March 27, 2019

Studio re-painted and re-configured

I was having some interior painting done this spring, and decided to freshen up my studio, last painted about 25 years ago. I changed the color from a peachy-tan to light gray, which came out well. And since I had to move the furniture around anyway for the painter, I took the time to make a scale-model plan of the room, playing with the positioning of the furniture.  I discovered that if I swapped the positions of the sewing table and the cutting table, I gained enough space on the north wall (where the cutting table is in the photo above (green mat on the table) that I could move my fabric storage cabinet (aka filing cabinet) far enough from the wall that I could get in there to actively use the design wall at that end. (It doesn't look like enough space below, but it is.)   

The big change I made was that I expanded the width of the flannel-covered design wall by 16" so that it takes up the full width of the wall. I also improved the design wall by using duct tape to tape together the foam insulation panels, which I'd previously just nailed up side by side. And I covered the whole thing with flannel (and a layer of cotton underneath that) before nailing the wall up, so I have a taut, smooth surface. Much better than my old one, where I had just tacked flannel to the surface of the panels, which meant pretty loose flannel, as you can see towards the bottom of this photo from a couple of years ago.

I also bought a blue Ikea Raskog utility cart to put near the ironing board, a great place to store my spritzer bottles and other odds and ends:

In fact, I got two of them, one for downstairs, to corral my embroidery projects/supplies, so that they're not spread across the dining room table.

Many thanks to David for helping me out with the construction and mounting of the design wall, and for doing all the assembly on the utility carts.  I told him I thought the design wall would take us about an hour, but it took us more like 4 or 5!

February 16, 2019

Steady progress

I'm making steady progress on the quilt. I'm guessing these are about 1/3 of the blocks that I'll need. I'm in no hurry to finish, and am enjoying the pace of completing a unit every day or two. You can't tell from the photos, but the hand-dyed dark blues are lovely, with a velvety appearance that makes you want to touch the quilt.

February 5, 2019

One block at a time

I'm thinking of working on no more than one block a day, so that I don't get frustrated with the process of working on these blocks. Even though it may look like random improvisational piecing, I learned when making the first "confetti" quilt that each block is a composition in itself, which then needs to find its spot within a larger composition. It's a challenging process, with a fair amount of ripping and restarts along the way. The block above is what I finished this morning. So now I have these two blocks:

The block on the right is two sections seamed together vertically (just to the right of the turquoise bit). This may or may not stay this way--I hadn't noticed the secondary "lightning" pattern of the lighter blue in the background. Perhaps it will work, perhaps not.  I can see that I need to approach this project with both curiosity and patience.

February 4, 2019

A wedding quilt for Jeremy

Last fall, I posted about three wedding quilts that I'd completed in the previous months; that post is here. At the end of the post, I wrote this:

All three of the recipients (two brides, one groom) were people who had grown up knowing my son Jeremy, and one of them was an especially good friend.  It was a great delight to be included in these celebrations, each of them thoughtfully put together, permeated with the personality and commitments of each couple. But by the third, all so close together, I couldn't help but feel a deep sadness too, that Jeremy didn't make it to this stage of life. . .  Sitting here thinking about this, it occurs to me that I could still make a wedding quilt for Jeremy, imagining what he might like. I think his favorite color would still be blue.

So, in the last couple of months, I've begun working on a wedding quilt for Jeremy. For readers who don't know, Jeremy died in 2004 at age 18; he would be 33 now.  It's been almost three years since I've worked on a project that is connected to Jeremy (not since my exhibition in 2016); I am glad to once again be working on a project with the strong emotional component of a tie to Jeremy. It keeps him close to me.

Here's the design process so far. I'm thinking of something that would draw on three earlier quilts, "Confetti," which was made a couple of years ago as a wedding present for a friend, "Loss," which was the first quilt in my series about losing Jeremy, made in 2005-08, and "Log Cabin," made in 2004 and intended for Jeremy to bring with him to college.  I'm thinking of using the basic design of "Confetti," but switching the background to a range of deep/dark blues.

Back in December, I dyed up a range of blues. I aimed for highly saturated blues. In 2004, Jeremy chose blue as the main color for the log cabin quilt, but after I worked up a couple of sample blocks, he said, "Mom, those aren't blue." Well, right, they were a grayish blue, so I went out and bought more fabric with less gray!  For the wedding quilt, I dyed 25 different blues in all; these ten made the cut:

For the accent colors, I started thinking about the colors I used in the panel of "Loss," which was an abstract portrait of Jeremy.
Loss, detail

I went through my scrap bins and ironed pieces that seemed good possibilities.

Then I cut out small pieces and laid them on some roughly cut pieces of blue, making a maquette of a block, about 9x12" (this is not sewn):

Then I tried triangles, a dominant shape in the "Loss" panel; I like rectangles better:

Then I tried all solids:

I like the solids.  Then I thought I'd see what all blues looked like:

Very different emotion conveyed, not what I want for a wedding quilt.  Then I looked closely at a favorite remnant from fabrics I used for "Log Cabin":

What if I used ribbon shapes rather than rectangles, and limited the colors as in this fabric?

No, rectangles better:  

But more colors needed--turquoise and gold added in:

But maybe even more colors? I think yes:

How about adding in some black also? Yes:

So, I put away the bins of scraps of print fabrics, snipped rectangles from my hand-dyes, and started sewing (block on right is 10" high):  

Yes, I think this is a good start.

February 1, 2019

Catch-up post on beading

Back in September, I posted about a beading workshop I'd taken, and my intention to use beads to embellish some hamsas; that post is here.  But then I never showed what I came up with. In the subsequent months, I made three hamsas with beads, two of which have beads as embellishment to stitching, and then one where the decoration is entirely in beads. The first one is finished; the other two are not yet sewn up into final form. I like all of these. I don't know if I'll do one with all beads again--I like how it looks, but it was much more time consuming than the ones that also have embroidery. I also don't find beading as relaxing as embroidery. You can click on any of these to enlarge the image.

January 22, 2019


I don't always keep track of how long it takes me to complete a quilt, but on this set of projects made with African fabrics, I know I started on December 7, 2018, when I took a workshop with Bill Kerr on using large-scale fabrics, so five projects done over the course of 6 weeks, with one of those weeks spent out of town.  (The two pale green baby-quilt tops I'm leaving just as tops until I have someone to give them to.) I've posted before about the flying geese baby quilts, and the half-square triangle lap-sized quilt. I then went on to make a table runner and baby quilt out of what I had left from the yardage from which I made a table cloth some months ago. I used another large piece of African fabric on the back of each piece.

I particularly like the back of the table runner (below).  Maybe this will turn out to be the front.

 I bound the table runner in some hand-dyed rusty-red fabric, and the baby quilt with pieces of the same African fabric as the front.

 And here's a photo of the finished and bound lap-sized quilt. I used a deep royal blue batik for the binding.
And the back.

I've enjoyed working through this sequence of quilts, seeing how one thing could lead to another. Now I'm ready to do a significant clean-up in the studio, in preparation to start on some new work.

January 2, 2019

Quilting in progress

I'm about 4/5 done with the machine quilting, stitching a line on each side of every seam. Pretty tedious work, but I'm enjoying seeing each of the fabrics close up as they go by.