Tag Archives: Make Yourself a Quilt Month

Alethea’s January quilt – more inspirations

Serape stripes from Pintrest

Serape stripes from Pintrest

I’ve been looking for quilty love in all the right places, I’ll tell you that.

I need to create a background foundation for the January Obsession quilt before I go any farther with the appliqued flowers, and I have been looking to the imagery of the Mexican and South American serape blankets for a starting point.

With the linear nature of these textiles and the gradating stripes, the little chunks of colors in some, and the white triangles in others, I’m on track for a colorful background for the quilt. I spy black stripes, graduating monochromatic sections and bold, clear colors.

Serape blanket with white triangles in diamond shape

Serape blanket with white triangles in diamond shape

Be sure to see more of the beautiful serapes I’ve added to the Obsession Pintrest page.

My next stop for inspiration was the big quilt expo, called Road to California, which was held last weekend in Ontario, California.

Great colors and great quilting!

Great colors and great quilting!

Wonderful colors at the Loc Bloc booth

Wonderful colors at the Loc Bloc booth

I found a few quilts whose colors spoke to me!

Bad Hair Day, by Martha A. Nordstrand

Bad Hair Day, by Martha A. Nordstrand

Martha A. Nordstrand’s Bad hair day was really delightful to see with its great appliques and embroidery.

Description of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

Description of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

It had dimensional flowers and a tree and birds – just like my quilt will!

Detail of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

Detail of Bad Hair Day, by Martha A Nordstrand

I love the jubilant nature of the design and the playful motifs.

Appliqued ribbons

Appliqued ribbons

These large spools of “appliqued ribbons” were from Vietnam, and they reminded me of the applique work I have seen from the Hmong people.

So, all this brings me to my quilt.

Bali pops

Bali pops

Bali pops side view

Bali pops side view

My original idea for the background was to sew these pre-cut strips  up into a gradating field.

Bali pops separated into 2 groups

Bali pops separated into 2 groups

When I opened up the package, I removed the strips that had brown or more dull tones. This will help keep the background more in the clear-colors that appear in the serapes that I liked the most.

More fabrics for the background

More fabrics for the background

Next, I rifled through my batik boxes (, and when I say ‘rifled through’ I do mean made a big mess,) and picked out some candidates to go with the pre-cut 2 1/2″ strips.

Colorful batik

Colorful batik

And that’s when I found this little 1 1/2 yard beauty! Mmm Humm.

It’s a crazy bit of batik I picked up at the I-can’t-be-expected-to-remember-exactly-where-I-purchased-each-and-every-fabric-I-have-in-my-stash store.

So I decided to use this piece as a foundation. It’s not as clean nor as linear as the serapes, but I think I can work with it to make an exuberant wall for my quilted flowers.

Auditioning fabrics for stripe inserts

Auditioning fabrics for stripe inserts

I began to pull together some fabrics to make a set of stripes to insert into the sunset background piece. This will serve to make the background wider and to add visual interest

There's something screwy with this sewing!

There’s something screwy with this sewing!

As I sewed the pieces together, I drove in and out to vary the stitch width and make the seams wonky.

Wonky sewing from the back

Wonky sewing from the back

It’s a bit silly to sew all funky on these pieces because I’m going to sub-cut them so small that none of the wonk will even show.

Wonky sewing from the front

Wonky sewing from the front

But it makes me happy – and I feel free and a bit naughty when I’m doing it – and that, my friends, is priceless!

Auditioning new strips in the sunset background

Auditioning new strips in the sunset background

So, I’m going to subcut my strip sets up and insert them into the background with pairs of another color above and below.

One insert row sewn together

One insert row sewn together

I only had an hour to work today, so this is as far as I got.

Stay tuned…

Oh, and by the way…

I picked up a little parting gift on my trip to L.A….

Alethea Ballard goes HQ 18!

Alethea Ballard goes HQ 18!

Yep. I did that.


Alethea’s January Quilt – flowers and stitches

Little Birdie candelabrum from Laurie

Little Birdie candelabrum from Laurie

The January (obsession) Quilt has made a bit of progress.

I continue to find inspirations for shape, pattern, and color, like this darling little candelabrum that my dear friend Laurie gave me. It stands about five inches tall and it is intricately painted. The five-petaled flowers and the two-color leaves are making the brain cells work! The frilly painted lace motif is also something I am intrigued with.

I’ve also been adding a lot of pins to my Obsession Pintrest page!

Little birdie

Little birdie

And this little birdie has me really trying to figure out if I can incorporate birds into the piece!

Quilted petal parts - flower view 10

Quilted petal parts – flower view 10

You may remember this image as where I left off in the last post.

Flower center on the longarm

Flower center on the longarm

I got the flower’s center on to the longarm and then scribbled on it for a bit.

Flower center with the black batting

Flower center with the black batting

Here it is cut out.  You can see that I leave some parts, including the outsides of the pieces, unquilted so that I can have places to stitch when I add it to the quilt’s background later.

Quilted flower including the center

Quilted flower including the center

These little blue flowers are about four inches in diameter, so you can get some idea of the scale of the pieces.

Orange and blue flowers

Orange and blue flowers

I cut up a batch of little blue flowers, like the ones in the birdie candle holder, and gave them pink and yellow centers. These reddish-orange flowers are also promising! I made both four- and five-petaled ones.

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

First layer of quilting for the orange flowers

Second layer added - blue center!

Second layer added – blue center!

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

I scribble-quilted circles on the nopales and gave them a nice big black batting edge.

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

Orange flower and the quilted nopal appliques

I absolutely love them!

Orange floweres and the quilted nopal appliques

Orange floweres and the quilted nopal appliques

I don’t know if this is where the flowers will eventually live – but I like it for now.

Yellow six-petaled flowers

Yellow six-petaled flowers

Next up are more large-ish flowers. Yellow.

White five-petaled flowers

White five-petaled flowers

And my new favorites… the white flowers!

I’m off to Road to California tomorrow and will be taking a longarm class with Angela Walters. Maybe she can beat some of my bad, scribbly quilting habits out of me.

Be sure to say hello to me if you spy me there!


Alethea’s January Quilt – Nopal leaves

Loteria card # 39 - El Nopal

Loteria card # 39 – El Nopal

There is a bulletin board on the door of my sewing room and it’s a mess of photos and memorabilia.

At the top is this little card.

It’s from the Mexican game of Loteria, which is a bit like a visual bingo game in Spanish. Each card has an image, a number and a word.

This Loteria card was a momento of my brother and his wife’s wedding. The cards were at each place setting at the reception, and I got the nopal – also known as a prickly pair cactus.

My quilt really needs some of these!

Nopal Cacti - view 1

Nopal Cacti – view 1

I only had 25 minutes to work on the Obsession quilt today, so the rotary cutter and I whipped up some large Nopal cactus leaves.

Nopal Cacti - view 3

Nopal Cacti – view 3

I haven’t quilted them yet, but I’m loving them so far. I just had to share them with y’all today!

Nopal Cacti - view 2

Nopal Cacti – view 2

Please hold for the fruit or flowers and the quilting!

I’m off to order more black batting!


January is Make YOURSELF a Quilt Month – I have spoken

Alexander Henry fabric - amazona

Alexander Henry fabric – amazona

January is Make YOURSELF a Quilt Month – I have spoken and therefore it shall be…

What’s the deal, you ask?

The holidays are over – as I mentioned in the last post – and it’s time to move on. As creative people we are often compelled to make quilts for people as gifts – in fact, many of us make ALL of our quilts as gifts.

This can be both positive and negative.

The positives include: You feel good giving a special gift. People like getting hand-made things. You made it super special. You actually finished a project.

Here are some negatives: It’s an expensive way to give a gift. You worked outside your palette or comfort zone and didn’t enjoy it. It came out “ugly.” It took a long time. The person doesn’t always understand or appreciate what you put into to making the quilt. It gets put into a closet. You rarely see the quilt (if ever) again. It gets used as a dog bed. It ends up as a doormat. And so on.

I know we all feel like a quilt is the “perfect” gift, especially when someone has a baby. So make a baby quilt for yourself, your sibling, or your grandchild. Good plan. But, you don’t have to make a quilt for your aunt’s cousin’s hairdresser’s dog walker’s step-daughter. Draw the line, people. Just because an egg has been fertilized somewhere in the continuous United States DOESN’T MEAN YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO MAKE IT A QUILT! Buy a onsie or a stuffed giraffe once in a while, for Pete’s sake!

I think and fret a lot if I am making a quilt for someone else, whether it is a commission or a gift. I worry about the theme, tone, fabrics, colors, size, pattern, quality of workmanship and everything else there is to perseverate over. And that, my friends, is just NO FUN!

When I’m making myself a quilt I take risks, I make mistakes, I work very fast and spontaneously, and I really enjoy it. Except when it tortures me and looks ugly. But even that’s OK with me!

The real reason that I want you to make a quilt for yourself is that you make such interesting choices when you create for yourself. You don’t have to worry if the recipient will like it, if it will “go” with their stuff, if it will be appreciated. Often you’re bolder, braver, and, I hope, happier when you’re working with a beloved palette, with fabric you love, on a quilt you’re excited to make. If you have to make adjustments you’ll feel less stressed. And you’ll most likely enjoy the process more and care less about the product!

So it’s make yourself a quilt month and that means me, too.

I have to do some quilt work for other people this month, but at least twice a week I am going to work on a quilt just for me. I would like to share my process with all of you. Even if it ends up a big hot mess (as my friend Kris says.) I hope you’ll join me on my journey!

I have only a vague idea of what I am going to make. It’s going to have huge quilted applique flowers and leaves. It will have vibrant colors.

I am going to make it up as I go.

Fabric Bouquet postcard, by Alethea Ballard

Fabric Bouquet postcard, by Alethea Ballard

I want to take the feel of this tiny postcard with the quilted appliques and bow it up HUGE!

Inspiration for this project comes from my love of certain colors and imagery that I often find in Mexican art and tiles. I have been pinning on a Pintrest board I’ve titled Obsession – see it here.

Alexander Henry fabric - flores de coyocan

Alexander Henry fabric – flores de coyocan

 This new fabric from Alexander Henry is a good starting point.
Skulls and Hearts - quilted and painted - more fabric from Alexander Henry

Skulls and Hearts – quilted and painted – more fabric from Alexander Henry

I’ve been quilting and painting on these fabrics…

Tree of life from Pintrest

Tree of life from Pintrest

And this is really where I get the most excited!!!

I started a flower today!

I cut shapes out of batik and cotton prints.

flower 1 - view 1

flower 1 – view 1

flower 1 - view 2

flower 1 – view 2

flower 1 - view 3

flower 1 – view 3

flower 1 - view 4

flower 1 – view 4

flower 1 - view 5

flower 1 – view 5

flower 1 - view 6

flower 1 – view 6

Ultimately the flower needed seven petals.

The next step was to turn the flower parts into appliques – quilted on to batting.

I chose black batting because I really want the appliques to have a very definite edges and a sharp, coloring book look.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 7

Quilted petal parts – flower view 7

Here the petals get layered on to the black batting on the long arm.

I quilted the inner parts of the petals using both a variegated orange Superior Rainbows thread and a solid lime green polyester in the needle and a darker pink variegated thread in the bobbin.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 8

Quilted petal parts – flower view 8

The quilting is really scribbly and I don’t like how it came out. I didn’t glue the pieces down and the edges got all puckery.  The batting was all stretchy and it moved a lot under the needle. At this point I’m thinking I’ve wrecked it all.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 8

Quilted petal parts – flower view 8

I cut the parts of the petals out, leaving about a quarter of an inch of the batting showing.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 9

Quilted petal parts – flower view 9

I quilted the inner ring of petals separately because I thought it needed the punch of the black edges.

Quilted petal parts - flower view 10

Quilted petal parts – flower view 10

I’m going to need to quilt the center, but maybe it’s not totally terrible after all.

Stay tuned…


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