Monday, May 11, 2015

And the Tweaking Goes On: Design in Progress for Anders' Pineapple Log Cabin Quilt

In my last post, I showed this EQ7 pineapple log cabin project that I am planning as a second quilt project for my 11-year-old son, Anders, to make:

Once I had selected one of the simplest (fewest pieces) pineapple log cabin blocks and set up the layout and sizes, I let Anders play around in the software to come up with a color scheme for his quilt.  He decided on a black background with red and blue:   
Then I talked to him about what he wants to do with this quilt after it's finished.  With his first quilt project, he started to get discouraged about how long it was taking when he did not have many of his blocks finished, and he wanted it to be DONE so we made it pretty small -- but then he was disappointed that it wasn't big enough for him to snuggle under.  I originally set up his pineapple log cabin to be a 3 x 3 layout of 12" blocks, for a finished size of about 36" x 36", but Anders decided he wants his quilt to be twin sized to go on his bed.  Hmmm...  I have a feeling Mom might end up making a lot of these blocks if my junior quilter loses interest before it's finished!
I like Anders' color scheme, except that the lighter value reds and blues read a little too pastel raspberry pink and aqua from a distance.  That's due to which fabrics were loaded into the project sketchbook for him to choose from and him not knowing where to look to find more choices.  Knowing that he likes mostly batiks and wants reds and blues, I went back through those fabric stash add-ins and pulled lots more red and blue fabrics to add to the project scrapbook, and decided to mix in reddish orange fabrics with the reds for variety instead of lighter reds that would read pink.  I ended up with this:
...And here's what the whole twin sized quilt would look like, with a 6 x 8 layout of 48 12" blocks:
Before we start cutting any fabric, I'll let Anders play around with the colors and fabrics a bit more in EQ7 to make sure he likes it.  Once he gives the design on screen a thumbs up, we'll root through my ACTUAL fabric stash for close matches and maybe pick up some fat quarters of anything I don't have so he can make up a test block.  Two purposes to the test block, by the way:
1. Once the block is finished, I can import an actual photo of the block into EQ7 to get a much more realistic preview of what the finished quilt would look like using that combinations of fabrics, to be SURE it's what we want.
2. More importantly, Anders will get an idea of how long it takes to make a paper pieced pineapple log cabin block with 37 patches in it, and he will either be excited and want to make 47 more of them -- or he will realize that it's a bigger commitment than he is ready for.  In which case I'll guide him towards an easier block like a square in a square, or suggest making the quilt throw sized with fewer blocks, or even a table runner.
One more thing I wanted to share before signing off -- I got a photo of my Uncle Merle with his new grandson all snuggled up in the Amish Baby 54-40 or Fight quilt that I made for him! 
How sweet is that?  THAT'S why I wrestle with Minky backing and satin binding.  :-)  I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Stitch By Stitch and Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts.  Then I'm off to Anders' Spring orchestra concert.  Have a great afternoon!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Digital Fabric Shopping for My Virtual Design Wall: More Fun with EQ7

So now that I've finished my first "real live" quilt that started out as a design in my EQ7 quilt design software, I am totally hooked.  It was so nice to spend a couple of hours getting the design exactly the way I wanted it in terms of color, value, contrast and scale BEFORE cutting into any fabric -- before even SHOPPING for any fabric -- and then have my finished quilt come out looking exactly as I had envisioned.  Not only did I feel excited when I laid out my finished blocks rather than slightly disappointed, but I also saved a lot of money by fabric shopping with a color printout of my design and yardage calculations generated by the software program.  In the past when I've shopped with only a vague concept in mind rather than a complete design, it required me to purchase lots of different fabric options, some of which made it into the quilt and others that were relegated to my stash.  I also would run into the problem of wanting to use more of a certain fabric as the quilt construction progressed and then not being able to find anymore of it.  Since I construct quilts at about the speed of glaciers, that's a real concern -- I'm often still working on a quilt top a year or more from when I bought the fabrics, and by then the fabrics are often discontinued without stock available.

Kaffe Fassett Collective 2014
EQ7 does come with some fabric images preloaded into the software as well as the option to design quilts in solid colors, and you can import fabric scans and/or download digital fabric images from the internet if you already have specific fabrics in mind for your projects.  However, the fastest way to get LOTS of different digital fabric options is to purchase EQ7's Digital Fabric Stash collections.  Released seasonally in tandem with fabric manufacturer's new offerings, the Stash collections load thousands of professionally scanned, correctly scaled fabric images directly into EQ7's fabric library on your computer, already labeled for you by fabric name, manufacturer, color and category so you can find them easily. 

After downloading and installing several seasons' worth of digital Stash collections, I played around with one of EQ7's New York Beauty quick quilt designs and a wild assortment of Kaffe Fassett's Collectives prints, several of which I have squirreled away in my ACTUAL fabric stash.  I'm not saying this is a quilt that I would actually want to make, but I am very pleased with the way the software allows me to combine lots of different print fabrics, rotate directional prints by any increment, and automatically scales all of the prints in conjunction with the block size that I have specified for the quilt project.

EQ7 New York Beauty Design Using Kaffe Fassett Collective Prints
Then I used some of my new "fake fabric" to play around with a pineapple quilt design for my son Anders.  As I've been working on my own paper pieced pineapple log cabin quilt using 17 3/4" blocks that have 97 patches per block (I finished another block yesterday -- yay!), I was thinking that a smaller, simplified version of this block would be great for a child or other beginner because all you have to do is line up a strip of fabric on top of another strip of fabric, flip the foundation paper over, and sew down the dashed line printed on the foundation paper.  If he uses precut jelly roll strips, or if I precut the strips, he should be able to sew his blocks together on his little vintage Featherweight with minimal assistance.  However, his pineapple project is not going to be very successful if he doesn't get the value and color placement right, so I want him to experiment with that in EQ before he gets started.  I selected a pineapple log cabin block with only 33 patches and colored it in with some randomly placed bright batiks and solids:

Preliminary EQ7 Pineapple Log Cabin Design for Anders
Then I recolored the same quilt using fabrics arranged more deliberately, to show him how the piecing pattern can either disappear or stand out depending on which fabrics he uses and where he puts them:

Pineapple Log Cabin Design for Anders, Second Version
The point of this lesson is not that one version is right and the other is wrong, but to show how color and value placement can radically change the look of the quilt.  Plenty of seasoned quilters struggle with these concepts, but it's even harder for a child making his or her first or second quilt to envision what those big pieces of fabric will look like once they are cut into little pieces and sewn back together -- and beginning quilters who are pleased with and proud of their first quilts are more likely to continue making them!

One of the biggest criticisms I hear about EQ7 is that quilters don't want to "waste time" sitting at a computer when they could be quilting instead.  But for me, the time I spend working with design software saves me a tremendous amount of time, fabric, money and frustration by reducing the trial and error and letting me preview how an entire quilt would look before I spend a single penny or sew a single stitch.

I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times and Main Crush Monday at Cooking Up Quilts, and then I'm off to get ready for my first physical therapy session.  Have a great day!