February 14, 2020

Quilting decision made

I've spent a few days doing trials of quilting, both machine and hand stitching, on both felt and 80/20 cotton/poly backing. Thanks much to Beth Berman, who reminded me about the possibility of felt, which I had ruled out because I thought I would end up with hand stitching. (I've used felt once before, where I was machine quilting and wanted it to be as flat as possible.) Beth reassured me that felt was easily workable for hand quilting as well.  

For the trials, I stitched in the ditch, in the horizontal seams that go across the width of the quilt. These rows are 10" apart.  Then I quilted vertical lines where blocks were seamed together. These are usually diagonal seams, and vary from about 4" to 12" apart. I'm a little wary about quilting this far apart (should usually be no more than 4-5" apart), but since I won't be using/washing this quilt (it will be a wall-hanging), this should be OK.  
  • The felt definitely kept a very flat look, more so than the batting.
  • Both hand-quilting and machine quilting on the felt kept a flat look.
  • The hand-quilting was very challenging, not because of the felt, but because there are many areas where multiple seams come together, and it was hard work to get the needle through these areas.
So, my decision is to machine quilt, with felt as the batting. I've ordered 108" wide Dream Cotton for the backing, some additional blue dye to dye it, and some felt for the batting. (For any dyers out there--the Dream Cotton dyes up very well, and doesn't need to be scoured.)

The photo at the top of the post shows a small area with some machine stitching visible (click on image to enlarge).  The photo below shows the larger area where the machine stitching has been completed--it's the area in the bottom right where there are no pins.  (Pinned area is not quilted at all.)  Comparing the quilted to the unquilted area, I am satisfied that the quilting doesn't interfere with the sense I wanted of an expansive, uninterrupted mix of blues. The quilting is not visible, which is what I wanted. Adding the felt gives a weight to the piece that is a good addition.  So, decision made and on the way to implementation!

One final decision remains to be made--whether or not to add a binding that would be a "frame" to the quilt (and if so, what color/s), or to do a faced binding, which is not visible from the front, and leaves the work unframed (like much of modern art). I'll make that decision once the quilting is done.

This is the first time I've done quilting trials on the quilt itself, rather than on a separate small sample. I needed to do it in this case, because the quilting was going to be on such a large scale, and the whole point of the trial was to see if the feeling of expansiveness could be maintained, for which I needed to quilt a large area.  Since I knew I would be taking out all the trial stitching, I basted on a light colored backing, to make it easier to pick out the stitches, and I also used a long stitch when doing the machine stitching (4.5 instead of 3.0). The long stitch worked well, so I think I'll keep that length when I do the actual quilting. 

January 25, 2020

Jeremy's wedding quilt--the top completed

detail of Jeremy's wedding quilt

I haven't posted for four months, since late September. At that point, I had taken a break from working on Jeremy's wedding quilt to prepare for a printing workshop, and after that, I was prepping hand-sewing projects to take with me on a camping/stitching trip to Utah. After the trip, I followed up on those projects for a while, only coming back to the wedding quilt in mid-December.  Even though I was working steadily on one project or another, I wanted to wait to write a blog post until I could report that the top of the wedding quilt was done. Since it's been a while, here's a link to my first post about the quilt, where I explain why I started the quilt and how I came up with the design.

Below is a photo of how it looked in its "rest period" between August and December. The note I've written in the middle indicates the row in which only a few of the colored bits are actually pieced in; most are just sitting on top of blue fabric, allowing me to play around with placement. All the blocks were still separate at this point--all of them 10.5" high, but of varying widths.

So, starting in mid-December, I worked steadily for a month, doing the final edits on the quilt. Here's an earlier post that explains the editing process. The process was very slow. The final blocks constructed were pieced through careful designing of the placement of each bit of color, no improvisation. Then various blocks in the quilt were subject to surgery, either cutting out bits of color to replace them with blue, or adding in bits of color. The flow of shapes/colors had to look random, without a straight line-up, or a regular arc. Then, when I pieced together the blocks in each row, things shifted a bit and more surgery ensued. I stopped at the point where nothing bothered me significantly. I think I could have gone on fiddling for another 3 months, but each time I changed one piece, it affected others, so I needed to bring it to a close. Below are two photos of the finished top, taken with different cameras at the same time of day. The actual depth of color is somewhere between them, closer to the one on the left, but the one on the right gives you a better view of the variety of blues in the quilt, and how the blue shapes also work in the design. 

taken with my iPhone

taken with a Canon Powershot

The next photo (and also the close-up shot at the top of the post) gives a more accurate view of the blues. The top is laid flat on the floor so I could trim the edges; the strips of flooring are helpful in lining up a straight edge for a piece this large (62x90").  And using the floor had the useful side effect of my having to give the floor a thorough cleaning first.

I hope this photo also gives a sense of the attraction of the blue fabrics--they call out to be touched. I still have to decide whether or not to quilt this piece. I tried out some hand-quilting early in the process, and didn't like how the thread lines interfered with the smooth surface of the cloth. (I'd show a photo, but can't find the samples right now.) I also did a sample with machine quilting, as this would keep the blue surface flat rather than puffy (as can happen with hand quilting), photo below. To see the difference, you may need to click (or double-click) on the photo to enlarge it.

machine quilted at left, unquilted at right

Again, I prefer the undisturbed surface of the unquilted piece. I think I will try one more handquilted sample, working with a largish section of the actual top, rather than just one block, maybe using a thin, flat batting and a large grid for stitching. If I don't quilt the top, I'll simply face it with a plain fabric backing, and hang it that way.  This is intended as a wall piece, rather than a quilt to use.

I'm also thinking about what to call the quilt. As I've worked on it, I've thought of it as "Jeremy's wedding quilt" or "Confetti-2" (since the design idea came from an earlier quilt that I called Confetti). But I think the quilt needs its own name, and something a little more open-ended than "Jeremy's wedding quilt." Right now, I'm considering "If only."

September 28, 2019

Too many projects

I really like working on just two projects at a time--one main project that involves significant brain power, and one that is easier.  Earlier this year, my focus for several months was Jeremy's wedding quilt, and the work felt very good. But as I got closer to finalizing that design, I felt I needed a break from it, and it happened that I needed to prepare for a workshop I was doing for several friends in late August. So I turned my attention to preparing samples of monoprinting and screen printing and writing up instructions for the several processes we'd be doing. Here's a photo of some of the monoprinting samples. Unfortunately, I didn't take photos of the work people created at the workshop, which was stunning.

Once the workshop was done, I took two different directions--finishing up assorted small quilting projects, and starting two new hand-stitching projects.  The hand-stitching projects took precedence over a return to the wedding quilt, because in mid-October I'll be getting together with several people in Utah to camp, hike, and stitch, and I wanted a couple of small but challenging projects to bring with.  I'll post about those projects before long.  First, a round-up on the projects I've been finishing up.

One of the daiwabo projects is close to completion. I'm now sewing on the binding on this table runner:

After testing out about 8 different ways to quilt this, I ended up with simple in-the-ditch quilting. This puts all the focus on the fabrics.  

I'm also finishing the binding on a bed-runner for a friend who recently re-modeled her bedroom, including laying a strip of parquet flooring in a pattern just like a "rail-fence" quilt block. Fabrics were chosen from the stash of my friend Carol, and the two of us pieced the blocks--a fun project for us to do for our mutual friend. 

I mentioned a while back the Palette Stacks panel from Marcia Derse that I'd purchased. I decided to make it into a whole-cloth baby quilt. Here it is basted up, ready for hand-quilting. No rush on this, just a nice project to have by the couch when I want to do some simple hand-quilting.

Just as I was thinking about what to do for a backing for it, I came across this sweet pattern for a "Tiny Tile Quilt" from Purl Soho.
Tiny Tile Quilt from Purl Soho website
I wondered what it would look like to do this pattern in a variety of all bright colors, including the white "snowball" shape that reads as a background when done in just one color.  I made up nine blocks, and then surrounded them with larger pieces of solids, all hand-dyed fabric I had on hand.

I liked this enough to decide it deserves to be a top of its own, so I dyed up some solid red fabric to be the back for the Stacked Palettes instead. The new snowball top is folded up in the closet; I will leave choice of backing and quilting until I need another baby quilt to give to new parents.

Finally, having finished the hand-quilting on the appliqu├ęd quarter-circles, it was time to bind that, so I dyed up some medium blue and put the binding on.  The hanging sleeve is now pinned to the back, waiting for its final bit of hand-sewing.

I've got a few more days of hand-sewing to finish these up, and then I can focus on the stitching project for the Utah trip. I look forward to having fewer projects in the works.

September 26, 2019

Studio Soundtrack

I'll be writing a post or two before long on several small and a couple of large new projects that have been occupying me in the last month or so, but in the meantime, here's a post about music for the studio.  Some years back, I took a workshop with Katie Pasquini Masopust, who suggested that having music playing in the studio could be a help in generating a creative flow, so long as it was music without words. I don't have music on all the time, but I do find it helpful in the way she suggested. I like using Pandora for this background music, as I can select a "station" based on a particular musician, and then get a stream of that musician plus others who are similar. My favorite stations, in approximate order of how often I choose them are: Keith Jarrett, Eric Satie, Bill Evans, Tord Gustavsen Trio, Federico Mompou, Ken Bonfield, Sandy Bull, Dave Bruebeck, Leo Kottke, Taylor Eigsti (a new find, through one of my jazz stations on Pandora). There are other times in the studio where I'm doing something mindless (repetitive cutting of pieces, simple straight stitching or machine quilting); at these times I like to listen to popular music with lyrics. My most frequently chosen stations for this are Carole King (great variety included in this station), Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, and sometimes Willie Nelson.

Earlier this week, I was sewing at a friend's apartment (I keep a small machine there, so it's easy for us to work together), and I realized that she would enjoy using Pandora instead of the old boom box with cassettes that she has. I showed her how to get it set up and how to choose stations. For one of the stations, she chose "50s Rock 'n' Roll Radio," and we started listening to it. We were amazed--the soundtrack of our youth, every song familiar. (We both graduated from high school in 1965.)  I listened to it again today for about 20 minutes, while finishing up some quilting.  I could sing the chorus on every song that came up--Twist and Shout, At the Hop, Earth Angel, Do the Locomotion, Big Girls Don't Cry, Blue Moon, Splish Splash, Under the Boardwalk, Rock around the Clock, etc.  Long-term memory is really quite amazing.

August 31, 2019

Trimmed edges put to use

I recently trimmed off the edges on some fabric I'd printed up for napkins. Put the strips in the wastebasket, but then pulled them out. Cut some 1.5" squares and made up a 4" coaster.  I've made coasters like this before from commercial fabric I have on hand.

Not surprisingly, the coaster made from screen-printed leftovers is even nicer. . .

August 12, 2019


My goal is to spend mornings in the studio, leaving other things for the afternoons (errands, desk/computer stuff). Working on the intricate piecing in Jeremy's wedding quilt is very demanding, so I've limited it to the making of one block a day, which can take me anywhere from 1-2 hours. That leaves me time for other sewing, something simpler.  For the last month or so, that time has been spent working with daiwabo fabrics, a Japanese style of fabric I've used in some other projects, for example the placemats in this post, and the dresser cover here. I love the subtle range of taupes/tans/browns, even though I am not drawn to brown as a color either in other commercial fabrics or in hand-dyeing my own.

My friend Kathy decided that she was never going to use the large collection of daiwabo fabric that she had collected. I told her that if she would like to have someone else work with it, I would be happy to take on her collection. So, a sizable bin of these beautiful fabrics came home with me after our last quilting retreat in April. Thank you Kathy!! (Click on the image below for a better look at the range of texture/designs.) 

My first thoughts about using the fabric are centered on making something for Kathy. She decided on a tablerunner, using the pattern "Get in Line" from our friend Amy Walsh, which I used for the table runner (link above). Cutting one 1.5" strip from each of the fabrics would give me plenty for a tablerunner for Kathy's dining room table. After cutting a few of those strips, I decided to line up a couple of other projects using these fabrics, and to do all the cutting at the same time, since I was taking out each fabric anyway.  Here are the three sets of strips, cut to 1.5" for the table runner, 2.5" for a second project, and 5" for a third.

Here's the start of the runner, about 1/3 of the top done. To work on this, I'm using a small, secondary design wall that is in a corner of my studio.

The second project is a pattern called "Play a Card," by Zen Chic.

I'm using a creamy white linen for the background and narrow strip between the daiwabo rectangles.

I have cut and sewn together enough blocks for a lap-size quilt, done while visiting a friend in Wisconsin. Sewing the blocks together into the top will be a good project for when I'm travelling again.  It could be our annual Quilters By Design retreat in the spring, or perhaps when I visit my sister in Arizona in the winter. (I've left a small portable machine at her house so that I can sew while visiting.) Sometime before that, I'll lay out the blocks on my design wall and mark them so I know the order to sew them together, but I can't do that until Jeremy's wedding quilt is off the design wall--likely some time this fall.

The third project is another lap-sized quilt, made up of half-square triangles (HST).  Here are photos of a couple of baby quilts I've done with HST blocks in the past. The blocks were placed somewhat randomly and then edited into a pleasing design, a method I picked up from Katie Pedersen.


I'm thinking the daiwabo fabrics will give a quite different look, but beautiful.  Here's one block along with all the squares I've matched up for blocks. (Two 5" squares cut on the diagonal will yield two 4.5" HST blocks.)

And here's four blocks randomly placed on the design wall. Playing around with these blocks will definitely be fun.

And a couple of weeks ago, I used a few mornings' time to print up another batch of napkins. I'll get two napkins from each of these printed lengths.

Finally, something that only took a few clicks on the computer: I couldn't resist purchasing a yard of a "Palette Stacks," a new fabric from Marcia Derse.  Bowls! And I love the color work. The fabric is now sold out, but a new supply is expected in September.

I'll probably use this for a whole-cloth baby quilt (using just the one, whole piece of fabric), and try out some quilting in response to the design.  Or maybe I'll just staple the fabric as is to a wood frame and hang it in my studio. . .