Beach Umbrellas Quilt

Here is my latest quilt and entry for Blogger's Quilt Festival. And surprise, surprise, there are some circles involved. Yes, I'm obsessed with circles. I was trying to deny it for a while, but let's just embrace the obsession, shall we? ;) I started making this quilt with the intention of using it as decor for my family room (which I finally decided to decorate even though we are putting our house on the market in less than 6 months). I had made the decision to decorate in tangerine and aqua, and one day while in the midst of a Google image search, I saw a block from this antique quilt. I thought it looked so cool with a background that was the same color as some of the wedges in the wheel...I wanted to try it with white as the background. So since that block and the colors orange and aqua were in my head at the same time, they all became this quilt. 

I designed this in EQ6. The inspiration block and most of the wheel blocks in the EQ block library had a circle appliqued on in the center, but I wanted to make mine without...I thought it looked little asterisks. I decided to go with all solids on this one...I thought about just using one color for the asterisks...or maybe two...but it just seemed a little boring, so in the end I used four different colors...the dark orange and light aqua are Kona school bus and azure and the dark aqua and light orange are Connecting Threads aqua and apricot. I love that darker aqua. So pretty! Of course these colors don't exactly match the colors I used for my family room decor...but oh well. Close enough.

These blocks were surprisingly easy to make. I had a little template I printed out of EQ that I used to cut the wedges, and fortunately I was smart in planning my cutting. The thing that made these easy and fast was that I cut strips of each fabric the length of the wedge, and then stacked them (i.e. white, light aqua, white, dark aqua) and then cut the wedges. Then, when I took it all to the sewing machine, I didn't have to waste time matching up the sides before sewing, I just had to pull the top two pieces from the stack of four and sew. Easy. I was a little worried that the centers of the circle would be super bulky, but they didn't turn out too bad. I kinda rotated the seam with my thumb on the back before I ironed it and that helped the seams to lay on each other and flatten out a bit. There were a few that were a little sassy, but don't worry...I took a hammer to them (while they were laying on a piece of wood) and then they behaved quite nicely. I contemplated (for about 30 seconds) actually piecing the curved seam to finish the block, but then reason won over, and I decided to just applique the dang things on to the background fabric using my favorite applique method for circles (roughly explained in this post). But since I didn't have a giant piece of white fabric...I just cut some white fabric into squares and sewed them back together into a grid that I used to help place the circles...then I stitched them down using a blanket stitch and white thread. 

Here's a closeup of the quilting, but don't look too close. The design was amazing in theory, not so amazing in execution. So a couple of weeks ago, right before I finished the top, I discovered Green Fairy Quilts (no, I have not been living in a cave, I have no idea why I hadn't heard of her before). Anyway, Judi is an amazing long arm quilter and she free-hands everything. Amazing. I looked at her blog for like 2 hours and swore I would never use another pantograph again (but really, who am I kidding, pantographs are crazy fast and great for some quilts). I really loved the little loops she used on this quilt, so I wanted to try to incorporate some loops somehow. I drew a bunch of little sketches and finally came up with this design. I think it is really cute...kind of reminds me of a carnival a little bit. However, let's just say my freehand quilting skills have diminished somewhat since I discovered the almighty pantograph. Ok, diminished a LOT. But in my defense I was on a little bit of a time the kind where I had to finish quick because I was leaving my quilting machine while I moved with my family to Arizona for 2 months for my husbands work. I finished it the day before we left. So I may not have been as careful as I could have been (i.e. I didn't take time to mark things at all). Oh well, it's done, and not completely unfortunate long as you don't look close! ;)

For the back, I just used all the leftover fabric I had and sewed it into these cute stripes! I actually really love this's only the second one I have ever pieced, but I think it turned out great. And BONUS, I used up all the fabric I bought for this quilt! (If I had a theme song, it would be playing right now because I think I am pretty awesome when I use up large amounts of leftover fabric).

For the binding, I used this Aqua lifesaver print from connecting threads that I happened to have. 

Arizona is way too hot today, but it does have some this beautiful weather and scenery for fun quilt pictures!! See more quilts at the bloggers quilt festival!