process there were definitely ups and downs! After several challenges and a variety of choice words throughout, Pam told me she finally gave her a name and that seemed to help them bond more closely while she finished this amazing project.

We all know that I’m not a fan of piecing, and looking at foundation paper pieced projects has always made me think there is no way I would ever take one on.  When I viewed other versions of this quilt online to get an idea of what was coming in the mail, I was intrigued by the design albeit not overly excited about many of the colour variations I was seeing.

But then Ellie arrived, and I unboxed her and hung her up on my design wall so that I could spend some time looking at her to help me decide how to do the quilting.  I couldn’t stop looking at her.  There was something about her that drew me in from the first moment – she was almost real.  She commanded my attention.  She brought tears to my eyes.

There is something about elephants.  They are incredible animals and somehow despite their enormity they seem to draw from us a basic emotional response.  The elephant is not “king of the jungle”, and yet …

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So taken was I with this quilt top that I even imagined making my own.  I knew I had to have one.  I can’t remember ever feeling that kind of insistence within about any other craft project!  But sometimes a particular experience gives us the motivation to step into territory we have up until then avoided, because we just want something badly enough to try.  So it is for me with this quilt.

I knew from the start how I wanted to quilt the grasses, the trunk and the tusks.  But beyond that, choosing how to section off the rest of her was challenging.  Because of how the quilt will be used, it couldn’t be quilted too densely, but I still wanted it to have the right texture and to be careful not to overwhelm the already very detailed piecing.

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I love serpentine lines because they create a flowing design and while I usually quilt them in smaller sections with much closer spacing, I was happy to see that they worked well on a larger scale with wider spacing too. I think they helped the legs look wrinkled, which gave them a natural “elephant” texture.

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The pattern designer’s attention to detail even in the positioning of the feet made it clear that this elephant was walking forward and not just standing, so I wanted the grass to appear to be parting as she moved through it.

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Here she is in all her glory!

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I read something in my meditation book this week that seemed fitting with my mind on this elephant, and it went like this:

How often have I had a dream that I longed to pursue, but quit before I started because it seemed too enormous a task to attempt? … Instead of approaching the task as a whole, I can simplify it by taking only one step at a time.  I can gather information … then, when I’m ready, I can take the project further …  I can take my time and move step by step at my own pace. By focussing on one thing at a time, the impossible can become likely if I “Keep it simple.”

I’ve started with a small foundation paper piecing project that I actually enjoyed (yay!) and am now looking for something a bit bigger so that I can gradually get more experience doing this technique.

I don’t know how or when I will make it, but I ordered my very own Elephant Abstractions quilt pattern today 🙂

 

 

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Smorgasbord

I haven’t been writing but I have been quilting!  I had a few projects to finish up for a Christmas market I’m going to, so thought I’d just get them done and then put them all together into one post.

I don’t generally like to go from market to market, but I do try to participate annually in the Christmas craft sale put on by our local Kinette club.  I’ve been a vendor for many years with various different items for sale depending on which craft stage I was in at the time! LOL  Now it’s all about the quilts for me, or at least quilting in general, as I do have a few smaller quilted items as well.

The first is a baby quilt made using Colorworks panels. I could have just let you think I actually pieced all those little fabric bits together to come up with the fantastic geometric designs but why hedge?  You know me well enough by now to figure out for yourself that there’s just no way that is happening!  I don’t even generally like working with panels – and yes, these did give me some grief because the things are just never printed straight on grain – but I managed to disguise any blatant issues and the result is a happy bright quilt so I’m satisfied.

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There are literally just seven seams in this quilt top. SEVEN.  I cut each panel into three wide strips, alternated the panel pieces and sewed them together horizontally (five seams), then cut the top vertically into three equal strips, flipped the middle section upside down and sewed it all back together (two seams).  Voila!  Enter some geometric stitching in a bright green shiny thread along with my favorite black and white striped binding and there’s a quilt that will give any baby lots to look at 🙂

The second is a lap quilt I made using another couple of Colorworks panels which I cut into narrow strips that are actually – believe it or not – pieced into the bigger black blocks.  It seemed like a good idea when I started and it isn’t hard to do, but the work of squaring up blocks after you’ve slashed them up a couple of times (or more for lots of you out there!) is just a pain in the neck for me.  It’s like being punished just for trying to add some angled pizazz to an otherwise plain old block.  Note to self …

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I used a large spiral stitching pattern in bright turquoise thread (not sure why it looks white here, but trust me, it’s turquoise, Magnifico #2138 to be exact!) on this one to contrast the stark black and the straight line piecing.  If you remember the post about deciding what and how much to quilt on a particular project, you’ll also remember that the quilting is almost always the most important focal point for me; it’s an additional artistic layer on top of everything else, so for a quilt like this, I wasn’t going for either a thread or a design that blended in 🙂

The last one was inspired by some photos I saw of this layout and I thought it was a really cute idea for a baby quilt, or even a lap quilt for a teenager or adult.  I figured out my own dimensions for the pieces according to how I wanted it to look, and it went together fairly quickly.  It’s just two colors and some simple piecing but because of the boldness of the design and the great mottled look of the background fabric – almost like football leather – I think it has some real character!

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I used the handy geometric stitching pattern for the background, some basic seam echo stitching in the middle white sections and a square spiral border top and bottom.  I don’t often choose to make a novelty quilt but this was fun to make and I hope it finds a home under someone’s Christmas tree, because I’m definitely not a football fan myself! haha

 

Delightful Daisies

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It is finished.  That quilt I told you had been one of “those” to piece.  The one I described as being the cause of my most recent piecing malaise and of which I said that all you happy piecers out there would wonder what the big deal was when you finally saw it, even though it gave me free motion quilting withdrawal and led me to a random mini quilt of wild abandon just to get my fix …

I finally got to quilt it last Saturday – cheerfully started before 8 a.m. and finished just before 2 p.m.! I got to spend the evening hand stitching the binding to the back while I watched TV and carefully positioned my heating pad to relax the various muscles I strained by not taking appropriate breaks all morning …

The whole idea (and free pattern) came from Angela Walters and the Midnight Quilt Show.  I’ve loved this Daisy Delights fabric line by Lily & Loom, sold on Craftsy.com, since it first came out and this was my second order of the whole fat quarter pack.  When I saw her pairing it with solid white, with the opportunities for fun free motion quilting that would actually show up, I decided I wanted to make it.

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The part of my brain that usually says “no” to a bunch of half square triangles that require picky trimming had apparently checked out for a bit so I pre-washed my fabrics, pressed them, trimmed them and set about cutting them up, anticipating my pretty bright quilt top.

Enter the time consuming part.  You can count them yourself.  But I was pot committed, as they say, and I don’t believe in UFO’s when it comes to my sewing projects (not sure I believe in them anywhere else either, but I digress…) so there was nothing to do but forge ahead and get them all sewn together, squared up, and laid out on my design wall.  🎶 “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this quilt top grow …” 🎶

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Generally, for me, it’s ALL about the quilting.  I’ve made many, many quilts with lovely fabrics and cute designs, but I’m always a little blah about the finished top on its own, until it actually becomes a quilt.  Now I have to say that, as far as I can remember, I believe this is the first quilt top I actually liked on its own merit BEFORE it was quilted.  That meant I had an attachment to it when I sat down to quilt, and my brain was telling me I was keeping it.  Nearly every quilt I make is started with the intention of selling it in my online shop.  Sometimes I only get attached once it’s all done and I see the quilting effect, and then I have to detach myself and let it go, but I had to admit I was quilting this one for me the whole time.

I mean, it has daisies!  And I love the fabric.  And I love the white.  And I nearly quilted it to death (an Angela expression – I even tried her technique for making the feathers look like they are moving back and forth from in front of to behind the piecing as they go around the quilt).  And it has a cozy flannel backing.  Once it came out of the dryer all soft and cuddly, it was mine 🙂

 

Private FMQ Lesson Info

I am now teaching private free motion quilting lessons in my home studio so that I can share my love of quilting with others who want to learn 🙂  My passion runneth over (if you’d like to see just how far, check out the promo video below!)

FMQ lesson ad

Happiness (and a sigh of relief…)

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This is what happens when I’ve been piecing for a few days and just can’t stand it anymore …

I grab any random fabric on my shelf that isn’t already earmarked for a quilt (and, of course, because I’m not a big stasher, that’s a challenge!), throw together a small quilt sandwich (about 32″ X 34″), crank up my tunes and just quilt, quilt, quilt.  I added the word “happiness” to my project because that is exactly what I experience when I’m doing it 🙂

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I can’t even describe to you in words what a relief it was to just QUILT.  The struggle is real, my friends.  I joke about it lots, but it’s seriously a challenge for me.  I’m constantly trying to get things pieced together so I can quilt because my quilting time is like a drug.  A good drug, though, like laughter or big long hugs 🙂  I’m not sure which chemicals free motion quilting releases in my brain, but whatever they are, I NEED THEM!  And while the open edge-to-edge designs can be fun for a bit, it’s the crazy detailed intricate stuff that takes me from zero to a hundred in sixty seconds …

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This just under two hour period was a totally spontaneous stitching time and it definitely got me to the other side of my piecing malaise.  Of course, I wouldn’t put this much detail onto a printed fabric for a “real” quilt, but this was the biggest small piece I could find in a pinch so I just chose orange thread that would show up for me as I worked.

I even went a little hippie in one section!

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Look closely and you will see my initial.

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I’m almost finished piecing a quilt top that seemed like a good idea when I started, it’s bright and pretty, it’s made from a fabric line I really like, and I’m going to have lots of fun quilting it (it has several solid white sections for me to play in) but WOW it’s just one of “those”.  I did one of “those” a while back and apparently my memory is very short because the first one took me down too!

Funny thing:  you piecers out there who have to renovate to make room for more fabric and patterns, spend days putting together little triangles that make me cross-eyed, and sometimes pile up quilt tops because you’d rather sew them together than actually quilt them, will see it when it’s done and think it’s hardly anything at all.

And that, my quilting friends, is what makes each of us unique.

While I’m over the piecing gloom that threatened my serenity today, I think I still need to go back to my machine and stitch out a few more ideas because even talking about this much piecing is giving me a headache …  LOL

 

How would you like that quilted?

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Some of my customers who bring or send me projects to quilt ask me to just “do my thing”, be creative, and stitch whichever designs I think will look good.  These people get what I like to call “Ann Quilting” 🙂

Some have decided ahead of time that they just want a simple edge to edge design as their main goal is to get their project finished as quickly and as economically as possible.

Others have no particular idea in mind when they bring their projects and they want my input to help them figure out which way to go.

Whenever I’m making suggestions, I try to determine the end result they desire by discussing the intended use of the quilt and what is most important to them in their project: the fabric, the piecing, or the actual quilting.  Here are some suggestions I make that I thought I’d share here in case they’re helpful to others:

Fabric is most important: a stitching pattern that will provide texture and dimension and a thread that will, for the most part, blend in rather than stand out so as not to take the focus away from the fabric itself (and you don’t want to be paying for detailed stitching that you won’t really see if the prints are busy)

Piecing is most important: a stitching pattern that follows the piecing lines, or at least accents the piecing pattern, in either a blending or contrasting thread, depending on their personal preference of color and weight

Quilting is most important: a detailed stitching pattern that will become an “extra” design layer on top of the pieced design, rather than blending in with design elements already present in the quilt top

Intended use is important because, for example, if it’s going to be a baby quilt, most often a more open stitching pattern is desired to keep the quilt fluffier, softer, and lighter overall.  Dense quilting uses a lot of thread and that does add a surprising amount of weight.  Batting choice can also determine overall softness.  More intricate and detailed designs are usually desirable on heirloom quilts, whole cloth quilts, or wall hangings where the quilting and even thread painting enhances the artistic elements of the project.  Of course, the detailed designs are also desirable on any quilt if the customer is a real fan of the actual quilting and wants it to be fancier than a simple edge to edge design.

Obviously, each of these choices also determines the cost of having a project quilted, and sometimes budget is the main deciding factor.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas about making quilting decisions either for your own work or for quilts you send out.

If you’ve been reading my posts at all you’ll know by now that my favourite part is the quilting process, my favourite part of the finished quilt is the actual quilting, and I’m never overly excited about any quilt top – including the ones I make myself – until it’s quilted!  So when I’m doing my own quilts, most often it’s all about the quilting and the thread.  I sometimes lose interest in whatever piecing work I’ve done because I like to just run my hand over the finished quilt to appreciate all the texture and the various shapes and motifs in the stitching!  We all get our kicks in different ways … LOL

Occasionally I do an edge-to-edge-let’s-just-give-it-some-texture design in blending thread if I’m working on baby quilts or others that have a lot of printed fabric where detailed quilting won’t really show up anyway.  But give me some solid fabrics and my Magnifico thread and I will play happily for hours!

The baby quilt pictured above is an example of me playing in a wide open field of negative space with a simple all over plume stitching pattern that has nothing at all to do with the piecing.  It’s a completely new layer on top of the modern style color-blocked quilt top and it’s curvy design contrasts with the geometric square blocks.  I could have chosen a brighter coloured thread to give it even more pop.

Possibilities = endless!  Had I wanted the inner squares and the sashing as my main focus, the stitching would be completely different 🙂

 

Retro Camper Quilt

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I’m going to put it politely in as few words as possible:  I don’t like camping.  It’s an understatement, usually accompanied by various facial expressions, but the point is that regardless of my own camping aversion, I totally love this fabric line!  The cute little retro campers, the color scheme, and the sentiments (except the one about life being better in the camper…) grabbed me and I couldn’t resist.  I knew some camper somewhere would like this one!

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The centre is a panel; the half square triangle and strip borders are made from coordinating fabrics belonging to the same “On the Road Again” fabric line.

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I custom quilted the panel by stitching around the various items featured in each block, filled in the areas between blocks with both whimsical and border designs.  The inner border has ruler work and the outer border has a serpentine line design all the way around.  I did a short video showing how I stitch that border around a corner and how quickly it fills in.  Check out the link below!

Reflections

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After spending time getting my free motion quilting lesson format planned out and testing it on my daughter over the weekend to prepare for advertising, I looked back on a few parts of my quilting journey thus far.  I found a post that I had uploaded to a personal journalling blog in 2015 and thought I would share it here today.

Not only does it explain how I went quite suddenly from never having quilted to becoming completely immersed in the craft, it also shows what can happen when you take a trip down the Pinterest rabbit hole:  you really never know what you will find or where you will finally come up for air and how your life might just be about to change when you do.  Go ahead and click the link if you’re interested in where it all started 🙂

You see, I really just wanted to braid a rug …………….

It all started with a jelly roll …

FMQ lessons – My Test Student

I’ve just started offering private free motion quilting lessons, and I wanted to do a test run, so my daughter agreed to help me out.

She’s not a sewer and has never quilted before and while she conceded to go through the process, I know it wasn’t something she wanted to learn.

Enter the perfect test student to really make me work on my approach.

We started on the regular sewing machine, but by the end of it, she was rocking on my big machine and pretty proud of her progress!  I think she even had fun 🙂

 

Here’s what happened when she moved to the big one …

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