Showing posts with label Quilt Design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quilt Design. Show all posts

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sunny and Derivative

Ok, I think my summer break has been long enough. I am pitying the Modern Quilt Guild, who are in a storm of controversy over a recent post about copyright and derivative work. (Edit Sept 2016: The post has been removed now. You can read their new approach here. There is also a link there to the original post.) I know I had more than one heated discussion about copyright when I did the website for my quilt guild. The fact is that current copyright law is out of date, and quilters are not the only ones who think so. This 2013 statement by the US Register of Copyrights sums up well the frustration people are feeling. This is my favourite line:
...if one needs an army of lawyers to understand the basic precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.
And if you don't think that the current laws are bad for artists, let me remind you of this injustice...

...which you can read about here, if you don't already know it.

An organization like the MCG (or any guild), has to follow the law whether they like it or not. But, I do think MCG's new, hard line refusal to consider "derivative" works for judging at their shows is out of tune with the current understanding of how artistic production really happens.

We all stand on the shoulders of the ones who came before us. As an example, let's consider my (still unfinished) "Sunshine" quilt, which has made a little progress since my last post in June.

Here, and at the top, are a couple of the smaller 9" and 6" churn dash blocks. This time I used Gwen Marston's "liberated" recutting technique to give each unit its own character. On the larger blocks I had used Sujata Shah's curved piecing techniques...

...but honestly it was a lot of work and I thought the curves would get lost in the smaller units anyway.

As far as I know, it was my idea to apply Sujata and Gwen's techniques to a compound block like the churn dash. It's not earthshaking, just a small, incremental expansion on the earlier idea. Since my first post in February, I've noticed that Missouri Star now has a tutorial for a wonky churn dash quilt too. Did they see mine? I don't know. But, their quilt is pretty cute too.

Mine, of course, has the added enhancement of blocks in many sizes. I'm putting them together in sections like this:

This is not a new idea either. My inspiration was the quilt Bohemian Charm...

by Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith of Homestead Hearth, and found in my much cherished Sew Scrappy, Vol. 2 from Better Homes and Gardens. The block sizes in this quilt were weird -- 4" and 10" to start -- so a redesign was always on the cards for this one. They also grouped the blocks into rectangular sections, but filled the gaps with squares.

My first plan was to use squares to fill in the gaps too, but after I made the words...

...I realized I could use up those yellow strings I made by mistake, and that would be better all around. So now those strings are more "happy accident" than mistake!

I used Bonnie Hunter's string piecing technique:

The strings are chain pieced onto papers cut to size. I didn't include the seam allowances on the paper, but next time I will, because it would be easier to judge the size that way. They are trimmed when I'm ready to assemble the sections.

Oh, and for those words, I didn't "figure out the math," and I've never read instructions on how to make letters either. I just took yellow and white strips and put them together by eye, same as some people can play music by ear. But the idea to piece letters and words definitely came from photos online.

So, it could be said that this quilt is derived from ideas by Sarah Maxwell, Dolores Smith, Sujata Shah, Gwen Marston, Bonnie Hunter, and probably others too. But I wouldn't expect any of them to knock on my door and say "Hey, I own your quilt. Stop putting pictures of it online." They all had their own sources of inspiration.

I'm not saying this could be an award-winning quilt that the Modern Quilt Guild would refuse to hang in their show. I'm asking you to look at all the meaning and value inherent in the combined influences of the quilts that inspired even this trivial jumble of fabric, and to say that we shouldn't turn our backs on that. Truthfully, I don't think it's possible, but I think it would be a huge loss to try.

Current copyright laws may not accept that art evolves, and the student can outperform the master, but there is nothing stopping quilters from recognizing and celebrating their place in the ongoing discourse of quiltmaking. Eventually, the laws will catch up.

And if you are not now completely exhausted, check out the other blogs at the Ad Hoc Improv Quilters link up, right here!

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?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

13 Cherry Trees

My 13 Cherry Tree of Life blocks for my quilt Hanami, have been done for a couple of weeks, and this week I finished sewing together the main body of the quilt. I've held off posting any progress photos, because I wanted to wow you with the full impact of the pieced setting:

The plan was to blend the trees "seamlessly" into the background, and I am really pleased with how that worked out. It's the random distribution of background fabrics in the blocks and sashings that makes it work. But in fact, the sashings and setting triangles were made from carefully managed strip sets:

The strips sets required careful management to make their repeating pattern look random. That involved a lot of labels and total focus, which is the other reason why there are no progress photos!

The idea with the strip sets was that it would be more efficient, and I suppose it was. But it was still a heck of a lot of sewing. And a lot of pinning too. But it was all worth it, and I'm very happy with how it has come together.

From close up, or from the side, the trees tend to disappear, and it is just a mass of pink and white florals.

I even managed to fit in a couple of butterflies:

If I was starting over there are a few of things I might do differently, but the benefit of leaving a lot of it to chance is that it stopped me from obsessing over the little details. Somehow you just relax and accept it the way it is. I think that helps the quilt bypass the logical mind of the viewer somewhat, and connect on a more emotional level. An unexpected benefit!

It still needs a border. I'll trim off the points to square it up...

and add about 5" (13 cm) around. My original plan was to make just a narrow sawtooth border of green HSTs, but I changed my mind on that a while ago. It felt too hemmed in. The green HSTs are already made, and I thought I may need to put them aside. Then today a better plan for the HSTs occurred to me, but it will require more cutting too.

So once again I have to put it aside for now, while I finish up a couple more urgent projects. My secret purple guild challenge quilt just needs a binding now. I have to say that it looks pretty good, but they are a competitive bunch at my guild, so we'll see how it does! And I still haven't completely unpicked that terrible puckered border on Hen Party. My mom's birthday is less than a month away, and the quilt is almost four years overdue. I think the embarrassment has dragged on long enough!

But never mind, for now let's just relax among the flowers...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cardinal Stars Flimsy

In 2009 my local quilt shop had a bolt of this gorgeous "Wild Wings" fabric:

I think it sold out in about 3 weeks. Fortunately, I bought 3 metres! I had a vague plan of using it for a border for a lap quilt.

In November 2010 I finally started the project. The plan was to make a pieced centre with alternating yellow stars and red/black diamonds, and use the cardinal fabric for the border. But, my piecing was not very accurate then, and it didn't go well. And the design felt uninspired.

So, I redesigned it a gazillion times (more or less). In 2013 I decided to take apart those first blocks, trim the units more accurately, and re-sew the blocks. In 2014 I decided to make the units into star-in-a-star blocks.

The setting idea is from a quilt in an old Quiltmania, possibly named "Les Roses Bleues," but I can't swear to that. That quilt also had a large background print, a floral (with blue roses), and they framed each block in a narrow border like this and "floated" it on the background. Although I planned to, I never made it. So, I was happy to use the same idea here:

Cardinal Stars, 64" (163 cm) square
Since the background is almost the "focus" of the quilt, I used most of my 3 metres. The borders were pieced, because I wanted to break up the repeat on the fabric, and try for a more natural distribution of birds. You can see that the centre, though, is one 20" square of fabric.

Overall, I think my plan worked better than I expected! I was worried that the block colours wouldn't match the background, or that the solids would be too jarring against the print. But, I think the blocks are balanced with the print, and neither is too dominant. I was very careful when I chose that jade green solid, and took the print to the store to match it.

Most of all, I am glad to have the flimsy done! And I do not plan any further delays on the quilting. Suddenly I'm in a finishing frame of mind again! Let's hope it lasts. :D

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Back in Season

The cherry trees are in full bloom in Tokyo right now. Here in Toronto it is snowing, thanks to another visit from the Polar Vortex. Although, one forecaster called it a "Siberian" air mass, which I guess implies that it is even colder, lol. In any case, a little snow is normal for us in April, and fortunately, I'm prepared for spring with my blossoming cherry tree blocks:

It's almost a year since I've shown this project, Hanami.  It's my own adaptation of the traditional Tree of Life block. Most of my inspiration came from Audrey's trees here, except I changed the trunks to make them entirely from HSTs. Unfortunately, my first few attempts at the block came out distinctly rectangular.

So, on my summer break last year I took the first blocks almost completely apart. The seam allowances were not consistent, and my setting will require precision. This time they look much better!

And while I was at it, I changed the fabrics in the tree trunks too:

Old Trunk

New Trunk
Some of my pink florals are very light, and those dark browns completely drowned them out. I chose dark beige and light silver grey instead, because I want a very light, misty feel for this cherry orchard. I remember plenty of misty days in Japan!

A couple of the trees are almost all white:

I think this will still work, because the pattern is set by the darker trees, so the eye will fill in the gaps.

This quilt was my DIY Mystery Quilt, where all the pieces for each tree were drawn semi-randomly. Each block is a challenge! You can read more about that process here.

Now I feel like all the bugs have been worked out. Six blocks are done...

...and there are just seven more to go.

Of course, my plan last summer was to have this flimsy finished by now. But, on my first day back in blogland last fall all my plans were thrown out the window when AHIQ came along, and they were ground further into dust by Allietare in November. And, going "off script" has been exactly the right thing to do, because both Allietare and the ongoing improv challenge have dramatically improved my quilting. I am amazed at how much easier these blocks seem now!

So, there are no wrong turns. And, fingers crossed, I can still get this to the flimsy stage before this year's blossoms have fallen. After two months of frustrating machine quilting, it is nice to be piecing again!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Allietare Stars

All those Allietare Week 4 sets that took me so long to make, will be used to make black star blocks. Here are my 25 sets, laid out and ready for their centres:

Bonnie Hunter's instructions call for 4" squares of our gold fabrics in the centre. I decided to make 4" gold stars instead:

My theory was that with the large variety of gold, taupe and brown fabrics that I've been using, sewing them into stars with a consistent background would give them some uniformity, and hopefully a little pizazz too!

Some of them are quite a bit darker than I expected.

It's funny how my camera sees those blues differently on different days! Anyway, some of these stars are a little risky...

...but I hope they'll be fine in the end!

Now the layout for the 25 star blocks is also done:

It is all darker than I expected, but....I think once the blocks are all sewn together the blues will tie in well to the blue in the red blocks. In any case, I'm not changing my mind now!

I think sewing them together will keep me busy for a while. :D

And today I'm linking up with Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times. Click here to see what everyone else is up to!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Allietare Matched Sets

If part of my intention with this project, Bonnie Hunter's 2015-16 Mystery Quilt "Allietare," is to figure out why all my projects seem to take forever, then this past week has been a huge success!

The answer is "scope creep." Scope creep is a term in product or program development, when the thing you are making gets fancier and fancier, until the project is both late and way over budget. Say you are building a house, and then halfway through you decide you need bigger windows. And some extra cupboards in the kitchen. That's scope creep.

Right before the clue came out for Week 2, I decided that since I don't know the whole picture with this mystery quilt, I will just focus on the details. Then the clue was published, and it called for 20 matched sets of these red flying geese:

And somehow, between "matched sets" and "details," I became obsessed with the idea that some of my fabrics could be fussy cut. Not those ones above, but these fabrics below:

Those fans in the first fabric would fit exactly into one of those red flying geese. And wouldn't it be cool to match up the Oriental Trees in the bottom fabric? And then I had to decide how best to do it, and that used up the rest of the weekend. By Monday I simply couldn't think about it any more, and I decided to work on those Christmas Crumbs instead. That gave me enough perspective to see sense! Was I going to do the same thing when it came time to cut the gold fabrics? No way! And any way I cut it, it was going to waste fabric.

I did try it out with the stripes:

Then to cap it off, I realized that the fussy cut pieces were going to end up too far apart for the effect to work. My best guess for how the pieces will be used looks like this:

Fussy cutting makes no difference at all! I cut the remaining fabric normally. I did match up similar colours though:

And, it's fun to play around with the pieces:

But, the whole experience has now made me clearly aware of how corrosive scope creep can be. It's not just that it slowed down this project, but it also sent me haring off to start other projects as well. I realized that I've done the same thing many times before.

And ultimately, scope creep is bad design. It's much better to have a single cohesive concept than to try to fit every idea I ever had into the same project. Good design is something that I take seriously, and I'm hoping that will be the thing I remember in future. If I'm not completely immune now, at least I'm inoculated!

I missed the Week 2 link up, but you can still see everyone else's work here. Week 3 looks pretty straightforward, so it is a good chance to catch up. Heck, Mary Ellen finished her Week 3 pieces in one day, so I should be ready by Monday, right? ;)

See you again soon!
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