Sunday, December 18, 2016

my last pillow

As the year comes to a close so does the Pillow Swap Four Seasons. This swap started two years ago as an idea shared by Sandra at Hohenbrunnquilterin (Munich, Germany) and myself to bring a little bit of seasonal cheer into our homes and the quilting/swapping community. We envisioned the group as a forum to share creativity and help with the sewing/pillow-making process.

We met a lot of really great ladies who participated in the group, shared their design-making process, and delivered amazing, excellent quality decorative pillows. It was a wonderful experience! I know I am repeating myself from my previous post, but I am going to miss this group!

I wanted to share the last pillow that I made in the group for my partner, Andrea.

Sneak Peek of Last Pillow

A lot of time and thought usually goes into my pillows, quilts and designs. I generally design specifically for my partners or recipients, because I want them to be happy and enjoy what I have made for them. Sometimes, I get it right, and sometimes I totally miss it. That can happen. : ) For my last Pillow Swap Partner, I decided to go with her inspiration mosaic completely and picked one pillow in particular which she had also posted on a previous mosaic for another swap. Can you guess which one it is?

Since my partner loved traditional red and green for Christmas, I knew my direction and wanted to complete the design with a scrappy look.

Starting Fabric Palette

I still had some lovely Kate Spain Charms as well as "Evergreen" leftover from last year's pillow that I made for Rosemarie in our swap.

Double Cathedral Window Pillow for Rosemarie - PS4S 2015

I analyzed the design from Andrea's mosaic and recreated it with EQ7 - my great program to design quilts and print paper piecing patterns. I have the full-blown designer version, but there is a new, mini program on the market which costs half as much and is great for beginners and newbies wanting to design quilts - EQ Mini. The Electric Quilt Company is always having sales, so you can usually find great deals too. If you live in Europe/Germany, I am thinking about providing training classes to those of you who have the program and want to learn how to use it. : )

Here is the design recreated by me. I do not know who to credit for this design; there was no credit information on Andrea's collage. If you know who originally designed it, please tell me, so I can give credit where credit is due.It reminds me very much of the first pillow I made in our pillow swap in 2015.

Framed Kaleidoscope - Recreated in EQ7

I didn't want to use white fabric in this pillow, but decided on a shimmering, metallic Essex Yarn Dyed Linen that I bought from the Fat Quarter in the summer instead. Please be careful when ironing any RK linen fabrics; they have a tenancy to shrink if your iron is too hot. Some of you know I don't like to iron my fabric too much....I like a warm iron without steam when pressing my patchwork. For straightening my fabrics and getting rid of creases, I use steam but I still use a warm iron. I actually have a non-steam iron that I use when creating patchwork.

I don't normally pre-cut fabric templates when foundation piecing, but when you try to make those scraps work one more time, you get a little creative.

My Chaotic Mess when Creating

The sixteen 4 1/2" FPP (foundation paper-pieced) blocks were made in a couple of days. I was extremely early making the pillow, but I knew I had a lot of appointments in November. I felt really good about the way it was coming together.

16 - Four and One-Half Inch FPP Blocks

Although the design is scrappy, I decided to keep a unity in the middle with two green triangles and two white/silver triangles. It created a slight challenge in the end to balance the entire pillow top and still maintaining the unity of the center squares.

Keeping in mind, I only had one FQ of Robert Kaufman Essex Yarn Dyed Linen, I had to precut my strips to make sure I had enough in the end. This is probably one of the first times, it actually worked too.

As for most pillows, I love the look of piping especially in a contrasting color. I thought this pillow would look lovely with piping as well. I always have a bit of trouble when making piping. I know I should make 1 3/4 inch piping from bias strips, but I am too frugal. I make straight 1 1/4 inch piping and always get myself in a pickle when trying to apply it to the pillow top. I know there is a tool out there too for cutting your piping to exact size after it is made, but again, I am too frugal.

On to the quilting...I used a clear mono filament top thread and polyester white bottom thread and stitched in the ditch. Usually before quilting, I sandwich my top, batting (fusible Pellon 987F thin) and a white inexpensive (IKEA) cotton fabric. I increase my stitch length to 3.0 from 2.5 standard on my Pfaff 2046 Quilt Expressions.I opted to quilt in the ditch to really let the design come out.. That lovely "hand-stitching" is a special quilting stitch on my machine. I have tried numerous times to get it to work for me, but it never would.

**Stitch #27 is a traditional hand quilting stitch.**
To achieve this look correctly, you will need to use clear mono filament on the top and a thicker thread on the bottom. Decrease the tension on your spool about 1/16 to 1/8 of a rotation or five degrees counterclockwise if you can do so on your bobbin spooler of your machine. The red thread you see is actually the bottom bobbin thread....not the top thread. The top thread is clear and becomes invisible on the linen.

Machine Stitching all the Way

For the back of the pillow, I decided to go with a cute pin-striped fabric with traditional red/green. I love striped fabrics and usually save them for binding or piping, but this looks terrific too.

Back of Pillow with Covered Zipper

The stripes got a little wonky in the end when putting in the zipper, but still matches (for the most part).

Covered Zipper and Matching Pin-Stripes

So there she is ladies and gentlemen. You can start to see just a bit of the shimmering fabric from the front in the previous photograph, but it sparkles so much more in natural lighting. Sorry I couldn't capture it better.

The Full Monty - Christmas Framed Kaleidoscope Pillow for Andrea

It was really a pleasure sewing for Andrea. I didn't put myself under pressure when sewing this pillow and allowed ample time to finish. It takes time to make beautiful, quality items. It makes me happy to sew for others and to warm their hearts. I think Andrea enjoyed the pillow as well.

Happy and Safe Holidays everyone! May your days with family, friends, or quality time for yourself bring you peace and joy. We'll see each other next year!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

pillow swap four seasons - a wonderful experience

Hi everyone! The closing round of Pillow Swap Four Seasons is coming to a close. All pillows have been shipped and more than half have been received. I have to admit too, I have gotten very sad over the last few weeks, because our group is breaking up. Sandra (hohenbrunnquilterin) and I decided not to extend the swap another year. We had two very successful years of designing and quilting pillows for one another four times a year for two years in a row. Instead of going out with a whimper, we wanted to go out with a bang!

These last two years have been really incredible, too. I never imagined to have met such warm and loving women who share exactly the same interests as I do. I am ever grateful for this exchange of knowledge, skills, friendship, camaraderie, as well as warm hearts and pure love from each and every participant in our group.

It is not easy running a swap. Some of you out there know what it takes to be a swap mama, because you are one. It takes a lot of time, energy, and organization as well as people-person skills and flat out patience. The organization was never really a problem for me, but my soft skills could be better. I am not a fluffy person and sometimes get down to the nitty gritty pretty fast. I know this is a major failure/negative point about me. I know it and try to change this behaviour when I think about it. Sandra, the real leader of this swap, on the other hand has magnificent soft skills. She is what held this group together, especially when my fluttered brain didn't see things clearly, she knew exactly what was going on. An incredible thank you goes out to you, Sandra! Thank you for helping me through these two years by keeping me straight especially when I was wrong.

A big thank you to all of my the people whom I wrongly accused of not shipping on time too or mixing up names of people who sent me a pillow. Man, am I a total idiot when I insult a quilter by thanking someone else; I did that!! Of course I apologized, but it didn't make it any better, from my side that is. I think she took it much better than I would have.

Sometimes I got a little disappointed when I received a brief thank you in the headlines of a posted photograph of my received package. All a lot of thought went into every pillow I designed especially  for each partner I've had. Although I like to incorporate a bit of me into my designs, most of the pillows were truly drawn from the inspiration mosaics from my partners.

Here are all of the pillows made over the last two years for my partners:

Spring 2015 for Dorrie
Summer 2015 for Rita
Fall 2015 for Bettina
Winter 2015 for Rosemarie
I learned how to sew a covered zipper, make covered button, make a double cathedral window, learned about color value, understood the power of scraps.

Then there was 2016....
Spring 2016 for Julia
Summer 2016 for Sabrina
Fall 2016 for Ines
Winter 2016 for Andrea (Stay tuned for more photos.)
I learned my style and how to use contrast to make a design pop. I learned how to make two different kinds of piping - cross grain and bias as well as keeping my stash stocked always have to be ready for the unexpected.

Then I helped making some angel pillows...

2015 for Astrid
2016 for Wendi
I learned the rainbow colors and starting using their color order to influence design.

And then there were those two special pillows I made for Sandra (hohenbrunnerquilterin)...

2015 - Winterverwirrung
2016 - Playful Plus
I learned that I could stitch in the ditch without it looking terrible. And I learned how to make foundation paper piecing to my advantage.

So over the last two years, I have extremely improved my pillow making skills! I even learned how to make buttonholes (but still needs a lot of practice. I learned that I love piping and dislike binding on my pillows.) I also love a covered zipper to keep everything nice and tidy inside. I learned to make a pillow just a little smaller than the size of the insert to make the design stand out better.

Once again...I am going to miss everyone from this group! Thank you for your kindness and your support. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!