PURE Solids

It might be hard to believe, but I didn’t start sewing with solids until 2017! Prior to then, I had only used prints in my quilts and it felt like a huge leap to start using solids, but once I started, I never looked back. I love how much creativity shines through when I sew with solids–my quilts feel more “me” and my quilting really stands out. These days I sew almost exclusively with solids and I can’t believe that it took me this long to start using PURE Solids from Art Gallery Fabrics. I’ve used prints from Art Gallery Fabrics for my backings before and always loved how soft the fabric was, but the PURE Solids weren’t really on my radar. But once I started seeing them pop on Instagram, I knew I had to try them. Deciding to use them was the easy part…choosing the perfect color combo was tougher since I’m so indecisive! After lots of deliberation, I settled on a bright, summery palette and decided to make another version of my Triangulation quilt. It’s my favorite pattern for solids since it shows off so many different colors and has such a cool look once finished.

Since I was using such bright colors with a white backing, I decided it would probably be a good idea to prewash my fabric. I don’t do this too often anymore, but I didn’t want to risk any dye running when I washed my completed quilt. It turns out I shouldn’t have worried! I put two color catchers into the wash with the fabric, and they both came out spotless…seriously. I even took a picture of the color catchers like a weirdo, in case anyone doubted me! No dye on the color catchers means the fabric was just as bright and beautiful as when it arrived in the mail. No fading fabric and no crying from me! Not only did the dye not run, but the fabric was amazingly free of fraying and tangles after being dried. How often does that happen with quilting fabric? I knew before even starting that this was going to be a fun and easy quilt to make.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve used Art Gallery Fabrics before and loved the softness, but I had never used it for an entire quilt top. What an absolute treat it was to sew entirely with this supple fabric! Not only was it soft to the touch (it turns out it’s made of pima cotton!), but it went through my sewing machine like butter. Does this make me sound like a weird, hungry person? Maybe, but I don’t care! The fabric really is that lovely. Before I knew it, I had cranked out a divine quilt top and was ready to start quilting. And luckily for me, there is the most adorable fabric line out right now with a print just PERFECT for the back of my summery quilt.

Yep. Those popsicles were destined to be a part of my quilt. They give the quilt such a fun little kick on the back and always make me smile. I’ve admired Dana Willard’s fabric for a loooong time and this print was just what I wanted for this quilt. Honestly any of the prints from this collection (Summer Side) would have been perfect, but this one was my favorite. Psst, it’s “Popsicle Party in Watermint” if you want to use it too! Having popsicles on the back of my quilt really completes the summery vibe and everyone who has seen the fabric can’t resist a chuckle (and an attempt to steal my quilt)!

I did a minimalist quilting design to really let the fabric and colors shine, and I’m so pleased with the end result. This is my favorite Triangulation quilt yet! It’s so perfect for these hot summer days, and I know it will really brighten up my house once colder weather arrives. The PURE Solids from Art Gallery Fabrics were such a delight to sew with and I’m already dreaming up my next project. If you’d like to make your own version of this quilt, the pattern is currently on sale in my Etsy shop (yay!) and I’ll list the colors I used so you can snag your own PURE Solids. Curious about using PURE Solids? Give them a shot…I promise you’ll love them!

PURE Solids colors used:
  • Flamingo
  • Grapefruit
  • Coral Reef
  • Canary
  • Lemonade
  • Maldives
  • Mirage Blue
  • Emerald
  • How to Make Improv Quilts

    There’s really no “how-to” with improv quilts, since as the name implies, you pretty much improvise as you go along. So why the post, you ask? It turns out A LOT of people are interested in how I make my improv quilts and after lots of comments and messages, I figured it would be easier to do a blog post rather than try to answer everyone in just a few sentences on Instagram.

    Improv quilting is a great way to use up scraps, try new techniques, and most of all, sew purely for fun! There are NO rules (I promise) and while it does generate a lot of trimmings and mess, it’s totally worth it.

    To get started, all you need to do is select your fabric and gather a few basic supplies. I use a small ruler for trimming fabric plus my trusty rotary cutter. For the fabric, I usually use yardage, but you can easily use large scraps. The fewest colors I’ve used is 4, while my current project has 7 colors! It’s totally up to you how many you’d like to use, but I feel like a minimum of 4 allows for nice color distribution. So far I’ve only used solids, but I’d love to attempt prints someday!

    My in-progress wall hanging

    Let’s Improv!

    So you’ve picked your fabrics, now what? I typically start by cutting one piece that will be the focal piece. I cut this piece with about 5 or 6 sides, but you can do as many or as few sides as you like. Make sure some of the sides are different lengths and angles–this will help get your quilt take shape. You don’t even HAVE To do this larger focal piece…it’s just an easy way to get started.

    Once the focal piece is cut, select the first piece you’re going to sew. If you’re working with scraps, this can be an uncut scrap. When I use yardage, I will just cut a small piece off of the yardage (with no rhyme or reason, I swear!). I try to make it big enough to cover the side where I’m sewing, but not so big that I’ll have a lot of waste when I trim. As you can see from my pictures, that doesn’t always work out! I sew my pieces with a 1/4″ seam allowance, and I always press my seams open. That’s because I’m a big fan of pressing open, but also because it helps to reduce bulk, which is especially important in a quilt like this which will have TONS of seams. After the seam is pressed, I trim the piece. With this piece, I trimmed it so it “continues” the lines of the focal piece.

    Now you can start adding more pieces! It’s a good idea to do a quick backstitch over the seams as you add pieces, since there’s really no way to backstitch when initially adding a piece–the ends of the pieces often get trimmed off! This can get more complicated as your quilt gains more and more seams, but it’s worth it to make sure none of your seams become loose. I recommend having your iron nearby when doing improv, since you need to iron each seam before going on to the next piece!

    Shake Things Up!

    Now that you’re chugging along, you can start to get fancy. I will often sew multiple pieces of fabric together, then sew that section to the quilt. In the example below, I sewed two pieces of fabric together, cut it into strips, and sewed one of the strips to the quilt. I can then use the remaining strips in other parts of the quilt. This is an easy way to add interest to your quilt!

    I Messed Up! Now What?

    Guess what? You didn’t mess up. Improv quilts are amazing because you just, you know, improvise. I’m not a very go with the flow type of person, but if something funky happens with my improv quilts, it’s all good. One of the pieces I sewed on today was too short. Oops! Rather than break out my trusty seam ripper, I just got creative with my trimming! These “mistakes” are a GOOD thing, because they help guide the shape of the evolving quilt.

    Burning Questions!

    • Do the pieces you add always need to be a rectangle? Nope! Any shape works, as you can see with the triangle pieces below.
    • What about lining the pieces up exactly? Not important! You can sew just about any two pieces together. This is especially helpful when using scraps. No need to trim the pieces ahead of time. Just sew them together and trim the seam allowance to 1/4″ before pressing the seam.
    • Should I pin? I don’t. The pieces are so small and sewn together so quickly that pining just feels like unnecessary work. And if you end up sewing a kind of wonky seam, you can probably just work with it!
    • What about when my quilt starts to get big and unmanageable? When this happens, I start another section (not with a large central piece, however) and then sew the sections together later.
    • What if my quilt is oddly shaped at the end? It probably will be! I make mine a few inches larger than what I want the completed size to be, to allow room to square it up.

    As I was working on this sample today (and stopping to take a million pictures!), I was thinking about what tips I could offer in this post. Since there’s no pattern or set directions, it can feel like improv is complicated or stressful, but to me it’s the exact opposite. It’s freeing and fun! I think my biggest tip is not to overthink things. It can be easy to get caught up in perfect placement of colors or shapes but that’s really not necessary. Improv quilts will look good no matter what–it’s the very nature of improv to thrive on the imperfect!

    I hope this post has convinced you to give improv a try. It’s just so much fun! There’s lots of different ways of doing it, so you don’t even have to do my method. Please tag me on Instagram if you give improv a try after reading this post, because I’d love to see what you make. Use the hashtag #peonyandfernimprov if you want me to share your picture!

    Triangulation Quilt

    Once upon a time, I pulled together a beautiful color palette. I had no plans in mind for these colors, other than sewing with them immediately. And so, I began cutting. I cut some triangles and sewed them together. They were kind of wonky looking, so I panicked. Did I just waste all that time and fabric?!? I calmed down and trimmed them. Phew, much better. Then I sewed some together and made a pillow cover. And it looked really fun! So I decided to keep going and see what these triangles had in store for me.

    It turns out there was a quilt in store! After appealing to Instagram for a name, Triangulation was born (thanks again to Anne Birkett for suggesting such a perfect name)! In about two weeks, I had a rough pattern done and had made a throw sized version, since that felt like the only way to confirm my math was correct. Thanks to a few hard-working testers, I got feedback within just a few weeks and now the pattern is available! This is my first actual quilt pattern–my first pattern was a pillow and the second was a mini quilt. This definitely took a lot more time to write and I feel more nervous about releasing it than my first two patterns…which is saying a lot because I was pretty nervous about both of them too! I feel like a lot of quilters are like me and have learned by trial and error, but I also know there are some “right ways” to do things and I’m pretty sure I don’t do any of them. So that’s typically the cause behind my nervousness. What if my weird way of doing things is annoying to my fellow quilters? What if the quilt police come and arrest me?!? I guess if they do, at least I’ll have a nice quilt to bring with me to quilt jail!

    This pattern is definitely beginner friendly. I wouldn’t recommend it for your first quilt ever, since matching triangle points can get annoying and I wouldn’t want my quilt to turn someone off from quilting forever! But otherwise it’s pretty easy (although people will think you went through way more effort than you did!). The fabric cutting is very straightforward and you can chain piece the HRTs (half rectangle triangles) which cuts down on sewing time. The fabric requirements are below in case you’re making up your mind about which size to make. I hope you all enjoy Triangulation and I can’t wait to see what you make with this pattern!

    Kona Color Card

    Until about a year ago, I wasn’t brave enough to sew with solid colored fabric. I had a variety of silly reasons, but finally gave solids a shot and instantly fell in love. Now I use Kona solids almost exclusively because I love the quality of the fabric and variety of colors. But if you’re like me and do the majority of your fabric shopping online, you’ve probably found that it can be hard to tell just what the color you’re ordering looks like in real life.

    That’s where the Kona Color Card comes in handy. It has a small swatch of all 340 colors available, and I refer to mine all the time. The only problem is the colors are arranged in a kind of weird order, and it’s hard to visualize them next to other colors, so there’s really only one solution…cut it up! 

    Unfortunately I did this a few months ago, so I didn’t take pictures while I was doing it, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. I opted to use an older cutting matting and a rotary cutter blade that I was on the verge of replacing, since cutting it up with scissors sounded too time consuming. I wouldn’t recommend using a brand new mat or blade for this project, or they’ll quickly get ruined!

    There are so many good ways to store your color swatches once they are cut up, but I chose to display mine so that I could use them whenever I wanted to. Plus I needed to fill up the walls in my sewing room, so I purchased two Umbra Metal Bulletin Boards and some adhesive magnets and got to work. The magnets were a bit big, so I cut them in half and stuck them on the back of the swatches. I don’t display all of the swatches, but I have two boards in case I ever want to display all 340.

    It’s been so handy having them like this. I can fiddle with different color combinations and it makes for pretty cheerful wall decor! I’ve seen other quilters punch holes in them and hang them on hooks, or keep them all on a large ring like paint chips. My extra ones are stored in an old plastic thread holder (from my cross stitch days), so that’s another storage option if you’re not interested in displaying them. No matter what, don’t be afraid to cut up fabric swatches! After all, they’re meant to be used.

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