Recently in Blooming Batik 9 Patch Quilt Category

Blooming 9 Patch Quilted

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Well, if my neighbors were harboring any small hope that the lady next door might be normal, those hopes were sorely dashed as I searched for ways to take picture of my finished Blooming 9 Patch.  Do you know how hard it is to find a place to photograph a queen-sized  (almost king sized) quilt in good light when you don't have a wide house or a big back yard?

20100502_Blooming9Back.jpgFirst, the easy photo.  I chose a dark blue batik (it looks a little "overexposed" in this picture) for the back and a modern geometric design for the quilting pattern.  The quilting was done with a red thread, and it looks pretty sharp.  The binding was a colorful batik print that picked up colors in both the backing and the dark border prints.  Instead of a standard cotton batting, I opted for a superwash wool batting, since the destination room for this quilt can get a little chilly. 

20100502_Blooming9KingBed.jpgHere is my first attempt at a picture -- on my own bed.  I made this quilt with the queen-sized bed in my guest bedroom in mind, but it almost covers my king-sized bed (it need about 6" on either edge t make it workable).  I was hoping to be able to get a good picture to give some scale, but I just couldn't get far enough away.  

20100502_Blooming9FrontYard.jpgThe next photo attempt was in my front yard.  I think I was actually standing on top of a wall to take this photo (doing the sort of thing that I would tell my kid she couldn't do).  The overcast day made it a good day for taking pictures to help show what the colors look like in natural light.  But I still wasn't able to get a good top down perspective.  Made me think I needed to have a picnic -- on the most over the top picnic blanket I could ever imagine.

20100502_Blooming9Deck.jpgThis final photo was taken from the balcony above my deck, standing on a chair so I could get just enough height to get (almost) the whole quilt in frame (the bottom horizontal edge is a bit clipped).   Unfortunately, I didn't include anything that would help create a sense of scale, but at least the color flow is clear.  I'm rather pleased with the color flow, though I do wish I'd gotten a bit more of that dark batik on the edge and had a more solid dark border to finish it off.   

I'm going to call this one a happy success.  I think it will be a great addition to my guest room -- if I let it live down there.  Part of me wants to find a way to have it in a place where it would be more prominently displayed. 

After the kiddo saw the pictures, she asked me if she could sleep with it.  So I guess that means I better get a move on and get some more effort in on the twin-sized quilt I have planned for her for when she graduates to a "big girl" bed.


Fire is Blooming

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20100221_Blooming9PatchComp.jpgBlooming Batik 9 Patch -- "Fire"

This picture makes my heart sing.   My Blooming 9 Patch in Fire inspired Batiks and Prints is complete.   The finished quilt is 83" x 93" (making it very hard to find a good place to lay it out for pictures) without a border.  Since The only border that would make sense is the same fabric as makes up the dark edge bits and I wasn't smart enough to think about stashing a few yards of that when I started the project, I don't think this quilt will have a border beyond what you see here. 

When it comes to quilting, I know that I am not and will never be a technical artist.  The truth is, I don't really have much desire to actually do the quilting part, and I doubt that I will ever be a truly sophisticated user of my sewing machine.  What makes me so gleefully happy about this project is the color and how it came together.  When I first started knitting, I was really in awe of people who could work well and design well with color. Making a quilt top, for me, is about the color study.

My goal for this project (as I mentioned in a previous post) was to work with a color pallette out of my standard zone (blues, greens, purples) and to try to evoke an idea.  I have always shied away from yellows, reds and oranges. I don't wear colors with yellow undertones very well, so don't tend to work with them in my knitting.  But a quilt project is the perfect place to play with colors like that, since a housewear item doesn't have to complement my skin tone.  So I started with that notion and decided that I wanted to evoke the idea of warmth and fire. 

The fabric in this quilt is mostly composed of batiks -- batiks are my first love when it comes to fabric.  I gravitate to them like I gravitate to silk yarns when I knit.  However, there are a few standard prints in there as well  (mostly in the red zone).  Were I to do it again, I think I would select all batiks, because the properties of the batik and standard cottons were different enough that in some places is made the sewing more challenging than it needed to be.

I'm still deciding on the backing, but leaning heavily towards black minkee so that it will have a bit more soft and inviting quality to it.  

Half A Quilt

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Well, I just couldn't leave that dreadful picture of my laundry room at the top of my page for too much longer.  So instead, I present the first half of my Blooming 9 Patch in all of it's slightly rumpled glory

The second half took me a little while to get going on, but it's now officially underway.  I have a feeling that when I get this quilt top finished, I'm not going to want to share it with my guest room. 

I'm already trying to decide what kind of backing it's going to get... after putting the minkee on the back of Z's quilt, I'm very tempted by the idea of giving it a black minkee backing of it's own...

Blooming 9 Patch Progress

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I've been sewing up a storm when it comes to my Blooming 9 Patch Project.  This is the first half of the quilt (the strips are sewn together from the center outwards).  In truth, I've actually finished sewing the first half, but haven't had a good opportunity (or location) to take a good picture of half a queen-sized quilt. 

While pinning the strips together is a little mind numbing and fussy, the results make the effort worth while.  My horizontal seams are really incredibly good (at least for me... I am sure there are spots where an experienced quilter would be less happy with) and the effect is to really make this quilt look like it is made up of pieced together blocks instead of strip pieces. 

So far, this project has also been very visually inspiring for me.  The bright yellow morphing through a progression of colors out to a deep blue edging.  I imagined this quilt with "fire" in mind, the dark colors meant to evoke both the blues that sometimes show up in flame as well as the embers and it still reads that way to me.  One of the first times that I've used color to try to express a theme -- and feel that I've done it successfully, at least to my own eye.

Must. Quilt. NOW.

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Somewhere around mid-afternoon on Saturday it struck me: I absolutely, positively had to start working on a quilt.  Where this notion came from is unclear.  Perhaps it was from tucking Z under her quilt every night for the past year or so?  Perhaps it was seeing my first quilt draped over the back of our love seat everyday?  Perhaps it was just the feeling that it is winter and, thus, time to make blankets?  Clearly the ways of the crafter's brain are sometimes unknowable, even to herself.

I was working on my Blooming 9 Patch up until about April, 2007. I started this quilt as a part of a workshop at Quiltology, back when I was both pregnant and still had free time to devote to going to a Thursday morning quilting session.  The quilt was ambitious from the point of view of it's final size (it's meant to cover a queen sized bed when finished), but I was completely inspired by the opportunity to dive into a color study focused on batik fabrics in reds and yellows -- colors that I still consider out of my normal range.  This project stalled for a couple of reasons... a new workshop (the one that would result in Z's crib quilt), anticipation of my daughter, and the fact that it was a large project that required reasonably large blocks of time in order to do enough so that i felt I was accomplishing something.   But many quilters I know told me "All quilts have their time.  You'll know when it's time to get back to them."

Since Z was born, quilting, overall, seemed to go by the wayside.  I missed sitting down with my sewing machine, but hot irons, sharp scissors, pins and a need to focus on making nice seams were all incompatible with Z's infancy, and this became even more true as she started to become mobile.  Everything got pushed to the back of the shelf so that she wouldn't get hurt..  and that just made it too much hassle to think about.  She's still rather inquisitive, but, now, she occasionally responds to being told she should leave things alone. 

Saturday afternoon naptime gave me a delightful three hours of pulling things out, setting things up and just generally getting back into the swing of the 9 Patch project.

20100124_Blooming9PatchStri.jpgit was nice to find that I had already sewn together a significant number of the component strips, and even nicer to take them out, iron them and look at how the colors worked together.  There's something distinctly satisfying about pulling out a 3 year old project and still being happy about one's color decisions. 

20100124_ColorStudy.jpgIt took me a few minutes to review the pattern and component parts, but I found that, in spite of the long hiatus, I didn't have much difficulty getting back into the swing of this project.  Amazing how much muscle memory just takes over sometimes as I started seaming squares together.

20100124_9PatchPiecing.jpg I have modest goals for making continued progress on this project.  Weekday time is limited, so I am hoping to dedicate weekend afternoons to it.  I still have 7 long strips to piece together from component squares.  Then all the strips have to be seamed together -- which will probably be the most challenging part since it will require much pinning and fiddling with edges.  But one of the very nice parts about this project, is that because of the way the fabrics and squares blend together, little problems should become relatively invisible in the finished project. 

Welcome back, Quilt Mojo!  I missed you!


The First 8 9-Patch Strips

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The First 8 Pairs of Pieced Strips

So, on Friday, I got to the business of thinking seriously about my Blooming 9 Patch quilt again. I know there are probably faster ways to do this, but I approached it by sewing together all the pieces for one pair of strips (there's symmetry in the strips) and then moving on to the next, starting with the outermost strips and working my way in. I figured this way I could line things up as I went and look for any systematic problems that might be creeping in. It also just turned out to be fun to line up the strips every time I completed a set. The picture only shows how the first 8 pairs would look if I stopped at that point. The first 8 pairs of strips gets you a pretty respectable sized baby quilt/throw. Which goes to show that this design is pretty versatile. But since there are 15 total pairs of strips (and the center pair is actually a trio), I'm not really even halfway done at this point.

The more I work on this project, the more I enjoy watching the colors come together, and the more I like the whole process of piecing a top. Everytime I sit down to sew, I learn something new about my machine or how the process of connecting two pieces of fabric with thread really works. I still have an awful lot to learn, but I can see major improvement from my first project to this one, and that's pretty satisfying to me.

Now... back to my strips!

The Nine Patch Begins to Bloom

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First off, thank you to everyone who left a comment yesterday. I enjoyed reading every one of them. I'm very touched by how many of you were willing to share your own experiences and the positive energy that many of you shared for John and I and the baby. We feel so lucky right now to get to feel her bounce around (yes, John has felt her too, now) and I hope everyone who commented or just comes by to read who is dealing with pregnancy/fertility related issues has good luck now and in the future.

In the meantime, it's not all about the baby chez Biologist. I have made some more progress on my quilt. All of the 9 patches are complete, and all the additional pieces have been cut out. I couldn't resist pulling out my big piece of black felt and laying them out to see what the whole quilt was starting to look like.

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My Blooming 9 Patch Blooms on the Dining Room Floor

My felt wasn't quite wide enough for me to lay out the whole quilt, so when I got towards the end, I just laid out the pieces for one of the short ends so that I could see how the "bloom" was going to look. It's hard to capture the better part of a queen-sized quilt top on camera and still get any detail, but I think the picture does give you a pretty good impression of what is going to happen. I like that there are some areas that stand out as bright (like the center and the band of reddish fabric towards the edge) and that there are areas that are more muted in between them and at the edge. I think if it were all bright, it would be a little bit overwhelming.

So the next step is to get the pieces sewn together. And this is where I've stopped to pause for a bit. My 9 patch squares are supposed to be 4-1/4 x 4-1/4 inches (this is what the solid squares have been cut to be) but in the direction perpendicular to the seams that were used to connect the pieces for the 9 patches, for many of the squares the dimension seems to be closer to 4-1/8 most of the time (the other side is close enough to 4-1/4 for me not to worry about it). So I'm trying to decide what to do. Do I trim my solid color squares? Do I just center my 9 patches on the solid squares as best I can, since it doesn't really matter how much fabric is taken into the seam as long as the blocks line up correctly?

I'm leaning towards the latter option, but wouldn't mind input from the more experienced in the audience...

Transitions

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It was quite an honor to find out how many of you I share morning coffee with. I'm touched by all of your kind words and I hope in the future I will continue to be entertaining and informative.

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Five 9 Patches

I love Thursdays because I get to escape off to Quiltology to work on my quilt project. One of the nice things about being able to take a morning quilt class is that I can spend the rest of the day in the sewing workshop working on my quilt. When I arrived at class this morning I had all of the strips for my small 9 patches cut and I was planning on sewing as many of them together as I could. I made it through the first 5 sets, starting from the inner set. I am getting very excited about this quilt top because I love the color transitions that I am beginning to see more clearly as the pieces come together. I probably would have gotten a bit farther if I hadn't stopped to rip pieces when I wasn't happy with the fabric alignment. I have learned that the seam ripper is my friend and that it's really not much harder to rip sewn seams than it is to rip back a piece of knitting. Certainly, with these little blocks, the process is not all that painful. And one thing that is nice about sewing (as compared to knitting) -- it takes a lot less time to stitch to pieces of fabric together than it does to rip a seam apart.

I'm beginning to find a rhythm in building my quilt top. Part assembly line, part keeping things organized. The sound of the machine broken up with the occasional bits of ironing and fabric arranging are actually rather soothing. And what's nice is that these things can be maintained even while chatting or thinking about other things. When you combine that with all the color that you get to engage with when you put a quilt together, there's a lot of pleasant sensory stimulation. Just about all that is left out is taste... but coffee is just as compatible with quilting as it is with knitting.

And speaking of coffee... a number of folks yesterday commented on my latte. Yes, I did make that latte with my very own coffee machine (I've had this very wonderful machine for almost 5 years... it is one of those machines that I truly love and has given me very good service). What some of you may not know is that my friend Julie is quite the barrista, and an excellent teacher when it comes to coffee preparation. About 6-8 months ago, I got a lesson in frothing/steaming milk. It's actually not all that hard -- I had been making it more difficult than it really is. You do need a machine that produces good steam (I think mine does a great job). It's especially easy when you steam in the cup that you're going to use for your latte instead of one of those metal pitchers. To get that bit of foam on top, you steam the top of the milk first (just enough to get a little foam, you don't need to go crazy) and then move the nozzle down to the bottom of the cup and steam the rest until it is to the right temperature. Then I have the machine pour me two shots and I dump them into the center of the foam at about the same time. Et voila! a latte is born.

9 Patches

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Blooming 9 Patches

The big job after getting all the ironing done was to cut those strips into sections that can be sewn together to make the 9-patches. Even with a good deal of stacked cutting, it took me the rest of Saturday to get everything cut -- nothing like having to make sure that I have 120 small pieces for the outer blocks in the quilt.

The 9 patch squares in the picture above are labelled based on where they are relative to the center. The block labelled 1 is closest to the center, while the block labelled 8 will be closest to the outer edge of the quilt. These 9 patch squares will be the fundamental building blocks for the quilt. The sunshine has washed the colors out a little bit, but otherwise, the photography is pretty true to life.

I wanted to get started on seaming the pieces together, but I wasn't happy with what I was getting from the machine I have at home as compared to when I sewed the strips together in class. So, there will be much 9 patch sewing when I go to my next class on Thursday morning -- 288 9-patches each with two seams. Good thing I bought the enconomy sized spool of thread!

9 Patch Strips

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Since there seems to be some interest in watching me go through the process of putting my Blooming 9-Patch Quilt together, I thought I'd spend most of this week talking about what I'm learning for this project. I'm going to break it up a little bit because otherwise I'd have some very picture-heavy posts in order to show off all the colors. So today I'm going to start with the stuff at the beginning. Some of you folks wanted to see the strips that were going to make up my 9-Patches, so today, that's what's on the menu.

But first, a new toy that I've added to my toy box:

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Rowenta Focus Iron (DZ 5080)

For the past week or so I've been asking the few other quilters and sewers I know about their iron preferences. Most people told me that I should be looking for an iron with some heft, that had an easy to clean plate, stuff that would prevent leakage (if I used the steam) and relatively high wattage. And I got a lot of recommendations for Rowenta and Shark irons. So, armed with my 20% off coupon, I headed to Bed, Bath and Beyond to see what they had. What I ended up with was the Rowenta Focus DZ5080. It wasn't the most expensive model, but it certainly met with all the criteria that people had mentioned for a good iron.

And with the help of my husband, I got an extra good deal. While we were looking through the shelves to find a box that looked like it hadn't been completely mangled or previously opened, we found one labelled $49.99 (instead of $79.99). When we took it up to the register, John was able to convince the folks at the store (in a very polite way) to honor the price on the box. So I got a very nice iron for only $40 (after we used the coupon) and I had a husband who was very pleased with himself since he loves getting a good deal in an honest way (he is also the king of the price match -- don't even try to get in his way when he's buying a piece of consumer electronics... you don't want to play poker with him either). Also, if you're in the market for a Rowenta, BB&B gives you a $15 gift card for purchasing one... so, in effect, this iron ends up being about $25 for me. As soon as I get another one of those 20% off coupons I'm going back to the store to get one of the extra wide ironing boards.

Chuckle. Who would ever think I'd spend this much time talking about shopping for an iron? Enough with that, I think. Onto the quilt.

I realized after I first posted about it, that I never mentioned the book that I am following for the Blooming 9 Patch class.

"Tradition with a Twist" by Blanche Young and Dalene Young Stone is essentially a primer for learning about strip piecing quilts. It provides lots of different quilt models to look at and provides the instructions and helpful hints that you need to get started. The Blooming 9 Patch is one of the quilt projects in the book. The project, as written, will end up being 72" x 82", which is roughly the size of the top of a queen sized bed. Since I wanted mine to fall over the edges of the bed I am adding and extra set of blocks around the outer edge, so mine will be larger. The quilt in the book requires 8 fabrics, mine will use 9 -- the nine that I showed off in my first post about this quilt. All told, I had to purchase about 10 yards of fabric for the quilt top.

The first thing to do (after ironing the fabric) is to use a rotary cutter to cut out a bunch of strips that can be used to make all the little 9 patch squares in this quilt. If you don't know exactly what a 9 patch is, imagine a tic-tac-toe board -- it's 9 squares put together to form a larger square. All of my 9-patches will be a blend of two fabrics. If you number the fabrics 1 through 9, I'll be using the following combinations:

1&2 2&3 3&4 4&5 5&6 6&7 7&8 8&9 to create my 9 patches with. After I cut my strips out, I
will need to sew the strips together in such a way as to help me create 9 patches with alternating colors. Forgive the ASCII art....

A | B | A
-------------
B | A | B
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A | B | A

Where A & B represent any 2 of the fabrics in the pairs I listed above. This means if I was working with fabrics 1 and 2, I'd be creating a set of strips that in the order 1-2-1 and a set of strips in the order 2-1-2 and then cutting them into smaller pieces that will be sewn together to make the 9 patches.

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Blooming 9 Patch Quilt Block Strips

From left to right, these are the strips for all my blocks with the colors on the left being the center color blocks and the colors on the far right being the outer edge colors -- you're only seeing the B-A-B versions of the strips, but hopefully that conveys a bit of the idea of what the quilt is going to look like. I wanted a bright center stretching out into a darker edge -- the darker edge is meant to blend a bit with the dark wood of the bed that the quilt will spend most of it's time on, the lighter center is supposed to draw some light into what is otherwise a dark room.

The Rowenta iron made getting these strips ready for cutting a much easier process than my old iron would have, but it still took a long time. I think it took about 2 hours for me to get all the strips ironed out and ready for the next step!

Tomorrow: 9 Patch Pieces

Blooming 9-Patch

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So I've been bitten by the quilting bug, I think. After finishing up my Serenity quilt top, I went ahead and signed up for another class at Quiltology focusing on a quilt design called a "Blooming 9 Patch" (you can see an example of this quilt, Blooming Belle at the Quiltology website.).

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Fabrics for a Blooming Batik 9 Patch

This quilt is going to be rather larger than Serenity -- big enough for the queen-sized bed in my guest bedroom. The bedroom is a bit on the dark side, so I wanted the quilt to bring some light into the room with its color. However, the bed itself is a dark wood sleigh bed, so also wanted the edges of the quilt to look a bit like they were blending into the wood of the bed at the edges.

Because I'd focused on greens and blues in Serentity (and because these are the colors I almost always focus on), I really wanted to go outside my normal boundaries a bit and work in a different color spectrum. I started putting it together when Colette pointed out a new fabric she'd just received -- the dark batik print at the top of the pile. This fabric is dark, but it has splashes of green, red, orange and blue. It's really stunning in person. The other fabric that I loved (and had been looking at for a while in the store) was the red/orange/yellow batik that is the third fabric from the bottom of the picture. After I had those picked out, I selected others from the collection of batik fabrics at Quiltology with the intention of creating a harmonious progression from the dark batik to the yellow print fabric I wanted to have at the center of the quilt. The process reminded me a little bit of selecting yarn for my Charlotte's Web shawl. I had a little help from Colette (I think it's never a bad thing to take advantage of the help you can get from another experienced set of eyes) but I'm happy to say that most of the selections here are my own.

So now I'm all ready for my first class, which will involve a lot of strip piecing and will introduce me to some new quilting concepts as well as keep me working on my sewing machine skills. Who'd have ever though I'd be starting on a second quilt top? And thinking about buying a sewing machine of my own?

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