Saturday, August 29, 2015

How Stephie, Sujata, and Sherri Saved Me from Myself... Or Not

This is my entire stash... after 46 years of quilting. Small shoe boxes of scrap quilts in progress are topped with my scrap bag (formerly the packaging for a set of bed sheets.) The larger boxes are my stash and a couple of tops. The fabrics definitely need sorting and refolding. That's okay; I love to pet fabric. It's important for me to remain intimately acquainted with each piece. {I have no idea why; I'm just weird that way.} Then there's the top box... I'll get to that.

All my fabric and WIPs
Three years ago I started saving selvedges. Just tossed them into a small ziplock and later into a drawer. Last week, the drawer wouldn't close. Upon investigation...

Three years of selvedge collecting. Oh, my.
It's more than my scrap bag. {Why, oh, why did I start saving selvedges?} Time to make them into something or pass them along.

My "use it up or clear it out" tendency applies to all fabric. I get rid of clothing, sheets and towels frequently, especially when we move. Remember the scenes where American pioneers reaching the Rockies tossed things from their wagons to get over the mountains? These are my forebears - emotionally and genetically.

On the other hand...

Years ago I read Chinese made the first quilts by sewing older fabrics from deceased relatives onto newer material as an act of reverence and remembrance. My husband's outlook is similar. Everything has deep, personal meaning. If he had his way, nothing would ever be thrown away. Bless his heart, he never complains when I sort and discard clothing... which happens frequently.

How did Stephie, Sujata, and Sherri save me? Stephie made a charming Ocean Waves pillow from repurposed clothing. The soft, varied shades really attracted me. Sujata posted several quilts which included some of her husband's old shirts, most recently here. I had a large pile of clothing in the car headed to Goodwill when Stephie wrote a helpful post about deconstructing shirts. Back they went to the house, but not on a hanger. They overflowed the top box until I spent an afternoon "deboning" them.

Shirts - deboned and folded neatly.
Fourteen shirts, one dress and one pair of slacks now fit nicely into the top bin and the lid fastens again. Those pesky collars, cuffs, zippers, and flat fell seams are in the trash. I wonder if he'll recognize them in a quilt?

Now I'm seriously considering adding t-shirts to this mix. For years, I've admired Sherri Wood's Passage quilt. This most joyful quilt memorializes the loss of a teenage son. But what a wonderful way to combine personal clothing from one person over the years or from an entire family.

Everything I touch has personal meaning and now I'm saving it all. {Gasp.} I'm becoming my husband!

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Improv Immersion: Rod Kiracofe Shows and my Study Group

Rod Kiracofe just gave a walk-through of Found/Made, his current show. He included works from several major collectors, contemporary artists, and quilters. There's a list on the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles website. Rod can "charm the birds from the trees" as we'd say back home. Not only did he talk gallery owners and artists into contributing works, he convinced the owners of one quilt to take it off their bed so he could use it!

The works are much more nuanced in person that they could ever be in a mere photo. You can clearly see Rod's sophisticated and whimsical eye in the staging of this exhibit. He effortlessly highlights relationships between different artists causing viewers to consider what inspires them and how those touchstones thread through time. The show runs until November 1, 2015, so make plans to see it.

Quilt tops hung on a clothesline point the way to the entrance. The one in the middle is entirely double-knit polyester, very precisely cut and pieced. I wonder if it was made after 1979 when rotary cutters became available? Rod deliberately hung the one on the left backwards so visitors could see the sewing and seam allowances. You better believe I checked each seam closely. Extremely interesting but also a cautionary tale to quilters: "If you don't finish your tops, everyone can (and will) take a gander at your piecing!"

Quilt tops from Found Made, a quilt exhibit curated by Rod Kiracofe at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles
Rod Kiracofe at the entrance to Found/Made, his exhibit at San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Photo used with permission.
Rod has collected quilts since the 1970's. Among his many books, he wrote two seminal quilt histories. The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750-1950 is an excellent chronological overview of quilting through those centuries. His newest book, Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Under the Radar, 1950-2000 focuses on the eccentric, improvisational quilts dear to his heart. In my opinion, Okan Arts wrote the most interesting review.

This past April Rod curated Unconventional and Unexpected at the Sonoma Art Museum, juxtaposing quilts from his book with Shaker furniture and tools. Fan (partial view below) appears on page 146. Rod collected it from Wood County, Texas, which just happens to be the birthplace of my husband. How's that for coincidence?

From Unconventional and Unexpected, Sonoma Art Museum and the book of the same name by Rod Kiracofe.
Fan from Unconventional and Unexpected, Sonoma Art Museum. Photo used with permission.
Pools of light emphasized the rich colors and textures of the quilts and brought the soft patinas of the wood into focus.  I was especially struck by the quilts he hung as if they were on a clothesline blowing in the breeze. Obviously, that image evokes strong, early family memories for both of us.

Unconventional and Unexpected, Sonoma Art Museum. Photo used with permission.
On a more personal note, four of us meet monthly to discuss sections of The Improv Handbook by Sherri Wood. We share our current project, inspirations, roadblocks, detours, and successes. Although we are working the same score, our results differ wildly, showing that artists and artisans working in community can sometimes reach greater heights than working in isolation.

Floating Squares from our study group.
Same score but four different results.
Last month we brought floating square tops. Clockwise from the left in the group photo above. Mine was large and scrappy; I already posted about it. MN grouped her green and red fabrics into strong color-blocks on a baby quilt. She's written two posts: the beginning and the finish. MKreative started a table runner of very sophisticated triangles that she wrote about here. Tami's selected aquas and purples from her scrap bag. She hasn't written a post yet but her blog is here.

After we've exhausted our discussion, taken photos, and enjoyed our tea, we choose what we want to explore next. While it's lovely to write back and forth with quilters in blogland it's even more fun to share, learn, and laugh in person. I'm very lucky to work with these talented women.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Colorado, Chihuly and Two Finishes: Confetti and Log Cabin

My sister and I took a confetti class with Peg Collins a while ago and decided to actually finish one this year. Sister wants to include aspen, mountains and a lake so I used the same idea. It was easier than planning something myself. Half my luggage was batiks for these tops; my sister had a much larger collection and we still needed to buy specific colors.

Her well executed plan was to go to work one day leaving me to purchase more fabrics. This entailed two trips because I "didn't get the right aspen fabric" the first time. Good thing I love her to pieces!

Confetti Quilt - Cabin in the Aspen
We cut skinny little strips then cross cut them into itty bitty squares. Sister made fabric dust with some while mine were a bit on the large size. Each fabric went into separate piles on plates and trays. We sprinkled them across the batting making sure to cover it all. Think of it as something between dusting sprinkles across a cake and piping whipped cream on the cake. Bent nose tweezers came in handy to move specific pieces just a tad. Who'd have thought an eighth inch would make a difference?

I carefully cut the aspen trunks, laid them in place and added a cabin rather than a lake. Finally, I covered it with tulle and "quilted the heck" out of it.
Confetti quilt  - Cabin in the Aspen, details
Sister suggests I hang mine in the bathroom. That may or may not be a compliment but she's certainly channeling our mother. When we brought artwork home, clever Mother would admire it then say, "Go choose a place to hang it in the garage so we can look at it every time we drive in or out." We not only fell for it, we thought we were extremely special. Our friends only had a refrigerator for artwork. We had a gallery!

Aspen Quilt Details
Size: 14.25"(H) x 18"(W)
Pattern: Confetti quilt
Batting:100% cotton scrap
Thread: YLI nylon monofilament in the top, cream Aurifil in the bobbin
Quilting: Free motion

One of my husband's coworkers had a baby girl so I finished the log cabin star quilt, too.
Variable Star Log Cabin
Here are the final two choices for the binding. The brown looked good but not as fun as the blue batik.
Binding choices for Variable Star Log Cabin
There was some soft pink for the back. I used curvy free-motion quilting to enhance the cuddliness.
Back and quilting detail - Variable Star Log Cabin
Log Cabin Quilt Details
Size: 42"(H) x 42"(W)
Pattern: Log cabin
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100% cotton
Thread: Lavender Aurifil 50/2
Quilting: Free motion spirals and flowers

Next, DH and I visited  Chihuly Garden and Glass near the Space Needle in Seattle. What an inspiring exhibit! Some of his installations were in Texas recently but I missed them. Don't be like me. If you ever have the opportunity, take it.

Although all of his work is fabulous, my favorites were some of his earliest Baskets, based on Navajo pottery and weaving. I loved the juxtaposition of these understated glassworks with native art.

Dale Chihuly glass Bowl with a Navajo basket

A wall of Navajo rugs at Chihuly Garden and Glass
Each room highlighted a different series of his work, such as the Sealife Room. For some reason this reminded me of Disneyland's ride "It's a Small World."  Happy, concentrated colors.

Sealife Room at Chihuly Garden and Glass
In  all the gardens, this was my favorite view. Fabulous colors in the plants and glasswork.

Chihuly Garden with thistle
Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Improv String Quilt Pieced

I was more restrained with the final two string sets for the String Score. About half the sheets are Group 1 (blue/green) with a quarter each Group 2 (red) and Group 3 (light). Colors overlap between groups but each single fabric is only in one group. The widest sheet was 40". The others are 15-20" wide. They were very manageable although I pieced them to get sections long enough for this quilt.

Improv string quilt, Chinese Coins, red, sky blue, green
Improv String 1 finished
Last month I decided to empty the scrap bag. I've been pulling from it for two years and there was a growing bunch of really dull pieces in it. {The swash zone of leftovers.} As a last attempt to use everything, I string pieced some twelve inch blocks (like those used in this quilt.) There weren't enough to make a top and the dark ones were particularly ugly. The light blocks had possibilities here. I sewed three together in a row (12" x 36") then cross cut them and sewed those into the lights. Some of the print fabrics are indistinct, especially when sewed next to each other. But when strong colors/patterns alternated with a light fabric, the crosscuts draw the eye in another direction. Hmm.

String sets with crosscut sets inserted
Perhaps more of the string should have been solid. This style compares with Trip Around the World. Adjacent large scale fabrics blend together and lose the design - strings in this one, squares on the diagonal in Trips. (This idea could be a future string variation: soft or strong lines based on the type of print used.)

Improv quilt made from columns of strings. Chinese Coins
Eight sections cut for this String quilt
Here are the eight sections of this quilt. I liked those crosscut inserts so much I finally added the vertical blue strip to utilize the last of them. Stripes and plaids add life to the sheets. The striped fabric really pleases me. I'd like them to run in the other direction, too. (The crosscut inserts do that somewhat but they are much more subtle.)

Sherri wrote that the seam line is stronger (more apparent) than any color in these strips. But when I first laid the light and green sections together I thought they were too similar. So I cut a few medium blues from the discarded group and used them to join parts of the shorter sheets. You can see them in the third column from the left. They actually caused these sections to blend more. Compare them to the columns on the right.

Sections were pinned together before cutting along the sewing line
The long sections were butted against each other with as little overlap as possible. The sections moved while cutting along the future seam line so I pinned the overlap as a cutting guide. Cut slowly to avoid nicking your scissors with the pins.

Inserting fabric into Improv string quilt, Chinese Coins
Possible vertical inserts
The previous post about this quilt is here.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Improv String Quilt: A Beginning

Ah, pride goeth before the fall! I've made several string quilts over the years including a queen size Strips and Curves so this one should be a breeze. How hard could it be? [Pretty hard as it turns out.] This quilt frustrated me all month until I finally just started cutting. After all, this is a learning experience and we are meeting to discuss this score in a week. What's the worst that could happen? More pieces for the scrap bag.

I pulled fabric, divided them into three piles and started cutting the first group. Soon I recognized some problems.
Original fabric groups
Much of my fabric is less than forty inches wide. Some are fat quarters; others are leftovers with "interesting" holes. I sewed short lengths together but ignored how long they finished (36 to 60 inches).  This mistake created a very uneven bottom that made it hard to judge how long the next strip should be. Eventually I went back and cut all the strips a more uniform length.  It seemed like a minor point in the book, but it made sewing the strips so much easier. Next time I'll decide on a length before cutting strips.

Part of Group 1
I'm not sure if Sherri created wide string sheets but I am wary of them. The very wide string sheets created for the Strips and Curves quilt quickly became long and unwieldy. This time I limited sheets to 40" or less (by the 40" width of fabric for a length.) My experience with Floating Squares taught that reserving some fabric components makes it easier to put them together in the end. I hope shorter sheets will both make it easier when they are cut across and increase the diversity of the strata. Each smaller sheet can be rotated or sewn to the others in a different order. A few single strings are left to join these smaller sections as needed. [We'll see how this works. I haven't reached that step yet.]

As pairs of strips are sewed together I pinned them on the wall to keep them neat.
My other problem is simple math... and the fact that I didn't do any ahead of time. This is freehand cutting but still I want forty inches of strips. Forty strips are needed if they finish 1" each; twenty strips if they finish 2" each; twenty-nine if they finish 1.5". So 20-40 strips should be enough. How many were cut? Over 150 of this first group alone. [This is how I always end up with large quilts.]

I've decided to divide the second set of fabrics into two subsets and discard my original third set (the blues and greens at the bottom). This time I'm going to count.

Two sheets of Group 1 fabrics
As usual, my fabrics range from the 1990's to last week. The green, yellow and brown print to the right of the beige and white plaid (about eighth from the left) is the oldest. I used the tiniest amount to make shoes for my sons in this quilt. It's been in the stash ever since because... I have no idea. Time to use it up.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Friday, August 7, 2015

Improv Link Up Coming Soon

Back in January, Kaja mentioned the need for an improv online group. That little remark caught my attention, not because it's in my wheelhouse {as it is in Kaja's}, but because I've been circling around improvisation for several years. New things are easier with others working on the same topic.

We've been tossing ideas back and forth this year. As Kaja pointed out, it's not exactly improv if we give you a set of parameters. And there are already many books that embrace improvisational quilting. Two published in the past year are Cultural Fusion Quilts and The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters. The linky will focus on discussion and encouragement to build knowledge and confidence in this art form. We plan monthly posts about specific methods, styles, inspirational sources, books, and even exhibits.

We named this adventure Ad Hoc Improv Quilting (AHIQ.)  Kaja liked including IQ; I'm partial to the AH.

Ah, IQ      ...        AHI Quilting      ...        AHIQ

I hope you'll join us.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Monday, August 3, 2015

Trite and Profound

We had dinner at Chipotle yesterday, an American chain restaurant that serves burritos. I had a craving for their cilantro lime rice. We also ordered iced tea. Chipotle prints different things on their paper cups - sometimes funny, sometimes educational. The current series is called Cultivating Thought. Mine had a short essay by Neil Gaiman, "Two Minutes to Run" which started like this.

"I am thinking about the fragility of civilization. Look around you, at the building you are in, the road you travel on. What you see was made by people who agreed that they would get up in the morning and go to work and nobody would shoot at them or fire mortars at them; there would not be checkpoints at which they could be taken out and never seen again; that there would be food in the shops, and water in the taps, and shoes to buy and wear. People who believed that the place you go to sleep tonight will be here tomorrow."

Interesting timing. Today marks the 101st anniversary of World War I.

"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime," was the prescient comment of Sir Edward Grey shortly before the onset of the (so called) War to End All Wars. Yet there is still so much misunderstanding, hatred, and conflict today.

Do more than say a prayer for peace.
Ease another's pain.
Reach out to help someone.
Be the change you want to see in the world.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Midnight Snacks Finished

Midnight Snacks is quilted and bound. The straight lines are 3/8" from the seam lines. Very simple.

Midnight Snack quilt 

As usual, the quilting is much more visible on the back. The section of scraps adds some interest and extends the width of blue fabric ten more inches.

Midnight Snacks quilt back
More leftovers make the binding. They include the last scrap of the print fabric on the front,  gold fabric used in this pillow, and some cotton plaid seersucker.  It's such fun to create these simple bindings.

Midnight Snack quilt binding detail

Here's a shot of the quilt folded to show the binding better.

View of the binding of Midnight Snacks quilt
Quilt Details
Size: 48"(H) x 51"(W)
Pattern: One block - equilateral triangle
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100% cotton
Thread: Gutermann cotton sewing thread in light blue
Quilting: Straight line with walking foot in a triangular grid

We drove through a shower last week and found a double rainbow on the other side.

Double rainbow

Enjoy the day, Ann