Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Yesterday I was feeling really "off."  Irritated by everything, couldn't focus on anything.  I just couldn't get into the ribbons, didn't like what I had going, but didn't know what I wanted instead.
Here's what's on the wall right now.  Total mish-mash.  
So I turned to a left brain activity that required no creativity.  Paper Piecing!
In some ways this is a violation of my resolution to "focus on art quilts" but I had committed in a weak moment to make this block for the guild's raffle basket.  It's late, so I probably won't get credit for it, but I can still throw it in the basket. And I justified it to myself as skill and experience building.  If I ever want to piece something very precisely now I will know how.
I refreshed my memory with a video I'd watched once before.  The actual paper piecing part went really well.  I "get it" and like it but the adding of the extra pieces that are supposed to match up with the paper pieced block did NOT go well.  I unsewed the dang thing five times before getting it right, or close enough to right. Anyway, here's a brief photo essay of the process.

This is one page of the pattern I received. The other page was just the edge strips and I didn't use the paper for those. Now that I understand how, I could have, but it didn't seem to make sense for three straight pieces.

Didn't take process photos last night but getting those five straight pieces on there was easy.
Sort of another variant of the "skinny lines" process, that really is just the same as leaving extra seam allowance to make skinny pieces easy to handle.

Didn't have any trouble getting the corners on. 

All ironed and cut to size.  So far so good!
(Except I should have run the calligraphy fabric the other way!)

Tearing off the paper is a bit of a pain, and even though I tried to be very careful some of the seams were pulled apart at the edges.  Would it be better to remove before trimming?  But then I wouldn't have the cut lines...   

This is where I really struggled.  I need to work on my 1/4" seam allowances, I guess.
It looks crooked in the photo, but really, it's not. Really.

Had to run to work before getting the last piece on.  Trying to position it with pins thru the seam...

 I now understand that paper piecing is WAY easier for small, complex blocks, than measuring and cutting all those tidbits, if the block is suited to the process.  Maybe I'll check into those Dear Jane blocks that I was so intimidated by.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Over the Procrastination Hump

I'd been coming up with any number of excuses not to start quilting anything, but the truth was I have not done any free motion quilting for over a year, and I knew I would be back to square one. But I convinced myself to "just do it," this afternoon, and spent an hour or so practicing. I watched a couple Leah Day videos and pulled out a couple books to guide me, but mostly just played with different techniques, trying to re-familiarize myself with the feel of it.

The table height which felt just fine for piecing is way too high for quilting, so I decided to try a counter stool.  I had decided to try using the On/Off button instead of the foot pedal to control the machine, so it worked okay.  I'm wondering what the pros and cons of this technique are. The button takes the machine up to whatever speed you set and then stays there, eliminating one variable.  The only control you have over your stitch length is how fast you move the fabric. There are automatically a couple in place stitches when you stop moving fabric and reach for the button.

I think in the end I will go back to the foot pedal, but for now this seems to be a good way to start.  

Stripping Away

I meant that as in "plugging away" at something.  But I guess it could mean removing unnecessary layers too, couldn't it??  Here are some photos of strips that I made earlier this week.
That lime/chartreuse would take over if I put it into the piece, wouldn't it?
 I'm going to try to confine this project to a "ribbon" quilt so as not to get to deep into thinking and calculating and arranging.  But I see so many possibilities it's hard not to digress down a dozen different paths.  I need to work on not trying to be too "matchy matchy" both in color palettes and in geometry.  The A-B-A of the previous neutral strips was not working because it looked like it was trying to be precise on something that was not cut or planned to be precise.  I think by moving the left strip up I still get the figure/ground I was looking for, but with more randomness.  I need to think more about value - this is looking too dark, and the light pieces get lost.
I wonder if this "unit" of three wide strips is going to be too heavy handed? Will it force me into making more big "matchy" units to compensate?  But I don't WANT to give up this figure.  We'll see.  The green/black/green is going though.  I'm going to cut it into strips and piece it back together vertically.
This and maybe one more piece will use the majority of the made fabric from the workshop, so it's time to make more.   I've given myself permission to spend around $200 on Kona solids - that will buy me 30 yards, yowza!  Pink Chalk Fabrics, look out!  Plus I have a $100 GC from my Rotary buddies at Fourth Corner.  I don't know yet what I'll buy there, they don't have a huge selection of solids.  I need to make bags for my gift exchange friends, maybe I'll get some fun modern prints for those.  4C is doing a tote bag workshop to help people cope with the plastic bag ban that goes into effect in Bellingham on August 1.  Maybe I'll do that, too.  
I'm also thinking it might be time to cut into some of the beautiful hand dyed pieces I have bought before they become too precious.  I saw these spectacular pieces by Heide Stoll-Weber (on line) yesterday.  So simple, and so, so very beautiful.  Must learn to dye!
Oh, and as a snarky little aside... Why would someone (not Heide, another blog I stumbled onto) put a "follow me on Pinterest" button on their blog when they only have three pins??  Have I mentioned that I have close to 9,000 pins, and over 1,000 followers?  Well, maybe I should be sewing instead of pinning like the above-mentioned person probably is!! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mojo's Back

Since finishing the Filmstrips top I'd been feeling sort of aimless, nothing down in the studio calling my name, but after playing a bit more with the neutral strips, I'm totally pyched again.  Reading the blog of another quilter working on this same track motivated me even more.  Not in a competitive way (though I certainly can be competitive) but more in a "I'm not crazy, or if I am I'm not crazy alone sort of way).  I snuck (sneaked?) home at lunch again... here's an update on what was done.  I've got to learn to take pictures!

While I was sewing it last night I was SO convinced the green/black/green divider was the right thing.  Now, not so much. Visual decisions should be made visually!

Here are the navy and maroon "units" I made.  I am starting to HATE this chartreuse green, but it was in the original made fabric from the workshop so I added a little more to make it more intentional, but I don't know what to do next.   I have SO much to learn about color, and color "schemes" as architects would call them.  Art is different.  But I still don't like conservative dark serious colors peppered with neon.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weeks' Worth of Work

Finding time to make art has been hard, though I've managed to spend quite a bit of time thinking about art, reading about art, looking at books and pictures of art and combing the bookstore - which has thousands and thousands of books - trying to find one that will answer my questions.

A couple days ago I remembered a freshman architecture assignment called "the four and nine square grids.". It has amused me that this organizing device, sold to us as such a sophisticated concept, was really the same one used by generations of women called quilters, not artists. It was considered a device of torture for us at the time, assigned on Friday, due Monday consisting of thousands of tiny squares inked on Mylar. 34 years later, I think it would make a fascinating, though still tedious art quilt. Amazingly I was able to put my finger on the Mylars at once, and look them over.  I can't remember quite how they were generated, but it is fascinating.

Neutral strips
Beyond thinking, I did actually get down to the studio for a couple hours. Earlier in the week I made some new strips out of some of the neutrals, then last night pulled out the other neutral "made fabrics." Since I used up all the light ones in Background Noise, there is not much in the way of contrast there.  I have to muddle over what to add there.  Brights, or just light neutrals?  I recall Nancy saying something about doing studies with neutrals, and I'm trying hard to at least try to do what she requested.

I also made a small totally improv'ed piece from Filmstrip's scraps.  It's not a masterpiece, but it will be good practice for quilting.

And then I took down Filmstrip and added a yellow strip to the outside of the white one - far right side of the middle row.  I kept trying to tell my brain that it was only disappearing because of the white design wall.  But  (a) if it's ever displayed or photographed, it will be quite possibly be on a white wall, and (b) my eye chimed in saying the brain was right, it needed to go, and I knew I couldn't look at it without being annoyed.  So I changed it.  It was a good lesson in how hard it is to remove even a simple piece from the edge of a large quilt top.  Piecing in new parts would be a huge pain.

I also made 2 "units" to match one that I'd made and not used.  They are navy and maroon and remind me of politician's neckties, so I don't know where they'll go from here, if anywhere.  But trying to heed the "make stuff, don't think so much" dictum.

I also cut up some of the striped shirts that are waiting for a purpose.  Not sure what that will be yet, either.
Improv piece

Victor de Vasarely
This morning I started flipping through a book I'd purchased on Modern Art.  There was a great two-tone piece that looked like it could have been made in fabric. Actually it might be three tones, there are two slightly different shades of black, and I wonder if one was a different color, not obvious in the b&w reproduction.  It is by Victor de Vasarely, and called "Horn." He became one of the first op-art artists, but this piece is more like a notan, than op-art. I can only find one reference to it on the internet, so it possibly was an earlier now more obscure work;  the book was published in 1958.  It gave me an idea where to start with my black and white studies, anyway.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Map Quilts!

It seems my little idea/obsession is hitting the big time.  I just discovered an announcement by Sheila Frampton Cooper of an exhibit she will be organizing for the Road to California show. Entries are due November 10.  I can do this.  I had started some practice pieces in Valerie's class about my grandmother's house.  I may continue that direction, or start a completely new "fantasy" idea I've been thinking about based on a fantasy building design I once did...hmmm.

I have been questioning whether I should stick to just the Crow exercises and explorations or continue also pursuing the map/plan idea...  Two parallel series... I don't think its uncommon.  Although there's a lot to be said for focus, too.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Filmstrip Quilt Top Completed

Here at last is the finished "Filmstrips" quilt top.  The piecing was completed over a week ago, but with grandkid visits and then finally some good weather for gardening, I didn't get back to photographing and blogging until this morning.   I'm happy with it.  I'm mostly happy that I finished it.  I don't have any illusions that it will win at Quilt National.  (because I won't enter it, among a few other reasons!) But as a process, as an exploration of ideas, an a practice at implementing them, I think it was successful. Lessons learned:
  • Don't think so hard.  The last two corner pieces that were "thrown together" relatively speaking are my favorites.  
  • Pay close attention to values.  One reason I like the corners may be the contrast.  The other areas especially the original blocks before putting the filmstrips back in are relatively dull because they lack definition, or focus, maybe.  
  • Construct more carefully.  It is nothing but frustrating when you damage the piece trying to handle it.  Especially if I'm going to do more pieces this size.
  • Cut more carefully.  Even if freehand, the pieces should be relatively square, unless you are really trying for wonky... I struggle with this. 
I just now realized it's the largest art quilt top I've made.

To see what I mean about value, I reduced it to black and white.
The pastel blocks have no focus, but there is enough going on elsewhere
 that I think they work as a place to rest the eye.   
After an intense push to complete something I have a strange inclination to just walk away from it.  I need to get some perspective literally and figuratively before I can come back to it and think about next steps.  Even though Nancy stresses completed tops, not quilts, I am going to quilt it.  1) I need the practice, 2) I hate the feeling of "UFO's" hanging over my head. 

I have some ideas about how to quilt it - I've been "studying" others... But I don't think I am ready to FMQ it, so there is going to be a lot of wrestling it through the machine, and first my least favorite activity sandwiching and basting.  I think I will use spraybaste instead of pins on this.  I'm worried about stretching out or damaging the badly seamed areas, and it seemed to work well on the large bed quilt.  Hopefully DH has a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood somewhere so I can spray outside, that stuff stinks!