Sunday, March 23, 2014

Radiant Circles

I love the Single Girl pattern by Denyse Schmidt. I admire simple forms and curves are right there at the top of the list. After my last post, though, I’m sure my feelings about difficult cutting tasks are pretty clear. I knew I would never have it in me to make Single Girl, and that thought made me sad. Very sad.

…Until one awesome day I read my boys a book about Henri Matisse and his cutouts. We broke out the art bin and scissors and started making our own cutouts. In between making sure that no hair was harmed in the making of the project and that my sweet little klutzy 3 year old boy didn’t kill us all with his scissors, I made an important discovery…dare I say a LIFE ALTERING DISCOVERY! I could mimic the curve of Single Girl!

The next morning I tried making a test block/pillow and was thrilled to see it worked.

I started with an 8.5” square, folded in half diagonally. I cut the curve from the folded edge to the opposite side. The paper was folded, so the shape is symmetrical. I was worried that it wouldn't make a true circular shape, so I traced the curve I cut three more times so I could look at the completed circle with my own eyes.
The completed circle block measures about 16.5-17”. I cut mine down to 15" because I liked the look of having the edges of the circle so close together. This could easily be done with any size. Mine was 8.5" because I was just using regular-sized typing paper. I would love to do this again in a larger size.

At this very moment, I have 17 circles done. I need to get 13 more done to make it a twin size. This is the part of every quilt project when you're just SO TEMPTED to slap some borders on and call it done. I won't, but not because I haven't thought of it. I heard Will Smith say once that running is something everyone should try because it is great practice in ignoring that voice in your head that tells you that you should stop. Clearly Will Smith has not quilted.

My circles are fatter and smaller, but aren’t we all?

There are 14 different shades of purple, blue, violet and raspberry in this quilt. It reminded me of what my dad used to say about my mother’s singing (which even she admits is awful), “The only time she hits the right note is when she crosses it!” I still can’t look at the color cards and tell you EXACTLY what color radiant orchid is, but I’m sure I’ve crossed it a time or two.

I used indigo blues in Cotton Couture and oh-that-voile for the background. The colors are so similar that it's hard to tell with your eyes, but your fingers? They know the voile is there.


Radiant Improv

I hate precision cutting. That means I automatically avoid any pattern that has any 1/8th inch measurements in it, I contort myself into the tiniest paper piecing patterns and I have a large and growing stack of rulers.

This particular quilt was made with the help of a Square in a Square ruler. My quilt guild has a container full of tools that you can check out as part of our guild library. I was intrigued by it, so I checked it out. I love it! It makes HSTs, flying geese (90 degrees and 60 degrees) and square in a square units so easily. I looked online thinking that I was going to find lots of people raving about it, but instead found post after post moaning about waste. I had to laugh at this. After a paper piecing project, my sewing room looks like a fabric confetti tornado blew through. I like elements of perfection (Confession: I do actually check for points….I know, I know. You. Hate. Me.) and I am willing to trade the equivalent of a binding triangle in fabric to get it. Besides, I save those anyway!

I used the ruler for the main block in this quilt. Basically, you choose a square of fabric (mine was 7”) and sew strips to the outside edges until you just cover the corners of the square with a 1/4” seam allowance. I wondered what would happen if I left the fabric I sewed around the center block longer on purpose. When I used the ruler to make the HST, I was cutting off larger triangles with 2 fabrics and a cool mitered edge. I sewed a few of those together and got some really interesting blocks to add to the quilt. Take that ruler haters! No waste! :-)

I also added an improv flying geese unit. That is one of my favorite things to do. If I had to pick one element on all the projects I entered into this challenge that came the very closest to radiant orchid, that strip of Oval Elements from Art Gallery would be what I would pick.

That voile. Oh, that voile. I benched another blanket that I had been using at night for this one. Oh, that voile. {sigh} I put Quilter's Dream Puff batting inside this quilt. Between that and the oh-that-voile, this is the lightest, silkiest blanket I have ever snuggled with.


Radiant Triangles

I am a sucker for a challenge. Even if it’s kind of silly (I once entered a Friendship Bracelet Quilt Challenge). The Pantone Color of the Year Quilt Challenge over at On the Windy Side didn’t sound silly, it sounded really fun. Purple is my very favorite color. We have a purple chair in our living room. I got purple towels for a wedding gift. So a challenge using a color that was my FAVORITE COLOR EVER is not one that I would pass up.

My inspiration was a piece of Joel Dewberry’s Ironwork in Lilac from Aviary 2 that I had gotten in a Hawthorne Threads scrap pack. I pulled out every piece of purplish plum from my stash and my solid scrap bin. Last year I attended a workshop with Bill Kerr from Modern Quilt Studio. He taught us that not every fabric in a quilt had to be matchy-matchy (my words, not his) with every other fabric in a quilt. He gave an analogy that quilt fabrics are like people at a dinner party. You wouldn’t want to host a party where the guests were all too similar (boring), nor would you want to host a dinner party where the guests were all too different (chaos). The trick, he said, is to make sure that each person/fabric had at least one other person/fabric to talk to. So, after I used colors similar to the ones found in the Joel Dewberry print, I started adding friends.

I used my Tri-Recs ruler to help me draw the triangles on parchment paper. Once I had the outlines marked, I used a regular ruler to create triangles of different sizes within. Then, I used the parchment outlines as my foundation for paper piecing. I used my solid scrap bin and a few strips I cut out of my purple/orchid/plum solids and shot cottons. I know I used about 20 different fabrics in this pillow. This is the pillow that replaced the one I talked about in the last post. I probably should have taken a picture of it, but I decided to let the trash man take it with one last little pat from me. Dumb, I know. I'm just a little sentimental.

Starting Somewhere


I started quilting when my oldest son was about one. I had been an elementary teacher for seven years before we had our first child. Once he was born, I decided to stay home. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly, and it certainly wasn’t an easy transition. I really liked being a teacher. I felt successful. I felt challenged. Most importantly, I felt like I was good at something. For the first year, I tried to stay busy and engaged in motherhood, but instead I just kept looking at the clock. 9:30? Math time. 11:45? Go pick up the kids from PE. I worried all the time about everything. Was I being a good enough mom? How could I tell? At school, it was easy to assess success. At home? Not so much.

I wish I could remember exactly how I ended up in front of my cheap Wal-Mart Brother. Desperation, probably. :-) I do remember that I was pretty terrible. I was drawing on my only experience, which was a semi-successful sweatshirt in 8th grade. I kept a pillow that I made during that time and I looked at it the other day. It would be easy to say that it really was embarrassingly awful, but I won’t. I won’t because it was the very best that I was capable of at the time. I recently replaced it with a pillow I had just made. The new pillow represents the very best I am capable of now. What a difference!

I have three kids. I have quite a few quilts under my belt, too. None of my quilts are perfect, and I’ve learned to accept that as part of the learning curve. I feel great when I sew and create my ideas out of fabric. That feeling is my gauge for success. I’ve applied that lesson to motherhood too, and I’ve learned to relax. I smile at my kids a lot….and, they smile back. We laugh and learn together. That feels like success to me.