by Emma Thomas-McGinnis, artist & quilter

Project Quilting 2:6

March 26th, 2011 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (1 Comments)

Large Scale Fabrics Challenge

Finally, I have a project to tell you about!!! I have had a rough March as far as getting things done, but I’ve had lots of things in the works. I’ll tell you about more of them later, first I have to show you this challenge project, I love it!

The challenge was to use a large scale fabric. Here’s mine. I loved that white mum in the center and the very elegant leaves.

So I came up with a plan to make a three-dimensional version of the mum. I had socked away this “Snow Mum” pattern from Amy Butler a while ago, so I had to go search it out. I also had this paper-piecing pattern for a circle of flying geese I made for another project. (I’ll show you that whole project later!)

I modified it to have more background and eliminated the geese to make this background.

Here you can also see that I quilted around the designs in the background fabric, since they were so subtle in contrast, but the real story behind the quilt, so I had to make them stand out more. I think it really worked. Even white leaves on cream are visible when quilted around!

Here’s the mum placed on the background! It’s made from two layers of wool blend felt fused together, then the individual petals cut out, sewn down the centers a little to give them curve and then sewn to a circle one by one. My sewing machine couldn’t stitch through all those layers of felt without skipping a lot of stitches, so I ended up stitching them all on by hand. The center has some stained brown wooden beads, because the fabric design had those brown seedy centers, too.

I loved it! It fit perfectly to make just those spinning orange star points pop, but still shows plenty of the background fabric! Then I thought it was getting a little too symmetrical and circular, so I added a little interest with a blue leaf branch. I made those out of felt with a real nice blue/green cotton coordinate fused on, then cut out and sewn to florist wire, so I could make them pose just perfectly!

The last finishing touch was part of the challenge, it required a stripe or plaid to be used somewhere in the piece. Perfect, I love stripe bindings and this pretty peach/orange subtle stripe coordinated perfectly and added a little more spin yet. I cut it on the bias, so the stripes slant like a candy cane AND it wrapped around the circle perfectly smooth without any tucks!!

I’m so proud!

And it looks really beautiful in my studio.


February 28th, 2011 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (0 Comments)

I just finished another Project Quilting weekend…and it was a toughy! I’ve had trouble with this one from the very beginning. I started thoughts on about three different projects and when I had a great idea…it still didn’t go very smoothly! BUT, the results were really worth it!! So, oh well, better luck next time!

Here’s the finished quilt.
The voting is up here.

and the story…

Why does spray paint come in such basic colors? That’s the thought I had in the hardware store looking at the rows of red, yellow, blue, and white. Moving a little further down the aisle, yes, there are the paint chips that offer a wider rainbow of colors…but still, I started thinking about my stash of fabric and the wide range of possibilities there in comparison to that aisle of spray paint!! How lucky are quilters?!

This quilt is 45″ x 33″. It is all pieced. There is a clear vinyl pocket on the bottom, holding real paint swatches from the hardware store (who can resist grabbing those as you walk by?!) The 1″ inner blue border is the exact blue of painter’s tape (the third item from the challenge).

Here are some other photos. The inspiration:

Here are some of the working stages. I started with the center, an abstracted version of the spray paint cans on the shelves of the hardware store. I sketched it unto a big piece of brown paper and then started to piece it. It was basically free-style piecing…making stripes and then laying them down on the sketch and trimming to the right size.

Then I wanted to incorporate the paint swatches from the hardware store and I wanted to include the actual swatches, they were just so beautiful. At the hardware store they are stored in clear slots so they make a beautiful visual impact, so I did the same thing with a vinyl pocket!

The painter’s tape border was pretty fun! I needed some tape for quilt-sandwiching anyway, so I picked some up at the hardware store and held it up at the fabric store until I found the perfect blue. The size is 1″, because that was the most common size tape to buy at the hardware store!

Lastly the outer border was to be a wide array of quilting fabric. I started just trimming the size I wanted out of all my scraps and laying them out in a nice sequence. Before you know it I had a rainbow going and started to get obsessive about making it a continuous rainbow around the quilt!! This ended up taking the most time and I was really feeling crazy while working on it. But now I know that it really made the quilt spectacular!

You could say that I was really crazy when I went to my computer and drafted the corner pieces for paper-piecing so that they would turn around so nicely! But I think that was worth it for the wow factor too!

I don’t know why I can’t just think of quick and easy projects! Next challenge, my extra challenge to myself will be to come up with something so clever and brilliant because of it’s simplicity and ease of construction, not necessarily the coolest idea.

’til then, I’m proud of what I accomplished last week!

Go see the other entries and vote for your favorite too.
Kim's Crafty Apple

Project Quilting 2:3

February 13th, 2011 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (0 Comments)

The challenge: “Be My Valentine” using a color scheme other than red or pink as the dominant colors and not using the word “Valentine” on the piece…

My interpretation is a vintage valentine crazy quilt. I love crazy quilts and the Victorian romantic images of cupids, couples and roses just called me to make something really pretty! My color scheme is mostly neutrals, taupe, cream, brown, tan, with a little rose and pink and some light green and lavender. Of course, for a crazy quilt it had to be somewhat colorful!

I printed the images on white cotton fabric early in the week. Then I made crazy quilt blocks with my little stash of fancy fabrics (which is quickly dwindling now) adding in some pretty floral cottons to fill it out and get the color scheme right. I did the hand embroidery every evening this week and a little on Saturday afternoon, watching TV. I really love sitting down to do handwork, it’s so relaxing!

Part of the point of Project Quilting is to push your creative limits, so I learned a new skill for this project: PIPING! A fancy pillow really needed a fancy edge, so I just got out a book about edgings and finishes and there it was. I didn’t have the right cord, but a few strands of cotton yarn twisted together worked pretty well. I like the soft rounded corner the piping created too.

Here are some details…

Here’s the piping edge.

And I have had this square of upholstery fabric set aside for something wonderful, I was excited to get it out of the drawer and find that it was perfect for the back!

Yeah, another project COMPLETED in a week! Project Quilting is an amazing motivation!

Project Quilting Winner!

February 5th, 2011 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (0 Comments)

My Buttonwillow quilt won first place “Judges Choice” in Project Quilting this week!! Yippee!

Here’s the link to the announcement.

“And in First place taking home $10 to FabricsNQuilts AND $15 to FabricFascination with an average score of 9.4375 is:

Buttonwillow, CA


Here’s what the Judges had to say about ‘Buttonwillow’:

Judge 1: This is a very clever use of the name of your town. Great play on the word, love it.

I love the button border and am glad you opted for the extra color. Your 3D leaves are great.

Judge 2: I really like how you chose to go tall and narrow, and focus on a macro view instead of the entire tree. The tan fabric gives a great sense of place. Keeping the leaves rough-edged gives a natural feel and they are cohesive with the fringed edges of the linen, which is a great texture. I love the layering of the leaves and how they go 3-d at the bottom. The randomness of the button colors, sizes, and placement gives nice pop to the piece.

Judge 3: Great project. The dimension of the willow leaves is wonderful and I love the way they float over the edges of your quilt. The brown linen with the fringed edge gives another dimension. The buttons make a great frame. I’m glad you mixed the colors.

Judge 4: What a beautiful little wall hanging. “Buttonwillow” certainly lends itself to a literal approach to the challenge, and I love the fact that it bridges nature and craftiness! Your technique for creating the willow branches and leaves was spot-on – you achieved a very realistic and yet stylized design. The buttons around the outside add a lot of character to this piece, and I believe your decision to introduce a wider variety of color was the right one. My favorite part of this piece was your choice of the brown linen and the decision to fray the edges. It’s not an “in your face” detail but, once noticed, it adds that special little touch. Great work!”

I love what the judges said! I really like what Judge 4 said, that it “bridges nature and craftiness” because that’s something that describes me a lot. I love nature and often choose to celebrate it in my quilts!

Kim didn’t include one of the judges criticisms in her summation, so I will. Judge 3 said “My one criticism is that the edges seem to wave a little.  Maybe it could be blocked?” and that is really true. It was straight until I sewed on all those buttons!! I think I will “block” it and see if I can fix that. That means I will wet it down and lay it out flat to dry, stretching it straight if I need to. I read someplace that one blogger blocks all her quilts! I don’t know if I’ll start doing that, but when I need to, at least there’s a fix that won’t involve cutting it up and starting over!  Here’s one of the tutorials I read about quilt blocking. And here’s what Leah Day has to say about blocking your quilt.

Now I get to go pick out some new fabric with my gift certificates for winning! Yeah!!

Project Journal

January 23rd, 2011 | Posted by Emma in All - (0 Comments)

This morning I sat down at my computer to print a couple photos of the projects I had finished recently to put into my Project Journal. Little did I know that it would be a full day of work, my book was sooooo far behind! I’m still not “caught up,” but I do have a lot more complete scrapbook of the projects I’ve made in the last few years. Want to peek?

I hate it when I realize that I have forgotten to take photos of something I’ve given as a gift. I missed almost everything from this Christmas. I think I may have to ask a few people to take photos of their gifts from me! Lisa did that when I came to her house the other day using the purse she gave me!!

Do you have a Project Journal or Quilt Journal? I think most of my quilting friends do. It’s good to have a record of what you’ve done, especially those that you give away. I love leafing through mine and remembering those projects I enjoyed so much!

I made my blank journal pages into a pdf… if you’d like to use them, you are welcome to! Download here.

Show Your Colors Quilt

December 31st, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (3 Comments)

I finished a pretty quilt to show you. I started it in October and showed you a few blocks here and here, but here’s the completed quilt. (click to see it large!) It’s an original design in layout, however the blocks were from various sources. Each block was a major undertaking, and I had a lot of fun challenging myself with each one.

Sources: “Happy Flowers” by Hideo Kubota Quilter’s Newsletter F/M ’09, “Sunburst Trio” by Edyta Sitar American Patchwork & Quilting Aug ’08, “Shooting Star” also by Edyta Sitar purchased pattern, “Sunflowers” by Carol Doak The Quilter Magazine Sept ’03, “New York Beauty” by Mabeth Oxenreider Fons & Porter J/A ’04, Traditional Dresden Plates and New York Beauty blocks self-drafted.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

December 11th, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (0 Comments)

My true love gave to me, twelve holiday quilts!

There you have it, the Twelve Days of Christmas by Quiltsy! Hope you enjoyed looking at some fun quilts for sale by the Quiltsy Etsy team, whether you were shopping or gathering ideas for your next project.
Happy Holidays!

Now on to my regularly scheduled programming…oh wait, I don’t have a regular schedule! But I do have more in store now that the Twelve days are up!

Winter Wonderland Quilt

December 4th, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (0 Comments)

Today was the Des Moines Area Quilter’s Guild December Tea. It’s our end of the year celebration where we eat lots of treats, have a big meeting and show off the quilts made for the President’s Challenge. I did finish my challenge in the nick of time! This was a very fun project, I’m so happy I got back into tatting for it!!

And here are some close ups and in progress photos you might like. Each snowflake is different! But sewing on those snowflakes took almost as long and tatting them!

This biggest snowflake is the only one that I didn’t tat especially for this quilt. It’s from when I was first into tatting and had been sadly sitting in a box for years. I’m glad it is now being appreciated in a good place.

Please click on the full quilt photo or the second one to see larger and notice what a beautiful fabric that background blue is. I wrote a paragraph about this quilt for the challenge entry and explained that the nautical theme of the fabric was very fitting in my mind because sometimes the blustery winds of an Iowa winter make me feel like a ship tossed about at sea. The quilting is done in swirls that could be both waves or wind. The bottom border is symbolic of waves and/or snow drifts.

I designed the paper-pieced top borders to reflect the compass that is seen in that nautical print background. I found great scraps to coordinate with blues and metallic silvers, for a subtle feel, not to detract from the snowflakes, but still feel rich and beautiful. I’m thinking I could provide you with the pattern and instructions for that star, since I designed it, would anyone be interested?

Now, I thought I would show you some of the other entries from the guild’s president’s challenge. But maybe I’ll wait until I know whose is whose and get permission. We vote on them at the tea, because the top 8 are selected to be entered in AQS’s National Guild Challenge as a group project. We vote without knowing the makers, then find out later. I think that’s a little sad, because I would like to talk with people about their own quilts while we’re all standing around looking at them. But oh well! That’s how it’s always been done.

Keep warm everyone and happy quilting! Off to do some Christmas sewing!

Designing a Quilt

November 2nd, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (1 Comments)

I’m designing another quilt I’ve been obsessed with when not working on Halloween…I want to give you a sneak peek.

My plan is to do all my favorite flower and starburst-shaped blocks and make them into a sampler quilt. I found a stripe fabric with colorful flowers that is my inspiration and color scheme. (I forgot to take a picture, but you’ll see it later) The patterns are assembled from all my favorite magazine projects. Things I’ve wanted to try, but not necessarily do a whole quilt of…The first, pink flower, is from Edita Sytar, who spoke at our guild meeting a few months ago. (I totally loved her!!) The next New York Beauty was in a Fons & Porter magazine. I’ll have to look up the designers for the rest of them and tell you later.

This next one I’m putting together with needle-turn appliqué, here is the outer ring. There will be a similar inner ring next. I wanted to tell you that I’ve realized how nice it is to have the right tools for needle-turn appliqué. I’m using a 50 wt. machine embroidery thread, so it’s really thin and practically disappears into the appliqué fabric. The needle is a #12 straw, also very thin and fine, so it just glides right through! Appliqué pins hold everything in place without catching the thread as you bring it around. I learned about these tips in a class by Angela Lawrence at Creekside Quilting in West Des Moines. She’s a brilliant appliquér!

That’s all for now, until I get into the studio again this weekend. Usually during the week I can only dream about quilting time, like I’m doing right now! But I really want to know, how do other quilters go about designing quilts? Do you have a whole plan before you start? I started with the blocks and now have been sketching out how to put them together into a quilt. It’s forming itself as I make the blocks. I started sketching some designs for the whole quilt, but have kept making blocks as I’m also deciding on the setting for them. Would you have drawn up the whole thing? Would you wait until you had all the blocks done to put them on a design wall and move them around?? If you’re up for a discussion, I’d love to hear about your process.

Once a Quilter, Always a Quilter

July 20th, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (2 Comments)

Before I was a quilter, I sewed. I embroidered, made stuffed toys, sewed clothes and pillows and just liked to try projects with fabric…but I obviously didn’t know any of the rules of quilting….

I just rediscovered an old project I made 10 years ago, while waiting for my first baby. It’s reallly cute, but I obviously didn’t know what I was doing. I made a quilted wall-hanging without a stitch of QUILTING!  I remember taking it down because it had gotten saggy. It’s also a set of pockets, so after years of holding toys and small books, the fact that there was no quilting holding it together made it look bunchy and wrong.

So yesterday, I fixed it.

Because “Once a Quilter, Always a Quilter”, I couldn’t just leave a quilt un-quilted!!

Click the images to see them bigger.  And I apologize, I don’t remember where I got this idea!! I think it was a book but I can’t be certain. If I figure it out, I’ll surely let you know, because I want to give proper credit. It was a great idea! And so fun to make. Look at all those rows of fancy stitches and reverse applique that I had fun with.

It’s still not a masterpiece of quilting. The sandwich, of course, didn’t lay quite flat anymore, so there are some bunches. But I’m now proud to call this a little quilt!

Kind of funny to have finished a 10-year-old UFO that I didn’t even know was a UFO! But it shows there’s always room for improvement.