April 4, 2014

Quilt accepted in a publication

I got the happy news recently that a quilt of mine has been accepted into a forthcoming book by Sherri Lynn Wood, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters.  Sherri solicited quilts from volunteers, who were assigned one or another improvisational quilt "score" set by Sherri.  Even though I've done quite a bit of improvisational work before, I learned a lot in the process of making this quilt, and I look forward to sharing more about it, including photos, once the book is published in winter/spring 2015.  (Until then, contributors are legally bound not to share any photos online.)

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To give you a photo of something, though, here's the fabric I've just cut for a small project--a runner to put on the top of the buffet in my dining room.

This is a selection of Japanese daiwabo fabric, quite different from what I usually work with, but it is such lovely material.  Here's another view of the fabrics, uncut:

Several years ago, I bought a dozen pieces of daiwabo at a quilt show, and made a few placemats from them.  I really like the subtle variations in texture and color.   Here's one of the placemats:

March 29, 2014

Another quilt back from scraps

I had quite a few scraps of patterned fabric left over when I finished the quilt I made from Carolyn Friedlander's "Focal" pattern.  Rather than re-sorting them into my scrap bins, or just discarding them, I decided to piece them together, along with some hand-dyed scraps, making some blocks that I would use in some fashion for the back of the quilt.  Preliminary sections are in the pile above.  Below, I've sorted some out into blocks, next to the finished top.

Not sure yet where I'll go from here.  I could separate blocks with solid fabric, or I could piece everything together.  (And if I love what I come up with, I'll change it to a top rather than a back.)  I've got all the scraps sewn into units with at least three or four pieces.  Now I have to put this aside for a while, as I need to prepare for a retreat I'm going to in 10 days, including a couple of new idea-based projects that need some extended thinking and sketching/planning.

Guest post on Techniques, Tools, & Materials for Hand-Stitching

I recently posted my last guest post on the blog ". . . And Then We Set It on Fire".  You can see it here.

March 28, 2014

Adapting Carolyn Friendlander's pattern "Focal"

I really enjoyed sewing this version of Carolyn Friedlander's quilt pattern "Focal"--my version above and hers below, and a link to the pattern here :

I made several changes in the pattern beyond the obvious one of colors (though I like her colors very much).  I arranged the spikey bits to edge up on the center--I like the contrast there, and didn't want to lose any triangles in the binding.  I used my own hand-dyed fabric rather than commercial; I wanted a bit of movement in the central piece, which I get from the mottling in the hand-dye.  I arranged the corners differently--a by-product of sewing on the first border all around, without thinking of the consequences.  But the main difference is not so visible:  instead of paper-piecing the border, as called for in the pattern, I did only two 10" segments with paper-piecing, and then switched to improvisationally cutting and sewing the small pieces for the border.  I know some people really like paper-piecing (involves sewing fabric upside down onto paper printed with the pattern), but I'm not one of them, so I was really glad that a different method worked.  Here are a few photos of the process.

The top row shows about 8 different colors, cut 2-1/2 x 6", for the "stick" part of each border piece.  In two rows below that are smaller scraps of patterned fabric.  Bottom right are four orange sticks lined up with scraps that will become the corner triangles.  My favorite part of the process--choosing scraps for the corners, looking for an array (doing 3 or 4 sticks at a time) that would be interesting together, and also contrast with the stick.  I do love playing with color. . .

Some scraps were sewn to the left side of the stick, others to the right.

After scraps were sewn on and the flap ironed out (pile on bottom left), I squared up the stick (under the ruler, bottom right).  Top left is the finished sticks plus triangles.  Top right is the cut-offs from the scraps.

Photo below shows audition of sections for the second border, before all were trimmed.

Checking values with a black/white photo.

Finished top again (for true colors, see details below)

 Details from the borders

Now I have to piece a back, and figure out how I want to quilt it.

March 27, 2014

Expanding a palette

A recent project demonstrated clearly to me how expanding a palette can make a more interesting quilt.  I recently got a ruler that makes it easy to cut isoceles triangles, and wanted to make a quilt with just the one shape.  I opened my drawer of hand-dyed fabrics, and picked out a few colors I had done this summer and was really happy with the limited palette I pulled--mauves, lavender, blues, and greens. 

 My first layout:

I liked these colors, but they seemed a little boring. 

I tried adding in light blue to get larger range of values:

Then I added black and cream:

I took out the black and cream, and added in yellow and orange--better!

Finished front of quilt:

Cutting the triangles left me with a lot of beautiful scraps.  I pieced them together together, intending to use them for the back of the quilt:

After adding in some additional large pieces of my hand-dyed fabric, I decided this deserved to be the front of another quilt.  

For the outer edge, I used a "faux-piped binding technique:

I made two "chunky log cabins" to be the backs for the two quilts.  I enjoyed making these, working with the large supply of commercial solids that I have in my stash.  But in making backs larger than the fronts (as one does to help in the sandwiching/quilting process), I didn't take well enough into account the finished size of the back.  Top and bottom edges are fine, but the intention was to have wider pieces on the right and left sides of both backs:

March 15, 2014

Two posts on hand-stitching

I'm one of several guest-bloggers this month on the blog "And Then We Set It On Fire."  The theme of the month is "Hand-Stitching," with Beata Keller-Kerchner taking the lead and choosing the guests. An honor for me to be included!

My two posts so far are "Bringing Stitching Forward," which talks about the influence on my work of taking a drawing class, and "Letting Go," which shows how a workshop with Dorothy Caldwell brought that influence to the arena of stitching.  Some of the photos will look familiar to you from earlier posts on my blog, but I've added more in these posts, and the reflections are new.

If you're interested in hand-stitching, I highly recommend that you go back to March 1, 2014 on the blog--when Beata started the month with several posts--to read what she and others have been writing about.  It's not the easiest thing to go backwards in blogs.  I recommend you go to the main link for the blog And Then We Set It On Fire, and then scroll all the way down to the beginning of the month (which will likely involve going to the bottom and then clicking on "Older posts."  When you find March 1, you can then read from there.

Beata's work is inspiring--do check out her blog/website.

March 7, 2014

Dyeing Neutrals

I've made several small quilts in which I've tried to capture one or more elements of stones--color, texture, shape--and plan to do more.  I've done some of this work with hand-painted fabric--easy to get the colors and patterning I want, but the paint changes the hand of the fabric in a way I don't like.  Hand-dyed fabric would be better on that score, and I've been dyeing neutrals from time to time to build up my supply.  Some months ago,  I learned that Carol Soderlund would be doing a workshop at the Crow Barn specifically on Neutral Territory: 50 Shades of Gray and 50 Shades of Brown, but by the time I decided to sign up, the class was already full.  It will be offered again in 2015, but rather than wait until then, I decided to invest a few weeks of steady dyeing time to come up with neutrals tailored to the projects I have in mind.  (In addition to the stones project, I am also in the early stages of a project that has to do with trees, so I need some grayish/browns for that.)  I spent a few weeks in December and January dyeing about 50 different colors--some done individually, some done as gradations of one hue.  The photo above shows the resulting collection of neutrals (including some pieces that I'd done before).

I've kept samples of my hand-dyed fabric before, but not in a systematic enough way to easily find a particular color that I may have dyed before.  I wanted to be able to easily reference the neutrals, so I came up with a filing system.  With each fat quarter (18x22") that I had dyed, I cut off a 5-1/2" strip, and then cut three 5-1/2" squares from that strip.  (I like having large samples, especially because there is some mottling in this fabric.)  I folded up the remaining large piece for the drawer (shown above).  Below is one set of squares.  (For those who have had a class from Carol, the first three rows are from the "Basic" family and the bottom three rows are from "Earth.")

Each square and the larger piece are labeled with the numerical code for that color.  I then filed the squares in three ways:

COLOR:  Little "file folders" (made from envelopes) for gray, tan, and brown:

GRADATIONS:  In this section, I have a separate folder for each color on which I did a gradation (anywhere from four to six steps down from the original color).

An example of a 4-step gradation of one color:

FAMILY:  This is a master section where I can look up a color by its family (Basic or Earth) and its numerical code.

Hey, all those years of academic life spent organizing information have had a payoff in this arena too!

Further details on the dyeing process for the dyers among my readers:  All the samples I did in this last push were done with LWI (low water immersion).  This is not as effective for getting solids as full immersion (the method Carol uses when students create their sample books), and the results are not as reliably repeatable, but it is a much easier method for working on one's own, and it's the method I use the most in my own dyeing practice, so I thought it best to make my samples with LWI as well.  I also like the gentle mottling that one gets in LWI.  Part of Carol's Color Mixing for Dyers I class is also devoted to LWI--highly recommended!
On the issue of how many pieces of fabric can be processed at once?  When I have a lot of different fabrics/colors to dye, I find that I can do five containers at once, each holding anywhere from a 1/4 yd to a full yard of fabric.  I squirt the dye on the first piece, massage for a while, then move on to the next. When I get to the end of the row, I go back to the first.  To get a near-solid, I keep going for about 15 minutes, which takes me through the line three or four times.