Tag Archives: MQG

At the Junction

It’s February which means it’s almost time for QuiltCon, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual show and convention. I thought I’d share the backstory of, “At the Junction”, which will be on display in Nashville.

Back in May, I took a Free-Form Blocks workshop from Sujata Shah at Quilted Strait. We explored Sujata’s method of cutting several layers of fabric to construct a variety of unique blocks.  I was looking for some faster improv techniques, as well as to spending  time with Sujata and her gorgeous, colorful quilts. Her book, Cultural Fusion Quilts: a Melting Pot of Piecing Traditions, is a wonderful resource if you want to learn more.

Sujata Shah showing cutting techniques

The first day I used a wide variety of solids to make some of the sample blocks. The second day I decided to limit the palette, thinking I would make a baby quilt out of the blocks I had created in class. (Apologies for the poor indoor lighting, but this is how my design wall looked at the end of the second day.)free-form blocks workshop

However, the block that captured my attention was this one, so when I came home, I separated these out and they became the starting point of a new quilt.beginning of At the Junction by Marla Varner

(Not to worry…all those other blocks found their way into pillow covers, placemats and table runners and they gave me lots of free motion quilting practice, too!)pillows from free-form blocks Marla Varner penny lane quilts

free-form placemats Marla Varner penny lane quilts

I decided to go with the primary colors and kept making blocks (they were rather addictive and I needed some improv therapy time). Before I knew it, the design wall was full. This was the end of September and I began to think it might be possible to make the QuiltCon entry deadline of November 30.At the Junction all the blocks pieced Marla Varner penny lane quilts

At this junction (see what I did there?) I needed to make a decision whether to square these blocks up before assembling or to do my usual  freehand cutting and puzzling the units together. It had grown larger than any of my other improv pieces and I knew it would be a challenge, but my cheerleaders over on IG encouraged me to not take the easy road!

I pieced it in sections, adding a “safe zone” around the edges so that I wouldn’t lose any of the blocks when I trimmed up the finished top. At the Junction in progress Marla Varner penny lane quilts

Of course, that became harder as the sections got bigger. The final few seams required crawling on the floor, all my cutting mats and some painter’s tape to hold the pieces in place. (In the bottom left corner is a laser square that was a valuable addition to my tool chest!)cutting the first long seam at the junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

By the middle of November, I had the top pieced, basted and ready to quilt. This was the largest quilt I have machine quilted and I had doubts about tackling it on my domestic machine. Originally I planned to quilt it about half an inch apart, but before I knew it, I started quilting much closer than that!At the Junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

It was a lot of wrestling and wrangling, and some long hours at the machine. It took almost seventy hours to quilt and I used ten different colors of Aurifil 50 wt. The thread colors graduate and overlap from lighter to darker shades.At the Junction Marla Varner penny lane quilts

The dense quilting made blocking essential and the laser square was a big help during this step, too. Soon the binding was attached and all I needed was a sunny day for photos! Well, that didn’t happen, but I did get my entry submitted.

That looming deadline sure helped this quilt get finished! It was challenging and I spent way more time on the floor than was good for this old body, but it helped my skills evolve. I love this quilt and it really felt good to finish a large quilt…it’s been awhile.

I’m looking forward to attending QuiltCon, meeting up with friends and being inspired by all the modern quilts on display. Maybe I’ll see you there?

 

 

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English paper piecing (EPP)

Last night, while watching a wonderful MQG webinar featuring Anna Boenish, I was reminded of the many benefits of English paper piecing.

photo courtesy of Anna Boenish
photo courtesy of Anna Boenish

First of all, it’s portable. I keep my kit ready to go and it’s the project that I throw in my bag when I know I’ll have spare moments waiting for an appointment, riding a ferry, watching a ball game or being a passenger on a road trip.

English paper piecing kit of Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Ready to go: paper pieces, fabric strips, scissors, thread, thread conditioner, clips, needle book, thimble and a pouch by @sew_fantastic

Secondly, because you only need  a few materials and hardly any space, it’s ideal for stitching in any location. Indoors or outdoors, you can literally use this technique anywhere!

plus units for epp plus quilt laid out on the sofa of our horse trailer
Starting my epp plus quilt, viewed here on the sofa of our horse trailer while camping in Arizona

Another great benefit is that EPP, like other handwork, lets you be social and visit with friends and family while still making headway on your project.

EPP is also a slow process. Now this could be seen as a benefit or a drawback, but in my opinion, slowing down is often a good thing.

If you have a design that requires precise or intricate work, EPP is definitely a way to accomplish this. It is also well suited to fussy cutting.

i-spy-web
My “I Spy quilt”, still a work in progress

I had never really thought about it until I listened to Anna’s talk, but another thing that appeals to me is that you can begin without a plan. In fact, some of my traditional quilts were actually improvisational using this technique.

English paper pieced star quilt by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Star quilt English paper pieced with 30’s reproduction fabrics, pieced in the 90’s, hand quilted and finished in 2011

I often make units and just keep putting them together until they morph into something.

stack of epp plus units by Marla Varner, penny lane quilts
Stack of plus units ready to assemble

That’s how my current project is evolving. The template pieces for my epp plus quilt were created by Mollie Johanson and she provides a free template and tutorial on her blog Wild Olive. Check out  #eppplus on Instagram for photos of folks using this pattern. You might even see pics of me basting in the truck while heading over Snoqualmie Pass.

Getting ready to add some more plus blocks
The current state of my epp plus quilt,  May 20, 2016. Getting ready to attach more plus units.

If you are interested in learning how to English paper piece, just do a search of the topic. There are great resources and tutorials available.

And, if you’re a MQG member, but missed Anna’s webinar, log into the Community section of their website. Under the Resources tab, you’ll find a list of all the past webinars available. Just one of the perks of being a member! You can also find her work, and the unique ways she uses English paper piecing on her website Quilting Queerly or follow her on Instagram @quiltingqueerly.