Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spring!

 
This beautiful collection of Ukrainian eggs by Carolyn Trout is the perfect harbinger of Spring!  Hope your celebration is splendid and joyful. 
 
Oliver and I are sorting through my sewing room and finding interesting things, and missing what we are really seeking.  Things seem to disappear easily in there, and we look for an hour at most, then move on.  They will surface some day.
 
The birds have returned, snow is receding like large slow glaciers melting, a house fly came to life in the window sill today and gave Oliver a good chase.  Signs of life are everywhere, spring is definitely arriving.
 
 
"Twilight Feathers" ~ Detail
 
Scraps and samples from the quilt above were found in a bottom drawer.  We vaguely remembered this one as a Pilgrim and Roy Challenge Auction quilt for the National Quilt Museum several years ago.  I finish these quilts and ship them in days, still hot from the machine, so it's no wonder they are forgotten quickly.  I hope whoever owns it still is enjoying it.  I'm working on a small one for the November Celebrity Invitational AAQI auction, just beginning to quilt a bit now and then as my thumb and wrist improve. 
 
I am so pleased many of you are trying the recent tutorial on Celtic Bubbles and having success!  My email is dianequilter@sbcglobal.net if you have photos to share.  Working on this design should not only give you something new for your quilting repertoire, but help improve the quality of your quilting, more even stitches, better control, better spacing, better everything. 
 
Happy Spring, and keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day.....
Diane
 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Celtic Bubbles Part II ~ Variations

 
Border Design with Celtic Bubbles
 
Now that you have tried quilting this beautiful overlapping spiral design, I'll show you a few variations.  Above, an idea for a border includes filling a portion of the space first with a pile of Bubbles (interior of the quilt would be on top, or the other way round if you prefer, but I love having the grid go to the edge of the quilt to keep it stable for binding).  I then echoed the Bubbles once, and then added some small feathers.  Of course feathers could be larger, your decision. 
 
Finally I filled the last of the space with a quarter-inch grid.  It isn't all that straight as I winged this sample, and marked those lines after the first part was quilted on a very poufy batt sandwich, so there are some interesting variations on "straight." 
 
Tip:  Always mark any grids before layering the quilt, if you can.  Variations in spacing aren't nearly as noticeable in Diane-shiko or Apple Core, but straight line grids show everything.
 
When I finished the feathers and was deciding what to quilt in the remaining space, a grid popped into my head immediately as the perfect offset for all the curves and circles.  I like it.  It isn't that hard to do free motion, but it is marked, so that takes some time.  It is a wonderful visual contrast and contains the puff evenly. 
 
Next, Oval Celtic Bubbles!  Usually I mention in classes that it is ok to quilt an oval if that's how your circles end up, so I decided to try an oval and see.  I used my class demo sample sandwich one more time, so there are "other things" included that I had done in class.  I squeezed in a small batch of oval Bubbles.
 
Oh my gosh, it is SO much easier than circles!  The shape is much the same of course, but not having to quilt out to the east and west on a home machine is so much better.  I could quilt ovals better and twice as fast.  Below is my only sample so far, but I hope to get you a really nice one soon.
 
 
Oval Celtic Bubbles
 
 
More variations!  Next, for those of you who want some interesting variations, try some of the following, or come up with your own.  The first is a soft wood grain effect by doing overlapping ripply ovals.  The following samples made years ago for classes were folded and are a bit wrinkly.
 
 
 
Next I used a chrysanthemum type ripple to create the following.  Note it is cut from a class demo sample.....
 
 
 
You can do rectangles or squares as well.  I'll try and get a sample soon for those, as my old one is too disreputable to post here. 
 
Below is a portion of a small class example quilt where I added Celtic Bubbles in the upper corner, simply for visual interest.  I had other designs in this border but it all worked well together.  The entire border could have been Bubbles too, just another option.
 
 
"Batz Below" detail
 
One function this design does very well is enclose excess puff between other designs and work it in with the curving arcs.  Before the area was quilted there were huge mountains of puff to be controlled.  Celtic Bubbles did the job.  I like to have these tools for function as well as visuals because every now and then it's necessary to solve problems while machine quilting by the correct design choice.
 
I also really held the quilt sandwich smooth and taut to control the puff while quilting this area, and slowed down.  I had the pressure lowered on the free motion foot as well so the foot didn't push along any excess.
 
 
 
Another option for you is to do micro Celtic Bubbles, above, very tiny ones for close background fill.  I drew a two-inch square and filled it with tiny Bubbles.  They were actually easier than larger ones, but it is tempting to start whirling out into space from centrifugal force as you whiz around the circles as they become larger, so be careful. 
 
Those of you who love to do this kind of quilting should be able to get some amazing results.  I definitely used my magnifier on the sewing machine for this.  I would use Micro Celtic Bubbles for small areas instead of another tight background fill.  However, acres of them, probably not.
 
If you are more a large scale quilter, try one of the "wonky" versions and space out to about 1/2" between rounds.  It will cover territory quickly and evenly.  I think it would look great too on children's quilts in areas where you don't know what to quilt.  Try heavier threads, fun threads and colors.
 
One thing I discovered - you get so much better the more of these you do.  I look at those first ones while I was quite rusty and wow, I can go twice as fast and the results are twice as nice.  It does happen.
 
 
 
Enjoy your spirals and springtime eggs....
Diane
 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Celtic Bubbles ~ Tutorial

 
"Celtic Bubbles"
 
It's a blustery miserably cold day here so I did some quilting and took some photos of this beautiful design.  I have taught it in classes for years but never published it.  It's one of those universal patterns, found in all areas of design from textiles to concrete.  You may look down at your bathroom towel and see it in terry, or be wiping your feet on a doormat that is made up of this design! 
 
I first quilted it many years ago, sitting at my machine and doodling around, warming up, usually after an oiling so I get all the excess worked through before working on my project in the machine.  I did it on muslin, and it looked so amazing I pinned it to the wall, thinking that someday I would use it in a quilt. 
 
 
 
There are variations of this I'll do in a future post.  Students either prefer the circles, above, or other shapes that might be easier for them.  Circles are fairly easy even for beginners, and the only difficult part is the tiny bit of travel as one Bubble collides with another.
 
 
"Shadow Leaves" with floating Celtic Bubbles
 
 
Currently I prefer to fill in all spaces with the design, or arcs from it in the odd spaces left between circles.  However, originally I "floated" the bubbles across the surface, much like blowing bubbles, how they appear floating in the air, seen in photo, above.  Some were clustered, some were solitary, and the spaces between them had to be filled.  I used a close background like bananas or stippling, but now fill in with portions of other circles as it looks better to me and is SO much FASTER. 
 
 
The feather, above, was a sample from my class demo piece.  I started filling in with Celtic Bubbles around it to see if it would be do-able as a background fill, and it is.  In the future I think I would make sure the last echo around a design is the same color thread used for the Bubbles, so the travel stitching on that last echo would not show as much. 
 
This design goes fairly fast.  It is not continuous.  Each spiral is one complete unit.  Each one is begun in the center.  Work out from that first circle, echoing it, keeping spacing even.  When you finish each one it is necessary to cut the threads and start a new one a short distance away. 
 
One of the key factors for success in this design is that you MUST stop after each one and cut the threads.  This small interruption in your work keeps your focus at a high level, gives you a small break, lets you look at your work and see what to change as you move on.  I find that the quality of the finished work is so worth having to cut the thread for each unit you quilt. 
 
Students have had spectacular results.  Trust me.
 
Quilting the Design:
 
 
 
I began my sample by marking a 6" square on a larger piece of fabric, layered with wool batt, and muslin for backing.  Give yourself plenty of room at the edges to hold the quilt. 
 
I am using #100 chartreuse silk thread for the quilting on a lilac cotton sateen.   Starting at a left bottom area/corner works well for most designs as it is easiest to build the design to the right and UP, but you may begin in the center.  Here I can end my first spiral at a line, and if you quilt it in open space, you must end the final row by merging into a previous round, and then cut threads, see photo below. 
 
Center spiral below was the first one quilted with the final round merged back into the spiral, threads cut.  It's better to start at the bottom so your first spiral isn't the focal point!
 
 
 
After a few rounds stitching over the thread tails, see photo above, I stop and cut the threads before proceeding. Thread tails are a visual distraction and every time you approach them while quilting you might veer off course, slow down, speed up, something.
 
My best advice for the start of this design is to relax, and don't think too much about which dirction to spiral.  I sometimes quilt my spirals clockwise and sometimes counter-clockwise; there is no right or wrong. 
 
It's nice to be consistent throughout the design, so don't decide which way you will circle, just begin and do it.  Your body does what is natural.  In this exercise I seem to have quilted them all counter-clockwise!  But I have been known to take a break, come back, and quilt in the other direction.  It all adds to the character of the quilt....do not worry about it.
 
OK, let's begin!  Insert needle, pull up bobbin thread, hold both threads gently with left finger.  I take about 7 very small stitches to begin and then cut the thread at the quilt surface.  If you choose to bury thread tails, leave them long, bury later. 
 
Start out at a slower controlled even speed.  My spacing is a fat 1/8" or can go up to a scant 1/4".  Try to keep within that zone as greater spacing will be a bit more difficult, especially on a home machine and for the first time you try this. 
 
This first circle you quilt is very important as it establishes the shape for the entire first "Bubble."  If you quilt an egg shape now, the Bubble will be egg shaped.  And that is fine.  Don't obsess over getting perfect circles; just go for it and try and make the spiral evenly spaced with good even stitches.
 
 
 
 
After cutting the thread tails, carefully begin quilting and continue echoing the spiral. 
 
Quilt until you hit something - another spiral (in the future after this one is done), and here, the blue marked line, or in a quilt, a seam, edge, quilting design, applique, edge of piecing, etc.  When you get to that edge or stopping point, slow down a bit, stitch on it to the place where you continue the next round. 
 
Here I have hit the blue line and filled in the corner with short parallel arcs, keeping the spacing as even as I can.  Don't worry too much if the spacing isn't exactly the same.  After you've quilted more of the Bubbles, it will all look so much better. 
 
My sprials are not perfect in this sample.  My excuse is I lost momentum and concentration because I had to stop and take photos.  I also got really upset when my machine started doing odd things, skipping stitches, doing funny jumping things with the needle.  It turned out I had bumped my screen with the small light I was using for photos, and turned on some weird combi-stitch.  I rebooted and was ok, but my quilting was shaky for a round or two.
 
Cut the threads.
 
 
 
Next step:  Begin the second Bubble, photo above. 
 
Insert needle less than an inch from the outside of the first spiral you just finished.  Begin the same way, establish the circle design for a few rounds, stop and cut threads, and spiral away.
 
 
Here I have stopped and will cut the threads.
 
Continue spiraling, perhaps increasing machine speed so the curved lines are smooth.  Be careful not to move hands faster as you spiral out, or the stitches will increase dramatically in size.  The small even stitches help maintain smoothness of design, and create "puff" in the finished design.  Large stitches let the puff leak out and your spirals will be flat. 
 
Now we begin "layering" the Bubbles. As you spiral around the second one, quilt until you collide with the adjacent Bubble, the first one you quilted. Slow down a bit, and stitch on the outside line of that first Bubble out to where you can continue the correct spacing and quilt the next spiral.  This technique makes it appear that the second spiral is partially hidden by the first one, or "layered."
 
 
 
 
Above, I have hit the first Bubble and stopped.  I will quilt on that line, to the left a few stitches to establish spacing, then quilt away from that point, around my spiral, below.
 
 
 
 
 
The catch is, you will be reversing your direction here.  You collided with the first Bubble as you quilted towards it, then stitched on it to the left, and now are quilting back away from that first Bubble. 
 
Tip:  Don't turn the quilt.  You may tweak its position in the machine a bit to see better, but it's best to look behind the foot and estimate the spacing.  Do not look at the needle.  You will get better at this with practice.  I ask you not to turn this small sample (even though it would be soooooo easy to do it) so that you build your skill and when a larger quilt is in your home machine, you will know how to quilt away from yourself and do it correctly and easily.
 
 
Do the same thing as you come around the spiral and hit the first Bubble on the lower side.  Slow a bit, stitch on the last line of that first Bubble, then quilt away from it keeping the spacing even, around to the other side.  Isn't this so pretty??!!
 
Tip:  An open-toe foot really lets you see the line you are traveling on so this small amount of two sets of stitches will not be noticeable.  It would be extremely time consuming to cut threads when you hit another line, so this method works well to get you to the next round of the spiral.
 
Keep going as many rounds as look right to you.  Some Bubbles are larger, some smaller; this makes the design interesting.  The larger the Bubble becomes, the more difficult to quilt that huge curve.  Be aware as the Bubble increases in size, you might tend to make straighter lines and lose the nice round you began with.
 

 
Here are the first two Bubbles (or spirals, but Bubbles float so nicely....) completed.  Threads will be cut at the quilt after tiny overlapping stitches on a previous line of quilting are made to lock them in.  Note that my final big round is beginning to flatten out a bit.  I knew it was time to quit and begin a THIRD BUBBLE, below. 
 
Tip:  You might want to take a small break now, pat yourself on the back and look at those gorgeous spirals before starting Bubble #3.
 
 
Here I began the third Bubble, and quilted to the right as far as I liked because I ran out of room to do a complete spiral.  I travelled on the blue marked line (a ditch or seam in a real quilt), and on the last quilted line of my second Bubble on the top part.  I stopped, cut the threads, and will fill in the space at the bottom next.
 
 
All filled in!  Keep going like this, beginning the next center less than an inch out from a quilted spiral edge.  Keep going, fill in spaces, take breaks if you need to.
 
The color of the fabric is affected by the lighting.  Under the needle it is in fluorescent light from the machine, and the photo above is natural light.
 
 
More Bubbles completed!!  A stack of Bubbles.....
 
I could stop now at this point of the design, and do another design in the top portion, or continue adding spirals, filling in odd spaces, always traveling over another line to get to my next row.  Sometimes, alas, you do get into a spot where you must cut the threads.  It doesn't happen often, but accept it, move on, look across the room to refresh your eyes, pet your cat or dog. 
 
 
Complete!!  Not all round, not all perfect, but very pretty.
 
The entire square is now filled with these lovely Bubbles.  There is depth and dimension, so much texture and visual interest.  This design even shows up well on prints.  Any parallel line quilting will show well on most fabrics. 
 
The design is not marked.  It goes fast, stands alone as a terrific design, or can be used as background.  It's harder to do that, but not impossibly difficult.  Instead of colliding with another spiral, you will be colliding with a quilted design such as a feather or anything else you have quilted and want to set off nicely.  You do need some space to make this design show or it will be fragmented too much in small spaces.
 
Tips:
 
*Because the lines are arcs and not straight, this design doesn't distort or push/pull excess fabric and batt to form pleats.  If you find as you approach a quilted line from the previous spiral and excess is building up a bit, slow down and allow the fabric to ease into your quilting.  Also reduce the pressure on the foot just a bit so the free motion foot will float over the excess fabric.
 
*Quilt at a nice even speed.  You might increase the speed as you get comfortable, or as the spirals increase in size.  If you go too slow, the stitches get HUGE.  Speed up the machine, slow down your hands.
 
*Slow down for the traveling stitches so you are accurate.  This design looks so beautiful if you can't see where you had to stitch twice.
 
*On the bigger spirals you will have to stop and move your hands.  Stop the machine as well.  Then begin slowly and I even stitch once or twice  "in place" and then proceed to eliminate the tell-tale wobble when you have to start and stop in the middle of a stretch of quilting.
 
*Work on spacing.  Visualize the path or "puff" between the rows of stitching, not the lines themselves.  Look down the path not at the needle.
 
*Quilt at a speed that gives you control, good spacing, and even stitches.  Your speed will increase as you become comfortable. 
 
*In a Real Quilt, the marked square would first be quilted to stabilize it and prevent the square from becoming distorted.  It might be a corner square, part of a pieced block, a section of border and the ditches would be quilted first for stabilization.
 
*Don't get discouraged, keep going.  The only way to become good at this is to do it often, each day for awhile, until it is natural.  Locking the technique into muscle memory is important.  As soon as you become fairly pleased with your work, use it on a REAL QUILT.  Don't put the sample away and move on.  Make a small piece using this design to see how it looks in something REAL.
 
 
Above is a piece of fabric with this design I bought at The Back Porch quilt shop in Pacific Grove, CA.  I had a senior moment and left my package on a bench in town while waiting for a cab, and someone found it, came out to Asilomar where I was teaching and left it at the desk, where it was delivered to me in the main hall that very evening by a handsome park ranger!  I was thrilled.  Of course I bought it because it was a great sample of this quilting design.
 
Below, a towel I bought when I saw the design.  I couldn't resist, and then the purple pillow from just after Christmas, same story.  The rounds on the pillow are from a digitized design/machine and each round is complete, rather than a spiral that is continuous.
 
Fortunately these things were very inexpensive....!  You can find the design in many places, it's classic and wonderful and is any style of quilting, from funky and modern to classic formal quilting. 
 
 
 
 
Good luck with your quilting, let me know how it goes.  My email is dianequilter@sbcglobal if you have a finished sample photo for me to see.  Post questions in comments, and I'll do a future post and answer them for all to read. 
 
 Meanwhile, warm up the machine, give it some oil, make up a bunch of layered samples, and give this a try.  I'll post variations of the design for you to try next time.
 
Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every freezing day.....
Diane
 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Practicing

 
It was sunny finally, so I found an old class sample piece where I had done some demo quilting.  This quilting is always iffy, in that I usually am using someone else's machine, am sitting at a bad height so my eyes can't focus correctly, maybe the wrong color of thread, and everything on the machine is a bit different to me. 
 
I do understand when you take classes that this happens to all of you too!  I try and reassure students that it will indeed be better at home, so I tried that theory myself to warm up the machine and see if my old hands and eyes could still do this. 
 
The piece I unearthed was done on some lovely green cotton fabric with bright gold thread, perhaps bright yellow, hard to tell with fine thread after the quilting is done what color it actually was on the spool.  Fine silk thread takes on a new shade once the quilting is done and it is affected by the color of the fabric.  Good to know, good to use this info when you choose thread color.
 
I threaded up some shimmery chartreuse #100 YLI silk thread in my trusty Bernina and decided to echo the awkward feather plume I had done as a demo.  The tension was off on the previously quilted feather, the stitches were a bit large, the feather was stilted and boring. It was a demo.  But, for a warm-up for me, it was fine. 
 
Echo quilting is my favorite background, so I set to it, found that after a few stitches it all came back just fine.  That muscle memory that is forged while quilting will still be there with the gentle nudge of practicing.  If you cannot do any machine quilting for long periods of time, usually a brief warm-up while really trying to do well will bring it all back. 
 
Don't practice and stitch with no care; always try to do your best.
 
Because there is no stress involved as with this feather project (it was already not great, how could I make it worse?) you will be relaxed, and that is the key ingredient to good free motion work.  As soon as you tense up and think "I am going to ruin this quilt" then you WILL quilt below your skill level.  Stop, regroup, relax, let it go.  If it takes doing some warm-up quilting or practicing to feel confident, do it.  It all adds to the greater good of making you a better quilter.
 
Here is the finished work - it turned out great.  I could still quilt, oh happy day. I quilted for quite awhile and it was so good to hear the sound of the machine and feel so relaxed again.  Oliver napped in the chair by me on an old quilt, content to see me working again in his favorite room, the forbidden room.....
 
 
The echo quilting is about 1/8" apart; the feathers are giant!
 
I do like to vary the shades of thread as I quilt.  I don't use variegated threads often, although they are beautiful and do magic tricks on your quilt when you need that.  Instead, I prefer to stop and switch out the thread color as I choose.  This gives you more control in the finished "look" and is kind of fun as well.  It gives you that moment to stop, step back, assess what you've done and decide what's next, a bit like tasting the soup as it is simmering to check the seasonings.
 
Below, a detail from my quilt "Shadows of Umbria," now part of the collection at the National Quilt Museum.  The freehand feathers create movement in this very structured design, giving it softness and grace.  I changed out the thread colors frequently to lighten the background, deepen the feathers.  The urn was not freehand; I drew it and traced it to the quilt.
 
 
 
I also used several dye lots of the hand dyed Cherrywood sueded cotton for the background areas to take away from the flatness of only one shade for the entire background.  This created more dimension and oddity to the quilt, looked less modern and less planned out.  This fabric quilts up so beautifully - the stitches marry well with it and mistakes are not as visible, tension is easy to get right.  I pre-wash it and press with a touch of starch before using it for piecing.
 
I've added a link to my blog list for Why Quilts Matter: Politics, Art & History, the nine-part documentary produced by The Kentucky Quilt Project: www.whyquiltsmatter.org. The series has aired on 200+ PBS stations, and is also available on DVD.
 
They offer a special discount of 40% on orders of four or more DVDs to quilt guilds: http://www.whyquiltsmatter.org/welcome/quilt-guild-discount-offer-for-the-documentary-why-quilts-matter-history-art-politics/. They have a weekly blog that currently publishes a new post every Monday: http://www.whyquiltsmatter.org/welcome/blog/.
 
They have a guest post every month by collector and blogger, Bill Volckening (Wonkyworld) as well. Recent post topics have included a virtual quilt show of holiday-related quilts; quilts made by quilters for comfort and healing (featuring the Hurricane Sandy Quilts & Blanket Drive, the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative, and the Quilts of Valor Foundation); wool quilts; a report from Houston 2012; and various noteworthy exhibits (e.g., Civil War quilts at the New England Quilt Museum, the High Fiber fundraiser at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, and an exhibit of politically themed quilts from the American Folk Art Museum at the Boca Raton Museum of Art).
 
Profits from sales of the DVD, Discussion Guide, and DVD/Guide package are returned to The Kentucky Quilt Project to fund new educational resources for quilters and quilt scholars.  So check it out!
 
If you are not working on quilting but doing other things, take some time to sit at your machine and do a little practice and reinforcement.  Try a thread color you normally would not choose, do a new design until it becomes easy.  Save it and refer to it for your next project.  Sometimes I tack these up on the wall or I forget all about them. 
 
Below, my homemade pizza we had for Christmas dinner, yummy, spinach and tomatoes were our nod to red and green for the holiday.
 
 
 
Keep quilting; your work gets better every time you quilt!
Diane
 
 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Color!

 
While another half foot of snow falls, we think of spring here in the frozen tundra.  I started keeping track of how many sunny versus cloudy days we've had since Thanksgiving, but honestly it was too depressing to know for sure.  If one day a week was sunny we were lucky. 
 
After Christmas and when the grey days began in earnest, the bright reds and glistening trees were packed away, it was so flat and dull in my house that I decided some bursts of color were needed.  It began by my putting out some spring robin's eggs I saw in the junk drawer while looking for a screwdriver to repair my reading glasses, and I suddenly knew more blue of the eggs, more purple, magenta, and even chartreuse were needed in my house.
 
 
In my sewing room I opened a cupboard door and out fell this charming doll from a student at Asilomar (thank you Ann!).  It had been put away so Oliver wouldn't eat it; the feathers were a huge attraction.  It was like a burst of sunshine!  I knew I was on the right path in replacing my typical neutrals with some saturated tones.  The doll is bright orange with turquoise bead eyes and some green shiny mesh wings.  Love it.  It made me smile.
 
I rummaged around and found a few things, but knew it was necessary to go on a shopping trip for some big inexpensive bright objects.  It was a cloudy grey damp cold dreary day, of course, but shopping was fun.  My cheeks got rosy as I went from store to store.  I came home with packages, bags, paper, and Oliver was thrilled helping me unpack it.
 
 
Success!  I found a bright blue pottery jar for some faux tulips (wishful thinking for spring and Oliver eats real flowers), fresh fruit in a brown/blue pottery bowl, Oliver's wheat grass in a deep aubergine basket, and a new spring green trivet that I don't know how I lived without.  I felt much happier already, and so did Oliver.  He knows he looks great in this setting!
 
 
When I shopped I looked at items I normally would have bypassed but this time I only looked at color, didn't matter what the item was.  Purple and green striped kitchen towels went into a soft green pitcher I had stored way back in a cupboard for a splash of much needed color on my kitchen counter.  And....I can always grab a towel and use it if necessary.
 
I unpacked more exciting bags.  New pillows for the khaki cotton couch, chartreuse and ivory ikat print; and the purple quilted circles one I already had, and a shimmery silk green pillow too.
 
 
My favorite find was an abstract art print for the dining room, with rich wonderful unexpected colors, detail below.  I love it.  I got it for a steal because of a small ding in the frame, and it's signed and numbered.
 
 
 
Below the framed print I placed some of my pottery, an old everyday platter my grandmother had, and a new vase from the National Quilt Museum's gift shop that I treasure.  It has the most beautiful blues.
 
 
And in the family room I also included some shine and color with a reflective platter and added some smooth globes that have two tones of color on each, a dark and a light, so they can be rolled about to create new combinations.  Oliver is very good at rolling them about. 
 
 
The one on the left is really more vibrant chartreuse, fantastic.  I added more color here and there, lit a candle on the mantle out of Oliver's reach, and walked from room to room, enjoying the color, the focal points.  I still love neutrals and soft tones, but adding more color made them look better too.  
 
And then I unwrapped and set up my wonderful new deep cobalt blue lamp.....sigh.  It looks so pretty with my collection of blue/white china.
 
 
 
As I went through my years as a quiltmaker I discovered much the same thing.  Use what you've always loved, but look for something new and wonderful to add, an unusual color, a new or different style of print, a glistening thread.  I still like many of the fabrics from years ago, but need more color now, and love what is available to quilters that was not in the past.  Texture, shine, saturation, contrast, cool and warm, bright and subdued.  You have so much to use to create something that will delight. 
 

 
My little doll says goodbye by showing you her back and her lovely wings.  Think about some orange or polka dots when you make your next quilt!
 
Keep quilting, keep growing.  Your work gets better every day.
Diane