Finished: The Missing U

I have a special quilt to share today, one that’s been finished for a while but I can share now that it’s been gifted. This quilt went to my sister-in-law Ann and her husband Jason to celebrate their wedding.

The Missing U Quilt

The basic idea for this quilt comes from the Sunday Morning Quilts book, a favorite of mine. I know a scrappy quilt is a little non-traditional for a wedding, but knew that Ann likes bright colors, and I thought a quilt for snuggling on the couch with their dogs was probably a safer bet than a big formal bed quilt.

The Missing U Quilt

The idea of having a small white block in each scrappy block was a design element in original quilt in the book, and I added a few others. The first was that I incorporated a big stripe of fabric down one side of each block, working mainly from a fat eighth bundle of Anna Maria Horner’s True Colors. I also added a single low-volume block, repeating the idea of the small white blocks at a larger scale.

The Missing U Quilt

These blocks were really fun to make and came together fairly quickly. It was gratifying to see each block on its own, and even more fun to start putting them together. I have this theory that a “Rainbow Minus One” color scheme looks a little more polished than a completely rainbow scheme. Red is the missing color here (I think the hot pink makes up for it!), and I incorporated a little more green and purple, since those were Ann and Jason’s wedding colors. I did something similar with my gradient HST baby quilt last week, which is also a rainbow color scheme but with purple as the missing color.

The Missing U Quilt Back

I went for a rainbow gradient on the back. The black fabric shows the quilting really well, though you wouldn’t know it by this photo. The binding is some Architextures black-on-white text, which I realized I needed to stop hoarding and just use already.

Oh, and the name of the quilt is from the book, a reference to Color vs. Colour. But I thought it could be interpreted in a romantic way as well. :)

WIP Wednesday: I hate piecing edition

I have a confession to make: I don’t like piecing all that much. I enjoy the first few hours of piecing a new project. But if I could stop at that point and have the rest just appear by magic, that would be AWESOME.

Paper Piecing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about focusing on what I do well and what I enjoy. Stacey had a great post recently over at The Tilted Quilt in which she talked about sending some quilts out to be long-arm quilted, and getting over the idea that “legitimate quilters” don’t do that. It made me think about wanting to focus on the things I like best, which are choosing/creating the design, selecting the fabrics, and the quilting.

The thing is, you can’t send out your quilt to get pieced the way you can send it out to get quilted. However, as I was mulling this over, I had a mini-epiphany, which was: NEGATIVE SPACE. This is all the rage in modern quilting anyway, right? Why don’t I just leave some wide open spaces in my quilt and save myself some time?!?

So, here’s my first foray into this style of quilt.

Scrappy Diamonds Baby Quilt

I drafted some paper-piecing templates (fun), chose some fabrics from my scrap bin (fun), pieced the blocks (not too many, so still fun), and now I’m ready for some (fun) quilting!

I heard an interesting interview with this guy Gay Hendricks in which he talked about what he called the “Zone of Genius.” I know it sounds cheesy, but for some reason that idea stuck with me. Why waste time in your “Zone of Incompetence” (things other people could do better) or even your “Zone of Excellence” (things you’re good at but don’t love), when you could be doing things you both excel at and enjoy? Sometimes it makes sense, like if you’re learning a new skill, or you decide it’s easier just to do a thing rather than recruiting someone else to do it. But basing these choices on guilt or an idea of what a “real ____” (quilter, woman, whatever) does? I no longer see the virtue in that.

I do still see the virtue in quilts with lots of tiny pieces, though, so clearly my negative space epiphany is not the solution to all my piecing woes. Anyone else thinking about how to spend more time in their Zone of Quilting Genius?

Triangle Madness In Miniature

Thanks for all the lovely feedback on my HST color gradient code earlier this week! Here’s how it turned out, in the baby quilt version.

HST Color Gradient Baby Quilt

I echoed the layout of the colors in the main block in the pieced binding. This was the first time I did my binding entirely by machine. There seem to be a couple methods of doing this, depending on whether you sew the final seam from the front or the back of the quilt. Since the front of this quilt is really the showcase, I decided to sew from the front. It was fairly easy to catch the binding on a small quilt like this. I’m debating whether to try it on my next big quilt. Strange to say, I think I have more patience for hand-sewing the binding, even though it takes longer.

HST Color Gradient Quilt

And the back:

HST Color Gradient Quilt Back

Several of these fabrics (the mottled looking ones) are ones I hand-dyed using this method. The fish print comes from a fat quarter I bought on a whim in Hawaii when Jason and I were first dating. I think perhaps the island air overwhelmed my usual, slightly more restrained design sensibilities. I have to admit I kind of love it even now.

I don’t have a ton of great photographs of this quilt yet. I’ve decided I need to co-opt some friends’ kids’ cribs and stuffed animals to give the proper context. :) For now you’ll have to settle for artful draping.

HST Color Gradient Baby Quilt

This quilt is still in search of a name. The bigger (unfinished) version already has a name: “The Human Element,” because after its nerdy origins and lots of work so far, it already feels like a quilt that needs a ponderous, kinda pretentious name. Any thoughts on what The Human Element’s little sibling should be called?

Triangle Madness

Well hello! I’m feeling a little shy after not posting for such a long time. Turns out I needed to disconnect for a little longer than I thought! I pondered different ways of re-entering the blogosphere, including an epic catch-up post, but my plan is to do one work-in-progress and one finished object post a week and see how that goes. As you can imagine, I have quite a stack of finished quilts to show you!

The quilt I’ll show you Friday was actually a prototype for what I’m working on now.

Triangle quilt in progress

I got a little obsessed with the idea of color gradient triangle quilts, after seeing this pin on Pinterest. Being the occasional uber-geek that I am, I had the sudden flight of fancy to write code to generate layouts for these quilts. This is handy because you can generate a whole bunch of possible layouts without physically moving around all the little triangles on a design wall!

At its most basic, my code randomly selects triangle orientations and colors, subject to the constraint that two triangles of the same color can’t touch. Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Random triangle quiltYou can also specify an ordered list of colors to be spread across the diagonal of the quilt. There’s a way to control the degree of mixing along the gradient. Here are two layouts with different degrees of mixing.

Triangle gradient quilt layoutsThe fabrics I’m using come from the Denyse Schmidt’s new Modern Solids collection, leaving out only the purples. I extracted the RGB information from this photo, and then I extracted just the hue information, discarding saturation (colorfulness) and value (brightness). This made for a pretty neat effect in the gradient, which is that the neutral colors are interspersed between the bright colors, according to their hue. So, for example, there are warm grays and cool grays in different places. This was the sequence of colors I used, after ordering by hue. There are 66 different colors.

Modern Solids color gradient

And this is the final layout I’m piecing now.
Modern Solids Gradient QuiltI also made a baby quilt version with fewer and smaller triangles, which I’ll post about later this week. In the meantime, I’m digging into these stacks.

Triangle fabrics

Finally, I just want to say it’s good to be back! There’s been a lot going on around here since I last posted, most exciting of which was this:

beach wedding

We got married on the beach in Hawaii with 25 of our closest friends and family and it was awesome. And yes, I did make that shawl. :)

All About Palette Builder: An Interview with Anne Sullivan from Play-Crafts

Friends, I’m so excited to share today’s post with you! Like pretty much all quilters, I love playing with color and thinking about different color schemes. A few times on the blog I’ve mentioned Palette Builder, a fantastic online tool I use to draw color inspiration from photos. The creator of Palette Builder, Anne Sullivan of Play-Crafts, generously agreed to answer some questions so we can all learn more about this tool and how it works. Let’s get right to it!

Tell us a little bit about your background and what your motivation was for creating the Palette Builder.

Horse Palette

I’m an artist and a programmer, which is fun but is also kind of like having two kids in my head that rarely get along. I recently got my PhD in computer science, and my focus was on game design. Some friends and I got together in our last year to talk about The Future ™ and chatted about making a crafting game over wine and cheese while sitting in an old Victorian (the setting seems really important for some reason.) We were all crafters and gamers, and thought it’d be fun to marry the two. As we got further into the wine bottle and the night progressed, we were deeply enraptured with the idea of creating some game that when you were done, you had some sort of pattern or even crafted design when you were done. Which still does sound neat.

However, at one point, one of us sat back and said “You know what’s fun already, and doesn’t really need a game to make it more fun? Crafting!” We all laughed, but it was true. And that turned our thoughts towards creating design tools with playful, almost game-like interfaces. My friends went on to get “real” jobs, but I decided to try to make these playful tools a reality, and two of them co-founded Play-Crafts with me.

Palette Builder was the first tool created because I love color, and it seems so integral to all the other tools we want to create. Being able to go from inspiration to design to finished product is not necessarily an easy process, but having a way to find colors seems like a good first step!

Without giving away any secrets, can you describe a bit about how it works? For example, I’m curious how the initial colors are chosen when I upload a photo.

If you can read javascript, you can actually see how it works by viewing the source of the webpage. So there are no real secrets. :) This is a simplification of the process, but we look at every pixel in your image, and sort them into color buckets. Then the bucket with the most pixels in it is the first color in your palette, the bucket with the second most pixels is the second color, and so forth. There is a bit more to it where we make sure the color buckets aren’t too similar in color (so you don’t end up with a palette of 10 almost-the-same-exact-shade of blue), but that’s the basics of it!

Palette Builder code

Tell us about the new features. I’m particularly excited about being able to choose Kona colors!

The very first version of palette builder we created had the ability to “crop” the image to zero in on one part of the picture, and to change the “variety” of the colors in your palette. The variety was basically changing how different the color buckets needed to be (described above.) Most people didn’t notice or use the cropping feature, and the variety slider seemed to confuse a lot of our users.

So I decided to revamp the tool completely and make it more fun, since that was the underlying goal. So now there is an initial palette chosen, but you can have much more control over the colors by choosing them directly from the image. I knew I was going in the right direction when early user testers would write to me and say how much fun they had using it! Success! :D

Grass Fabrics

Matching to Kona fabrics was always something we wanted to do, but I wanted the tool to be refined enough that I wasn’t embarrassed to show it to Kona. Fortunately, they were as excited by the idea as we were! And now that the framework is in place, we should be able to fairly easily add the ability to match other solids as well as thread, floss, yarn, paint, whatever. We just need to get permission first. So hopefully you will see more choices in the future!

How do you use the Palette Builder in your own projects? Have you come up with any particular color schemes you’d like to share?

I often use the palette builder as a jumping off point. I’ll play with it and find a palette I love, and it helps inspire a future quilt. I don’t always follow the palettes religiously, but I enjoy seeing color combinations I may not normally have thought of that make me want to work with those colors.

I have recently completed a quilt and a quilt top using the palettes from Palette Builder, which I’d be happy to share! The first is a jumbo star quilt that I created for a charity auction. My friend, Adrianne (http://www.littlebluebell.com/) posted a photo of some flowers she liked on Facebook and I just loved the colors, so I immediately asked her if I could use it for a palette. At the time, Kona matching wasn’t implemented, and it was right after I finished that quilt that I made the time to get it to work!

Jumbo Star fabrics

Jumbo Star Quilt

(Note from Cari: I remember seeing this quilt on Anne’s blog and absolutely falling in love with it. You can read more about the design process and check out the amazing quilting job she did on it here.)

I also just finished up a quilt top last week before I left for Sewing Summit. I was looking for a color palette that captured the summer to fall transition without being the traditional fall colors. I remembered that I had a photo of a red dragonfly, and dragonflies are sometimes used as symbolism for this time of year, so it seemed a perfect fit. I chose the palette and used the Konas to help choose my prints as well. It made me so happy that Kona matching was working, and I admit I never would have used Kona Ochre (the golden color) had it not shown up in the palette!

Dragon Fly Fabrics

Herringbone Stack

Red Dragonfly Quilt Top

Thanks so much for all the great questions! I really enjoyed talking about the tool, and I’d love to hear how others use it. :)

AnneThanks to you, Anne, for taking the time to share with us, and for creating such a great resource! Readers, be sure to check out the Play-Crafts blog for more inspiration. Although she didn’t mention it, you may also be aware that Anne’s herringbone quilt pattern (above) is currently taking the blogosphere by storm, with lots of participants in the Molli Sparkles Broken Herringbone Quilt-Along. I recently used Palette Builder to create the color scheme for my Penny Sampler (still getting caught up on that!). Feel free to post any links to your own use of Palette Builder in the comments; I’m sure we’d all love to see some more examples!