Monday, August 30, 2010

How Fast Can I Hand Quilt - Design Board Monday

We had quite a week here, holding a very girlie garage sale.  My daughter and I thought that we needed to let go of some of our material possessions.  For me - of course - it was a lot of material - well and other quilty things.   For her, it was a life time of toys and treasures cleaned out of her room and playroom this summer.  We both found it very freeing and thankyouGod profitable.  The garage sale was a big hit with quilters and little girls alike and I earned enough for tuition at Quilting By the Lake next year.  Tessa earned enough to open her first bank account.  Oh and nothing came back into the sale except for a plastic bin of fabric samples that I will use and share.

Now that all said, we did have our hands full for most of the week.  With September looming, school and the fair are nearing.  At least three times last week someone asked me what was I going to enter.  Well, originally, I had said nothing but. . . .with the new clean off. . . .I saw my quilt still sitting there lonely on the loom.  An idea popped into my head.  What if I took the time and finally finish hand quilting my twin size scrappy quilt that I pieced and layered last year.  I've been hand quilting it on and off again but never with   any real enthusiasm.

I really like this quilt.  I made it just for me to snuggle with during the winter on the couch and then drag around with me like Linus.  Our house sometimes gets drafty and its nice to have something on your lap when you are in the den or on the computer or up in the bedroom reading or on the couch sluggingl  Its made with Amy Butler prints from about 4 years ago and pieces of sateen solids.    I'm hand quilting it using shiny rayon and poly threads.  This is only my second time using non quilting threads for quilting so sometimes it can be a bit tricky - but I love the effect.  I would also love to have this to enter plus use for the upcoming winter.

My husband laughed when I said I was thinking of marathon quilting for a fair entry.  This isn't the first time I've done it and it always throws everything into a tizzy - still I've never missed a deadline.  All my other projects will have to stop though.  So I think I'll try it. . . . . . .I'll let you know how its going.

Oh and all prayers would be greatly appreciated!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Done Dyeing for Now

Well my little venture into hand dyeing is done for now. On and off  for the last couple of weeks, I've been doing a batches of 8 -12 fat quarters at a time.  I've been using the bolt of Kona cotton twill pfd  that I got off of  So far, I've been really happy with the results.  The fabric had a nice hand - comparable to testfabs 419 but was a bit rougher.  The colors I got were the same intensity of those when I used the pimatex, but the pimatex didn't tangle in the washing machine since the thread count is higher.  Still the price is a bit higher too with the Kona being $3.30/yd (for the 60") and the pimatex being $4.86/yd at Dharma Trading.  Anyways, I thought the Kona was more than a good value for this beginner dyer.

I ended up trying several of the recipes from my new book Fabric Dyer's Dictionary with mixed results.  Now don't get me wrong - I love the colors I got.  Still they weren't always the colors I was originally aiming for (which I'm sure doesn't surprise any of you veteran dyers).  I really needed more murky colors in my stash so got a lot of those including some really nice grays and muddy purples.  All in all I ended up dyeing about 60 fat quarters  - a fat quarter being a little short at 18" by 20" due to the bolt size.  

At the end I had about 6 fq's left  - along with a little dye solution so I tried my hand at two color dyeing for the first time.  I went about it by the simple results given in the book and was surprised at how great they came.  Of course the photos don't do them justice but trust me they are pretty!  Not only are they pretty but I can tell they are going to be super useful in my work.  Who would have thought that dyeing was so easy????

So cleaned the dyeing supplies off my porch.  I'm sure the mailman was surprised to see them all gone and not the next batch sitting there "cooking".   Hopefully I'll get one more dyeing session in before winter - want to try out more multi-color batches.  I'm sure though that it will get harder and harder to find 75 degree days to dye with school approaching - sighhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August Cow on Vacation in Australia - Design Board Monday

Well this morning around 2 am, my little foster kitten Kali, decided it was time to get up and play.  With that, I was now wide awake.  What should I do???  Well pick out the fabrics for August Cow, of course!  Over the weekend I had completed the design - well on paper at least and was eager to get after sending this cow on vacation.

As you can see August Cow wanted to be a globe trotter, so she made for the beautiful beaches of Brisbane, Australia.  There she could enjoy the gorgeous sun and fun before heading back to the meadow of home.

I was recently asked how I complete a calendar cow.  Usually, I sit and brainstorm out ideas of what that month means to my family and I.  Then I look at free images on the web depicting the subject matter but also the emotion of the month.  I'll choose two or three and either trace them or sketch them out.  I then use a WW II era overhead projector to size the image onto the standard 16" block.  I trace it out and edit the design as I see fit.  Once that is done usually I let the design sit a while while I think on fabrics and colors.  The design might go through a final edit before the whole process is done.  By no means is that first sketch a master pattern.  I usually use it as a beginning point.  I then use a rough edge applique process to get the final block.

I'm not sure if August Cow is quite finish - but its a good start - I still may add something in the bottom right hand corner - hhhhhhmmmmmmmmm or not.

For more inspirational design boards - visit Judy's Patchwork times.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pets on Quilt Show - The Calendar Cows

Well I'm entering a half year of my Calendar Cow quilt into SewCalGal's Pets on Quilts.  These represent January, July, February, October, April and May.  I'm in the process of doing August right now.  Originally this was designed by me for daughter Tessa who asked for a cow quilt that wasn't too cartoonish but still not too realistic.  Plus I was looking for a uniquely "Us" idea and I'm sure that Calendar Cows fits the bill.

Each block is rough edged appliqued and will eventually have more thread work done on it along with machine quilting (done on a home machine).  I used free images online for inspiration but drew a lot of it myself.  I might still rework some of the blocks now that I'm in the rhythm of the quilt.

Doing this project was surprisingly rewarding since its different from most of my work but still has my voice in it - plus it always seems to make people smile and giggle a bit.  What more can you ask?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tween's Bedroom Makeover or How to HGTV a Room

 For the last couple of years, we (our family) have been saying its time to re-do Tessa's bedroom.  Now it wasn't her that initially brought this up.  Not liking change, she was happy to keep on living in Pooh's Corner forever.  You see, her daddy had done the nursery when I was in my third trimester, 12 years ago, especially for her and Tessa always loved her room

That said, it was really time to change over that room.  Over the year's Pooh's corner had definitely seen better days and was beginning to look like a candidate for urban renewal!  Still  -- I wasn't looking forward to doing all that work on my summer vacation.  That's when I got the very bright idea to have Tessa do most of the work.  It was her room - let her do the make-over and take real ownership of it.

So the two of us got to planning.  She came up with color schemes and I showed her how to use those colors to their best advantage.  We involved my woodworking husband Paul to, once again, make another bed for Tessa (this is the third time he's done that!).  Tessa spent 3 weeks cleaning out a lifetime of treasures from room which will be donated or garage saled out.  Then she started painting, and painting, and painting.  It seemed like it took foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!  But she persevered.  I don't think I've ever seen her focus so much on a project.  

When she was done, she picked out the vinyl decals from a great online source Walls Need Love  and we talked about the placement.  Tessa really made all the design decisions with me only giving a little whisper here and there.  Most of the accessories came from since the dorm sales were going on.

All in all it took about 8 weeks to complete with a 12 year old doing the vast majority of the work - she did the designing, painted the room (including floors), refinished and painted the furniture and then did the finally decorating.  With the project easily coming under $400 total (including the bed which used a lot of reclaimed wood), it was definitely designing on a dime!

Hats off to Tessa!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Thread Work - Design Board Monday

Well, last week was busy.  Between getting my daughter to her writer's workshop and ready for school, it definitely put  a cramp in my sewing time.  It was a good mail week though since I got my order from Joann's which contained a new thread box and some new threads!  My life is so much easier when my threads aren't tangled!

Still I did get a few hours of thread work done on this project.  Its always amazing to  me how a piece with no texture looks at the beginning and then with added thread - how it looks at the end.  With the ground finished at QBL, I continued work on the tree this week.  It must have at least a dozen different colors before I was satisfied. (To see the thread work better - just click on the image)

Once the tree was  done, I managed to move onto the horizon line.  For that, I popped off my darning foot and put back on the regular sewing foot.  I just wanted to make very gentle waves across the mountains in low contrast thread.  I did decide to use rayon and poly threads though to give it a little shine.  With the tree I combined the two so that it would have texture with the cotton and rayons for the highlights.  Who knew there was so many decisions?????

So now I just have to finish up the mountains and then the sky.  I think the sky will have very little quilting in it - just enough to give it a "light breeze" feeling.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Visual Decisions on Value

After Monday's post about where my pinwheel quilt was going, it was quite apparent to me, that I needed to go back to the design process.  For me, that always involves my sketch pad or graph paper, my favorite sketch pencils and something to color with.

Earlier this year, I took my AC Moore coupon and bought myself a set of the 150 Crayola Crayon Tower.  I mean who doesn't need 150 of their favorite colors????  With this project, I finally got a chance to break them out and give them a test drive.  Let me just say - LOVE IT.  If you don't have a set yet - go get yourself one - just for you though - nobody under 18 allowed!!

With my favorite tools at hand, a novel playing on my mp3 player, I started to color in the trapezoid graph paper I found in a quilt book.  They had set it up to be colored in by triangles but I made them into pinwheels.  It took a good hour but still I got to try out a value placement - plus look at how many pinwheels I needed.  The final answer 233 Pinwheels!  Which of course means that I'm only about half way there!  sighhhhhhhh

Its does seem like a lot of wheels left to go - especially doing it all by hand, but as I always said, English paper piecing isn't a technique  - its a vocation!
That said, I'm still on the quest to find just the right layout.  The reason that I need to figure it out now, is to come up with an approximation of how many light, medium, dark wheels I need.  Its all fine and good to get the 233 done but if they aren't the right value - well  that means more work!  So I did manage to make a few value drawings. Again - - I'm not really happy with any of them!   I won't bore you with all the options but I did make about half a dozen of them.

Actually, I think the one that I like the best was an arrow of light coming in from the right side and making a point surrounded by dark.  Still, as I learned many years ago, its best to "Make visual decisions, visually."   Which of course means that I'll eventually have to put them all up on the design board and try some of these sketches out.

But with all those blocks needing to be made, I'm sure that won't be anytime soon! 

Monday, August 9, 2010

139 and Counting or When is Enough Enough??

As you may remember from previous posts last year, I started a new English paper piecing project using the simple shape of trapezoids.  After doing the tumbling block quilt I said never - I mean  - never again but nobody ever listens to me - even myself!  So onto the trapezoids I went which make up little pinwheels.  The nice thing about a project like this is that you can take it out and put it away whenever since its all done by hand.  Over the school year, I did manage to get more of it done on and off.  Still its been back in the box for a good six months now.

With Tessa going into a Young Writer's Workshop this week at a local university, I thought it would be nice to take it out and work on it while she was in class.  Well. . . . once I took it out I realized that I had quite a few blocks - 139!  Now is that enough??  Is more always more???  I don't know.  I don't even know what value layout I want yet. I could lay them all out on my design board but it takes forever.  My husband told me to design the quilt by using my EQ4 - but gosh never even reloaded that on my computer. Really the design has always been just a vague notion in my head anyways!  Normally I would just pay Tessa to lay them out on the design board but this week she'll be way to busy with her writing!

So after some thought, I think I'll just keep making trapezoids into pinwheels this week and I - like Scarlett  - will worry about it another day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Musings after the Museum

Mabel Hewit, Houses, 1936
Friday, my friend Kristen and I, made our annual trek to some venue of culture.  This year, we chose to visit the Cleveland Museum of Art.  We had been there before for  a special exhibit on armor (yes Kristen wanted to see all that armor and I just wondered among all the metal men) but the main exhibit had been put away due to renovations.  So it was a treat to finally see what this great museum had to offer.
When I was younger, I used to just stroll through art museums as if they were  big illustrated history books.  I would marvel at the scenes depicted, clothes worn, and history involved.  Now though, I use them as big buildings of inspiration.  The CMA did not disappoint.
First, we were met with the special exhibit of depression era artist, Mabel Hewit.  I had never seen her work before but thought the ads for the exhibit looked interesting.  The exhibits were of her wood cuts and showcased her use of bold color and simple shapes.  I literally feel in love with her work and I'm sure she'll be an influence in mine.
Degas. Dancer Looking at the Sole of her Right Foot, 1896
As I went through the rest of the main collection, I try to take note of the masters' use of value and where the focal points were in their pieces.  Its amazing that the same design elements that worked for them will still work for me.  Like in Degas' piece above, he uses value (the lightest light) to have your eye move across the piece.  Also the use of the accent color burnt orange does the same.  With that the rhythm of the piece is created.  I like that although the dancers are standing still in this scene they still seem to be moving.

Sloan, Women's Work, 1912
Sloan's painting, a Women's  Work, really caught my eye.  Not only was I drawn to my favorite subject matter, women, but also I love his use of line and value to bring your eye right to his focal point.  There among the big buildings of the inner city is a lone woman going about her daily chores.  The laundry line is a big arrow right to her but then he repeats that bit of white near the top to still keep your eye moving.  LOVE IT!

I could go on and on.  Still my favorite part of the museum was the paintings from the 19th and 20th century.  So many of the pieces were figurative without being too realistic so that they weren't just a snapshot of that moment but also envoked a strong feeling.

So remember to take time to treat yourself and your eye to a bit of culture and beauty.  Visit a museum or a gallery.  Your soul will thank you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

All Tangled Up in Thread

  For the last couple of days, I've been working on the thread work for the project I started at Quilting By the Lake.  The first day, was a day of frustration.  It seemed that I was at war with the threads and they were easily winning every battle.  I probably took out as much as I sewed in!  Yesterday went much better with some work getting done on the tree.  Over the years, I developed my own style of adding texture to my pieces.  When I've done rough edge applique, the edges need to be finished somehow.  I find that a pretty satin stitch is way too uniform for my style.  So I started working on this scribble stitch as I call it.  After sewing down all the edges with matching thread, I go back little by little and scribble them in a bit more.  Some designs and shapes call for more - like the tree and bench while others will call for less like the horizon line.  
  With that done, I'll add more thread work and more scribbling and more colors to get just the right effect of texture to my pieces.  I don't ever use fusing since it seems to glue my fabric down too much.  So with this thread work, little puffs of fabric will emerge giving a pleasing and organic feel to the quilt.
  Over the years, I've collected a bunch of thread to get this feel.  Usually a piece will contain any combination of matte cotton, shiny rayon and pretty poly.  I've even been known to throw in some hand quilting in - which I might end up doing on this piece.

Monday, August 2, 2010

May Flowers Cow - Design Board Monday

So after sitting on my design board for months, May Cow is now completely sewn down.  I'm happy with it and like the perspective and depth the block has.  Also, I like that this is the 6th cow done so I'm half way through!!  Yay!  Picking up this project I had to remember what style of stitching I was doing and what my machine was set on (zigzag 1.0 1.0).  Its not my usual style to work on several projects at once, but it seems I'm trying to juggle a few this summer.
I really need to get out my sketch book and see what the next cow is.  I had them all laid out  in a traditional set.  I want to do the  quilt as you go method so we'll see how that goes.  Also I lost all my inspirational cow pictures when my computer crashed in December - so gotta sit and fill up a folder of those again - sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. 
With all that though - this project really does grow on you. I find it very satisfying to complete one 16" block at a time. 
More design walls can be seen here!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Creative Distraction - Some Things Ya Just Can't Say No To

Recently I was reminded of a quote by Jeanette Meyer that I had learned five years ago.  She had lectured on the great power of the words, "I'm sorry, but that doesn't work for me."  You are suppose to employ these words every time somebody asks you to do something that will distract you from your planned creative time.  Also you are not to offer up excuses why that doesn't work for you - which is great because nobody really understands that you'd rather be quilting than doing anything else anyways.

After a bit of practice, I found the quotation one of the most empowering that I've learned in my adult life and proceeded to teach it to all my friends.  Of course,  I didn't expect them to use it on me when I needed  them but they, being very smart women, have done so. (Sigh!)

That all said, this week my great creative plans got waylaid to something I could NOT  say no to.  My husband and daughter found a little orphan kitty in our carriage house.  It looks to be about 3 weeks old.  So, although I had planned on sewing all week, I instead spent the week  learning how to foster this tiny bundle of black.  It seems there has been a recent kitten explosion in our county and with a lot of volunteers on vacation there was nobody to take her in.  So after a quick lesson, I was raising a newborn again.  The first couple of days she had to be nursed every 3-4 hours but now she's stretched it to every 6 or so.  She's doing great now - sleeping through the night  - playing pounce with Momma and her stuff bears and ready to start weaning onto real food.  Still she's so tiny for her age - just barely 12 oz.  We named her Kali - the Dark one.  She's sooooo black that getting a good photo of her is really impossible no matter how good your photo editor is! 
Still Kali promised me that she would entertain herself while I sew today if I promised to play with her later.  She's such a good little Kitty - I know she'll try her best to keep her promise.