Saturday, August 30, 2014

Steam Punk Back

My husband thinks Steam Punk blocks look like those old television station test patterns. I see propellers. With that in mind I drafted thirty-inch airplanes to fly across the back. Of course they are made with leftovers from this project and bits from the scrap bag.
Planes of leftovers for the quilt back
It's amazing how hard accuracy is with such large blocks. They are bigger than my cutting mat and ruler. All these years I thought small blocks were more difficult.

Here are my sketches on graph paper. The airplane is fifteen grid lines across so I simply scaled each as two inches to create a thirty-inch block. You could multiply by a different scalar for another size.

Two sketches for back blocks: Airplane or Old TV

Don't the blades of that Steam Punk block (in the first photo) remind you of the Polyphemus moth? It didn't fit in the top and doesn't seem like a good addition to the back either. Perhaps it will make a baby quilt. (I need another project like a hole in the head.)

Enjoy the day,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Steam Punk is rolling along. Here's a quick snap on the design wall.
Quilt in shades of blue, chartreuse, green,  brown, red, grey, orange, pink
Steam Punk quilt top with sawtooth sashing
So many people wrote very supportive comments as previous photos were posted. Thank you all very much. A few said they would never have thought of this arrangement. That's the same way I feel when I look at your quilts. Isn't that why we're posting and blogging? To share ideas and build an artistic community.

This spring I read Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. He posted his rules here. I see these guidelines as a tongue-in-cheek 21st-century rewording of John Donne:

    "No man is an island,
     Entire of itself.
     Each man is a piece of the continent,
     A part of the main."

So we go to shows and galleries, read books and blogs, attend guild meetings, interact with others. Mull over what strikes our fancy and let it morph into a new creation. This is not wholesale copying but rather a synthesis of ideas and techniques in the manner of the Impressionists. While each was unique, all were inspired by the interaction of color and light. They lived, worked and exhibited together. They shared models, locations and design layouts. You probably know this story about Mary Cassatt and Andre Degas but it's always fun to read. Their courage to break new ground came from their common bonds.

I've known about traditional New York Beauty quilts for years. Some of the best examples are in Bill Volckening's collection. He generously shared many at the San Jose Quilt Museum exhibit in 2013. Multicolored teeth, cogs instead of teeth, reverse colorways, elaborate or plain quilting. My favorite was set at an odd angle with crude patches in places before the border was added. What caused that design decision? Did a dog chew it or did the original maker die? My sashing is my first attempt to incorporate what I learned from this show.
The four 18-inch Steam Punk blocks
Large-scale prints that needed a showcase led me to draft some larger blocks. Kona Bay fish, Alexander Henry cherry blossoms, Kaffe Fassett floral and a batik. Some centers are this exceptionally bold print; the maker is not on the selvage.
Fabric used for some propeller centers
But Ruth McDowell's Pattern on Pattern (printed in 1991) must have also played a part. She updated traditional quilts with scale change, overlays and transparency.
My copy of Pattern on Pattern by Ruth McDowell
When I got stuck during construction, these ideas emerged. It's my work but it wasn't invented in a vacuum. Your quilts are just as unique a synthesis. That's why we love to read about the processes. What do you think?

Linking up with Work in Progress on Freshly Pieced.
Enjoy the day,

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Putting Steam Punk Together

This quilt continues to be a delight! My two remaining decisions were whether nor not to sash the blocks and whether to set them straight or on point. Matching up all the propeller points didn't sound like fun. The block construction makes a thick lump of seams when they are sewed without sashing. Without sashing, the quilt looked better straight set. Everyone who commented preferred on point. But the density of the sets I previously posted still attracted me. So I did both: some blocks set together, some sashed.
Steam Punk in two sizes with single Sawtooth sashing
The propeller quartets keep the feel of my original sets, a few extra-large propellers add a change of scale and the sashing pumps it up. Happy dance!

I reduced the seam lumps a little by carefully unsewing all intersections that extended into the seam allowance. This top will not lend itself to straight line quilting but the sashing can be ditch quilted.

Originally I sketched the double sawtooth sashing of historic New York Beauties with its wide inner sash (in a color or muslin) and many little sawteeth on both sides. It's as labor intensive as the block - master quilter's work. This seemed too busy for Steam Punk so I switched to large triangles.
Sketch of traditional Double Sawtooth sashing
The base and height of the triangles are 2.25" which is the diameter of the propeller centers. I thought I might put circles in the posts but they were again too much.
Paper pieced sawtooth border
The triangles were drawn on graph paper, scanned and copied. I steamed each triangle after it was added, then turned the paper over and steamed again. By the time the sashing was done the paper tore off easily. I trimmed the sashing before removing the paper. It's easy to trim from the back with a rotary cutter since you already know your points are perfect.

This will be another huge quilt. It will take a while to sew together and even longer to figure out how and where to photograph it. I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for all the support and opinions, everyone! Linking up with Let's Bee Social.

Enjoy the day,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop and My Oldest UFO


One of blogging's delights is meeting people with common interests as well as intriguely different ones. It's fascinating to see what others are doing. Stephie shares her work and personal outlook at Dawn Chorus Studio. She and I were both working on soft blue Ocean Wave blocks when we met. She also knits, draws and paints. It's a special treat when she posts something she's finished. Stephie runs... miles and miles it seems. I don't, although I used to hike and trek a lot. Her photos of the Cornish countryside are always enjoyable. (Hooray for geology!) I was so pleased she asked me to join this blog hop celebrating creativity and friendship around the world.

I grew up in a family of very talented women. My mother needlepoints, my grandmother knitted and sewed. She knit suits with notched collars and pleated skirts that fit her to perfection. It was my paternal grandmother Martha and great-grandmother Marinda who quilted. Marinda had the first sewing machine in her county. She loved sewing so much she'd sew for anyone who brought her fabric. Both these quilters died when I was a baby so although we had a houseful of fabulous quilts no one taught me. 

Never fear. I read all the Little House on the Prairie novels. I was sure I knew everything. At twelve I made my first quilt, a double bed log cabin, by cutting up dresses my sisters had outgrown. (Because that's where you get scraps, right?) I machine pieced it with quilting thread. (Hey, it was a quilt.) I machine quilted it every twelve inches whether it needed it or not. This quilt went to college with me then to my first house. My children fondly remember picnics on it. It finally fell apart after thirty years. I'm surprised it lasted that long.

This is my oldest UFO - 25 years old. It's hand pieced and quilted. Why isn't it finished? Frankly, I forgot how much quilting I'd completed already. Now it's by my chair to work on in the evenings. Perhaps I'll have it done in another year or two.
Original design of traditional quilt blocks in green, black, pink, blue, tan and white
Sampler Medallion 

Blue center star surrounded by compass points in dark brown, green and black
Sampler Medallion detail
I've always liked really 'ugly' fabrics; friends have even given me yardage as a dare. Even so, I wasn't always happy with my quilts. Color combinations I'd thought would be fabulous frequently looked flat. After a lecture by Pat Bishop of Quakertown Quilts, three friends and I started a scrap block exchange bee in our guild. By making a personal challenge to use every block I received I learned to use colors and prints I 'hated.' Not only could these blocks be worked in, they frequently brought the quilt to life. My problems were underdeveloped taste and overdeveloped color snobbery.

I already posted several quilts that used scrap bee blocks including Bow Tie, Princess Feather, Flying Squares and Baskets of Friends but here's one more... still unquilted.
A nine-patch variation made with solid colored scraps.
Amish Gems - a scrap bee exchange quilt
My stash is fairly small - two clear storage boxes for everything quilt-related. Petting fabric is a major hobby; I take it out and rearrange it frequently. While I try to fill in color and value gaps, I buy fabric because I like it. These are usually quarter- or half-yards although I buy more of stripes and solids. Running out is always fortuitous. My quilts are improved by forced creativity.

I sketch pieced designs on graph paper but use an unlined pad for pictorial quilts like A Daisy a Day. I may start with a fabric or color in mind but I don't consciously use color theories at the beginning. I just sort through my stash setting random fabrics next to each other. I keep anything that creates a reaction either by fitting in well or standing out glowingly. After that I'll have an idea of missing fabrics or colors. Then I go shopping. Yea!

Why do I quilt? Because I simply must. I love fabric - touching it, feasting on the colors and prints - but I especially love making quilts. Planning a design, layout, cutting, sewing, layering and quilting both calms and invigorates me. There are always quilts dancing in my mind.

Linking up with Lorna's Let's Bee Social. Thanks again, Stephie! See you online.

Enjoy the day,

Monday, August 4, 2014

Trips Around the Block Finished

Although Trips Around the Block has been finished for a while, it's been almost impossible to photograph. It's too large for the design wall or the floor. I finally got this photo of the entire quilt at the guild meeting although it has serious issues. Even holding the quilt overhead, it drapes down the stairs and onto the lower floor for a slightly cockeyed view. Additionally, the top is overexposed by light from the windows while the bottom is in shadow. But this was my first view of the entire quilt full-on and it looks very different than the partial and low angle views I'd had before!
Bright colors liven this two-block quilt. One block is a Mini Trip and the alternate is an X-block.
Trips Around the Blocks
It fits our current bed with room to tuck the pillows under the quilt. Hopefully this will keep dust and pollen off the pillows. I started this quilt in August 2013 and finished in June 2014 - much too long. But what did I do when I finished? Yes. I started another. So time is not relevant.
Trips Around the Block
The center is a two-block variation of Trip Around the World: one block is a Mini Trip and the alternate is an X-block.

I invented five rules for this quilt.

  1. Use darkish blues and greens for the main Xs. 
  2. Use more lights. 
  3. Include 60 degree angles on the border.
  4. Make the border lighter in value.
  5. The Xs are the darkest values in the quilt.

What happened? I was 'Seduced by the Dark Side.' I used four black patches in one block. That was all. Then I thought they looked lonesome. The plan flew out the window. I still like the occasional black near the center of the Trips but don't like it competing with the blues near the Xs. I wish I'd consistently used lights on each side of the X because it has a more delicate feel.
Trips Around the Block - Detail
I downloaded isometric graph paper here that I used to design the border. Such fun! Try it yourself sometime.
Trips Around the Block - detail of corner
Leftover ribbon fabric makes a wide stripe on the back. I quilted on my home Bernina with 50/2 Aurifil in grey, black, white and pink. The center is a simple grid using a walking foot but the border has several different free motion quilting designs. The orange peel in the white background needed registration markings that took quite a while. I think it was worth the effort although there were many heavy sighs during the process.
Trips Around the Block - back view
Here's a list of my multitudinous postings for more information.
Trips Around the Block
More Trips
Progressing
The X-Blocks
Border Ideas
Tutorial
Working on the Border
Finished Border
Let me know if you have another question. Linking up with Show and Tell Tuesday.

Enjoy the day,