Friday, June 29, 2007

Body & Spirit: Helpmates

I have just finished sewing the binding and the sleeve on my third journal quilt. Hooray! Technically I only had one day to spare to get this done by deadline. {whew!} Not that anyone would have done anything had I not finished it on time. I just need that deadline and the feeling of impending doom to get me going sometimes!

This one is very simply pieced as you can see. Just four fabrics. The story and meaning behind this quilt is all carried by the embellishments. If you recall, I was struggling with the nearly constant battle between my logical, analytical side and my creative, emotional side. Then I realized that they were meant to work in tandem, not separately. That's when I found the center panel in my stash. The male figure represents "Body," the logical, analytical side. The female figure, "Spirit," represents the creative, emotional side. Body also represents the physical nature of my being, the part that is controlled by time and will eventually die and decompose (the clock and the skeletal fish). Body wants to always be in control (the ship's wheel). Spirit, on the other hand, is eternal (the bird on her shoulder). She is also nurturing and creative (the flowers at her feet and the heart on her bodice). [You may have to click on the picture to get a larger image so you can see some of these elements. The fabrics are all pretty dark, as are a lot of the embellishments, and I'm not the world's greatest photographer yet.] I used the fabric with the squares on it - at Body's back - to further illustrate the logical, analytical aspect of that part of me. To balance that I have the spiral print on Spirit's side of the picture. At their feet is a print that I thought expressed the ethereal nature of the whole concept.

The clincher for this composition is the lock Body is offering to Spirit and the key she holds in her hand. He can do nothing without her input. It takes both of them, working together, to get the job done.

I took my cue for the flowers at Spirit's feet from the images that were already on the fabric. The colors too, that's why they are so dark. In fact, in order to comply with the guidelines I'd set for myself for this challenge, I had to work hard to find a way to include some of my favorite green in the piece. There's green in the print but it's not my favorite shade of green! I thought about just using a backing fabric featuring my green but that felt like cheating. I found this Fossil Fern in my stash that I really liked with the browns and olive green of the quilt. It's not exactly the lime green I love but it's as close as I could get away with. I think it holds the whole composition together in a vibrant way!

It was quite a struggle to come up with a way to "quilt" this piece. I started with the random straight stitches in the background around the two figures. Then I decided to put tiny beads in the centers of the spirals. I used triangle beads in the squares on the opposite side of the quilt. The bottom border was the worst. I fretted over that for days. Finally I bought some black delica beads and sprinkled them in and around the swirls. I didn't want to do anything that would compete with or cover up those lovely curves and colors.

Now I can move forward and start thinking about how to incorporate some of those sequins I bought (see previous post) in my next journal quilt!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sequins Anyone?

Saturday I did a little online shopping. Well, a lot of online shopping. First I looked for a new light fixture for our living room, then I shopped for clothes (yuck), then I did some browsing on fabric and bead sites. Fire Mountain Gems was having a $2 sale on selected items. Woohoo! I waded through all 28 pages, and toward the end came to entries for sequins. They were all 5mm cupped sequins in my choice of red, black, gold, silver, aqua, purple, and blue. Great! I love sequins, of all shapes and sizes and colors. In fact, I've been wanting to do a small piece, probably a journal quilt, covered in sequins. I figured these bags were the size you get in most retail establishments, maybe 3" x 4" or something like that. I ordered four bags (purple, aqua, blue, and silver) and a set of four charms, also a mere $2. I hesitated when I got to check out and saw what shipping was going to cost me but I reasoned that it would be worth it in the end.

In yesterday's mail I was surprised to find a box had been delivered. At first I thought it was the orphan top Finn is sending me. It was about the right size and weight for something like that. When I looked more closely at the return address label I saw that it was from Fire Mountain Gems. Well! A box of this size and this heavy just for a few bags of sequins and a couple of charms?

I sliced open the top to find a lovely piece of tissue paper with this sticker on it:

When I pulled off the tissue paper I found all of this! (and some packing paper)

These bags of sequins are about 4” x 7” and a good half of an inch thick. 230 grams each as it turns out. (Guess I have to learn to read the fine print! But then I would have had no idea what 230 grams of sequins would look like anyway.) Of course they also included an update to their catalog, which is the size of most magazines. And they sent me a free gift:

I'm not quite sure what it is but I can always take it apart and use the elements as embellishments in something someday! (The hangtag refers to it as "jewelry" but the cord is much too small to go around a wrist and doesn't seem to be adjustable. It could be a scissor or key fob I suppose.)

All in all I’m very happy with this purchase and certainly with the service. But if anyone needs any 5mm sequins in purple, aqua, silver or blue, just let me know because I have plenty to share!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thrift Shop Treasure

I want to thank everyone for the kind comments on my Orphan Train quilt. It's so nice to get positive feedback! The top is still pinned to our living room wall. Yesterday I cut and sewed and pressed the backing. Now it can go to Heather whenever she's ready for it or when I'm ready to give up the warmth and color in the living room, whichever comes first!

I have a feeling that the fog I've been in has been partly due to the concentration I put into creating the Orphan Train quilt. As Finn put it, I "hit the pavement running" with that project and didn't stop until it was done. While I do generally focus on one project at a time it is unusual for me to stay with one of that size with that intensity. I surprised myself with that one. So I am probably justified in needing some down time to recover. And I should know by now that it takes me a little while to shift gears. In this case, from piecing a twin size top back to hand embellishing my journal quilt.

To tide you over while I recover from my creative lull I have decided to share with you a recent acquisition. I really feel like I scored with this one. DS and I were in our favorite thrift shop, just cruising as I recall. Sometimes I check out the linens, sometimes I don't. This time I did and I couldn't believe my eyes! Here was this mostly white quilt with all these triangles, hand quilted, and a price tag of only $10. Ten dollars!! I quickly pulled it off the hanger to inspect it more closely. I could see no tears, no popped seams, nothing to indicate why it had such a low price. I called DS over to help me. We stretched the quilt out between us and checked both sides. There was some kind of brown stuff on the back side but it felt like it might wash out. And the name Helen Roll had been clearly printed in one corner on the back. No date, just the name. But no damage anywhere. I promptly rolled it up and carried it to the checkout counter.

The gal working the cash register was new to me; we visited a bit while she rang up my purchases (I think we picked up a couple of other small items on that trip as well). Then when she went to put the quilt into a bag for me she caught it with the tip of her ink pen. Of course it left a mark. Arrgh! She tried to assure me that it would wash out, blah blah blah. Well, I knew the quilt would have to go into the washing machine as soon as we got home anyway so I tried not to stress over it.

I put the quilt in the washing machine with just a little trepidation and my current favorite laundry soap by biokleen. I set the machine for a short agitation and a soak cycle. When the washer was done I popped the quilt into the dryer without even looking at it. If anything had gone wrong there was little I could do about it at that point. I had the surprise of my life when that quilt came out of the dryer. Not only was the ink gone but so was the brown stuff on the back and the whole quilt was brighter, whiter! All of the stitching was still intact as well. Finally I sat down with the quilt to have a good look at it.

An awful lot of the prints looked familiar to me. Not anything I specifically had in my stash, but of the era when I was stash-building. I'd bet money I could identify where some of those fabrics had come from in fact. The top appears to have been machine pieced by someone who knew what she was doing in that department. The hand quilting sort of threw me though. It's not of the same caliber that the piecing is. There seems to be a pattern in the big open spaces, but at first glance the quilting looks very random. There are lots of stitches, but they are not evenly spaced or even close together in some cases. I eventually concluded that perhaps the top had been pieced by a daughter (or younger woman) and hand quilted by her mother (or an older woman). My own MIL had created quilt tops for her mother to hand quilt in her last days just so her mother would have something to do. I strongly suspected this was a similar case. Then it occurred to me that the name on the back was probably for identification of ownership rather than the signature of the maker. There was no date after all, just the name, very clearly printed in large letters on the back. Could it have gone with the older woman into a nursing home?

A few days later I found a short obituary in our local paper for Helen Roll. Sure enough, the quilt had been hers and had been donated to the Humane Society's thrift shop at her death. Kind of sad that no-one in the family wanted it, but a real treasure for me. It's just the right size for snuggling under on the couch with a book or a movie on TV. The batting has lumped up in some places but that doesn't bother me. The quilt has history, some of which I figured out, but still has enough life left in it that I can use and enjoy it rather than merely conserving it. A happy ending all the way around!

Monday, June 25, 2007

In a Fog

DS and I went out this afternoon, mostly to get things for his current project(s). It's always a risk to go to the thrift shops but today I felt like taking that risk. We ended up only going into one, generally the safest one and our favorite, and I found a jigsaw puzzle and a couple of men's silk ties. There were several other temptations but I successfully resisted them. DS scored, apparently, on parts for whatever costume he's working on. (I know it's another Star Wars outfit but I can't keep 'em straight.) We went to a couple of other stores from there. Mostly I sat in the car and waited while he took care of business. I did find some fabric for the back of the Orphan Train quilt - hurray! - at Sewer's Dream Outlet. I have washed and dried it; now it needs to be pressed before I cut into two pieces and sew it back together to get the size and shape I need.

While the backing fabric was in the washing machine I took the two ties apart for laundering. When I get new-to-me ties home I remove any exterior labels, take out the interfacing and then throw them in the washing machine, in a lingerie bag, in cold water for a short cycle. I either let them air dry or iron them dry, and once they are dry I cut off the facing material at each end and any other tags that may have been sewn into the seams when the facings were put on. Sometimes I separate the individual pieces that were sewn together to create the length of the tie as well. Then they go into my color-coded bins for future use.

Today I had to take off my glasses and put my nose practically on one of the ties in order to see the stitches that had to be removed so I could get the interfacing out of the tie. That was a mistake. I now have a killer headache and can barely communicate verbally. Y'all are lucky I've been able to be this coherent! I have set myself a goal to post an entry every other day or so (with the exception of weekends) so I wanted to at least check in today.
The picture is one I took probably a month ago of the rose buds outside my studio window. (The picture was actually taken through the window because that was the best composition.) Those buds have since bloomed and gone, the bush is taller, and there are new buds and flowers. I love summer!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Orphan Train is Ready to Leave the Station

The last strips were put on this morning, the top trimmed to square, and then it was pinned to a wall to have its' picture taken:

It looks like we pulled it a little out of square when we pinned it. Oh well. It looks so good on that wall that I'm tempted to leave it there! What you can't see is that this is an unfinished wall. Has been for about four years. DH has the best of intentions but not the time nor the energy to go with it. (Don't tell him I told you this!)

I took a detail shot of the upper right side when I realized I had forgotten to do that yesterday. Let's see if I can get Blogger to let me add it in...

It's interesting to me that the big Star block looks rounded in the photo. (In both photos actually.) It stands out in person, but doesn't have the pronounced rounded-off effect. Once I had the top together and had a good look at it I sort of wished I had moved that Log Cabin block just under the star from the left side to the right side. When I was composing that bit I was focused on keeping the two halves of the block I had taken apart together to "border" the star, turning that corner as it were. By the time I could really see what I had done I wasn't about to take that out and do it over!

The top turned out to be larger than is necessary for the Quilts With Love project but I'm sure that will be okay. It's only four inches wider and barely two inches longer than their specifications. Now the challenge will be to find or create a backing for it. I doubt I have anything in my stash that will be big enough by itself; I just don't buy that kind of yardage until I need it for a quilt. I'm not sure I have the energy at this point to create a back so I may just go out and buy some of the extra wide fabric that's available these days. My friend Heather has agreed to quilt it on her long arm and Peggy Schafer at Sewer's Dream Outlet donated some batting a while back for charity quilts so I don't have to worry about that either. {whew!}

My design wall looks awfully white and barren now that this quilt top is done. DD liked what she saw of it when she blew through here the other day so I may very well use my bright orphans to make the next grandbaby quilt. I could throw some of them on the wall to lesen the starkness left behind by the departure of my Orphan Train. There's also the Fabric of Life top to put back up. I have to get back to my journal quilt too. Technically I need to get this one done within the week to stay on schedule. It's time to start casting around for ideas for the next one as well...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Last Call!

Just a quick update: I have a 1" x 28" strip to add to one side of my Orphan Train quilt top and it will be complete. It's too late now to get a decent picture of it (more like too cloudy; it wouldn't be all that dark if it weren't for the cloud cover {pout}) so I'm going to wait until tomorrow to put that strip on, photograph it, and show it to you. What I can see looks pretty good considering what I started with!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

There Are Still A Few Seats Left...

I have just completed the bottom right section of my Orphan Train quilt and thought I'd better take the time to take its' picture and show it to you, otherwise it may be another whole day (or more) before I make another post!

Not much to tell about this bit really. A couple of Bear's Paw blocks from a block-of-the-month drawing, an experimental heart, two different sizes of Broken Dishes blocks set in two different ways (can you find them?), a Friendship Star and a Basket or Cake Stand block. I may get brave and sew this section to its' counterpart (the bottom left) before I go on to construct the top right quadrant or I may wait until I have the righthand side of the top sewn up to see how it all looks before I make it 'permanent.' Don't leave the station just yet!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

All Aboard!

My Orphan Train is about half full at this point. I have been working steadily on it for the last three days. To the exclusion of all else in fact. Well, except for the quiet observance of our birthdays of course!

I really wanted to see whether I could make a quilt that I could donate to the Quilts With Love project. That meant that I had to make a 56" x 84" top out of my orphan blocks. The first thing I did was to separate them into two piles: one with bright colors and jazzy prints and the other with more subdued tones and prints. The larger pile was the one with the more muted colors so those are the blocks that I'm loading onto this particular Orphan Train.

As I said in an earlier post, my design wall is not big enough to accommodate a top of this size. So I figured I would try to compose this quilt in quadrants. It seemed logical to start in the upper left corner and that's what I did. First I put a few of the larger blocks on the wall and tried to fit smaller ones around them. Because I want a jumbled, random look for the finished quilt I really didn't want to work in rows, but that seems to be what's working the best. I can only hope that in the end it will have a less organized look than it currently does in my eyes.

It's a bit of a challenge to keep in mind that the colors and values need to be distributed fairly evenly across the surface of the quilt when I'm only working on one section at a time. There's also the matter of block size to consider. I don't want all the little blocks in one place, nor do I want all the large blocks in a discernible pattern. Mix and mingle children! Play fair!

At this point I have the left side of the quilt constructed, albeit in two parts. I am working now on the right side. This side is narrower,but just as long, so it will still have to be built in two sections (top and bottom). In the beginning I didn't have to do much more than add a few strips to make blocks fit together. As I approach the end, however, I'm having to deconstruct blocks to use their component parts as filler and sew up some of my leftover bits and pieces into "new" blocks. (They aren't really new since I'm using patches and scraps that were cut at the same time most of these blocks were made.) Overall I'm very pleased with the progress I've made and the way the quadrants are looking. A couple more days should tell the tale!

The first picture is the top left side of the quilt, the bottom picture is the bottom left side.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Maverick Quilts

For some reason I'm not sleeping. I'm usually very good at sleeping. Eight or nine hours every night, and there are normally dire consequences when I don't get that much. Granted, I seem to need less during the summer months when the light starts earlier and lasts longer but this is ridiculous. I've been awake since 3:30 a.m.!

While I was not sleeping it occurred to me that I should make you aware of some quilts I found via someone else's blog. When I think of whose blog it was I'll let you know. In the meantime, if you like the quilts of Gee's Bend you'll want to go have a look at these.

I'm going to go play in my orphan blocks... or something.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Orphans Revisited

Dh is late getting home so I have time for a quickie. Post, that is!

After my last entry I made the rounds of the blogs I read regularly and discovered that Finn at Pieces From My Scrapbag had made a couple of posts since my last visit (only yesterday!). She's been talking about orphan blocks and quilts and has posted some great pictures and issued a challenge to those inclined to pick up the gauntlet. Consequently I have opened my drawer of orphan blocks to see what could be done with them.

They are all neatly sorted according to size... except for the ones I've thrown in most recently of course ("recent" being anytime in the last year or so!). I went through a couple of the bags and quickly realized that I was going to have to divide them up in some other way. There are blocks I want to keep and work into one or more baby quilts (we have a second grandchild on the way - yippee!) and other blocks that technically aren't orphans yet because I still think I may make more of them and make that quilt someday. Then there's the fact that I have so many 12" orphan blocks that I could probably make a quilt out of them without any other blocks being thrown into the mix. But what fun would that be?

I want to divide my blocks into at least two groups. I know, I know, the ideal is to put together blocks that totally do not go together and make it work (because it always does somehow) but there are limits to my time and energy. My goal is to combine as many different sizes of blocks as I can and to play with the various options for making them fit together. My thinking is that I can use this opportunity as practice for assembling my friendship quilt (seen in a previous post). So you see, I have to divide my blocks up! The really bright ones can go into one quilt and the more subdued ones can go in another quilt. (Geez, did I just commit to making two quilts?! I hope there's no time frame for this project!) I'm going to try to make at least one quilt 56" x 84" so it can be donated to Quilts With Love, an organization that is working to get quilts to our active duty soldiers. We'll see. Like I've said before, I'm not doing big quilts these days. But there's always the exception to prove the rule!

Stitchin' and Rippin'

While I've been waiting for my goodies to arrive from Shipwreck Beads for my journal quilt I have been working on Colleen's Bead Round Robin block. I'm the third person to embellish it; there are two more participants before Colleen gets it back. I didn't think to establish a theme for the block I sent out. Colleen did, and I was delighted by it: things that would be found in a lady's boudoir or dressing room! I thought that was original and fun. Someone before me had put on a hand mirror charm and charms for sunglasses and a comb. I found a purse charm in my stash and put that on. While I was going through the S. Beads catalog the other day I discovered that there were tons of charms that would be appropriate for this block! It was hard not to buy a bunch of them! (Hopefully Colleen will read this and go check it out for herself if she wants more on her block.)

I did not think to take a 'before' picture of the block before I started beading on it. That's okay though, because today I took out everything I did on it yesterday. This was after writing in my journal this morning, "I am determined not to take it all out to do over again. There's doing quality work and then there's tyrannical perfectionism. Taking it out and doing it over would be bowing to Perfectionism." Well, guess who kowtowed. I just couldn't bear the color imbalance I had created. So I took off what I'd done and moved it over to the other side of that section of the block. (I'm going to maintain some illusion of secrecy by not being specific about the beads I'm talking about. It's unusual for me to reveal as much as I have. I'm sure there are those out there who will figure out exactly what I did!) At least the beading went more quickly the second time around!

So here's the before picture.

And here it is after I did my bit. I knew almost immediately that I wanted to do something with that dark patch with the lace on it at the bottom of the picture (the patch is actually a lavender in real life). I bought beads specifically for that seam. Did I end up using them? No. Oh well; they weren't that expensive and I'll undoubtedly use them somewhere else someday. As I finished up that seam treatment I realized I had unwittingly copied an element I'd seen on someone else's block I had worked on. That's good; I'm learning! One of the benefits of round robin projects like this is the opportunity to see how other artists think and work and maybe pick up pointers from them. (If you click on the picture you should get a larger image.)

My treasures arrived from Shipwreck Beads today while I was stitching on the last seam treatment on Colleen's block. The pictures of the beads and charms in the catalog are probably as close to life size as they can be expected to be but, in person, a couple of the things I'd bought on spec look too big for my journal quilt. I haven't played with it a lot yet so we'll see what happens in a day or two. Tomorrow is the day DH and I have set aside to celebrate our birthdays - which are a mere 5 days (and 5 years) apart. We're not sure yet what we'll do to celebrate but it's unlikely I'll get much stitching done. Typically our celebrations are pretty tame. A movie, maybe, and lunch out somewhere. Except that tomorrow is Saturday and the whole world will be out and about. That's dangerous for me anymore. So we'll see whether one of us can come up with some other, more creative, option! (Maybe he'll give me lessons in digital photography so I can get better, clearer pix and good detail shots!)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Friends and Orphans

Been surfin' the quilter's blogs and have been inspired by all the discussions around orphan blocks and orphan train quilts. What I'm about to show you has been hanging on this sheet in my studio for over a year I bet. It's the best photo I could get; my sewing and cutting tables are in the way and there's no way to get them out of the way! The wall I use for a design wall is not big enough to accomodate this sheet. It's rare for me to work on a bed-size project anymore.

These are friendship blocks I received from members of my local quilt guild a couple of years ago. Technically they are not orphan blocks (in my mind anyway) because they were requested and planned for a specific quilt. But I had always intended to put them together much the same way the orphan train quilts are going together. The problem is getting started! I've had internal debates about whether to frame up any or all of the blocks, whether to use one or more fabrics/prints around or between the blocks, what kinds of compensating units to make to go between blocks, etc. etc. etc. I'm really not any closer to knowing the answers to some of those questions but I do have a fabric picked out to use between any blocks I feel the need to separate. Unfortunately I didn't think to take a picture of it! It's white, with dots of various shades of pink scattered on it. The various shades of pink was essential as there are many different pinks in the blocks!
I certainly don't need to be working on this project right at this moment in time but I am getting tired of having that sheet hanging in front of the closet and having to squeeze around the open bi-fold doors to get out of the room. (I removed the ironing board that normally sits at the end of the table in order to get this shot.) I have a dim memory of those doors being closed when I first put the sheet up. Maybe I need to enlist some help to hold the sheet out of the way to get those closed again. At least the posts about orphan block quilts has stirred up some interest in working on it again! And then there's that whole drawer full of REAL orphan blocks...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cheap Therapy

It feels good to finally feel good. At least it did before I made the mistake of going shopping again. {sigh} But I needed some more beads (!) and other, less interesting, things. I do feel better now than I did when I first got home.

There has been no progress on the Fabric of Life challenge piece. Instead I have been working on the second version of my third journal quilt (he he). Once I had it pieced I seed stitched the background area around the two main figures. Then I spent quite a bit of time going through my beads and buttons and charms, looking for appropriate embellishments. I found some possibilities but wasn't completely happy with all of them (that would have been asking too much anyway!). This morning I went through the Shipwreck Beads catalog and made a list of things they have that I thought might work for me. Twentysix dollars (plus shipping) later and a few days from now we'll find out what works and what doesn't! Still not content, I went back out to my LBS. They are taking 20% off of all seed beads this month so in addition to looking for colors for my journal quilt I was sort of keeping my eye out for anything else I might want to use someday. ;- ) That was another $14.50. At least I'll be able to do some beading on the outside borders of my journal quilt while I wait for the goodies to arrive from Shipwreck! (By the way, if you're a beader and you're ever in the Olympia, Washington area you really ought to try to get to Shipwreck's warehouse/store. And plan on spending a lot of time there!)

Okay, for whatever reason, I wasn't able to share with you why I put aside my first attempt at my third journal quilt when I posted a few days ago. I think I can now. With pictures even.

I worked my way through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way a few years ago and at that time learned about the strengths and proclivities of the right side of the brain and the left side of the brain. It was easy to see that my left brain had been allowed, in fact had been encouraged, to be the more dominant of the two. Since then I've been working to counteract or damp down that dominance. The idea behind my third journal quilt was to portray the battle I feel takes place in my head everytime I start a new project (or want to stitch, for that matter). So I intuitively pieced, in lots of colors (but not the purples and greens that I showed in an earlier post), what would represent the right side of my brain (the creative, emotional - 'female' - side). For the left side (the logical, analytical - 'male' - and often overly judgemental side) I used black and white and precision piecing. Getting the look I wanted for the bit in the middle where the two sides meet took several attempts but I finally came up with something that I felt worked. (Basically two flying geese units turned on their sides.) As I said before, the composition was fine but it didn't feel "right" to me.

During the course of my paper-journaling over the next few days I discovered that it was the negative nature of the idea behind the journal quilt that was the problem. I was looking at the two sides of my being as adversaries. What I needed was to see them as companions, partners in crime as it were. My major goal for this series of journal quilts is to achieve a sense of healing that will hopefully have a positive impact on my physical body. Well, here was a prime opportunity to do some healing work. I was so pleased and proud of myself for recognizing it! And then I found the perfect piece of fabric in my stash...

It was a scrap someone had given me some years ago. I don't remember when, but I think I remember who. At any rate, there were two or three images of courting couples on the fabric. The one that ended up in the center of this journal quilt had already been fussy cut to size and really was the most appropriate of the available couples. By this time I was thinking of the left side of my brain as "Body," possessing male characteristics, and the right side of my brain as "Spirit," epitomizing the female characteristics. I plan to use buttons and charms to emphasize the qualities of each character and to show them coming together in co-operation. Beading in the border areas will help hold the layers together and function as quilting. And now I'm a happy camper!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Improvisational Quilts

Just a warning: this could get to be a lengthy post. (There are pictures at the bottom if you want to skip to the eye candy!)

I pieced my third journal quilt Thursday. I enjoyed the process, it came out pretty much as I intended, but I didn't have a clue as to how I would embellish it. Went to the bead shop(s) with my friend (we actually went to two), didn't buy as much as I thought I might (nothing for said journal quilt), didn't feel very well when I got home - naturally. The next morning my sweetie and I went to see the new Pirates movie. We'd been waiting - well, I had been waiting to see it until some of the crowds died down. He saw it while he was in Idaho. We went to the earliest show possible but the theater was still fairly crowded, and on the way out I passed some guy wearing something he probably thought enhanced his desireability. I gagged. Really didn't feel well after that. It took the rest of the day to recover but I did enjoy the movie. The first one is still my favorite of the three, and the second one would be my least favorite. Nevertheless, kudos to Disney for reawakening the lore and romance of piratology!

Back to the journal quilt. While I was unable to sew yesterday I was able to journal (in my spiral-bound notebook). During the course of my journaling I discovered/realized that the piece I had made on Thursday didn't feel "right" to me. I think it's sound compositionally and I will still try to finish it off someday. But for this particular project (series of journal quilts) it doesn't serve my stated purpose. It did not have the potential of taking me closer to my personal goals. So I'm putting it aside and will make a 'new' third journal quilt. I already have the focus fabric picked out. I'm just waiting for the energy to be creative again.

In the meantime, I have been to the Shelburne Museum web site to see whether there is a catalog available for their current exhibit, Something Pertaining to God: the Patchwork Art of Rosie Lee Tompkins. There doesn't appear to be a catalog, but there are half a dozen detail shots of her quilts on the site. Very inspiring to those of us who enjoy improvisationally pieced quilts!

So then I went to Eli Leon's web site (because he is the one who loaned the Rosie Lee Tompkins quilts to the Shelburne Museum). Eli Leon is the man probably most responsible for bringing African-American improvisationally pieced quilts to our attention. From his site you can go to photo album pages with pictures of quilts from many different quiltmakers. Click on the "More Quilts" badge (about half way down, right hand side) and that will take you to a page where there is displayed one of the most original Grandmother's Flower Garden quilts I've ever seen. It's at the bottom of the page on the right hand side. It was made by Minnie Lee Metcalf and she calls it Grandmother's Rose Garden. Love it!

And now, for your viewing pleasure (I hope!), let me introduce you to my Cattywampus Nine Patch, aka "Hiding From the Pup-arozzi". This was pieced improvisationally four years ago but only quilted and bound in the last six months. I kind of had an idea of how I wanted to quilt it; it took me that long to get brave enough to actually do it! I used a vine/leaf stitch that's on my Pfaff and a varigated polyester thread my sister gave me for my birthday a couple of years ago. I'd read that cats like to hide in foliage - not having one of my own I wouldn't know - and that's what finally pushed me over the edge to get the quilting done. The quilt is actually a trapezoid in shape, not a rectangle. It measures 11.5" across the top edge, 14.5" across the bottom edge, and is 21.5" long. I'm really quite pleased with it!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Adventures in Shopping

So this is how my life works: because I'm planning to go with my friend to a bead shop about 30 miles away on Friday I know I have to allow myself Thursday (today) to recover from anything I might choose to do on Wednesday (yesterday). And because I cannot get the Fabric of Life challenge out of my head - even though I'm feeling the pressure of the journal quilt deadline - yesterday (Wednesday) I decided to go to a different town nearby to see what I could find in the way of African prints. Before I even got to the quilt shops I ran into something toxic at the Post Office. It didn't smell like a perfume, but it was strong - too strong for me. I was surprised that I didn't feel worse than I did when I got to the first quilt shop but by the time I was done at the second store I was in a world of hurt. Fortunately this town is right on the coast and I was able to go to a park where Reilly and I could take a walk and have the ocean breeze blowing on us. I didn't think to note how long we were there; it was long enough that I felt better for the drive home (thank Goodness). After a good night's sleep I'm feeling pretty normal today. If I can just avoid doing something stupid or thoughtless today I should be okay for tomorrow!

This is the print I'm trying to work into the Fabric of Life piece. The one I only have a fat quarter of. What I want to do is make a border for the top and bottom of the quilt that incorporates this print. I was a little disappointed yesterday in that I didn't find the African prints I'd hoped to, but I did find a couple of batiks I think might work.
So now I have four fabrics to choose from to use in making the borders: from left to right, a blue and white I found in my stash (it looks like something someone gave me judging from the shapes of the pieces I have), a muddy orange I bought here in town on my first foray for additional fabrics, the mostly brown batik I bought yesterday, and another blue and white batik I bought yesterday. I was trying to duplicate - or imitate - an indigo blue with white dots in the first border I put on the quilt and to find something that would blend with the mask print. The muddy orange looked too bright; I hope the brown won't be too dark. I think the blue batik is actually going to work better than the leaf print. (The photo doesn't do either the brown or the blue batik justice.)

At this point I may be able to set this aside to begin work on my next journal quilt. Or not. I might have to get the rest of this top constructed before I'll be able to change my focus. Once I get started on something I tend to want to stay with it until it's completed to my satisfaction or I get stuck, whichever comes first. (If I don't get started on something soon it will be a moot point as there won't be enough time to get anything done!)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Journal Quilt v.s. Fabric of Life Challenge...

I seem to be having a hard time recovering from the weekend. I suspect I may have been exposed to something without realizing it. Yesterday the sum total of my accomplishments were one load of laundry and a brief trip to the store for essential food items. Well, I worked on a jigsaw puzzle too, and nearly finished it, but somehow that doesn't seem like an accomplishment per se. I could be doing another load of laundry even now but here I sit, reading others' blogs and trying to get inspired to do something productive...

I'm getting a little anxious about my next journal quilt. I've been ahead of schedule for the last two months. Now that there's a more "official" deadline (because I'm participating in the Bead Journal Project with my journal quilts) I seem to be falling behind! Well, not really, but that's how it feels to me at the moment. It's the fifth of June already! I only have 25 more days left!
I have pulled a palette of prints to use, and I have an idea of how I'm going to construct this quilt. One reason I don't already have something "in the works" is that I've come up with and discarded a few ideas that I decided would be too difficult to execute. The 8.5" x 11" format is a bit challenging. I want to show my concept of the difference between the way the right side and the left side of the brain function. You know, creative and emotional v.s. analytical and logical. A friend and I are trying to put together a trip to one of my favorite bead stores for later in the week. Knowing that that is coming up may be just the catalyst I need to get this journal quilt top made. (I may have to buy beads for it!) There's a new block coming to me in the mail for the Bead Round Robin too. (Another potential excuse to buy more beads!) I have a feeling that trip to the quilt shops in the next town for African prints may be postponed for a bit as I focus on this project instead. The Fabric of Life quilts are not due until October
after all. :- )

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Whew! I'm Whupped!

Helped my DD and DSIL move into their new home yesterday. I tried to refrain from doing too much (DH wasn't allowed to go at all because we knew he would hurt himself!), and I don't really feel like I did all that much, but I'm tired! It's a cute little split-level house. Had to go up or down that half flight of stairs way too many times. At one point I tried to just toss a bag of linens up the stairs and it only made it halfway! Came rolling right back down to me. {sigh} It's no fun being incompetant (or 30 years older than everyone else on the job!).

I had hoped to stop in at a quilt shop on my way home from the kids' new place because this particular shop carries more African print fabrics than those closer to my home. Unfortunately I stayed much longer than I expected to and the shop had been closed for a couple of hours before I got anywhere near it. Maybe I'll make a special trip out there tomorrow. I don't expect to find anymore of the stuff I already have but maybe I'll find something else I can use. I don't really want to make the quilt a lot bigger but I feel it needs something more to frame it or finish off what I already have.

So, since there's nothing new to show you let me share one of my old treasures with you. This is a quilt I found back when we were living in southeast Texas. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it and went back to visit it several times before I could even screw up the courage to ask about putting it on layaway. It wasn't that expensive because it isn't that great a quilt in most people's eyes, but it was more money than I felt I could afford to spend on anything I didn't need and would be afraid to use. At the time I had three toddlers to feed and clothe, no money of my own, and DH wasn't a Texas oil tycoon by any stretch of the imagination! Finally I asked, the nice lady said yes, and I put down a deposit. A couple of months later my sweet husband got it out of layaway and gave it to me for my birthday as a complete surprise. Honestly, it was one of the best birthday presents I've ever had.

I don't know who made the quilt or even where it might have come from. I think I asked the shop owner but she didn't have the provenance. It is stuffed with raw cotton. Well, not raw, it's been cleaned and carded, etc. but it's not a commercial batt. The quilting was done by hand. The stitches are even but not small. It was obviously used. A lot. It has been repaired more than once and actually needs to be repaired again (on the back this time; it's losing stuffing). I love it for its' wonkiness, for the happy conglomeration of prints from the 1950's, for its' honesty.

Friday, June 1, 2007

So, the last time I posted I did try to put up an image at the end of my post. I think it was a Blogger issue, not me, and hopefully my pictures will load today.

Hurray! Here it is! This is how far I have come with the Fabric of Life challenge quilt. The rectangles are bordered with the second fat quarter of fabric from the Here Je Center (an orange tone-on-tone stripe). The border is cut from another single fat quarter that I had in my stash. The two side borders were originally close to the same size as the top and bottom borders but had such a dramatic curve to their outer edges that I felt I had to do something about it. There's actually more tension or movement now that they are smaller too. They may get narrower yet; we'll see. I rather like the slope at the bottom edge but it may also be too steep for me to cope with. At this point I just need to find some more prints that I like with what I've got. I have one more fat quarter in my stash that I'd really like to use but I have to be sure of what I'm going to do with it before I cut into it because that fat quarter is all I've got. There's no room for mistakes or miscuts or for changing my mind midstream! So I have been making experimental pieces in other fabrics and trying them out. I'm close to finding the look I want but not quite there yet...

In the meantime, I have put the binding on the commissioned dorm quilt. It will be picked up this afternoon if all goes well. It's a very lovely quilt, due mostly to the efforts of Heather at Quilted Designs who did the machine quilting. The intended recipient apparently has very minimalist taste. The piecing consists solely of five strips of fabric sewn together in two alternating colors: black-green-black-green-black. I hope she likes it!

We had a rather chaotic day here yesterday what with DS#2 coming and going and DD and DGD coming over to spend the afternoon. Also had to take the dog to the groomer. Just walking into the grooming salon gave me a headache for the rest of the day. Then when DGD dragged me out into the yard to watch her run the circuit she had created for herself I apparently was exposed to some other invisible toxins. (I didn't think to put my mask on. Someday I'll learn!) I had to lay down when we came in and then I also had to send my children out to pick up the dog from the groomer's. {sigh} Aside from the slight headache leftover from yesterday's exposures I feel much better today. Unfortunately, DD#2 ate some bad food yesterday and is now on the couch trying to recover from an extended bout of vomiting. What a way to spend his vacation!