My Quilts from Modern Quilts: Designs of a New Century – Modern X and HST

Today I’m pleased to be a part of the blog tour for the brand new book published by The Modern Quilt Guild and C&T Publishing, Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century. 

It’s a beautiful coffee table book presented in hard cover with images of over 200 modern quilts.

Modern Quilts Book

Click here to pick up your copy of Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century.

I always like to give a little behind the scenes backstory about how I end up being featured in collaborations such as this one. Sometimes it’s luck, other times it’s tenacity, and most of the time, it’s a bit of both!

When I attended the first QuiltCon in 2013, I knew right away that the time had finally come to start getting published and raise my professional quilting profile. One of the lectures I attended was on publishing a book, given by the editor of C&T, with panelists such as Angela Walters, among others. I came home from the show on fire and ready to get to work! Although I ultimately went with a different publisher for my own books, I’ve always been impressed with the quality of books published by C&T (and will be a small part of another book of theirs coming up in 2018 – so stay tuned).

An early “profile” image of me with Modern X back in 2014.

As soon as I could, I starting participating in Modern Quilt Guild events, submitting quilts to their shows each year, teaching at QuiltCon, giving webinars, and being one of their designers of the month (back in 2014-the first year they launched that program.) In other words, I got involved!!

When the MQG had a call for entries for this book, I eagerly applied. They looked through images of all the quilts that were submitted along with entries into all previous QuiltCons and I was pleased to end up with two quilts in the book!

Modern X

Modern X Quitling Detail

Check out #modernxquilt on instagram to see many amazing versions of this quilt!

Click here to get the PDF version of Modern X quilt pattern.
Click here to get the print version of Modern X quilt pattern.

Modern X was featured as one of the quilt patterns of the month created by and for MQG members. Here’s a fun fact: It was my suggestion that the MQG feature the quilts of the month as a special exhibit at QuiltCon which they’ve done every year since 2015!

Modern X at QuiltCon with Bill Volckening

Modern X on display during the “special exhibits tour” given by Bill Volckening at QuiltCon 2015

This quilt has gone on to win an award at a local quilt show and has been in a couple of traveling exhibitions of modern quilts. This is also the quilt I talk about when I share the importance of batting and basting in my lectures. (Originally I used a polyester batting for Modern X which created all kinds of puckers because it’s so slippery. I un-quilted, re-basted, and re-quilted this quilt using a cotton blend batting and was much happier with the results!)

HST (The Original)

HST Quilt

The original HST quilt. My photography isn’t great since this was taken before we got good equipment. However the photos in the book are top notch!

HST (Half -Square Triangle) was originally patterned way back in issue 5 of Make Modern Magazine. When I originally made the quilt in 2015 I knew I had created a special design and wanted to enter it into QuiltCon for 2016. However, when I went to wash the quilt, I used a “gentle” wash powder that ended up bleaching parts of the quilt!

bleach stain on HST quilt

The quilt now has random bleach stains throughout. 😦

Needless to say I was devastated. Since I’m always one to try and turn lemons into lemonade, I was pleased when this quilt was still able to be selected for the book. With some clever photoshop editing, you can’t see the bleach stains in the book photography and I’m glad it was able to be included.

Machine Quilting HST

Quilting Detail on HST

Since I love making functional quilts, I still use the quilt every day and it’s nice and warm because I used super thick cotton batting. I quilted HST with a lot of straight line quilting, and I created a woven texture in the background by alternating the direction of the lines. I threw in a few random spirals in the lighter gray blocks.

HST pieced backing

HST Backing – I love making pieced backs from leftovers!

The only thing I wasn’t happy about HST (besides the bleach stains) is that doesn’t hang well because I used a woven textured background fabric. Because of the looser weave, the background ended up stretching too much as I quilted it.

So even thought it was painful to accidentally “ruin” a quilt, I decided that if I remade the quilt, I’d be able to create an even better version and try out some different quilting ideas.

HST Remix

HST Remix by Christa Watson

I was pleased to sneak in a little of my Modern Marks fabric for the binding!

And now there’s another happy ending to this story. Because I loved this design so much, I knew I had to remake it and submit it for QuiltCon 2018. I almost cried when I received my acceptance that it made it into the show!

The background of the HST remix is all pieced from regular cotton solids so they were nice and stable and didn’t stretch. In both versions, the negative space is made from individually pieced background squares to add a bit more dimension rather than using large chunks of fabric.

HST's in progress

Improv-pieced HST’s

There are some slight differences from the first version. Because I ran out of fabric, I had to do some improv piecing to get enough triangles. I also decided to make them slightly bigger so that it would fit my bed. I also kept the idea of random pops of yellow and lighter gray but tried not to duplicate the layout exactly.

Quilting Plan

Quilting plan for HST

A draft “quilting plan” for HST remix. I obviously went in a different direction, but kept some of the elements in my final version. It often takes me many tries until I get a design I like.

The hardest part was deciding how to quilt it! I went through dozens of iterations of quilting plans until I could find something I liked. To make a quilting plan, I’ll print a copy of the design from EQ8 and will try sketching out different ideas until I’m pleased with how it looks. (You can do something similar by printing a photo of the quilt top.)

Although this takes time, it saves me hours of time ripping out a quilted design that looks great in my head, but doesn’t actually work on the quilt!

quilting plan for hst remix

Another quilting plan in progress – it’s getting closer to what I actually did!

Machine Quilting on HST RemixClick the image above to see closeup details.

I think my favorite part of the quilting was quilting some irregular chevron designs in each of the HST blocks and adding a bit of  “embellishment” by randomly quilting a different free-motion design in a few of the blocks.

HST remix quilting detail

I gave a nod to the original HST with a touch of straight line quilting and modern spirals.

Overall, I’m happy with how it turned out and I’m pleased that the original HST is preserved in the book, and folks will get to see HST remix “in the cloth” at QuiltCon next year!

More detail of HST remix

I loved using Alison Glass handcrafted batiks for this quilt!

Click here for a list of all the stops on the Modern Quilts blog hop, and to see more of the beautiful quilts in the book! There are no patterns in the book, just hundreds of pages of beautiful modern quilts for you to explore. I highly recommend this volume for anyone interested in modern quilts!

Work In Progress – HST Remix

I am so excited that things have finally slowed down enough this summer that I can get back to working on some quilts that don’t have any set deadline! I originally made my HST quilt shown below a couple of years ago, then it got ruined in the wash when the “mild” wash powder I used bleached out some of the squares. (Note to self- stick with liquid detergent only!!)

HST Quilt

The original HST quilt – I still fits on my bed and is very warm and usable!!

The Remake – Improv Triangles

However, I loved the design so much that I had to remake it. I’m calling the new one HST Remix. I’m using the same Alison Glass batik fabrics as I had in the original, but the background fabrics are different and the fabric arrangement will be slightly different. One of the problems with the original is that I used a “textured” background fabric that had a lot of stretch. I never could get the quilt to hang straight. I do much better sticking with regular cotton fabrics, but it’s always fun to try something new, even if it doesn’t work out so well!

HST Remix in Progress

Because I’m working with leftovers from the first quilt, I didn’t have enough yardage to cut the squares large enough to make the half-square triangles so I improvised. And honestly I like the new blocks even better! I cut the yardage I had into straight strips with no wonky angles, then sewed them together randomly and cut them into the squares I needed. So many of them now have an improv look which I just love!

I also decided to make the blocks slightly larger the 2nd time around so that the overall quilt would be a few inches bigger.

Improv HST's

Some of my improv HST blocks in progress.

If this quilt turns out well, my plan is to enter it into a few upcoming quilt shows. That’s the one weird thing about me. It’s hard to make a quilt just for the sake of making a quilt. My quilts need a purpose, even if that purpose is just to delight a viewer at a quilt show!

Seams Pressed Open

Pressing Tips

Because the construction of this quilt includes a lot of bulky seams, I’ve pressed them open to help the quilt top lie flat. Contrary to popular myth, this will NOT weaken the seams. My tip for pressing seams open is to press with a hot dry iron so you don’t burn your fingers. First I open up the seams with my fingers or using a handy device called a wooden seam roller. (This is a device made for other applications but is one of my favorite tools for quilting!!)

I also use a shorter stitch length (2.0 rather than 2.5) when sewing the seams together to ensure they won’t split apart while handling.

Seams pressed open and pinned

The biggest question I get asked is how do I get the seams to align when they are pressed open? I use lots of pins and pin right through the intersections where the points are supposed to match. The nice thing about pressing seams open is that I never have to worry about which way they need to go! I also like to press seams open to prevent shadowing – which is what happens when you can see a darker fabric underneath a light one.

I’m also a pressing maniac. Pressing a lot (without steam) helps me keep the quilt top flat as I make it. I will usually sew 3-4 rows together and then press a section before sewing all the rows together. That way I’m dealing with less bulk under the iron at one time. When I press, I press from both sides – back and front. I want a nice, super flat quilt top!

Pressing Quilt Top

Pressing is very meditative for me – I listen to an audio book or podcast while I work.

Victory Lap!

Whenever I’m working on a quilt without borders (which is most of my modern quilts), there’s lots of seams along the edges. To secure them from splitting open, I take a “victory lap” around the quilt by stitching about 1/8″ in from the edges of the quilt. I’ll use a longer stitch length here which then gets covered up by the binding.

Victory lap around the quilt to secure the edges

Victory Lap – aka “topstitching” around the edges to secure the seams.

Now that the quilt top is finished it’s time to make a pieced backing and start thinking about how I want to quilt it. In the original, I quilted lots of straight lines and some fun spirals and pebbles as shown below.

Machine Quilting HST

Original HST Quilting Motifs

For HST remix, I still want to utilize straight lines and create a woven effect with the quilting, but I might change up the design a bit. In the original, I quilted straight lines vertically through the HST blocks and that was a lot of starting and stopping!! So this time around I’m thinking of quilting them diagonally instead so I can start and end off the quilt.

Whenever I’m trying to figure out how to quilt, I’ll print out a copy of my EQ7 design (or a photo of the finished quilt top) and I simply draw on top of it. I might come up with several different ideas, and it can look like a hot mess. So it may take a few tries until I come up with something I like. This is the method I teach in my Craftsy class, The Quilter’s Path – if I can create a pathway for myself to follow, the quilting doesn’t seem so overwhelming, even on a larger quilt!

Possible Quilting Plan for HST Remix

Here’s the finished quilt top. The picture isn’t so great because I just took it with my iphone and it’s actually larger than my design wall, so it’s wrinkling up a bit at the bottom. That’s my next note to self – make quilts that are smaller than my 8′ x 7′ design wall, LOL!! Jason will help me photograph it when the quilt is finished, so I’ll leave it to him to help me figure out how to take prettier pictures!!

HST Finished Quilt Top

I’ll post again when I’m ready to baste the quilt. Since I don’t have a deadline to complete this quilt, it may be a few more weeks (or months) before I can get back to it, but I sure do enjoy sharing my process. Hopefully you’ve been able to pick up a tip or two!

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Introducing HST in Make Modern Magazine

I’m excited to share one of my latest quilt finishes with you today. It’s called HST and the pattern can be found in the current issue (#5) of Make Modern Magazine.

HST

 HST designed, pieced and quilted by Christa Watson

When the gals at Make Modern invited me to submit a design, this idea literally popped into my head. I love making half square triangles and thought what a riot it would be to make a quilt from half square triangles that form one larger, modern HST.

HSTbed

HST on my bed – I’m not much of  decorator, but this quilt brightens up my room!

It turned out so well that I now use it on my bed and it is so comfy and snuggly! I used Alison Glass Handcrafted batiks from Andover fabrics along with textured solids in 2 shades of grey with a pop of yellow/green just for fun! For batting, I chose the highest loft of Quilter’s Dream cotton that I could and it is very warm. I just love this quilt!

Click here for my previous blog post showing sneak peeks of the quilting and the back.

Christa’s Soap Box – Why I Quilt My Own Quilts

I’ve come a long way since I began my quilting journey so many years ago. My style has changed over the years, but my passion has not. In fact, it’s gotten stronger, the more quilts that I make! I was recently reflecting about why I do what I do and what drives me to do it! A large part of my personal quilting style is that I choose to quilt my own quilts. The reasons for it have changed over the years, and I feel like I’ve come a long way since I began.

hst_textureWIP sneak peek #1 – gotta love all that texture! I used Aurifil 50 wt cotton – my favorite!

I first started off quilting my own quilts because I didn’t know any better. I just thought that’s what you did. Of course, my first couple of finished quilts were actually tied but I loved them just the same.

When I began quilting in earnest around 1994-95, most award winning quilts were still hand quilted and longarms were just coming onto the scene in a big way. I knew people who owned one and came so close to purchasing one. A friend was selling hers cheap and I thought about buying it. When I mentioned it to my mom, she agreed to loan me the money, but by the time I got back to my friend, she had already sold it to someone else.

hst_spiral_backWIP sneak peak #2 – I free-motion quilted the spiral with the help of a stencil.

So I just continued to quilt my quilts because that was my only option. I will admit that I did go through a period of quilt snobbery where I thought it was cheating if you didn’t quilt your own quilt. But then I was enlightened when I realized not everyone enjoyed that process. Just as I don’t like to sew clothing or accessories and will gladly pay someone for those services,  I’ve realized that many quilters are perfectly content to do the piecing while others are perfectly happy to just quilt. What a great match!

At one time I took orders for custom quilts and even gave professional quilting a try on my domestic machine, but that was really way too stressful. I am still a recovering perfectionist so I’m much happier to make mistakes on my own quilts rather than the quilts of others. Over the years I’ve tried longarm quilting, but it’s just not for me, and I’m totally cool with that.

hst_straightlinesWIP sneak peek #3. I enjoy quilting straight lines, and my machingers gloves are a must!

After making quite a few quilts in a short period of time last year, I finally realized that the reason I quilt my own quilts is for the sheer pleasure of it. Instead of feeling stressed and overwhelmed that I had to a tight deadline to meet, I enjoyed every minute of it!  In fact, I had a little bit of a letdown when I had finished my quilting obligations!

hst_back

Wip sneak peek #4 –  the pieced back is as much fun as the front! The final reveal will be shown in a future issue of Make Modern magazine. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!

For now, I will continue to enjoy the journey I’m on and share my methods with others if they want to learn. And if they decide it’s not their thing, at least they tried, right? (I can’t tell you how many things I have tried that are not for me… but that’s another post for another day!)

Charming Chevrons Followup #3

I’m getting a great response from my Charming Chevrons quilt tutorial. With the easy to piece blocks they are going together very quickly.  Several blog readers are making it in alternate sizes, too.

Chevron Blocks

I was very happy to find a larger seam roller to use in pressing my blocks. I started off using a narrow roller. But when I took Deb Karasik’s workshop she recommended using one with a wider roll, sort of like a wallpaper roller.

Narrow Seam Roller

Wide Seam RollerYou can order one directly from Deb’s store.

I hope to carry them too!

By the way, here’s a picture of Kathie’s quilt in progress using coordinated fabrics and larger blocks cut 8.5 inches instead of 5 inches. The graphic colorscheme is rockin’!!

Kathie's ChevronsKathie is thinking of using Minkee on the back. I think that would be fabulous and she could even skip the batting if she wants!

You’ll notice that Kathie folded and pressed her blocks to get the diagonal registration lines rather than marking them with a pen. This works, too!

Fold and Press HSTThe beauty of this pattern is that it will work in ANY size because the blocks are all the same size. You can also use fewer blocks or make your quilt larger by adding borders. Remember, this is YOUR quilt so I give you blanket permission to change it any way YOU want! Now, wasn’t that fun??