December 28, 2014

Further progress with greens and purples

I've finished making the blocks for this quilt, and settled on a layout.  The next decision is what color sashing to use between the blocks and as a narrow border around the edge (1/2" wide, the same width as the narrow strips within each block).  This is narrower than in the "Glyph" pattern that I used for the quilt, but I'm going for a look closer to the "Mod Mosaic" quilt I made a while back.  I may well go with white sashing (which would give a look close to the blocks on my white design wall), but I have tried out many other possibilities as well:  various greens and purples, black, dark blue, tone-on-tone green, green batik.  I'll be near a fabric store on Tuesday, so will take a look for candidates there.

In the meantime, I thought I'd play around with the many scraps I have left from the fabric cut for the narrow strips in the blocks. 

I use the "mile-a-minute" method for piecing scraps, and put them together into this small piece, about 6x6."

I like the results, but piecing with such small bits is not my forté.  I will leave the rest of the strip scraps as they are!   I also have quite a few large pieces of yardage left from what I dyed for the blocks; I plan to pull from that for the back of the quilt.

December 26, 2014

Changing the stitching on "Plain Spoken"

Back in May, I made the decision to quilt my shot cotton "Plain Spoken quilt with embroidery stitches.  In the months since, I scoured embroidery books for a variety of usable stitches and began the stitching.  I enjoyed learning the embroidery stitches; it is quite amazing how holding the thread one way or another, or placing the needle here or there, can create a wide variety of designs.  But after doing about 80 different stitches, I decided I didn't like the way it looked on the quilt.  Too much variety of color, value, and pattern--all of which distracted from the flow of color in the quilt.   (Ignore the loose white stitches--that's just basting that will be removed when the quilting is done.)

And a close-up, with basting stitches removed.  No better.  

So I decided to go back to something simpler, and did trials with various weight threads in either a simple running stitch, or the "conversation" stitch that I used on my Regret quilt.  

I decided on the conversation stitch (thanks to Mary Beth for the suggestion).  I'm using two threads, a dark, dusky blue 20 wt pearl cotton (hand-dyed) in the darker strips, and 2 strands of 50 wt Aurifil sewing thread in a pale yellow-green in the lighter strips; varying between the two holds down the value contrast between thread and fabric.  I think this is better.  

The quilt is also secured with in-the-ditch hand-quilting in all the vertical seams, done before I began the embroidery.

December 22, 2014

3 trees

About a year ago, walking in the woods of rural Illinois, I made the drawing on the right above.  I was struck by the relationship between the three trees.  I also think of the drawing as "The Three of Us."  I don't think of it as each tree representing a specific one of us--we're somehow interchangeable in my ruminations on it.

I thought for a long while of translating the drawing into a large quilt.  I imagined swaths of dark fabric against a white background.  I made several thermofax screens from photos I'd taken of bark (first row of prints below), and I also scraped thickened dye on fabric to get other textures (second row):

I talked with Bill Kerr about these ideas last spring.  He asked, "Does it need to be so literally like trees?"  Right, no need for bark texture--more abstract is better.  "The line drawing is very nice as it is."  Yes, agreed, I really like the line drawing.

So, I started thinking about doing a line drawing with thread.  While in New York this fall, I bought several interesting threads/yarns made by Habu, the gray and black ones being combinations of silk, linen, and paper.  I spent some time trying out various stitches with these threads, working on old linen napkins, of which I have a large supply from my mother and aunt.

After deciding on a simple couched stitch, I made a 9x12" version.  Then I decided to go smaller, to the size of the original drawing, about 4x6.  Better.  Not everything has to be large.  Seems odd to end up with something so small, after thinking about it for more than a year, but I think it's O.K.

I decided to mount it on a stretched canvas, rather than quilting it.  I've been wanting to try this method of display for a while, and this project gave me the opportunity.  I worked from a tutorial by Lyric Kinnard, though I stapled the fabric rather than fusing it.

 I still notice groupings of three in trees.  Maybe there will be more drawings. . .

December 21, 2014

Greens and purples

I'm making a quilt for Ashley, who picked out a color scheme of green and purple.  I had fun dyeing a range of colors.  I'm using a pattern by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr called "Glyphs," which incorporates improvised piecing; I've really been enjoying cutting and piecing this pattern.  Here are the first 24 blocks (out of 64 that I'll need for the quilt); I've made each block to finish at 6x8-1/2".

 Ashley prefers a bluish green, so I may have too much yellow-green.  Some is fine, but I'll probably re-balance as I make more blocks.

Here's a photo of the pattern, available in Modern Quilts Illustrated, no. 9.

I've changed the size of the block while keeping the proportion of width/length.  I plan to use a narrower sashing, and a border the same width as the sashing.  I haven't decided yet on the color for the sashing.  I'll wait until the blocks are done and then audition fabrics.  I'm thinking it might be a light green, or possibly a wide range of colors from the quilt.

December 15, 2014

Self-Portrait--an earlier design

Some pre-history of the "Self-Portrait, Year 2" quilt that I wrote about in my last post. The small maquette above (11x14") was done sometime in 2005/06.  This was my first design for the same idea (calm lavender at the surface, dark disturbance below).  The maquette is pinned to the bulletin board in my studio, and most people who see it comment on it.  I've collected a variety of black fabrics with the intention of doing a large-scale version of it at some point.

Two quilts accepted into QuiltCon

My blog has been silent for a few months, as I was spending more time than usual on some travel, a workshop at the Crow Barn, and then an unexpected month-long stint back working at the college, substituting for someone who took an unexpected leave.  What time I had for my own work, I spent sewing rather than writing about sewing.  I did line up topics for several posts, and I hope to know come back to them and catch up.

Good news from QuiltCon also pushed me to the computer.  This is the second time the Modern Quilt Guild has put on a national convention/exhibition.  In 2012, I submitted three quilts, none of which were accepted.  This year I submitted another three, two of which were accepted; the show will be in February.  The quilt that wasn't accepted was Regret, not too surprising, as it is more an "art quilt" than a "modern quilt," though the line between these is pretty hazy.  (And not a debate I'm interested in getting involved in.)  I haven't yet posted about either of the two quilts that were accepted.  One of them is an improvisational quilt, done as part of a call for quilts by Sherri Lynn Wood.  She is publishing a book on improvisational quilting, and she wanted quilts by others to use as illustrations of her methods.  The quilt I made was accepted for publication in her book, and part of the agreement is that I would wait to blog about it until the book comes out.  That will happen in February, so you'll see a post or two about that quilt in a couple of months.  

The other quilt accepted in the show is called "Self-Portrait, Year 2: Beneath the Surface."  It is a large, conceptual piece (68" x 94").  It goes back to my experience of being in the second year of mourning the death of my son.  At that point, the persistent sense of grief and loss that had become the underlying condition of my life had become invisible to others.  From the outside, all looked normal.  But underneath the surface, a fundamental change in identity was being shaped.  I ended up expressing this condition with a two-sided quilt.  One side is a dusky lavender, presenting the apparently calm surface.  (Only after choosing the color, did I learn from Claire Leeds that lavender was the Victorian color of mourning, allowed after black had been worn for a period of time.) The other side--"beneath the surface"--presents a bold black and white statement.   I've asked for the quilt to be hung at QuiltCon so that both sides show.  

First, the lavender side, which looks empty.

Close up, you can see the machine stitching around the letters on the other side, so the wording is just barely visible, in reverse.

And here's a small portion of the other side, black letters on white.

I don't feel comfortable showing the whole message.  It is difficult to look at, something to be seen in person, I think, rather than on a screen.  I thought of not posting about this at all, given my discomfort with showing the image, but decided to go ahead and give you at least a partial view.  

* * * * *  

On the technical side, this was a challenging quilt to make.  As often happens, a final piece that looks simple in design was the result of many decisions on multiple fronts.  For example, choosing what font to use for the message.  I am very satisfied with my final choice (Helvetica Neue Bold), but the choice was made after many weeks of trying out various fonts, reading about typography in general, and about Helvetica in particular--including this film.  The size of font to use was another decision, and then figuring out how to print out letter templates that large.  (Thanks much to Tim Stedman of the Knox College Art Department, and to Bill Kerr of Modern Quilt Studio for their help on all things typographical.)  And how to lay out the eight words of the message--could be 4 or 5 lines, with line breaks in various places.  Once the design was settled, there were many challenges in the construction of the work.    

Because the quilt is meant to be two-sided, and I didn't want a rim of binding around the edge, I used a "pillowcase binding," which is more usually done on small pieces.  I laid out all three layers (top, bottom, batting) on the floor, holding them down with masking tape.  Here are the first two layers:

Then the third layer laid on top of those.  I used felt instead of regular batting, as I wanted the piece to be quite flat after the quilting.

Then all the layers had to be squared off and trimmed, doing all this moving around on my hands and knees.

After the sandwich was stitched and turned, I needed to mark the quilting lines. I needed something 8 feet long, rigid and straight.  Wooden molding was not straight enough, so I found a heavy strip of metal at Lowes that worked.  I used this to mark the placement of the rows (a marker worked well on the metal), and then I also used it as a guide to mark the lines, running a hera marker along the edge.

Looking through my photos, I found this one (below) of early quilting trials.  I'd forgotten that I considered quilting horizontally rather than vertically.  I also tried out various spacings for the vertical lines.  I ended up using a spacing just a little narrower than the width of the letter elements.