Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Living Coral

I love blue and purple, and when left to my own devices, I make a lot of blue and purple quilts. Every year Pantone chooses a color of the year and every year I challenge myself to make quilts with it. I even did it the year that Pantone chose a dual color in shades of an 80s bathroom. 😏

This year the color was Living Coral and I have thoroughly enjoyed a tropical vibe in the sewing room the past few months.

When the color of the year was announced, I immediately thought of fruity drinks with umbrellas. This quilt was the result of sketching out my idea of what fruity drinks, warm sun, and ocean breezes would sound like. I chose colors that gave that same tropical vibe. I  worked on this off and on during the winter, which was particularly cold and bleak here in Iowa, and I am quite sure of this quilt's restorative powers and thermal energy.

Each of the squares and diamonds were free pieced and then set into ordered rows. I like that contradiction of ordered disorder. I also had a great time working with values. I included a black and white photo of this quilt just for fun. The two sections that look like solid rectangles of light gray are places where I used complementary colors of the same value. The movement in these places came from the vibrating effect instead of the value difference. I only did it twice because it was so intense!

This quilt is quilted with monofilament thread and is finished with a faced edge. I named it "Rhythms." It is 40" x 60" and is my entry to the finished quilt category of the Pantone Quilt Challenge.







I played with the color a lot in "Rhythms," and ultimately changed my mind a couple of times after I had already cut fabric. I had two stacks of half rectangle triangles on my cutting mat, and rather than start a whole new bin for storing triangle scraps, I decided to use them up. I cut out strips of the complementary color (turquoise) and started to piece the strips between the triangles. I had no ending in mind, I was just curious to see how it would look. I ended up with rough rectangles and then wondered if I could do partial seams with improv blocks. The answer is yes, but it's a little fiddly...especially when you haven't used a ruler and the edges of the pieces are wavy. I built the blocks around a golden square and kept piecing the blocks together until I ended up with a rough square shape. At that point, I got stuck. I finally decided to border the square with a turquoise square and didn't really like that either. While I was looking at the design wall and pondering my next step, I had the thought that I needed an out of the box solution. That thought was the solution! I happily pieced coral borders and mindfully added more gold squares in specific locations. I love diagonal settings and I thought the shower of gold related well to the turquoise diagonal lines.

"Out of the Box," is my entry to the mini category in the Pantone Quilt Challenge. It is 30" x 29." I constructed it without a ruler. It is quilted with diagonal wavy lines in monofilament thread and is finished with a pieced binding.

I have been thinking about the power creativity has on our lives and found this quote:

"If you build a wall to separate people there will be those who find a way around the wall, or over it, or under it, or through it. We humans are not meant to be contained, and neither are our thoughts." Teresa R. Funke

The moral of the story? Be one of the gold not-quite squares. 😁






Sometimes I work with a sketch, and sometimes I don't. This is a quilt that I roughly sketched out on a square sheet of paper. I've been curious about using bias strips for a long time, but I've never done it. I really wanted to try, but I also really didn't want to make a quilt that looked like someone else made it. I've had a pickle dish block on my mind for awhile and I thought it might be a good contender for an experiment.

Remember when swaps were a big thing? Back in 2015 I decided to join my first swap and I wanted to do it right. I worked hard on a pickle dish mini and used up some of my favorite Tula Pink fabrics. I even did matchstick quilting! I definitely felt a major twinge of regret when I placed that mini in the envelope, but I sent it anyway. I wanted to make a friend and to give my partner some joy. I didn't get what I was looking for. 😐 If you're wildly curious to see the quilt, here's the link to the blog post I wrote about it way back when.

I've waited four long years to give myself a pickle dish quilt, and this is it!

I had a good laugh when I took "Out of the Box" down and immediately taped a 30" square on the design wall to help me build the pickle dish quilt. Oh, the irony. Construction began with a free cut petal shape. I used butcher paper to match the edge of the petal and roughly drew in the triangle spikes. I used improv paper piecing to make those sections. I alternated between bias strips and cutting the curves to match from yardage for the curving filler pieces. I don't know which method I like better. They both use up a ton of fabric and take some time. I think using the combination helped me make blocks that lie remarkably flat. I used a heck of a lot of pins and chalk and fabric. I have a lovely box of scraps from this quilt, so don't think this is the last you've seen of this colorway! I can't wait to dive in!

This is my entry to the just the top category in the Pantone Quilt Challenge. It is 60" x 60." I haven't figured out a name for this yet, but there will be time because I'm pretty sure that I will need to hand quilt this. Just the thought of putting a feed dog anywhere near all those bias edges stresses me out!



I only used one of the bleach dyed fabrics on the left. The quilt definitely had enough going on.
I hope you can find a way to be creative today! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Wheaties or Cheerios

When I was training to be an elementary teacher, constructivism was the word of the day. Student choice was supposed to inform every learning decision. In theory, it sounded great. In practice? Let's just say that my fellow students and I were very puzzled about implementation and about how a classroom would look if 25 kids were all doing their own thing.

I met Dr. D at an observation opportunity I had at the attached elementary school, and I asked him about it. He smiled knowingly and said, "You tell those kids that they can have anything in the world they want for breakfast.Then you ask them if they want Wheaties or Cheerios."

Limits on expansive creativity can be a good thing.

I'd like to share some quilts I've made recently with limits.

The first quilt was made for the Project Quilting prompt of "Red, White and Blue." I have a mound of worn out jeans from my two boys that I have saved to make quilts with. I've never gotten to it because I've been worried about quilting over the thick seams. I had the thought recently that I should try a quilt-as-you-go method to simultaneously deal with quilting and bulk. I tried it with this quilt and it worked. The manufacturer directions for the batting I used specified that quilting could be up to 4" apart. I used hand quilting to add interest and secure any area that was getting close to that number. The fun part about using the quilt-as-you-go method was that there was no going back. Mentally, I had to accept every element I added as part of the quilt and use future decisions to validate previous decisions. 

I was thinking about how quickly "time flies" when I went through the bin of jeans that were way too small for my boys. I used that as a theme and found a way to include flying geese and an hourglass block. Before I began, I also tried to alter some of the jeans to add more variety to the quilt. I took some of the denim pieces up to my tub, laid over a gridded anti-slip rug liner, and sprayed them with diluted bleach. The effect is subtle, but I think gave the denim pieces a lovely texture. The two lighter pieces around the red in the center were treated in this way. I also added decorative mending in red. So many of the jeans in the pile had been previously mended and I thought it would be a fun memory. The red denim in this quilt came from my mother. I texted to ask her where she got it from and she told me that they used to be a pair of red pants that she LOVED from when she was teaching. Don't you love how it all comes full circle? The striped denim was a remnant that came in a scrap pack.

"Time Flies," finished at 32" x 34."





The next challenge for Project Quilting was "bigger than a bread box." Really, this was just a size challenge. You could make anything, as long as it was larger than 8" x 16." I struggled to get anything started for this because that really wasn't much of a limit. I decided to narrow the challenge even more and make the theme be bread. I studied the Wonder Bread label and found inspiration in the colorway and with the circles. I thought of history and "the greatest thing since sliced bread" idea. I started making "sliced" log cabin blocks and using needle-turn applique to make tiny circles. When I got worried about the colorway being a little too literal to the packaging, I added the coral and green that I already had out on my cutting mat from a Pantone project I've been working on intermittently. As I started placing the blocks on the design wall, I tried to keep the proportions of a loaf of bread. Finally, my last bready inspiration was to construct this in a quilt-as-you-go method.  Each of the blocks was 2.5" wide, so I pieced blocks into rows and then added them to the quilt that way. It really emphasizes the idea of a slice.

"Wonder" finishes at 23" x 37."




The most recent challenge on Project Quilting almost did me in. It definitely is a challenge to come up with a concept, stitch, quilt and bind in one week. I made it even harder for myself by going in a pretty challenging direction. The prompt was "pixel." I've done two pixel quilts before and just about enough time had elapsed to make me forget how hard they can be when precision cutting and piecing really aren't my thing. I had heard of a method that used interfacing that I wanted to try. I was able to find interfacing with a one-inch grid. It wasn't fusible, so for a brief moment I thought about using Heat n Bond (I bought some, too. More on that later!). After some thinking time, though, I decided not to because of bulk. Instead I used spray baste to attach my one inch pieces. I pinched the interfacing from the back directly on the marked line, sewed the seam, then snipped open the loop of interfacing. Since the rainbow I'd mapped out was 30" x 44," I did that about 70 times. Oy. I did my very best, but all my pixels are not a perfect 1/2" finished block. The rows are still not perfectly straight. What I guess I'm saying is that it isn't perfect. Not even close. I'm also saying that if you press your face close enough to the quilt to point out these imperfections, you're also close enough to kick. 😏

The rainbow will be a gift for my daughter that is in kindergarten. I helped her with an art project a month ago for a contest sponsored by a local bank. Some of the prize winners have their work appear in a calendar and some have their art framed. She didn't win either of those prizes, but I made her a solemn promise that we'd frame her work no matter what happened. She made a rainbow. This is not a shocker because she colors rainbows on everything. No matter what she's studying at school--whales, printable books about snowmen, math papers--she turns it into rainbows. If there is an outline of any shape on a printed page, it is getting the rainbow treatment. For her project, I cut millions of tiny squares out of colored origami paper, and she glued them to her collage. At the end of her rainbow she wanted a cloud, so I found some white tissue paper with rainbow glitter in an old gift bag downstairs and she glued it in smushy swirls on the bottom. The whole project took forever. Afterwards, I pressed the cardstock we'd used between a huge stack of books, but there was so much glue that it will forever ripple. We're going to see her work in a show tomorrow and she's incredible excited.

I'm sure you can see now why I made the rainbow and why I persevered when I was starting to hate every minute of it. Do you know the even crazier thing? I told my mom about the rainbow I'd made (with no backstory) and she offered to send me money to have it framed! Full circle again!

"Rainbow Lunacy" is 14" x 22."




Remember that Heat n Bond that I bought? Yeah, I wanted to use that and I still had the idea of rainbows in my mind. I made four different sizes and shapes of rainbows and pieced them together to form a composition. Doing that art project with my daughter helped me remember how much I like collage. This was fun. I'd like to do it again.

"Rainbow, 2," is 15" x 15." It is machine quilted and hand quilted.



This is a quilt that I finished last summer, but it never really fit into a blog post until now. My little kindergarten daughter? She has a hard time sometimes because our two oldest boys are the best of friends and do everything together. It's helping now that Babyness is older and capable of more because the girls love to play together. This past summer there were times that she felt pretty left out. One Sunday afternoon, when she was really frustrated with her brothers, I brought up my bucket of snippets to do an activity with her. I keep a bucket on the shelf above my cutting table for snippets...pieces that are too big to just throw away, but too small to ever be found in the larger scrap bin. I asked my daughter to sort through them and pull out any pieces that felt like a warm color to her. She had a great time going through the whole bucket. The next morning I started piecing the little snippets she'd picked into improv log cabin blocks. I set them improvisationally and let the chocolate background ebb and flow through it.

I called it "A Family Affair," and it is 30" x 30."


The last quilt I'd like to share is a trading game quilt. For those of you that don't know, I offer up items from my sewing room that I'm either not using or not interested in using any more to trade for scraps. I was looking for a mental break from the pressure of Project Quilting and picked up a bag of solid scraps I'd received from Julie this summer. The bag had lots of strips of blue, grey and purple solids of various shades and a remnant of a mauvey Kaffe Fassett print. I added strips of acid green, pink and one Amy Butler print. I had just taken the class from Sherri Lynn Wood on Creativebug and I was curious to try her ruler-free methods of strip piecing. I freehand cut things all the time, but there is always a point somewhere in the process where I square blocks or sections. I didn't this time. The orderly part of my brain wouldn't let me piece bubbles into the slabs, so every so often I would cut the next strip to match the natural curve happening. It helped ease in any fullness without using darts. I'm not a big fan of darts.

At the end of the process, I had four large slabs of strips pieced and no game plan. I didn't have to look far for inspiration. This picture was taken from my sewing room during one of the many snowstorms this winter.


I used the bigger scraps from the bag to recreate icicles and make up a size differential I had.


There was a place where a pink strip accidentally and EXACTLY matched one of the pink icicles. I hand quilted it in hot pink to draw the eye to that delightful bit of serendipity.


"Icicles" finished at 42" x 47." It is quilted with a mixture of hand and machine quilting.

Just like the thought of managing 25 kids doing self-selected study all day was completely terrifying, engaging in complete unlimited creative freedom freezes me up. If it works like that for you, too, give setting limits a try. There are lots of ways to innovate Wheaties or Cheerios. 😉

Have a great weekend!


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Joy

I was supposed to give a presentation and trunk show at the Iowa City quilt guild last Monday. It was called off that afternoon with the threat of freezing drizzle in the area, but not before I'd prepared a presentation and prepped most of the quilts I wanted to show. You can't help but be reflective when you spend a day looking at a few years worth of quilts and a lot longer than that thinking of what quilting means to you.

So what does it mean?

My bio on Instagram is "I make, and it makes me happy." That's pretty much it.

There's more, though. Over the Christmas holidays I was asked to speak about joy in front of our church congregation for about 15 minutes. I learned so much from that experience. I found a hymn with the lyrics, "You can make the pathway bright, fill your soul with heaven's light, if there's sunshine in your heart." Not only is that a beautiful way to define joy, it also perfectly encapsulates what the creative process does for me. As I make, I feel. Those feelings are magnified, released and expressed with every seam I sew.

Not every feeling is positive and uplifting. Learning how to master negative mental habits has brought me great joy and changed how I regard the world. There is a point in EVERY quilt I've ever made when the destructive self-talk begins. Usually it happens in the beginning when I have just a few blocks up on the design wall. "I hate it," the voice says. "It's terrible and so are you. All you've managed to do is waste your time and materials. They won't like it." I've learned that I don't have to acknowledge that voice. Do you know how your eyes eventually slip out of focus once you've stared at a spot long enough? The power of the negative voice will slip as you stare at the design wall and consciously look for the good. There is always something good. A color combination, a shape...an idea to try next. Finding the good is incredibly rewarding. Finding the good gives you the tools to finish what you've started. Trusting yourself to find the good makes you brave enough to try again.

In this sense, looking for the good isn't just a quilting philosophy. It's a world view. Once you've trained your eyes to look for the good, you see it everywhere. I've found so much optimism and grace in my sewing space. I've found healing. I've found joy.

"How do you find time to sew with 4 kids?" (I hear this all the time.) I just do. I have to. I'm a better mom and a better human when I do. I would rather sew than sleep. We eat a lot of crock pot dinners. What else is there to say?

There are things that I've done recently to increase my joy. I took a few steps to prevent the damaging "they won't like it" from taking root in my creative process. For now, I've stopped entering quilt shows. It's been a two year sabbatical so far. Stuffing a gag in that particular voice has strengthened my own. I see my work becoming more distinctive as I trust my own voice more than I worry about pleasing the other one. You have no idea how liberating it is to make things without the stress of wondering if what you make is good enough or modern enough. Or maybe you do and I'm just learning what you've always known. The other thing I've done is to wrest control away from Instagram. I took a two week break from social media last year and the world didn't end. Coming back from the break, I changed the settings so I wouldn't receive any push notifications. That flashing camera had become more about validation than sharing in a community.

Those steps have helped me strengthen my resolve to be the quilter I want to be and to make the quilts I want to make. Modern quilting is many things to me (I'm still contemplating a lot of points), but I know for sure that it is an expressive act and a tool I use to make sense of my world.

My journals are made of fabric and ether.

The first quilt I'd like to share is a trading game quilt. I called it "Solstice." It is made from large petal shaped scraps I received from trading away a layer cake. I picked out the seven cool colors (discarding that darkest warm green for another time) and added 3 solids from my own stash along with a stripe and a plaid. I cut squares out of the center of the petals and used them for an improvisational stack and whack. I used the triangle shapes left over from cutting the squares out of the petals to change the distribution of color in the blocks. I enjoyed using the royal blue and green colors in the center of the block, but disliked the way they looked when using them as the framing triangles. The something good I saw when I put the first batch up on the design wall was the twinkly effect the lime green center gave the block. I left in the few blocks that I'd made with different centers before I made that discovery. I think it makes the quilt interesting. It is finished with organic, wavy line quilting in monofilament and a faced edge. It is 52" x 52."

While I was making this quilt, I was preparing my talk on joy. To help me organize my thoughts, I listened to a C.S. Lewis book called Surprised by Joy. In it he describes his favorite poem. The way he thought about that poem was exactly how I felt about this quilt:

 So out of the whole poem arose and wrapped me 'round an exquisite, silvery coolness. A delightful quality of distance and calm.

I had a bucket full of leftover strips and royal blue triangles when I finished piecing "Solstice." This pillow is what I came up with to utilize those.  It is made from 20 improv string blocks (10 original and 10 mirror-image). It's hard to see because of the curve of the pillow, but all the royal blue triangles are the capstones to those rectangle string blocks. This pillow is 12" x 20."


I like to participate in challenges to boost my creativity. This mini was made for season 10, challenge 1 of Project Quilting. The theme was "Hope Springs Eternal." I changed course mid-way through. Originally I envisioned the flying geese to radiate out as arms in a plus sign. My thinking was that faith and charity go along with hope and that both of those attributes compel you to look outward and upward. I liked the idea, but it wasn't translating well in fabric. I tried rearranging the arms to all vertical and found my answer. I really like the idea of candles. I think they can easily symbolize the ideas of faith, hope, charity and joy that I was originally contemplating. I love how my subconscious was figuring this out for me while I was working. 

"Heaven's Light" finishes at 28" x 23." It is made entirely from my scrap bin (except for the celery background).

If you are interested in participating in Project Quilting, the next challenge was announced today. It is to make a quilt using only red, white and/or blue. It is due next Sunday. More details can be found at Kim Lapacek's blog, Persimon Dreams.

I hope you'll think about giving it a try! There's nothing like some constraints and a short deadline to get your wheels turning! 

This quilt is a remake. I had some purple and black improv strips languishing in my closet that I was finally ready to deal with. I had a version of a rail fence quilt in my last blog post and decided to give it another try. I made some poison green and black slabs to enliven what I had. I think complementary colors + black = a win every time. I like this. I like this a lot better than I liked some sad strips taking up space in my closet.

"Riffing on a Rail, II" is 42" x 42." It is quilted with monofilament and finished with a faced edge.

If the last quilt is a remake, I guess this one would be a remake of a remake. I got a little excited making the poison green and black strips and made too many. I didn't want to waste them, so I drew out an idea for this quilt. Recently, I checked out a book from the kid's section of the library called Paul Klee for Children by Silke Vry. I learned a lot from studying Klee's paintings. I can definitely see his influence on this quilt. Instead of the symbols he frequently used, I enjoyed experimenting with the placement of black lines. Sometimes combining the lines made shapes, sometimes piecing them together extended the line into a previously pieced segment. I was 100% engaged while I made this because it was so fun to watch what happened.

The colors were inspired by an Elvis poster I saw once. The artist used a single blue curve to show the line of his iconic hair. I thought it would be fun to try in a quilt. That thin blue line is probably also the outer limit on my abilities in minimalism. 😏 There are three different greens and three different pinks in this quilt. The effect is subtle, but interesting. It was very hard to capture in a photograph, but one of the greens is metallic.

"Riffing on a Rail, III" is 25"x 24." It is quilted with monofilament and finished with a pieced binding.

The last quilt, "Happy Little Ovals," was made for a Curated Quilts challenge. I really mean it when I say that I enjoy working with constraints. I've had figuring out Dale Fleming's Six Minute Circle on my list for awhile now, but it was the challenge that gave me the impetus to finally try. I've done all of the Curated Quilts challenges except for one that was too close to my due date. I've never had one be accepted for publication....until now. I was surprised. I would have kept making them for the duration because I enjoy it.

I named this to remind me of a fun story. I took a stroll down memory lane and watched an episode of Bob Ross on Netflix one day. My Kindergarten-aged daughter walked in. She was in love. She sat down in front of the TV and didn't move until he'd finished the painting. When it was over she begged, no, IMPLORED me to let her watch another one. She loves to draw. I'm excited to see what she'll do as her talents develop.

12" x 12"


My presentation and trunk show have been rescheduled for September 9, 2019 at the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Iowa City. The meeting is on the lower level of the building and begins at 7:00 pm. Admission is free and anyone is invited to attend.

I hope you can find something that gives you joy today. Thanks for reading!