Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Clearinghouse of Quilts!!

Well, first things first. I am going to be doing a trunk show on Monday, September 9th at 7:00 pm in Iowa City. My presentation is called "Every Quilt Has a Story" and will be held in the multi-purpose room (lower level) at the Our Redeemer Lutheran church on the corner of Court Street and First Avenue. It's free. If you are local, I'd love to see you. If you're not, don't worry. I'm about to catch up with all the quilts I haven't blogged about and will be hitting you with a virtual quilt show right now.

I'm really behind on posting, so fair warning, there are a MASSIVE amount of quilts coming.

First up is "Wise Eyes," which is 57" x 57." I am calling this one finished even though I plan on adding a little bit more hand quilting in the center of the "eyes" before Monday. Probably two more echoes will make me feel better about it.

I wrote more about this quilt in my last post because it was on of my Pantone Living Coral quilts for the year. This quilt tied for Viewer's Choice in the "Just the Top" category. I really appreciate your votes!

I have a powerful association with pickles. My dad's oldest sister became my de-facto grandmother through a complicated family dynamic. I treasure her memory. She was well-known for making the world's best homemade pickles in a million different forms. They were literally the bright spot on every dinner plate in our house in terms of flavor and color. My favorite was mustard pickles. That taste gives me an instant transport back to my childhood. My own kids tease me about the inordinate number of mustards in our fridge. I think they counted 9 different varieties? What can I say...I guess I love zing!!!!

I got to explain the concept of "relish" to my oldest son recently when we had pork with red cabbage. He insisted that he didn't like the red cabbage and I told him he needed to stop thinking of it as a vegetable and start thinking of it as the sweet-sour condiment. As soon as I compared it to cranberry sauce on a Thanksgiving plate he understood and liked it a little better because he changed how he was eating it. Thinking about things in a new way opens up so many possibilities!

I thought about my aunt a lot while I made this quilt. I wondered how she would approach the concept of a "pickle dish." Thinking about her helped me approach the quilt with humor and sass, traits she held in spades. I thought about her when I sat in a rocking chair that was similar to hers, persevered, and hand quilted this throughout July.

I enjoyed the process of making this quilt so much. I didn't have a plan, just a square taped up on my design wall that I was trying to fill, one curve at a time. So many life parallels there and so many different meanings of the word 'relish.' Here's to slowing down and enjoying the journey, and here's to you Aunt Lora. Miss you.

Next is "Yes! Yes! (Yes!)" It is 47" x 63."

This was a flimsy that I finished this spring. I saved the hand quilting to do during all our time in the car during summer travel season.

So, the name. While I was digging in my scrap bin to get strips for another ginormous block (this is 100% from my scrap bin, by the way) my then 5 year old art-obsessed daughter walked in. She looked at the pieces already on the design wall, gasped, and came out with this profundity. "Mama, I see what you're doing!! You're coloring with fabric!" That was such a succinct and perfect way of summing up what I do that I gave her an emphatic nod and a firm "Yes!" Then she said, "I want to do it, too. Will you help me make a quilt?" Another nod and an emphatic "Yes!"

Since that moment, I've thought of this s the "Yes! Yes!" quilt. The last minute name addendum came while we were traveling. I was using all my time in the car to hand quilt this, so I had a sewing kit with me. While playing with a little girl down the street from her grandparents' house, disaster struck. My daughter tried to open her new friend's backpack by the pom pom decoration on the zipper. The gathering stitch snapped and she was left holding some fiberfill and a square of fuzzy purple fabric. She was horrified, ran to get me and asked if I could fix it. "Yes!" The new gathering stitch is black 12 wt. thread, but you know what? It will probably last longer that way! That kind of make-do spirit is what this quilt is all about and I figured it warranted a name change.

Saying YES in the sewing room (and teaching yourself to have fun doing it) is an empowering, joyful act.

Did I make a quilt with her after all that? Yes! I let her raid my stash and choose her own fabrics. I helped her with the sewing and even bought a really cool rainbow unicorn print for the back. I hand quilted this. It is 40" x 60" and happily lives on her bed.

Next is a mini I made for a Curated Quilts "Well Said" theme. It was selected and appears in the mini gallery. I called it "Me" and it finished at 15" x 15."

Read between the lines of any quilt I've ever made and what do you see? ME!!

Last summer I entered one of my log cabin quilts into a local show. I received a feedback form from the judge with the comment, "I am waiting for you to do something more with this design." Then she signed her name and listed her judging credentials. I felt a series of emotions, but after some thought I was able to place the experience in some context. She signed the sheet with her opinion and I signed the quilt with design, color and the form my personal expression seems to take. I consider the center of this mini to be a figurative version of my signature. Her signature was ignored and forgotten. My signature is proudly hanging in my sewing room.

This table runner was made from one of the Project Quilting prompts last year. The theme was "Chocolate," so I made this based on one of my favorite chocolate bars, the dark chili chocolate from Moser Roth (I get it at Aldi). I called it "Dark Chili Chocolate" and it finishes at 14" x 30."

Next is "This is 41." It finishes at 34" x 36."

Last year when I turned 40, I was in no mood to celebrate. I was 37 weeks pregnant and I'd heard one too many "old" jokes and comments to feel happy about my birthday. I decreed that we'd let it slide by with the barest of fusses, and we did.

This year has been all about embracing being an experienced parent (NOT an "old" one). I don't get too worked up about the inconveniences. I've adapted to being perennially tired. There's a lot of "rolling with it" at our house. It's been so nice to simply enjoy a baby from the perspective of the other side of the hill.

Since there was no celebrating at 40, I wanted to make a quilt that showed what 41 looks like. This is made from 2 dress shirts I bought on clearance at Goodwill. I made 41 free-pieced flying geese out of the shirts and combined them creatively to draw out some shapes in the center panel. To that I added some of the shot cotton that my mom sent and some Handcrafted that the baby emptied from my shelf. Instead of worrying about putting it back, I shrugged and added it to the quilt. It's beautiful serendipity. I made improv sawtooth borders and added one row upside down for some fun. Part way through the quilting I ran out of matching thread. I pulled out another spool in a contrasting color and kept going. I didn't use a ruler until I cut the binding.

So what is 41? It's a whole lot of making it work and also a whole lot of fun.

I had some more scraps left over from the shirts that I wanted to use. I combined that with some of my own scraps plus the scraps from someone else who was destashing on Instagram (Thank you, Karen). I thought it was a fun snapshot of where I am as a quilter right now, so I called it "Making Do." I constructed this without a ruler, too. It finished at 23" x 24." I got a blue ribbon at the Iowa State Fair for this quilt and was pleasantly surprised. I thought for sure that the first two quilts in this post would do well (they didn't) and I entered this one for fun. Lesson learned. You just never know.

This pillow is the result of another Curated Quilts prompt, "Stars." Our summer travel plans caught up with me and I wasn't able to finish before we left and the deadline happened. That's okay, though. Missing the deadline gave me the opportunity to turn it into a cute pillow. It is a 14" square. The dotty fabric came from a $0.44 maternity shirt I bought from Goodwill and cut up. Be on the lookout for more shirt quilts, I really enjoy piecing a quilt with something that already has a history.

Speaking of history, I was able to buy nine pieced vintage diamonds from a Mennonite thrift store near me. I purchased the diamond blocks and one other block from the same maker for $4.50. It was a wonderful find.

This is the quilt I made from those vintage diamond blocks. I named it "Log Cabin Star" because that's what the original maker called it. She'd pinned the blocks together and labelled the nine pieces with the name of the block and a sketch of the finished quilt. For my label, I traced her handwriting and sketch since this is her quilt, too! I made an educated guess for her city of residence because one of the paper foundations was made from a Shumaker's Grocery bag (Wayland) and the notepad she'd used to label the pieces was from a feed company in Wayland.

It was such a fun experience to feel like I was collaborating with someone from the past and creating something that already had a history. I used modern methods, fabrics and sensibilities to finish a thought the original maker had started. Of course I had to make some modifications along the way. Some of the diamonds were frayed and needed extra fabric to fill the voids (that's the red). Also, I'm not quite sure of the math on a nine-pointed star, so I was kind of glad that one of the pieced diamonds was in pretty rough shape so I could default to the more doable eight-pointed star.

Wherever she is, I hope she's happy with the finish and glad that I crossed off a UFO from her list.

"Log Cabin Star" finishes at 36" x 36."

I have been on a cleaning tear this summer. I just conducted a ruthless tear through the fabric closet in my sewing room. Many things were purged and sent to a consignment store. Many things were also found. This pillow is based on an oil stick fabric stencil my mother had finished in a workshop several years ago and given to me. Originally, I had planned on placing the coneflower stencil drawing she'd made in the place where the rusty red square is. I decided at the last minute not to piece it in and add the monochromatic half square triangles instead. Ordering the disorder is one of my favorite things to do, and is definitely what is happening in this pillow. It is an 18" square.

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Gwen Marston this spring. I would not be the quilter I am today without her influence. Instead of moping and getting too maudlin, I decided to make a Gwen-esque quilt to honor her memory. "Remembering Gwen" is improvisationally pieced, completely liberated, made from scraps (including someone else's) and heavy on the red and purple. It finished at 20" x 20."

Last up is my most recent finish. If you are still reading this, THANK YOU! This post has been way too long and way too long in coming. I'm considering posting on Instagram and my blog simultaneously. I don't really know if there are people who follow both places or just one. A few months ago I started telling the stories on Instagram too. It seems silly to try to keep the two accounts separate or to try to use one platform to promote the other. I appreciate the friends that follow me on both accounts and I think it would be better to show my appreciation through more timely posts.

This is "Lift." It is 39" x 53." I started this quilt back in 2017, and I took it off the design wall to work on the Pantone Greenery quilts. I found it in the fabric closet during my purge and I am thrilled to finish it!

This quilt began out of thriftiness. I wanted to use up little triangle scraps from my Wanta Fanta bee blocks. I improvisationally pieced them together as quarter square triangles and it reminded me of a butterfly. This is the first one of many butterfly quilts that I've made. I'm pretty fond of that metaphor.

In this quilt I am trying to create movement. I used every trick I know to make the eye lift upward. I changed the butterfly density. I added vertical strips of fabric that looked like effervescence. I used another fabric that looked like bubbles. I added a swoop of butterflies that flashed color. I also used a free hand waving quilting pattern that replicated a flight path. I pieced in lots of surprises. There are peeking animals, a continuation of the color in the binding and an interesting cropping of the word "molasses" in a texty print. I left it in. Sometimes whimsy can have a PG rating.

Thanks again, everyone! Have a great day!


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!