08 Aug

You Don’t Know Until You Know

Slowly but surely I am making progress on the Service Flag quilt. It is an older, traditional, project which I hope to give new life to and incorporate into my Army Wife series.

To go with the sheers

Part of the plan is to add a large shadow over the quilt — the looming presence of Uncle Sam. While it is relatively easy to find opalescent and even sparkly organza and other sheers, finding something matte is not so simple.

Auditioning sheers

I looked at the fabric stores here on Oahu and found nothing. I checked JoAnne’s and a large fabric store in Reno, NV while on vacation earlier this summer and found brown tulle and a taupe synthetic sheer. They weren’t exactly what I had in mind, but the price was right and I bought a few yards just in case.

Auditioning sheers

In New York last month we went to several fabric stores (including Mood — made famous by Project Runway) and found a wonderful taupe silk.

However, when I got home, the organza-type sheers were both too opaque. The silk definitely had the better hand and aesthetic, but the overall look was not right. I had been convinced that the tulle would be too subtle and not play well with my hand quilted and appliqued quilt. But, you never know until you see it in person, and one layer of tulle was just what the project needed. Good thing I had bought enough. And, the taupe sheers I don’t use for this will undoubtedly find homes in some other projects down the line.

18 Jul

30 Lines Quilt

A while back I participated in the 30 Lines in 30 Days exercise hosted by Melly Testa. When we reached 30 days, I decided that I needed to do something with one of the small compositions to give the project some context. I’m primarily a quilter, so it made sense to translate one of the squares into a quilt.

Upon request, I’ve added more details as to the process.

Lines 14 -- string!
The line painting

30 Lines in 30 Days WIP 1
The fabric version

(I cut one inch strips of black fabric with the grain. I considered bias strips, but decided that the curves weren’t too curvy and I didn’t want that much play. I pinned the strips to my background fabric following the layout of my 30 Lines drawing.)

30 Lines in 30 Days WIP 2
A little further along

(I used a water soluble fabric marker to trace the the center of the black lines onto the other fabrics. I cut away the excess fabric on the lines. Removing fabric required unpinning and re-pinning lines. I’m OK with that, but those who like maximum accuracy would be better off drawing a full sized cartoon on paper and using the paper as a pattern for the shapes — to include seam allowances and marks to match as on dress-making patterns.)

30 Lines in 30 Days WIP 3
More bits

(I randomly sewed together bits of the fabrics in the fashion of improvisational piecing. I sewed some onto my larger solid areas to add interest and a bit of a transition. Other sections are completely little pieced bits. I used the lines and/or the edges of the other pieces as guides for trimming the pieced sections. If the black lines were removed, all the sections would fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.)

30 Lines in 30 Days WIP 4
Just about there

(Knowing that vertical lines would look best unbroken, I pieced the horizontal sections first. There’s a section where I decided I would stop a line early and where one vertical line connects with another — that required a partial seam and then the addition of a few more parts and then finishing off the partial bit. Again, it’s a puzzle.)

30 Lines in 30 Days Finished Top
All sewn together.

(Do other improvisational piecers who use gentle curves clip those curves? I clipped mine before pressing, and though 1/4″ seam allowance doesn’t leave much to clip, I do think it was worth the effort, especially with my non-bias strips.)

30 Lines in 30 Days WIP detail
A detail.

It needs a bit of unpicking and re-sewing to make it all flat and smooth, and then I need to decide what kind of quilting it wants — different motifs in each section, or sectioned straight line quilting a la Lisa Call’s work, or perhaps something I haven’t yet thought of…

09 May

And Now For Something Completely Different

OK, maybe not COMPLETELY different. But, I’m taking a break from my “Be Strong” apron while I wrap my head around what I want to do with it’s ties, and wait for an opportunity to go to Fiddlesticks which is full of good stichy supplies (I have problems with making single trips for anything — I finally returned overdue library books today because, after several weeks, I had two other reasons to be on post where the library is).

Antique "Brick" Quilt

I’m also procrastinating working on my next 12×12 piece, and about a bajillion household related things. Much time is spent staring at the computer waiting for something exciting to happen — like the computer entering all the recipes from my old computer and outdated program to the new(ish) shiny ones all by itself. Or giving my website a facelift automatically too. That would be awesome. I’d settle for it filling out quilt show forms or entering data into my checkbook.

Scrap bins

My cure for procrastination? The scrap bin. Anything I do with it is an improvement, and little brain power is required. My grand plan is to grab bits from my bins (already color-sorted), sew them together, and cut the “new” fabric into rectangles so I can make a scrappy version of my mom’s blue and white brick quilt. I’ve tackled the blues, the purples (lots of those!) and the blacks and whites.

Scrap bricks for Achromatic

I had enough just from the blacks and whites to make a whole quilt, when paired with a fun white fabric I had set aside for the alternating bricks. I have about the same amount of purples too, so I’m thinking I’ll pair scrappy cools with scrappy warms instead of scraps and solids, to make a second, related quilt. Chromatic and Achromatic. And look, less than a trashcan of teensy-weensy scraps left over.

Achromatic: Not quite working

I like the idea of a secondary shape or pattern showing up, so I used a different fabric for one quarter of the solids. It’s way too dark though. Yet, it matches the pattern on the white fabric, and, since this is a scrap quilt, I’m not going shopping for new fabric.

Achromatic: Much better

I toyed with painting white designs on the taupe fabric, but just moving the lightest bricks to that quadrant made a heap of difference. This is why it’s so important to move things around and look at their relationships. I had actually set out to make the bricks in a zig-zag pattern, but I didn’t like the way it was looking and so moved on to the Trip Around The World layout. Upon reflection though, I think I’ve figured out the zig-zag and will apply it to the next brick quilt.

Achromatic: Done

It probably needs some sort of a border and maybe triangles or spikey shapes top and bottom, but I’m going to let that wait until I get to the Chromatic brick quilt so they can be the same size. Now, it’s back to the stuff I’ve been procrastinating.

Achromatic: Detail

12 Jan

Still Life with Eggplant, Burgundy and Emerald

I almost forgot to follow up on my Twelve by Twelve Eggplant piece. My posts here and here show a bit of my thought process and fabric auditions.

While my version is probably more traditional quilt than cubist still life, I like the way it turned out, and am so pleased that, though it was iffy at times, I managed to keep the light Kaffe Fasset fabric with all the circles. I loved it’s eggplanty background from the get-go and saw the light circles as representative of eggplant slices. For the full story and everyone else’s interpretations of the theme, check out the Twelve by Twelve blog.

09 Jan

Learning to Like Eggplant

Over at Twelve by Twelve, I showed a mosaic of my progress on our most recent challenge (Eggplant, Burgundy and Emerald palette) which upon hindsight, was probably cryptic to everyone but me.

What I wanted to show was a peek into my process of auditioning fabrics. I was trying things out approximating their position in my composition (which is the top one in the photo of my drawings).

In all that moving around of fabrics, I learned a few things. One, I don’t have nearly as much eggplanty fabrics as I thought I did given my nice collection of purples. Two, I wasn’t getting the necessary foreground, middle ground, background distinction that I needed to make the composition work (due primarily to the fabrics I was using). And three, most Baltimore Album blocks, and definitely the ones with Kaffe Fasset fabrics, don’t have a foreground, middle ground, and background.

So, back to the drawing board. The composition on the lower right retains the cornucopia, the other to the left is less Baltimore Album. I was sort of thinking Cubist still life a la Picasso or Braque, but didn’t actually go that for for fear of losing the connection to the traditional quilt. If I were to take this idea into several pieces, I definitely think exploring a cubist-inspired option would be worthwhile. Alas, you can’t cram all your ideas into one piece and I had to prioritize.

Lucky me, my mom sent me some fabrics for Christmas that fit right into the eggplant and emerald them, and I went shopping for a few more. As much as I loved the white fabric with purple sprays of leaves (a great find in my stash), it just wasn’t working. Also, to keep with my “modern” theme I realized I needed some solids, both since they are very in vogue right now, but also to bring in the rich color I wasn’t getting through the print fabrics, and to provide a little rest.

Putting on the finishing touches, I had to use this embroidery floss from my mom. It’s got all our colors (plus a few more) and plays very nicely with my fabrics. I’ve had problems in the past with hand dyed flosses bleeding, but since I won’t be throwing this little piece in the wash, I think it’s the perfect place for the floss and I used it almost all up.

I’ll show one more step and the final piece on the twelfth. And as much as I like the color, and this little quilt, I am still not a fan of the vegetable eggplant.

02 Oct

A Little More Progress

Today I made great progress on a fairy costume for my daughter. Skirt and wings are done; bodice and gauntlets need to be fitted, but she’s off at a party with a friend, so it will have to wait. Chain mail for my son is blocking.

Yellow Strings

But instead of costume progress, I’ll share last week’s quilt progress. The green and the blue scraps have been joined by yellow scraps. And all the scraps are joined with sprout green and Hawaiian red dirt solids.

WIP

I had started sewing the scraps together just to use them up, knowing that sooner or later I’d think of some place to use them. When the idea came to me, it required a more judicious use of scraps, so while I used up a lot of greens, I was left at least half the blue scraps, and I hardly made a dent in the yellow/brown bin.

I’m very pleased with how this quilt is turning out, even if it’s not the scrap-stash buster I has original thought it would be.

21 May

It wasn’t weird at all

You may remember that I bought this quilt as a top from Wanda about a month ago. I thought it would be weird  to quilt and finish someone else’s work, but it wasn’t at all. In fact, it was really fun and as soon as I started working on it, I couldn’t stop. Firstly, Wanda’s workmanship is impeccable. All the seams were even and all edges and points aligned. There were no poufs to “quilt out.” Basting was easy-peasy. The quilt is not quite twin sized, so I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it came together despite it’s being large enough to wrap oneself up in.

More significant though, was how the quilt revealed itself to me as I worked on it. Normally, I would already have a relationship with the fabrics from piecing them together. But since I didn’t piece this one, I got to meet each and every fabric and see how it interacted with it’s neighbor as I quilted. I enjoyed seeing how individual stripes modulated in color, and loved being surprised by each pairing that picked up on a hue in it’s partner. It was quite fun.

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I don’t know how many readers are relatively new to quilting and it’s associated gadgets. I may be preaching to the choir, but here are two of my favorites: my walking foot, and the bar thingie that came with it. Walking feet come in several varieties depending on your machine, but they are all variations on this foot-with-box contraption. The purpose of the walking foot is to move the top layer of the quilt sandwich at the same speed as the bottom layer and thus eliminate lots of frustrating puckering. I do all my straight line machine quilting with my walking foot. On this quilt, I kept the quilting simple, because really, with fabric like this, fancy quilting is just unnecessary.

Often, I just use the side of the walking foot as my guide for stitching parallel lines. That’s how I did the first round of quilting 1/4″ from the edge of each zig zag. I wanted to quilt a line down the center of each zig zag too, so I used one of the guide bars that came with the walking foot. It is L shaped and slides through a hole in the back of the walking foot and is locked in place with a screw. You can adjust it so the “leg” sticks out anywhere from right next to the foot, to about three inches away. I also have another guide bar for the other side of the foot, depending on what I want to line up with. (As an aside, my machine came with another two guide bars that fit into the back of many of the regular presser feet too.) Once you get the hang of it, there’s all kinds of uses for these guides. I measured the width of my zig zags (4″) and set my guide bar two inches from the needle. Then, off I went, quilting down the center of each zig zag, making sure the leg of the guide bar followed the seam line. In the photo you can’t see the lovely line of stitching behind the walking foot, but it is perfectly parallel to the edge of the yellow zig. You can see that I am about to pivot the quilt and sew the zag (this is where the needle-down function on many newer machines is also very convenient). I considered more lines in between these, but the quilt didn’t seem to need them. It’s for a kid’s bed, so it didn’t need to be quilt-show-fancy.