Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Sunday Paper - or inspired by the parts department.

As has been my process lately, I've been slowly whittling away at my scrap collection.  Slowly is the operative word. It is hard to go fast when you don't know where you are going!

I started this project with no plan in mind other than to put scrap strips together log cabin style. I chain piece starting with the smallest strip and work my way through about six blocks at a time.. until I get tired of sewing and then I square each block up.  None of the scraps are equal in width, so some blocks have more strips around than others. Also, I don't follow a light/dark patterning. What to do with them once they are squared?

I could put them together to create a mishmash. That didn't appeal to me.

I could stick them into my parts department box.  (The parts department is a concept I learned from Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran. In preparing for their collaborative quilting projects, they made various block pieces ahead of time, not knowing just how they would use them. The idea was to provide time efficiency when they got together to make the quilts.) I really wanted to make something with my scraps and not have them sitting around in a box waiting for an idea.  I dug into my parts department box and found 10 more similarly pieced blocks waiting. With 16 log-cabinish squares available I had to do something.

I decided to feature each block separately, so I turned each on point and surrounded them with strips of text prints and other neutrals.  These strips were sewn to the blocks in a log cabin fashion. But, after three rounds of text I realized that the center blocks (measuring six inches square) were getting lost.  By now I had decided that the finished block would be 20" square.
First rendition of the 20 " blocks

Back in the parts department,  I found several long strips of scraps approximately 2.5 inches wide. Just what I needed.   I ended up sewing many more scraps into strips. These replaced the third round of text strips mentioned above.

trying out the scrappy strips

Once the colorful strips were sewn on I had to come up with a way to deal with the corner triangles.
I sewed three rows of rectangles for each corner. Then I took my 20.5" square ruler and laid it on the block, lining up the centering lines with the corners of the central blocks. This showed me where to trim the color strips and where to mark the midpoint of each side. Once the big block was trimmed and marked, I matched it to the midpoint of the strips that would make the corner triangles.

The faint white lines show the centering lines I used to trim the block

trimmed and ready for corners. 

Pins show matching midpoints

Corners attached. 
ready for trimming

one block 20.5" x 20.5"

16 blocks

When I tried sewing these blocks together, I found too many discrepancies.  The ruler had slipped while I was trimming. Consequently, some were smaller than the others, never by much but enough to skew everything.  Another problem to solve.

Cornerstones and sashing were added all around and it worked to add another dimension to the quilt and to disguise any mistakes.

The final version

By this time, I had a name for the quilt.  When I was little, the local paper published the funnies in color. That was a big deal.  The scraps of color and the text and gray reminded me of that... hence, The Sunday Paper - printed with lots of help from the parts department.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Little Sky Writing

Greetings from Scrapville.  Yes, I am still wallowing in scraps and having fun, too.     There is no end to them.  As you all know, scraps beget scraps!  I find myself thinking of ways to use the scraps of the current scrap project.

When Lynne, The Patchery Menagerie, first blogged about making a Welcome banner for her new house, I wrote asking if I could steal her idea. Her reply was, " Kathy, by all means, steal away. As Picasso said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal."

You see, I had just uncovered an orphaned house block and was wondering what I could do with it. Lynne's project was a perfect solution.

I remember, from childhood, occasionally seeing small planes doing what seemed like lazy loop de loops trailing "smoke" that magically spelled an advertisement or message in the sky.  So I free pieced my Welcome with that mind.

At this point the house seemed a little lonely, so I added some trees, a puppy and kitty and a bird house and a few landscape features, all made from scraps and all raw edge applique using whip stitch.
Then I added texture with perle cotton stitching - sometimes using big stitch, sometimes using a more natural (for me) smaller stitch.
I found an orphan strip of binding. (Am I the only one who makes binding and then forgets to use it once the quilting is done?)

Voila!  Now when anyone comes to my back door they will be greeted with a little sky writing!


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Squares, squares, and more squares

Two summers ago, I took a box (think large stationary box) chock full of pre-cut squares with me to Pond Island. I had no plan in mind other than to do something with these and play with my hand crank sewing machine. The cut sizes of the squares were 1.5,  2.0,  2.5, and 3.0 inches.   My first thought was simply to sew the squares of the same sizes together to make long strings of "parts" which could then be used at another time.  As I was chain piecing, I realized how silly that idea was. I already had a box filled with similar parts and hadn't used them and certainly didn't need more.  What I needed was to make something with what I had with me.

Here are some blocks I made.  Can you figure out the method to the madness?

Hint: think log cabin construction - liberated to boot.

I made 4 blocks that summer and packed the whole thing up and brought it home.
A year and a half later, I pulled them out and decided maybe I could make a flimsy with them.

I sorted my parts and finished chain piecing almost all of the squares I took with me.

Ta DA!

And I have left overs!

So now I'll add another row of 4 blocks and then call it done!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Some eye candy

Hi!  I'm still here and the sewing machine has been humming along.

I've been working on lots of little projects and a couple of bigger ones. A couple of projects are secrets... and will remain so for a while. Most of the small projects were class samples.  I've been teaching beginning basic quilting and also beginning paper piecing at the local shop. The shop is small and chock full of fabric and a lot of art supplies. Available space limits class size to 4 at a time. Actually, that is an ideal number, as I can give lots of individual attention. It is fun to help someone discover and enjoy the process that is involved in quilting. I allow my students to select any project or pattern with squares, rectangles and triangles, and I help them make it, providing technique information as they need it. This is a casual approach, but it works and the students set the pace!

Here is a flimsy that was created since I last posted.

The center was inspired by a pattern called Eye Candy, from !Caliente Quilts! by Priscilla Bianchi. As fun as it was making the striped squares and the background pieces, I found myself wanting more. The quilt needed action and surprises. Hence, it evolved into a liberated medallion (Gwen Marston style).  Sorry I couldn't get a better photo.  I was backed against a huge snow bank and had maybe 4 feet between myself and the quilt.

When I piece I do leader and ender experiments at the same time.  I never know just what I'll end up with when I start these.  One such experiment was to piece nine-patches that would finish at 1.5 inches.  It didn't take me long to decide this wasn't something I wanted to continue.  It demands precision piecing which is NOT one of my strong points. But, I wasn't about to waste the little blocksso I pieced them into four patches using 2 inch squares from my stash of scrap squares.  This is destined to become a pillow.

I am still working with my scrap squares and expect to have another posting in a couple of days.

See you then.

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.