Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Madrona Road top: WIP Wednesday

Here it is, my finished Madrona Road quilt top:

I love the spontaneity of improvisational piecing and the unpredictable sense of movement and liveliness it adds to quilt designs. One approach I've enjoyed in recent years is to start with a few basic design features and a rough idea of block placement, and then to fill in the space between design elements or otherwise experiment with block arrangements in order to achieve a desired visual effect that is both structured and improvised. In this case, I began with the Gee's Bend-inspired quilt technique of VMQG member Paul K., which he has used to produce a series of vibrant quilts with a powerful graphic sense. I made six improv-pieced log cabin blocks, each around 18" square, whacked them apart, and then started playing.

I originally thought I would use a block configuration similar to Paul's, but when I tried it out, it just didn't work. I think that between the relatively low contrast of the blues and the grays and the busyness of the prints, my first effort just didn't produce the kind of strong graphic impact that I wanted. With the square in a square arrangement, the different non-gray fabrics reinforced each other much more convincingly, so I decided on the four large blocks in the center (each formed from four whacked blocks), with a linear arrangement of individual whacked blocks on the sides, and semi-random bits of filler where needed for additional visual appeal and complexity.

I'm thrilled with the results thus far, and I'm looking forward to getting this thing basted and quilted.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I finished my Madrona Road top yesterday! I'm saving the reveal of the quilt top for WIP Wednesday. In the meantime, all I want to say is that I used just about every last bit of Madrona Road fabric I had in order to make this quilt. Here are the only non-grey remains, which include a small handful of the blue and yellow Kona solids that I added to the quilt top, along with half a dozen tiny scraps of Madrona Road fabric:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

VMQG-FVMQG travel swap

My Madrona Road quilt top is coming along, but it isn't quite ready yet, so I'm going to save the big reveal for next week's WIP Wednesday. In the meantime, the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild and the Fraser Valley Modern Quilt Guild recently completed a swap in which each participant received information about the fabric preferences of a partner in the other guild and spent 5-6 hours making something useful for travel.

My partner, L., said that she liked neutrals, linens, and tone-on-tone fabrics, and that she definitely did not like flowery prints. She also indicated that she could use a cosmetics pouch, and that a passport cover would be handy.

Here's what I came up with for her:

L. went all out for me, and I received a beautiful tote bag with all sorts of goodies inside. I'll save the details for another day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The cat on Madrona Road

The cats and I were hiding out while the cleaning people did their work, and one of our cats found her way to my Madrona Road blocks. I usually shoo the cats away pretty quickly when they get onto my fabric, but this time, I couldn't resist a picture first:

Yes, she's a beastly, green-eyed monster, but she's also adorable.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Whack job!

My Madrona Road quilt is coming along. I made another five improv log cabin blocks to accompany the one I finished last week, and then I whacked them apart. Now, I'm in the process of putting them back together. Here are the results thus far:

The quilt is already quite different from what I originally imagined, and once the top is finished, I'll say more about the design process and the decisions that produced the gap between my original expectations and the end result. With any luck, I'll have the top pieced by next week.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I can't believe it's already Wednesday

The week has flown by, but I've been busy at the sewing machine and can announce my first finish for 2013. M.'s baby quilt is finally done! At some point in the coming weeks, I'll have to get it on a wall for a decent photograph, but here's one that will do for now:

I think my free motion quilting has improved immensely with this quilt. Here are a few close-ups, including one from the backside:

For the first time, I attached the binding entirely by machine, and thanks to the advice from Janet A. at What Comes Next?, I managed a nice, neat finish. I may stick to hand-finishing for my wall quilts, but it's good to have a new technique in the arsenal.

Finally, I started work on my Madrona Road challenge quilt:

Don't get too attached to this block, because it's gonna get whacked!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

WIP Wednesday

It's been a couple of months since I had anything worth showing for WIP Wednesday, but I've been quilting up a storm the past few days and have made a lot of progress recently.

Most of the quilting on the baby quilt is done, except for the border:

I'm also making preparations for VMQG's "Madrona Road" challenge. Each of us received 7 different fat eighths from Violet Craft's "Madrona Road" line, plus an extra eighth. I've added some Kona solids (the three fabrics on the right hand side in the photo), and I'm ready to start working with my washed, but as yet un-ironed, fabrics:

Happy quilting in 2013, everyone!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A new machine for the New Year?

Lately I've been thinking seriously about getting a new sewing machine for free motion quilting. I have a 13-year-old Janome MC5000, which I love, but I think a mid-arm with 8-10 inches of room between the needle and arm would give me more control and flexibility for FMQ. I'd also like a speed setting dial (see control, above). My lead candidate right now is the Juki TL-2010Q, a straight stitch machine with a reputation as a real workhorse:

Based on the available reviews on-line, quilters love the Juki. For me, it has a nice combination of features: the feed dogs drop, and it has the up/down needle switch, speed control, knee lever, an automatic thread trimmer, an extended sewing bed, and the right accessories. The Juki also seems made for easy maintenance, with regular oiling and good access for the removal of dust bunnies, so I hope I won't need to take it to the shop for cleaning as often as my current machine.

My other option would be to stick with Janome, but I've seen complaints about the 1600P, Janome's straight-stitch machine. The feed dogs on the 1600P don't drop, and there have been reports about thread knotting up or breaking. Quilters seem to adore the Janome 6600, but it's beyond what I'd like to pay and has a lot more bells and whistles than I need. Plus, I hate to buy a machine with tons of fancy stitches but no free arm. But the AcuFeed feed dog system sounds wonderful and earns rave reviews--very tempting. The 6300 might be a good compromise, except it doesn't have the AcuFeed system, which seems to defeat the purpose of moving up from the old 5000.

What to do? I suppose if someone wants to give me around $5000, I can go buy the HandiQuilter Sweet Sixteen! (DH, are you out there?) But barring that, I'm going to check out the Juki sometime in the next few weeks. In the meantime, Happy New Year!