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.