Be Free Bees: Nichol’s addition finished

My addition to Nichol‘s block for the free form robin has been completed and mailed off to the next person who will work on it.  It was nice to check that off my “to do” list, which is way too long, and which I am trying to check things off faster than I add to them right now!

Here’s where I started:

And this is what I sent off:

Last week, I talked about my creative process and how I get from “A” to “B” when working on a project like this.

At that point, I had completed four of those New York Beauty blocks.  I since finished another four.  Here they are, all together.  I’m really proud of these “beauties” because they are paper pieced, which is a more advanced quilting technique (I think) and they have curves, which can be tricky.  Not to mention, these blocks are only 5.5 inches square, so those inner curves are pretty tight.  They are not perfect by any means, and you can see that they don’t all lay perfectly flat, but I love them nonetheless.

When I last talked about this project, I was in the process of thinking about the layout of my addition and whether or not to add a border to the inside of the bits I was adding.  The consensus of the few comments I got here and on flickr was that the border would be a nice addition, so I added a small, solid border in an orange-red that I used in some of the blocks.

Originally, I had planned to add my blocks to the top and right of Nichol’s quilt, but I got turned around when sewed on the first piece (this is what happens when you sew late at night) and rather than take out the seam, I just moved the positioning.

The beauty of this free form group project is there is complete freedom to do whatever works.

This is my favorite part of my addition.  I love how the yellow with the blue points changes place in the adjacent block to blue with yellow points.  The points don’t line up precisely, but I think that will be hardly noticeable in the finished project.

I’m looking forward to seeing what becomes of this project as it grows over the next several months and I wonder how my little starter piece is doing …

How to design a quilt block

Okay, so “how to design a quilt block” is maybe a little too general.  What I’m actually going to tell you is how I designed the block I’m making for the current quarter of the 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee.

I talked about how this online quilt bee works last quarter (before I moved all my sewing related posts over here), which was my first participating, but here’s a quick refresher.  I’m in a group with 5 other ladies (men could play, too, but quilters tend to be women).  We each indicate our color choices and a background color (usually white, ivory, gray, black).  I make 5 quilt blocks of the same design, using the specific color choices of my group members in each block.  They, in turn, do the same, and I receive 5 quilt blocks of different designs, all in my chosen color scheme.  Four times a year, the deadline occurs and then the groups change.

This time, I started out sketching two possible block designs.  

I love the stars.  And I thought I was being all clever and original with the 3 different sized stars in the same block.  Ha!  As we were chatting about our blocks in the group forum, Sarah mentioned that she was thinking about stars for her block as well.  She had already picked a star block.  It’s published in a book called Modern Blocks.  It’s called Stargazing.


Yeah, pretty much the same block I drew.  As I don’t ever recall seeing it before I drew it, I’m not as clever and original as I thought I was, it seems.

Anyway.  On to Plan B.  The stacked bricks design.  But I didn’t really like that little rectangle-in-a-diamond on the left of the above drawing.  So I kept playing with that concept.  That resulted in a couple more sketches.

The first one was too cluttered.  The second one also wasn’t making me very excited, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what about it turned me off.  I kept playing and sketching and ended up with the concept of two rows of bricks “moving” in the same direction, and I added a little separation between each brick.  And now they look like stair steps to me.

The next page in my notebook is completely unrelated; I just threw in another possible design.  Looks like a patchwork river to me; I may revisit this idea later.

And, we’re back to the double staircases.  I drew out the design again, this time trying to figure out what would work in terms of size and placement of all the pieces.  I had to determine how big I wanted the “steps” (width + height), how much I wanted them to overlap with one another, how much background fabric I wanted separating them both horizontally and vertically, etc.

Okay, now that I’ve determined my proportions of all the parts, I now have to figure out the best way to cut out the fabric and put it together.  I spend the next four pages working on that.

Finally, I arrive at the cutting layout here, on the left.  Ta da!  (see how I even put a star on the page?  A star.  Like a 2nd grade spelling test.  I gave myself a star.  Good job … me?  *rolls eyes*.  I digress … )

And after all that, we get to: the manifestation of the design in fabric.  Hooray!

In this particular design, the block is the same right-side up and upside down.  The spacers of background fabric are below the bottom 4 rectangles of color and above the upper 4 rectangles of color.

I’m already thinking about a variation of this block into a whole quilt design where the spacer of background fabric is always on the bottom, for example, and then the steps will continue to climb without interruption across a whole quilt.  Perhaps a rainbow of stairs?  I’m thinking this would be a great project to use those color wheel charm squares I’m expecting.  It just so happens that the stairs are cut at 5 inches wide, the exact width of a charm square.

My creative process

The free form quilt bee in which I’m currently participating is great for working on my creativity.  Because the whole idea of this group project is “anything goes,” it’s a great exercise to really allow myself to explore creatively through fabric.  This is only month 3 of 8 and I’m already having a great time with this project.

For the month of March, I have Nichol‘s quilt to add to.  I thought I’d take you through what’s been going on in my mind as I work on her addition.

Here is what arrived in the mail:

Part of this group project is a project journal.  We each included a small journal with our starter block and the intention is that each person who works on this quilt will share a little something about her process, what she added, what inspired her about the quilt.  This is what I wrote in Nichol’s journal:

First impressions: the quilt looks really “fresh.”  I think the yellow + green additions really amplify that.  I’m tuning in to the theme of curves a little bit: the arch of the butterflies’ wings, the little circles in the first fram around the center butterfly, the centers of the flowers, the bicycles tires.  Not to mention Bernie’s lovely curved addition to your project.  

Perhaps 3 quarters of a circle around one of the corners, some circle appliqués along the side … 

My first step was to pull some fabric out of my stash that I thought would coordinate with this project.  When working on something like this, that also sometimes means purchasing a little bit of fabric if there’s something I think is missing.  In this case, though, I had everything on hand.

When I was thinking about circles, I thought perhaps some sort of arch would be a nice addition.  I had Katie‘s mini quilt in the back of mind.  Then I decided to try a New York Beauty block.  There has been a lot of recent chatter in the blogging-quilting community recently about a New York Beauty quilt along (every one makes a block, with a different blogger hosting a new block each week) and I was definitely inspired by a few different blog posts relating to those blocks.

The New York beauty blocks are paper pieced and thus a touch more difficult/time consuming than a “normal” quilt block (that’s relative, of course), so I originally thought I would just do one in one of the corner and then complete my addition along two sides with something a little easier to construct.

Then, I thought perhaps I would do three New York Beauty blocks to surround one corner.

Then I got sort of carried away as I was cutting them out and ended up with the pieces for eight!  Hmmm … so, I suppose this idea has evolved into all New York Beauty blocks along two sides.

I have completed 4 of these lovlies so far.  So, I’m already half way finished with my goal number.  I did stay up until after midnight last night finishing “just one more,” though.  Oops.

I’m a little bit in love with how they look all together as a completed circle and I will have to keep these blocks in my mind for something for myself or another project in the future.

As for the addition to Nichol’s quilt, it’s looking like this so far.

I think I might add a solid border before I add the New York beauty blocks.  What do you think?  Border or no?  Two sides or all the way ’round?

Be Free Bees: addition for Karen

I introduced the free form quilt bee I’m in when I showed you my starter piece.  Basically, each of the 8 ladies in my group send out a piece to get us going.  Each month, we pass the quilt along and whomever has it that month can add whatever she desires.  Then we pass it to the next person.  At the end of 8 months, you get your quilt back with the additions off all the group members.

For February, I was working on a block for Karen, who is from Wisconsin.

Karen was very prompt and sent her starter out well before the end of January.  I received it, looked at it, and thought about it.  And thought about it some more.  And drew some things on paper.  And scratched them out.  And finally, an entire month later, I actually began sewing (but finished and mailed before the February 29th deadline, so all is well!).

The block I received was this, the Wisconsin state block (sans the black sashing).  The reason the black sashing was added was because I made the first part of my addition without measuring the block first.  Doh!  Rookie mistake.  I assumed it was a standard 12.5-inch unfinished block.  Nope.  It was trimmed to 11.5 inches.  Anyway, I actually like how it looks with the added sashing, so all it well.

The fish fabric that Karen used made me think of getting out to nature and fishing with my dad when I was kid, which we did along tree-lined lakes in (wouldn’t ya know it!) Wisconsin.  No joke.  Some improvisational trees were in order.

I kind of love them.  Aren’t they cute?

So, we’ve got fish and trees, water was the next obvious element in my mind.  {side track warning}  A couple years ago, I saw a wall hanging in a quilt shop in my home town.  It was really cool and had 3-dimentional water with fish in it.  It stood out to me so much that I asked my mom to go back to the shop and take some photos for me.  That idea has been simmering in my head for nearly two years, just waiting for the perfect application.  This was it!

I am so excited about how this turned out.  The background fabric is actually a water print I had in my fabric stash, and the 3-D elements were created with a blue tiny dot and a hand-dyed look green batik.

I added the black sashing across the entire side (Wisconsin block + trees) so that future members of the group can continue it elsewhere as a design element or not.  It is arranged so that the trees can be placed sideways with the water below, or the trees can be upright with the water to the side.  It just depends on how our other group members are inspired.

Oh, and Fiona had my starter this month.  She took my little birds and made them birds in a tree!  You can see them here.

Tree block inspiration

I joined a group on Flickr called Bee a {modern} swapper.  Basically, the premise is this: every other month, we alternate exchanging quilting blocks (an online quilt bee); and on the opposing months, there is a swap of some handmade item that you are welcome to join (or not).  During each of the bee block months, one member of the group is the “Queen Bee” and all other members of the group make her (or him) two quilt blocks to her specifications.  Thus, during your month being “queen bee,” you receive 10 quilt blocks (2 from each other member of your group).

The schedule of fun for the year looks like this:

February: Pin Cushion Swap
March: Bee Block Month
April:  Pot Holder Swap
May:  Bee Block Month
June:  Pillow Swap
July:  Bee Block Month
August:  Hoopie Swap
September:  Bee Block Month
October:  Mini Quilt Swap
November:  Bee Block Month
December:  Secret Santa Swap
January:  Bee Block Month

I joined the first month pin cushion swap, and that resulted in my Pin Cushion Caddy Tutorial.  We were asked to hold off mailing until closer to the end of the month, so I’ll send that lovely out Monday.  I can’t wait to see what my (secret) partner came up with for me!

Meanwhile, I have the honor of being the Queen Bee for the first bee block month in March.  I decided that I want to make a little tree quilt wall hanging and made this inspiration mosaic to give my group members some ideas.

1. Blue Tree, 2. BBC February blocks- trees on white… Group #1, 3. Bonus Triangles Central Park Tree Block for Kari, 4. Mod Trees Quilt Block, 5. Tree Block- Rainbow, 6. Fall Tree Block, 7. January Blocks Quilting NewBees, 8. Tree for Carmen, 9. Sunni’s Tree Block, 10. tree swap block, 11. tulip tree for Melissa, 12. BBC February blocks- trees on white… Group #2

If you’re interested in attempting a tree block of your own, or just want to see how it’s done, check out these tutorials:

*This one is great because there are several different sorts of trees at the bottom of the post.
*This tutorial is for overlapping squares, but just add a trunk at the bottom and (bam!) you have a tree.
*Here’s a fun way to do trunk and branches, but I think I would like it more with more leaves.
*Scrappy tiling would make a lovely treetop.
*The tutorial for the tree with the paisley-looking leaves on the bottom left of my mosaic is here.
*You could try a ticker tape tree. Basically, you just slap some scraps on your background fabric and stitch it down. Looks like this.
*A couple other good tutorials for evergreen type trees can be found here and here.

Bee Happy

My first ever round of an online quilt bee is all wrapped up.  All the blocks I made are in the hands of their intended recipients, and I have received four marvelous blocks in my own color scheme in the mail!

This particular online bee, the 4×5 Modern Quilt Bee, works like this.  Each quarter (so 4 times per year, the “4” of the “4×5”), participants in that round are placed in a “beehive” with 5 other quilters (the “5” part of the equation).  Each participant requests a particular color scheme.  Each member of the beehive will make 5 blocks of the same pattern, in 5 different color schemes, one for each other member of the hive.

Since I’ve started dabbling in quilting, I’ve decided I should have a quilt for our bed; a big one.  I’m thinking ahead, planning how I will eventually decorate our bedroom.  For my first round of this quilting bee, I requested those colors, yellow and gray.  They make me so happy.  Here are the four blocks I received, plus two of my own yellow and gray blocks.

I’ve signed up for another round of the 4×5 Bee, but I’ve changed my colors.  I think that this first big quilt for me, should be completed by me.  So, instead, my bee quilt will be for another project, and I’ve gathered an abundance of yellow and gray fabrics that I will use myself.  I can’t wait to play with some of these.  The quilt will be a “sampler quilt” like the bee quilts, so all the blocks will be different, but tied together by the fabrics and colors.

Aren’t they lovely?


Be Free Bees

Did you know people still do quilt bees?  No?  Me neither.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly had a misconception about quilting bees.  The imagery in my head immediately goes to a group of elderly ladies with needle and thread sitting in a circle in a church basement.  They’re having a great time talking about their grandkids, but I definitely do not fit in there (I AM their grandkid) and the quilt they’re working on is definitely NOT to my taste.  You there with me?  Okay, now come here.  

The ladies working on the quilts in this quilting bee are in their 30s (and 20s and 40s and 60s … ).  They are quilting on digital sewing machines using bright fabrics with modern designs.  Mostly, they sew on their own, but the social aspect of the quilting bee is not in the church basement, but with online friends, where they mail bits of quilts all around the country and the world, so in the end, they have the aspect of working on one quilt, together, as a quilting bee.  They share photos and ideas and discuss the projects online.

My first experience with the modern, online based quilting bee was the 4×5 Bee, where I made blocks for 5 other quilters over the course of one quarter, and they each made a block for me, in my chosen colors.  (I’ll post soon about the awesome blocks I received.)  I’ve already signed up for the first quarter of 2012 in that quilting bee and will be getting my “hive” assignment soon.

Meanwhile, in an effort to keep my creative muscles fresh, I joined a Free Form Quilt Bee.  I was a bit tentative at first because I didn’t really know what to expect, but the concept intrigued me.  Basically, I send out a starter piece of a quilt, and over the course of the next several months, the quilters in my group add to it however they see fit, thus the “free form” aspect of this project.  Each month, my (larger and larger) starter piece will be mailed on to someone else to add a little something to it.  At the end of August, I will get back a much larger project.

I intend for this quilt to be a wall hanging for the girls, either in their bedroom, or in the playroom.  I went through several ideas and finally settled on birds.  I started pulling out bird fabrics and was actually surprised by how many I had!  I framed them all in bright colors and came up with this:

Next up: a signature block.  Each person who works on this quilt will sign a bird, so when the project is finished, this will be incorporated in to the back so I will have a memento of all the hands that helped to complete my quilt.

For this group, we also decided, collectively, that we would include a little journal with our starter blocks to be sent along to each stop.  The intention is to share our inspirations and creative processes so that the owner of the quilt knows where each addition originated.

I happened to have this little bird stamp, which fit perfectly in with this project.  I will have photo updates over the course of the next several months, but I can’t wait to see how it looks when it comes back to me.  It’s all packaged up and ready to mail to the UK tomorrow!

Finishing 4×5 Bee blocks, Q4

The deadline for the 4×5 Quilt Bee blocks is this week and I finished up my blocks yesterday, a full 5 days early.  Yahoo!

I’m calling the block I designed “sunset squared” because the upper part reminds me of sun rays and the squares, well, that’s obvious, right?

I finished Tina’s first, followed by Jen’s.

Katherine‘s colors were cardinal and robin’s egg blue, but she clarified by saying “any red that isn’t orange” and “any blue that isn’t primary.”  Here’s her block:

I really struggled with Pam’s color choices, “ash, pomegranate and sage,” probably more than I should have.  Pomegranate and sage aren’t colors that I tend to buy for myself, based on what was already in my stash, but I really wanted her to have a block that she would really like.  I definitely over-thought it.  She indicated that she was referring to the Kona solid colors when she chose them but she really would be happy with any interpretation of the colors.  Anyway, Kona’s sage is the solid bluish green in the block below.  Pomegranate is a red with some definite pink tones.  I sure hope she likes it!

I had a couple members in my “bee hive” ask me about how I put the block together, so it might be a good time for a tutorial on this blog.