Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Slow Quilting

Some of you may know "slow quilting" as a key word used by Rayna Gillman in her book, create your own free-form quilts.  Last spring I made a lot of strip units (strip therapy) and I've been slow quilting with them for the past two to three weeks.

This is a new process for me and it does require patience.  I would move a piece, or remove it, and then leave the result hanging on the wall for a while.  Every now and then I'd move, add, or subtract, slash, and always ask "what if?"  I even contacted Rayna and she gave me pointers and encouragement.  I found it hard to create when I didn't know what I was creating.  I am so used to working with a theme in mind.  In the end, I decided I was just trying to find a harmonious arrangement for the strips, shapes and colors I had chosen to use.  One of the rewards was using "ugly" fabrics and actually liking them!

Here is how the composition came together...

Strike 1

Strike 2

Ta- Da!

I will be doing some more strip therapy and making more of these compositions.  Another way to play!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sandy Relief Quilt

This quilt is now bound and on its way to help with the Sandy Relief efforts.  I backed it with flannel.  It will keep someone warm.

I sent it to   the organization that Victoria works with
                                                                 Acacia Network
Attn: Pete Gonzalez
311 East 175th Street
Bronx, NY 10457
Note:  the deadline for the quilt drive is Dec 7th.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

cutting, cutting, more cutting - all in a day's work.

I never know for sure what I'll be doing in the sewing room when I wake up each morning.  One morning I decided to reorganize my batting, because the cat had figured out how to get in the closet and she likes to sleep among the batting.  Nice and toasty for her, but not so good for batting.  Now my loose batting lives in this case in the closet and the cat gets a pillow on the shelf.  So far, so good.

 Back in 2000 I made this quilt.

It is reversible with the exact same fabric on the back as on the front.  It was made using these instructions from Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, July/August 1998.

Each block is essentially a four-patch folded on the diagonal of each square. A square of batting is inserted before the last seam is sewn. Then the each block can be quilted and then whip-stitched together to make the quilt.

I revisited the quilt and the process described above in preparation for a demo.  While I made the demo block I decided it would become a small mug rug or coaster. (I 'm not too keen on whip stitching a bunch of blocks right now, though it would make a cute quilt.)

That thought led to the idea of making sets of 4 blocks which I could then give as gifts. Consequently, I cut 360 - 4.5 inch squares from dark blues and shirtings which have occupied my stash a bit too long.    And for the same project I cut from batch of odd sized batting, which had been put aside way back when,  80 - 5.5 inch squares.

Not done yet. I've learned that once I get going with a boring task like endless cutting, I do better when I get as much of it out of the way for multiple projects, rather than complete one project and then go on to the next.  So almost as soon as I finished the above cutting, I decided that I needed new hot pads in the kitchen.  I had a stash of "food" fabric that was "getting old".  So I've cut that up along with some more batting and insul-brite.  I am glad to have that cut and ready for action!  The extra hot pads will go into my gift drawer, too.   It feels good to have found a way to use fabric and batting that has been lying around too long.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Puttzing about

I have been puttzing around in the sewing room. After looking at this on the design wall for a month  and adding another strip of flying geese, I decided it needed reconfiguration, even though it had been sewn together.

I am now content with the results after unsewing two times.

The back is made and the binding is cut, therefore no more redesigning.

A momentary clean sweep of the big table and my sewing machine station brought about a "scrap attack".  I did not want to put away the bunches of scraps , so I borrowed an Accuquilt Go from a friend and cut mostly 2 inch squares, which now reside in the squares box.

I also made these blocks of the strips that were lying on my sewing machine table.  I have tons more strips to play with ( see the box on the table), but the scrap attack urge has subsided for the time being.

We shall see what tomorrow brings. In the meantime, there is always something to finish up.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Liberated Medallions- International Exchange

One of the pleasures of attending BIQR is meeting people from all over our country and from other countries, too.  Last year two lovely ladies, Joes and Isabeau,  from the Netherlands, attended.  They brought with them a little surprise for each of us.


These little dolls are made in one part of the Netherlands where wearing the traditional dress is still an everyday custom.   As clothing wears out, some of it is recycled to make these little souvenir dolls.  (The orange dress is worn on National Holidays, while blues, blacks, and other colors are worn on other days.)

On the last day of that retreat (the theme was "small studies") I made a block of 0.25 inch squares and bordered it with some bright solids. I decided to surprise Joes and Isabeau, extending a hand in friendship on behalf of all of the American retreaters there, by giving them some "homework" in preparation for the medallion quilt retreat the following year (;-).  I asked them to take this center and have some of their friends in the Netherlands add to it as a kind of distant participation in making a medallion quilt that originated at BIQR.   They did so (probably twisting a few arms in the process) and brought back this wonderful rendition.  Many thanks to Joes, Isabeau, Ans, Lucy, and Ellen.

close up of the original center(3"x3.5") and three "rounds"

Medallion made by our friends in the Netherlands (24"x24")

At the end of this year's retreat, Isabeau presented me with a center to continue the process. (What goes around comes around - and I gave her permission to do so!)

 I am looking forward to passing this along to the women who have volunteered to grow this quilt.  We will give it back to Isabeau and Joes next year.

Liberated Medallions 2

For my liberated medallion project (at the Beaver Island Quilt Retreat with Gwen Marston), I chose to challenge myself with solids.  I have not used solid fabrics often and wanted to begin feeling more comfortable using them.

Here are my two efforts:
Number 1
30" x 30"

I made the center prior to the retreat.  I showed it to you in this post.  I added a few more skinny strips to the original block.   I also had to resort to using marbles, because I ran out of truly solid grays.

Number 2
Here the challenge was to use a HUGE (for me) center block (the ochre center) and go from there.  I had several consults with Gwen during the process, trying to find a focus for what I was doing. First I thought I'd try for harmonious colors and found myself back to using relatively skinny strips.  So I started focusing on shapes.   It took a lot of effort to insert fabric wider than 1.5 inches and make it interesting!   The little inserts and color changes (not clearly visible here) help.  The renegade red square was suggested by Elisa, one of my buddies at BIQR.

Gwen said "working big is not easy".   She is right.

20.5" x 20.5"

Going forward, I'll be doing more solids work!

Liberated Medallions 1

Liberated Medallions was the topic for Gwen Marston's 2012 Beaver Island Quilt Retreat.
One of the neat things about this style is that there is no formula. These quilts are built one row at a time.  The resulting quilts were as varied as the attendees.  I did not get capture photos of all the quilts, but I'll show you some I did get. I apologize in advance for any blurriness.  These were taken during the last day's show and tell.  There was hardly time to photograph or get close enough for a good shot- hence the angles.  Enjoy the show. (These are from the 5th week of the retreat.)

Sally's Zebras
Jean's Parrot Tulip
Sylvia's Blue on Black
Denise's Baskets
Charlotte's "Spot"
Sue's Portrait
Elisa's Lady of Guadalupe
Kyra's  Framed Applique

Sue's Kaffe Medallion

Pat's Cherrywood Beauty

Karin's  curious Kitty (made from floor scraps)
Close up of Karin's Kitty

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wrestling a python

.... a quilt python, that is.

Putting the binding on quilts is the one task I least like in quilt making.  So many of my friends say it is their favorite step,that  it is relaxing, and it means they are almost done.  To me it is a major wrestling match with the quilt.

My sewing machines are all set-ON-the-table types,  not set-IN-the table.  The one machine with a walking foot is a little Janome Jem Gold.  As a machine, it works fine, but I do have to help the quilt along. Quilts tend to get caught on the base of the machine or on the edge of the table and suddenly the seam is skewed.  I have tried setting extra tables and or ironing boards next to the machine table to support the weight of the quilts, but I still have to pull and push, and shift to keep everything straight.  The bigger the quilt, the more difficult it is.

Not only are the quilts likely to be unruly, the binding strips also get in the way, especially if they are left loose and long.  I have found that I can control them by accordion folding them and tying them with a strip of selvedge or skinny fabric.  I then pull out what I need and pin it to the quilt. When one side is pinned, I tighten the ties and the unsewn binding stays put in the accordian fold as I sew.

I just got the wedding quilt back from the quilter.  Marilyn did a fantastic job.  I'll show you soon.  That quilt is huge.  96 x 99 inches!  I decided I had to get the binding on now or it may be ages before I get it done, just because the job is so massive.  I took a deep breath.  With my husband's help, I rolled up the quilt and slung it over my shoulder.  All rolled up and being fed to the machine from a higher level than the table made it quite manageable.  I sewed up one side, unrolled the quilt, turned and pinned the binding , re-rolled the quilt (again with help) , slung it over my shoulder and sewed the next side, etc.  It looked like and felt like an enormous python, heavy and awkward.  But, it was worth the trouble.  I got the job done with only one skewed spot which was easily fixed.  Here I am... wrestling the python.

Next comes the part that literally puts me to sleep. ( I finish the binding by hand.)  I start yawning hard about 1/3 of the way down one side.  Then my eyes start watering.... zzzzz.   I need a visit from the quiltmaker's elves.  

As soon as I finish this onerous task,  I'll be taking close up photos of the quilting and will post for you to see; after I catch a few zzzzzs!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Face It!

I find that I try new things when I least plan for them or expect to.  That is my experimental nature shining through.  While I was quilting all the Pond Island house blocks, I knew that I was going to finish them individually, rather than sew them into one large quilt.  I had thought about binding each in a strip of black, as though it were "framed". Once I got home, I stalled.   What is wrong with that picture???  It is way too formal was my gut reaction.  I don't think I can look at a wall with 15 stark black frames, regardless of what is inside.

Then,  I remembered that Jean Wells discussed various finishing techniques in her book, Intuitive Color and Design.

Ah hah!  Among other techniques, she suggested a facing finish.  This was the answer!  I started  right in following her excellent directions and made facing using both mitered corners and triangle corners, just to see which one I liked better.  The triangle corners system is a bit more fiddly to make, but it does solve the problem of having a lot of seams and fabric at each of the four corners.  I ended up choosing to make most of my facings with the mitered corners anyway.  Easier and faster wins.

facing with mitered corners and hanging tabs
facing with triangle corners

two faced blocks,  one framed block.
I had no choice but to frame that one block shown above.  The fabric I  put along the top and the bottom is corded (woven) such that once its threads are cut, the cord quickly unravels.  It is also thick, so I cannot turn it to the back as facing requires.  

A facing, like the facing in a jacket or dress, isn't seen from the front.  It is only visible on the back of the quilt (or on the inside, if we are talking about garments.)  When I began cutting the strips, I was thinking of using only one fabric to make all the facings.  WAIT A MINUTE!  I have lots of fabric languishing in my stash.  Why not a little unexpected variety?  Out came some florals on dark backgrounds.  Now the process became more fun.  The fabric I chose doesn't make the process any different, but it provides the boost of making it more interesting.  I cannot wait to sew these  facings to the blocks that are piled on the table!


I am one of those quilters who cannot complete one project before beginning something new.  Once an idea starts brewing, I gotta go with it.  I recently saw a similar quilt made by  Ashley in Film in the Fridge . That was my inspiration.  Thanks, Ashley!

This is the start of a baby quilt.  I need to sew all the blocks together.  Once I do that, it will shrink quite a bit, but that is as big as it will be.  I make "little" baby quilts.  Why?  The parents can use the little quilt right away, while the baby is tiny.  It would fit in a pram or stroller, or car seat without getting bunched up in the wheels or straps, etc.  Once the baby gets too big for the quilt, it can be "graduated" to be their own little quilt used to tuck in their dollies or teddy bears.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer Highlights

I am just back from Maine, where we spent five weeks on Pond Island (Narraguagus Bay, near Milbridge) and 10 days at Alamoosook Lake in Orland.  Both of these places are dear to my heart.

Pond Island is truly rustic. We hire a lobsterman to get us there, as we have no boat. We bring as much dried and canned food with us as we can.
our "stuff" at arrival  - 90% food, the rest is clothing, quilting, tools,

We replenish the larder with a list given to relatives who have boats and are going into town, or by accepting left overs from departing groups, as many come to the Island for a long weekend bringing way more than they can consume.

We have a small cottage with no electricity, no plumbing,  an outhouse and outdoor shower. We carry drinking water from  a well and we catch rain water in a 100 gallon tank which serves for washing purposes.
The Barnacle.  Original house was the little building which is now the bedroom.

While we have propane to run a refrigerator and two gas lamps, we find we don't use the lamps.  We prefer to go to bed soon after sunset, when we can no longer see well enough to read.  It is great.  It is easy to get in 10 hour sleeps this way!   We get up when the lobster boats begin streaming out of the harbor to tend their traps, usually just after sunrise, but sometimes before.  Early in the morning, the sea is usually calm and the boats look like little dark bugs skimming along the water.  The lobster men refer to the lobsters they catch as "bugs", so I have begun calling their boats "bug boats".
Sunrises and sunsets are often spectacular....


Also there is the fog... which often is seen creeping onto the other islands around us while we have full sun.
Fog over Trafton Island

Sewing, in such a setting,  means 100% hand work.    Over the past 5 years or so, I have pieced together small quilts representing each of the 15 buildings on the island.  This year my goal was to quilt them all.  I've completed quilting 13 of the 15 and should have the last two done within the month.  I will show all of them when they are bound... (soon, I hope)  but here is a sneak peek of a one of them.

These blocks were all free pieced.  No templates nor paper piecing or patterns were used.  I learned liberated free piecing from Gwen Marston's book LIBERATED QUILTING, and then used the technique to create my blocks.  I worked from photographs and sketches, but often once I got going,  I did not refer much to these, either. The blocks were made independently, so they are all different sizes.  I found that making the windows first allowed me to keep the scale for that block.

I didn't do any quilting at Alamoosook.  We were there to catch up with our son and to close up the cottage for the winter.  But, I did squeeze in a quick trip to Marden's in Ellsworth and took a look at their fabric section. One must search carefully to find treasures there.  I didn't have the time for that, so a return trip for next year is on the list of things to do.  I did go to Fiddlehead Artisans Supply in Belfast and found a nice selection of FQ to bring home. (Of course, like the majority of us, I need more fabric like a hole in the head.)

I did have one wonderful quilt-related time, however.  I had the opportunity to contact and visit Lynne of Patchery Menagerie.  I had to drive my son from the Lake to Portsmouth, NH, and realized that I would be pretty near where Lynne lives.  

What a wonderful visit!  Lynne is a terrific host,  She was so excited to meet me, as I was her, that she did a happy dance in the parking lot.  I have never had a personal parking place, but she made sure I knew where to go!

 Lynne is a fantastic cook and treated me to an awesome pasta salad and chocolate cake and ice cream for supper.  Yum.  (We don't get cake and ice cream on Pond Island.)

Lynne is a wonderful quilter... her specialty is word quilts and they are fantastic.  She inserts subtle surprises in her work.  At first glance,  the words look like they are made from the same fabric... But, on a closer inspection, one discovers that while each word may be of a single color, the letters are made from different fabrics of that one color.   Such fun to look at.  And in many cases, the background she uses holds surprises too.  Take a look at the NO RULES FOR JULIE quilt on Lynne's blog  and see if you can find the "fun" hidden there.

  Lynne is currently working on an OUT OF THE BOX quilt and it was fun to see all of that set up.

We talked about quilts and the magic of quilts well into the night. The next morning we went to Quilted Threads, a wonderful shop in Henniker, NH.  If you are ever in the vicinity of Concord, NH, or even Manchester, NH  be sure to make a detour to Henniker.  You won't be disappointed.

 Here is Lynne giving scritches to her cat, Millie.  Millie tolerated me from a distance.  I am glad she didn't totally go into hiding.   Millie has her own blog... darlingmillie.blogspot.com.

(Lynne has featured me on her blog.  As she said, we are looking forward to repeating the experience next year.)

Thank you, Lynne.  Getting to meet you and know you was truly the highlight of the summer.