Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Chinese Coins Improv String Finished and AHIQ Linkup #2

I chose to square off the edges with a ruler, then quilted and bound the Chinese Coins improv string with a very soft pink solid. Light bindings attract me more these days.

Chinese Coins Improv String quilt

My first quilting idea was a combination of lines and circles like one of these sketches but Tami suggested a freehand diamond grid. Much more in keeping with the quilt. (Thanks, Tami!)
Quilting design sketches
Detail photos.

Chinese Coins improv string detail with red column

Chinese Coins improv string detail with crosscut column
Quilt Details
Size: 65"(H) x 57"(W)
Pattern: Improvisational Chinese Coins
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100% cotton
Thread: Auriful 50/2 cotton threads in pink
Quilting: Walking foot

More information about creating this quilt on these posts:
1. Beginning Improv String Quilt
2. Improv String Quilt Pieced

Enjoy the day,

InLinkz removed because site was hacked.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Propellers and Planes in the Fall 2015 Blogger's Quilt Festival

I've always wanted to make an airplane quilt - partly from memories of watching them with my grandfather and more recently because I have sons. When I saw some blocks made with the Steam Punk pattern, I knew it was time to start. I pulled all my vintage/special fabrics, bought more, and combined them into a personal memory quilt. Spurring me on... I desperately need a quilt large enough for our California king bed.

Propellers and Planes quilt

Upon completing a few blocks I loved the density of the fabrics when the blocks are set side by side without sashing.

Propeller quilt blocks
Collage 2 of Steam Punk quilt blocks

However, that layout would be a piecing nightmare with so many points to be matched and thick seams pointing the same direction. Additionally, I wanted more variation on such a large quilt. So I drafted some larger blocks and sawtooth sashing, combining them with groups of four small blocks.

For more fun, I drafted and improvisationally pieced a squadron of 30" planes for the back. I've never gotten a photo of the entire back but I snapped several partial views at our guild show.

A squadron of single prop planes flies across the quilt back.
When you make a quilt "just for you" it's always scary to send it out into the world. What will other people think? I've been honored that so many people have stopped to talk with me about the fabric combinations. There is something for almost everyone on it: bicycles, models, dogs, birds, fish and flowers, vintage and modern. Those novelty prints plus remnants from gifts made for family and friends make it my perfect memory quilt. I am blessed to sleep under it every night.

A selection of the fabrics in this quilt
Here is my last post about this quilt with links to many construction steps.

Quilt Details
Size: 118"(H) x 118"(W)
Pattern: Based on Steam Punk 
Batting: Pellon cotton
Thread: Auriful 50/2 cotton sewing threads
Quilting: Free motion quilting on a home machine

I'm entering it in the Large Quilt category of the Blogger's Festival at Amy's Creative Side. Take the time to look at all the wonderfully diverse quilts.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lobster Boat Quilt for a Special Person

Guess who's going to be a grandmother?

Lobster Boat quilt

How happy am I? VERY!

No names announced yet so we are calling him Little Tex.

Surely such avid sailors would want a sailboat quilt. Wrong-o. She Who Wore White wants a lobster boat. Fortunately she sent several photos. I got busy sketching different ideas. When finalized, templates are drafted by overlaying tissue paper. Sometimes I draft in reverse; other times I turn the tracing paper over after drawing because the freezer paper templates are always the opposite direction.

Lobster boat sketches and pattern.
Do you see those small cities of houses in the sketches? Thank goodness I came to my senses before piecing. The bottom two photos show the templates. I kept the gentle curve along the top of the hull because it will be easy to piece. But I did add a very small triangle on the front of the boat to make a pseudo-curve. It could have been been drawn as a curve, too.

Next I pulled fabrics that might work. Way more than I finally used but it all came from my stash.
Fabric possibilities for the lobster boat quilt
Fairly confident in my choices for the ocean and the boat's hull, I pieced those sections first. The bold red and white striped fabric adds emphasis (several boats had a band of color on the hull) but I especially liked the way the yellow and text fabric creates boards.

The lighter blue and white print and the dotted blue mimic reflections of the boat on water. Originally I planned to piece the lobster buoy from several small pieces. Then I found a Balinese wax print that worked excellently - a yellow teardrop on dark blue.
Piecing the lobster boat quilt
The blue fabrics get lighter with distance. Careful template placement on the blue and white stripe makes perfect shorelines and sandbars. How lucky is that? That's (my version of) the Brewster Island lighthouse in the distance.
Piecing the center of the lobster boat quilt
Throughout construction I was dreaming up more ways to personalize this quilt. So the trio of houses in the foreground are the school colors of parents and uncles. (In fact, that same yellow is in the Tiger Stripes Rail Fence.) To ensure no one else could claim them, each is labeled with the respective name in Metler Poly Sheen neon yellow or orange. More about writing in this post. None of these colors showed up well on the yellow house so I used dark purple cotton thread on it. Then I christened the boat with the grand-dog's name and added a Texas flag because he would always fly it.
Details of the lobster boat quilt
There were sailboats, fish, and lobster prints begging to be used but they never worked in the body of this quilt. I worked them into the border.

I intended to improvisationally piece the back from the scraps (honest) but these fabrics dropped next to each other. Now he will always be wrapped in the loving arms of Texas... and me.

Texas flag on the back of the Lobster Boat quilt.
Those directions for five-pointed stars came in handy again.

Lots of free motion quilting: still water, waves, stone houses, windshield, boards, and more. Even with all that quilting, it's still soft and cuddly once it was washed.
Quilting details from the back of the Lobster Boat quilt.
Quilt Details
Size: 50"(H) x 51"(W)
Pattern: Original design
Batting: Mountain Mist Cream Rose 100% cotton
Thread: Metler and Auriful 50/2 cotton sewing threads, Metler Poly Sheen
Quilting: Free motion quilting

The next Ad Hoc Improv Quilters Linkup begins the Tuesday, October 27.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Friday, October 16, 2015

Selvedge String Quilt Resewn

The Selvedge String quilt is back together. Although most people won't notice any difference, I like it better.
Selvedge String quilt, resewn final seam
Here's what it looked like the first time. The lighting is better in this photo but the long selvedge from side to side bothered me. That's what I removed.

Selvedge String quilt, before resewing.
Because I added fillers, there are still places where they point in opposite directions when they meet, but it no longer feels like opening a book.

Selvedge String quilt, detail of final seam
Border next.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Selvedge Quilt Continues

I made twenty Brock House units before putting them together. My only requirements for sewing two units together were equal lengths and that they not have the same center solid. Sometimes they matched almost perfectly in length and curvature.

Two selvedge blocks ready to sew together. Same length and curvature.
Others just needed a trim.
Two selvedge blocks. On the left: same length, need trimming. On the right: trimmed.
It got a bit harder after that. The well-behaved pairs matched each other again although the length might be off. In the set below, I added another string to the top right side to get them to match.
Left photo: the top right section bows in.  Right photo: yellow string added to equalize the lengths.
Other times, they curved away from each other. Fixing that was a choice between adding some strings or trimming the curves. When trimming, I overlaid the two units and cut between them so they would lay flat after sewing. There's a more detailed explanation in this post.

I sewed two sets of four and two sets of six then sewed those together. Again I added a selvedge or trimmed as seemed best.

Things went very well until the last seam. Here's a mistake. I added long selvedge strips to both sides rather than trimming one side.  The selvedges point in opposite directions so even with a variety of selvedge strings this seam is more visible.

On the design wall it was obvious a long selvedge joined every large section together. If I had trimmed both sides, the vertical and horizontal rectangles would have butted against each other in a more natural fashion and better disguised this seam. I may take these out and redo them...

Brock House Selvedge quilt center
Here's a detail of the final seam.

Final seam detail. All the selvedges point in opposite directions.
Did you notice that the solid selvedges are included in these strings? I was afraid the quilt would be too bland. The solids had really long fringe on the edges, so I sewed them about an eighth-inch inside the woven area. Perhaps you can see it in the photo below. I used white thread for all this sewing since many of the selvedges have a white edge.

As luck would have it, two solids formed a T which you can see in the photo on the left. Like an itch you can't scratch, it bothered me until I inserted a second string to separate them.
Selvedge quilt detail:  before and after inserting a second string between two solid strings.
One of the best effects of blogging is that it forces me to slow down. Stopping to look at the photos helps me see problems that aren't as apparent while I'm sewing. Perhaps they aren't a mistake to anyone else but it's better to decide now if it will continue to bother me. And what am I going to do when I finish this quilt? Start another. Might as well get this one to my satisfaction.

Previous posts Improvising a Traditional Block and Selvedge Race quilt.

Enjoy the day, Ann

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

AHIQ #1 Wrap up

What a week! Kaja and I both feel Ad Hoc Improv Quilters started off with some wonderful links. So many different ways to improv a quilt. People shared their ideas so generously. Looking at all the comments and posts, two common themes thread through the posts.

  • Although improvisational quilting is more demanding than originally thought, most find the process freeing and fun. Hooray for a positive!
  • Many worry whether their work is "real" improv, whether it resembles other improv quilts. Boo for a negative anxiety.
Kaja posted about emotions. I'm going to attempt to work through the anxieties.

Her dictionary definition "to create or perform spontaneously and without preparation" and "to produce or make something from whatever is available." Neither of these says anything about style, commercial success, or approval by anyone including the worst critic of all - our inner negative voice. Improvisational quilting is a way to practice, and hopefully master, our own artistic visions. It's also a way to use fabric we already have on hand. Both are admirable and sufficient to the definitions.

There are no references specifying use of rulers or not, use of rotary tools or scissors, use of new, recycled, printed, or dyed fabric. Gwen Marston and Sujata Shah seem to prefer to cut freely at first before they straighten their units with rulers. Rayna Gilman and Sherri Lynn Wood usually avoid rulers. Rayna also over-dyes and prints her fabrics. All are improvisational quilters. While we certainly admire their work and find ideas there, it's a mistake to constantly compare our work with others. Amy at Amy's Free Motion Quilting Adventures said it best: "Comparison is the thief of joy."

By 1998 Nancy Crow was so tired of her rigid, template-driven style she almost quit quilting. The quilts of Anna Williams revitalized her, encouraging her to move in a completely new direction - improvisational, without drafted designs, rulers or templates. Anna was the first guest artist at the1990 Quilt/Surface Design Symposium. Nancy is an internationally known quilter. Who influenced her? A vernacular artist - Anna Williams.

Anna hailed from Louisiana, not Alabama. Most of her quilts were made of many small pieces rather than the large pieces more common to early Gee's Bend work. Why? Katherine Watts gave fabric to Anna when she closed her shop. Anna had a rich resource of quilting fabric unavailable to the others.

The women of Gee's Bend originally quilted "britches quilts", the name they gave to utility quilts made from worn out clothing. Later some got factory scraps, the leftovers from mills. At one time, they used Sears corduroy. As their economic situations improved, they eventually purchased fabric off the bolt. This progression is visible in their quilts.  My first point is that they chose what to use from what was available to them. My second point is that they were internally compelled to create artful quilts to the best of their abilities. Just like Anna; just like us.

This reminded me of Kathleen McCrady of Austin, Texas - an accomplished, award-winning quilter. Here's what I recall from a lecture she gave in Dallas years ago. Her parents were Oklahoma farmers; they had land instead of cash. With a small grant from the Quilter's Guild of Dallas, Kathleen documented her family quilts before they were completely lost to history. She related the sequence of fabric use: sew a dress; when worn out, make an apron; when that wore out, make a quilt. It was very apparent from the photos that these were utility quilts whose primary purpose was keeping the family warm. Large rectangles of dress fabric, faded and slightly dingy from years of wiping hands on those aprons combined with occasional work pants. Many were stuffed with corn husks. Finally she showed a 1950 bright pink and green quilt, the first her family made with fabric purchased expressly for a quilt.

Britches quilts, work clothes quilts, utility quilts. These women never called their quilts improvisational, although we classify them such. Perhaps we should call our work Modern Utility.

Many of these women knew each other or they knew other quilters working in this style. They borrowed designs from each other. And they had fun making something needful. When the press of needfulness abated, they made quilts for the sheer joy of the process. How about you? Are You Havin' Any Fun?

Enjoy the day, Ann

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Improvising a Traditional Block

I'm still thinking about the selvedge string sheet (Selvedge Race); however, there are more selvedges on the loose. So I started the Race again. After two repeats it was almost wide enough; I added one more selvedge to make a narrow sheet only five strips wide. The width ranges from four to six inches since the selvedges were not cut a consistent width.

Brock House is a traditional block documented in The Quilter's Album of Patchwork Patterns by Jinny Beyer.

Brock House and variations for selvedge strings.
In some ways it reminds me of Sherri's Floating Squares: two small squares sewn together then joined to a larger square. When I simplified further (bottom left in the photo above) that iteration reminded me of Flying Squares, a quilt I made years ago using the bottom right block.

Flying Squares quilt
Flying Squares quilt

Brief directions for Flying Squares can be found here. These block designs all use partial seams. It's a very useful technique; not hard at all. Jinny Beyer wrote directions for partial seaming here and Laura Nownes (co-author of Quilts, Quilts, Quilts) created a YouTube video here.

I decided to try this with the skinny Selvedge Race. The selvedges are so busy that they seem to need solids. Here is what's on hand.

The solids in my stash.
Finding a 4.5" orange remnant in my scrap bag from the back of this quilt, I freehand cut all the solids into squares about that size although a larger center square might look better. (Using what I have.)

Selvedge string Brock House variation
In the photo above, I sewed a partial seam on the top left rectangle. Then sewed the bottom left rectangle all the way across, pinned the bottom right rectangle (ready to sew.) The top right rectangle is pinned on the solid only to ensure it's aligned with enough seam allowances everywhere.

I make a couple of stitches in place then tie the threads of the partial seams on the back of the block. Most people probably wouldn't bother but I hate the idea of threads coming loose.

Tying threads from partial seams on the back.
Is this improv? Depends who you ask. I think of these as units. They are similarly sized but not identical. Joining strips will probably be needed to fit them all together. In some ways they may look like Kaja's Wall units - after all, they are smaller, square-ish shapes. In other ways they may look like Flying Squares... or something else entirely.

I am reminded of Anna Williams, an exceptionally talented Louisianan who found more time for quilting later in life. In her eponymous book, Nancy Crow wrote, " (Anna) built her quilt tops from parts and pieces, sewing smaller shapes together, then adding more shapes to make larger units. Her crowded bedroom housed stacks of small units, stacks of medium units, stacks of large units..."(p. 17) So there is a legacy of sewing units first, then using/reusing them as single pieces to build a quilt. [And, no. This quilt will be nowhere near as artistic as Anna's. But the IDEA of simply making units resonates.]

 Two down. Now I'm cutting the rest of the narrow string sheet into rectangles.

The AHIQ Link-up is still open for a couple of days if you want to join in by linking up or just perusing the posts.

Enjoy the day, Ann