Monday, September 17, 2018

More Than Blue and Purple

According to Psychology Today:

"If blue is your favorite color you love harmony, are reliable, sensitive and always make an effort to think of others. You like to keep things clean and tidy and feel that stability is the most important aspect in life."

Yep. Except for the tidy sewing room, but I'm working on it. 

"Purple. You are artistic and unique.  You have a great respect for people but at times can be arrogant."

Also, yes. I would say self-contained and highly reserved, but I'm sure it comes across as arrogance to some people. 

I bet it wouldn't surprise anyone to hear me say that my favorite colors to work with are blue and purple. I feel those colors down to my bones and enjoy the cool visual breeze they blow into my mind. Blue and purple are the peace after a deep breath and I love breathing them in.

I posted a picture of Babyness a month or so ago that perfectly captured one of her best features. In our family, we call them her little "elfy ears." At the very top, there is a whimsical flare out that is subtle and utterly charming. I tried to think of a way to caption this photo that would describe just how I felt about her. I finally settled on, "I love those little ears more than I love blue and purple."
Succinct, and so very, very true.

The real mystery was how she came to have "elfy ears." I don't have them. My husband doesn't have them. We didn't know of anyone on either side of our family who had them. I was digging through our family history books this week looking for something completely unrelated when I solved the mystery. A picture stopped me in my tracks. Her Scottish great-great-great-grandfather has the exact same ears.

After that, I had to read all about him. Isaac had an incredible work ethic and through the course of his life became a man of considerable means. He was able to easily afford to help buy Mary, his mother-in-law, a nice home where she was able to support herself with her sewing skills. In fact, she was a seamstress of some renown and the prominent people of her town exclusively came to her for clothing. Later in her life she chose to remarry. According to family lore, the marriage lasted only one day. The day after the wedding, the groom's son showed up at her doorstep and asked Mary to make a new suit and vest for him. She threw him out. Later in the afternoon, the groom's daughter showed up asking Mary to make a new dress and matching coat for her. She threw her out, too. After being met by his distraught children on the way home from work, Mary's new husband appeared at the door where they exchanged heated words. "I didn't marry you to be a free seamstress for your family, I married you to be a wife." Having spoken her mind, she threw him out. He never came back and she didn't mind. 

I give her 10/10 for flair. I might try this strategy the next time I'm asked to make a T-shirt quilt or hem some pants. 😏

I guess the point of that little side-trip down family history lane was that this quilt and my little girl's ears are now firmly linked in my mind! Also, I love them both.

I started "Twilight Glitter Sparkles" (named by my other daughter) for the Pantone Quilt Challenge. At the time, it was entered in the Just the Top Category, where it won Viewer's Choice (yay!!). Over the summer it was quilted by my friend, Sarah Yoder Parker. I liked it well enough that I thought it could have it's own blog post. If you'd like to see the other Pantone quilts I made, the title of the post is Treasures.

I am a great admirer of Nancy Crow. I'm not at the point of my life where a trip out to her barn for personalized instruction can happen, but I try to fill in the gaps by voraciously reading the blog posts of people that have gone. Somewhere in the course of that reading, I found a quote attributed to Nancy Crow by Kathie Kerler.

“Pay attention to the importance of value,” Kathie Kerler says. “Don’t use all medium values. I have taken several workshops with Nancy Crow who advises students to use a seven-value range: very light, light, medium-light, medium, medium-dark, dark, and very dark. Your work will be much more exciting.”


I've really taken that advice to heart and made getting the values right one of my main goals in color selection. I used to have to take pictures of fabric with my phone and turn them into black and white to see the values, but I don't have to do that much anymore. As with anything, you get better with practice. I find that squinting at the fabric and/or the design wall helps me see the values better. Hopefully I'll outgrow that particular crutch soon, too. Otherwise I'm going to need some suggestions for a great eye cream!

I included a black and white picture to show why value is just as important as color. In the case of this quilt, it intensifies the movement that came from the piecing.

"Twilight Glitter Sparkles" finishes at 48" x 69."














Isaac and Eleanor. Eleanor was Mary's daughter.


If you are visiting from the Blogger's Quilt Festival, welcome. Thanks for stopping by.

A special thank you to Aunt Margie for sharing the pictures and stories with the rest of the family. I am so happy for the chance to get to know Isaac and Mary a little better.

Linking up to the Blogger's Quilt Festival at Amy's Creative Side.



Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Trading Game


Apparently some people nest before the baby.  I did it after the baby, and the object of my intense cleaning efforts was my sewing room. I purged. I sorted. I organized. I reorganized. I found.

I found. So. Many. Things. I sold a lot of books, magazines and specialty rulers at a local consignment store. I made enough to buy myself a new cutting mat and a lamp for the sewing table. Those were the easy things, though. The hard part was deciding what to do with the print precuts I had moldering in the closet. My brain told me that they were valuable, fun and imminently usable. I just didn't want to. If anyone is wondering, that's a perfect recipe for guilt, and I felt it in spades.

Selling them didn't seem right and using them felt even less so. In that moment, I channeled my inner "wheeler-dealer" gene.

My dad was famous (infamous?) for this. He loved to make deals with people. One of the funniest schemes he cooked up was with our neighbor Lucky. They would each peruse the classified ads in the paper, find something they needed and work together to get it for the best possible price. My dad would tell Lucky (and vice versa) how much he was willing to pay for something he'd seen and coordinate the timing of the phone calls. Lucky would call the seller, ask about the item and then start wearing him down about the exorbitant price he was charging. He made a point of ending the phone call with the phrase, "Why I wouldn't pay more than {insert slightly lower price than Dad was offering here}for it! You have it priced way too high!" Dad would wait a few minutes after Lucky hung up and call the seller himself. With a smile in his voice, he almost always made the deal for the price he had in mind.

I have this gene. My husband knows about it and will exploit it when he needs to. One of his favorite stories to tell is about the time I helped him trade a car. We were at the dealership doing the whole "let me talk to my manager" thing. At stake was $1,000. With utmost sincerity and wide-eyed innocence, I started going on and on about how much I had enjoyed the drive to Wisconsin (Gosh, isn't it SO pretty?), how much I loved the car we were trading (wistful sigh) and how hungry I was feeling (Can YOU recommend a good local restaurant?). I ended up grabbing my husband's hand and reassuringly telling him thank you for taking me on such a fun ADVENTURE and how I was secretly relieved not to have to trade my red car that was so PRETTY. He managed not to smile and walked out with me. The salesman chased after us in the parking lot and gave us the deal. Suckers.

It was with this in mind that I came up with a solution for the precuts that were so hard for me to deal with. I would try trading them! I made an Instagram post and asked if anyone was willing to trade me for some of their scraps. I found two takers. One quilter from Tennessee sent me two bags of solid scraps and a quilter from Texas sent me 22 solid fat quarters. Wow!

I really enjoy working with constraints, and I found the process of working with someone else's fabric fun and inspirational. The ideas came to me so quickly that one little project led right into the next. None of these quilts are very big so I felt even more free knowing that I wouldn't be committing huge amounts of time and fabric to complete them.


This is the first grouping that I made using scraps from Tennessee and my own stash. I didn't end up using the black in the first quilt (it was a little bit too much contrast), but I left it out and used it later. This is "The Trading Game, #1." It finishes at 24" x 24." I quilted it with freehand wavy lines in monofilament thread.



The next grouping I made used some of the fat quarters from Texas along with the black strips I didn't use before and some red scraps from my stash. I was probably thinking about Texas since it ended up with kind of a southwestern vibe. I started making Herringbone blocks in the same width and cutting them up in different lengths. I played with the pieces and ended up drawing a picture with them on the design wall. My mom was here visiting while I was making this quilt and was very concerned that I had discarded blocks. She thought I might piece them into the backing of the quilt, but instead I made a pillow for her to take home as a souvenir. I think she liked that plan better. "The Trading Game, #2" finishes at 38" x 38." The pillow is 18." Both are quilted with monofilament thread.


While my mom was here visiting, we attended an art fair in downtown Iowa City. We walked by a craftsman selling stained glass and I got an instant idea. With this, I am back using scraps from Tennessee in combination with scraps from my own stash (some solid and some tonal) and Kona Espresso. Each of the colored pieces are tiny blocks hand cut with scissors that are bordered with an L shape of the dark brown. I squared down all of these blocks to a consistent size and sewed them together. The irregularity of the widths and lengths of the setting fabric is what gives this the jingly-jangly rhythm that I love so much. I used a matching brown thread to quilt through the setting fabric and left each of the colored "glass" rectangles alone to glow. "The Trading Game, #3" finishes at 20" x 20." It lives on one of the end tables in the living room.


The inspiration for this runner was two-fold. First, I still had black scraps out on the cutting mat (and some from the next quilt down). Second, the Iowa State Fair added a table runner category this year that I wanted to enter. Sometimes that's all it takes. :-) "The Trading Game, #4" is 14" x 56." It is Tennessee + me and it didn't win a dang thing. I celebrated by hanging it on an awkward wall, also in our living room where I enjoy looking at it.

The Trading Game was a creative shot in the arm that only cost me shipping. It's fun to play with new things, but for many reasons, it's just not sustainable to keep buying and buying and buying. In fact, I think having mountains of stuff makes it even harder to ignite the creative spark. Honestly, the piles feel smothering. I guess that's a long way of saying that I'd like to do this again. Stay tuned on Instagram and I'll put up my next items for trade this week sometime. If your solid scraps/precuts are bothering you as much as my layer cakes were bothering me, perhaps we can make a trade!

What else have I been up to?

Lots! My quilt guild had a challenge this summer to make a medallion quilt. I had the crazy idea to try dyeing some fabric with bleach. (I guess technically it is discharging dye with bleach.) I researched it online and found an article from Threads magazine that helped me out with the details. (Here is a link to the article if you're interested.) I just had to try doing it! I have tried dyeing fabric in the traditional way before, but I honestly never fell in love with the process. I think if I were disciplined enough to measure and keep notes, I would be happier and have more consistent results. My brain just doesn't work that way, though. The fun thing about bleach dyeing is that you know what the main color is going to be when you're done and you can watch the fabric process in your hands and know exactly what accent color you are developing. I like that so much. Revealing the color underneath is enough of a mystery for me!

For this quilt, I started with Kona Black and tied it up with kitchen twine like it was a tie dye shirt. I dipped it in diluted bleach and let it sit for about 3-4 minutes before I rinsed it out. Afterwards I soaked it in the tub with some sodium thiosulfate (you can get that from a pool supply store) to stop the chlorine from burning a hole in the fabric. The result is almost a perfect match for the rusty construction dumpster shown in the picture of the finished quilt. Pretty cool.

I repeated the same process for the backing fabric and discharged a bunch more dye than I had the first time. I only let it sit in the diluted bleach for about a minute and that was enough! My glug of bleach (see the whole measuring problem I have?) was probably bigger than the last glug. :-) Anyway, it made some really interesting shapes all over and I just couldn't resist labeling one of them. What you see there is a really bad Matrix joke. The sunglasses made me do it!

I named this quilt "Bare Bones," and it finishes at 54" x 54." I quilted it in a freehand crosshatch pattern with monofilament thread. It is my interpretation of a medallion quilt (which the organizers defined as a central motif, surrounded by at least three borders). This is not my usual quilt, but I had a great time making it in addition to learning a lot.

I was really glad for my newfound skills in bleach dyeing when I came home from my last hair appointment. Unfortunately, my hair AND my shirt got highlights. I was not too worried because I could see the color underneath the plum was a lovely hot pink. I bleach dyed it, too! Hello new favorite shirt!




Lastly is a gift for a friend that illustrates the power of working with constraints. This friend is the one that volunteered to stay overnight at our house while I was in the hospital delivering Babyness. My husband was able to stay with me at night to help me recover after the c-section and have some sweet baby snuggles knowing that our older children were safe at home. That is 100% quilt worthy! Liz was also pregnant at the time. As her due date got closer, we asked her what colors she was choosing to decorate the nursery with. I had to suppress the groan when we heard back that it was navy and gray. Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful colors....just not ones that sounded terribly inspiring at the time.  I pulled together some fabrics and tried to include some aquas and ashy neutrals to soften it a little bit. I was actually so pleased with the results that I had to make a mini for myself with the scraps to help soften the blow of giving it away! And to think I groaned about those colors!

"Liz's Quilt" is 40" x 50." It is quilted with creamy thread in a wavy freehand crosshatch.

"Liz's Scraps" is 18" x 18." It is quilted with monofilament thread and proudly hangs in my sewing room.




I hope you have enjoyed reading my novel of a blog post. This summer I've had a great desire to work and produce and not such a great desire to write about it. I'm pretty well caught up now and finishing up things for the next post, which will also be stuffed full of quilts (but hopefully published with a little more haste than this one).

Thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Treasures

"Iowa nice" is really a thing. If you'd like to meet friendly, polite and easygoing people, please come to our state.

....just skip the parking lot at my children's elementary school.

Car line is an adventure. One snowy morning, one of my Iowa nice boys snapped and shouted from the backseat at the long line of brake lights in front of us, "WHY ARE YOU DOUBLE PARKING?!? BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO DROP YOUR PRECIOUS CHILD OFF AT THE FRONT DOOR WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE LATE!!!"  Thankfully, there was plenty of time to unpack that statement and calm down a bit before we got to a safe unloading spot. After I assured the boys that I thought they were both precious *and* capable, they got their hug and started the trudge to class. That morning was the start of a new family joke. I am now rated on how closely I can get them to the front door. Some mornings they call themselves 'precious.' Other mornings they are 'semi-precious.' It's a funny way to start the day with a smile, but it works!

Hearing 'semi-precious' most mornings was the spark for me to make a series of jewel inspired quilts. I always play along with the Pantone color of the year (ultraviolet), so I had the color inspiration to boot. It was a new way of thinking about creating quilts when my mind was completely focused on shape and color. I had so much fun exploring both of them.

The first is "Trillion Cut." This is an 18" square pillow that I made with ultraviolet in an analogous color scheme. This is a miniaturized version of a quilt (Love at First Glow) that I made last year. I constructed it using improvisational piecing on top of paper triangle templates that I made. It is quilted with monofilament thread.


Next is "Twilight Glitter Sparkles." This was named by my preschooler daughter in a combo that I'm pretty sure is a mashup of My Little Pony and Trolls. It is 48" x 69." This is just a quilt top for now. My sewing machine is in the shop and I've been sewing on my mom's old Pfaff for the last couple of months. It's a great little machine, but it just doesn't have the harp space to do a pivoting design on a bigger quilt. I'm still debating about whether I'll quilt it when I have my machine back or pay someone with a long arm to do it. This quilt uses ultraviolet in an analogous color scheme as well. I free pieced the blocks in different sizes for variety.



I challenged myself to come up with different friends for ultraviolet. I read about a square color scheme and decided to give it a try. I used my color wheel to choose 4 main colors evenly spaced around in a square shape. I spent a long time with the color selection, looking carefully in different lights at different times of the day. I am pleased with the result and that it still reads as a purple quilt. This is "Emerald Cut." It is 40" x 60" and is quilted with monofilament thread. The blocks are all free pieced, then squared down to a consistent size.





I had plenty of strips left over after piecing the last quilt. There's no time like the present to deal with coordinating scraps, so I sat down with the bucket and started sewing the strips together. This project used up most of the scraps I had generated in the last three quilts. This is "Pixelated Scraps" and it is 31" x 31." I quilted it in a crosshatch pattern with monofilament thread and finished it with a faced edge.




Last is "Diamond Split." This is a small 24" x 24" quilt that I made with ultraviolet in a split complementary color scheme. The diamonds are improvisationally pieced.  This used Kona bright periwinkle, cerise, wasabi and berry. It is also quilted with monofilament thread.



Since my last post, I have safely delivered a baby girl (the big kids call her "Babyness"). There were some bumps, but it all worked out in the end and we are both healthy and happy. She is the sweetest, most content little girl you could ever imagine and is greatly loved. Her favorite thing to do is play the smiling game. Whenever she initiates the game with her older siblings, they'll bellow "She's passing out smiles like candy!!" and everyone else will come running to smile and coo at her. It warmed my heart to see her start the smiling game with some other children in the pew ahead of us at church. I'm glad that everyone in her little world smiles back. That's exactly how it should be.

These quilts were fun to make and a great creative outlet. But, make no mistake, these smiling kids are my greatest treasure.





If you'd like to take a look at the collection of quilts created with Pantone Ultraviolet, you can find them at No Hats in the House or Bryan House Quilts.

Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Announcement

I know that this post has been a long time in coming. Part of me wants to apologize for that, but the other part of me won't with the hope you understand. Some stories are harder to tell than others.

I've said before that I gravitate toward improvisational quilting because I love all the reacting and expressing that is part of the process. Often I end up with a piece that says so much more than I ever intended. Such is the case with this first quilt. I pulled out a whole bunch of red fabrics to play with this summer just because I noticed that I had two duplicate spools of red thread. I started piecing a few rows of improv triangles and had the thought that the quilt needed a little more sparkle. I brainstormed a few ideas on how to add an accent color, and finally decided on surrounding a tiny triangle of gold with more red and insetting them into the rows. I had to laugh because I was also simultaneously brainstorming a way to share the news with my friends and family that we were expecting again. I figured that the pregnant triangles I was piecing into the quilt were good enough for both jobs so I posted a picture of this quilt on social media as a way to share our news.

"The Announcement" finishes at 38" x 56." (The pregnancy will "finish" somewhere in mid to late February.) I used Quilter's Dream Request batting and matchstick quilted it with Aurifil invisible thread so I wouldn't alter any of the color work.




This pregnancy was long awaited and very slow in coming.

When I was a little girl, my siblings were teenagers. Sometimes my parents needed to have a talk that was necessary for older ears, but not so appropriate for mine. Whenever that happened, my mother would stand in front of the kitchen window, gasp in wonder and say, "Look, Jill! Your cat is chasing a butterfly!" I would excitedly run out the door in breathless anticipation to see such a sight and my mom and dad could have a private conversation with the bigger kids.

I've recalled that experience often over the last couple of years and I've decided that there is no better metaphor for infertility than "chasing the butterfly." The process is often long, unpredictable and powered by mere glimpses of what could be. It also feels like an exercise in futility on a lot of days. It can be hard when something so beautiful is so elusive.

I created two quilts exploring this theme. The first, "Chasing the Butterfly I," I made at my mom's house this summer. I used the idea of an Exquisite block from Gwen Marston's book Liberated Quiltmaking II. I blanked out some of the blocks and added an additional color to the scheme to create a lighted path to pull the eye through the quilt. I hand tied the quilt on the long drive home, using the polka dot backing as my marking structure and tying the knots from the back. I used a variegated Valdani thread, so there are tiny winks of color on the front of the quilt that I am especially happy with. The quilt finishes at 39" x 54."



I tried another approach for "Chasing the Butterfly II." I made a full scale drawing of the butterfly, then made myself templates to construct the chunks. I ended up using needle-turn applique to attach everything to a muslin foundation. If I had it to do over again, I would piece it. The curves were gentle enough that this would have been totally possible, and I could have avoided some of the shadowing that I got from the darker red fabrics peeking through the golds. Nonetheless, I still like it. The quilt finishes at 24" x 24." I used invisible thread to matchstick quilt this and it is finished with a faced edge.



I have been a patient at the fertility clinic in our local hospital for the past two years, and I am thankful for all the support and love that has been shown to me during my time there. We were initially very optimistic because after my first appointment, with all of the data gained from the tests and with the treatments prescribed, I was able to become pregnant very quickly.

But then I wasn't. And I wasn't. And I wasn't again.

I have failed at many things in my life, but one thing I have never failed at was getting back up again after a blow. I almost couldn't do it this time. Sitting in the doctor's office with a brand new diagnosis of recurrent miscarriage was one of the lowest points of my life. The last gasp of my faith after the third loss had been to pray for my doctor to know how to help us. At the end of our discussion with a list of expensive and invasive options for my husband and I to consider, I wondered if it would be possible. When the appointment was over, I waited for her to stand up. She didn't. She stared hard at the carpet. She checked my file on the computer and stared at the carpet some more. Finally she said, "I shouldn't need to check this again, but I feel like I need to. Can we add on one more test to your blood work today?" It was the easiest test suggested from my list of options so of course I agreed. Thankfully it revealed a problem, easily fixable with time and medication, and after 3 1/2 years of hoping and trying, we finally had a baby on the way.

"Trying" is my quilt story of the journey through recurrent miscarriage to a miracle baby girl. I used the idea of a wide and narrow log cabin setting with pieced strips to make stylized, unfinished positives. I really love how the finished block resembles a flower. Looking at this quilt isn't a sad experience for me. In it I see that my faith has been tested, but in the end it flowered and made a safe place for my little butterfly to finally land. This quilt finishes at 48" x 48." I used Quilter's Dream Request batting and did straight line quilting with Aurifil invisible thread. It is finished with a faced edge.




Just the other day, my older son rubbed my belly and told me that he just knew that this little baby would be special. "How do you know that?" I asked him. "Because we had to wait so long for her," he said. I'm so excited for her to be born."

Me too.

My next post will not be six months in coming, I promise. Right now I'm on baby watch and nesting with the Pantone Color of the Year. In the meantime, I'll share three minis I also completed in the last few months.

"Curated Cabins," 16" x 16." This one was made for the log cabin prompt from Curated Quilts.


"The Doctor Pepper Sunshiney Pineapple," 12" x 12." I made this one for inclusion in a group birthday gift for a friend. The brief was to include everything citrus. When I asked if a bottle of Dr. Pepper (her favorite) was going to be included, I was told we couldn't put it in because it didn't match the colors.  That was a challenge I couldn't pass up. Mwah-ha-ha! Look what matches now!! My contribution to the gift was this mini and a bottle of Dr. Pepper.


"Reining in My Exuberance," 15" x 15." This was a mini that I made for the minimalist prompt from Curated Quilts.


 Linking up to Finish it up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.