Showing posts with label Gwennie Medallion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gwennie Medallion. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Decision Time

More HSTs for Hanami

I am not a good multi-tasker, but this winter I needed about 2000 HSTs for three projects, and that is a lot of repetitive work. (About half are done now.) So, I downloaded some of Pat Sloan's podcasts from All People Quilt. There was a great interview with Gwen Marston on February 6, which I recommend. What's the difference between liberated quilting and improv quilting? None. There is no difference, says Gwen. I love her common sense approach!

I also enjoyed Pat's discussion with Linda Thielfoldt in the same podcast. Linda has been cleaning out her studio, and has some helpful thoughts on how to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

Since I finished Hen Party I've been thinking that it's time to stop jumping on every shiny project that comes along, and to get real about what the quilt is for, and how it will be used. So, I've pared things down to two basic categories:
  1. Quilts for Use -- throw quilts and bed quilts
  2. Quilts for Art -- wall quilts
When I thought about my requirements for those two categories, several of my projects started to change, and some dropped away. Quilts for Use have to be durable and not too precious, with no fragile embroidery or applique. Quilts for Art, on the other hand, have to be non-trivial, there has to be something special about them. And, they have to be smaller! There is nowhere in our house where you can hang a bed sized quilt on the wall.

Improv quilts will work well in both categories. My Gwennie Medallion is something that I will be quite happy to hang on the wall...

...when it's done. ;) One of a kind, original, graphic -- improv sounds like art to me.

Two recent projects are going to the orphan block box. The first is the half scale version of Brinton Hall that I started for my guild challenge:

I just don't think this will hold its own as an art piece. You have to be very close to see the embroidery, and when you stand back it feels drab. Plus, I still have the big one for the bed.

The second one to bite the dust is the 150 Canadian Women quilt along, which is not feeling good to me any more. 30 blocks are done:

I was not thrilled when I realized that this quilt was excluding important women in Canadian history, such as Laura Secord and Elizabeth Simcoe, because they were not born in Canada. I admit I did not read that part of the introduction very carefully! But last week's inclusion of Helen MacMurchy was the final straw for me.

The challenge of history is that when you go back far enough, you will almost always find something unpalatable by today's standards. MacMurchy was a significant figure for women's rights in Canada, so I understand why she was chosen. But she is not my choice, she does not represent the Canada that I want to live in going forward, and I don't think it is sufficient to say "those were the times then." This would be a quilt that I am making today, for the future. I don't want to spend the rest of the year turning over rocks in Canadian history, and making excuses for inexcusable things, so I'm going to let this one go.

On a brighter and completely different note, I've implemented a new plan for all my hourglass blocks. Last time you saw this project, I was sewing the hourglasses as leaders and enders on Allietare. That worked great, and all 896 of them were finished last year. BUT...

...the vast majority of them still required trimming. And I baulked.

I think I made a big mistake when I decided to make a large, time consuming project from fabrics I didn't like. For six months I've been thinking of ways to make it nicer. Different settings, applique... nothing seemed worth the effort.

Then last week I was thinking deep thoughts about improv, and I thought it could be a great solution for the hourglasses. Before I could change my mind again, I started to sew:

I just sewed together the untrimmed hourglasses, and used scissors to clean up the seam allowances. It turned out that a row of eight untrimmed hourglasses was about the same length as nine trimmed ones. I like those offset rows quite a bit!

My "plan" is to play around with different settings of the hourglasses, and make brick-shaped blocks like this. I've been admiring the green in Kaja's latest work, and I think I'll use something similar for narrow sashing between the big bricks. We'll see!

I've been keeping some of the hourglasses in a project box on top of my wardrobe, for "easy access."

This has been the situation for six months. Maybe there has been some creation going on up there when I wasn't looking! The Improv box has some of my early improv letters and words, and I've decided to stick them in this quilt with the hourglasses too. Would the embroidered roses from the Brinton mini work as well? Probably not, but we'll see.

Anyway, I'm still aiming for queen sized with this quilt. I like it so much better now, that even the fabrics don't seem so bad!

And I'm glad to be back at AHIQ. Please check out everyone else's work at the link up right here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 5 Posts of 2016

WOman plans, God laughs

Each year that I've blogged, my list of resolutions for the new year has become shorter and vaguer. I've realized that for me, concrete goals and the creative process are basically incompatible. This year, my resolution is three words:

1. Follow the fun.

Over at Meadow Mist Designs, Cheryl is running a linky party where bloggers can share their Top 5 Posts of 2016. This got me curious about my stats, so I had a look at the numbers. I looked at most page views, most comments, and then added my own preference to the mix. Let's count them down!

#5 -- Sunny and Derivative. This was my two cents on the whole "derivative" controversy triggered by the Modern Quilt Guild this summer. Since my blogging focus is largely on the creative process, the issue was close to home even though I don't consider myself a modern quilter.

#4 -- Allietare Red Blocks. This post ranked second by page views for the year. Allietare was my first time participating in Bonnie Hunter's annual mystery quilt. It was a challenging project, but completely worthwhile. And it's inspired me to start a few more of Bonnie's quilts as well.

#3 -- 13 Cherry Trees. This post was ranked third by page views, and the one before it was second by comments, so I've combined them into a third place overall finish. I've been both surprised and gratified by how popular this quilt has been!

FYI, I've decided to make it bigger, and a wide border has been planned.

#2 -- Little Wooly Baskets. This post is #1 in page views, with more than double the page views of the runner up Allietare. The Woolie Contingent is large! Dawn Heese's quilt along was hugely popular.

My photo of Block 2 here, with the white basting threads all over it, seemed to hit a chord with people, and it was widely pinned on Pinterest. Very flattering! For a while I was concerned that it was more popular than the finished block, but I've realized that a) readers have to wait a long time for finishes around here, and b) I am mainly writing a "process" blog anyway!

And, drum roll please...

#1 -- Gwennie Medallion Month 1. This first post in the Gwen Marston-inspired medallion quilt along is definitely number one by comments. I've rated it as my best post because I certainly value comments more, and I think it is an entertaining story about the creative process. Plus, it's all original and I love how it turned out!

2017 looks now like it will be more machine sewing and less hand sewing. But, eventually I will figure out a new, ergonomic hand sewing set up too. A more supportive chair, to start with. All those people who told me to sit up straight when I was young are laughing now!

In any case, creatively, 2016 has felt like a very good year. God willing, my plan for 2017 is more of the same!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Save this Space

So, it's been another frustrating and painful week here at Casa Monica. This is the last day to link up with the finale of the Gwennie-Inspired Medallion quilt along. This is where I am:

The theme is "Something Fishy," so it was a great opportunity to repeat the wavy background from the centre block. Fish are also designed and will be appliqued onto the waves. I'm happy with how it's all looking. But, my back is seriously wrecked again, for the third time since the start of the summer, so no progress there. Soon, hopefully!

You can see all the posts on my Gwennie Medallion here, including the finish when it's done.

My One Monthly Goal was to sew the binding on my Cardinal Stars quilt. And, this is where I am:

The hard part is done -- the yellow flange and red binding are both machine sewn to the front, and they are straight too! But, I strained my hand sewing the binding, so I'll have to take it slower. Frustrating! And, when it's done, you'll be able to see the finish here, as well as all the other posts on this quilt.

So, that's it for now. I can't wait to get back on track!

Friday, October 21, 2016

What's Up?

I know I've been MIA for a while, so I've been going through my camera this morning to see what I can share with you all. I've got some "progress" photos on the last round of the Gwennie Medallion, and my new guild challenge fabrics.

First, though, the autumn colours have been particularly good this year:

Outside, everything is looking beautiful. Inside, well...

The final clue for the Gwennie Medallion is "something fishy." My plan for the fishies has been the same since I read the clue. But, I still haven't started them, because I am wrestling with how to handle the corners.

I thought it would be good to carry the diagonal line of the light/dark log cabin layout into the final corners. I've saved this large triangle of background fabric from the basket block in Month 1. Maybe it could be the start of my corner blocks?

I made some strategic cuts.

The all-blue corner was not too bad. Don't ask me why it's so wide. I'm sure I had a reason.

I paired the blue triangles with some solid red to carry out that diagonal line, and built the block out log cabin style, as I did with the bear claws.

Since the project started my plan has been to have a wide solid red border after the final round. The idea with this corner was to transition the diagonal line out into the solid red.

"If I keep adding strips, eventually it will look right," I thought.

"I have to actually put it up on the wall and see how it all looks together," I thought.

Well, yes, those bloody red triangles were horrible, and no amount of building out would fix them.

Then I thought I would put my initials and the date in the corners instead. I unpicked all the blocks so I could re-use the strips for the letters.

I was happy with that plan, but yesterday I realized that another week had passed, and I still hadn't started. Back to the drawing board!

What I've been doing instead is my new guild challenge project. These three fabrics, from the "Charlotte" collection by Deborah Edwards of Northcott, have to be 50% of the quilt top. It's a small project, with a maximum perimeter of 120", (e.g. 30" x 30" (76 x 76 cm)).

The soft, traditional style has felt like a relaxing contrast to all these Gwennie shenanigans, so I've been spending a lot of time on it. Plus, it's due at the end of February, so there isn't a lot of time for deep thought. Unfortunately, I cannot share any progress photos at all, because it will be blind judging.

So, that's what's up with me, Next week may be a busy one, with a little playing around for AHIQ, the Cardinal Stars finish, and maybe the fishies too!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Log Cabins and Stars

For the Gwennie-Inspired Medallion quilt along, the theme for Month 3 is log cabins, and the Month 4 theme is stars. I hoped that my bear claw blocks, that I rejected in Month 2, would still be useful. This is their chance! Mama bear and baby bear are now Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the two most familiar constellations in the northern sky.

In North America we know the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, which are the brightest parts of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. In Europe they see it when it is rotated around, and call the Big Dipper the Plough.

The Big Dipper has seven stars, and the Little Dipper has six, so I chose seven big bear claws and six small ones, and filled them out with some log cabin piecing. Two for one!

But really, it was the "log cabin" theme that unlocked the entire design for me. I thought it would be different to wrap strips around the whole medallion, log cabin style. A few others had the same idea! From there it was a short hop to the idea to continue the light/dark layout through all the borders.

I also sewed together all the small "crumbs" that were left over from the log cabin strips, and used them to fill in a few of the gaps.

And I used the brown and grey printed plaids from the centre block to make two 1/4" (6 mm) key line borders. I've been keen to try this tutorial by Barbara Robson for a skinny border, and I'm happy to say that it is easy and it works!

Those are the same plaids, by the way, that I've been using to make rosettes for Brinton Hall.

The last theme, for Month 5, is "Something Fishy." That will fit perfectly on the remaining two blue sides of the medallion! It's all coming together now. :D

Fortunately for me, Lori says the final link up will be open all month. I'm going to take a week or so to finish it up before my next post. Might as well do it right!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Knock knock

Who's there?


Olive who?

Thank you!

I love you too!

For the non-English speakers (or you know, those who may not remember), "olive who?" sounds like "I love you." So you have just baited the other person into confessing their love! I remember my little sister telling this joke with glee when she was about five years old.

So, this is my solution for Month 2 of the Gwennie-Inspired Medallion quilt along. The theme is "Childhood," and I think a silly riddle checks that box. I was able to continue my "olive" theme from the first month. Improv letters like this are not uncommon in Gwen Marston's quilts either. And, I'm migrating to mostly solid fabrics, which is another thing many of Gwen's quilts do.

The theme for Month 3 is "Log Cabin," and you can see that foreshadowed in the way I'm attaching the borders:

And, since childhood was a long time ago, I did go ahead and use hourglasses in the corners as well.

So, I'm very happy with it now!

Remember these bear claws that I made and rejected for round 2?

This was a story about going camping and seeing a mother and baby bear running through the campground one night. Childhood memory + baby bear = twice as good, or so I first thought. But I've realized the problem was simply that the colours were too dark, too soon.

Now I know that they aren't bear claws at all. They are stars.

Months 3 & 4, log cabins and stars, coming soon! In the meantime, check out the other improv quilters at the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters' monthly link up, right here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

And Some Dots

It's been two weeks, and I just have a little hand sewing to share today for Slow Sunday Stitching. The day after my last post, I was smoothing out my Gwennie Medallion basket block on the bed for this photo...

...and my back cracked and folded. Two days in bed, two days mostly in bed, but the good news is that I heal well, and the x-rays are clear.

I have not been back on the sewing machine since, but it has given me time to re-think that wavy border. I unpicked it a few days ago. Today, with luck, I will straighten out the sides, re-attach it, and move on to the first border. With luck, I will be appliqueing more olives by the end of the day!

While I was recovering, I did manage a little EPP for Leigh Latimore's Brinton Hall. When you really can't think at all, EPP is the perfect activity! I need 20 rosettes for the first border, and I ran out of plaids. Rather than repeating fabrics, I thought some dots would work:

So that will brighten things up!

I have one more suitable dotty fabric, this blue. Then I think I will have to repeat one of the plaids, probably the bright yellow from the last post.

I am still not 100% decided on the background and floater fabrics, or even on the design. The original Anna Brereton quilt, which inspired Latimore's design, has octagons, and I happen to have suitable octagons in my EPP stash. I've sewn up a few, but the way is still not clear.

But, I have to shelve that for now, because if I have any chance at all of meeting the October 1 deadline for the Gwennie medallion, I have to get back on that horse!

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... 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!

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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