Sparkling Stars Quilt Part 1 – The Design and Sewing the Blocks

Now that I’m back home from quilt market, I have time to share about the process of making Sparkling Stars, one of the quilts from Fandangle, my new fabric line from Benartex/Contempo.

Sparkling Stars Design

Whenever I make an original quilt, I first create it in Electric Quilt Software using the actual fabric swatches I plan to use. If it’s a scrappy-looking quilt, I won’t worry too much about color placement while I design. However, for Sparkling Stars, I took quite a while re-arranging the colors until I was pleased with how they looked.

Sparkling Stars Quilt

Click here to purchase the Sparkling Stars PDF Quilt Pattern.
Click here to purchase the Sparkling Stars Print Quilt Pattern (Ships by 5/31).

I knew I wanted to use all 20 fabrics from Fandangle, but in a cohesive way. So I literally tried every fabric in the line in each part of the star blocks above until I was pleased with the final color arrangement. (I usually don’t save the “reject” versions because they are numerous and I don’t want to get confused by multiple images of the same file I’m working on.)

Fandangle Cut Units for Sparkling Stars

I love a pretty stack of cut units!

I planned the design months before I received fabric samples so that I could get the pattern written ahead of time. I knew time would be short in making the quilt so I tried to get as much work done ahead of time as I could. Once I start on a quilt, I’ll make it pretty quickly from start to finish since I’m usually working on a deadline.

Sparkling Stars HST's

Stacks and Stacks of HST’s in progress…

Making the Blocks

I try to assembly line my process, so I’ll cut everything ahead of time, then sew all the sub-units at once rather than constructing a quilt block by block. It’s much more efficient and I can pattern test as I go by doing it this way.

Sparkling Stars in Progress

I keep similar units together to stay organized.

As you can see, there are a lot of pieces that go into making this quilt so I try to be as careful as I can during every step of the process. I sew with a consistent quarter inch seam, press my seams open, and trim my units as needed to the correct size. By taking care during each step of the process, it ensures the final blocks will go together smoothly.

Sparkling Stars Quilt Blocks

Sparkling Star Quilt Blocks in Progress

When the sub-units are complete, I stack them up and lay them out in order next to my sewing machine so that I can chain piece as much as possible. I also take pictures as I go so I can look at a reduced view of the quilt blocks to make sure nothing is turned the wrong way before sewing together.

For these particular blocks, I made sure turn turn the “Beaded Curtain” print so that they were all facing the same direction. The rest of the prints are non-directional so they didn’t matter.

Seams Pressed Open

I sew with a shorter stitch length and press seams open as I go for best results.
Then I’ll pin the units together as I sew to get accurate seam joins.

Rather then sewing the blocks into rows, I sewed them into 4-patch units so they’d be easier to manage. It also allows makes me feel like I’m getting more done since it’s a lot of pieces to sew! The biggest tip is to just sew one step of ALL the blocks at a time and then take a break so it doesn’t get too monotonous.

Sparkling Stars Blocks in Orange

These blocks will sparkle and glow in the final quilt!

When the blocks are complete, I’ll press them with a hot, dry iron on both front and back. This ensures nice flat blocks which will be much easier to machine quilt!

Sparkling Stars Quilt Blocks

There are a total of 25 blocks in 6 different fabric combinations.

I wrote up the quilt pattern so that it would be extremely easy to follow along either using the same fabrics I did, or using similar colors to get the sparkling effect. Fandangle will start shipping to stores at the end of June, but you can pre-order bundles of the prints and yardage of the grays (along with the quilt pattern) over at shop.christaquilts.com for a limited time.

Sparkling Stars Quilt Blocks

While I’m not offering kits, you can get the enough fabric to make this quilt when you purchase 1/2 yard bundles of both the cool and warm colorways; plus 3 yards of the light gray, and 2 yards of the dark gray. There will be a little left over that you can use for other projects.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I show how I put the quilt top together!

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!!

Writing Book 4 – Part 1: The Book Proposal

Guess what? I’ll soon be writing another machine quilting book! I thought it would be fun to take you behind the scenes of book creation from start to finish because I get a lot of questions about what it takes to write one. I figured the best way to answer that was to document my process in real time as it happens. My only caveat is you’ll have to be patient as I blog about my journey because it can take a long time from concept to publish date. But sharing this journey with you in real time will definitely make the months (and years) pass more quickly.
Books by Christa Watson

The 3 books I’ve written will be joined by a 4th (but not till 2020)!!

The first step is to submit a very thorough book proposal. Book publishers have their proposal submission forms on their website and most are very similar: they want to know the gist of the book, what makes it special or different, why it will sell (and how you plan to market it) along with what you envision the book to look like.

If it’s a project based book, they’ll want to see sketches of all the proposed projects including the fabrics you plan to use. They may request to see one or more finished quilts and a sample chapter from the book so they know that you can write and express yourself clearly.

They’ll also want a timeline of how long it will take you to complete the manuscript and make all the projects so they can assign it a production team and release date. FYI, most books take about 1 1/2 to 2 years to produce from the initial spark of an idea to publication.

Before a publisher is ready to give the thumbs up, they’ll do a thorough review, usually with an acquisitions committee. They’ll conduct a cost projection & market analysis to make sure that producing the book will be profitable. A publisher spends a lot of time and resources on any one book including a whole team of people to copy edit, tech edit, photograph, lay out, illustrate, and of course market it. To get an idea, open up any book you have from a major publisher and count the list of names that were involved in producing it.

Editing Machine Quilting with Style

Editing my first book, Machine Quilting with Style, back in 2015

The proposal for my first book, Machine Quilting with Style, took about 5 months to solidify my idea and then another 4 months to actually write the proposal which was over 40 pages in length. I first thought about the idea in February of 2013 after returning home from QuiltCon but didn’t submit the proposal until November of 2013. I completed the quilts and manuscript in August of 2014, and it was published in September of 2015, nearly 2 years later after I proposed it.

My current proposal was about 30 pages and took me 3 months to thoroughly think through my ideas – then another month to design the content and create the structure, outline and table of contents. Even after writing multiple books, getting the green light for the next one is never a guarantee and I had to complete a thorough submission each time.

Angela Walters and Christa Watson at Quilt Market

Promoting my 2nd book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting with Angela Walters at Quilt Market in 2016. (Check out long my hair grew out in a year from writing to publication!)

I submitted the proposal for my 4th book to Martingale/That Patchwork Place in early April of this year, and just received the unofficial word that they want to go forward with my idea, after a bit of tweaking. (I waited to start writing this series in the off chance that they weren’t interested because then there’d be nothing to document, LOL!!)

Once my publisher received my submission, they discussed it at their monthly submission meeting, and came back with a “yes we want to publish it, but let’s tweak it a bit more before we give the official approval.” I’m always open to suggestions, and one of the keys to getting your book successfully published is flexibility.

I originally had two ideas for book #4 and pre-pitched them on both before I submitted the complete proposal, to make sure they were interested in seeing them. Although I incorporated both ideas into the current proposal, I emphasized that I wanted to go in one direction with it more than the other. However, my publisher felt that the second direction I had offered had a better chance of being successful, so I’m heeding their advice. After all, they know the market and their customers better than I do!

Box of Books - Piece and Quilt with Precuts by Christa Watson

It was such an exciting day when copies of my 3rd book, Piece and Quilt with Precuts arrived!

So the next step is to edit the proposal by emphasizing idea 2 over idea 1 and present the changes to them in person when we meet up at Spring Quilt Market. Because we are working as a team here, they’ll help me craft it in such a way that it will get the official approval when the committee meets again next month. We just need to get the final concept that we both agreed on written down into words and graphics that will illustrate exactly what the book will be about.

We also discussed timing. At first I thought I wanted it to come out in fall of 2019 but in order to do that, everything would have to be in turned in this August (of 2018) and with my current travel schedule, there’s no way I could manage that. So we are tentatively looking at Spring of 2020 which will give me the time I need to actually get everything done. Although that seems like a long way off from now, it will be here before we know it!!

Although I won’t really be able to discuss the specific content of the book, I’ll gladly take you along my journey as I write the manuscript and create the content. I’ll write another update once I get the official word, so stay tuned!

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!

Quilt Las Vegas 2018 and Lots of Gorgeous Modern Quilts

My local quilt guild, Desert Quilters of Nevada. recently held their 28th annual show of Quilt Las Vegas. I’ve been entering off and on over the years since the early 2000’s and it’s still exciting to participate after all these years.

DQN Quilted banner by Karen Garth

Desert Quilters of Nevada quilted banner made by past president Karen Garth

The competition is always fierce, and the judging is always performed by a certified judge. Even after all these years of entering this show, it’s still thrilling whenever one of my quilts wins a ribbon and I love the feedback provided by the judge.

Below are my entries from the show along with the judge’s comments, plus several more that caught my eye. I’m so happy to see that more and more members are making modern quilts, and especially that more are being accepted into non-modern categories. Enjoy the virtual show!

Diamond in the Rough by Christa Watson

Diamond in the Rough, made in 2016. 2nd place, Modern category.
Originally patterned in QuiltCon magazine 2017, it hung in QuiltCon last year and also received an honorable mention in the modern category at UQSM quilt show in 2017.

Judge’s comments for Diamond in the Rough

  • Repetition of shape unifies design while variations provide interest.
  • Very graphic presentation.
  • Very good piecing.
  • Quilting designs are well-chosen for their areas.
  • Good machine quilting technique.
  • Slight imbalance in tension noted with red thread. Continue to strive for accurate retracing.
  • Bit of red in binding was a good choice.
  • Binding is good.

Positive Direction Quilt by Christa Watson

Positive Direction, made in 2016. 2nd place, Holiday category.
Originally patterned in one size in Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine.
Updated pattern now includes 4 sizes, available as print pattern or PDF download.

Judge’s comments for Positive Direction

  • Good interplay between quilt top design and quilting design.
  • Very good accuracy in piecing.
  • Good machine quilting technique.
  • Strive for more accuracy in retracing bubbles.
  • Binding is well done.

Scrap Happy by Christa Watson

Scrap Happy, made in 2017. 2nd place, Pieced – One Person category
Cover quilt + patterned in American Patchwork and Quilting magazine, October 2017.
I recently gifted this quilt to my son to take with him to college.

Scrap Happy Machine Quilting Detail

Machine Quilting Detail on Scrap Happy

Judge’s comments for Scrap Happy

  • Good definition between figure and ground.
  • Good machine piecing.
  • Colors are well balanced across quilt top.
  • Quilting designs further enhance definition between figure and ground.
  • Continue to strive for consistent stitch length in machine quilting.
  • Pieced binding enhances scrappy feel. Corners should be square.

I always mention to my students when teaching machine quilting not to stress too much about consistent stitch length when making their quilts. Yes, judges notice my “imperfections” in my quilts, but they still like them enough to award them ribbons, and I love making them without stressing about creating perfect stitches!

Other Gorgeous Quilts

Autumn Path quilt by Vicki Ruebel

Autumn Leaf by Vicki Ruebel of Orchid Owl Quilts
1st Place Pieced – One Person category and best machine quilting.

Vicki is a great friend and amazing quilter. We encourage each to other enter lots of quilt shows and I don’t even mind that she usually beats me every time, LOL!!

I love our friendly competition because it always pushes me to be a better quilter. Incidentally, her quilt was also patterned in the same issue of American Patchwork and quilting that has Scrap Happy on the cover. There’s even a bonus article on how she quilted it!

The Big Pickle by Vicki Ruebel

The Big Pickle, also by Vicki Ruebel. 1st Place, Modern

Yep, this one beat mine in the modern category, but isn’t it fabulous? This quilt nabs an award at each show it is entered, and deservedly so!

Corn Flowers by Cory Allender

Corn Flowers by Cory Allender and her Instagram quilting bee.
2nd place, collaboration/group quilt.
Design source: Blossom Heart Quilts Beehive

I love the quilting on this quilt. Cory is an amazing award winning longarm quilter and she’s nailed both the modern and traditional aesthetic.

Diamond Rings by Karen Garth

Diamond Rings by Karen Garth, Honorable Mention Modern Category
Original design and made by Karen

Karen, the past president who made the DQN banner at the top of this post always creates such stunning, dynamic work. I have a thing for black and white and this design really makes my heart sing!

Float by Melissa Bonilla

Float by Melissa Bonilla – Modern Category
inspired by Floating Embers

Every time I attend quilt shows, I wish I could bring my own ribbons! If so, I would have put one on Melissa’s quilt above. I may actually have to do that at a show someday. Hmmm, maybe I can create my own “Christa’s Choice” ribbon!!!

Modern Logs Quilt

Super Star Bingo by Lynda Blair – quilted by Cory Allender – Modern

I walked by this quilt and was stunned by the gorgeous colors and fabric placement. I was thinking “why do I love this quilt?” and on closer inspection realized the maker had used my Modern Logs quilt pattern to make it, LOL!! She even gave me credit in her artist’s statement as the design source.

Super Star Bingo Text

I’m totally happy when people make quilts from my patterns and enter them into shows, and I especially love it when they give credit to the designer. 🙂

Quilt Show Quilts

Bertha (left) by Melissa Curley – Third Place Modern
Theresa’s Crayon Box (right) by Theresa C – Third place, small pieced

I took this picture from the show which illustrates what I love about quilting and the quilting community. From minimalist modern designs to blinged and bedazzled art pieces – there’s truly something for everyone when it comes to quilting!

Ben Modern Quilt by Melissa Curley

Ben by Melissa Curley –  Judge’s Choice – Show Theme Category

Here’s another fabulous piece by Melissa Curley. I’m a fan of everything she makes and her sense of design and color are spot on! I think it’s kinda cool that she gives all of her quilts first names. Read her artist statement below, explaining the fun pop culture reference.

Artists Statement at Quilt Show

I hope you’ve enjoyed the virtual show and remember – entering quilts into shows isn’t really about the competition. It’s about sharing your work with a larger audience and inspiring others to make quilts they’d only dream about!!

Make a Quilt from Start to Finish: Register for my Week-long Workshop this June!

This June 3-8 I have the great pleasure of returning to John. C. Campbell Folkschool in Brasstown, NC to teach my popular start-to-finish quilting class: Modern Quilting 101. This is the only in-person class I teach that guides you through every step of the quilt making process from cutting to binding.

John Campbell Folk School

Registration Open Now

Click here to register for my class : Modern Quilting 101 – Stepping Stones.
Class dates are June 3-8, 2018

Class sizes are extremely limited. With only 12 students per instructor, you get plenty of hands on help and special attention from me. Whether this is your first quilt, or your 40th, you’ll have a fantastic time and will finish a complete quilt by the end of the week!

Stepping Stones quilt pattern by Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

Click here to purchase a print copy of Stepping Stones quilt pattern.
Click here to purchase a downloadable PDF copy of Stepping Stones quilt pattern.

Each year at the Folkschool, I’ve focused on a different pattern. This summer’s group will be making my Stepping Stones quilt pattern seen here. The best part about being the teacher is getting to see the beautiful quilts my students make. Although they are all working through the same pattern, they turn out so unique, based on the fabrics and quilting each person chooses.

Stepping Stones Quilt Pattern by Christa Watson of Christa Quilts

I quilted a simple geometric free-motion design for my quilt. I’ll teach several options in class!

This is the most intense but satisfying class I teach. Think of it as an intimate week-long retreat with me where I’ll share all of my secrets and guide you every step of the way! Students have several housing options and I have to say, the food they serve is the best southern cooking I’ve had. Seriously, you could come JUST for the food!!

Quilt Photography

Jason putting his photography skills to use on a photo shoot in the desert near our home.

Jason came with me last year and took a photography class while I taught quilting. He now does all of the photography for my quilt patterns and he learned so many valuable skills while he was there. He’s excited to return for another photography class while I teach again this summer.

The kids are flying back east with us, too and they’ll get to visit with nearby family, while we’re there so it will be a fun trip for all of us!

Folkschool Fiber Studio

This is the fiber studio where our classes take place. There’s tons of room for everyone!

The previous time I taught (in 2016), students made my Charming Chevrons quilt pattern. They were able to make the quilt in different sizes, according to their needs, and they all turned out beautifully! By the end of the week, we were all BQF’s (best quilting friends) and it’s been so great seeing their continued quilting success!

Charming Chevrons class

Click here to read more about the previous group’s  class!

Click here to purchase Charming Chevrons Quilt Pattern.

In 2015, Students made quilts using my Modern Logs Quilt Pattern. This was my first time teaching at the Folkschool, and it’s such a magical experience that it was easy to say yes when they asked me to return.

Modern Logs class at John C. Campbell Folkschool

Click here to read more about the class of 2015.

Click here to purchase Modern Logs Quilt Pattern.

I can’t wait to return this summer and I hope you’ll join me. At last check, there were a few spaces left, but I’m sure they will go fast. So don’t delay, register soon so you can get your travel plans in place.

Students arrive on Sunday and class instruction runs Monday-through Friday with an end of the week show and share by all students Friday afternoon. Compared to other similar events, the prices they charge at the Folkschool for this week-long experience are quite a bargain because it’s a not-for profit institution interested in preserving the folk-art tradtion and educating others in a non-competitive environment.

Machine Quilting Boxes on Stepping Stones

I hope to see you in my workshop this summer!

Important Folk School Links:

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save