Monday, August 1, 2016

How to design a quilt in Excel ...

Before I move to the tutorial for the Mid-Century Modern quilt ... I thought it would be relevant to put together a post on how I use Excel to design my quilts.

First ... I quilt a lot in solids ... I love many of the beautiful prints that are out there, but my budget has been limited and I enjoy the simplicity of using solids to create from.  Second, this design tool only works for rectangular shapes ... it won't work for circles or triangles.  Finally, I use Excel on a Mac (granted ... not a great user experience, but it's what I have and haven't been able to convince MicroSoft to make a better version for Mac).

The following reflects a view of some placemats I want to make ... then I will follow up with a few views of how I have used it for quilt decisions and the Mid-Century Modern quilt before ending.

1)  Start with a blank spreadsheet:

2)  Then I resize the height and width of the cells to make squares -- on the Mac, I use 0.21 for both the height and the width.  I then use Borders to make an outline of the quilt/placemat.  You can choose the dimension of each square.  For this placemat, I am using 1 square = 1".  That works well for high-level design -- typically, for more complex quilts I will go to 1 square = 1/2".

3)  I then fill in the square with the background color I intend to use ... remember, my quilts are usually solid, so there is often a base color that I am using.  In this case, it's gray.

4)  Then, I add color where I want to add design.

5)  In this case, I am making multiple placemats, so I copy and paste and then put in a different design with color on some.

This gives me an opportunity to evolve my design.  Try different dimensions, colors, shapes, etc.  I have had a vision in my head multiple times and when I put it on an excel spreadsheet ... it didn't go well ;-).  

You can change the view from 100% down to 25%.  I design at 100%, but then, in the case of quilts, to see the whole thing ... take it to 25%.

Here are a couple of examples of quilts designed this way ...

The back of a queen size quilt ... went with the design on the right.

A quilt design for my brother's birthday ... I didn't like either of them.

A quilt for my niece for her high school graduation.  Went with the one on the left.

And finally ... the Mid-Century Modern quilt ...

As you can see, using Excel can work as a design tool for quilting ... it's not perfect ... but it's a tool I am comfortable in and it's already installed on my computer ...

Next week ... I will share the tutorial for this quilt ... and how to move from Excel to actually making the quilt.

Hope everyone had a great weekend ...

All the best,

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Boy has Instagram made me lazy!!!

I have been quilting a bit ... but haven't been posting much on the blog ... it's not the writing that's an issue for me ... it's the movement of the photos ...

We are on satellite internet out here at the cabin ... which means we have a cap on how much bandwidth we can use ... so we don't use the cloud to manage our files or photos.  So photos taking on my iPhone have to be manually transferred, photos from my Canon have to be downloaded ... yup ... I have gotten lazy (thanks Instagram).

But ... I have been busy ...

Mid-Century Modern Quilt
I made this for a friend for her 50th birthday ... her birthday was actually last October (yup ... I remain a little behind).  We celebrated it with her and others in Palm Springs and I wanted to make a quilt that reflected the Palm Springs theme -- mid-century.

Conceptually, it's simple ... 6 colors on a neutral background.  Executing was a little harder ... but I took to excel to design and execute.  Remember, I am self-taught at quilting ... so it was interesting to figure out how to do it all (you guys are probably rolling your eyes about now).

The back is quite simple with just a little visual color from the front ... the lone blue square in the bottom is the label.

I am about to make a second one in different colors for another friend who is turning 50 and spied this and wants one ;-) ... so I will put together a tutorial for those of you who are quilting challenged like me !

All Kona cottons ... from the stash.  The binding is from the stash as well ... Lizzy House Pearl Bracelets in 1) orange with gray dots and 2) green with orange dots.  I quilted it in meandering squares -- I've done this pattern several times now and am getting better at it and like it for a more modern approach.

My new version will be modified a bit ... there were too many squares crammed in and it was too big when finished ... 70x80" ... so I will be editing before I get started on the next version.

Hope all is well out there and you are enjoying a lovely summer ...

All the best

Monday, May 9, 2016

French-press Coffee Cozy

I haven't been posting much ... because we've been out camping ... but after 11 mornings of using a french press and only having the 1st cup come out hot each time ... I got working when I got home and made a French-press Coffee Cozy!

It was pretty simple.  2" squares from the scrap bin, a 3x5" piece of scrap to go through the handle.  Add lining, batting a velcro and it was done!  

We went from Hood Canal, WA to Crescent City, CA and back along the Oregon Coast road.  

T@b Trailer in tow with kayaks on roof

Our French-press cozy during the trip

Destination reached (and oh were they AMAZING):

Redwood State Park (dogs allowed on Cal-Barrel Rd trail
And we even got a little kayaking in (albeit in the rain)

Then back home and immediately into celebrate my 55th birthday in Seattle with great friends ... April was definitely a whirl-wind month!

Hope you all are doing well!

All the best

Friday, May 6, 2016

Machine stitching question

Hoping someone might have some thoughts on what is causing this ... 

Background ... sometimes, when I put a new bobbin in the machine, and start stitching, I get the following issue on the bottom of the fabric.  This happens both with straight stitching as well as free motion as indicated below.

When it happens, I simply pull the bobbin out and put it back in again and it goes away ... 

Does anyone have any thoughts on what I might be doing wrong.  From my perspective, I feel like I am putting the bobbin in the same way in both instances.  But if there's something I need to be doing different ... I am all ears ... tired of having to rip stuff out (at least I am now paying attention and look pretty quickly each time I change bobbins).

I have a Juki 2010Q.

Thanks a bunch!

All the best

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Elephant Quilt

My cousin is about to have a little girl ... when I asked her what she wanted in a quilt ... she replied, "I'm thinking sunshine yellow and maybe some various shades of green (spring, lime, etc.). I know a lot of people are pairing yellow and gray but I'm going for a warmer palette -- cream and natural browns instead of gray.   I'm doing a mix of animals for a motif (I am doing a project where I am framing various animal drawings with their "plural" names, e.g. "a parade of elephants").  We do have a chocolate brown rocking chair from K's grandma so trying to find a way to tie that in, too"

So that ... was the basis for this quilt.

The color palette and new fabric:

I do believe I made a couple of tweaks on the fabric as I couldn't find everything I was looking for.  With no LQS yet located near me ... I was pushed online to buy my solids.  I started at, but they are now charging a 50% premium for 1/2 yard cuts over their full yard prices ... while I appreciate why they have done this, the reality is I can't afford it and I didn't need 10 yards of greens and yellows to add to the stash.  So I went over to who actually had a better selection of Kona solids and had a lower price per yard.  If I can't buy local, I am going to go for the lowest price.

Elephant Quilt Applique
The elephants were appliqued on.  While, I like the look, it definitely creates a shift in how the fabric feels after it's complete ... stiff.  Hopefully that will settle down after a little while.

The back is pieced ... a few prints from the stash for a little interest.  I had a diagonal cut piece of material that I had used before to make some bias.  I thought that it would carry the diagonal theme from the front ... it's OK ... but I wouldn't do it again if I had an option.

I am pleased with those points however!  And you can see that I went with a meandering quilt stitch.  I really debated this one ... I wanted to straight line ... but am still perfecting that approach and didn't want to risk it on this one.  And I do love that crinkled look you get with the meandering stitch.

The binding was in the stash & I'm not sure I have the name of the print.  It was machine finished with mitered corners.  

Quilt by the numbers:

  • Finished quilt dimensions:  A generous 40" x 48"
  • ~ 1/3 yard each of Kona solids + 2 yards of the pale yellow (Kona Meringue).  
Because I had purchased 1/2 yard amounts, I had enough to make a slightly smaller one which I have done the straight line quilting on the diagonal and have put in my Etsy shop.  I actually prefer the straight-line quilting ... I think it goes better with the design.  And I prefer the back on the shop quilt.

I did have a couple of learnings from this effort which I will share next week ... and a few questions for you talented quilters to help me with ...

Hope all is well with you and yours.

All the best,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Good neighbors ...

Those of you that follow know that we live in the boonies ... beautiful boonies ... but middle of nowhere.  John moved out here permanently in June 2015 as we sold the Seattle house and I followed in mid-February this year as I retired.  

His first 6 months were spent building a shed (the kayak shack -- or "the shack" as it's now known) and then parlaying those skills into building a quilting studio (which still remains nameless) for me!  

While he did 95% of the work himself ... he had sage advice from a great neighbor, Jim, who helped him think through various aspects and was indispensable when it came to putting both roofs on ... literally climbing up to help (who knew I was afraid of heights ???).

This quilt ... the first one out of the new studio ... is for Jim and his wife Diane.  To thank them for being such amazing neighbors.  

I wanted something that was a bit more traditional and settled on a patchwork ... but still wanted to lend a touch of modern to it ... and I love "white space".  So I landed on a design put about half the squares into a neutral Kona ash. 

My process was to cut 198 3.5" squares.  Then stitch them together is pairs and then, for the most part, stitch the pairs to a solid piece of the same size, creating a block.  The finished quilt is 18 rows by 22 columns.  

As usual, Madigan had to get her first lie on it once I laid it on the floor to square it off.  

You can't really tell by these photos, but I quilted it on the diagonal both ways ... probably my straightest lines yet, so the 3.5" squares were small enough for my vision to follow and not have to mark where to sew.

I did a mixed binding and a pieced back.  

John (on roof) and Jim finishing up the roof on the quilting studio.  

Hope all is well with you and yours!

All the best

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Placemats v2

The placemats were such a big hit ... I went ahead and made a 2nd set for a birthday present for another friend.   

Again, using the tutorial from CoopCrafts, I made a second set.  A couple of modifications this time:

  • I left the rectangular instead of creating them in oval ... certainly a bit easier to bind this way.
  • Instead of using a neutral (read gray) binding to tie them all together ... I used an Anna Maria Horner print, Crescent Bloom in Tangerine.  
  • I opted for a single print for the backs, instead of having a coordinated back for each color palette.  

The theory on the matched backs is that they could be a reversible set ... great in theory, but not sure that this was the print that would be able to carry it off ... oh well, another lesson learned.

I also got practice at machine mitering my corners ... getting better ...

Again ... going to be delivered to another friend who truly appreciates hand crafted and never sees the flaws (don't you just love those types of friends)?  

And while I got creative in the studio ... my better half tested out his new cord to connect the Mac to the TV to watch his beloved Six Nations Rugby match (England v Wales) via live streaming.  You can take the boy out of England ... but he WILL find away to watch his rugby. 

Hope all is well with you and yours!

All the best


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