Monday, December 26, 2011

Habitat Challenge

Last month our quilt guild did the Jay McCarroll Habitat Challenge, and I have to say that this was the first time I actually "created" my own design so I was very nervous. Up to this point, I had only done quilt kits or patterns from books, so I started with a sketch of what I wanted and went from there.

Overall, it wasn't too bad, and there were some "oops" moments along the way, but I learned quite a bit and discovered how creative I can be. First, let me say, that I truly appreciated Jay's designs on Project Runway (which I am addicted to by the way), and I am glad that he won. However, these fabrics were the epitome of the word "challenge". I sat on these fabrics for awhile until it no longer pained me to stare at them and got to work. Don't get me wrong, they are certainly very interesting designs, and in the right context would be seriously awesome, but between the flashbacks from the 80's and the odd colors that went together (but not really); I was stumped for a bit.

Luckily, the month prior Quiltique had a carnival night where I was introduced to English Paper piecing in the form of manageable hexagons! I thought, okay, small pieces of this fabric against a bright background may do it the justice it deserves. I had been wanting to do a sewing machine cover anyway so I took my fat quarters and started waiving them over some solids to see what clicked. It ended up being this beautiful vibrant royal purple and I was finally on my way. My first step was taping the fabric pieces to my back sliding door to use a sort of light table to place my hexagon templates and fussy cut out my pieces.
Two things I learned during this part of the process: (1) painters tape works very well to put fabric up with as it does not stick to it or leave any sticky residue, and (2) during the day, my sliding glass door makes a fabulous backlit space for tracing templates (it's like a second design wall!). From there I moved to the paper piecing which were precut hexagons I purchased during the carnival and what is even better; they are reusable. I simply cut a 1/4" border around the pinned templates and then basted down the tucked edges.
 I have to say I really feel in love with this technique! Anything that involves my sitting and doing hand stitching is always a plus and this was so easy to pick up. Once I stitched down all my hexagons, I laid them out in the order I wanted and started stitching one side of each hexagon to the other, removed the paper templates, and then cut out my purple background. There are many tutorials on-line about how to measure your machine for a cover and there are a few types of covers as well. I decided just to make a simple slip over that covered the entire machine (since the desert out here is fairly dusty) I wanted it to cover the sides as well. The hexagon strip was appliqued on top of a strip of purple fabric and then I left a gap on each side to add the yellow borders.
Once I sewed the yellow strips in, I basted the layers together and quilted a diagonal-abstract design, including the side pieces as well.
Okay so not as haphazard as I anticipated since both sides kind of match, but overall I was pleased with the result. Finally, the last step was sewing down the hexagons along the edges of each one, sew the sides onto the main piece, and bind the bottom with the matching yellow fabric. The final result was...
I did try to do some piping as well, but another learning experience was involved in this process. Instead of a 1/4" seam allowance, I should have left at least a 1/2" allowance to leave room for all the layers to be sewn since some of the edges did not catch. With some resewing, fabric glue and hand stitching it came out, but it will be a little while before I attempt piping again.

Our quilt group came up with some really great projects; some making full size quilts and others making small projects like a purse and coasters. It was a great mix of ideas and in the end, I finally designed something on my own which actually prepared me for this month's pillow exchange which involved more creative design.