Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gotta Keep That Wheel Turning

I've just finished binding the Parts Department quilt. It may take a few days to get good pictures of it. I haven't even seen it on my bed yet! There are three other quilts ready to be bound and two tops at the shop waiting for their turn to be quilted. This puts me at the end of my creative cycle. It will be pleasant to sit and stitch bindings down by hand but once that's done it will be time to start all over again. The question looms, "What next?"

While the subconscious stirs the possibilities I will probably just sew scraps. I received a lovely thank you note recently on a notecard that featured an antique quilt.


It's called "Little Cedar Tree" but I can't for the life of me see why. Another name for the block is Birds in the Air. That I can see. Studying this card I realized that some of my scrap triangles could be sewn into these little blocks...


Pretty simple, but effective and useful. I've never been one for large blank alternate squares because I'm not technically a quiltER. If I use alternate squares to set these units they'll only be about 4.5 inches. I can live with that. :- )

Of course I continue to make my 6" Shoofly and Churn Dash or Hole in the Barn Door blocks.




I've also been going through my 2.5" strips and making Scrappy Trip blocks:


Somehow I still have so many scrap strips (assorted widths and lengths) that they're crowding each other in the closet. I really think I'm going to have to make another string quilt of some sort. We'll have to see what develops as the stew simmers... ;- )

Monday, September 15, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop


Julie, aka Quiltdivajulie, tagged me to participate in the Around the World blog hop. The example she set in her post (which you can see here) was a bit intimidating but I took a deep breath and accepted.

First of all I'm going to take this opportunity to finally introduce myself visually. I've been keeping this blog since 2007 and to the best of my recollection I've never shared a picture of myself. This one's for you Julie!


 The blog hop invitation poses these four questions:
  1. What am I working on?
  2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
  3. Why do I write/create what I do?
  4. How does my writing/creating process work?
Currently I'm working at clearing enough space around my cutting mat to enable me to prune two large-ish quilts. They're large for me and my space even though one is barely twin size and the other will only fit a double bed. These two quilts were just quilted by my younger (adult) son who has become a professional long arm quilter during the past year or so. Now I have to cut away the excess batting and backing and make and apply bindings to them. Not my favorite steps in the quilt making process but necessary.

My work may differ from that of other quilt makers in that, lately at least, I work primarily from the scraps created when previous quilts were made. I have always enjoyed scrap or multi-fabric quilts more than the controlled, organized versions that seem to have been popular (and more socially acceptable) back in the day. For example, I could never make this:


I have the skills, I would just get bored after the first block! Plus, technical complexity doesn't do it for me. What I like is ingenuity, figuring out how to make something aesthetically pleasing out of a pile of apparently unrelated prints and colors. To which end I design my own quilts. I'm not sure I'm capable of actually following a pattern anymore. I will inevitably find something about it that doesn't suit me and make changes.

I also prefer to work intuitively. That means I will start out with a goal in mind but not much more than that. Most often there is a person for whom I want to make a quilt or who is in need of a quilt for warmth or comfort (generally both). That will help to determine the size the finished quilt will need to be and sometimes I can get color cues if I know the person's taste. For example, I just finished and shared this quilt for my father-in-law:


I did my best to incorporate his interests and color preferences. This one was not made from scraps but from a wide variety of prints. The quilts I make from scraps tend to look more like this:



In the beginning (around 1985) my motivation for making quilts was, I assume, much the same as many other quilters. I admired the traditional quilts of yesteryear and the make-do spirit in which many of them were created. Not that I had much personal experience with quilts growing up. All we ever had were store bought blankets until my folks purchased a lakefront cottage that came furnished. There were a couple of comforters in the bedrooms. Tied, not quilted, and made out of whole cloth instead of being pieced or appliqued. It was years later that I learned I had great grandmothers who pieced and quilted and that there were specimens of their work in the family. I have since become the curator of those heirlooms. :- )

One of the first big influences in my quilt making were sisters Roberta Horton and Mary Mashuta. Off the top of my head I don't remember which sister specialized in which type of work but one focused on the utility quilts of the past and the "imperfections" that made them so charming. The other promoted the idea of quilts as vehicles for art and expression. I've made my share of art quilts but at the moment I seem to be stuck on making utility quilts rather than show quilts. I believe I have Gwen Marston to thank for that. She has managed to show us quilt makers how to cross the line between art and function. Or better yet, how to combine art and function. I think that's what ultimately drives me, the desire to combine artistic impulses and function.

And so lately I've been cutting patches and strips from the leftovers of a quilt I just made and then piece simple traditional blocks from those scrap patches and use those blocks to create a quilt top that I will beg or pay someone else to quilt for me. Right now that's my process. This blog has always been the place where I share my textile processes, whatever form they may take. I do dabble in other forms of the needle arts, just not to the extent that I piece for quilts.

I have reached out to two creators whose work is very different from mine to carry on this blog hop. They are Maya of A Million Little Stitches, primarily an embroiderer who lives and stitches in India, and Cyra who lives a free form life and creates all sorts of textile art in New Zealand. Look for their blog posts next Monday, 22 September. Or go visit them now and see what they're up to! You won't regret it. :- )
















Friday, September 12, 2014

A Quilt Maker's Prerogative

Back in June I won the block of the month drawing at my local quilt guild. There were about 20 blocks. I made a couple more in the days after receiving the set, thinking I would make a couch quilt for myself. Well, time has passed and I've changed my mind.

The blocks are a version of the Seesaw pattern, 12 inches finished. Two of the original blocks were too small to use. The directions for the block offered both a paper pieced option and traditional piecing methods. I suspect a couple of the participants who used paper piecing had some difficulties. I don't blame them at all; my mind doesn't work that way either! I took one of those blocks apart, added a bit of fabric from my own stash, and created two 6" blocks for the Parts Department:

 
I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the other one that's too small. I may take it apart one day. For now it goes into the Parts Department.

So I played around with the rest of the blocks and as I was playing I remembered the effort to provide quilts for those who are receiving chemo treatments in our local hospital. I learned that it's often chilly in the room where the patients sometimes have to sit for hours. Radiation patients are also given quilts at the end of their treatment cycle as a sort of graduation present. These quilts need to be big enough to warm a body but not so big they are cumbersome or get in the way. My 20 Seesaw blocks set 4 x 5 would make a top 48" x 60," a perfect size for this purpose.


I purposefully kept the lightest blocks in the center and used the darker blocks around the perimeter.

Two blocks didn't make the cut. They just didn't seem to fit in.


Once I had the blocks arranged to my satisfaction it didn't take long to set the top. It was a bit startling actually, to be done so quickly! And I don't have to worry about coming up with batting or backing or even the binding. There are other dedicated quilt makers who will take up the project from this point. Woohoo!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What?!

How is it possible that it's been so long since my last post???! Technically I guess it's only been ten days but with the new calendar month it feels and sounds like longer. I can only plead poor mental and physical health as my excuse.

The Parts Department Quilt top is complete. It's also too big to get a good picture but I can show you this one, taken on the living room floor.


It turned out to be about 87" square. You can see in the lower right corner that I used the same sashing print that I framed the Lego center with to bring the 12" borders up to size. I also took the easy way out with the backing and bought a blue 108" wide paisley that was on sale.

In other news, I recently made this string quilt for my Dear Father-in-Law.


DFiL is an avid reader and historian. I began with the book print you see in the outer border and then searched out other prints that would reflect his interests. There are a few images that represent places he's lived or visited too. And filler text prints. I even threw in some Hebrew text for his love of the scriptures.

DFiL also enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles. My DS the quilter did a fantastic job giving the quilt the look of a completed jigsaw puzzle:


Dad was overwhelmed when the quilt was presented to him during our family reunion. That's such a good feeling for the maker!

I based Dad's quilt on this one I made for myself in 2012:


I even used some of the same prints in both quilts. My quilt was entered in the county fair this year and was awarded both a first place blue ribbon and the Best in Class rosette!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Little Helper

Well, here's how I filled that hole in the third side of the Parts Dept. quilt top:



And then it took me the better part of the week to create the fourth side:


Which doesn't sound so bad now but it sure felt like slow going during the week. Of course, the migraines don't help. I still haven't laid out all the blocks around the top to make sure I'm happy with their current placements but that day will come.

Because I haven't felt up to that task but because I had to stitch something I turned to a UFO. This one happened to be a doll. The pattern, some of the fabrics, and the inspiration came in a package from Alma Stoller early in 2010 as far as I an remember.

She's only a little stump doll (meaning she has no legs) about eight inches tall.


Longtime readers may remember the stamped swatch of muslin that crosses her chest:


That was in the package of goodies from Alma. I foundation pieced the scraps of fabric to create the front and back body panels. Her arms are stuffed with a bits of Warm & Natural batting. Then she was whammied by my magic beading needles. ;- )


Even on her back!

Her hair is a bit of fancy trim. I debated whether to leave her face without features, like the Amish do. In the end I used a couple of beads for eyes and a heart sequin for her mouth.


I'm especially pleased with the application of the 'dream' charm.

Since she is part self-portrait and part motivation angel I gave her scissors and something to work on.


All I have to do now is clear off some space near my main work station so she can be nearby to do her job!