Saturday, December 10, 2011

Made Fabric and Roses... SWEET!

I have been working on liberated roses lately.  There are a some challenges with this block.  It isn't hard to make, being constructed like a log cabin - with strips going round and round an odd shaped center. Selecting colors and a variety of fabric that give interest and depth to the rose is challenging. But most challenging for me is conquering the effect of the last piece of fabric added to the block. Often this is the longest piece and without care, it results in what I call a flattened rose.

As you can see from the examples below, one's eye goes right to that line.  It is continuous seam and it dominates the block. This is not the effect I wanted.  I wanted to have a rose that kept its shape.

Thanks to the various connections of blogland and ultimately Tonya, I was put in touch with Brenda, who kindly wrote a tutorial on making the rounded roses that she has used in several of her quilts.  I tried the technique and like it, and I will make more.  I need to refine the backgrounds, as I do prefer the log cabin backgrounds to a single color background.  Yes, you can do curved piecing with log cabin backgrounds.  However, with the log cabin background, the long seam problem is still lurking, especially if one chooses a darker fabric.

While trying to puzzle out a solution, I looked through some of Ruth McDowell's books and enjoyed the incredibly wonderful combinations of fabric she uses in everything she does.  It dawned on me that "made fabric" looks a little bit like Ruth's multifaceted pieces.  What if?  What if I used made fabric with my roses?  I dug out some already made fabric and began fitting it around some roses. The result was just what I wanted.  The rose remained a rose and all the little seams of made fabric help to disguise that pesky long seam.  Ahhh.

(The phenomenon of the continuous line and the effect of off set seams is discussed in Ruth McDowell's book, Design Workshop.  I discovered that after I had sewn the made fabric to the roses.  It was nice to have thoughts confirmed and further explained.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Swap blocks and more

As many of you know, one of the pleasures of quilt blogging is the opportunity to join in projects distant from home base.  What better way is there to try out different techniques or designs?  Plus, the internet contacts are very rewarding.

I joined the 15 minutes play  scrap  "New'Bee".  For December, V asked us to make an ethereal star and surround it with dark scrap background.  She sent us two swatches of fabric to incorporate however we wanted. These swatches were a bright orange print and a navy with bright green ikat.  We could also include another star if we wanted or send her an extra star.  Any kind of star was legit, so I went liberated.
This is going to NYC very soon:

I also joined the Blogger's BOM, hosted by Jackie.  I love this BOM.  I can raid my own stash.  I can experiment with color combinations. The blocks have been fun to make. Each is designed by a different quilter and each month is presented as a surprise. And the BOM is free.

 I decided to make 4 of each block.   I am using different light orange and yellow backgrounds (the color is washed out in these pictures) and plan to put all the blocks together in a good size happy quilt.  Here's what I have so far:

September:  Block designed by Sherri McConnell

October: Block designed by Vicki Welsh

November: Block designed by Stephanie Dunphy

I also joined Beth Shibley's Neighborhood House Party.
Here are my houses:
I'm sending them to Beth. She will be 'redistributing' the gathered blocks to some lucky winners on January 1. The number of winners depends on how many people join the party.  Everyone has only ONE chance, regardless of how many houses she may have contributed.    I look forward to seeing all the different houses.

Hey!  Anyone can do this.  Check out the link above and join the fun.  Just remember, your house needs to be in Beth's hands by Dec. 31.

Friday, November 25, 2011

When will I ever learn?

When will I ever learn to make my free pieced work to scale?  Keeping in scale is easy for me if I start out with a project and complete the piecing in one go.  But, if I decide to make additions and don't bother to look at my original piecing, my work is all over the map.  It usually comes out way bigger than what I started.  This happened just the other day when I returned to the House and Trees project of the last post.  I had taken my original house and trees off the wall to do some other work and they were buried somewhere.

I want to make four more autumn trees. This past week, I struggled to piece two of them. Part of my problem is visualizing and I usually don't make sketches.  (Yes, I can be lazy.  I'm not an artist by training - I'm a biologist). Consequently, I come up with some weird stuff.  I know that making different trees would be easier for me if I were to choose to applique or fuse.  I gotta do things the hard way.  (Lazy and stubborn? Maybe, but I prefer to call it a challenge.)

One result is a blob that is almost bigger than the house! The blob is supposed to represent a cut-leaf Japanese maple, one of the smallest trees in my yard.  The cut-leaf  Japanese maple tree does have branches that drape all the way to the ground, and its leaves hide the trunk completely during the summer or fall.  The green swirly fabric represents the pachysandra bed beneath the tree.  Well, I got the color right. I got the shape right. I just need to scale it down.  Sigh.  Back to the design wall with that one.

Hey!  The blob is a whole lot more realistic than my first effort at this tree.  Have you ever seen a jelly-fish tree?  Take a look. Crazy, huh? I told you I have a hard time visualizing:-)

Now, the other tree I "made" is supposed to be a native flowering dogwood.  It has the right autumn color.  The shape is iffy - most dogwoods have an irregular shape.  But, it is way too big.  Another re-do will happen before I am happy. Plus, I need to conquer those pesky curves.  I kind of wish I could put these in the wash and shrink them!

To put it all in perspective here's the whole thing as of now.... definitely needs work!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Just the beginning

This is the beginning of another project. I think I may take a whole year playing with this one, so you will see it from time to time.

In her blog,  Lynn of Patchery Menangerie suggested a quilt along of wonky houses and wonky trees through the seasons. I have joined in the fun.

I have made many liberated houses, but not trees.  My yard is full of trees.  Different trees are really beautiful at different times of the year, so I decided that my focus will be the trees in my yard in appropriate seasons. I also decided that I would make just one house. You never know,  I could make other views of it in the future.

 I really do most of this kind of work on the fly. I seldom sketch anything out, because I end up ignoring it anyway.  The way I start is to choose a fabric and begin cutting, thinking about what should go next to it, thinking where the ground is, where the sky is, etc.  I make each piece and put it together as I go along.  I don't try to match seams, so there is plenty of odd tilting, which I think makes a more interesting "picture" in the end.

As I said,  this is just the beginning...  It is autumn. Here is my house with a Norway Maple and a Norway Spruce.  (I live in SE Michigan.  Norway varieties of trees were popular in neighborhoods developed in the late 60's.  They grow big very quickly.)  I will be making more "autumn" trees soon.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I had no intention of making a corduroy quilt when I first read about Corduroy Appreciation Day in LeeAnn's blog.  I didn't even have corduroy in my stash.  However, just before Halloween, a bag of orphan fabric scraps was left at my home.  I looked through the stuff and pulled out some corduroy.  Bright blue, bright red, dark green, and a little bit of green velvet. Yummy stuff.  How could I ignore the challenge, especially since the red was already cut in large, elongated triangles?

I decided to let the red triangles take the lead in terms of size of my pieces and put together whatever I could with what I had. Free form piecing.  The result was stimulating.  So much so that I took my husband's cords right out of the dryer and cut them up.  (Yes, I did get his permission.  They were too big for him anyway.) This introduced the gray green.  Almost done, but not quite...

It still needed something more, so I asked my neighbor, who sorts clothing at the Kiwanis Thrift Store, to bring home some trousers.  She brought me at least six pairs, but I chose to cut up only two, the dark blue and the dull red.  Finally with borders made from these pants, I had a quilt that felt right. It measures roughly 65" x 50".  I am not going to square it up, so some spots may be longer or shorter than that.  (The picture doesn't do justice to the wales... they go in all directions making a cool design element.)

Now I gotta figure out the backing and quilting.  Hmmmm.

It is hard to see that all the pieces are corduroy - the bright red, bright blue and dark green are fine wale, the gray-green is regular (medium?) wale and the dull red and dark blue are wide wale.  The bits of dull green beneath the bright blue is velvet, which, to me, is a really dense corduroy.

Thank you, LeeAnn, for introducing me to corduroy for quilting.  This stuff is addicting.  I just might take the scissors to the other trousers from Kiwanis and do a patchwork puzzle with them !

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Same pattern - different quilts

I rarely sew the same pattern twice.  There are far too many interesting patterns available and too little time, so I am selective.  However, every now and then I succumb.  This happens especially when a pattern can be changed merely by the changing the value of the fabric used for the pieces to render an entirely different look.  I am also intrigued with the idea that one can make curves with straight lines.

Storm at Sea is one such pattern.  The block consists of a large square in a square surrounded by diamond in a rectangle, and a small square in a square in each corner.

(the wind was blowing when I took the picture, so the quilt looks a bit distorted)

"Storm at the Shore" is my first attempt at this pattern. I made it in 2009.  With the exception of color, this is a classic rendering of the pattern, where light and lightish-medium fabrics are used to emphasize the interlacing waves.  I chose to use browns, grays, pinks, greens, and tans, along with white and off white.  These colors reminded me of the different seaweeds, pebbles, and stones one sees near a rocky ocean shore.  In this quilt the diamonds are made with the lightest fabric and the corners of the squares in a square are of a lighter value as well.

"Memories of Breezy Point" resulted from my second effort with this pattern.  I made it in 2010 as a wedding gift for my niece.  The "waves" are present in the center of the quilt, but they are subtle.  The blue diamond pieces break up the flow of the typical rolling wave of the Storm at Sea pattern.  Because Breezy Point is the name of a cottage on a lake, I think of the center part of the quilt as sparkles of sunlight reflecting on the water. The colorful squares are the water lilies.

The ring of stars was created by using a medium fabric for the corners of the large square in a square, while light fabric was used for the center of the small square in a square and a light medium fabric was used for those corners.  Even the white hearts created by the perimeter border were  made with the Storm at Sea block.  Here the large square in a square is entirely white, with exception of the two corners which are blue.

Both of these quilts were quilted by Marilyn Lange.

I received inspiration for making "Memories of Breezy Point" from an excellent book by Wendy Mathson, A New Light on Storm at Sea Quilts  One Block - An Ocean of Possibilities  (2009, C&T Publishing).  With the "fast2cut  Quilters' TRIMplate" designed for this pattern, this quilt went together easily.  In contrast, I hand pieced "Storm at the Shore", after cutting each piece of the block with templates.   I can testify that this pattern is no longer a chore to make using the techniques Wendy Mathson has developed.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


In my sewing room, fabric leftovers rarely get thrown away.  I usually find a use for them in some fashion.

Here are two more small studies that were made from leftovers.

Gimme an A!

'Gimme an A' was made from two hand pieced sections (above and below the orange line).  When I made them I really didn't see a way to put them together effectively, so I stuck them back in the box and took them with me to the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat.  While there I realized that all I needed to tie them together was to introduce some diagonal lines.  Taken with the orange line those diagonals make an "A"!  The A became the focus and the chopped up pieces of fabric make a background. It was one of those quilts that just happen.  No pre-planning here.

Bright Lights

This small study, also made at Beaver Island Quilt Retreat, started with a preconceived notion.  Bright colors against black, hence Bright Lights.  The chartreuse and green strips were the left overs I started with.  I decided not to piece any new color combinations, but to use striped or patterned fabrics to achieve the appearance of pieced fabric.

I like the black and white dotted triangles. Gwen actually suggested that fabric to me.  She has an eye for the unusual.  I wasn't thinking Christmas, but they do look like a row of densely lit trees with a few gifts tucked beneath.  Surprises!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Blue Chips

This quilt, which I call "Blue Chips",  made its debut in blogland when my friend, Teresa, featured it on her blog, Fabric Therapy in May of 2011.   I am a great procrastinator when it comes to finishing quilts. Today I sewed the last stitch on the binding.  ( I still have a pile of both quilts and flimsys that need to be ushered to the next step, so this finish barely makes a dent. Nevertheless, it is progress!)

This is one of those quilts that truly evolved. I started with the idea of making pillow of "shirt-stripe boxes",  a pattern by Kaffe Fassett , in his book, Passionate Patchwork.  This is a pattern I really like.  I produced a bunch of the 3.5 inch squares, but quickly came to the conclusion that I didn't want to go on.  Matching the lines, which makes this pattern so effective, runs against my liberated tendencies.  It became more work than I wanted to do.  Consequently, these squares were set aside.

Sometime later, I decided to do something to use a bunch of blue and white fabric that had been sitting in my stash for at least 9 years.  Again, the above Kaffe pattern was what I had in mind.  Having looked through several of Kaffe's books, I realized he has effectively used the same block layout to make quite different quilts. Large squares were partnered with smaller squares, etc.  So I gamely cut squares of different sizes from my blue and white stash. The result was mush.  It was very hard to look at all the busy-ness that resulted.  In poking around my scraps, I found the shirt-box squares I had made.   Ah-ha. They helped some, but something more was needed. 

In my mind, blue and white evokes Delft tiles.  Yes, that was what I wanted.  Now I needed to separate the blocks with "grout".  But, I didn't want nice neat lines of sashing.  Shortly before all of this, I had been poking through Quilt Mania, #78.  It featured a quilt by Pamela Goecke Dinndorf (Aardvark Quilts), which was a mosaic of simple tiles with wedges of grout.  Another ah-ha moment.  I could be as liberated as I liked!  I pretended that I had bought rejects and broken chips at the tile store, as that is all I'd be able to afford, anyway. 

I tied this quilt with white perle cotton #8.  I am a hand quilter.  There are a lot of irregular seams, which would make hand quilting difficult. Furthermore, any quilting (other than in the ditch)  would be lost in the busy-ness that is already there.  And, I didn't want to delay the completion any longer.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Small Studies with Gwen Marston

The week before last I went to Gwen Marston's Beaver Island Quilt Retreat (week 5).   Each year Gwen generously shares her skills over a five week period,  each week working with about 30 quilters, many of whom return yearly for their "Gwen fix".  This year the topic was small studies.  It focused on  practicing techniques for make various elements and subsequently using those elements to design small quilts, or sketches as Gwen called them.  Gwen recently published a lovely book, 37 Sketches,  showing her small quilts and the thought process behind their creation.

During the retreat, we played with color and sewed skinny curves, spikes, free pieced log cabins, overlapping curved strata, inserts of tiny specks of color, checkerboards etc.  We learned not to be afraid of using little pieces of fabric and to let ourselves experiment with abstract designs. We explored colors we don't often use in quilt making.  We were challenged to think out of the box.

I had a wonderful time exploring and trying new things. I made the following small quilts:

Color Study:  Blue and Green
Color Study:  Brown

 Trees and the shore - made with spikes

I made one more piece, but it isn't quite finished, so I'll save it for another day

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Love Crumbs

Please bear with me.  I am just starting out as a blogger and am fumbling around a bit.  My first post (Sept 24, 2011) was done with the help of Teresa.  I kept is short as I wanted to get something out there and not kill too much time.  With all the chatting, questions, and Teresa's patient explanations, we managed to kill a few more hours than I had anticipated.   Teresa,  thank you so much for your help. I am sure I will be knocking at your door again.

Since the New Year, I have been quietly "making fabric",  influenced by Victoria's 15 minutes play mentioned in the previous post.  It has become a wonderful way to work  play with my scraps.  Here are some examples:

But long before I knew about 15 minutes play, I was growing a quilt from my scraps  crumbs. I couldn't throw my little scraps away. They were little bits; many were smaller than 1.5" x 2."  One day I decided to sew bits and pieces together and see what came of it.

This quilt is still growing.  I have no idea when it will be done or how big it will be. I'm not in a hurry.  I don't work on it every day or even have it out all the time.  Next time I feel overwhelmed by all my projects, I'll make another section and attach it.   It is another form of "fabric therapy". Right? Teresa?  

In love with crumbs...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

quilts of the past

Fenestre Ouverte by Matisse

In June 2011, Victoria ( issued a challenge.  Take a work of art for inspiration, use solid fabric only, and create a 15"x15" quilt to swap with another challenge member.

I chose this picture.

I created the quilt on an island in Maine with no electricity, so the whole thing was hand pieced and hand quilted.

I tried several versions before I was satisfied.

This is the quilt I sent off to Laura.  I called it "Fragments of Matisse" or "Views from a Window."

under the influence of 15 minutes play! -  Kathy