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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

11 - 11- 11 finally finished!

The all corduroy quilt which I made for  Corduroy Appreciation Day (11-11-11) is finally finished! You can read about its beginnings here.

 I backed it with a piece of flannel (which I bought YEARS ago with the idea of making a nightie for myself).  I did not use any batting, because I felt the corduroy was heavy enough; it didn't need the extra insulation.

 I took my time quilting it using either red or light blue perle cotton #8. Sometimes I used the big stitch, but more often I reverted to a smaller stitch length, simply because that is what I am used to. I had no overall quilting plan, so each section was decided as I came to it.  There are two pieces of velvet in the quilt, which I left unquilted.  The binding is made from a tight velour or suede cloth, which was in the bag along with the corduroy pieces that I had received.

 Friends asked me if corduroy is hard to hand quilt. Actually no.  It isn't as tightly woven as one might expect. Not having a batting to needle through also helped.

This is the most free formed quilt I have ever made.  The more I look at it, the more I like it!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A little too quiet..

But, I've been busy in "school".    I took an online course through on how to photograph quilts. Janice Baehr taught it.  It wasn't the popular "take it outside" approach. It was the studio approach.  My living room turned into a photographer's studio for a month. My husband lashed together a hanging system that tied to the stair railing.  I hung a queen size sheet from the top rail and a couple of chains and hooks and expandable shower rod allowed me to hang the quilt at whatever  height was needed.   I learned to play with lighting and get better balance of light and shadows so that the quilting would show up.  I also learned tricks of how to hang quilts for photographing them when you don't have quite enough room.  I became somewhat more familiar with my camera, though most of the time I used the auto exposure setting.   My goal is to slowly re-photograph all the quilts I have here and make a really good record of them.
Set up for photographing larger quilts.  Hang the quilt horizontally and rotate the picture so the quilt is vertical. 

Photography set up for smaller quilts with light borders.

By the way, Quilt University is closing come this December.  It's founder, Carol Taylor, passed away this past winter and her husband made a valiant effort to continue in her shoes, but found it to be too much.  

This past month, I  repeated the class I took last fall,  Inspired to Design.  I was surprised at how much easier it was for me the second time around.  Experience does count for something!  Elizabeth Barton teaches this course.  She now has a book out on that topic,  which is excellent. You can order it from her -( check her blog).  Her blog, which is interesting to read.  Lots of thought provoking observations.   

I got my piece all sewn up. It is resting  on the design wall as I teach myself a some basic machine quilting tricks. ( I've never done that!) 

Buoys - and shadows.   (15" x 15")

machine applique, folded edges, tiny zig zag stitching

School is over for me and I'll be on my way to Maine, soon.  I'll post once more, before I leave.


Monday, April 8, 2013

In the shadow of the Space Needle

A while back, I told you about taking a class with Elizabeth Barton through Quilt University.  It was an  first time adventure into approaching quilting from an art perspective. We used photographs as the inspiration and from that we learned sketching, expanding, cropping, abstracting, deternining the "main idea", using color and the color wheel, developing a working sketch, transferring from sketch to fabric, etc.  For me it was a definite challenge, but one I welcomed.  I was able to progress through forum interactions with Elizabeth and others and certainly felt supported every step of the way.  I have just now finished sewing the flimsy.(It is my first effort at machine applique and I used a small zigzag stitch.)   I'm going to let the quilt rest a good while as I ponder quilting designs.

Here is the inspiration photo showing a part of Dale Chiuhuly's  exhibit at the Seattle Center, with the Space Needle towering overhead.

Here is the result -   I was really struck by the radial symmetry of the flowers when I looked at them closely and the radial symmetry of the top of the Space Needle.  So that was the "main idea".

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sitges - just a few more quilts and the town

Maybe I am saving the best for last.  My favorite special exhibit was that of Maria Luisa Gutierrez, a quilter from La Rioja province of Spain (North Central, just south of Basque and Navarre).  She  has made wonderful pictorial quilts, beautifully pieced and quilted.  I felt they reflected the nature and culture of her homeland in ways that I could appreciate.  I wish I could have taken classes from her.

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Stilt Walkers

the vineyards in the background were made with couched chenille

I loved being in Sitges.  It is a town of narrow pedestrian streets lined with shops of all sorts, cafes, and restaurants. Many apartments were in the upper floors. No obvious vegetation, but I am sure during the summer, the balconies would be covered with draping plants.   Cars are allowed only on a few streets almost all on the outskirts of the town. Everyone walks.  Sitges is right on the sea, so regular walks along the water are mandatory.  This walkway is lined with towering palm trees.
I was lucky to be there on some lovely sunny,but cool and windy days.  It rained only on the day I left.

Sitges has many, many cats roaming around in the back neighborhoods.  They pay very little attention to the all the people.  At one spot, a fork in the sidewalk and roads so to speak, someone made a little shelter and food station for the cats.  We saw only three cats here.  I wonder if others come at night or if these three are the only ones at this "shelter".

By far the strangest sight was this chicken.  Its owner was in the bakery getting his breakfast.  The chicken just sat in the box, totally unruffled by everyone stopping to look at it.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sitges - a few more quilts

An International Invitational of Contemporary Quilts called Color Improvisations, curated by Nancy Crow, was the next special exhibit we saw. It has been travelling around since 2010. 

Wow!  Big, Bold, Loud, Quiet, Busy, Calm, Precise, not so precise - or should I say, Mysterious. Those adjectives were all represented.  Here's a sampling:

Edge #7  by Marina Kamenskaya

Structures #111 by Lisa Call

Construction #50 Birds by Leslie Joan Riley

close up of  Construction #50 Birds

Forest Floor by Terry Jarrard-Dimond

Fault Lines 3 - Kathleen Loomis

quilting detail, Fault Lines 3 - Kathleen Loomis

Self Portraits by Nancy Crow

close up of Self Portraits by Nancy Crow

Constructions #101 by Nancy Crow

Color Compositions #4 - Beata Keller-Kerchner

From Contemporary to Ancient Traditions

As we walked in to the main exhibition hall, we were greeted by a rather puzzling exhibit.  The quilts were clearly Indian, but there was no signage on any of the quilts, no introduction, nothing.  I took a cursory look and went upstairs to the primary exhibits.  Later I took a second look .  A Hungarian quilter, Anna Dolanyi, had collected all these quilts through her travels in remote places in India.   These quilts do not have a written history of who made them , they were simply part of the art and tradition of the people. 
 The elephant quilt was my favorite.  Small pieces of fabrics make the mosaic of this quilt.  It isn't pieced in a method we are familiar with.  Each piece of fabric is laid very close to the next one and then many strands of yarn or string or threads (for lack of better terms) are laid over the joints and couched to hold the pieces together.