Saturday, December 20, 2014

Plugging away, getting things done slowly

I have been back in the quilting saddle, but my horse keeps turning me away from the blogging station.  (Gotta blame something!)  I've been busy with several projects, among them some finishes!


Crumbs and Behind Bars were quilted just before I left Michigan. I finally got the bindings done.
I backed the crumb quilt with a piece of red seersucker and narrow strips of floral fabric. I brought the backing around to the front as binding.  
Crumbs.  queen futon.
detail of Crumbs.  Note: six inch ruler for scale.
Crumbs backing
Behind Bars has a rather plain creamy backing and striped binding.

Behind Bars
detail - Behind Bars 
Marilyn Lange did all the quilting. I am happy with both of these quilts.

Off the wall and waiting for further action...

You gotta listen to your quilt.  I made this red /green liberated medallion before I moved and planned on adding to it. This fall I put another border on it.  I thought I'd be adding more borders, but everything I tried just didn't work.  The quilt said, "STOP".  So I did.
this quilt said STOP!

Nine-patch rejects revived

Last month I was going through one of my boxes and found a lot of nine-patches that were from an exchange I participated in many years ago.  I decided on a whim to use them up (now or never).  Of course, this was supposed to be a quick project.  Not so fast! More than a few of these blocks were cut smaller than the needed 3.5 inch dimensions, or were sewn crookedly.  At first I un-sewed a few and put them back together. That was a chore.  Then I remembered Gwen Marston's mantra,"If it is too small, add on; if it is too big, cut it off".  Bingo!

9-patch detail. Note strips added to the red/green square

 3 inch 9-patch 

I am so happy to have an empty design wall.  I get to play again!

Wishing all of you a pleasant holiday and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Back in the Quilting Saddle

May, JuneJulyAugust, September.  Wow. That middle part was all a whirl!
Yes, we did move "on time" and arrived in Belfast, Maine shortly after Memorial Day.  We looked at houses the day after we arrived and put an offer on one that very afternoon.  By the next afternoon, we had the contract!  We closed on the house about three weeks later and the movers (from Michigan) arrived the very next morning. It seems as though movers have jets on their trucks. They get to their destination so quickly. (Note: we had been watching the real estate listings all winter, so we knew pretty much which houses we wanted to see.  Also, our buyer's agent had been in communication with us throughout, so he also knew and had everything lined up.  The house we bought was at the top of our list.)

Once we were in the house, our time was spent unearthing our stuff from all the boxes.  We did it slowly, so there has been almost no need to re-arrange things.  We did have to paint the living room, put shelves in a linen closet and in the bathroom. And of course, we set up the quilting studio.  This space may be evolving a bit more, as I do need to find a good work table,  but I now have space for a large quilting frame.  I set it up yesterday, but now am waiting until the roofers finish all their pounding before I spend more time in there.  House and studio pics will come in another posting.

For at least 17 years BQ (Before [I began] Quilting) an old quilt hung on my living room wall.  The quilt had been found in one of the grandmother's trunks. It had no known history, and she wasn't a quilter.  It was made from silk neckties and brocades and was a vibrant mix of colors.  Given my ignorance of the care for old fabrics, especially silk, the long exposure to daylight faded much of the colors and many of the silk pieces were crumbling when I took it off the wall and packed it away in a pillow case.  I have looked for a photo of it when it was in good shape, but I can't locate one.  The photo below shows it as it looks now.

faded silk quilt

Believe it or not, the block is a 60-degree diamond, pieced with random strips in log cabin fashion. The black angles, which meet in the rectangles, make it difficult to see the actual block.

60-degree diamond

The block and the resulting pattern has always intrigued me. Last October at the last Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, I began an attempt to recreate the pattern. I decided to use my shot cottons, mixed with plaids, dots, and stripes.  I cut muslin templates of the 60 degree diamond so I'd have consistency in the final size. All the strips were sewn on to the muslin, log cabin style,  beginning with the red scraps in the middle.  Sounds easy, but I got so confused as I was piecing. I was trying to achieve a herringbone look within the block. Most of the time I would get one side ok and the opposite end just wouldn't work out.  Consequently, I finished  far fewer blocks than I had anticipated at the retreat.  I sort of liked my work, but wasn't too excited about it.  It seemed too busy and I had perhaps too small of a sample to handle the busyness.

Gwen Marston and me, with my work on the wall

It is amazing  when one steps away from problems for a bit that a solution becomes apparent.  I put this project away and didn't look at it again until I established my studio here in Belfast.
I decided I needed to calm the piece down.  So I made semi-monochromatic green blocks and tried them out. I chose green because almost all the blocks I had made had a touch of green, and it is the complement to the orangey-red/pinks, too.  I sent photos to two good friends, Elisa and Jean, and they sent me their comments. (Thanks !)
Here are some of my arrangements and then the final trimmed down piece.


Now, this will sit on the shelf while I contemplate the quilting pattern... and hopefully I will come up with a good idea.  In the meantime, I am happy to be back in the saddle.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Entertaining myself

The house selling process is coming along pretty well.   We hope to be on our way East by the end of May.  The whole time has been exciting, nerve-wracking, tedious, endless, and busy.  We are fortunate to have neighbors who go South for the winter and allowed us to use their house for about a month while we did the spit polish cleaning before the house listed, and then during the showings and inspections.  That was such a help. You can't tell a dog and cat to stop shedding or to quit bringing in debris from their daily outings.  With the dog and cat out of the house and us in socks only state, we managed to get the house ready with minimal stress.

I found I still needed to keep myself creatively busy to get a good nights sleep and to feel a sense of accomplishment so here's what I did during my down time:

Looked for interesting reflections and photographed them.  Here's a sampling
Neighbor's house reflected on the glass of a print of a fisher-boy

Snow, lamp and shade and my husband on glass of another painting

Primroses in the window

the same primroses in the glass of the china cabinet

Had some fun with punchneedle embroidery.
 I don't do this often, as it is tedious, but I was without a sewing machine and I didn't want to haul my scraps over to our "borrowed house".  First I made up a kit as a warm-up project.

4" x 4"

Once that was completed, I sketched a cottage by a lake onto a piece of muslin and had fun picking the thread colors and figuring out the details as I went along.

4" x 6"

Explored lines, color, and space using fabric.
This is just an "exercise".  It is not meant to represent anything.  (The only functional design wall I have right now is a piece of foam-core board that is covered with black fabric.  Its real purpose is a background for photographing light bordered quilts.)  When I was playing with the purple,pink, and white fabrics and began sewing them together, I realized that I could add black scraps to make "empty space" as another feature.

trial and error

"Good and Plenty" - all sewn up.  There is a black border surrounding the center.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Play time keeps me sane

Sorry I have been absent for so long. Since October I've been cleaning, polishing, packing.  We are in the process of selling our home for a move to Maine.  That is a long time dream and for us it is move now or never.  We know where we want to live, but won't own a house to go to until after we get there. This makes for some challenging packing decisions...what to bring... what to pass along to others, etc.

Anyway, we are finally at a point where we haven't too much to do and we can now breathe a little.  Breathing a little means time to play with fabric!  I've packed a lot of my larger stash, but scraps are still accessible.  I've challenged myself to play with solid scraps.  I have a library of Gwen Marston's books and look through them regularly.  I'm sure you'll see the influence of her work on mine.

A Small Study   10" x 10"

Liberated Square in a Square  9"x9"

Another liberated square in a square that morphed into a "stripe in a square".  12" x 12"

Liberated Log Cabin   I didn't like this very much, so I kept one block and cut up the others

Log Cabin Medallion.  The cut up blocks made one border

Log Cabin Medallion as it is now.  22" x 22" .
 Ran out of fabric!  I'll add to it when I get to Maine and unpack my stash.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Buoys... oh Buoys!

During the summer, the bays along the Maine coast are festooned with strands of buoys, those colorful floats that identify the locations of lobster pots (traps) and also the identity of the lobsterman.  In addition,  they hang the sides of cottages,

in souvenir shops,  along driveways,  paths through woods.

Or as seat cushions on an arty couch (in Belfast). They are everywhere!

Why not make a quilt of buoys - liberated buoys, of course, colorful, imaginative, all shapes and sizes?  I did just that this summer. (Actually I pieced the top while in Michigan and hand quilted it while in Maine.)

The quilter and her helper

If you are a cat, the only quilt that matters is the one being worked on!

Last October I was invited to teach a one-day quilting workshop at Lily's House in Stonington, Maine.  (click on the title page and and then on events).  On  Sept 7,  I did that.  Buoys, of course was the theme.  Seven enthusiastic quilters came, some were very experienced and others just beginning.  Once they got the hang of cutting/ sewing odd angles and gentle curves, they took off and had fun. As always, the hardest part was making decisions about what fabric to use.

Kyra provided great spaces to work in, an intimate setting where it was easy to work with each participant, a terrific lunch on the deck, and fresh scones, coffee, and melon just before we began the workshop.  The whole day was lots of fun.

L to R: Kim, Kathleen, Chris, Kyra, Dusty, Jean, Sue, Fran  enjoying lunch

How did my hand crank sewing machine work out?   GREAT!  I produced six curtain panels and sewed together a bunch of squares as parts for future projects.  I found I could easily manipulate the fabric through the machine.  However, the larger the piece of fabric, the more support it needed to stay straight under the presser foot. A typical problem for any machine, but more so when you only have one hand to control the fabric! That is about the only limitation I felt the machine has.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Almost finishes

I have to admit I take my time finishing stuff.  I don't love the process of all the little tasks that finish a quilt. Binding, labeling, sleeve making.... such fuss!

This past month I've been scurrying a bit.  I wanted to finish up a few small things - and I have ALMOST finished the following three.  I decided to show them to you anyway, lest I am unable to blog between now and when we leave for Maine.

International Liberated Medallion is quilted, bound and labeled -- just needs a sleeve. Joes, Isabeau and their friends in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, made this around  my center start.  I told you about it here.

International Liberated Medallion

Buoys and Shadows is quilted and faced.  The facing needs hemming, the quilting threads need to be buried, and I need to make a sleeve and label.   This is the first piece on which I have done "serious" machine quilting.  That took a bit of gumption on my part, but I am pleased with how it came out.  No bubbles of fabric. I decided to leave some small spaces un-quilted - as place to rest one's eyes.

Buoys and Shadows

Caught at Low Tide is quilted and bound. Again, I need to hem the binding, make a sleeve and a label.  Ah well, that will get done... I'm taking both buoy quilts with me to Maine.
This little quilt was made by piecing different scraps together to make the background . Then I appliqued the buoys and the "seaweed and rocks".  I am imagining that one is looking from pretty far away- maybe from a boat , hence the small size of all featured parts.

Caught at Low Tide

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Getting ready for Maine

As some of you know, the island in Maine, where we spend a good part of the summer, has no electricity. You can read about it here.

This year I am taking a sewing machine! I converted a Singer Spartan from electric to hand crank.  That was really easy to do.  I purchased (on line) a hand crank attachment , which simply screws on to the spot that held the motor.  This is not an authentic Singer hand crank. It is clearly not up to snuff quality- wise with its metal work and paint job, but heck.  I'm not trying to be a purist.  I want a machine that works.  The crank turns the wheel and the machine sews fine, so who am I to complain?

The Spartan is a heavy little bugger.  It isn't much bigger than the featherweight, but it sure weighs a lot more.  I am rigging up a transport / storage box for it.  Over the winter it will stay on the Island, sealed in its box with some silica gel or other absorbent crystals. Hopefully it won't rust.  That is my biggest concern.

Blue foam board will be cut to make a cradle to hold the machine while in transport

Why not take a treadle instead of a hand crank?  Treadle machines are awkward and heavy to transport. I cannot imagine clambering over the side of a lobster boat into a  rocking skiff and then trying to handle the transfer of such a machine. I can barely hold myself steady.  I'm sure somewhere someone has done it, but I don't want that experience!  Then, I'd have to cart it quite a distance to my place from the beach.  How could I keep the whole thing as dry as possible over the winter?  Already three counts against the treadle.

What are my big plans for using this machine this year?  Making curtains for the bedroom. I have six windows in the bedroom! I've cut some muslin lengths and will sew the sleeves and hems once the final measurements are determined.

After that project is done, I will be concentrating on hand quilting a large quilt.  When I take breaks, I'll play on the machine with scraps.  Already I'm looking forward to NEXT summer, when I can concentrate on creating with this new toy.