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!

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!!

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

Blooming Wallflowers Week 8 – Machine Quilting Part 2

How is your Blooming Wallflowers quilt coming along? Some of you have completely finished while others are just getting started and that’s perfectly fine. I love to encourage everyone to participate at their own pace. In cased you missed it, click here for quilting part 1 including 4 short You-Tube videos showing exactly how I quilted the blocks.

Blooming Wallflowers made with Abstract Garden and Modern Marks

Today I’ll go over how I quilted the background using one of my favorite filler motifs – jagged stipple. In the quilting plan below, I quilted jagged stipple in the background areas after all of the blocks were quilted. I love filling in a quilt this way: as long as you can trace an unbroken line around your quilt, you can quilt the design continuously without any starts and stops.

Blooming Wallflowers Block Quilting Plan

Quilting all of the blocks first is what I call “anchor quilting” which means that the quilt is secure and won’t shift as I scrunch and smoosh it under the machine to finish up the rest.

I recommend practicing drawing out the design freehand on a blank sheet of paper, and even quilting a practice block to get a flow for the design. The jagged stipple is very forgiving and is basically a series of abrupt jaggedy lines going in every direction.

Machine Quilting Jagged Stipple

I quilted Jagged Stipple on a larger scale for my Improv Squares Quilt Pattern.

There’s really no wrong way to do it! In fact, I love the jagged stipple design so much, that it inspired one of the prints from my previous fabric line – the “Paper Cuts” print from Fandangle.

Fandangle Fabric Paper Cuts

Click here to get yardage of the paper cuts print from Fandangle.

Here’s another short video showing how I move back and forth and all around to quilt this design. I especially love the look of texture on texture when I quilted the jagged lines on top of the navy blue Herringbone print from Modern Marks.

Because I’m using a matching blue Aurifil thread (from my Piece and Quilt Collection – Colors), it’s hard to see the actual stitching, which is usually a good thing so you won’t see all of the wobbles and bobbles as I quilt.

Here’s a detail shot where you can just barely see the quilting. I like quilting textural designs on busy quilts because I want my quilting to enhance the quilt rather than being the star of the show!

Blooming Wallflowers quilting detail

So give this fun design a try – whether you quilt it on this quilt or another WIP (work in progress).

IMPORTANT LINKS

Blooming Wallflowers Week 7 – Machine Quilting Part 1

Now we get to my absolute favorite part of the quilt-making process – machine quilting!!! I’m breaking this section into 2 posts so you’ll have plenty of time to get ‘er done! And thanks to all of you who keep sharing your progress, no matter what step you are on. It’s so inspiring to see all of the fantastic Blooming Wallflowers out there!! Remember to scroll to the end of this post for links to all of the quilt along steps and other important info.

Blooming Wallflowers Quilting

Above is my sewing machine setup. I have a drop in table so that my sewing machine lies flush with the table. I’ve also put another table to my left, forming an “L” so that the quilt has plenty of room and won’t fall off the table. I’ll sit in the chair and scrunch and smoosh the quilt out of the way as I quilt.

Make a Quilting Plan

I always have a plan when I’m going to quilt a quilt. That way there are no surprises and I can enjoy the quilting process. Here’s my basic quilting plan that’s included in the Blooming Wallflowers quilt pattern:

Blooming Wallflowers Block Quilting Plan

I’m quilting 3 different designs: chevrons in the print triangles, pebbles in the light blue triangles, and jagged stipple in the background. I can quilt all of the triangles per block at once without stopping; then I’ll go back and quilt the navy blue background later. I used a light blue thread from my Aurifil Piece and Quilt collection Neutrals on the triangles, and will use a darker blue thread from my Colors collection for the background.

Free Motion Quilting Blooming Wallflowers

Here’s what the back side of the quilt looks like after quilting all of the triangles. I always use the same color thread in top and bobbin so that if there are any tension issues, it won’t show. I don’t mind seeing the quilting on the back of the quilt. In fact, I actually like how it shows up!

Notice how my actual quilting deviated slightly from the plan. I decided to quilt a few more lines in the chevrons, and I embellished the chevrons with an extra row of pebbles and some zig-zags to jazz it up a bit.

Step by Step Quilting Videos

Here are a few short videos of me quilting the blocks so you can see how I did it. Be sure to enlarge the screen for a better view:

First, I stitched in the ditch very carefully around one light blue triangle.

Then I filled in the light blue triangle with pebbles. I’m using a thicker ruler foot because I’m doing the pebbles and ruler work all at the same time.

Next, I used a special acrylic ruler to quilt straight line chevrons. I didn’t worry about the lines being equal in distance or hitting the points exactly. I don’t actually love doing ruler work because it’s a little too fussy for my taste. But I’ll use it to quilt straight lines as long as they don’t have to be exact.

Once the chevrons were quilted, I embellished one section with free-motion zig-zags. I quilted each section of triangles (the Abstract Garden prints and the light blue background) in one pass, with only one start and stop for the whole block.) In other words, I did all of the pebbles in one triangle and then went straight into the chevrons.

To start and a line of stitching, I take about 6-8 teeny tiny stitches and then start quilting normally. When I’m done, I end with 6-8 teeny tiny stitches to hold it in place and cut off the excess threads. Starting and stopping in a seam makes it less noticable.

Next week, we’ll quilt the background! I recommend trying out the quilting designs on a scrap of fabric and batting first, before applying them to your quilt.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Blooming Wallflowers Week 6 – Catch up Break & Inspiration

I’m adding in another “catch-up” break so that those of you following along will have plenty of time to work on your quilts. But just remember, you can work on Blooming Wallflowers on your own schedule, too! Scroll to the end for links to all of the previous QAL posts.

Blooming Wallflowers by Christa Watson QuiltCon 2019

Of course I had to match my shoes to my quilt!!
Click here to get a Blooming Wallflowers kit (while supplies last).

It was exciting for me to see Blooming Wallflowers hanging in the show at QuiltCon last week! The biggest comment I got was how much nicer it looked in person (probably due to my inadequate photography skills, LOL!)  and how much everyone loves the Navy Herringbone background from Modern Marks.

Now it’s your turn to show off what ya got so far! Take a look below at these fabulous works in progress being shared on Instagram #bloomingwallflowersquilt and in my Christa Quilts Facebook group. Then be sure to share your progress, too!

Student Work - Sandra C's version of Blooming Wallflowers

Sandra C aka @thebiasedge on Instragram shared her gorgeous quilt top that she’s getting ready to load on her long-arm. I can’t wait to see her quilting in progress!

Michelle H Blooming Wallflowers

I love how Michelle H made hers bigger by adding more blocks. Her print fabrics are fantastic!

Robin P's Blooming Wallflowers quilt

Robin P (aka Palm Beach Quilter) chose a light green background for her version. She made the baby size which is the exact same layout, except the blocks are smaller! I’ve included 3 different sizes in the quilt pattern so you can customize it to fit your needs.

Blooming Wallflowers top by Gayle S

Who says you have to use a dark background? Gayle S is creating a stunning version with white background and a fun polka dot accent fabric. Isn’t it so fun??

Next week I’ll start sharing tips for fun and interesting machine quilting – I can’t wait!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Home Update #8 and Fabric News

I’m still recovering from my awesome trip to QuiltCon last week, so more about that later. But I wanted to give you all an update of what I was able to accomplish in the new house before I left. We’ve now been in our home for nearly 2 months and it’s coming along nicely. My busy traveling season has now begun so most of the remaining work will need to happen in chunks of time in between teaching trips! Here’s the latest and greatest:

Watsons New House

My living room area is nearly put together. We started with the teal green leather sofas and I had ordered some upholstered swivel chairs with a really fun print to create enough seating. Because it was a really large U-shape, I knew we needed an oversized coffee table that could be reached on all sides. I found one online and took a risk buying it without seeing it in a a store first. But when I found out it was called the “Watson” table I knew it was meant to be!! It fits the space perfectly and I’m very pleased.

We purchased contrasting red barstools to give the kitchen area a pop of color and added in some yellow pillows to get away from the green monochromatic color scheme. Now I need to add in a few more red/yellow accents to complete the look and of course find the perfect area rug to pull it all together.

Sewing Room Lights

Sewing room renovation in progress: flooring and electrical

Upstairs, my sewing studio is a bit of a mess. We had additional lighting installed in the ceiling and it makes such a huge difference! I’m currently waiting on getting cabinets installed from Ikea and then we can finish the flooring. We added a floor plug in the center of the room for my sewing machine table, and moved a couple of electrical outlets so the space will function how I’ve envisioned it. Cabinet installation is scheduled for next week, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed it all goes smoothly!

Get My Fabric By the Yard

Fabric Storage

My yardage for sale is stored in the guest room which was most recently used by my son Ryan before he left for his mission. My older son Jason is moving back from Idaho to live here and work for us for awhile, so now I’m glad I have the extra room!

In getting my house organized, I realized I needed to re-arrange my little Christa Quilts store, too. This is where I offer all of my own designed patterns, threads, books and fabrics for sale. I’ve been getting requests to purchase my fabrics in one-yard increments so now you can!

Click here to order yardage of any of my collections: Modern Marks, Fandangle, and Abstract Garden. To purchase more than one yard, select the color you want, and click “add to cart” for each yard. Then I’ll cut it into one continuous length.

Now I need to go plan which room to work on next! So much to do, so little time!!

Blooming Wallflowers Week 5 – Basting

Welcome to everyone’s LEAST favorite part of making a quilt – basting! But hopefully with my methods and tips, it will be less painful of a chore for you. My #1 tip is to take your time with basting and don’t rush the process. If you have a nice and flat quilt while basting, it will make machine quilting sooo much easier!!

Spray Basting - smoothing the quilt

The key to successful basting is ensuring smooth, flat layers.

I use 505 Basting Spray to baste my quilts. It allows me to avoid pins while quilting and it ensures that every single inch of the quilt is sticking to every other inch. I have already created complete photo tutorials of my step by step process using either a design wall or a table. See the links below the image check them out:

Spray Baste

Below is a short 25 second video of me smoothing out the layers on the design wall, using a long acrylic ruler. Once I do this over the whole quilt, I take it to the ironing board and iron it, first from the back side and then from the front. The iron sets the glue and it’s ready to quilt!

If you would like to see the entire basting process on video (using a table), be sure to check out my Craftsy/Bluprint Class – Startup Library: Quilting. It walks you through the entire process of making a quilt from start to finish – over 6 hours of video content!!

Startup Library Craftsy Class by Christa WatsonClick here to enroll in my Startup Library Quilting Class

Hopefully between my videos and written tutorials, the entire basting process won’t seem so scary!

Next week will be another catch up break as I head to QuiltCon, so remember to share pics of your progress on Instagram #bloomingwallflowersquilt or in my ChristaQuilts Facebook Group. If I share your pic on my next blog post, you’ll win a free PDF pattern of your choice as my way of saying thanks for quilting along!

Blooming Wallflowers quilt

IMPORTANT LINKS

Come See Me at QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville! (And a fun personal update)

I can’t believe it’s already time to get packed and ready for QuiltCon which is happening next week! It’s been a whirlwind of a year for our family so far – moving into a new home and getting ready for our younger son leave for his mission to China this week. The older one will be moving back home for awhile to work for us, and we are sooo glad we got the bigger house with an extra room! During all the chaos, we were even able to sneak in a last minute Disney vacation over the weekend. It was a great way to celebrate all the changes happening this year!

Watsons at Disney 2019

Disneyland is truly our happy place!! Although it was a chilly weekend, I kept nice and toasty warm with my MQG Hoodie I got at last year’s QuiltCon!

But now, it’s time to transition back into quilting mode big time!! And I’m so excited to do that with my first teaching event of the year! If you are planning on attending QuiltCon but didn’t make it into my sold-out workshops, I have great news for you: there’s still room in my lecture, plus I’ll be doing several free events on the flow show all weekend long. So be sure to come up and say hi – I’d love to chat with you!

BERNINA demos at QuiltCon

Here’s my schedule of events:

Christa’s QuiltCon Schedule

  • Friday 1:00 PM Stage Demo – Free Motion Quilting with BERNINA
  • Friday 1:30 PM Meet ‘n Greet – Booth 712 Designs by Sarah J.
  • Friday 5:00 PM Stage Demo – Electric Quilt 8
  • Saturday 11:00 AM Stage Demo – Walking Foot Quilting with BERNINA
  • Saturday 11:30 AM Meet ‘n Greet – Booth 712 Designs by Sarah J.
  • Sunday 10:15 AM Lecture – Modern Machine Quilting

Click here to register for my lecture.

Christa EQ and QuiltCon

So far I have attended every QuiltCon since the event began in 2013. This will be my third time teaching there and it’s my favorite show of the year! I always get inspired when I go and I love learning more about the modern quilting aesthetic. Plus, it’s super fun to meet up with friends, many of which I’ve met because of my involvement with QuiltCon!

Christa and Sarah J

I’m excited to hang out in my pal Sarah J’s booth next week. She’ll have many of my fabrics, patterns and of course my books! Stop by to say hi and I’ll be happy to sign anything you like… (a book, a pattern, your arm, a blank check… just kidding!!)

QuiltCon 2019

Are you planning to attend? If so – I’ll see you there!!