Monday, November 14, 2022

Mother Nature's All-Inclusive Rainbow Flower Garden

Mother Nature's All-Inclusive Rainbow Flower Garden
80" x 79"

because nature loves ALL the colors...
and, in nature, diversity is a plus, it makes the entire system stronger.
Something to think about.

This one started when my Juki broke last year.  I had taken it to a shop to be repaired, (where they kept it but did not fix it), and wandered around their shop.  I fell hard for some beautiful florals.  I had an idea that I could stitch them up, mostly as fat quarters, and make a back for one of my quilts.  You can see that post here.

And, though the fabrics were so beautiful, they did NOT look beautiful from my first idea. It was quite a surprise when I tossed them up on my design wall and kept moving them around and nothing worked.  I slept on it, for several nights.  It is hard to give up an idea that has failed.  The thing I kept seeing was circles.  Circles are harder than squares, and I still wanted it to be squares/rectangles.  Fortunately, I did not have time to work on it, so it sat on a shelf waiting it's turn.  

Then I paired those lovely florals with some solids, and I got excited! That's when I realized I wanted this to be a rainbow gradient of sorts. I wanted to drop everything to start this quilt! Surprising how a pile of fabrics can give that adrenaline rush! But my studio was filled with other projects.  It was hard to wait.
Finally, I got plugging away.  I made some quick templates for my big circles out of freezer paper, and started cutting the pieces.
I started digging through my stash to find more colors of the floral fabrics to go into the centers.  There were some, but not enough, so I shopped for even more.  This quilt turned out to be the opposite of what I like to do, which is to make use of what I already have. But, my heart was telling me to go for it, and I am glad I did.  
I also took the time to trim the seams so that the colors did not show through on the front. You can see the dark line where the pencil is pointing.  This is what it looks like right after pressing the seam.

Trimming the seam helps this little issue!

Here are a few closeups of the circles and their floral prints:

I rushed to finish piecing the top, hoping that I could get it in my photo shoot with Quiltfolk, and I did! They were fine with it being just a quilt top! Good things all around.

photo by Trevor Holloway

I hand basted it. And then set about quilting it.

That black masking tape came in handy again when trying to mark the lines for quilting!
The quilt in person is just so lovely. It has a lovely texture and a lovely emotional quality that is warm and inviting.  I just love it. Here's a detail of the quilting:
I can say that the choice of quilting concentric circles around the solid rings was a difficult maneuver.  It was tough to turn the entire quilt around inside my sewing machine.  It was one of those just barely manageable endeavors, but I love the way it looks!
 Photo shoot on the front of my house, a little bit of wind makes the quilt look alive!

Monday, October 31, 2022

Currents: Part 2

Currents: Part 2
78.5 x 79

If you follow me on social media, you have been seeing the slow reveal of this project with photos of the steps taken along the way. If you are here on my blog, you get to see the final project first! 

I love the organic lines of this quilt so much! And, it is also lovely as a memory quilt, memories evoked by each of the little prints sandwiched in between the solids.  I could see this easily being a memory quilt with photographs printed on fabric instead of the commercial print fabrics.  That would be so fun and so meaningful as well, like a quilted scrapbook!

Here are a few of the process shots I took along the way:
This is the full scale drawing taped to the floor. It will become my pattern.  It is drawn in pencil (and eraser) and traced with a black sharpie pen. I also added a grid to show the straight of grain, and put registration marks every 8 to 10 inches along the way. Then the pieces are cut apart with scissors.
Here are some of the pieces spontaneously curled into these loops.  I chose two different values of each solid color stripe. 
The paper pattern is held in place by weights that are easily moved around as needed.  I traced the borders of each paper piece in pencil.  If you have done this, you will know that the fabric tends to stretch and pull with the friction of the pencil tip.  I just used short strokes with the pencil, and that seemed to do the trick.  After tracing, and transferring the essential registration marks, I cut about 1/4" out from the traced line for the seam allowance.  The right sides will be placed together and pinned and stitched along those drawn lines.  This is what makes the pattern work, if your pencil lines are right on the edge of the paper, and your seam is right along the line, you will essentially sew back together all the same shape as the original paper pattern. 
Cut out, and placed together with the white strips. Next I will cut up the center white strip and insert sections of my favorite prints (one at a time).  I will check the shape as I go by comparing with the paper template of that center part.

After all the piecing, the basting, which I am doing by hand on my kitchen table.
I wanted to hand quilt this quilt.  I didn't care that it would take a long time because I was not in a hurry.  So, I opted to hand baste the quilt.  I love the way hand basting holds the quilt sandwich together, surprisingly better than pin basting. 
The quilting: I started in the middle of the quilt.  I wanted to use both heavy weight and light weight threads.  The heavy weight threads were really difficult to pull through the quilt sandwich.  It was very slow going.

Then I had to make a hard decision, which I waited too late to do.  Two things were bothering me.  One was that somewhere in the process, I got the tension wrong, and the more I worked, the more that tension problem distorted the quilt as I went along.  It did NOT work itself out.  The second problem was that I did not like the texture of the hand quilting.  For whatever reason, it was not appealing to me. URG! 

After months of hand quilting, I opted to yank it all out.  I did one section at a time and replaced with machine quilting.  Which I also did NOT like.  So I ripped that out and tried a third idea.  That one worked! Finally! 
I am happy now!  I just had to finish ripping out all that hand quilting and slowly replace it with the machine quilting.

I also had another issue while machine quilting.  I sometimes use masking tape to help me with the spacing of the lines.  I wanted to use it for some parts of this quilt, namely, the big white sections. The quilting on those lines follow the curve above it.  Unfortunately, I could barely see my masking tape on a white background.  I didn't know they made black masking tape, but they do.  And it works.  Such high contrast was easy to see!
I only had one small problem with this tape.  If you accidentally sew too closely to it, the black adhesive sticks to the needle and goes down into the quilt, and you can SEE the little black marks after quilting and removing the tape.  It was a learning process, to go slowly and NOT sew too closely to the black tape.  Done!

After quilting came all the regular tasks, trimming the quilt, blocking it, adding a facing and hanging tube, and the label.  Then the photography.  For a white quilt, natural lighting is best.  I usually hang the quilts from the front of my house, by the garage door.  Sometimes the lighting is wonderful.  It is hard to get bright intense diffuse light though, so I normal get a blue cast from photographing in the shadow. It is easy enough to repair in photoshop, but then it kind of tweaks the other colors just a little off.  It is very frustrating.  Suffice to say, the actual quilt looks so much prettier and softer and brighter than my photos of it. 
I am still in the middle of the reveal on Instagram and Facebook.  If you want to see more, you can follow along there too!

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Currents Part 1
about 80" x 80"

The idea started as a self portrait.  I was thinking that quilting runs through my veins, which is at least a little bit true because my grandmother was a quilter.  I started sketching lines with my copic markers.  
After I made this first sketch, I wanted to put circles in between the lines, like little cells flowing through.  The fabrics could be some of my favorite print fabrics that I have collected over the years.  I decided to make a mock up on paper to see how it would look. I used Mistyfuse to press the circles in place and copic markers for the blue lines. Yes! Mistyfuse sticks to paper!

However, sometimes the fabric choices for the circle shapes disappeared into the white background.  So, I added the black dashed lines for handstitching.  It was okay, but my lines didn't look much like veins because they weren't branching out like a real vein.  And, that bothered me. Briefly.  I liked the linear aspects of the line drawing and it was only much later that I realized those lines are more about where I live.  They look like the hill country here in Austin, hills that were carved out by the Colorado River, the aerial view of the river also resembling these lines. I still wasn't convinced that I wanted to do the circles, which lead to the next and final idea.
This was also a bit of a stretch for my piecing skills.  I didn't know how to insert all these little pieces into the center white strip and still keep the big giant curve in it's original shape for the pattern.  Just because it looks simple, didn't mean that it was.  But, it was simple enough to see that it could be done. I would just have to learn how to do it.  And that learning part, well, that really appealed to me. 

If you are following me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen my project to reveal the year long project into 18 days. I will also share those same photos here in a later post. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Complements finish!

79" x 80"

I have some new finishes to share.  This one was first posted about last fall (here) when I finished piecing the quilt top. Now, it is quilted, bound, and labeled! 

It took a long time to get to this point, especially because I had trouble deciding if it would be a two-sided quilt or not.  However, I happened upon this wonderful fabric, and that was it! Pefecto! And it is really soft!
Unfortunately, I did not realize that the fabric has a very stretchy weave to it.  It was really difficult to work with.  So I opted to hand baste this quilt. I am finding that I like hand basting more and more because it holds the layers together more accurately than pin basting.

I opted to do long close 1/4" quilting lines for the solid sections, and a back and forth straight line quilting for the tiny pieced section.  I didn't want the quilting lines to distract from the beautiful simplicity of the design, I just wanted them to enhance that quality.  I was also a little concerned that the quilting might warp the quilt out of shape a bit as I worked, but it really didn't.  I feel like I got extremely lucky!

It left a lot of threads to tuck for the solid sections, so I took it outside on a beautiful weather day, and got to work!

Here's another close up of the final quilt:

I love the way this quilt turned out.  The colors are intense but the quilting gives them a wonderful softness that is hard to convey in the photos.  I also love how much detail you can see in the tiny pieced fabrics, even though the sample size is really small.  Those kittens and bears are adorable! 

Last, you can't tell in the top view, but the quilt binding is a wonderful purple, which also surprised me. I auditioned many fabrics before picking this one, and is was so obvious when I saw it, that I just knew!!

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Charmed Remix

Charmed Remix
80" x 80"
It is hard to believe that it has been 3 months since I have posted anything.  I have been hard at work, but with other home improvement projects.  Meanwhile, this little quilt had been bothering me. (See previous post.) I had 'finished' it, but I didn't really like it that much, and it felt unfinished.  And it was blocking my creativity. Something needed to be done.  Then I had a flash of an idea that I thought might work, so I did a mock up on Photoshop, and I LOVED it.  Which just meant that now I had to DO it.  I knew it would be a lot of work, and if you are interested, I will show you what I did below!

First step was removing the old facing on the top and bottom of the quilt.  Easy!
Next, I drew the cutting lines across the surface of the quilt in a permanent marker.  Then I stay-stitched very close to the black lines before cutting the quilt apart with my scissors.
After all the pieces were cut, I rearranged the order of the quilted pieces, and looked at it for a while.  It definitely looked a LOT better in the new arrangement. So, I began by stitching the first two pieces together with a zigzag stitch, meanwhile wishing that my zigzag stitch was wider, but it is not. 

The reason this looks so complicated on the photo is because there are actually two passes with the zigzag, one from the front, and the other from the back.  And, they also neatly line up with the stay-stitching I did before cutting the quilt apart. On the back side, I used Mistyfuse on fabric strips first pressed right on top of the seam, and then I put the zigzag stitch on top of that.
I have a lot of experience with this type of quilt construction because we used to do this all the time when we made our group art quilts. However, because this was a really large quilt, and intended to be used, (not just hung on a wall), I wanted the front side to be prettier, and I also wanted those seams to be stronger.  So, I pulled out my original stash and began the hunt for matching fabrics to cover that seam. 
After finding them all, I cut them to size.
Then I chain pieced them together in a long strip.
Pinned right sides together on the quilt and then stitched the cover strip on.
I intentionally made the original cut 1/4" off center, so that when I added this cover strip, the seam would be exactly center of the block once it was stitched on and pressed to one side.
Then I turned under 1/4" on the raw side, and pinned it down with tiny applique pins, and handstitched in place.

Then I repeated all these steps on the other 3 seams.

To complete the illusion and also strengthen the seam even more, I decided to extend the existing quilting lines on top of the cover strip.  It was about this time I was starting to question using so many different colored thread choices. I think I used about 45 different colors.  Nuts!
There were some vertical lines, but most of the new quilting lines were horizontal, spaced approximately 1" apart on 4 different seams.  It made for a lot of thread ends to tuck in.  I didn't think I would ever finish, even though I was so close to the end!
The illusion is complete! Here is a closeup detail of one of the seams.
In the end, it was a huge amount of work.  But ultimately it was worth it.  I really like the quilt now, and I didn't before.  Also, since finishing this one, I have moved on to quilting another one that has been languishing on the shelf.  More about that one later! 

This work not only cured my creative slump, but it also gave more meaning to me and it feels more authentic.  A lot of the fabrics used in this quilt are children fabrics. I love them!! It not only reminds me of the fun I had as a kid, but also the joy I had parenting my children when they were young.  The cut apart blocks remind me of when my marriage broke apart. A broken home represented here by a cut apart log cabin block. Once again I am in awe of the process of quilting and how it connects deeply with a part of my life. In this case, with lots of effort and attention to detail, the quilt was reformed in a beautiful fashion. I like to think the same thing of coparenting and raising our kids, that with lots of effort, attention to detail, and hope, it can be done beautifully. 

Last if you are wondering how bright this quilt really is? Here is a photo of it in front of my house on an overcast day.