It has been a long time since I’ve written a blog with lots of pictures of projects I’ve been working on. I quilted a lot last year. It was my therapy when everything seemed to be going south in my life. Even a stitch or two, here and there, gave me a few minutes of clarity and peace.
My guild’s vice-president issued a challenge last year. Matthew challenged us to make a mini-quilt each month, roughly 12 x 12-inches square, to reflect a theme that he would give us. With some of these themes, he’d issue an additional challenge, such as use a technique you never have before, or use a certain color.
I love a challenge, and even with everything going on in my life, I couldn’t say no. I started out obeying the 12 x 12-inch standard; however, pretty soon that became merely a suggestion and not a rule — not only with me, but with a lot of my guild friends. The mini quilts were never smaller. Many times they were bigger as the design would dictate. By the end of 2018 they had became wall hangings. I had a ton of fun and my binding game really improved as well as my domestic machine quilting. I also worked out quite a few of these designs using my EQ8 software, so I also had the opportunity to get proficient on that. All of the quilts I made are below, along with what I learned along the way.
Matthew announced the challenge in January, so our first mini-quilt was for February. At this point, you can see that I stuck to the 12 x 12-inch size. I paper pieced hearts for this this month and I learned that you really must pay attention when a design needs to be reversed. This pattern is one I designed using the EQ8 software.
March’s challenge was to use green. I’ve always thought that green and purple played well together, and I love my basket weave binding. This little quilt was completely pieced. Now let me set that sentence in perspective. Do you remember that blog I wrote about atrophied skills? That warning came into full play at this point. Prior to making this quilt I had paper pieced two huge quilts – The Farmer’s Wife and The Halo Medallion. My piecing skills were sub-par of my expectations and standards. What should have been a 12 x 12-inch quilt meandered out to 13-inches. I am happy that my points all meet, but oy-vey. At this point I began to push my piecing skills again.
For April I came up with a sweet Sunbonnet Sue block. Sue has always been one of my favorite quilt characters. The challenge for April was to use some kind of embellishment. The applique on this block was raw edge and I used the machine applique stitch as part of the quilting process. Since April showers were called for, I had Sue taking a stroll through the rain and I used crystals as the raindrops. That fulfilled the embellishment part of the challenge.
If April showers bring May flowers, then I did well with this block. Of all the mini-quilts I made, I had the most fun with this one. It came from a pattern in EQ8 that I modified slightly. At this point, you can tell I was definitely straying from the 12 x 12-inch rule. The background is pieced with blue batiks and the flowers were just a delight to applique. Matthew asked us to use a technique we’ve never done before as part of May’s challenge. When you’ve been quilting as long as I have, that in itself can be a challenge. By now, I’ve tried almost everything I’ve wanted to undertake. The stuff I haven’t done yet is generally techniques I simply don’t want to try. However, I’ve always wanted to use painter’s tape as a guide for quilting and that’s what I did with this quilt. Did I like this new-to-me technique? Absolutely. So much so that I now have blue painter’s tape in every width available. Old quilters can be taught new tricks and they may even like them.
For June, we were told that the block had to represent either a place we’ve been on vacation or want to go to get away from it all. Of all the quilts I did in 2018, this represents me the most. Anytime I go on vacation, I want the ocean, quilt shops, coffee shops, wine shops, friends, and family. It doesn’t seem like a get-away unless all of these come into play. I went narrow and long on this quilt and ended up putting thick books under my small quilt rack so that the thing would hand straight.
July was red, white, and blue or anything patriotic. Again, I turned to EQ8 (I had the most fun with that program this year) and came up with this. The Applique Society used this as their cover quilt picture for July on their members-only Facebook page – and I was very honored. I really enjoyed appliqueing the stars on this one.
By August I was challenging myself in all kinds of ways. I quilted the block in a crosshatch pattern before I appliqued it. And again, I used the applique stitch as part of the quilting process. The EQ8 program was once more used to design this sweet block. There were tiny circles and paisleys and I employed the embroidery stitches on Big Red to make the tiniest circles on the butterfly and the watering can. Up to this point, this has been the most challenging mini-quilt I had made in 2018.
September was a bit of a tossup for me. As a former high school chemistry teacher, September always meant lesson plans, school rooms, and labs. At some sweet spot in my career, I received a paper piecing pattern that had the molecule for coffee in it. I nearly made that but thought that only a few people would truly understand that quilt. Instead I opted for apples. This was made from a down-loadable pattern from Keepsake Quilting. I’ve rarely use red in any quilt (except Christmas ones), but I gotta say, I’m in love with the red in these apples. I think red will be showing up in more of my quilts.
There was no doubt that October meant Halloween and this little quilt was fun from start to finish. The Jack O’ Lantern came from my EQ8 software. I added a gray kitty for Sam and threw the whole thing on a purple background. I quilted a spider web in the background and bound it with fabric that had candy corn on it. I also used the same fabric for backing. As soon as Meagan saw it, she claimed it. I haven’t given it to her, but I will probably end up making two more – one for her and one for my son.
By November, I was itching to go big or go home. Since the wall in my home’s entrance was could use a bit of updating, I decided to make a fall wall hanging. This pattern came from The Big Book of Table Toppers published by The Patchwork Place (which is a really wonderful book to have in your library). I cut the quilt out at home and took it with me to retreat to finish. I appliqued it by hand using the Apliquick method and began quilting it at retreat on Big Red.
December could have meant so many things. I love a good old-fashioned looking Santa. I love stockings and candy canes and presents. I love going home and spending time with my family. I love get togethers with my friends that have become like family. But the Heart of Christmas means the most. I wanted to do something different. At some point in time I saw a quilt with a similar block in it. I cannot remember the designer (if you know, please tell me so I can give him or her credit), but I love the block. To me it means you can have all the traditions you want, as long as you know the real meaning of the season. Everything else pales in comparison to the Baby in the Manger.
The last quilt was for January. I decided I wanted to go with a snow theme and found this wonderful pattern in Fons and Porter’s Our Best Seasonal Quilts. The applique on this thing is outrageous. Remember cutting out paper snowflakes in grade school? This is very similar and allllllll those tiny spaces that show white through the snowflake alllllll had to be cut out. And then stitched around. It was challenging, but fun. I quilted it with Superior Threads Metallics #31. It gave the top a sparkle but didn’t give it too much “bling” factor. I did alter the pattern and omitted the mitered border, so I could make the quilt bigger than the pattern called for.
There you go… my year in stitches. I learned so much. I got the chance to push myself creatively as a quilter and it opened up my mind to new ideas I had never entertained before. It was fun and challenging. And that’s what a good challenge should be. If you’ve never participated in a quilt challenge, there’s all kinds of ones out there on quilt sites, in magazines, and of course in conjunction with a local guild. I encourage you to try one or three. They can teach you so much about quilting and yourself.
Until next week, Quilt with Passion!
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam