East Dakota Quilter


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Pixelation Paradise (a.k.a. the Pixelated Panda)

I used an amazing program to plan this quilt, but let’s start with the background story.

Some friends of ours are about to have a baby girl. The mom-to-be loves pandas and watched baby Bao Bao on the National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam almost every day when it first came out. The dad loves computers. To marry the two interests, I thought a pixelated panda quilt would be perfect!

Pixelated Panda by East Dakota Quilter

I didn’t want to make the quilt too girlie, so pink on the front side of the quilt is relegated to binding.

On the back? More pink… and a lot more pandas!

Back Side of Pixelated Panda by East Dakota Quilter

For once, I even remembered to include care instructions and a gift tag (back side, not pictured). I kind of hate making labels and I’m not really sure why.

Gift Tag by East Dakota Quilter

I pretty well destroyed our apartment while I was working on this one. There were various-sized pieces that covered our kitchen table. Each time I finished a block, I washi taped it to the wall. I had little sections ALL OVER the apartment.

Messy Workspace by East Dakota Quilter

I think the finished quilt was worth the mess!

While I still hate chain piecing, the program I used made it as painless as possible. Does anyone here remember the tutorial I wrote about how to turn a photo into a pixelated quilt? I really enjoyed the manual process and it’s FREE… but you guys, I don’t think I’d ever do it again. The year after I published my tutorial, a husband and wife team developed a website called YouPatch that does the pixelation for you. Maybe you’ve heard of it. I’ve seen other bloggers write about it, but after trying it for myself, I wanted to tell the whole world how amazing it is! They’re not paying me to write this. Their website is just AWESOME.

For a reasonable price (less than $10 for the quilt I made), here’s the process:

1. Upload the photo you want to turn into a quilt. I used a photo of a panda, removing the background. Eliminating the background makes the main subject of the photo really stand out. I was also pleased that YouPatch did a great job with my poor quality photo!

Pixelated Comparison by East Dakota Quilter

Once the photo is uploaded into YouPatch, you decide whether you want the orientation of your quilt to be portrait, landscape, or square. I picked portrait.

2. Pick how many fabric colors you want to use. I chose 8 for my quilt. The current maximum number is 15. The higher the number, the more detail in your quilt… and also the more work you have to do. You get to preview the difference for each option, which is insanely cool. I would have been happy with fewer options, but I really liked the control this gave me.

YouPatch Step 2 - Size and Detail

3. Pick a finished quilt size. Why? you might ask. Can’t I just use the grid of pieces the software generates to do my own sizing? Well, yes. But a few things: (a) you’re crazy if you want to do quilty maths that the program would do for you; and (b) based on the size you select, the program will tell you how much fabric to buy!

4. Change out colors if you want. My quilt was grayscale. You could do crazy-different colors (a pop of lime on plum), or you could do a quilt using the same concept as grayscale (light to dark) using a specific color like blue. (I bought my Kona solids on fabric.com. They were out of Kona Silver, so I substituted Kona Shadow.)

YouPatch Step 3 - Selecting Fabrics & Colors

You also have the option to manually change a pixel, which is cool. If I hadn’t deleted the background on my photo before uploading it, I would have used this feature to manually remove any distracting details.

YouPatch Step 3b - Option to make manual changes

Then you just pay for the pattern (less than $10 for me), and they email it in pdf format. Mine was very detailed, with 17 pages of instructions, illustrations, and ideas. I didn’t need all the provided info, but it was nice to gauge whether I was on the right track at times.

I wondered was whether each pixel would be an individual, standard-sized square or whether YouPatch would group side-by-side pixels of the same color. Probably I could have researched this in advance, but I didn’t. They do #2 (grouping). I love this. The pattern tells you what size blocks to cut. Due to grouping, not all pieces are the same size. I received another email when I was about halfway through sewing this quilt that said the grouping has been even further improved. There’s definitely a balance between grouping as many pieces as possible so there is less sewing and trying to ensure the pieces can be assembled into standard-sized blocks that don’t require you to read a complicated “map.” I did some minor adjusting on my own but would be interested to see the changes.

The pattern also gives you layout ideas for each fabric color to ensure all your blocks can be cut from the amount of fabric recommended.

YouPatch - Fabric Cutting Guide

Once your pieces are cut, the pattern the shows you how to assemble the pieces into equal-sized blocks. Put the squares together and voila! Finished quilt!

There are plenty of instructions if you’re new to quilting. I got by using only the grid (pieces to blocks assembly) because it was clear on its own. Yay for feeling like a pro!

The customer service was great, too. I actually received a follow-up email about an hour after I received my pdf pattern that contained some suggestions and even a second pattern choice. If I hadn’t already decided to review YouPatch, this would have been the clincher.

Yes, I elected to sew way too many pieces on a deadline, but I loved using YouPatch and I really like the finished quilt. If you’re thinking of trying it, I can definitely say I recommend the YouPatch program.


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Starting a Dear Jane Quilt

In April 2012, I got to go to Purl Soho in NYC, the store behind the Purl Bee blog. It was kind of bizarre seeing in-person the projects I had seen so meticulously photographed for the blog. Naturally, I treated myself to some fabrics. Since I was in the middle of a half dozen projects (most of them unrelated to crafts/sewing), I put the fabrics in the busted-up UPS box that serves as my sewing room. It’s pretty classy.

Now that I’ve finished most of my other projects, I’ve started thinking about what to do with the fabrics. I have two sets: my “citrus fabrics” and my “autumn fabrics.”

I love and am inspired by color, so of course I bought the fabrics before I had any idea how I would use them. I overbought for the bird quilt, so I decided to show more restraint in quantities when purchasing fabric from Purl Soho. The result is I have a half-yard each of the 7 autumn colors and two yards each of the citrus colors. Fabric. Fail.

What I needed was a way to stretch my fabric by supplementing with some kind of solid. So now I’ll do a variation on a Dear Jane quilt with my autumn fabrics, using a cream solid to tie the pieces together AND make the fancy fabric I bought go further.

Even reducing the number of pieces by roughly half wasn’t enough to complete the quilt, though. See, I planned for fat quarters of 18 x 22″. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the fat quarter dimensions don’t take into account selvage, crooked cutting or lazy ironing, etc. But it was a surprise when I first measured.

I used an old-school cut-and-paste method to ensure I’d have enough fabric for all my blocks. I had planned very carefully, but based on the optimistic measurements:

My first idea was to buy a coordinating fabric and make some of the blocks from it. I did this, got it home, and was disappointed how poorly it matched the other fabrics. Then – DUH – I checked the selvage to see who the designer was. I quickly identified the fabric as Robert Kaufman’s Quilter’s Linen line. Which appears not to be a fabric being sold anymore this season. Ugh! Fortunately, I did find a website with most of the colors I needed. I only had two fat quarters of each color to begin with. Now I have an additional half-yard of each, so I’m back to over-buying!

The best part of making quilts is the design planning. Below are sketches of the quilt blocks I plan to make. I used seven colored pencil colors that don’t really coincide with my fabrics but that are easy to distinguish on paper.

The original Dear Jane quilt was sewn by Jane A. Blakely Stickle, finished in 1863. There are whole groups of women called Janiacs who follow Jane Stickle’s original pattern. I knew nothing about Jane or her quilt when I conceived the idea for my quilt. I wanted to put together lots of different blocks for variety. I searched for Pinterest photos of quilts with different block designs. Other pinners had these posted on boards with names like “Dear Jane Quilt.”  Seemed pretty straightforward. I have heard of quilting bees where each person contributes a block toward a quilt, and I imagined a few of Jane’s cousins sewing quilt blocks (next to a warm hearth, of course) and mailing them to Jane for her project.

After reviewing the history of her quilt and searching for images of Dear Jane quilts online, I can no longer tell whether the only Dear Janes are those that follow her original design or whether each quilter has some creative license. I hate sewing circles and isosceles triangles, so I gave myself permission to omit those designs from my quilt. I won’t do Jane’s border or scalloped edges. And my squares will probably be 12”. With quilt blocks using grids of 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, 12” blocks will be easier to calculate than 8” or 10” squares. So I just found quilt blocks I liked and decided to call my quilt a Dear Jane anyway. Probably half the squares are “farmer’s wife” blocks. Mis-named with great excitement, I can’t wait to get started sewing!

P.S. Please feel free to comment if you know whether Dear Jane quilts have to follow Jane’s original design.