Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reflecting - Year in review

As this year is coming to a close, I have to reflect back on what I've accomplished.  There's been a lot of starts and finishes I can be proud of.  It seems there are always some things that get put to the side, that can wait for later.  Those always weigh heavier on my mind than the mountain of successes.  Not meaning to emphasize the negative more than the positive, but it does happen.  There's also been times where I just can't get back to it and must purge myself of the entire project.  Whether it was a tangible start or just a thought or scribble in my journal.  Passing on a tangible start to someone else could be a blessing for them, but nothing more than a burden for me.  In other words, you don't have to finish something you've started if it brings you grief.  Let someone else have the joy in it.

Recently I organized my cupboards of fabrics and patterns.  I've discovered things tucked away and shuffled around that I've had for years.  Not just a stash of fabric, but the many notions I have, like buttons, velcro, DMC floss, tiny silk roses, snaps, bits of foil, etc, etc, etc... It may be time to purge myself of these things and move on.  Will I be able to part with them?  Hmmm, will have to ponder that for a while, but not linger on about it for too long.  There's always Murphy's law.  The moment I need something for a project, I won't have it any longer.  So, that's why I'm in this predicament, boxes and drawers full of odd bits and pieces.

OK, enough rambling.  Here is my year in review for 2016....

"Orange Slices" table runner using circle tool
T-Shirt quilt + tutorial on binding a quilt
Valentine quilt
"Green bricks" Baby quilt
"Bird on a wire" small art thread painted quilt
"In the Woods" post card snippets technique and thread painting
"In the Midst of Chaos" sister quilt of "Garden Ladder"
Biscornu book weights with quilt stitches and beaded edges
Eric and baby portrait quilt
Dad's portrait multi-embellished 
Dad's portrait
Improv top (not finished)
Multi-medium post card with beads
Post Card Thread Study
Blue jean rug finished #2
College quilt for Clemson graduate
Baby quilt
Cheater quilt finished with beads and stitching

Not pictured are 12 TQPM (The Quilt Pattern Magazine) quilts for small pets finished and mailed to a kennel in need after hurricane flooding in South Carolina.  
Also not pictured, Ornaments table runner, a Christmas gift for my DS.  
A tangled stitched book cover, also a Christmas gift and a tangled and stitched luggage tag.  

Wow, when I look back at the year in pictures like this, it really does put everything in perspective.  
Here's to 2016 and looking forward to 2017....CHEERS everyone!  :o)  

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hand Stitching - brings memories


           My studio is clean now.  Yep, even my shelves are straightened up and weeded out for donations/charity quilts.  Not a week ago, there were scraps, strips and orphan blocks littering the floor.  On my wipe board, there's a list of UFO's, starts and donation quilts to make/finish.  But, I want to dial down and work on some hand stitching.   Using a machine to do all the work makes me feel like I am just speeding through trying to get it done and out of the way for the next.  So, slowing down, making my brain work will not only make me appreciate the piece more, but help me keep a perfect precise stitch.   Felt is wonderful to work with.  It's easy to stitch through and you don't need a seam allowance or to turn it inside out.  The felt ornament above was hand stitched and only took about an hour from start to finish along with a short coffee break.

          When I started quilting over 33 years ago, I didn't have a sewing machine so all my stitching was hand done.  In those days, my fingers ached and bled.  I was used to getting small blood stains out of my blocks with my saliva.  Sounds gross, but believe me, it's the best way to get blood out of fabric.  It took me years to complete a twin size quilt.  First cutting templates, marking with a pencil adding 1/4" seam allowances.  Finally cutting the hand drawn shapes out with scissors, yes, even simple squares were drawn out and cut.  There was no such thing as a cutting mat or rotary cutter.  My teacher was a patient person giving us personalized attention when needed.

          The class project was a sampler wall hanging using polyester batting.  It was horrible stuff.  Lumpy and thick looking which doesn't hang quite right.  But, having said all this about that first project, I look back on it as a great learning experience.  You have to start somewhere.   There's some problems with this first piece, sure.....but, the seam allowances are perfect, the corners and joins are perfect, the points are perfect and the quilting stitches are.....not so perfect, but hey, it was the first project, and the one thing my teacher always said was "practice makes perfect".   I did practice, and practice, and practice, but my quilt stitches were just OK, not wonderful or perfect.  Probably embarrassing is a better word.   I did a lot of stitching in the ditch.

          About 20 years ago, I decided to learn machine quilting.  It took a couple quilts to really get the hang of it, but no where near the hours of practice that hand quilting takes.  Looking back on it, I could have easily just given up on quilting altogether, but it's a feeling of accomplishment every time I finish something no matter how large or small the project is.  It's a good feeling.  ;o)


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tangled Biscornu

I checked out this book from our public library.   After opening to the first few pages, I knew this was going to be a great beginner's approach to zentangling a quilted project.  The tangled doodles in one chapter are easy and fun to practice.  The small projects to apply the tangles are easy and can be completed in hours using the step by step instructions.  I was intrigued by the biscornu, however instead of making a pin cushion, I stuffed the center with pebbles and poly beads to make it a weight to use in my sewing room.  So, how are these made?  Biscornu is a french word roughly translated to irregular shape.  They are traditionally made with aida cloth and cross stitched with elaborate patterns. However, when I saw these on the cover of this book, I just had to find out if it was something I wanted to do.  

Four squares are cut 4" for the white one and 6" for the black one.  Layer 2 solid color  same size squares on top of a batting/wadding square.  Sew all around leaving an edge open to turn right side out.  Layer the last pair of same size squares right sides together on top of another batting/wadding square.  Sew around all edges leaving an opening and turn right sides out.  Sew openings closed and iron lightly.  You can choose to eyeball your design or draw directly on top of the solid color sandwich for your tangled stitching.  Using a contrasting thread, sew your design.  Just remember to use a light handed pencil line, or use a disappearing marking tool.  I chose to eyeball my designs.  To get the irregular shape, you mark the center edge line of each side, so the 4" is marked at the 2" center on all 4 sides.  Now with wrong sides together, hand sew one corner to the center mark taking small tight stitches.    This will make a corner, so turn the piece and sew the next edge from the center mark to the next corner.  Keep going around the piece until you come to the last 2 edges to sew closed.  Stuff with your preferred materials.  Sew the edges closed.  Your stitches will be visible, but you can use a decorative thread to show off the stitches, or cover them with trims or beads.

 To finish, I added beads which are hand sewn to all the edges.  Now I use them as paper weights and book weights in my sewing room so I never lose my place in a book or pattern again.  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

In the Midst of Chaos - Finished

I've finished this wall quilt with a black binding and simple random curvy intersecting line quilting stitches using Superior Threads Rainbows thread in a variegated green color.   The quilting lines were achieved by starting in one corner and imagining where I wanted to end up (somewhere opposite), using the selected thread, 14/90 topstitch needle and a walking foot on a medium speed setting.  I didn't use a free motion foot, although you can, but I wanted to try it out with the walking foot to see if I could control the stitching line better than the free motion technique.  It worked better than I anticipated even with some of the lines being very curvy.   Not perfect in a couple spots, but not noticeable either with just a few bumps in my stitching line, which was purely my impatience.  

I love the way the stitching looks on the back and reminds me of tracks made in fresh snow.  Or how ice skating lines look on ice rinks.   If you've never done this kind of free stitching, I would say you have to try it out.  It's like doodling on paper, but you guide or "draw" with your machine needle.  If you think you've made a mistake, just keep adding lines and it won't look like a mistake in the end.  Don't stress out about not following a planned pattern.  Put your favorite music on and enjoy the freedom that flows from your creativity.    :o)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

In the Midst of Chaos - Improv

In my last post I was sifting through my scrap bag.  I came across some orphan blocks and cut pieces from an improvisation project 2+ years ago.  The quilt I made was called "My Garden Ladder" which is on the right side bar of my blog page.  It was fun, but a little limiting as you are suppose to limit your color choices and stay away from wild prints.  Well, when I found the prints pictured above in my scrap bag and couldn't resist, I just had to revisit the improvisational piecing ideas only this time I still had a few boundaries, but didn't "plan" the whole quilt top layout.   The orphan blocks were placed onto my design board first, then strips cut roughly with scissors in different widths were placed around the blocks.  The large blue wild print was cut into rough squares and strips were sewed to 1, 2, 3 or all 4 edges.  You could mix it up or make them all the same, but I chose a completely mixed up and random order.  Composing the top by making rough squares sewn together to make rows, then sewing the rows together like a traditional quilt top.  Before sewing together the blocks and rows, I took a few digital pictures and made a few changes in layout.  This top only measures 20"X 35" and now I am contemplating borders or no borders.  I haven't thought about how I will quilt it yet, but since there is a lot going on in the wild fabrics, I will probably keep it simple either straight lines or wavy intersecting lines.

Wow, what a difference now in the amount of scraps left in my scrap bag.  Some scraps are too small to sew into blocks or even use for applique, so I may save them for a future small quilt using tiny cut bits under organza and thread painted over the top. Just like the post card quilt above (I have posted about this one before).  It will take a little time, but separating them into zip bags by color will help me save time later.  

The kennel quilts went in the mail last week, but I still have some cut strips leftover.  I'll save them for a future project.  Possibly more improv.  ;o)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Scrap Bag Fun

Do you do this?  Accumulate scraps from every project you've ever done, storing them away for some future use that never really comes?   One day you realize that those scraps have to go.
Here is my nemesis.  Yep, a sea of assorted strips, squares, tiny bits and cut offs from the last few years projects.  I am in the process of making charity kennel quilts for the small animals rescued from the storms in the South East from Hurricane Matthew.  This is the purrrrfect use of those strips and orphaned blocks I've had laying around.  Go here to find out more and join the quilt team.   This is my sewing room as it looks most days I work in it.  I am sorting all those scraps to get to the cut strips, ironing them and setting them aside to make the kennel quilts.  

Of course, charity quilts are just one way to use up those scraps.  I peruse my scrap bag whenever I want to try out a new technique and don't want to cut into a nice new piece of fabric.  Sometimes I get so tired of seeing the same piece of Aunt Grace 30's green print that I have to either give it away or (I hate to say it...) I end up trashing it so I don't have to look at it anymore.  It's part of the problem of buying a yard or more of sale fabrics as some sales require at least a yard cut.  
Scraps are also great for those small projects like pin cushions, crafts, scrappy quilts, improvisational piecing and sandwiches for practicing quilt stitch patterns.  
Reserve some time today to spend in your sewing room.  ;o) 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Zentangle - Self Study course

The first time I heard the word "Zentangle", I was curious and wanted to find out more.  For my birthday this year, I asked for this book, which my DS so kindly gave me.  It is a 6 week course in this intriguing technique.  So far I'm on Day 3 which is going very well.   This is not only relaxing and creative, but helps me to open my mind to the art and to keeping a daily art journal as I did years ago (almost 20, to be exact) when I attended City and Guilds-Patchwork and Quilting.   The tile I created today looks like a cushion to me.
Day 3
Honestly, I think anyone can do this method even though it looks complicated.  The book takes it one day at a time and briefly describes the principles of art like shading which can give depth and dimension.   Elaborating on some of the designs can lead to some awesome ideas for patterns and quilting.    The basic concept is to fill every space of the tile with designs using marks, lines, shading, shapes, etc...
Day 1

Day 2
 Each day is a new addition to the marks and you make a new tile everyday, but I have not looked ahead to the next day as I don't want to have a preconception of what is to come, or psyching myself out by thinking "I can't possibly do that", and ultimately giving up.  You can, however, look back on the designs learned from past days to add to the current day's tile.  It's actually encouraged, and I can see that it adds so much to the finished tile.

 Being a quilter and seeing repetitive patterns over and over can be boring. I find whole cloth quilts beautiful in their own right, but again, not my type.   Color, texture, and quilting stitches can break up the monotony, but it doesn't change the repetitiveness.  Sometimes I finish a quilt and am disappointed by it for this reason.  This is why I don't like following a pattern verbatim.  Or I will put a spin on the design or do free hand quilting in my own designs.    The Zentangle method can work on quilt patterns and stitching to fill spaces and bring interest.   I want to test this out on a negative space quilt I have waiting for design inspiration, so this must be what I'm waiting for.  Using the thread in the machine, I will "draw" out my Zentangles to fill the spaces.  
For now, it's break time for my brain and I need to get dinner on.  I will get back to this in the coming days.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Thread Painting Study

Today I am working on an at home thread class project.  It happens to be on thread painting.  The technique uses water soluble medium called "Dissolve 4x Stabilizer" so that you can draw your design onto it, sew over it and dissolve the medium completely with water.  The class was designed by Superior Threads with designer Nancy Prince.  She is an award winning quilt artist from Florida.   The threads used are 100% Trilobal Polyester fiber. Go here to see these threads and brands.  The threads are shiny and they lay very flat.  If you are going for this look, they're great.  For this beginner thread class, they do work very well.   The background fabric I used here is hand dyed cotton.   The background, Dissolve medium and stabilizer are layered in a hoop and sewn over the lines drawn.  Drop the feed dogs, loosen the tension and use a free motion embroidery foot to work your design.  Change colored thread as needed for the top.  The bobbin thread I used is a neutral color light weight polyester "Bottom Line" thread by Superior Threads.  

This is just a small piece that will get cut down and sewn into a postcard.   But, I am finding this technique a little awkward and probably will not use the soluble again.   
           Finished Post Card
I like variegated cotton threads in a couple different thicknesses that tend to give some dimension, depth and texture.
 Couching down very thick threads, trims, yarns, and even metal threads add interest to designs.  When I went on retreat 5 years ago in Cumbria, I briefly mentioned this class I took with designer Kate Dowty.   This was an enjoyable liberating class and she was an exceptional teacher.  See her "Pebble Splash" class example here.   As soon as she described her inspiration for this piece, I knew I wanted to put my own view on it.  The representation of pebbles, water, sand, and marsh is represented in movement across the three panels horizontally.  

The elements are appliqued using fusible web and sewn onto wadding/batting backed panels and thread painted around each pebble, adding lines of quilting to show movement like water, waves, bubbles for texture, etc...  then add the backing fabric to each panel and sew around close to the edges.  I used several different fabrics for this from quilting cottons, to velvet and satin.  

The backing is layered right sides together and sewn all around leaving the tops of each panel open.  Make a few clips in the curves so they will turn easily, turn the pieces right side out.  The tops can be finished simply by turning in the edges and whip stitched closed, however, I wanted some drama to the tops, so I made a stiff velvet cap for each panel.  The beading is the final elements to be added to the design and some of the beads are sewn trailing off the edges.  I am very happy with this piece and want to do a second design using a different colorway.   ;o)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bread-Making today

Today I'm taking a break from sewing and quilting.  My mother-in-law gave me her recipes years ago so that I could make my husband's favorites.  One of them is this bread loaf.  It has Finnish origins and flavors like Cardamom.  I find bread making rewarding and relaxing.  Before baking, the tops are brushed with egg wash and sprinkled with coarse sugar.  The recipe for Pulla can be found here.
My in-laws used to eat this bread with a little butter and a cup of coffee.  We have it for breakfast, topped with jam or as French toast, or with peanut butter.  It's one of our comfort foods.  So, I make a batch at least once a year and freeze the loaves.

Just a little inspiration.
Summer is starting to wind down and I'm going to miss these blooms.  Our temperatures are very hot in the daytime hours.  I will stay inside and do some evaluating and cleaning of my studio.  That will set me up to start the next project.  Have a great summery day.  ;o)