Monday, October 20, 2014

Mod Trips

Here, finally, is my finished flimsy, made from a variation on Bonnie Hunter's Scrappy Trips Around the World blocks. From the start I wanted to use the blocks in a graphic, modern way, that is hopefully different than anyone else! I used 25 of the 12" blocks, so it is 60" square. To see how I made the blocks, please click here.

The rounded rectangles remind me of the late 1960s "mod" style, so I'm calling it Mod Trips.

I made half the blocks on my old machine, and half of them on my new machine, so the seam allowances were not perfectly consistent. It was a bit of a challenge to get together (!), but on the whole it worked out better than I had any right to expect.

I'm considering some fairly intensive free motion quilting for this, but I think I'll do a practice run before I commit to that! In any case, it feels good to have it done, because it took way longer than expected. As usual!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

1975 Quilt Book

"A modern young lady may find it more convenient to work on this antique lap frame...The charming Sunbonnet Girl quilt is in the process of being made as a keepsake with all the fabrics from one girl's wardrobe from age one to twenty-one."

Last weekend I was browsing through a used book store when I came across this amazing treasure, American Quilts and How to Make Them, by Carter Houck and Myron Miller (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975). I have not been in a used book store in years, but I thought it might be fun to check it out. Apparently, I was lucky to find a quilt book at all, because they sell quickly, I'm told.

In any case, this one is both amusing and useful at the same time! In the amusing category, on page 17 there is a chapter titled "Equipment for Successful Quilting:"

"Fortunately, no one has been able to invent a lot of expensive electric equipment for quilting. There aren't even many tempting but useless gadgets on the market to lure the quilter and make her spend money. The largest item on her list is a quilting frame and that can be built at home quite simply."

Times have changed!

But, in the useful category, there are photos of lots of great historic quilts, and simple patterns for many of them.

Cockscomb quilt, 1864

I think the authors chose the quilts for the book with a very modern eye, because many of them have large, simple and graphic designs.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Would you guess that the above quilt, Robbing Peter to pay Paul, is pre-Civil War? You could easily find a similar design at Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn today.

There are plenty of quilts with more detail as well, like this wonderful Family Album quilt:

Family Album Quilt, 1859

I've been looking for basic applique patterns recently, and this book is just right for my current skill level. The designs are simple but not juvenile:

And if the applique is not enough, there are many good pieced quilts as well. I love the setting for these Kansas Troubles blocks:

The blocks are here called "Indian Trails," which to me suggests a good colour scheme as well. I'd love to make it some day! The quilt is from Illinois in the early to mid 1800s, and the authors suggest that the threads have been saved and reused, as well as the fabrics!

Another quilt I'd like to make is this Sunburst quilt, which was started at the end of the 19th century by the mother of Pearl S. Buck:

Apparently the background is red! Pearl Buck's parents were missionaries to China, which may explain the inspiration for the colour. I love how it has elements of both a sunburst and a Dresden plate, as well as the large, graphic design. And plaids too! So, that's another one for my to-do list.

Finally, on the same page as the Pearl Buck quilt, there's another simpler sunburst quilt:

What do I like about this? The cat, of course! I think cats have been staking out quilts as long as there have been quilts and cats!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

DitG Fabrics and Plans

Over the past two weeks I've done quite a bit of prep work for my version of Leanne Beasley's Down in the Garden. It's finally all coming clear in my mind! Choosing the fabrics has been the final catalyst for me.

Flight Patterns' Bargello

When I started my other stitchery quilt, Best Friends Forever, I started by choosing thread colours that I liked. Since then, I've had a heck of a time finding fabrics in the same colour scheme. In the end, I will have to use almost entirely monochromatic blenders for that quilt. Which is fine, but I really prefer prints. Down in the Garden will be based on Tamara Kate's Flight Patterns collection. I've already fussy cut the Bargello print in the photo above for the Dresden blocks:

I will also use the Bargello fabric for the border. The thing I like the most about this collection is the light, watercoloured brushstrokes that were used by the designer. I want to keep that feeling with the rest of my fabrics. I pulled out some of my Riley Blake ginghams:

And I added some dots and simple prints:

Almost all the fabrics have some white areas, which keeps everything light and about the same saturation level. Since my last post on this project, I've been stressing about the herb pots that I've already stitched. Is the fabric I used for the pots too dark or too grey? Here they are in the mix:

I was worried that the herb pot patches would be dark holes against all the other light fabrics, but they are not too bad in this photo.

Now, though, there is another wrinkle, because I have changed the font in all the other blocks. I mentioned last time that I planned to change the words on the quilt to a couple of quotes that resonated better with me. I used Microsoft Word to do the layout for me, and just taped it over the original words where they occurred. Here's my revised layout for Block 5:

The font is Gabriola, 65 pt. I added a plus sign for the line breaks, which I plan to stitch as a little flower. I've found that a light box is not necessary with light fabrics. I just shine a bright light down from the top. Here it is all traced out:

That's 2.5 hours work! The block is 15" square. As I did with my redwork, I traced everything with pencil first, and then went over the lines with a 005 Pigma Micron permanent pen. I hate it when the lines rub off while you are stitching. And this time, I'm also planning to add some watercolour effects with Tsukineko inks before I stitch, so the lines have to be permanent.

Almost all the stitching will be stem stitch, because I don't want to spend as much time stitching as I have with Best Friends Forever. Plus, I've realized that the inking is still going to take several days.

Some of the smaller flowers, though, will be done with lazy daisies and granitos. For those flowers, I only marked dots where the needle will go through the fabric, rather than a whole loop that may not be covered by the stitch. You can see how that works on one of the birdhouse blocks:

All the tracing is now done. I'm still a long way from stitching any of these big blocks, but I have started on the smaller ones. I'm going to wait and see if I will need to re-stitch the herb pots, either onto lighter fabrics, or with the new font. I'm really happy with my stitching on those, so I'd hate to have to do them again. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Making Cats

I can't seem to leave this new quilt, Jacks and Cats, alone! Today I was just going to cut out all the white smiles, when before I knew it I had all eight cat heads cut out as well:

Then I thought I may as well choose colours for the noses:

And, since I was that far, I should probably glue baste them together before I put them away:

Now I can sew the features down at my leisure, and backstitch the teeth.

The hand dyed felted wools are from Wooly Lady. The colours are beautifully saturated but still luminous. The fabric feels like blanketing, lighter than other felted wools I've tried, and a little fluffy after washing. The freezer paper patterns stayed on well, though. Overall, I am very pleased with them!

I also spent most of yesterday sorting and cutting fabrics for the wonky nine patches that go between the faces. It's been mind-boggling trying to keep it all balanced (but wonky!), and I don't think I'll know for sure how it's working until I start piecing.

I'm really enjoying the wide variety of fabrics and techniques on this project -- machine sewing, felt applique, and some hand applique still to come. It's keeping me motivated!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Making Eyes... you?

Here's looking at you, kid?

The eyes have it?

Billy Eye-dol?

Yes, it's been silly fun so far on my new Halloween quilt, Jacks and Cats. I made all the eyes with black felt pupils, instead of the satin stitch embroidery suggested in the pattern. I didn't want any white to show through, and I think it was about the same amount of work either way.

I will say that "easy and fun" changed into mindnumbing and dull about halfway through, but in the end I was surprised when they were all done.

Now I can start on the faces, which is when the fun will really start!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sashiko Inspiration

Best Friends Forever Month 5.4

Back in July I was just starting Month 5 of Best Friends Forever, and looking for a new way to fill in the large circle in the centre of this motif, when my blogging friend Jillian took a class on Kantha embroidery. The criss crossing running stitch of that technique reminded me of some Japanese sashiko stitch designs:

I reviewed this book back in 2012. I decided to try out one of my favourite sashiko patterns for this motif. The grid was marked with a water erasable marker:

I stitched around the circle with stem stitch first.  This gave me an anchor for the lines of sashiko:

The stitches look loose here because I tried to blot out the blue ink before I took the photo. Not very well! But they are fine after a proper rinse. The back is cute too:

You can see how I was able to weave the ends into the stem stitch border.

This was the first part of Month 5 to be stitched, and then the motif languished while I stitched all the others. I really was low on ideas on how to colour and stitch the rest of it. In the end it is a little different - the first motif that doesn't have any yellow - and I am satisfied with it.

Plus, after my six week holiday from this project, I am refreshed and full of new ideas for Month 6! Three months left. :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Semi-new project - Down in the Garden

Darn, darn, double darn. I'm rolling along, sewing my circles for last week's new project, Jacks and Cats, when I catch a glimpse of a familiar project in the Sweet P sidebar, which takes me to Kaaren's blog, The Painted Quilt. The familiar project is Down in the Garden by Leanne Beasley, which I bought at the same time as Best Friends Forever (and Scandinavian Rose too, which is still in my stash), and which I have been working on now and then for the past nine months.

I showed it to you here, without properly introducing the project. There's been a lot of waffling since then! I said as much to Kaaren in the comments, and she encouraged me to just start anyway. I sent her a considered reply, explaining that I had just started a new quilt, and that although it was tempting, I could not possibly pick up this one too.

But here I am! With another new project to officially add to the books.

This summer I did most of the herb pots (two are left) that are scattered around the quilt, in addition to the Dresdens that I previewed back in March. I have used the same floss for all the herbs, DMC 4047 from their Color Variations line. I tried to differentiate the herbs by using different stitches -- fly stitch for the rosemary, stem stitch for the chives, round detached chain stitches for the basil, and backstitch on the sage.

I've been thinking about it constantly since I saw Kaaren's blog post.  She has started with Block Five, which has been the source of all my angst.

The designer has written a number of thoughts that are meaningful to her and framed them in the centre block. I'd like to keep this wall quilt in my studio space, so I thought the words should be meaningful to me. The core fabrics for my quilt will be Tamara Kate's Flight Patterns collection...

...which include a lot of butterflies. Four of the other blocks also have butterflies. I really want to include bees as well, because I think they will be a good industrious symbol for the studio. After many searches on keywords like "butterfly," "bee," and "garden," I've finally settled on two quotes. Andrew Marvell for the Block Five centre:

And, as it works,
the industrious bee
Computes its time
as well as we.
How could such sweet
and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!

...and this great contrasting quote by Tagore for the surrounding blocks:

The butterfly counts
not months
but moments,
and has time enough.

Sometimes decision paralysis is the biggest obstacle for me. Now that's decided, maybe things will start to move along!

And hey, since it's still Wednesday, I'll link up with WIP Wednesday at The Needle and Thread Network as well.
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