Saturday, May 26, 2012

Got Scraps?

Got scraps? Oh man, we sure do. We have two big baskets, filled to the brim. Having the baskets next to the cutting table is really handy because you can easily toss scrap pieces into them as you work.

Too many scraps.
However, the baskets cease to be handy once they're overflowing! We've been in denial for quite some time now, trying to shove more and more scraps into the baskets. Incredibly, we've also been guilty of collecting scrap pieces from other folks as well! But finally, it has become time to do something with our bounty of left overs and castaways -- So began my recent obsession with making use of scrap fabric. That, and a certain frugality recently imposed by my current state of transition between professional student and the gainfully employed!

Digging through the baskets is not unlike an archeological dig: there are layers of fabric roughly stratified by age, with the oldest remnants toward the bottom. Some of the pieces even date back to my childhood; Now that's vintage stuff! ;) And of course there's fabric from nearly every quilt project that my Mom and I have done over the last decade or so. So, it's fun to take a stroll down memory lane of projects past, by rummaging through our scrap collection.

I currently have a number of scrap quilts in progress, but have been focusing lately on one that makes use of a traditional star block. Several women from my Mom's quilting group at the Martinez Senior Center have also been making star block quilts recently, so my Mom and I thought we'd try one too. I decided to see if I could make my star block quilt entirely from our scraps on hand -- Such fabric recycling is, after all, the traditional heritage of quilting. I selected light and dark scrap fabrics that I thought would coordinate together for a traditional/americana look.

I hadn't yet worked with small half-square triangles, so we figured this star quilt project would be a good learning experience. And indeed, maintaining cutting & piecing accuracy was a bit of a challenge.

Hmm ... cutting and/or piecing accuracy not so good ...
Part of the challenge came from working with a large variety of fabrics of disparate levels of quality, which is inevitable when using scraps. As a result, many of my star blocks ended up a wee bit wonky, probably due at least in part to different fabrics shifting in different ways.

However, when I assembled all of the blocks into the quilt top, I was happy to discover that I could successfully shmooze my less-than-accurate blocks together, matching seams pretty well. I lost some points here and there, and there are a few tiny tucks in a couple of the seams, but I don't think these "booboos" are too noticeable. I think the very scrappy nature of this quilt pattern makes it quite forgiving, lending itself quite well to a half-square-triangle newbie such as myself. So, this quilt is not a juried-quilt-show masterpiece -- but I think it'll make for a functional but pretty quilt, like in the traditional heritage of quilting. Overall, I'm rather thrilled with the treasure that has arisen from "the trash"!:

Star quilt top -- first stage of completion.
Close-up of star quilt top.
I'm now in the process of debating border choices. I'm thinking about trying some flying geese, which would be another first for me. Or, maybe some prairie points? I'm perusing some options using The Border Workbook by Janet Kime. Alas, I've still got plenty more scrap fabric to work with!

My Mom's star quilt is also beginning to take shape -- she's using her stash collection of 30s fabrics, and it is going to be a very bright and cheery quilt. Of course it has been fascinating to see how different fabric choices, for the same exact quilt pattern, create a totally different look! Stay tuned for a comparison.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Black Opals & Ribbon Candy - Part II

We did it!: We got the tops done from Christine Barnes's Black Opals & Ribbon Candy class that we took last week at ThimbleCreek. And look, we used some blue fabrics; we've been reformed! ;)

My Dad says these wall-hangings are "eye poppers"... I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but I really like them. The center "opals" glow warmly, surrounded by the cooler colors -- which was the goal of this exercise in color usage. My Mom decided to go with a thin frame from the stripe fabric cut on the bias that I think adds a wonderful bit of whimsy that's very suggestive of ribbon candy. I decided to go more sedate, and let the opals stand out on their own.

Now for the sandwiching and quilting ... my least favorite part of the quilt-making process. But, these will provide us with a good opportunity for some free motion practice.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Black Opals & Ribbon Candy

This past weekend, my Mom and I were privileged to take Christine Barnes' Black Opals & Ribbon Candy class at one of our local quilt shops, Thimblecreek Quilt Shop. It was a belated Christmas present to my Mom, and we'd been looking for some time for a local quilt class that we might like. We'd been holding out for a class that was about learning a new technique or skill -- as opposed to a class that would just be about constructing a particular quilt pattern (we've already got plenty of those kinds of UFOs!). Mom was skeptical when I suggested Christine's class because ... well ... we are prejudiced against blue (our least favorite color), and Christine's sample quilt in the class advertisement is, well, very blue-ish:
Quilt by Christine Barnes, "Black Opals & Ribbon Candy",
on display at Thimblecreek Quilt Shop for our class.
However, I must have been really drawn to this quilt because I had taken a picture of it weeks before when it was on display (amongst hundreds of other quilts) at the Foothill Quilters Guild show in Auburn, CA. Christine is an expert in the use of color, with a new book out called Quilter's Color Club. So, we decided to delve into some color theory education!

In the days leading up to the class, we had a lot of fun combing through our stash for fabrics to take. Christine's quilt pattern calls for a striped fabric (that's used as part of the sashing), so we chose a few of those, plus a bounty of fabrics that we thought would coordinate well. We joked that we'd have to rent a U-haul truck if we wanted to bring all of the stash with us to the class! We also popped into our local quilt shop (when we were supposed to be out running errands, LOL!), A Quilted Heart, and a new Robert Kaufman fabric called Fiori that features stripes immediately jumped out at me.

At the class, it was fabric, fabric everywhere -- what fun!! Everyone else had also brought plentiful fabric choices ... and of course there were immediate shopping opportunities for even more fabric in Thimblecreek! Christine helped each person with the fabric selections for their quilt, with lots of excellent information about color value and contrast.

Many of the fabric combinations that Christine suggested were ones I never would have considered, but the results were fantastic! She ended up steering both me and my Mom toward fabrics that we had only brought as "runner up/second-choice" options, and we are now LOVING these suggested color combinations. It was really wonderful to see how each person's color and fabric choices came together in unique and unexpected ways. In short, we learned a lot. My Mom purchased Christine's Color Wheel, which we plan to now always have handy in the quilt room at home.

Mom's Black Opal quilt beginning to come together in class, on the design wall.
Holly's Black Opal quilt beginning to come together in class, on the design wall. 
Another student's Black Opal quilt beginning to come together in class, on the design wall.
Since the class, we've been continuing to work on our Black Opal quilts at home ... stay tuned for an update!