Friday, December 21, 2012

Park Place
40.5" x 51"

I am excessively pleased with this little quilt.  I loved it from the start, but it sure seemed to take a long time before it's turn to be completed.  And, I am still not sure if I am finished or not.  I think some of the people need to be hanging out in the park, picnics, exploring the gardens, etc.  And, I think I would like to add flowers to the gardens.  What do you think?  Meanwhile, if I do move some of the people around, I will let you know and post an update!
Did you notice that it looks slightly larger at the top?  This is not your imagination.  I made it slightly larger to add to the sense of perspective pulling your eye in.  This quilt started with the stack of blocks.  And then I added this piece of shibori to create the lawn.  It was perfect!
Then with the layout of the fabrics in place, I knew I wanted more in the foreground, so I added a piece of tracing paper.  The idea in my head was now starting to take shape.  I sketched the general idea, and started thinking about fabrics and colors for the next section.
I used some commercial green cotton fabrics, and applied hot wax with a brush, then bleach discharged and overdyed green.  I love the effect of the patterned cloth for the gardens, and still trying to decide if I want to enhance with hand stitching to make flowers.  I do want to add the flowers, but I don't want to cover up the nice texture and lines already present.  Dilemma!!

The trees were made in much the same way as the garden fabric.  I started with green hand dyes, painted hot wax in the shape of the tree, bleach discharged and then overdyed with rainbow colors, one at a time.  Then fused them in place.  You can see the lovely machine quilting in swirls in the tree tops.  LOVE IT!!  The hard part was scaling them to look successively smaller as you move towards the buildings.
Next came the quilting of buildings, the cut work and hand work on the windows.
 What is not obvious is that when you machine quilt certain motifs on a piece, it can distort the shape somewhat.  This happens in everything I work on, and is easily fixed.  I usually toss my quilt into the washing machine (oh, horror!), on cold, hand wash cycle, and then flatten, and pin it to either a carpet, or a design wall.  Next, I put a fan on it for at least 12 hours to completely dry it.  When I unpin it, the good and flat shape is now rather permanent.  This step is called blocking, and for me the hard part is the waiting!
Next the quilt is trimmed and I either apply a binding or facing to finish the edges.  Then I added the little people.
 Or I tried to, but got distracted.  I suddenly had a vision for a stop motion animation film, involving this quilt as the set and the little people moving in to their homes.  And my vision came complete with a sound track.  Only, I have never done that before and didn't know how.  Fortunately, as my obsession grew, I found answers on the internet.  And, I even had the software, unknown to me, it came with my computer!  Voila!
This was seriously time consuming back breaking work!  I set the stage on the floor, and the lighting, and the camera and  moved all the little people until they filled in their new homes.  That's 133 people to move, one at a time, taking a picture each time. 

And, not to complain, I really do love my cats, but.....This work is hard on the knees, and hard on your back.  I could NOT do it all in one night.  And as I left the scene, the cats came in and disrupted things, by lying on the quilt, shedding on the quilt, carrying the people off with their little teeth, and playing games of tag at full speed right through the work area.  It was frustrating to say the least.  Yelling did not help!  I resorted to taking snapshots with my iphone of every section each time I stopped working.  Then I used the snapshots to set back up the next day the people in their correct positions.  By about the 4th night, I had to take a break and stop working.  Day 6, I started working again and brilliantly cut one of my design walls in half and placed it on top when I finished.  The cats did no damage that night, and so the task became easier.  And I finally finished taking ALL the photos. 
This is Garfield, pretending to "help" me...

Here is the movie.  It is unlisted, so you can't search for it on YouTube.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Windows
62" x 62"
Today I would like to share with you my quilt, Windows.  It feels like a large quilt when you are in front of it, but ironically I had planned for it to be much bigger. 

This began as playing with blocks to see what to do with a new collection of tiny multicolored batik blocks.  I had a LOT of them because I had made so many color combinations.  I decided to just start throwing them up on the wall spontaneously to see what would happen.  Would any patterns appear?  Would the randomness and chaos appeal to me?
As I started putting up some cool colors to go with the warm colors, I started playing with crosses or plus signs.  I like them, but was unsure what to do next.  So, as always, I just waited a while.  That's when I recognized that I was being drawn to a design I had used before on a much smaller scale.  So, I decided to take that tiny concept and make it BIG.
Detail of Building UP
I opted to fill the entire board in with window units.  This is 8 ft x 8 ft.
Also, at this point, I had a large number of blocks on the wall.  Every time the door opened or closed (which is just to the right edge of my design wall), blocks would fly off the wall and I would have to pick them up and reposition them.  It became irritating!  So, I decided to put pins in all the blocks.  I used every pin I had and had to buy some more!  But it held them up while I worked on the quilt.  Well, partially, then my cats came in the studio and started pulling out the lower ones.  Darn cats!!!!
 But, I digress....I had also been exploring cut work along this theme and was faced with making some design decisions.  I opted to quilt separately and cut the circles out of only the center cross design elements.

Do you see the green?  This is a new element in my work.  I dyed the batting and decided to let it show through.  I like the way the concept of windows in this quilt is iterative.  That it plays out in the idea of looking through a window.  Or in this case, looking through a hole.  The window panes are made of blocks that the circle is cut out, but you see the batting through it.  The cross elements are completely cut out, almost independent tiny quilts that are then attached with satin stitch to the main body of the quilt.  It adds depth and dimension to the quilt, a full 6 layers, similar to my quilt High Rise.
This also adds an element of technical difficult in the quilt construction.  To satin stitch these little blocks on the quilt, you have to turn the entire quilt all the way around under your sewing machine, for each block.  It is bulky, and heavy and difficult.  So, I opted for completing these units individually in windows, and then trim them and stitch each window together near the end.
You may wonder what happened to the 9 window panes, because only 4 are present in the final quilt?  Never one to shrink from a project that is too big, or too overwhelming, I decided that I liked the look of the smaller set.  It was hard to give up the larger version of this one, but I was happy with the results.  Here's another detail for you.  I just love how well the batting soaked up the dyes and came out so bright!  It's just wonderful!
Almost forgot to mention that this was my second entry to Quilt National. It was also rejected. Normally it is just heart wrenching to get rejections from such an important event, but not this year.  After putting together collections for the SAQA auction, my whole attitude has changed, and it makes it so much easier to roll with the punches.  These jurors didn't want my work.  It doesn't affect me too much.  I still need to make it.  And, I get to share it here with you.  And, there are still many other opportunities for this one to get out in the world.  Moving on...

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Urban Deer
72” x 54.5”


It is my pleasure to share with you today my lovely quilt, Urban Deer. This deer is larger than life.  She emits a quality when you stand by her that is full of love and hope and gentleness. It's just not the same seeing a tiny picture of her....

Well, I am on day 3.  I plan to post 5 new quilts in a mere 5 days.  I have been working on these quilts all year.  I have been waiting so patiently to post about this one.  She is my favorite.  I had entered her into Quilt National which has strict rules about your entry not being published before their show.  However, she did not get into the show, so she is with me a bit longer.  I am happy to have her! 

I have unofficially called her, "You are what you eat!"  Her body is composed entirely of flowers, and you can see her nibbling on this flower.  Deer are like that, they eat forbs, not grass.  All the flowers are hand drawn with batik on a hand dyed background.  Then they were bleach discharged and cut apart.  Next step was to overdye them in multiple colors, and then one-by-one boil out the wax.  You can see more about the making of these flowers on this post.  I applied fusible to the backs of all the flowers and then hand cut them.  I piled them up on an outline of her body, pressed them in place with the iron and trimmed her body to the right shape.  It left a lot of holes between the flowers, so I went back and filled those in with the trimmings.

When I envisioned this quilt, the deer was smaller and I had her placed in a background of urban houses, like a neighborhood.  But the bigger she got, the more the picture changed in my head until I had no idea what to do with the background.  This is what I like to call percolating!  It just needed some time.  I decided to try her out on various backgrounds to get an idea of the color I wanted.  First I photographed her on a white background.
I liked her just like this for a long time.  Finally I took the photograph into Photoshop and started sketching. 
Not too bad.  I like the oversized flower the most.  Not sure about the other flowers.  So then I thought that I should try her on a number of different backgrounds just to make sure. I rolled her up and took her to my favorite quilt store, expecting to buy some fabric for a background.  What I found was that commercial fabrics did not look right with her, but I did settle on a color scheme.
And, I really thought it was going to be blue, so that she would pop.  Unfortunately all the blues I tried looked terrible.  It is when I went to the reds and oranges that she looked her best.  Okay, red it is.  Now what?
I pinned these fat quarters to my design walls, took a photo and then manipulated in Photoshop.  We have a winner!!  I went ahead and ironed her to the white background, and then cut out her shape again, leaving a narrow white line around her body.  This also filled in white on the spirals.  Then I stitched the fat quarters together, and applied fusible to the white backing on the deer and fused her to the newly assembled background.
Next step was to decide on the flowers for the foreground.


I liked the first one, but it almost seemed like too much.  Then I put the flowers in a straight line, and knew that was my favorite.  I suspect not everyone will agree with me, but something was calling to me for the straight line of blue flowers.  And you may recall the making of the large flower? I practiced drawing it a LOT in hot wax with my tjanting tool, and then used those samples to make this quilt.

Last step was the quilting.  I picked a simple straight line pattern for the background and echo quilting for the flowers of the deer's body and the other flowers.  Then I added hand quilting to all the flowers in her body.  It added a texture that machine quilting cannot give.  It was grueling and hard work, mostly because there were so many layers, and I like to use such thick thread, which requires a big needle and is harder to pull through the quilted sandwich.  I use 6 strand embroidery floss and doll making sized needles.  The carpal tunnel reared it's ugly head, but I persevered, and took a long rest after I finished. 

I sincerely hope you will get to see her in person some day.  She is a feast for the eyes!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Suburbs
72” x 35”
This is my quilt, Suburbs.  I made the quilt top up in 2010, along with a number of other quilt tops in a series using this motif.  The original intent of this quilt was to explore the individuality of housing units along with the similarity of structure which makes a community.  It is connected with the theme of the series, which is exploring human development and the balance of green space.  I had intentionally mowed down all the trees.  The black color represents the death of nature.  Each house was quilted with a different motif, and different color scheme to represent the individual within the community.  The eery part of this is the 'when' of the equation.  I started working on this one, and then the communities around me caught on fire.  Bastrop and Steiner Ranch (east and west of Austin) had giant fires, lots of homes were lost.  I thought about rebuilding the communities on the black soil and knew the timing was definitely connected to this project.  
I love the simplicity of this quilt.  It didn't start out this simple though, just a big stack of squares, and no idea of what to do with them.  This is one of many original arrangements.  It's nice, but I am really glad that I didn't stop here.  I love the way the squares make gentle curves, like the rolling hills.
 After quilting the squares, I started on the background.  I wanted it to be subtle and not compete with the houses, so I opted for 1/4" lines following the general shape of the hills.  It was not easy.  I was stitching with black thread on black fabric.  It is really hard to see! So, I marked the lines with tiger tape.  It is so easy to use, and you can put it on after you already have the quilt basted.  There are no marks to wash out.  It will apply easily into curves, and you can reuse it a few times before it loses it stickiness! 
 After all the black quilting was done, I went back in and did some extensive hand quilting with different colored embroidery floss.  It looks so incredible now, but doesn't show up that well in the photos.  Which might be why it has been rejected by multiple and various venues....or there could be other reasons I suppose....?
You might recognize these last two photos.  I have already posted about the quilting lines and threads in an earlier post, focusing mainly on the quilting motifs.  It is here if you would like to revisit it!  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Urban Daisy
89" x 91"
Back when I was testing fabrics (here), I made a lot of these big daisy blocks.  You may remember this quilt from a previous post?  They are approximately the size of a fat quarter.  All are dyed first.  Then I traced the design lightly with a pencil by using my sliding glass door in my studio as a light "table".  It is definitely harder to draw on a vertical surface, but with the sun shining through, it is really awesome!  ....and as an added bonus, it is free, came with the house!  :)
It was hard to decide how to quilt it.  The standard is to start in the center and work your way out.  Which would have been fine, but did not work too well with the design I had in mind.  I wanted to echo each flower, which means skipping space in between the flowers when you start echoing the next one.  The problem is that no matter how expertly you have basted your quilt, there is bound to be at least a little bunching of the fabric in between each quilted element.  Which is exactly what happened to me.  It is frustrating to be so far along in the project and run into technical difficulties.  At least for this one, I had anticipated it.  Not sure if that makes it any better.

 Solution??  The only way to ease in the extra fabric is with extra quilting.  So I decided to quilt these little circles.  They look like dots on the fabric because the the quilting is so dense.  Functionally, they worked perfectly to draw in the extra fabric.  And the dots have a subtle appearance.  The only problem I had was the number of them necessary over the entire almost king sized quilt.  Ugh!!  I used paper cut circles pinned in place to show the placement.  Then I unpinned the paper circle, and replaced with a round sticker.  I sewed with the sticker in place, then peeled it off and put it in a new location.  It can be reused about 12 times before I needed another one.  It is interesting to see how much the quilting has shrunk the quilt.  Before quilting it was 92" x 92".  That's a lot of quilting!




Monday, December 10, 2012

Journal Quilts for Sale!

I have decided to offer a few of my journal quilts for sale in my Etsy Shop.  These two are first up with more to follow!  You can click here to see the listings in my shop!

Like a Fish needs a Bicycle
Summer Glee