Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hexie Love - Not your Grammas Flower Garden

It's more like a Cottage Garden....
Hello fellow quilters!!  How are things with you?  I hope this post finds you well.

I've had a whirlwind month since I last wrote....

I attended International Quilt Market in Minneapolis (over the top exciting - more on it later)... Do you LOVE my Redbird Wool Applique Shirt?
Took two days of training from the most awesome professional long arm quilter, Karen McTavish, (my quilting life will never be the same) - (more later here too!!)
And, with my sisters Janet and Michele, poured tons of love and attention into a neat modern hexie quilt for our beautiful niece Alexis and her lovely partner Laura -- we called it "Hexie Love".
Today I want to share a bit of the quilt prep process and lots about the quilting including bunches of images.

First I want to thank Aurifil thread (once again) for making the best cotton quilting thread East of the Mississippi!!  I chose my thread, the 40Wt and 50Wt Aurifil Mako Cotton thread, long before I knew what or how I was going to quilt Hexie Love.

I started the quilting on my Janome domestic machine (7700), then moved to a Janome sit down mid-arm (Artistic) and then to a Gammill Statler Long Arm (thanks to a good friend) and back to my domestic machine.

The Aurifil Mako Cotton thread worked perfect on all 3 machines:  domestic to mid arm to long arm...  I was thrilled about that because I sure didn't want to change thread brands, color, or weight as I moved from one machine to another.  Thank you Aurifil!
A little bit of background.... The Sisters Three (Janet, Michele and I) decided to make Alexis (our niece) a quilt for her upcoming Bridal Shower.  We asked for input from the brides (Alexis is marrying her partner Laura - they are so in love and beautiful together)...    The brides said they liked jewel tones, geometrical designs and nothing traditional.   That is what we had to start with....

From there we collected jewel tone fabric - we found the best collection of Free Spirit fabric on Sale at one of my LQShops (O'Susannah's Quilt Shop)...  We were inspired by a quilt I saw on Instagram (thank you @darlingdi for your Modern Hexie Star Quilt and Tutorial)

and started the process of preparing hexies (NOT the old fashioned way).

We prepared hexies using a heat resistant Mylar template (made from scratch), starch, and a steam  iron.  There was NO SEWING involved (just lots of toasty fingertips). 

We decided on 2" hexies, we cut the fabric at least 1/2" larger than the hexie size and starched and steamed around our heat resistant templates until we had 200+  2" hexies prepared.  (Would a tutorial be helpful here ?)

Now we needed background and backing fabric.  I had my heart set on a Moda Grunge but when we visited another LQS (Sew It Is) we found the ideal fabric color by Elisabeth Studios named: Impressions Mottled Peacock Turquoise.  It was the perfect compliment to the Free Spirit hexie collection we had prepared!

Now the design/layout - this was, well, a matter of hands and knees on the floor -- here's two of "The Sisters Three" (they will kill me - no makeup, no hair)... working hard at the design layout while I prepared a few more hexies (and took pictures).
Once they finished the layout, we took MANY, MANY pictures of it, gathered up (in an orderly fashion) the hexies for 17 rows and placed them in baggies numbered appropriately by row.  You see, I was leaving for Quilt Market the next day -- so there was no time to get the hexies tacked down before I left.

When I returned from Market, it was my task to layout hexies (based on the pictures and earlier design), tack each hexie with glue (sister Janet came and helped), layer and pin baste, oh, and Quilt!! (Let's not forget my favorite part).
A couple of tips:

1. When preparing the hexies, be sure your template is exact!!   If you're using 2" hexies make sure each side of the template is exactly 2" - it's important !!  (Ask me how I know).
2. Before positioning the hexies on the background, make reference lines on your background fabric.   We eyeballed the positioning a lot -- but in hindsight, additional cross hatch reference lines are the best choice.  Did we have Wonky straight lines?  No, not this quilt...  ;)
3. When using water soluble glue to tack the hexie tips down, use the glue sparingly, make sure it is near the tip (not inland) of the hexie and kinda smudge it across the area (not too thick - did I already say that ?)

4. When pin basting, put a pin in each hexie and in each spot where a hexie would go - even if there isn't one there.

This was our final layout with the hexies glue basted in place, and the quilt sandwich pin basted with 1 layer of Quilter's Dream Wool and backing fabric that matched the background fabric.  It measures appx 70" by 80".

Notice the arrows on the quilt top (below) - this is where we added hexies at the very last minute  to identify a defined edge for the border quilting.
OK - next item is to get the straight line quilting done on the hexie rows.

This is where the Janome Horizon and its awesome walking foot get to work....

I used 40Wt Aurifil Mako Cotton in the top thread and the same color 50Wt in the bobbin.  I used a size 90 needle (Superior Titanium TopStitch) and had my stitching gloves on hand at all times.  It worked well to use the gloves to manage the quilt.  
 I stitched 3 lines through each hexie - stitching long rows as best you can so you don't have to turn until you've finished a row.  Good lighting is essential and target straight rows and stitches.  Mine were not perfect but they worked out fine (thank you Di - you said they would).  

I used a longer than normal stitch length, setting the Janome at 2.7 while quilting the hexies with the walking foot.  
 The hexie quilting took several nights that added up to about ? 20 + hours - with no quilting in the negative space (except a 1/4" echo around each hexie).    On a long arm, with a straight-line ruler or template, this process would go SO MUCH FASTER -- really!!   But hey - you use the tools available to get the job done.
 Here is an image with the hexie quilting completed.  Again, it was a good 20+ hours of walking foot work.
OK - now on to some free motion quilting.  I really wanted to try the Janome Artistic 18" sit down machine at a LQS where I bought my Janome Horizon (Patchwork Angels Quilt Shop).  I went in for a couple of hours and practiced and went back the next day to quilt Hexie Love.

Let me tell you, I grossly underestimated how much time it was going to take me to quilt this monster -- and was frustrated that I hadn't practiced more on this "new to me" machine. 

The machine itself was awesome - so much throat space, good controls, etc -- but I couldn't seem to "master" it in the time I had available to get the job done.  I was frustrated with my stitch length, my tension and my overall comfort level on the machine.  I just plain needed more time to practice.  Sister Shell was with me during this part - providing support yet watching my frustration grow because I really wanted to finish this quilt in a day!!   (ha ha ha - silly me)....

Once my inexperience on the Artistic got the best of me, off I went with my tail between my legs.  I called a good friend who was holding some fabric for me and she says "Hey, why don't we throw it on my long arm".

 Thinking it through, I knew we could at least get the border treatment done, I had planned to do piano keys with a ruler on the Artistic.  So I took her up on the offer (thank God for friends with bigger machines than mine).  When I arrived we worked on a practice piece and I realized that my FMQ Orange Peel/Watermelon Seed designs were not going to happen on a long arm without a little more practice -  but I decided to quilt as much as I could and do the FMQ work at home. 

One of the prerequisites before throwing it on the long arm was to have an idea of what I wanted to quilt -- well now that's a challenge -- as I never know what I'm going to quilt until I sit down to do it.

   So as I was leaving my friends house that night, we saw the solar lights casting this design on the sidewalk.  WOW!  We both took it as a sign that the border should look something like this.  Yippee -- One design down -- now to think overnight about how to quilt the rest of the quilt before throwing it on the long arm.

After a few hours sleep I got up and started fussing with designs on the quilt using a purple air soluble pen. I scratched out some divider lines in the negative space, decided I could do the orange peel in the remaining negative space (on my Janome at home) and set out to get the border treatment done while the quilt was loaded (pins and all) on the long arm.
 As I mentioned earlier, the Aurifil 40Wt top and 50Wt bobbin thread worked perfectly on the long arm after we aligned the new needle in the Gammill.
 Because there was no tabletop available for this machine, I could NOT use rulers to do my straight line borders.   It's a good thing this machine has programmable features and that my friend is a good teacher.  She showed me how to program point to point stitching using the Statler software and off I went, programming the pretty light ray stitches along all 4 borders of the quilt.  I LOVE the way it came out.
Including a lunch break,  I think we spent about 9+ hours actually quilting the border with the point to point feature of the long arm.   Fun Fun!!!   Man those machines and their software are powerful.  I might be able to do it faster with a ruler and a stitch regulator... but for now, I was very thankful that my friend offered her time and machine to me.   I can't thank her enough...
She says "That's what friends are for"
Hugs to you girlfriend.

I took the quilt off the frame, thanked my friend for getting me out of the jam, bought her and the doggies ice cream at the local dairy bar, and headed back to the lake with a quilt that needed the center negative space quilted.

Next morning I'm back to "How to quilt that" and preparing to finish it up on my Janome Horizon.  The hexies are done, the border is done - lets get some orange peel and straight lines and maybe a ? touch of feathers ? in there.  

Now my husband is keeping my head above water.  The deadline on this quilt was quickly approaching and I needed to get it to my sister Janet for the binding and label -- being under pressure with a deadline and no plan is NEVER a good way to manage a project.  Just sayin'!

Back on the Janome Horizon I used the same thread combination as before -- LOVE!
I started the day attacking the smaller areas and putting some orange peel designs in them.  This helped because I felt like I was making progress and didn't have to face the areas I was unsure how to quilt.
I made some reference marks with a purple air erasable pen and did continuous curve stitching like I shared in my Orange Peel Grid Tutorial -- except I didn't stitch the grid, I just marked it.
More orange peel / continuous curve stitching inside of areas I had straight line quilted while Hexie Love was on the long arm machine.
More shots of the smaller areas.
Just keep stitching....
Just one more picture of the smaller areas.
OK - now I've filled up most of the smaller spots with variations of the Orange Peel / Seed design and I'm hitting up against the center of the quilt that is a larger space.  I decide to do more straight line stitching to give it a bit more of a modern look.  
I used a straight line ruler and my FMQ foot and stitched several lines toward the center of the space, echoing (in a random kinda way) the lines that had been stitched with the long arm. 

I ended up with waffles galore on the quilt top in that section (circle below).
Waffles that were almost folds and puckers.
This was not what I had in mind.

So as I sit with my head in my hands, almost crying, my husband comes over and we dissect the problem... with all of the pushing and pulling of the quilt top (from the start) and the large space yet-to-be-quilted in the middle, I've stretched the fabric top.  The backing seemed fine -- but the top was a mess.  

Out comes the seam ripper and I spend an hour ripping out straight lines...
what to do...
Then I thought about the blocking process used to square a quilt, and wondered if wetting the trouble section of the quilt top and drying it would shrink the fabric.
Let's give it a try (at least I had a plan).
 I positioned the quilt on the table top such that it wasn't stressed or being pulled.  Grabbed the trusty spray bottle (that I use for Cayman's baths), filled with fresh water and sprayed the trouble areas.  I added an hour of blow-drying with a hair dryer and thank goodness it worked.  It shrunk the fabric enough that I could confidently quilt a design that wouldn't pucker.   
 I decided against putting straight lines in that same area and went with a larger scale Orange Peel design -- it was just the trick - the area quilted beautifully.  This is how that TROUBLE area quilted with a large orange peel design.  Whew...  disaster averted ;)
 Now I continue in the "Just Keep Stitching" mode -- almost done with all of the quilting and really wishing I had a spot to add some feathers...   I just had to do it!
After all the stitching I'd done - I was happy to add in some feathers - it felt natural.
Yippee -- I never thought I would hear myself say that feathers felt "natural".  Makes me happy.

As it went - I had a few more small areas to fill in.  It felt so good to get them done.
Here are a few shots with the quilting complete.

 Here are a few pictures of the back
 This one was funny -- my poor husband was trying to hold the quilt up for me in a windstorm. He is such a trooper -- thank you, honey.
  As soon as I finished the quilting it was delivered to my sister so she could begin the binding and label process.   
 She is a master at getting these things done quickly, and I just LOVE her handwritten labels.
The Shower day arrives -- and Janet brings the beautifully packaged quilt with her -- Michele was busy making all those lovely flower bouquets that I shared on Instagram - just beautiful!
Here are the brides reading the label -- Alexis was so choked up that Laura read it for her.
The unveiling - the girls really loved it!  How about that scrappy binding ?  Isn't it sweet?
Oh Happy Bridal Shower Day!!
The Sisters Three - Love these Two!!
I need to mention my fantastic husband again - without him I think we would be doing overnight delivery of shower gifts from the registry -- love you, honey!
I sure hope you enjoyed the story of Hexie Love -- it was a great adventure!

Do you have questions ?
Would you like more of a tutorial to give a quilt like this a try?

Leave me your thoughts in the comments, I would be thrilled to get your feedback.

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Many blessings - thanks for stopping by!!

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