Thursday, February 11, 2021

Valued Bear Paws

This year, in addition to making any quilts that choose me (you never know what's going to come up), I'm planning to supplement all those Bear Paw blocks I made as part of the Quilters Color Quest last year. If you recall, there were lots of versions of blocks in many styles/colors of fabric according to various prompts over the course of the workshop. They were all fun to make, but didn't all mesh well with each other, at least in my eyes. So this year I'm making more (yes, making Bear Paws is like eating potato chips--you can't stop at just one) to fill out the blocks for a variety of quilts. At least that's the plan at this moment. 
Because it was easy, I started with a simple plan of a quilt using two values of one color in each block. I had a few blocks as seeds for the quilt, and then it was just a matter of dragging out every tone-on-tone fabric in my drawers and pairing things up. Oh, and dragging out all the low-volumes/whitish solids I could find. What a mess!! A fun mess, though. I completely forgot to take photos of just which blocks I started with (probably only about four), and in the end I wasn't paying so much attention to whether there was a lot of contrast in the values of each block. I was just having fun pairing things up. Because I wanted to focus on color and value, I tried to leave out highly figured fabrics as much as possible. To each of the six-inch blocks, I added two strips of very low volume fabric to make 8-inch blocks. This makes a small lap size quilt that is preferred by my favorite agency for quilt donations. The most interesting thing to me is how those low volumes that looked pretty much alike while I was sewing them cast different subtle value changes across the quilt when viewed in sunlight.
I did need to buy some fabric for the backing. I have really enjoyed making pieced backings from leftovers/scraps over the years, but recently, that requires a lot of work because my available pieces are getting smaller and smaller. So I have been purchasing either wide backings or sale yardage. And even more recently, I've been purchasing them online for local pickup. For this quilt I browsed through the available sale fabrics at my chosen website until I saw that cute floral print on the right. It reminded me of a Liberty print, minus the luscious feel, of course, but still, so lovely and cheerful. I thought I was done looking, but then I had second thoughts. What if it didn't look the same in person? I kept scrolling through available choices. Oh, my! That fabric on the left. It took me right back to high school. I just had to have it, even though I knew there would be a dilemma over which one to use. 

I spend a lot of time laying my options over the quilt top. Dither, dither. One fabric picked up on the lighter fabrics of the top.

The other picked up on jewel-toned blocks.

In the end, I trusted my first impulse and went with the floral. I have all kinds of ideas running through my head for the 70's style print. I'm thinking pairing it with bright solids would be fun. 
Isn't it interesting how the repeat in a pattern causes a grid when you view the fabric from far? It's just a little off from square, but no one sees that when the quilt is in use. I did manage to piece a seam to match the pattern.

I knew when I pieced the quilt that I wanted it to be quick and easy. To me that means meandering in the background. Few stops and starts and fewer threads to bury. Plus, it's relaxing for me. Everything went well for a bit. Then my machine started to skip stitches about every three or four inches. I had just given it a spa treatment, so I couldn't figure out the problem. I put in a fresh needle (twice), rethreaded, found a little chunk of lint in my feed dogs, reset the bobbin, changed the bobbin, tried again and again, and...still skipping. So much for having few threads to bury. There were lots of stops and starts to pick out stitches. Then I noticed that the problem happened mostly when I was sewing over one kind of low volume strip. It was a prepared-for-dying fabric that was a little heftier than my other fabrics. I had used that fabric in another quilt last year and had no problem with the quilting, but I was using a walking foot that time, not FMQ. So I replaced my usual 90/14 topstitch needle with a denim needle, and voila! Problem solved! The needle made quite a racket puncturing the quilt, but I was so happy that it was sewing well again, I didn't mind. In no time at all the background quilting was finished. 

But what to do for the paws? For some reason, I wanted to do something different. When I made the blocks I pressed the claw seams open. I'm not sure why I did that, but it sort of eliminated in-the-ditch quilting for me as i don't like to sew in the seamline on open seams. I don't like in-the-ditch anyway, as I find it boring. So I decided to quilt about a 1/4-inch away around the blocks. With a walking foot because I don't do straight line FMQ well. Kind of a dumb idea. You can imagine how many times I had to spin the quilt to do that. I did figure out a way to do the whole block without breaking thread because, you know, I was trying to do this quick and easy. And it really didn't take all that long after all. But then, the middle of the paw. I had to do something there. I looked at gorgeous quilting by talented quilters online and must have drawn a zillion designs with pencil and paper. I was over with walking foot quilting. I still wanted something quick with few thread breaks. I finally came up with a stylized leaf. I wasn't happy with it, but by now, the quilt was no longer quick, so I just went with it. I'm okay with the overall look, but if quick and easy was my top priority, I should have just meandered the whole quilt and been done. Will I remember this next time? Who knows. But I've recorded it here as a reminder to my future self. 

So, here's how it all turned out. It's really fine, and definitely doesn't take itself too seriously. 

And I love the texture of the back.

I sneaked my initials and the year into the bottom right corner, using my washout marker. (After washing, it just becomes part of the texture unless you know where to look for it.)

Here are some close-ups.

And some with a glimpse of the scrappy binding. I cut lengths of about 8 inches (about 10 inches for the ones at the corners) from leftover paw fabrics in an attempt to reduce my scrap fabrics even more.

After years of binding with 2-1/2 inch strips, I had more recently been trying to make more modern narrow bindings, but my corners always looked rounded and "thick." Lately, I have realized that 2-1/2 inches is the sweet spot for me to get sharp corners, so that's my habit now. On quilts that have block points at the edge of the quilt, I cut my backing and batting about 1/8 inch outside of the top, and then I sew my binding with a scant 3/8-inch seam allowance. This keeps most block points intact, or close to it.

February has been a cold and snowy month for us. But yesterday, we had brilliant sunshine with no wind. So of course, I had to brave the cold not only for my usual garage photos, but a glamour session in the snow. Our front yard was pristine--not even marred by bunny tracks. So I tried. I really tried. I thought I could fling the quilt smoothly onto the snow. Except. One corner folded over. So those holes you see are my tracks from galumphing around to adjust things. Oh well. We'll celebrate snowy glamour shots anyway.

Here are the stats:
Pattern: Bear Paws; layout was based on a quilt pattern at Generations Quilt Patterns
Fabrics: Scraps from many years of quilt-making; backing is a Keepsake Calico (I think) from Joann. 
Batting: Hobbs Premium 80/20
Thread: Superior Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; Superior King Tut in White Linen for quilting; A heavy glace finish hand quilting thread that's no longer made (sigh) for hand sewing the binding.
Binding: 2 1/2 inches cut, double layer, machine sewn to front and hand stitched on back. 
Size: 48 1/2 by 56 1/2 inches before quilting; 47 1/2 by 55 1/4 inches after quilting; 44 5/8 by 51 5/8 inches after washing on cold and machine drying on low.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer Treadle 115 for free motion and walking foot quilting and the machine work on the binding.

Indoors, after washing

This quilt will join two others I made in the last months for donation. 

Now I'm taking a little break from Bear Paws. Today I'm cutting up blue fabric that will put a big dent in the scraps. My pattern is one I got in a giveaway last year. It is the quilt that has chosen me this month. Stay tuned...

How are your scraps doing? 

(Just a reminder: I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 



Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I always do 2.5 inch binding strips - I tried less and I find it more difficult to work with

Preeti said...

I am rather partial to blocks and quilts that show a value variation. So the Bear's Paw blocks are exactly my kinda blocks. But that tip about using a Denim Needle is absolutely priceless. Love the backing fabrics. There isn't a wrong choice here. Beautiful finish, Janine!!!

Susan Smith said...

I enjoyed this post very much, reminding me of how I quite often work. Love the quilt & the snowy photos(couldn't do that in my part of the world) & the blocks remind me of a block swap for bear paws back in 2000 after doing a Mary Ellen Hopkins workshop/retreat & some of the participants decided on a swap which I'd never done before. It was interesting. I use 2 1/4" for my binding & leave approx. 1/4" batting on outside so the binding is well filled & it doesn't wear out before the rest of the quilt. Tanks for sharing your processes, take care & stay safe. Hugs.

The Joyful Quilter said...

That turned out beautifully and I love your backing choice!!

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

I love seeing this quilt made from some of your bear paw blocks from last year! It's beautiful - great blocks, colors, and the backing is perfect for them, too. And you quilted it with a treadle machine? Wow!

Linda said...

Prettiest bear claw quilt I've ever seen! I love both backings, but the one you chose looks perfect. I also love the scrappy binding. I agree, it is amazing what the low volume does to the look of the quilt, very attractive. I've been trying to make narrower bindings too, and on my current quilt it is barely over 2 inches. It's all I had left, so I had to cut it thin! It will be interesting to see if I can get it to work.
Beautiful job Janine, I love reading about your process. I save it for my morning coffee. :)

Jannette said...

I loved this quilt when you shared it on IG, but I love it even more now, seeing all the special details and "hearing" your thoughts as you quilted it!
That leaf in the paws is so cute - and it adds another interesting feature to the quilt. The backing is perfect - I'm guessing that every colour you used on the front is represented in the backing too.

Louise said...

Oh, I love this quilt! The lighter value "claws" almost look feathery and it has so much movement! The backing is perfect, too. I hear your frustration about the skipped stitches. Brava for figuring out it was a more densely woven background fabric; great sleuthing! I had something similar happen on a scrappy quilt and it took ages to find the offending green fabric. I'm wary of those denser ones now.

Congrats on such a fun finish :)

QuiltGranma said...

Thank you for sharing this process with us. Your words help the quilt come to life. Yes, you birthed a quilt! We, too got some of that "beautiful" snow over yesterday, and expect more. Can you say HOUSEBOUND?

Margo Yang said...

What a great finish! It’s beautiful!

Deb said...

Even tho it was a lot of turning and spinning ,the accent on the bear paw points was definitely worth it!
Stay safe and sew on !

karenbbsnow said...

It's so pretty. Thanks for sharing your thought process, I love the way you used 2 tones of the same colour in each paw.

Allison said...

This is such a lovely quilt. Thank you for taking time to share the process of making it. Concentrating on colour and value works really well and adding the low volume fabric strips separates out the blocks nicely.
I'm glad you found the solution to the problem with jumping stitches. I will have to remember that a heavy duty needle may be required for fmq denser fabrics.

Sandra Walker said...

Galumphing around lol. It did make me laugh, but oh those quilts on a fresh blanket of snow are the best! I did it with one too around this time. Oh BOY did we get a dump of the white stuff Monday night/Tuesday morning...did you? We've never had this much since we moved back here almost 9 years ago. February sure has been the winter month. I absolutely LOVE this quilt, just everything. The two-tone paws, the subtle shading in the low volume (I've experienced that with a few RSC quilts, and I love the effect), your 1/4" away quilting, that mimics hand-quilting in the one shot, and the happy scrappy binding. Oh, and the floral back! The other is drool-worthy too. Wow did the quilt ever shrink! That always makes my mouth fall open, so I haven't been pre and post measuring anymore! Ah, bear paws, the block that hooked me into quilting...this idea is sure tempting to chase... :-)