Friday, July 30, 2010

Creativity Challenge: "Dream"

The Creativity challenge for the month of July is "Dream." That meant endless possibilities! It's been in the back of my mind all month. For a while I thought I would simply finish a preemie quilt I've had hanging in the closet for way too long. You know, sweet dreams for a newborn and all that. But then I got to thinking about what to do for the Bead Journal Project for July. (I have April's ornament done but have not shown it yet. May's is under construction. I have an idea for June but am not sure how I want to execute it.) I've also been thinking about doing something with a steampunk flavor to it. Then the other day it suddenly occurred to me that I could try to pull it all together into one project.

I used my 15 minutes of piecing to produce the bottom half of my ornament:

This is what my work surface looked like at the end of the process:

I found a shimmery white polyester in my stash to use for the upper half of the ornament. Right after the challenge was announced I had purchased a pair of wing charms, specifically because they are printed with the word 'dream.' Then I had to find something to attach them to... ah! I've had this figure in my charm stash for a long time. This will be a great place to use it!

I also bought a packet of watch parts when I bought the wings. (I told you I wanted to do something steampunk!) Dumped them out, filed off sharp points, found sequins and other things to use with them and was well on my way.

That hard line between the top and bottom halves of the diamond bothered me. I went to the store to look for a ribbon I could couch down and brought home two possibilities (and a huge headache). By themselves neither one really gave me the look I wanted. But I wondered whether a cotton ball might not give me the cloud-like impression I was after. I pulled one apart and used the tiniest shreds of it under the sheer white ribbon. Iridescent seed beads tack the ribbon down in a zigzag over the cotton. Success!

So here's the final product:

I'm very happy with it. (Since the picture was taken I've trimmed off some of those ravelling threads.) To me the clockwork bits at the bottom represent the analytical aspect of my mind and the fairy is there to remind me to take time to dream, whether it be in daylight or while I'm sleeping. And I've fulfilled two challenges in one project! :- )

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back in Action

It has cooled down somewhat, making it more comfortable to use the sewing machine and the iron to piece blocks. And I think I've climbed out of the pit I'd fallen into. I'm happy it wasn't deeper. It's even possible that I've learned something in the process.

I believe that pit was dug in part by my over thinking the blocks for my friend's quilt. I wanted so badly for them to be something she would like that I lost my own vision. Since she's my friend, and has been for several years, it's very likely she will appreciate whatever I make for her and would rather have something authentic than something forced for the sake of artistry. To that end I made up a couple of liberated stars for her quilt:

There will be more of these. :- )

This morning I had to go to our Food Co-op to get some groceries. Most of the year they also have plants for sale, herbs and flowers and vegetables, on display between the parking lot and the main entrance. Our yard is in a state of flux for the time being so I've been resisting the urge to buy the beauties I'd like to have in my garden. Today I was fortunate to have my camera with me because there was a begonia that nearly caused me to crash into another vehicle in the parking lot.

Look at that bloom!

What a perfect blending of some of my favorite colors! I was told the name of this variety but of course I've forgotten it already. I'm confident Nancy at the Food Co-op can figure it out and find another one for me when I'm finally ready for it. Man that's gorgeous! (pardon me while I wipe the drool off my key board...)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Layin' Low

Well, a little bit of sewing has taken place over the last several days. It's been pretty warm for this part of the world, too hot to have the iron on since we don't have air conditioning. The few blocks I've made have been with the quilt for my friend in mind.

These do not use the batik I bought specifically for the quilt... that may come later. It may be a better color or value but will probably be just as busy visually. Not sure that's the look I want.

I like the bottom two blocks in the picture above the best. I think I'm going to move on to another block pattern in other colors/prints. It may be a day or two before I get to it though.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stumbling Blocks

An integral part of any process are the stumbling blocks, distractions, interruptions, wrong turns and setbacks. They seem to be unavoidable a lot of the time. As artists, crafters, creators I think we are better off if we can just accept that there will be impediments to our progress and soldier on. I say all this because I am in the midst of that very experience.

Not that it's awful this time around. I know it will pass, and I've made some little progress in spite of it. But the fact is that my head is killing me as the result of a whiff (well, more than a mere whiff) of raw asphalt or roofing tar or something like that and my son is using me as a sounding board for his creative projects to an extant that doesn't leave me time for my own thoughts.

I am proud of my boy, my youngest son, who is deeply involved in the creation of costumes of Roman armor for the Shakespeare play "Antony & Cleopatra" in which he is also performing next month. He has made everything from sandals to faux swords to faux leather armor to actual chain maille (for four bodies!). And that's just for this one play. He's been in various productions of Shakespeare plays for several years now and has always made his own costume. But he's the sort who needs someone to bounce ideas and difficulties off of and I just happen to be the most convenient this time around. I'm happy to do what I can but my knowledge is limited when it comes to woodworking and metal!

The upshot of all this is that I don't feel I've had two moments together to think about my panel for my friend's quilt. I am leaning away from using the batik panel however. I think I want something less directional, a design that won't have an upside down aspect to it. And I am leaning back toward the more traditional quilt block patterns. If I could just focus long enough to choose a pair of colors for some experimental blocks I would be happier.

And if I could sew up a couple of experimental blocks I would consider it a real victory. (The blocks you've been seeing in this post are the liberated log cabins I've been making in my 15 minutes of play.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Peek Into My Process

It's been at least two days now that the batik panel has been on my design wall.

I wanted to get "Chicken Soup" done and out of the way before I put my full attention on the quilt panel for my friend with cancer. My fear is that I may have fallen into that pit that lies between projects, the one that keeps me from progressing and gets deeper and darker with each passing day.

There has been some discussion amongst the three of us making this quilt about the orientation of the designs within each panel. Finally I think we've decided that rather than keeping it strictly vertical or horizontal we'll try for multi-directional designs. Meanwhile, I have this batik picture that is very definitely directional. I could certainly work it into a multi-directional design but it has been the source of second and third thoughts about what to do for my panel of this quilt.

Then there's the actual construction process to be considered. What kind of piecing do I want to do? Would one style be more appropriate than another (precision vs.liberated)? What is my approach going to be? I want the final product to be happy and encouraging and comforting but I also want it to be aesthetically pleasing to this artistically astute woman.

I have never been one to follow a pattern. I use books for inspiration and maybe to pick up a new trick or technique. Nor am I inclined to make the same block over and over again, unless I can use a wide variety of colors and prints so no two blocks are the same. So how do I make a bunch of blocks and keep my panel of the quilt cohesive? Making blocks and then figuring out how to set them together seems to be the way I work. At least that's the way I've been working lately. Do I want to try a different approach? Given the time contstraints that may not be a good idea.

I know I work better when I can create a story to go along with whatever I'm making. No one else need ever know exactly what that story was or is, it's just a tool I use to help my creative process. That's why I was drawn to this batik picture in the first place. It hints at a possible story. Finding other fabrics in my stash that work with it may further the potential story line. I know I want my panel to be more than just this focal point and a bunch of blocks.

I probably need to just go play in my fabrics. Start pulling prints and colors and see what falls together. The browns I originally pulled apparently aren't doing it for me - yet. They may eventually, they may not. I may push this to the blue in the upper half of the batik panel and ignore the browns altogether.

Okay, what appears orange in this picture is really more of a rusty brown.

There is the distinct possibility that this batik may not even make it into the final version of my panel. Hoo boy. {deep breath} Maybe I'll go sew some scraps together to grease the wheels. One thing's for sure, I need to get off this computer before any more time slips by!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Soup's On!

Here's the flimsy I christened "Chicken Soup"

I straight-line quilted it along the diagonal. That turned out not to be quite as straightforward as I thought it would be. Because some of the blocks are twisted and turned I wasn't always stitching through the center of the blocks. And at the end I discovered I had to put in a few compensating rows of stitching. Oh well, live and learn.

I've had this madras plaid type fabric in my stash for what seems like forever. I love it but could never find the right place/way to use it, partly because it's a lighter weight than almost all my other cottons. Well, the back of a quilt for an adult seemed appropriate.

I used a bit of that Alexander Henry print that was laying around to fill in the gaps at the bottom and then bound it with a print that has been around too long. It is now signed and ready to be shipped off to its' new home. That makes four decent sized quilts in four months for me. A new personal record!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hunting and Gathering

So as I was approaching the completion of my latest flimsy ("Chicken Soup," to be revealed in full at a later date) I started wondering what project I would tackle next. I have promised my husband a new quilt and have been collecting fabric for it but still am not sure what direction to take.

Then I found out that a friend has been diagnosed with a cancer. One of the group I get together with every other month or so actually. That took my breath away. Then the next day it occurred to me that she might be comforted by a quilt during her chemo treatments, etc. So I called my other two buddies and we formulated a plan.

Each of us will make a vertical panel 18 inches wide by 72 inches long. We'll work in our own style, to our own design, and then sash those three panels together into a single quilt top. My next step was to figure out what to do in my section of the quilt. I thought about D~ and the things I know about her... and finally made the decision to at least work in her favorite colors. There were lots of other little decisions that led to that decision. For example, D~ appreciates traditional quilts but is not particularly fond of really scrappy versions like the ones I've been making lately. Based on that I decided to work in batiks instead of "quilterly" prints. I do, however, want this panel to speak of me so I will use construciton methods I enjoy.

I went to my LQS to see what I could find in her colors in batiks. This is what I came home with:

The lime green is not necessarily D~'s color but it's a favorite of mine and I thought it would be a great accent. The purple on the bottom looked more red in the store. It was to be my main fabric. When it came out of the wash looking more blue than red I had second thoughts about using it. My impression of D~'s favorite color is as a red-violet. What to do, what to do?

Eventually I remembered this batik panel I'd bought years ago with the intention of making an art quilt out of it, a wall quilt.

Wow, that's a really poor photograph. Well anyway, I think it suits D~ perfectly. So now I have a starting point. Not really what I think of as her colors, but maybe I can work them in later on. In the meantime I have pulled these from my stash to begin making blocks.

My plan at this point is to stack and slice and shuffle to make units or blocks that I will then play with until something falls into place. We have given ourselves two months to complete this quilt so I can't afford to dither about trying a bunch of different things. I will build this panel intuitively, feeling my way along. Inbetween I'm going to keep nibbling away at my scraps, using them as leaders and enders and eventually building them up into six inch blocks for future use. I haven't been online much lately but yesterday I stumbled across Victoria's new blog and have signed up to play along. Committing to someone else that I will do something has far more power than merely setting a goal for myself.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Quilts

As promised, here are full view pictures of the quilts I've finished recently:

My scrappy Trip Around the World quilt ~ 66 x 78"

I like it much better now that it's done and I haven't looked at it in a while. I couldn't even find the wobblyest quilting yesterday afternoon! (I didn't really look that hard.) I want to call this one "Souvenirs" because it's all bits and pieces from my first 20 years or so of quilting. In the family it will probably just be called The Scrap Quilt, and it's unlikely that anyone outside the family will be seeing it much anyway.

This is the first one I made for the Quilt Gather. I'm calling it "Live, Laugh, Dream" ~ 60 x 84"

And the second quilt for the Gather, "Love Makes a House a Home" ~ 60 x 74"

I got a full shot of the "Chicken Soup" flimsy too but I'll save that for another time.

We had a lovely afternoon in the sun and the shade. It was delicious to be able to sit outside and breathe untainted air for a couple of hours. Maybe that will break the streak of exposures for the time being. (Fingers crossed!)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chicken Soup

It's being one of those weeks where I can't seem to escape exposures and therefore am not functioning as well as I'd like. Oh well.

I don't have a full picture yet but "Love Makes a House a Home" is quilted and bound and ready to go. It occurred to me after I'd trimmed it for binding that if I'd only added another 3" border at the top and bottom it would have been a full 60 x 80" quilt (did I tell you that already?). I guess the blue strips just stopped the design so completely for me that I didn't consider any further possibilities. I do tend to get rather caught up in the moment. Guess I was just so excited to see it completed that I didn't stop to think.

In the meantime I have been framing up my 9" scrap blocks like this:

Just one 3" strip on across the top and down the right side of every block. I thought it would be fun to play with a chevron Log Cabin type setting. Some blocks were directional, most were not. I didn't realize what problems that would pose for someone as anal retentive as I am (they all have to be facing the same direction!).

To be honest, I didn't play around with setting options very much. I pretty much knew I wanted to set them like this, which required turning some of them on their heads. I tried to use only the multi-directional blocks in those spots.

This one will be a 60x 80" quilt. I learned my lesson from that last quilt! (For the time being anyway.) I've already put on top and bottom border strips so I can add it to my pile for Show and Tell this afternoon. I'll show you the finished product in another post (hopefully the next one). I'm meeting with a couple of friends later today and want to use that opportunity to get good pictures of all these quilts.

Once that's done the two on the bottom can head to New York for the Quilt Gather. The fattest layer of the pile is my scrappy Trip Around the World quilt, and on top is the flimsy I just finished. Its' eventual destination is California. I'm thinking it's going to be called "Chicken Soup" because of all the odd blocks floating around in the chicken print. Or I suppose "Chicken & Stars" would work. 'Chicken Soup' just has that "Momma will make it all better" feel to it. :- )

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back from the Catacombs

I've been in the catacombs beneath The City of Dreaming Books (and slightly under the weather) since my last post. It was an easy book to put down and pick up at will until the last third or so. It never really became a page-turner, for me at least, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read nevertheless. No doubt I will be reading more of Walter Moers' work in the future.

I believe I mentioned that I'd been making blocks for a new quilt. Here are some of those blocks:

I've got 30+ in total but only plan to use 30 in the new quilt.

They're 9 inch blocks. They are going to be framed up to 12 inches and then set 5 x 6.

There were a couple of other little distractions late last week:

Everything else comes to a halt when the babies come over to play!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fan in One Hand, Needle in the Other

So what do you do on nearly the hottest day of the year? If you're me you put a binding on a new quilt.

Our temperatures have been unusually low, even for the Pacific Northwest, throughout June and into July. The tradition around here is that summer doesn't really start until July 5. That sure held true this year. We were in the 60's on the Fourth, I kid you not. It was overcast in a lot of areas too. On the fifth it began to look more like summer at least. Yesterday we broke heat records and today is forecast to be almost as bad.

I heeded the warnings and did my piecing while the weather was still on the cooler side, which left me with a quilt to quilt and another to bind and a third I could layer and baste and then quilt if I were so inclined. (There's no ironing involved in those processes!) But then my neck and shoulders started complaining so I eased up a bit. Yesterday my body was feeling more supple again so I took the plunge and put the binding on my scrappy Trip Around the World quilt.

I've wanted to do a scrappy binding ever since I read about them on Finn's old blog. This was a perfect opportunity. I found some of the longer leftover binding pieces in darker tones and pieced them all together:

Then yesterday morning I machine sewed the binding to the quilt and in the evening I sewed it down by hand. I made sure to give my neck and shoulders a rest and a stretch frequently.

I don't have an overall shot of this quilt yet. I only eyeballed the machine quilting, and since I quilted through the liberated log cabin blocks there wasn't a definite midpoint to shoot for very often. Some of those lines are pretty liberated themselves! I figure once it's laundered those wobbly lines will be less noticeable. I'm trying really hard to avoid perfectionism with this quilt. Not going back to fix those curving lines that are supposed to be straight is almost more than I can bear!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Love Makes a House a Home, Part 4

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Independence Day. I had great fun on the Fourth making blocks for a new quilt. Then yesterday I paid for that fun with a stiff neck that shot searing pain into my skull whenever I moved the wrong way. Apparently I still have not learned that I am not invincible.

Let's see, where were we with the second quilt for the Quit Gather? I believe we have the 24" high row, two 12" high rows, and the two 6" high Bow Tie rows. So that's the top then! All we need are some sashing strips to tie it all together.

I got so inolved in this process that I forgot to take pictures. Suffice to say it took me the better part of a day and many, many fabric auditions to finally settle on the blue print that ended up between the rows.

I had just enough left over for a 3 inch border across the top and bottom:

(You have to visually piece these two pictures together right here.)

I put together a quilt back on Friday and then pin basted the quilt sandwich on Saturday. Not wanting to repeat the lower back injury of the previous weekend when I basted the first quilt and then quilted it the same day, I put off the quilting. So instead I spent too much time piecing and ended up with a neck/shoulder injury! Aren't I the clever one? ;- )

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Should Be Asleep

...But for whatever reason I can't seem to get there. So I'm going to share a few things that have been on my mind.

First of all, you may come to visit one day and discover that I've changed the look of the blog. Don't be alarmed. Blogger has some new templates available and they claim switching over will be a piece of cake. I notice others have done it successfully. It just might be time to freshen up the Nest.

Susan, who Plays With Needles, recently showed us what she has lined up for summer reading and asked us what we plan to read this summer. I happen to have a new stack next to my bed as the result of an online book buying binge (some of it bought with a birthday gift certificate):

Well, a couple of those are books I've had for a while. And a couple of them I've already read, at least once. I just finished A Cast Off Coven (which is brand new), and before that Magic Bleeds (also new). I read Clockwork Heart for the second time while I was waiting for Magic and Coven to arrive. I enjoyed it the first time through but there were a couple of things that bothered me in the beginning of the book. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was though. I must have gotten over it because I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book the second time through.

The other one I've read before is Linnets and Valerians. Technically it's a children's story but the writing is so clear and beautiful it's a joy to read. The author, Elizabeth Goudge, takes you right into rural England early in the last century.

I've read Pride and Prejudice but none of Jane Austen's other books so when I saw Mansfield Park on sale I picked it up. I've never read Thoreau either. I'm looking forward to that.

I've only dipped into The City of Dreaming Books but it looks like it's going to be fun. Already I wish I'd sprung for a hardcover version. It could be something I'd like to share with grandchildren someday.

Two of the books in this stack are non-fiction. I've been reading Up Close off and on since I picked it up in the thrift shop.* It's a memoir written by the man who was one of the people instrumental in creating what is now the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. I'm finding it pretty interesting, especially since those efforts took place before I was even born.

*Buying books from the thrift shop - or any second-hand source - is always risky. I've had to re-donate books that were too heavily perfumed for me to read. I can't read books from our public library anymore either, not after they've been handled by folks using hand sanitizers or certain lotions (I wish I knew which ones).

Finally there's The Other End of the Leash, written by a woman who not only holds at least one scientific degree but has years of dog training experience and expertise. I don't know that my dogs will benefit from this book but it can't hurt! I'm sure I will find it enlightening.

I am so grateful that even though I can't enjoy picture books anymore I can still read books of text. It's trite but true: books take you places in a way that television, movies, and even the internet can't match. Maybe I need to let one of them take me to the land of Nod...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Love Makes a House a Home, Part 3

At this point in the process I had two rows of scrappy six inch Bow Tie blocks, the 24" panel, and one row that's 12" high. I wanted another 12" row to balance everything out. I started with the liberated star you see on the left in the picture below. This was another of the blocks I'd made for Sunflower's quilt that didn't make it into the final version of the quilt. My friend C~ gave me some blocks she'd received in an internet exchange, one of them being the paper pieced house in the middle of the row. I had to frame it up to 12" but that wasn't a big deal.

I made the six inch Pinwheel blocks out of triangles I'd cut from scraps awhile back. I thought they were going into the row I showed in the last post but they didn't fit in. So I started with them and with the liberated star block and worked from there. I made the dark star on the right end specifically to get the width I needed for the row. A few more of my scrappy blocks, some rearranging, and this is how the row turned out:

Actually, you know what? I took out the black pinwheel on the bottom left and replaced it with a butterfly block after I took this picture. You'll see it in the end. Meanwhile, here's a close-up of that fun house block (sorry it's a little blurry):

And this was one of my first house blocks ever:

The preponderance of house blocks in this top is what inspired the name for the quilt. Bet you hadn't already figured that out!
;- )

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Love Makes a House a Home, Part 2

I've actually made quite a bit of progress on the second quilt for the Quilt Gather. I already have a name for it too: "Love Makes a House a Home." As it turns out, there are several house blocks in this quilt. Let me show you what I've been doing.

I'm thinking of this as a row-by-row quilt. That first row I showed you (in this post) was made entirely of orphan blocks. It will run across the middle of the quilt. I began the next row by cutting up some of the fabric leftover from the back of the first quilt for the Quilt Gather into six inch squares.

My plan was to alternate them with the six inch blocks I was making a few months ago out of scraps. There aren't that many left at this point!

To get the necessary width I tacked on a couple of liberated stars. The one on the left was a reject from Sunflower's Big Girl quilt. I made the one at the right end to balance out the row.

The next day I started to put together another row similar to this one. It ended up reading very "light" compared to this row. By the end of the day I had taken this row apart and replaced the pink alternate squares with a lighter version, also cut from the trimmings of a quilt back.

Oh, here you get a sneak peek at the fabric that made the cut for sashing. That was a whole day's effort in itself! At this point you probably won't be able to get a better look by clicking on the photos. I've had to add pictures and delete pictures since I did my first upload. Rest assured that I will be showing you the whole enchilada in the next post or two.

Birthday Cake

I accepted A Creative Dreamer's Creativity Invitation. The prompt for the month of June was "Let them eat cake!" June happens to be my birthday month so I wrote this little bit of prose in honor of my birthday this year:

Birthday Cake

This year

my birthday cake

was made of

solid rock cliffs

frosted with sun warmed grass,

sprinkled with dainty flowers

and crowned with pine tree candles.

Pieces of cake,

giant dark boulders,

walked into the sea.

Ocean waves murmured birthday wishes

and threw frothy party favors in my lap.

Gulls danced and sang the birthday song.

This was the most delicious cake

I’ve ever had on a birthday!

I thought it would be a good challenge to myself to try a bit of creative writing in place of a stitched something. We'll see whether that's how I approach the Creativity challenges every month or whether I do something different each month.

There has been more progress on the second quilt for the Quilt Gather. I'll show it in another post.