Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern PDF Now Available

I’m having a great time at quilt market this week, sharing Fandangle with the wider quilting world! I was excited to get the PDF version of Surplus Strips finalized before I left, and it’s available for purchase now from my Craftsy shop.

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

Surplus Strips Materials List

The print version is being printed now and should be available by the end of the month.
If you missed my process posts about making these quilts, check them out by clicking the links below:

Surplus Strips Part 1 – The Blocks

Surplus Strips Part 2 – Quilt Top and Basting

Surplus Strips Part 3 – Machine Quilting and Binding

Surplus Strips Cool

Surplus Strips in the Cool Colorway

Machine Quilting Detail

It was so fun to make this quilt using both the warm and cool colorways of Fandangle. You can make this quilt using yardage like I did, or you can go super scrappy with leftover precut strips.

Surplus Strips Warm Colorway

Surplus Strips in the Warm Colorway

Machine Quilting Detail

The most fun part was quilting them using designs from the fabric, which were inspired by my quilting! How’s that for circular logic?? f you make this quilt, be sure and share on social media #surplusstripsquilt. I’d love to see your progress.

Click here to purchase an instant PDF download of Surplus Strips.
Click here to order the print version (ships by the end of the month.)

Click here for my complete pattern library.

My Spring 2018 Quilt Market Schedule for Portland, Oregon

Quilt Market begins this Wednesday in Portland, Oregon, which is the semi-annual trade show for the quilting industry. I usually attend each time with my husband Jason, but last year when I debuted my first fabric line, it became even more important. This spring I’ll be there promoting my next fabric line, Fandangle, which is a fun, silly word that means embellishment or ornamentation. It hits stores this summer and I can’t wait!

Fandangle by Christa Watson for Benartex

Click here for quilt market exhibitors and booth numbers.

In addition to meeting shop owners in my booth (#1846-47 in the Benartex/Contempo area), I’ll be busy with a slew of events designed to help show off the fabric with examples of what can be made from it. (Continue to follow my blog as I share more behind-the-scenes of the quilts I made!) If you will be attending, I’d love to chat in person! Here’s my complete schedule of events:

Schoolhouse on Thursday May 17, 4:55 PM Room A109

Schoolhouse Spring Quilt Market

Click here for the complete schoolhouse schedule.

Schoolhouse happens on the day before quilt market officially opens. It’s a fun, chaotic day of 15-30 minute presentations educating shop owners about what’s new and how they can best promote the items they’ll be purchasing for their shops. There are over a dozen sessions happening at any one time so the hardest part is picking which ones to attend!

My session is titled “How to run a successful quilt along in your shop or online” and everyone who attends will get a free copy of one of my brand new quilt patterns. There will also be several drawings for giveaways of my brand new fabric.

Quilting Demos: Friday at 3 PM, Saturday at 1 PM and 3 PM

Demo Alley Spring quilt market

Click here for the demo alley schedule.

Quilt market introduced a new event last fall, called “Demo Alley” which is a series of scheduled demos taking place in a specific area on the show floor. I’ll be sharing tips and tricks for free-motion quilting as well as demonstrating how I practice drawing designs on paper and then translating those onto quilt samples. It should be fun so make sure you stop by during the times listed above if you are there!

Designer Showcase – Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM

Benartex Designer Showcase

Finally, Benartex will be holding a fun event on the show floor two times each on Saturday and Sunday which is a chance to get an overview of all the new fabric lines. Of course there will be goodies and giveaways to all who attend, so be sure to add it to your schedule!

Modern Marks by Christa Watson for Benartex

Me in my booth at quilt market  last fall – I can’t wait to do it all again!

Spring Market 2018

Come see me and other fabulous Benartex Contempo designers
in booth 1846,47 at quilt market!

Now that my agenda is set, it’s time to go pack! If you can’t be there in person, be sure to follow me on instagram @christaquilts to catch a live updates each day!

Pearl Pendants PDF Pattern Now Available for Purchase

Great news! While I’m in the throws of quilt market prep for next week, I was able to finalize the Pearl Pendants quilt pattern that my good friend Heather Black from Quilt-achusetts and I collaborated on. Heather designed and made this stunning quilt to showcase Fandangle in my booth at quilt market next week, and we both co-wrote the pattern.

Click here to purchase and instantly download the PDF pattern for Pearl Pendants

Click here to pre-order the print version (ships on or before June 1.)

Pearl Pendants pattern by Heather Black and Christa Quilts

I like to offer my patterns in both print and PDF versions because I know that some folks like to have instant access while others like to work with the physical pattern.

Check out a detail of the beautiful quilting the Heather did:

Quilting Detail for Pearl Pendants

She quilted a combination of straight lines, plus a spirograph/floral motif in each of the blocks. Didn’t she do such a stunning job?? The quilt is made from 20 fat quarters of Fandangle fabric plus background, but of course it would look great in other fabrics, too!

I’ll share  more pics of this quilt as soon as I get back from quilt market, so stay tuned!!

The Making of Surplus Strips Part 3 – Machine Quilting and Binding

Although machine quilting is my favorite part of making any quilt, I really enjoy the entire process from start to finish. Even though I’m on a tight deadline, it’s been fun to document my progress on Surplus Strips as I go. Be sure to check out my last post for tips on piecing the quilt top and basting it.

Choosing Thread Color

Aurifil Thread Variegated Pink

Audition thread to see which color blends in best. For multicolor quilts, go with a lighter thread on a darker fabric, rather than darker thread on lighter fabric.

I’ve been playing around lately with Aurifil variegated thread, so I chose a pink (#3660 Bubble Gum) for the warm colorway of Surplus Strips. I wasn’t sure how much thread I’d end up using, and since I only had one spool on hand, I chose a 50 weight thread in a similar color for the bobbin. I always try to use the same or similar color in top and bobbin so that I don’t get “pokies” – dots of thread on the top or bottom of the quilt.

Aurifil Creme De Menthe on Surplus Strips

The teal colored thread has a more pronounced color change than the pink.

For the cool colorway, I went with Creme De Menthe #4662. No matter which color thread you use, the more quilting you add, the less you’ll notice the thread and the more you’ll just see the overall texture.

Free-Motion Quilting Surplus Strips

Machine Quilting Surplus Strips

I scrunch and smoosh the quilt under the machine any way I can.

Whenever I quilt, I always start on the right side of the quilt and work my way towards the center. When I reach the middle, I rotate the quilt and keep on going. For an allover/meander type block, I just focus on one are of the quilt so that I don’t get overwhelmed.

Free Motion Quilting Jagged Stipple

I love the slight color change with the pink variegated thread!

Because many of the fabric prints I design are based on some of my favorite machine quilting motifs, I really wanted to play that up with these quilts. For the warm colorway, I quilted “jagged stipple” which is one of the quilt designs I love to teach in my workshops. Can you see how it’s basically the same motif as the “Paper Cuts” print from Fandangle?

Free Motion quilting jagged stipple

Jagged stipple is one of the motifs included in my book Piece and Quilt with Precuts.

When quilting an allover design, sometimes it will show up on some fabrics and blend into others. But that’s okay. I love the overall texture that it gives to the quilt!

For the cool colorway, I quilted triangles that are similar to the “Triangle Trinkets” print from Fandangle. Any of the designs I quilt can be quilted on a smaller or larger scale. My rule of thumb is that if it’s an allover design, I’ll quilt it larger to fill more space quickly. For smaller, custom areas of the quilt, I’ll usually scale down the quilting motifs.

Free Motion Quilting Triangles

I love how the variegated thread gives depth and dimension to the quilt!
I also teach this quilting motif in my latest quilting book.

In my workshops, I always stress the point that I don’t worry too much about making my designs perfect. I like the irregular overall texture you can get from free-hand doodling with your machine. Besides, the best way to hide imperfect stitches is to surround them with more imperfect stitches!!

Triangle Trinkets from Fandangle

I chose Triangle Trinkets in turquoise for the backing.
Click here to see larger images of each fabric from Fandangle.

Binding the Quilt

Click here for my step by step binding tutorial from a previous quilt.

Press the binding

After I attach the binding to the quilt by machine, I press it away from the quilt. This makes it easier to wrap around the back of the quilt to ensure a nice flat binding.

Attaching the binding

The BERNINA Dual Feed acts just like a walking foot, but I can use any specialty “D” foot.

When I first started binding my quilts, I used 2 1/4″ strips, However, lately, I’ve cut them 2″ and I attach them using my BERNINA dual feed and 1/4 patchwork foot. This allows me to get an even quarter inch binding on both sides of the quilt.

Binding Surplus Strips

It was fun to make some extra blocks and throw them on the back of the quilt!

Once I wrap the binding to the back, I secure in place with Clover Wonder Clips. I like to secure the entire edge so that it’s ready to hand-finish without interruption. It usually takes about 3 boxes of Wonder Clips to go around the entire edge, but you could definitely use fewer if you like.

Binding with Wonder Clips

I quilted triangles on the front to match the triangles on the back!

Even though I’m on a tight deadline to finish these quilts, I still enjoy binding by hand. I was able to finish the warm colorway on an airplane trip last week, and I finished the cool colorway while watching a movie with my family.

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

Click here to preorder Surplus Strips quilt pattern – ships on or before June 1.

Now all that’s left is to photograph these quilts, swap out the digital pattern cover above with the actual quilts and get them off to the printer! The PDF pattern will be coming soon, and you can pre-order the print version of Surplus Strips now.

Surplus Strips Quilt Warm Colorway

I had a whole row to myself on a recent flight and was able to finish this quilt on the plane!

Click here to pre-order bundles of Fandangle Fabric.
Click here to see all Fandangle quilt patterns.

Now I have one more quilt to finish up, and then it’s time to pack for quilt market. More about that soon, I promise!!

The Making of Surplus Strips Part 2 – The Quilt Top and Basting

As I prepare for International Quilt Market, which is an industry trade show held this spring in Portland, Oregon (May 18-20), I’m sewing like a madwoman, finishing up samples to promote my new quilt patterns and Fandangle fabric line. I’m currently working on two versions of my Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern – in warm and cool colors. Click here to read my previous post about making the blocks.

Color Arrangement

Surplus Strips Blocks in Cool Fandangle

Arranging tiny blocks was much faster than using my design wall!

Although I designed both colorways in EQ8, I didn’t finalize the exact color placement for each block. Instead, I did something very low tech. I printed out a version of the quilt with the same number of blocks that I made and then cut out all of the tiny paper blocks to arrange on my work table. It actually went a lot faster than putting up the blocks on my design wall and arranging them there.

Surplus Strips Paper Blocks - Warm Fandangle

I like being able to rearrange the blocks until I’m happy with their color placement.
These paper blocks are only about 1″ wide!

Once I was happy with the color arrangement, I printed out the final layout in color, and organized the blocks on my work table by color. In other words, the printed out layout served as a “virtual” design wall that takes up a lot less space!

Surplus Strips Blocks Fandangle Warm Colorway

I printed out the layout in EQ8 which serves as my “virtual” design wall.

It was super fast to sew the blocks into rows using my printed out layout as a guideline. This quilt goes together in vertical columns, rather than horizontal rows, so I just had to make sure I kept everything in the correct orientation as I sewed.

Surplus Strips blocks Fandangle Fabric warm colorway

I sewed the blocks and sashing in order according to my printed out layout.

Pressing Seams Open

I used this process for both the warm and cool colorway, and it went super fast! Pressing all of my seams open really helped the quilt top lie flat when I gave it a final press. It also made it soooo much easier to line up the seams accurately! Because there’s no nesting, it’s important to pin generously while joining the blocks and rows. But I actually get better results and perfect seam joins when I press seams open & use pins, so it’s worth it to take the extra time.

Seams Pressed Open - Cool Colorway, Fandangle Fabric, Surplus Strips Quilt

Seams pressed open ensures a nice flat top, with no lumps and bumps!

When pressing seams open, be sure to use a shorter stitch length (like 2 instead of 2.5) to secure the seams. A shorter stitch also makes it less likely that you’ll see thread poking through the seams, too!

Bonus Measuring Tip

Measuring long borders

Use a ruler to extend the cutting length on your mat for long borders: place the folded end on the ruler, and cut on the mat. If I needed more length, I’d rotate the ruler longways.

Here’s a bonus tip when working with borders that are longer than your mat. When cutting, I fold the border fabric in half and use an “extend a ruler” – my phrase for extending the cutting length by using a ruler, lined up at the edge of the mat. I’ll use as many extra inches as needed to get a nice precise measurement when cutting. Just divide the needed length in half and count over that many inches on the extension ruler and mat.

More Pressing

Press the quilt on both sides

Speaking of pressing, once the quilt top is finished, I give it a final press on the front, too. It seems to make the quilt nice, flat and crisp, so it’s ready to baste! Whenever I press anything on my quilt, I always use a dry iron. I don’t like steam because it can burn your fingers and distort the fabric. Also, if the iron leaks or spits, you can get a nasty mess! If I need a bit of water for an unruly seam, I’ll just use a spray bottle filled with water instead.

Virtual Home and Studio Tour

Surplus Strips Quilt Tops Warm and Cool

Look closely and you can see 2 quilt tops waiting underneath the warm colorway. Plus there’s some yardage of Fandangle peeking out underneath the cool colorway.

When my quilt top(s) are finished and pressed, I hang them over the stair railing on the upper floor of my home so they don’t get wrinkled. Upstairs is my husband’s office, my daughter’s room, our bedroom and my sewing loft. Downstairs is my son’s room, work area for The Precut Store, living room, dining area, and kitchen. It’s a comfy home and we use every square foot!!

Here’s an image of my studio space, across from the stair railing where I hang my quilts in progress. This picture was taken back in 2014 for a magazine profile. It’s pretty much still the same!

Christa's Sewing Room

Image of my sewing studio 2014 – with 3 quilt tops that are still unfinished LOL!!

Our backyard is just off the kitchen downstairs, and is where I keep a plastic table set up on the patio for spray basting. I don’t spend nearly enough time in my yard as I do my sewing room, so it needs a little work, LOL!!

Spray Basting

Basting Outside

Click here for my spray basting tutorial using a design wall.
Click here for my spray basting tutorial using a table.

Once the backing and top are sprayed outside, I then bring them inside and assemble them on my design wall indoors.

Surplus Strips Batting

Take a picture of the batting with the quilt, and take note of what you like/don’t like.
I’m using Hobbs cotton batting for the cool colorway.

To keep track of which batting I use, I take a picture of the batting with the quilt top so I can remember. For these quilts, I used Hobbs cotton for the cool colorway and Hobbs silk for the warm. I used those particular battings because they are what I had on hand and didn’t have time to order anything else, LOL!!

But I love using natural fiber battings like cotton, wool, or silk because they cling to the quilt, provide good stitch definition, and allow the quilt to breathe and hang well.

Surplus Strips Warm Colorway backing

I’m using Hobbs Silk batting for the warm colorway.

Although the quilt pattern calls for all of one fabric for the backing, I had fun and made some bonus blocks with some of the leftover strips. Because I only have a limited amount of Fandangle yardage right now, I got creative with my piecing and used three different warm prints instead.

Surplus Strips Warm basting

Click here for a tutorial on how I made my design wall – back in 2013.

I like to make sure I have several inches of extra batting and backing beyond the quilt top. That way I don’t have to line things up perfectly, and the extra will get cut off when it’s time to bind.

Once it’s basted, I’ll trim down the backing and batting so that there’s only 1-2 inches sticking out. This prevents them from flipping backwards under the quilt, causing you to accidentally stitch through them while quilting. Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done that!!

Pressing the Quilt After Basting

Notice how closely I trimmed the layers, with only about an inch or two of batting/backing sticking out beyond the quilt top. This prevents quilting the quilt to itself!

The final step is to press the quilt – yet again!! After it’s basted, I’ll press the quilt, first on the back, and then again on the front. This helps set the glue so the layers don’t shift. But more importantly, it allows me to work out any creases or bubbles on either side of the quilt. One the quilt is nice and flat, it’s sooo much easier to machine quilt!

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa WatsonClick here to preorder the Surplus Strips quilt pattern – print version.
Click here to preorder Fandangle fabric bundles + background.

I hope you are enjoying seeing my progress as I make these quilts. Once they’re finished and photographed, I’ll release the patterns in both PDF and print. For now, you can pre-order the print version over at Shop.ChristaQuilts.com along with fabric to make them. (FYI the Fandangle 1/2 yard bundle + 5 yards of gray will be enough to make either quilt top.)

Now it’s time to quilt them – so stay tuned for part 3!!

The Making of Surplus Strips Part 1 – the Blocks

I sure have enjoyed documenting more of my real-time progress as I create quilts to help promote my patterns, books and fabric. It’s so much more enjoyable to write about my process as I go, rather than trying to recapture the excitement months later!

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

Click here to pre-order my Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern.

I’m currently making two versions of Surplus Strips – both in warm and cool colorways of my newest fabric line, Fandangle, which will be shown at Spring Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon, May 18-20. The pattern cover art above is shown using my digitally created images from EQ8 as a placeholder until the quilts are finished and photographed.

Once that’s done, I’ll send it off to the printer and release a PDF pattern, too. For now, you are welcome to preorder the print version which will ship on or before June 1, 2018.

Fandangle Fabrics Cool Colorway

Fandangle Fabric in the Cool Colorway

Although my timeline is tight, I’m still going through the regular process I use to create a well-made quilt. I like to prewash and starch all of my fabrics for two reasons: (1) it gets rid of the excess dye so there’s no chance of bleeding or ruining the quilt and (2) the starch makes the fabric stiffer so there’s less stretch while piecing.

My number 1 starching tip is to spray starch on one side of the fabric, then flip it over and iron the other side. Then repeat – starch the side you just ironed, flip it over again and press from the other side. The prevents the iron from burning the starch so you don’t get flakes! Starching and pressing both sides makes the fabric more crisp so it’s easier to work with. Also – I just use cheap starch from the grocery store and I’ve never had a problem with it.

Fandangle Fabrics Warm Colorway

Fandangle Fabric in the Warm Colorway

My Surplus Strips pattern is written for either precut 2 1/2″ strips or yardage. You can go super scrappy with a single jellyroll + background, or do a color blocked quilt like I’m doing. For yardage, It takes about 1/3 yard of 9 different fabrics plus 4 3/4 yards background + binding.

Surplus Strips Quilt Warm Colorway of Fandangle

I like stacking my pieces so they look pretty!

I paired up the darker gray confetti crosshatch print with the warm colorway of Fandangle, and the lighter gray with the cool colorway. If you are interested in using the same fabrics as me, you can preorder 1/2 yard bundles of Fandangle + 5 yards of either gray and you’ll be set, with a little leftover fabric.

Seams Pressed Open

Pressing seams open ensures flat blocks, and a flat quilt top.

I started cutting out the fabrics for both quilts while I was away on my last teaching trip. When I returned home, I finished cutting all of the pieces for the warm colorway and made all of the blocks in about two days. I used a shorter stitch length for piecing (1.8 instead of the default 2.0) and pressed all of my seams open (with a dry iron, no steam). This will allow the blocks to lie flat for domestic machine quilting.

Surplus Strips Quilt Block Warm Colorway of Fandangle

Surplus Strips Blocks in the Warm Colorway of Fandangle

After piecing the blocks in the warm colorway, I jumped into making the blocks in the cool colorway. I like making two quilts at a time, so I can assembly line the process as much as possible.

Surplus Strips Fandangle Fabric Cool

Units are cut and stacked and ready to sew!

Here are a couple more piecing tips that make the blocks go together smoothly and stay square: when sewing, I pieced with the gray units on top to ensure that I switched sewing directions each time I joined the units. When you join two seams in opposite directions, it helps prevent block distortion. It’s not a huge deal on smaller units, but if you are sewing long strips together, it can be more noticeable.

Lining up block seams

Step 1 for proper alignment – match up the fabric seams.

Also, in order to get the top and bottom of each plus block to line up correctly, I placed the top unit right sides together on top of the partially sewn block to see exactly where things needed to line up to keep the seams in alignment. The pressed open seams really help me see this part.

Aligning units for quilt blocks

Step 2 for proper alignment – fold back to make sure lines are straight.

Then, I folded it back up partially to make sure it’s in the proper position before sewing. I didn’t actually need to use any pins because the blocks were small enough and I used my fingers to keep the edges lined up at all times.

Surplus Strips Blocks Fandangle Fabric cool colorway

Click here to preorder bundles of Fandangle fabric by colorway + background fabric.
Click here to preorder the Surplus Strips quilt Pattern.

The blocks went together even faster this time around and I love the color distribution! Now it’s time to sew the blocks together and finish up the quilt top. I’ll make both tops and then have a little basting party to make that chore a little less painful, lol!! I’ll be using my spray basting method that you can read about here (wall basting) or here (table basting).

Stay tuned for the next update!

Introducing my second fabric line – Fandangle – from Benartex/Contempo

I just got a delivery of fabric samples from my next fabric line which will be shipping to stores this summer! I call it Fandangle which a fun, silly name that means “excess ornamentation or embellishment.”

Fandangle Fabric by Christa Watson Cool Colorway

Click here to pre-order a bundle of Fandangle in the Cool Colorway.

I named this collection Fandangle as sort of an inside joke to myself. It’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fact that I don’t actually embellish or be-dazzle my quilts with any type of bling. Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course, but it’s just not my style.

Fandangle Fabric by Christa Watson in the Warm Colorway

Click here to pre-order a bundle of Fandangle in the Warm Colorway.

Fandangle Fabric Designs

The names are super fun and playful, too! Here’s a little bit more about each design:

“Baubles and Bits” is a medium to large scale print with fun flourishes. If you look closely, you can see a nod to my previous collection with the inclusion of some subtle boxes – one of the prints from Modern Marks. To give the print more depth, I also added some scattered triangles, and just the tiniest hint of beads, which show up more prominently in its own print.

Fandangle Fabric, Baubles and Bits print

Baubles and Bits comes in two colors: teal and red.

“Sparkling Squares” features retro star bursts and fun flourishes This is a companion print to Baubles and Bits but on a much smaller scale. I love being able to take a design element and try it out in different configurations – just like creating a quilt layout, right??

Fandangle fabric - Sparkling Squares

Sparkling Squares comes in two colors: teal/multi and orange/multi.

“Triangle Trinkets” is based on one of my modern machine quilting designs. But I didn’t want this print to read as a simple line drawing (I saved that idea for Paper Cuts, below.) This would make a fabulous backing print: you could quilt your quilt from upside down, following the outline of each triangle to add depth and dimension to your quilt!

Fandangle fabric -Triangle Trinkets

Triangle Trinkets comes in three colors: peach, lime and teal.

“Beaded Curtain” was inspired by another one of my machine quilting designs, “string of pearls.” But if you look closely, you’ll see all sorts of fun shapes – ovals, rectangles, squares, and there’s even some quirky triangles in there (another shape from Modern Marks).

Fandangle fabric - Beaded Curtain

Beaded Curtain comes in four colors: red, pink, lime and turquoise.

“Paper Cuts” looks most like one of my free-motion line drawings. I based it off of my “jagged stipple” motif, which many of my students tell me what their regular stipple looks like anyway. So they can rest assured that it’s a bona-fide modern design, NOT just a “creative” mistake, LOL!! I thought Paper Cuts was a more descriptive name that fits in with the artsy theme.

Fandangle Fabric Paper Cuts

Paper Cuts comes in four colors: yellow, orange, green and turquoise.

“Confetti Crosshatch” is the most versatile of the group. This is a remix of “Crosshatch” from Modern Marks, but on a smaller scale. It’s a prefect blender print and works fabulous as a background or binding. I was thrilled to include two shades of gray!

Fandangle fabric - Confetti Crosshatch

Now that my samples have arrived, I’ll be sewing like a mad woman in time to complete several quilts for quilt market. I’ll be sharing my process so be sure to follow my blog.

Feel free to pin and share any of these images to spread a little Fandangle fun with your friends. Then ask your favorite quilt shop to order Fandangle next time they meet with their Benartex/Contempo sales rep.

Fandangle Fabric Line by Christa Watson

Fandangle fabric by Christa Watson for Benartex will be available in stores Summer 2018!

Click here to pre-order Fandangle bundles by colorway.
Click here to pre-order quilt patterns featuring Fandangle.

Improv Squares Finish with Machine Quilting Details

Now that I’ve been blogging again on a regular basis, I’ve realized I haven’t shared about some quilts I made from Modern Marks. And since I’ll soon be starting on quilts from my next line of fabric, I want to make sure I’ve documented my recent finishes!

Improv Squares by Christa Watson, made from Modern Marks

I recently shared a spray basting tutorial for Improv Squares, but here are some beauty shots of the finished quilt, taken in the desert behind our home in Las Vegas.

The inspiration for Improv Squares was a broken wooden fence that I drove by several years ago. I snapped a picture of the fence and kept it in my phone for a long time, until I was ready to do something with it.

Improv Squares Inspiration

The holes in the fence made an interesting pattern that I though would be fun to do something with. I also wanted to further explore the concept of “Structured Improv” – a technique I’ve been playing around with for several years now.

Improv Squares by Christa Watson

The improv part is that you sew a bunch of fabric together randomly. The structured part is that all of the block units are a similar shape  – rectangles. All of the blocks finish the same size so they can be placed randomly in the design, yet no two are the same.

Machine Quilting Tips

Aurifil Vareigated thread

When I’m working with busy prints and I want the fabric to be the star of the show, I’ll try to choose a thread that blends in. Because Modern Marks is so colorful and I wanted to use all of the prints in this quilt, I chose a variegated thread that would add fun layer of texture to the busy prints

My favorite variegated thread is 50 weight Aurifil #3817 Marrakech. It’s fun to see the color changes while I’m quilting, and I love quirkiness that it gives the quilt! It also seems to match any rainbow-colored quilt I make!

Machine Quilting Jagged Stipple

Because I was in a hurry to get this quilt finished, I quilted an allover/edge to edge design on a rather large scale. The quilting is still very dense, but by quilting larger shapes, I was able to cover more area very quickly.

I used one of my favorite designs – a  geometric, jagged stipple rather than a smooth curvy stipple. I was able to complete the quilting on this throw size quilt in an afternoon, rather than several days whenever I do more intricate custom quilting.

Jagged stipple quilting

I love this texture so much, it inspired one of the fabric prints in my second fabric line!
More about that later…….stay tuned!!

Incidentally, whenever I teach machine quilting, I always have the students practice quilting both angular shapes, and curved designs. Some people find it easier to quilt one vesus another, so it’s a good exercise to try and see which type of design you prefer!

As you can see in the detail picture below, the jagged motif gives some interesting texture to the quilt, without overpowering the overall design.

Allover jagged stipple

Improv squares is now available as a pattern, either as a printed version, or a PDF download.
If you make one, I’d love to see it! After all, the fun of designing quilts for others to make is seeing the variety!

Improv Squares quilt

Share your progress wtih me on social media with the hashtage #improvsquaresquilt. You can also share images of any projects you make from my books, patterns or fabric in my ChristaQuilts Facebook group.

Click here to get the Imrpov Squares Quilt Pattern – printed version shipped to you.

Click here to get  the Improv Squares Quilt Pattern – instant PDF download.

Improv Squares Quilt Pattern using Modern Marks Fabric

Improv Squares STATS:

  • Finished Size: 66″ x 80″
  • Fabric: Modern Marks by Christa Watson for Benartex
  • Batting: Hobbs 100% Cotton
  • Thread: Aurifil 50 weight cotton #3817 Marrakech
  • Machine Quilting Design: Jagged Stipple
  • Completed: October, 2017

Improv Squares quilt

My Pattern Writing Process and Sneak Peeks of Upcoming Quilt Patterns

In an effort to share more of what I’m working on in real time – and to answer to the question – how do I get it all done?? – I’m excited to let you know what I’ve been working on the last few weeks. I’m currently writing and editing the next round of quilt patterns that will be released along with my next fabric line, and I couldn’t be more excited!!

Pattern Writing in Process

I’ve been posing the question to my friends and social media followers, asking if they’d like me to share real time updates, or wait until everything is polished and ready for purchase. I got a resounding “share now!” as the answer which made me sooo happy! I have a hard time suppressing my excitement for what I’m currently working on and I feel like I can be more genuine when I’m sharing in real time.

I also just got word that my fabric samples should arrive some time in the next week or two so I can actually start sewing the designs you see above. I’m also excited to collaborate with my friend Heather Black on one of them because she has the most amazing design sense!!

Pearl Pendants by Heather Black and Christa Watson

Pearl Pendants pattern coming soon – click here to preorder.

So here’s a bit of my pattern writing process for those that are curious. First, I design the patterns in EQ8, using digital swatches of the fabrics I plan to use. Next, I write the instructions while I’m waiting for the fabrics to arrive.

While editing the patterns, I use digital images as placeholders for the pattern covers until the quilts are made and can be photographed. Then it’s very easy to swap out the digital images with the photography, without altering the pattern layout. I send the rough draft of the pattern to my graphic designer to lay out and make everything look pretty, and then a technical editor checks all the math to make sure I haven’t missed anything.

Sparkling Stars front Cover

Sparkling Stars pattern coming soon – click here to preorder.

Once the fabric arrives, I make the quilts following my own instructions so that I can pattern test and see if there are any steps I missed. While I’m making the quilts, digital images of the covers are sent off to the distributors (companies who sell patterns on a mass-scale to quilt shops) so they can get them in their system in time for shops to pre-order.

Once the quilts are finished, they are photographed and cover images swapped out with the real ones, and I do once last round of editing to make sure everything looks right. Then patterns are sent off to the printer for physical copies, and PDF downloads are uploaded to my Craftsy shop for sale.

Surplus Strips Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson

Surplus Strips pattern coming soon – click here to preorder.

As you can imagine, the timing is critical to make sure everything happens in the right order. My process is probably a bit different than pattern designers who aren’t working with a specific fabric line. But I like the challenge of making all the parts fit together.

You can see sneak peeks of the fabric line in the quilt pattern covers above, but I’ll be happy to tell you more about the fabric when my samples arrive in the next few weeks. Quilt shops will be able to order it later this spring, usually around quilt market in May – and I’ll be there in person showing off these quilts and more “in the cloth.” Then the fabric will arrive in shops around mid summer – sometime in June or July. I can’t wait!!

Spray Basting Tutorial – Using a Table

Recently I shared a tutorial on spray basting using a design wall. Today’s tutorial shows how to modify the spray basting process using a table instead. Note that my pictures are all taken outside but once the quilt layers have been sprayed outdoors,  you can assemble the quilt inside using any size table.

Improv Squares Quilt Using Modern Marks

The quilt shown in this tutorial is Improv Squares, made from Modern Marks fabric.
Click here to get the Improv Squares quilt pattern – printed version shipped to you.
Click here to get the Improv Squares quilt pattern – instant PDF download.

Step 1 – Spray the back side of the backing and quilt top

Be sure to spray the layers outside, or in a well ventilated area. If you have sensitivity to chemicals, I recommend wearing a dust mask. I use 505 basting spray and a large sheet to protect the surface I’m spraying on.

I’m using a lightweight folding plastic table, so it’s easy to move. I just store it out of the way in the garage when I’m not using it.

Spray Basting

The table you are using doesn’t have to be bigger than the quilt. When I’m spraying, I cover the center section of the quilt first, and then the sides. For this step, you don’t even need a table; you can lay out a sheet or dropcloth on the ground or wherever you have room.

I used a small park near my home so that I’d have plenty of room, and also nice scenery for photography!

Hold the can an arm’s length away and spray evenly and generously. Make sure to get good coverage on the quilt. To ensure the can is spraying consistently and doesn’t get clogged, spray a few squirts on your dropcloth before applying it to the quilt.

Spray Baste

Although I pressed the top and backing separately before I began, you can see some fold lines on both layers. But not to worry – this gets pressed out at the end. If you spray the top and backing separately, it uses less spray than spraying the batting, and it’s easier to manage.

Once both layers have been sprayed, you can fold them up and bring them inside to finish the assembly process (or stay outside and set the layers aside like I’m showing here.) The layers will be sticky, but not stuck, and you don’t have to assemble them right away – the adhesive doesn’t dry out.

Remove the drop cloth or sheet from the table and then lay out the backing wrong side up.

Spray Baste

Step 2 – Add the batting

I like to fold the batting in half long ways so that I can put the fold line roughly in the center of the backing. You can see in the picture below that it’s not exactly even and that’s ok. As long as the batting and backing are bigger than the quilt top, you’ll have some wiggle room so that you don’t have to line things up perfectly.

In fact, my batting is actually a little longer than the backing so it’s easy enough to trim away the excess. Working on a table is great because it won’t hurt your back like the floor can.

Spray Baste

Open up the batting so you have coverage on all sides. Even if the sides hang down to the ground – that’s okay. The excess will get trimmed away.

Spend time smoothing out the backing. You can lift and reposition it if needed. Work out any wrinkles or bubbles, using your hands and a long acrylic ruler.

I’m using Hobbs cotton batting for this quilt. I like natural fiber battings because they cling to the fabric and they aren’t slippery. (Polyester has a tendency to slip while you are shoving the quilt through the machine which can cause puckers.)

Spray Baste

Once you smooth out the center section, adjust the layers so that you can smooth out the sides, too. Take your time here to really get it nice and flat. Smoothing out the layers also smashes them together so that they stick together better and don’t shift.

You can also iron your batting before you baste to get it nice and flat. I use a spray bottle and a dry iron. With cotton batting, you can put the iron directly on the batting. With more delicate battings like wool, you can cover the area you press with a piece of fabric. Be sure to use a dry iron so that it doesn’t shrink up the batting.

Spray Baste

Step 3 – Add the Quilt Top

Add the top in the same way that you added the batting – get it roughly in the center and make sure there’s coverage all the way around the edges. You can see it’s still a bit wrinkly from handling and moving it around. That’s okay – you’ll iron it again at the end.

Spray Baste

Trim away the excess batting and backing so you’ll have less bulk to deal with. If you have a super large quilt that touches the ground, you can always place two tables side by side to give you more room to work.

I use specialty batting scissors – they cut through the layers like butter, and trimming goes super fast! I only leave about an inch or two on all sides when I trim. That way it’s less likely that I’ll flip the quilt under itself and accidentally quilt through the extra layers!!

Spray Baste

Step 4 – Smooth Out the Layers

Smoothing out each layer as you add it is such a critical step. When your quilt sandwich is flat and smooth, it makes the machine quilting process so much easier! The reason I love using basting spray is that every inch of the quilt is stuck to every other inch. This prevents shifting of the quilt and greatly reduces the chances that you’ll get a tuck or pucker while quilting.

Spray Baste

Use the long ruler again to smooth out the center of the quilt. You can also use it to help line up the pieced seams and nudge things back into place if needed. It’s almost like pre-blocking the quilt before you quilt it.

Spray Baste

Once you’ve smoothed out the center, you can work on the edges. Roll up the excess so that it doesn’t drag on the ground as you shift the quilt around.

It usually takes me a good 20 minutes to smooth out each layer of the quilt, but it’s time well spent!

Spray Baste

Step 5 – Press the Basted Quilt on Both Sides

The secret to good spray basting is to press the quilt once it’s layered. The heat of the iron sets the glue and it smooshes the quilt together so it’s nice and flat. I press the back side first, working out any excess bubbles or wrinkles. Then I flip it over and press the front.

I use a big board which fits on top of my ironing board, giving me more room to work.

Spray Baste

I’ve developed this basting method over the last few years and I can honestly say it makes a huge difference in how my quilts turn out. Just remember, you are putting a lot of wear and tear on the quilt when you scrunch and smoosh it through the opening of your machine. But with this method, nothing shifts and it’s easy to just focus on one area of the quilt at a time.

Feel free to pin and share this tutorial with your friends. My goal is to get more people quilting their own quilts while enjoying the process from start to finish!