Coming Up: More about the Making of My Latest Quilts from Abstract Garden

In between moving, hosting the Blooming Wallflowers quilt along, and planning out my next round of designs, I haven’t had a chance to tell you much about some of my latest finishes. So I thought I’d take some time over the next several weeks to share more in-depth about my process of making quilts from my latest fabric line, Abstract Garden.

Geese in the Garden

Geese in the Garden with Abstract Garden fabric

LatticeWork

LatticeWork Quilt Made from Abstract Garden

Pieced Primrose

Pieced Primrose Quilts Made from Abstract Garden

Just in Case you Missed it – Blooming Wallflowers

Blooming Wallflowers quilt

Abstract Garden Quilt Patterns

Click here to see my entire quilt pattern collection.

Think of the next several weeks as Do It Yourself quilt alongs. They won’t be as in-depth as my regular quilt alongs, but they’ll provide a little more insight into my quilt-making process and will help you have a smooth experience making your own version. I enjoy blogging about the process so that I can include some in-process photos, in addition to the full color diagrams and quilting plans I include in my patterns for sale.

It should be fun and inspiring, so stay tuned!

Sneak Peek of My Appearance on the Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims!

On a hot August day last summer, I was invited to be a guest on The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims. It was a nerve-wracking but wonderful experience, and now I’m excited to announce that my episode will be airing on April 21! The folks behind the scenes over at the Quilt Show were amazing, and they’ve prepared this fun trailer to get you excited about the show:

The Quilt Show Trailer

Click here to view a sneak peek of my episode #2409 of The Quilt Show.

Members of The Quilt Show will be able to catch this hour long episode along with all of the new shows this season as they are released. If you aren’t yet a member, I’ll be able to share a special link the week after it airs so you can watch it for FREE!! So stay tuned 🙂

Learn to use Electric Quilt with my Free Handouts & other Resources

I love using Electric Quilt software, and I use the program for each and every quilt and pattern I design. I often get asked about the best way to learn the software, and the simple answer is to learn by doing. Whenever I need to learn a new technique, I google, “How Do I….. in EQ” and I always find a tutorial to help me out!

As an EQ artist and ambassador for the company, they’ve featured me in several of their ad campaigns over the years which is always fun to see!

If you want to learn how to use EQ I recommend checking out the class resources at ElectricQuilt.com. EQ offers yearly hands-on classes, online classes, as well as resources for teachers. You can also find workshops at most major quilt shows, or reach out to your local quilt shop or guild to see which teachers are in your area.

You can also reach out to the folks at Electric Quilt directly via their help line at techsupport@electricquilt.com. They really want to help you succeed in learning the software and using it to it’s fullest potential!

Electric Quilt 8

Electric Quilt recently released EQ8 with a much easier interface.

I’ve taught others how to use the software over the years, but with my busy quilting career I don’t have room in my schedule to teach it anymore. So I thought I’d do the next best thing: – share two handouts that my friends at EQ helped me create.  Check out the links below. They were written for EQ7 but are very similar to the functionality you’ll find in the newer version of EQ8.

Click here to access my handout – getting started with EQ
Click here to get my handout – designing modern quilts in EQ

When I taught EQ at QuiltCon a few years ago,  they showcased several of my EQ designed quilts in their booth. All of the quilts in my books and patterns were designed in EQ, including the two shown below, from my book Machine Quilting with Style.

Christa and EQ at QuiltCon 2017

Everything I make is first designed in EQ!

Electric Quilt is a very comprehensive program with a bit of a learning curve, but my handouts will help get you started. And trust me, the more you use the software, the easier it gets. For those of you who already have EQ, I also have a resource page where I’ve shared the files for several of my free quilt patterns. That way you can download the files, and open them up in EQ to change colors, layouts, sizes etc. Be sure to check out the additional links below:

Important Links

Happy quilting and learning!!

Guest on the Make and Decorate Podcast

I love podcasts! And I especially love to listen to quilting podcasts while I sew. It’s like having a fun chat with a friend, but I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to respond, LOL! Well, recently I was interviewed on the Make and Decorate podcast, hosted by amazing interior designer and all-around fun quilter, Stephanie Socha of Stephanie Socha Design.

Make and Decorate Podcast

I first met Stephanie online when she started giving me some fabulous tips about decorating my new home. So she’s fun to chat with about decorating AND quilting!

It was fun to be one of her “milestone” podcasts – 25 episodes since she began less than a year ago – and she’s interviewed some really great guests, too. Some of her most recent interview guests include Matthew Boudreaux, aka “Mister Domestic” as well as bag-maker extraordinaire Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness.

Make and Decorate Podcast

To listen to the podcast, you can click the player on Stephanie’s website (here). Or you can search for “Make and Decorate podcast” on I-tunes or your favorite podcast player. So give it a listen, and I’m sure you’ll become addicted, too!

Oh, and I know some of you will ask what some of my favorite podcasts are, so click here for a list of my favorites podcasts I created a few years ago. Although some have come and gone, it’s still a great place to get started listening.

Designer Sampler – Free Quilt Block Tutorials for You from Benartex

One of the fun things I love about designing fabric for Benartex is being able to express myself creatively through fabric. I also love getting to know their other fabric designers and see the amazing things they make! Recently Benartex pulled together a fun collaboration to create this fun sampler quilt. Each block was designed by one of nine current fabric designers who participated, and there are instructions to make each block as well as the full quilt over on the Benartex blog.

Benartex Designer Sampler in Solids

Designer Sampler in Solids
Click here for the Sampler introduction
Click here for finishing instructions

As an inspiring bonus, the folks over at Benartex recolored the sampler quilt using each designers’ latest fabric line. Links to each block and fabric collection are below each image:

Jackie Robinson Festival of Roses

Click here to see Jackie Robinson’s “A Festival of Roses” collection
Click here for instructions to make Jackie’s Rose block

Amanda Murphy Thankful

Click here to see Amanda Murphy’s “Thankful” collection
Click here for instructions to make Amanda’s Octablock

Nancy Halvorson Home Grown

Click here to see Nancy Halvorsen’s “Home Grown” collection
Click here for instructions to make Nancy’s Home block

Cherry Guidry Hearty the Snowman

Click here to see Cherry Guidry’s “Hearty the Snowman” collection
Click here for instructions to make Cherry’s Hearty Gifts block

Modern Quilt Studio Warp and Weft

Click here to see Modern Quilt Studio’s “Warp and Waft” collection
Click here for instructions to make Bill & Weeks’ Jawbreaker block

Ann Lauer Catitude Christmas

Click here to see Ann Lauer’s “Catitude Christmas” collection
Click here for instructions to make Ann’s 8-Pointed Star block

Cheryl Haynes Harvest Berry

Click here to see Cheryl Haynes’ “Harvest Berry” collection
Click here for instructions to make Cheryl’s Pumpkin House block

Paula Nadelstern Piece and Joy

Click here to see Paula Nadelstern’s “Piece & Joy” collection
Click here for instructions to make The Big T block designed by Stephanie  Sheridan

Christa Watson Abstract Garden

Click here to see Christa Watsons “Abstract Garden” collection
Click here for instructions to make my Sunshine block

Isn’t it fun to see how unique a quilt looks made up in different fabrics? This is a great way to experience the variety of colors and styles that Benartex offers. Now I want to make them all!!

Tutorial: How to Build a Design Wall for Quilting

When we moved into our new home, the highest priority for me was getting my quilting studio up and running since quilting is my full-time job. I’ve had many people asking me how I built my design wall in my old house, so when we created it again in the new place, I took step by step pictures so I could tell you all about it in detail. So here goes:

Design Wall built by Christa Watson and hubby

My design wall does double duty – I also use it for flat quilt photography.

Materials to Build a 96″ x 96″ Quilt Design Wall

Two Foam Core Insulation boards, 4′ x 8′ each. You can always cut them down if it’s too big. These are available from Home Depot or other home improvement stores. Be careful handling them as they are very fragile and can dent and break easily. When Jason and I purchased them, we had to look through all of them on display to find the nicest, newest looking boards.

Design Wall Boards

Getting the boards home in our SUV was the hardest part of the job! Fortunately they just barely fit in the back of the car with the seats down.

California King Size White flannel flat sheet. Because the design wall is square, you want as much extra room as possible to wrap around the edges. I found a 108″ x 108″ sheet set from Bed, Bath and Beyond. It was easier to purchase the whole sheet set rather than just the top sheet, so I just donated the fitted sheet and pillowcases. You’ll want to iron it ahead of time to get out all of the wrinkles. I did not prewash because I didn’t want it to shrink up.

White flannel sheet for design wall

Be sure to iron out the wrinkles as much as you can.

Supplies: washers, screws, duct tape, screwdriver, level and a staple gun. This design wall is very light weight and attached directly to the wall so no crazy equipment is needed. We used regular 2″ long screws with washers to hold them in place. A level comes in handy, too.

Tools and supplies to build a design wall

Not pictured: duct tape, level, and a hand-held screwdriver.

Step 1 – Tape the Insulation Boards together

The boards we bought have writing on one side, and a silver reflective surface on the other side. We chose the silver side to be the front so that none of the writing would show through on the front. It’s also easy to pin into.

Foam Board Front

One of the boards had a small dent on the front which we didn’t see. Fortunately, it didn’t show up at all, once we covered them in flannel and attached to the wall.

I thought it was funny that the boards say they are specifically for craft projects. I don’t remember that writing the last time I made a design wall for my other house over 5 years ago.

Foam Insulation boards writing

We started off by taping the boards together on top of a couple of tables and barstools pushed together at the right height. But then we realized you could do this on a hard floor as well. My previous studio was carpeted so we needed to do everything on a flat table. This time around, the studio floor worked well for all of the other steps.

Jason taped the back middle seam with duct tape as far as he could reach. We had to be careful handling it because it wanted to fold along the seam. At this point, it’s not very stable, but big and awkward.

Taping the insulation boards together

Step 2 – Cover the Boads with A Flannel Sheet

The reason I chose a flannel sheet is that it’s lightweight, gives an even surface, and fabric and quilts will stick to it. I also think it looks much nicer and cleaner than batting and I can still pin into it if needed. We laid the flannel sheet on the floor first, and then gently laid the taped boards wrong side up on top of it.

Flannel

There was just barely enough width on the floor for the sheet and boards because we installed a floor plug in the middle of the room where my sewing machine goes. It’s important to have a flat work surface when doing this part so it doesn’t dent the foam. I didn’t worry about the top seam in the sheet since it would be wrapped around to the back side.

When this is hung, the seam will be horizontally in the middle so that one board basically sits on top of the other. That will make the seam on the front side less noticeable and will give the whole structure more stability once it’s attached to the wall.

Design Wall in Progress

Very smoothly and carefully, we wrapped the excess flannel around the boards, 2 sides at a time.

Wrapping the board in flannel

First we stapled the “top” and “bottom” sides and then the edges, very close together.  Jason discovered that he had to put a little bit of pressure while using the gun and staple straight down, otherwise the staples would come out easily.

Stapling the sides

After a few staples, Jason drew a straight line so that he could pull the edges taught and even and line up the staples about 5″ or so from the edge. Keeping a little tension on the sheet was important so that it would be smooth and tight across the surface and not sag.

Level for marking

The corners were a bit bulky so I tried to fold them over as best as I could so that it was smooth and tight around the corners. We used lots more staples here. I probably could have cut some of the bulk from the corners, but didn’t want to risk it in case we had to redo something. Fortunately we didn’t and the bulk of the flannel was smooshed flat against the wall, once everything was attached.

On the sides with corners, Jason stapled a few in the middle, then the corners, then worked his way in sections to even out any of the stretch in the flannel.

Lots of Staples in the Corners

We added lots and lots of staples to secure the flannel.

Step 3 – Attach the Design Boards to the Wall

We measured where we wanted to hang the design wall – centered halfway across the room and in between two plugs on the wall. We wanted it 5″ from the floor so we found a box that height that we used to rest the design wall on while we gently nudged it into place.

My job was to carefully hold the design wall against the wall while Jason attached it into place with screws. He used a measuring tape and level to ensure that it stayed straight and square while attaching.

Measure

Jason measured 1 1/2″ away from the edges using a washable marking pen. Then he screwed the screws directly into the wall with a regular screwdriver, making a hole in the flannel that was covered by the washer. The washer gives a decorative element and also prevents the screw from digging into the foam.

Attaching the screws in the design wall

First Jason attached two screws on either side, where the boards meet up in the middle. This would be the two top corners of the bottom foam board. Then he attached screws in the upper corner of the design wall, and then in the lower corners.

Attaching Top Screws

Then he attached 2 more screws in the lower corners of the first design board – so 8 screws and washers to secure the boards to the wall, holding down all 4 corners of each foam board.

Attaching side screws

We attached a total of 14 screws and washers, evenly across the top and side edges. Here’s what it looks like with all screws attached. You can see the faint line where the boards meet up in the middle, but that softens up over time and will be mostly covered by quilts anyway.

Finished Design Wall

I added a recent quilt finish to the wall to give my room a pop of color that I really love! Now I’m ready to make and photograph more quilts for your viewing pleasure!!

Christa Watson Quilt Studio

The quilt on the wall is from my Rainbow Weave quilt kit.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and peek into my sewing room. Because I know you’ll ask – my sewing table is one I purchased from a dealer over 20 years ago. Sadly the dealer is no longer in business and I can’t remember the brand of table it was! But I’m in the process of finding a new table with a built-in side section that forms an L shape – giving me more room to hold up the quilt. So be on the lookout for more sewing room updates, and more fabulous quilts!

Blooming Wallflowers Week 10 – Binding to Finish

Can you believe we’ve come to the end of the Blooming Wallflowers quilt along? I’m so excited to see all of your finishes and encourage you to continue working at your own pace, even if you finish weeks (or months) later.

Blooming Wallflowers quilt

I was literally finishing the hand binding of this quilt on the way to quilt market last fall, so I didn’t get any pics of my binding in progress. However, I’ve written several other binding tutorials, and my process is exactly the same, no matter which quilt I’m making. So choose your favorite method – hand or machine, and enjoy this last step of the process!

Modern Marks binding strips

I cut matching binding strips from my Modern Marks Navy Herringbone print.

Here’s a bonus tip for binding: I like to cut my strips out at 2″ wide and attach them with an exact 1/4″ seam using my BERNINA dual feed (which acts like a walking foot but I can use skinnier feet on it). This gives me a precise finished binding of 1/4″ and it’s even on both the front and back. Many times, I like to use the same background fabric as the binding so that it looks like the design is floating on the surface, rather than being interrupted by a contrasting fabric.

Here’s Blooming Wallflowers hanging in my booth at quilt market last November, along with the other quilt patterns I made to showcase my Abstract Garden fabric.

Christa Watson Abstract Garden

My booth with Benartex at fall quilt market in Houston, November 2018
Other quilts shown are LatticeWork and Geese in the Garden.

And just for fun, below the is the original Blooming Wallflowers quilt I made a couple of years earlier for a quilt magazine to promote my first line, Modern Marks. As you can see, this quilt is fun to make no matter which fabrics you choose!

Blooming Wallflowers in Modern Marks

Blooming Wallflowers Modern Marks

The Modern Marks Navy Herringbone print is one of my all-time faves!

I hope you’ve enjoyed making this quilt with me. And if you are worried about having quilt-along withdrawal, stay tuned for the next quilt along, coming soon!! It features a brand new quilt that I haven’t shared on the blog yet, and I’m sure you’ll love it just as much!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Dress Sewing Journey Part 1

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared my sewing journey in real time, so while I’m working on some projects behind the scenes that I can’t show you, I’ll share my process in learning to attempt to sew a dress. I’ve always wanted to learn to sew clothing, and now that I have my own fabric, I’m even more inspired to make something to wear from it!

Terrace Dress by Liesl & C0

My first real attempt will be to try the Terrace dress from Liesl and Co. It looks like an easy enough pattern and I’ve met Liesl several times and think she’s an amazing clothing designer. My goal is to sewing clothing made from my fabrics that I can wear at quilt market and other industry events, so I’m ready to dive right in.

I also picked up the Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting which is full of great info on how to alter patterns to fit. The basic premise is that you “tissue fit” the pattern, meaning making alterations in the pattern itself before you begin sewing.

Guide to Fitting

I know that this will be a huge learning curve for me, and I plan to make several practice versions of the dress, a so-called “wearable muslin” until I get it right. For my first attempt, I’m going to use Crossmarks in pink from my Modern Marks line. I figure that if it doesn’t turn out well, I can always throw the fabric back in my stash, right??

Modern Marks Crossmarks Pink

So far I’ve printed out the basic pattern onto paper and taped it together and chosen a size that mostly corresponds to my measurements. I could just dive in and cut out the fabric, but the Fit guide recommends tracing it onto soft tissue paper to adjust. So that will be the next step. I’ll keep you posted in real time and let you know how it goes!

Terrace dress pattern pieces

Home Update – My Dream Sewing Room!!

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a home update because I’ve been working on some other behind the scenes quilting projects (new fabric, new patterns, new book, etc…) But I was able to catch my breath this weekend, get organized and take a few pics of my new sewing studio. It’s not completely finished as it still needs a few quilts on the walls for decoration, but it’s fully functional and is the dream space I’ve always wanted.  So let’s take a virtual tour, shall we?

My Ikea Cabinets!!

Christa Quilts Sewing Room

The cabinets are from the Ikea kitchen department.
The floor is laminate from a local flooring center.

The most important part of my space is storage. I am definitely not a pack rack, but I still prefer to keep my messes behind closed doors so that the rest of the space appears nice and tidy. I was thrilled to be able to get wall-to-wall cabinets installed at a price that didn’t break my budget. I used Ikea’s kitchen services to plan and purchase stock cabinets in various sizes to fit the space. I was able to customize them with snazzy door fronts and handles, and I spent hours upon hours figuring out the right configuration of shelves, bins and drawers to hold everything I needed.

Here’s What’s Inside:

Christa Watson Sewing room

Starting on the far right of the tall cabinets, I knew it would be super important to keep a step ladder to reach the upper cabinets. I was thrilled that they were able to install the cabinets so that the one “permanent” shelf was above the door line in this cabinet. This allows the space under the shelf to be long enough for my ironing board and big board to fit. Inside the rest of the unit is a combination of shelves at different heights, with plenty of storage drawers and bins.

Christa's sewing room thread storage

I keep my thread and other supplies in hidden pull out drawers that I could customize for height. This area works perfect to store all of my thread. The cabinets are 24″ deep so I wanted to ensure I could maximize the space and reach everything. It took a quite awhile for me to come up with the right configuration, but I’m pleased with the results.

Fabric Storage in Christa's Sewing Room

The center section is for fabric storage and quilts in progress. As you can see, there’s quite a bit of empty space which means I have plenty of room for growth! I honestly don’t keep a lot of UFO’s and I recently gave away a lot of my stash that I realized I simply don’t use. Because the cabinets are so deep, I found thin cardboard sheets that I could cut in half to measure 9″ x 22″.

Fabric Storage

It took me many hours to refold all of my fabric onto thin pieces of cardboard.

These thin “bolts” are basically twice the length of the popular comic book boards that many quilters use for stash storage. I’ve kept about 5 yards of every fabric I’ve designed for my own personal stash and it’s exciting to watch it grow!

Christa's Sewing Room

I’ve organized my scraps into smaller bins by color, which is how I’ll most likely use them. The other drawers hold other misc. stuff so that everything has a place to go!

Ruler Storage

This is one of my favorite drawers – I configured it so that there was enough room to hold my biggest rulers standing straight up. They are held in place by several wooden ruler racks that line the bottom of the drawer. They key is to maximize every inch of this space!!

Christa's sewing studio

The very left cabinets hold fat quarter bundles and kits for sale along with my patterns and books for sale. I even wanted the trash tucked away behind closed doors so that the entire space stays tidy. To the left is the hallway and a half-wall that leads to the downstairs on the other side. My husband’s office is the open door on the left and the 2 kids’ rooms are to the right, (not shown) behind my sewing room.

I’m happy to still  have a pony wall to drape  large pieces of fabric that I’m working with!! Eventually we’d like to replace the half-wall with a decorative stair railing to open up the hallway a bit more. The king sized white flannel sheet is waiting to be used in my design wall, and the pink Modern Marks fabric has been washed and will be an experiment in sewing clothing made from my fabric. (I’ll post more about that later if all goes well!)

Christa's Sewing Room

You can just barely see the corner nook area peeking out in the far right of this photo.

Here’s what the space looks like on the wall opposite the cabinets. Those big foam core insulation sheets will become my design wall and I have a nice window to look out of while I’m working at the computer. We installed a floor plug in the middle of the room so that I could set up my sewing table without having cords running across the room.

I still need to purchase a nicer office desk and I’m looking to replace the sewing table with one that’s a bit larger with an attached side table. I also need to add color to those walls in the form of quilts, but one step and one project at a time, right??

The Bonus Area

Christa's Sewing Space

Now I just need to add quilts on the walls and a cozy side chair to this area.

My space has a bonus corner nook which serves as my cutting and packaging station. I was able to pull the cabinets a few inches away from the wall, and get a custom width counter top that extends to 30″ (rather than the standard 26″) to give me enough room for cutting. I was also able to lower the cabinets by an inch since I’ve very short. This space is much more ergonomic compared to the table top height I was using before.

Christa's Sewing Room

My shipping materials fit in the shelves underneath so that whenever someone orders some of my fabric, or one of my patterns, it’s super quick and easy to fulfill their order! I love having plenty of room to roll out a bolt of fabric and cut yardage quickly and easily as well as cutting smaller pieces for my own quilts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my new workspace and I can’t wait for the exciting new things I’ll be creating here!!

Christa's Sewing Room

My mom got me a cute wooden plaque that says “In this room we quilt.”
The quilt themed clock was a Christmas gift from Moda.

Blooming Wallflowers Week 9 – Quilting Inspiration

Can you believe that we are almost at the end of the Blooming Wallflowers quilt along? But not to worry, I have more inspiration coming your way! Next week we will bind our quilts to finish. But in the meantime, check out the fabulous quilts being made and shared in my Facebook group. Everyone featured today wins a free PDF pattern of their choice for sharing!

Gina S Blooming Wallflowers Quilt

I love how Gina S. Chose soft watery batiks for her version and paired it with a black background. She finished it off with a textural allover quilting design and that binding is to die for!!

Abbie B Blooming Wallflowers

Abbie B. recently finished her quilt top and I love her yellow background, don’t you? Remember, you can work on any of my quilt alongs at your own pace, and on your own schedule. 🙂

Free Motion Quilting Practice Lynn L

Lynn L. gets bonus points for practicing her free motion quilting on a test piece before diving into her quilt. This is one of the recommendations I make in all of my classes.

Abstract Garden and Modern Marks pieced backing by Lynn L

Above is Lynn’s fun pieced quilt backing, made from yardage of Modern Marks Navy Herringbone plus Abstract Garden leftovers. I love it!!

Machine Quilting detail by Laina L on Blooming Wallflowers

Laina L. is following the quilting plan as shown in the Blooming Wallflowers quilt pattern. Isn’t she doing a fantastic job on her pebble quilting??

I don’t know about you, but seeing everyone’s progress inspires me to want to quilt today!!!

IMPORTANT LINKS