Friday, August 29, 2014

Spiral Quilt

When I first saw RaNae Merrill's book, "Simply Amazing Spiral Quilts" I was so fascinated that I bought a copy.  I didn't get inside it for awhile because I kept looking at the cover photo trying to figure out how she did that quilt (why open the book when it is such fun to challenge your brain to solve the problem).  I was so thrilled when I figured out that the basic design was nothing but a pentagon and triangle kaleidoscope that I immediately sat down and read the book.  During this time I went to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Festival where the complete gallery of the Hoffman Challenge for that year was on display, and fell in love with the fabric for the next year's challenge.  It wasn't long before I delved into the design process for a spiral quilt and bought the challenge fabric to use in it.  The rest is history.

Although variations are possible it is probably easiest to start with a wedge 1/6th or 1/8th of a circle.  Draw some shapes on it and use a mirror to see if you like the repeated design...or decide on shapes you think you would like to fit into the wedge.  They do not have to be even, but these lines will be seams and you must be able to sew them together.
Basic outline of one 30º wedge
I know, I said to use a bigger basic wedge than the example above, but I never start out with the simplest possibility.  Two of these, side by side, will make 1/6th of a circle and the larger number of wedges increases the design possibilities.  The process is the same.  For this first spiral of mine I chose only two shapes because I saw them in the quilt on the book cover, and thus could visualize the potential results.  Illustrator is my software of choice.  You can draw your design on paper if you prefer.

The next step is to draw lines that create triangles within one of the shapes.  There are several ways to do this, but I started with the pentagon and used the "Pinwheel Spiral" as below.

Step 1 (fig 1):  After you have drawn the outline of the pentagon use a ruler and pencil or the pen tool in Illustrator to draw a straight line from point A to a point on line BC about 3/4"-1" from point B.  The chosen distance for that point does not have to be exact but 1" (give or take) is a good place to start for an entry level spiromaniac.  You can measure the distance or guess.

TIP:  The lines you draw within the pentagon shape create triangles.  If you are using the computer I recommend that you draw the complete triangle with the pen tool on a separate layer so that it can be filled with color later.  If you are drawing with pencil this is not necessary as you can color in the lines with your choice of coloring implements.

Step 2 (fig 2 & 3):  Next you draw another line from point B to a point on line CD about 3/4"-1" from point C.

Step 3 (fig 3):  Now go back to where the second line crosses the first line (red circle on Figure 2) and erase or adjust the line so it no longer crosses over the second line.

Step 4 (fig 4):  Continue in this manner until your drawing looks like Figure 4.

Step 5 (fig 5):  Second round.  Continue as you did for the first round, but place the first point at the intersection of the large end of a first-round triangle (red circles) and the second point 3/4"-1"  from the intersection of the first and second first-round triangles.  Erase the overlap as you did in step 3.

Continue in this manner, completing 2 or 3 more rounds as you work toward the center.

Look at that:  it is basically a Twisted Log Cabin!  If your pentagon's sides are equal and every triangle's broad end is the same measurement, then the center will also be a pentagon.  My centers are always wonky because my pentagons are not always equilateral and I don't measure my points precisely, but I rather like the quirkiness they give to a design that is otherwise so ordered.  The triangles do not have to be perfect, but the points must be in the right place and the large ends must lie on the line of the previous round.

Give this a try.  It is fun, and while you are at it, work the triangle piece at the lower part of the wedge and fill it in the same way.

TIP:  You are designing your own quilt.  There is nothing wrong with adapting an idea from someone else, but once you get the technique down, modify it to make it your own.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will continue with the process.  These quilts are beautiful, but they require spending design time, pattern prep time, and sewing time, so I will give you a few days to work out the basics as described here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Satin Stitch Epiphany

I have mentioned a time or two that I do blanket stitch appliqué because my machine does not do a nice satin stitch, no matter what I do.  An epiphany occurred today while watching a U-tube tutorial and I feel really stupid.  My machine has a preset satin stitch and I never knew it!  I might have found it if I had read the manual.  You may already know about such a preset, but I was thrilled and there may be a person or two that this will help.

TIP:  Read your machine's manual.  There is a wealth of informative material there.

Before I explain the stitches it is important to know which presser foot to use.  In figure 1 you see the top of three possible options.  A and B are general feet.  C is an appliqué foot, which does not have a bar in front.  It is free of visual obstruction so you can see what is ahead of the needle and thus you can be more accurate when sewing a complicated piece.

Figure 1
Figure 2 shows the bottom of the three feet.  A is flat on the bottom.  B and C have a recessed portion in the middle, which allows thick stitching to slide under the foot easily.  These recessed feet are what you should use.  I like option C because it allows me to see and guide the work more accurately.
Figure 2
Zig Zag
We all know about the zig-zag stitch.  It has been around for years.  Shortening the stitch length will create a satin stitch (sort of), but it does not make a nice edge for appliqué.  The reason is that each stitch is taken at an angle from the previous stitch.  When I tried to shorten the stitch length to make the stitches closer together than in the photo, it gummed up under my presser foot, and I created a rat's nest on the back.
Zig-zag stitch
Satin Stitch
The satin stitch is designed and preset into some machines to create a closer, more regular stitch.  The sequence of needle placement creates a stitch that is straight across first, then at an angle for the second stitch.  I was able to shorten the stitch length by one increment, but no further.  Still, it is shorter than the zig zag and looks tons better.  The actual stitching is a scant 1/8 inch wide and looks really spiffy, although the enlarged view in the photo shows the minor imperfections, which are not noticeable in the actual stitching.
TIP:  Test before using this stitch on your fine appliqué.  Every machine is different.

When using the preset it is still possible to make adjustments to stitch length and width according to your needs and preferences.  The preset is only a starting point for the correct stitch.  My Viking machine has three presets:  narrow, medium and wide.

Have fun with this useful stitch from your lexicon of decorative options.

Monday, August 11, 2014


I quilt.  I love to quilt.  I quilt almost every day.  Sometimes I cannot get to my sewing machine as now because I have a lovely 16 year old granddaughter staying in my sewing room at the moment.  We have been to a quilt talk, have taken some hikes, and will visit a college and wander through a quilt show.

The summer is winding down and I am thinking of winter when I sew daily, but also have time for photography and digital painting.  Here is a painting that I did of a sleek, black cat in whose home I lived for several years until his favorite person, my daughter, married and took him with her.  He was a character as are most cats.

I painted this on the computer from one of my photos.  By learning this technique I have eliminated the need for space and ventilation required for oil painting.  No fuss, no mess and just as much fun.

I will return next week with a tutorial about designing spiral quilts.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Quilt Colorado Part II

I promised a few more photos from the Quilt Colorado Show.  Enjoy them.

This is called "Diamond in the Rough" and I love the colors and contrast. The gradations just suck you in.  Janice Johner received a Meritorious award.
Diamond in the Rough by Janice Johner. Meritorious.

Lots of beautiful appliqué on this large quilt won Mary Ross 2nd place in the Large Appliqué category.    Detail of the center is below.
Mary's Timeless Rose by Mary Ross - 2nd place Appliqué Large

See those hummingbirds? - my favorite flying flower.
Detail of Mary's Timeless Rose.

Here is another quilt that caught my eye because of the bright colors.
Flutter Garden by Jo Ann Kilgroe, quilted by Jessica Jones Gamez - Meritorious
An amazing quilt was made in honor of this man's retirement from active military service.  It was a wonderful recognition of his service and had so much to look at and admire.

Military Career Quilt by Busaba McDermott
David Taylor won the 1st for Small Appliqué with Did you Wash your Beak?  Another remarkable quilt by this talented artist.

Finally, yours truly with "Butterflies in My Garden" which won 3rd in the Small Appliqué category.

Butterflies in My Garden by Mardi Carter - 3rd place Small Appliqué

It was a great show and we had a lot of fun meandering around the display of gorgeous quilts.