Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Improv Wrap Up

 and Summer Break! 

So, this is my last post until after Labour Day (September 5). After my summer blogging vacation last year, I came back full of inspiration and enthusiasm, and I am looking forward to the same effect again this year. Some quality, unplugged time now will be the best way for me to keep things fresh long term.

Last year I made a bunch of plans for what I was going to do over the summer, and I did hardly any of them! So I'm not going to try that again. I also had a bunch of plans for what I was going to do in September (mainly quilting), and in less than 24 hours after my return that all went out the window when I read about Ann and Kaja's new Ad Hoc Improv Quilters link up. So it's appropriate that my last post of the school year should be about improv -- my second Modern Utility Quilt, "Sunshine," for AHIQ, and my Gwennie Medallion.

I'm ending where I started, with improv letters and words:

I have to say, they do look better than my first efforts! I had cut that yellow fabric into random strips for a string quilt, and regretted it soon after. So this is a much happier plan. I was just able to eke out both words from the strips I had. I made the smaller letters first, and then the more complicated letters got larger. They have finished at about 4" (10 cm) high.

I hoped to finish all the churn dash blocks by now...

...but my wrist had other ideas. There is a lot of trimming with the rotary cutter on these improv blocks and especially on the improv letters, so I am now on enforced rest again.

Have you noticed anything unusual about these blocks yet?

The solid white backgrounds are deliberately misleading.


Because they are different sizes:

So far I've made them in 15", 12", and 9" sizes, and the 6" ones were in progress when my wrist packed it in. So close! Hopefully it will all be together by the fall. (And maybe quilted, too, although I am trying not to make plans!)

Although I am now the proud owner of two books on Liberated Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston...

...my Gwennie Medallion is another casualty of my sore wrist, so I will punt on that too until the fall. Right at the beginning of the month I made a bunch of blocks for the first border of the medallion quilt along...

...but they don't match my "olive" theme. (You can see I am still on this "blocks in different sizes" kick.) Since I started out with olives, I think I want to keep them going. The theme for the first border is supposed to be "childhood," which is a challenging theme to align with "olives." These mama and baby bear blocks are just headed in the wrong direction.

My best thought right now is to do something with hourglass blocks, in mostly the same fabrics as above, because childhood was a long time ago! You see my problem. Over the summer I will check what the themes for the next rounds will be, and I expect that it will all come together by the end.

AHIQ has opened up a whole new world of improv quilting, which has empowered me to take on this Gwen Marston-inspired project as well. At a minimum, it's made me a lot more relaxed about perfect lines and corners, even on traditional projects. So that has speeded things up a little! But most of all, I find myself thinking that a project feels too rigid when everything is exactly perfect. I've noticed that the less perfect projects seem to make a better emotional connection with the viewer, and for me, that is the highest goal of any art or craft. I'm interested to see where things go next!

In the meantime, check out all the other quilters at AHIQ here, and the brave Gwennie Medallion makers on July 1 here, have a great couple of months, and I'll see you in September!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Oops - Brinton Hall!

About a year ago several quilters in blogland made a start on Brinton Hall by Leigh Latimore, a contemporary adaptation of a historical British quilt. I left comments all over the place that more or less said, "I love this, but I will just admire yours. I have too many EPP projects already!"

A couple of years ago I stopped buying new magazines, just to reduce the temptation of starting new projects. But this spring I felt I could afford to look around a bit. I bought Quiltmania 110, mainly because I was interested to see the finale of Colmar, the mystery quilt by La Fée Pirouette:

I have been following the work of Nathalie Méance and La Fée for a while -- my L'Herbier is stalled but not forgotten -- and I was so impressed with Colmar. It is a very interesting combination of embroidery, applique, trapunto and quilting. I wanted to know how she did it, so I splurged and bought the whole series. You know, as a reference for my own future work.

Part of that series included Quiltmania issues 107 and 108...

...which include the complete set of instructions for Brinton Hall:

Oh nooo! Worse still, the description in the magazine calls it "an extraordinary combination of reproduction fabrics and the lavish prints of Kaffe Fassett." [italics mine]

  • Lavish prints by Kaffe Fassett? Check.
  • Large range of beigey backgrounds? Check.
  • Solid teal background fabric? Well, I have some blue that will be nice there.
  • 1" hexagon papers? Yes, I even have those.
So, I can make the whole 92" quilt from stash. I made this medallion first...

...and that worked pretty well. Now there are three:

The sun washes them out in this photo -- they are really saturated and intense. I am interested to see how the dark beige background will work with them. The background will be leftover strips of backing from my scrap box:

And I also pulled out every scrap of Kaffe Collective fabric that was in there, ironed it, and made hexies:

It's time consuming, but it feels like a worthy project for all these rare and discontinued fabrics.

So, that's been my big distraction for June! My sewing table is loaded down with projects, and I'm hoping I can clear it off long enough to work on the second round of my Gwennie medallion. To be accurate, it will be my second attempt at the second round of the Gwennie medallion. The song and dance continues...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hand Stitching Round Up

It's been a couple of months already since I shared my hand stitching projects, so I thought I'd catch you all up.

I now have three of the Little Wooly Baskets blocks finished:

These blocks have proven to be a big hit! My first photo of the one on the left with the little red berries was pinned on Pinterest well over 30 times, last I checked. But you know ladies, I have to say, that photo was not the finished block! My white basting threads were sticking out all over it. Now it's finished:

Pin away! I'm always honoured when people pin my photos. The block's designer, Dawn Heese, also has a Pinterest board for this project, which is full of good ideas. That's where I got the idea to transform the berries into little flowers with radiating straight stitches in perle cotton. And then I had my own idea to stitch down the leaves with fly stitches, almost like couching. I love that added texture!

There is just a little perle cotton in this one, which is actually Block 1 of the series:

In my first Little Wooly Baskets post, I went to a lot of trouble to come up with 24 unique background fabrics for the project. But actually, I was right the first time, and there are only 12 blocks in the series! Somehow I must have multiplied "12" and "2 per month," and come to the wrong conclusion! The first ten have now been released, so I have some catching up to do.

The second project that needs an update is Vintage Blooms, the free stitchery series from Sentimental Stitches. With these two blocks, I've now finished four of the 20 that will be released.

The satin stitch centres were padded with an underlayer of chain stitch, which gives them that great height.

These are easy to stitch, The real challenge will be to give them more depth and drama with the quilting.

And third, there is another stitchery finished for Best Friends Forever:

After I posted the last BFF block in April, I looked back over all my previous posts on the project, and I had to laugh. Almost all them include a complaint about how hard it is to photograph! Well, it IS hard to photograph, but I will try to stop mentioning it. After today...

The BFF EPP (lol) setting has also been getting some attention:

You can see that I haven't started filling the background yet. Each flower will be surrounded with 24 scrappy light yellow/green/blue kite shapes, the same size as the dark green "leaves:"

That will turn them into big hexagons. With 31 flowers planned, and 24 background pieces each, this will keep me busy for quite a while yet.

So, for Slow Sunday Stitching today, I am spoiled for choice! What I should sew is this binding:

But it's hard to look at Christmas fabric in June, so maybe not!

Anyway, I have a couple more posts planned before I break for the summer, but this is probably my last Slow Sunday Stitching link up until September. Have a great summer everyone, if it's summer where you are. And happy stitching, in every case!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Gwennie Medallion Month 1

Wednesday June 1, 2016 - Five Days Ago

After keeping my head down so I could finish Tranquil on schedule, I decide to catch up with what's new in blogland. I've noticed these Gwennie Medallion badges popping up here and there.

What's that about? I found the answer here on Lori's blog, Humble Quilts. It's just a casual medallion quilt along, inspired by the many and varied quilts of Gwen Marston. Each month there will be a theme, and we can interpret the theme any way we want.

Lori's theme for the first month is Baskets. Hmmm... Baskets are like a Pavlovian thing for me. Should I do it? I have to dash into the city on an errand, and literally the last thing I see before closing my computer is Lori's encouragement to join in.
So, it's a gorgeous sunny day, and I'm driving down the 401, thinking about Gwen Marston's "style." I remembered this retrospective of her quilts at Plaid Portico recently. Lots of solids...

...and some wavy piecing. Gwen isn't afraid of brown, and what I like the most is the tremendous feeling of depth that she achieves with her colour choices and placement. My theory is that I can get the same result with careful contrasts between light and dark, warm and cool, bright and drab.

And there's plenty of applique in Gwen's history, so I'll want some of that.

Back on the freeway, I get in lane to take the Don Valley Parkway south, but the exit is backed up for almost a mile, which is worse than the usual slowdown. I decide to take Leslie instead, but I am not the only one with that idea either.

But, the weather is perfect, the windows are open, and the radio is on.

The DJ comes on and rather sheepishly jokes that since June 1 is National Olive Day, we should collect as many different kinds of olive as possible, and eat olive it. Slow news day!

It turns out that Leslie is also down to one lane, thanks to a storm drain cleaning crew. But after that the road opens up, and I have a very helpful meeting. On the way home, I am still designing my basket block in my head. My liberated basket block. So, I don't think I should worry too much about matching the corners. And maybe play with perspective a little...

Now, what about the applique? I have so many flowery projects already. I've always wanted to do a project with willow leaves...

Well...what about olives? Olives have willowy leaves. Black olives would be a break from the usual quilty red berries. Could it work?

Thursday June 2, 2016

Luckily, I have all day to work on this project. The wavy background comes together easily, and somehow the basket goes in with hardly a break in the lines. The handle is easy to draw on some freezer paper, ironed right on the block, and then transferred to the handle fabric and cut out. So, that all went quickly.

Gwen encourages making your own applique templates. so I do a Google image search on "olive branch," With the search results open in front of me, I sketch a few different olive leaves, a couple of olives, and make templates. (Ignore the flower for now!)

I notice that olives have thin, whippy stems. So, I make a bunch of 1/4" stems, and cut out way too many olive green leaves. My plan is to design the applique right on the block.

TWO HOURS of fiddling around, many awkward, stiff layouts, and I finally think of winding the branch around the basket handle. Aha, that seems to be working! I take a photo to see how it looks.

On the small screen on the back of my camera, it looks terrible. Argh! All day, and it's a dead end. Olives are stupid. I decide to put just a single red flower on the handle and call it a day. (That flower above.)

Friday, June 3, 2016

It's a busy day, but I do download the photos from my camera to the computer. Really, I think the problem is that the dark green leaves don't show against the brown basket. And I like the line. I won't give up on it yet.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Back to the stash for some lighter green. How light? Well, it turns out that it needs to be very light, and the leaves on the blue background need to stay quite dark. And somehow, that works.

Two days of rather rough and ready applique (speed over quality), and the block is done!

It's over 17" now, but I'll probably trim it down to 16" finished for the next round.

Once again, the timing worked out, and it was nice to run with inspiration when it struck. I think it was lucky that I only had a week, instead of a whole month, because the tight deadline sharpened my focus. And most of all, I'm glad I didn't give up!

Check out what everyone else made in the link up here, tomorrow. I wonder what the next theme will be? Although seriously, I really have to finish Hen Party. Now, where did I put it?
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