Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Seeds Part 2
71" x 71"

...I was stitching these small circles....And, then I decided where to put the blue one.  The blue one relates to the story of the quilt and what the other side will be about.  The grid is not complete yet, as the finished size will be 9 x 9 circles.  But it was time to cut out the white blocks that these circles would be stitched to.  And, it was time to visualize the real spacing of the circles, something more like this:
Each corner of a circle will be stitched to each corner of a white square.  Then all the white squares will be stitched together.  Also, these are still looking larger that they will actually be because they are just placed, and not yet stitched, so the seam allowance of the circles is still showing. Here's a close up.
Many afternoons that looked like this: (Also, perfect project for zoom meetings!)
When I finished all the little arcs, it was time to start stitching them to the white blocks. I needed to make sure to sew the right piece to the correct corner and it helped to lay them out in order.

Pinned to the blocks, they kind of look like little boats:
Just another issue, since all the circles were slightly different sizes, the corners of the white blocks had to be cut to fit.  This essentially meant measuring the size of the stitched circle and then using that to draw an arc on the corresponding corner (and then making sure to cut a slightly larger seam allowance).  At first it felt daunting, but after getting organized, it was fairly straightforward.

I think back to making these blocks and being surprised that they weren't perfect.  I had taken so many steps to try to piece them accurately, and yet some of them were just off a bit.  The question was that after I discovered the tiny imperfections, should I re-do it or leave it as is?  That was when I sort of fell in love with the imperfections.  They are like life, imperfect, and I love them!
I also discovered this wonderful halo effect, of the outermost ring color showing through the white background fabric.  This will most likely get me some pretty negative comments from judges because it is seen as a mistake or poor craftsmanship.  I realized early on during the piecing phase that this would happen and decided to leave this because it looks like a small halo and like the seed is starting to grow!  Which is fantastic!  I love it! 
The last photo I have before the reveal next week is the blocks, all pinned together.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Seeds - Part I
71" x 71"

It started with an inkling of an idea to make tiny pieced circles.  I already know how to applique circles, but I wasn't sure if I could make some tiny pieced ones.  I selected a color palette and got out my compass. I really like a large sampling of colors.

I started with quarter circles drawn on freezer paper, cut out the pieces, and then pressed them to the fabric.  Once they were on the fabric, I used my scissors to cut a 1/4" seam allowance, and then started the stitching.  I actually thought I would be doing this on the sewing machine because I had gotten quite proficient at sewing quarter circle curves on this quilt.

For reference, the A1 section has about a 1" radius.

I also wanted my circles and sets of circles to be lots of different sizes.  So I drew about 8 different sets, some with just 2 rings, and some with 3 rings.  Here is Sharky trying to distract me! 

Quite expectedly, this project required a lot of repetition.  I cut out 4 pieces of each quarter circle template, and then traced the edge of the freezer paper as my stitching line, lightly with a pencil to the back side of the fabric. 

I did try stitching these by machine, but it was an epic fail.  Also, using a 1/4" seam allowance on these small pieces was a fail.  I just could not get the fabric to stretch enough to go around the tiny inner curves.  My solution was to cut a tiny seam allowance for the inside curves only, approximately 1/8".  Well after starting my project, Jen Carlton-Bailly began posting on Instagram about sewing tiny curves like this! Ah ha! Great minds think alike!  Then MQG offered her tutorial on her process.  It involves glue basting the seams and cutting the seams, and then trimming the seams after stitching, ultimately down to tiny seams....which I was already doing.  My methods were not any easier nor harder, so I just buckled down and continued on.  I did like that she offered plastic templates, that could have saved me some work, but they were only in one size, and I was using many, many rats! The traced pencil lines helped me hand piece more accurately.  And, the hand piecing of the curves went relatively fast.  I mean, the pieces are so small, that they don't require very many stitches. So good!

Ultimately, I used pins, only 3 per seam.  The first pin is pretty easy to pin, right in the center. I folded the pieces in half to find the center. 
Next, I would sometimes hold it up to the light, to overlap the seam line and stick the pin in just the right spot.  These are those tiny little applique pins.  

The pins to line up the ends are a bit tricky to both hold and pin at the same time.  (I think you can also see in the above photo how small the seam allowance is in the orange piece.)  I got better over time, but it definitely took some practice. Also, I don't know why, but these started looking like little fortune cookies to me!

This is one that is stitched, and before it is pressed flat.  I became a bit obsessed with the interesting 3D shapes of these little curves. So fun!

Over time, I became increasingly concerned that the seam was so small, that it would unravel, especially when some of my fabrics were more coarsely woven.  Some of the fabrics were linens, and those were both easier to stretch and sew, but also more likely to become unwoven.  So, I went back and added a line of stay-stitching.  Also, since this is going to be a quilt, the quilting lines will help hold together the seams.

Over time, I began accumulating a set of the little circle quarters and arranging them on my design wall.  I improvised to select the next round of colors and sizes. 

The colors and the shapes were so incredibly satisfying! The power of circles! 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Projects in the making

I have been working on this since April... I think? It is another two sided quilt.  Most of my photos of it do not look nearly as spectacular as the real thing.  And so, I have felt reluctant to post about it.  Also, it was scheduled to be completed by the end of May, early June, and well, that hasn't happened.  But I am making progress, and I will post more photos after I finish it.

Here it is in all it's glory, with both sides showing, and hanging out on my table in the process of being machine quilted.

Project number two is a secret.  It is a guild project that will be donated to charity.  Our theme this year is On-Point.  And, because our guild likes to have a friendly competition, no pictures can be posted until after all the quilts are finished and voted on. So stay tuned for that one as well.

Project number three has been trying to keep my plants alive during a summer of excessive heat and no rain.  Apparently, if you are holding the garden hose in your hand, you can water whenever you want.  If you use the irrigation system, it is only once a week.  I am lucky to have an irrigation system, but it does not work very well and is about 45 years old.  So, I supplement with hand watering.  And, I love being out in the garden, so I don't consider it a burden.  I have learned that if you set up a small sprinkler in the mornings, the birds will come running!  The longer I stand outside, the happier I feel.  Sorry, no photos for this either.

Wherever you are, I sincerely hope that you are weathering the storm of this crazy year. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Blue Fish Orange Spots
11" x 4" (x 8.5" girth)

Hi!  I made this little fish for an exhibit at the SAQA Conference 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The exhibit is called, Fresh Fish, and is open to all SAQA members and they are also requesting poetry for the exhibit from anyone! It will also be a fundraiser for SAQA, and though I am not clear why, but my little fish will not be coming home.  It will be sent into the world with an unknown future (just like the rest of us, yes?). Deadline is October 31, 2020, so you still have time!

I suspect the exhibit will be amazing, and even more so if they get a LOT of fish! To that end, I decided to both make a 3D fish and post a tutorial on how to make a 3D fish.  The entry calls for both 2D, small art quilts of fish, and 3D fish.  You can see Jamie Fingal's art quilt, The Flying Fish, at this link. She also shows a few steps in her process for making it!  Very fun and whimsical!!

I also think it would be fun to use a special hashtag on Instagram so that we can all see each other's fish or other marine life for this exhibit.  How about #SAQAFreshFish ?

Tutorial for "One Way to Make a 3D Fish":
This is not a pattern, per se, but just some steps to help guide you. Also, I tend to over-complicate things.  There are many ways to make this project easier. Sadly, for me, that is not usually how I tend to run...Ha!!

First, draw a fish.  Make it any shape you want it to be, and for this exhibit, no dimension can be over 12 inches.

Here's mine:  It is not overly impressive, but it gets the job done! Notice the two lines where the tail is?  There is a reason for that.  I will be constructing the fish body separately, and sort of sliding it in to the tail fin (which will be attached with some hand-stitching).
The next step is to trace each piece onto some freezer paper and cut out all the pieces.
Two optional pieces are shown above that are not traced from your drawing. You will need to draw the shape for the gusset and the lips. Tip: If you want them to be exact, try folding your paper in half two times, draw one arc, then re-fold and trace the shape onto the other quadrants.  The gusset piece is Y-seamed into the bottom seam of the fish and should be shorter than the length of the body of your fish.  It allows the shape of the fish to be rounder and sit flat.  It is slightly harder to stitch in, and your fish will be fine if you want to simplify and leave it out.  I like it with the gusset better.  And, it is interesting to explore different shapes and different sized gussets to see what effect they make on the overall shape of the fish.

The other piece is the lips. They are optional and a little bit tricky, but hey, if you are up for it, and like the whimsical look, go for it! If you want to skip it, there are other ways to put a mouth on your fish if you want one!

The next step is probably the most fun you will have while making this fish, so savor it!  Select the fabrics you want for your fish pieces.  They can be commercial fabrics, or leftover pieces from other projects you have done.  You can even string piece, or improvisationally piece something to be the fish body.  Have fun with it! Paint it! Fuse it! Print something on Spoonflower.  This will be where you get to express yourself as an artist.  Make it serious, make it fun, it's entirely up to you. Use your iron to press the freezer paper onto the front side of the fabric, then cut out the pieces, making sure to add 1/4" on all the outer edges for the seam allowances.
This photo shows the pieces for one side of my fish. I picked commercial fabrics for the head and body.  Then I fused some batiked circles, leftover from this project, and then I stamped circles with white paint and added some black dots.  For all the fins I used leftover batiked fabrics I had from a previous projects (maybe this one or this one?).  And the fabric for the gusset was also from a leftover batik project, seen here. You can also choose to put an eye on your fish now.  Or alternatively, you could sew on buttons for eyes after the fish is fully stuffed.

Next is the part that is less fun, preparing all the fins.  The dorsal (top) fin, the pectoral (side) fins, and the pelvic (bottom) fin are pretty straightforward.  Put right sides together, sew the seams....leaving one side open (the side that attaches to the fish body).  Then turn right side out. You may need to trim the seams and or clip the curves. You can choose to put a tiny piece of batting inside and doing some minor quilting if you wish.  Sometimes the tiny fins can be quilted using a pair of tweezers to hold it under the machine while slowly stitching.  You can also decorate with big thread and hand-stitching, or beaded trim, ... or not! :) It can be interesting to add pipe cleaners inside your fins.  When you are finished, you can bend the fins into a shape you like!  Caution: when sewing over pipe cleaners, either on purpose or accidentally, it can break your needle. So, be careful! I did not add any pipe cleaners to this fish, but I have used wires in other 3D fish. Yes, I have made a few fish before! Some more tiny 3D fish on this quilt, and just a few flat ones on this quilt.

I used a few minor differences for constructing the caudal (tail) fin.  First I clipped the inside curve where the fin will attach to the fish body.
Then I finger pressed the 1/4" curved edge to the back side of the fabric. Next, with right sides together, stitch the outer seam, leaving the clipped curve edge open.
Then turn the tail right side out.
Last, I inserted a piece of batting, cut to shape, and then quilted the furthest edges of the tail fin, being careful not to quilt too closely to the edge closest to the body of the fish.  I want to leave this edge open so that I can insert the stuffed body of the fish inside the tail fin later. Attaching the tail to the body is one of the last steps, about the same time as attaching the lips....Mine looks like this:
After all the fins are prepped, the next step is to attach the pectoral fin with a stay stitch to the fish body.
Then, sew the curved seam to add the head (right sides together).
At this stage, I placed the fish bodies on a bigger piece of batting and then did some straight line quilting down the length of the body.  After quilting, I cut the pieces away from the excess batting. The fish is nearly finished now!

Pin the dorsal (top) fin and the pelvic (bottom) fins in place and stay stitch.  The fins should be pointing inwards towards the body of the fish.  Put the right sides of the fish together and stitch around, leaving an opening at the bottom of your fish to add the stuffing. (Sorry, I don't have more photos that show these steps.  I think I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and forgot to take some!) This step is slightly more complicated if you chose to use the gusset.  The bottom of your fish will look like this:
Because both ends of the gusset are a Y-seam, you may need to stop and restart at those points.  Regardless of which side you sew first, make sure to leave that opening so that you can turn your fish right side out and then stuff him or her.

I used Polyfil. This part is fun and easy and the fish sort of comes alive!  Then close the body opening with some handstitching. My favorite is the ladder stitch for this kind of work, but you could also use an applique stitch, or just overcasting.

Slide the end of the fish into the opening of the tail fin, and hand stitch in place.

For the lips:  Fold the lips length-wise in half.  Starting at the center, stitch a scant tiny seam to the pointy end.  Leave a small gap (1/2"? or so) in the center, and start sewing again to the other end.  Using that gap, turn the narrow tube right side out.  Try to stick some stuffing in there.  Then hand stitch the small gap closed.
It will look a bit like a worm now. Then hand stitch it to your fish's face with the seam edge touching the fish face.  I pinned mine in place, and thus stuck myself a few times.  I may be understating it when I say this part is not fun...but it does get easier and faster with practice!

Here's a closeup of my little blue fish, I like the way the quilting shows in this photo.  And, also, I like how expressive the little face is, sweetly cheerful!
Who dat?
I hope you will consider making a fish for this project.  It was a nice diversion from my normal life and took me about a day to make it.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Plenty to Go Around
81" x 83"

Here's the back:

I am finally finished! I knew this day would eventually come, but I didn't know it would be so late! I am slow, but I do finally get there.  This piece was started when the refugees began showing up at our southern border in increasing large numbers.  Our response to them was less than honorable and the daily onslaught of the atrocities there haunted me.  Especially troubling was the separation of children from their parents, and then losing track of where the children were. Now, I have finally finished and the nation has forgotten about them and moved on to other equally heinous atrocities. I made this piece because I wanted to call attention to the systemic nature of racism.  Yes, there are certainly bad actors causing trouble.  But the problem is bigger than that. It is an entire system of racism that is defiantly overt and also lurks subconsciously.  The entire system needs change.  When I feel the discomfort, it is important to lean into it.

There have been so many posts about the process of making this quilt.  Thank you for being patient and following along with me!
Beginning the drawing: here
The batik of the chickadees: here
The batik of the center flower and the fawns: here
The batik of 4 different flowers: here
Beginning the applique, hummingbird, and batik of orange poppies, irises: here
Appliqueing of the flower stems: here
Appliqueing of the chickadees and orange poppies: here
Drawing and batik of the fawn group on the back: here
Drawing and batik of the wall on the back: here
Batik of the whole cloth flower panel on the back: here
Batik of spiral flowers and the hills panel on the back: here
Hand quilting, thimbles and needles: here
Marking concentric circles for hand quilting: here

I am exceptionally pleased with how this quilt speaks to me. The sharp contrast of the imagery with the softness of the fabric is compelling. I love how the quilting ties together the two images both conceptually and literally. On the front, the quilting lines are perfect for showing a world of beauty and generational prosperity.  And on the back, the same concentric quilting lines show how the vulnerable and darker blue fawns, living in a land of scarcity, are targets. The story is made richer by seeing both sides.

Here are some detail shots (front):

And some from the other side (back):

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

i Quilt finds its Forever Home

I had always hoped and dreamed that this might happen some day, and now it has!  The International Quilt Museum in Lincoln, NE has purchased my i Quilt to add to their permanent collection! This means so much to me, it is really hard to describe.  The feeling is good though, so very floating on air. It is such a tremendous honor to have my work included with so many of my esteemed colleagues and quilters who have come before me.

I have had a dream like this since I was a small child, drawing pictures of my toys (see this post).  In school, I was so very fond of my art classes.  And yet, I did not have a very direct path to art in my adult life. It would be easy now to say that some of my career choices were mistakes, but I think of them now as very important steps to get me to where I am today. And, somewhere along the experience of living a life, quilts became not just the thing to do in between events, but the expression of those events and took a more central role. And now my quilt will have an extended life through the special care and conservation at the IQM and through it's online presence in their on-line Collections database.  It is a tremendous honor to be included in quilting history in this way.

I have also donated a quilt to IQM.  It means so very much to me that they wanted this quilt. It is Hidden Messages and I love this quilt so much.  Perfect!
I have written a number of posts about the creation of this quilt (the beginning and the middle part), the reveal of the message behind the circles....if you are curious! :)

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

RJR Fabrics and New Solid Sample Cards!!!

I got in a new set of sample cards from RJR Fabrics!  I am so excited! It's like having a new box of crayons, or rather, a GIANT new box of crayons!

Here's one of the pages:

My only complaint is that they are are glued to the page.  And, for me, (and maybe everyone else too?), color is relative.  It looks different compared to what you put it next too.  Light is very important but so are the colors that surround it.  So, I am too perplexed by color to be able to order a color from a sample card like this.  Only one thing to do...

Rip them off the page!

This is so much fun! (full disclosure, I did it one by one, and put a sticky label on the back with the name and number of each color).  Anyway, I can move the little patches around and look at how the colors play with each other.  I love the combination above.  Reminds me of a salt marsh, which I must be thinking about after having read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

Yes, now, I want to make a quilt with these colors, so I will be needing to order the fabric! And there won't be any surprises about the colors that arrive in the mail. And for someone as picky about color as I am, this is a huge and wonderful event!

The next one I played with I call, colors of kayaks! I can see a quilt here too! This is going to be so much fun! Did I say that already?