Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Color Journals: Ocean blue for Lesa

I had so much fun working on Lesa's blue ocean-themed journal page. After I went to the SAQA meeting in March, I came home wanting to make some less useful strictly-for-aesthetics things, so I went small. I got caught in a frenzy of making artist trading cards and some really teeny "inchies", which are terrific with a pin glued on the back so you can wear them.

I had a little (maybe 7 x 7"?) scrap of a tropical islands/travel map fabric that I decided to slice up and inch-ify for Lesa's project. I sandwiched the scrap with a regular piece of batting and backing, did a quick simple meander, THEN I sliced the piece up and zig-zagged over every edge. Instead of making all the pieces the exact same size, I cut them in incremental widths like the pieces in a convergence quilt (Fun Trivia Fact: a convergence quilt was the first project I ever made in my Modern Era). After all the edge stitching was done, I added a little fraycheck to the corners and let them all dry overnight.

At this point, I had 25 miniature quilts that needed embellishment. One by one, taking great care to keep them in order so they could be reassembled onto the page, I added beads, pearls, shells, coral, angelina fibers, yarns, charms, sea glass, and some beautiful tiny bits of ocean-tumbled pottery. Some of the segments had only a single seed bead, but the overall effect was (in my opinion) like a Calvin & Hobbes title: There's Treasure Everywhere!

Once the inchies were finished, I prepared the main page. I used a piece of shimmery ocean blue fabric as the background, and I quilted wavy lines so that each piece would be framed. This took a little measuring effort and resulted in a scrapped first attempt. After the quilting was done, I layered a large piece of angelina fiber on the upper right of the page, and fused a fussy-cut fish from a different area of the same tropical print fabric. I added a little sparkle to the fish as well, but I fused him down BEFORE adding the inchies, to give the appearance of swimming behind the main work. To wrap it up I just glued the inchie segments in place and added a regular binding.

On the label, I copied a line from my favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke:
When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.
Lesa's journal page. Zoom in as much as you can -- there's so much to see on this one!

Upper-right detail of Lesa's page. I love the bubble bead on the fish, and the colors of the sea glass, coral, and pottery really vibrate. (Maybe you can barely make out the next one over on the left -- a tiny sand dollar!)
Center detail of Lesa's page. Fussy cut fishy swimming behind the inchies.
Tune in next month for the blue+neutral "daydreaming" page for Gerry...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fare thee well, Great Ullr

Despite the forecast of freezing rain and even a few snow flurries mid-week, it is time to retire the Ullr runner for the season. I spent the beautiful yesterday making a new runner with my collection of cute sewing-related fabrics, which just happen to have lots of pinks and blues to coordinate nicely in the new sewing room. Nothing too fancy, just huge half hex pieces arranged in a braid like the growth chart; I quilted a few simple feathers and it was finished before I went to bed!

Pro tip if you want to do the half-hex braid: Start by cutting half of a jewel shape, then add the first half hex to its long side. From that point, each subsequent piece fits perfectly. I use my big Hex N More ruler aligned so the longitudinal center of the ruler is about an inch away from the edge of the fabric.

Stitchery sofa table runner

Stitchery sofa table runner (approx 12 x 58")

I used this fun old-fashioned sewing advertisement print on the back. The half feathers look good from this side.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Another happy birthday!

I have been fooling around with the Hex N More ruler making braids out of the half-hex shapes, and I realized that GIANT half hexes would be fun to do as a single full-spectrum run. And thus the idea was born to make a growth chart for someone special who just turned One this week! I have the cutest alphabet panel that I used to make the hexagons (thanks to Lynn's suggestion!) with her name. I quilted a very tight meander in the background, around the name lettering, and simple echo lines in each half-hex using a matching thread for each. At this point, once the "squinching in" was complete, I very carefully marked the inch lines one foot at a time, and stitched them with 12-wt Sulky thread, switching colors to match the colors of the number hexagons, which I then appliqued OVER the background quilting. I left some stiff interfacing in the numbers, so they wouldn't collapse into the meander lines behind them. From a technical perspective, the only thing I would do differently if I made another one of these is to use 30 half hexes instead of only 28. There's kind of a large open space at the top. But from a regular person perspective, I absolutely love how this came out!! You could mark the heights either with a fabric marker like a Micron pen or a Crayola, OR you could embroider them on with some plain old DMC floss. Happy birthday, Phoebe!!
Detail of the top. Also, I am experimenting with copyright watermarking.
Quilted growth chart!
I also sent Phoebe her very own tote. Little kids -- girls and boys alike -- really like putting things in bags.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Lotus samples

In June I'm going to be teaching a class on the Lotus quilt, so I made a Mini version to drum up some interest, and because I just can't stop playing with that cute little Mini Hex n More ruler. If you follow along here, you have probably noticed that I don't often work in such a flowery pastel palette (this is as "pastel" as it gets in my Strategic Fabric Reserves)...but even I, diehard lover of the wintriest of winters, was ready for a little spring color this month. This is a really fun pattern to make, and there are lots of possibilities with just these two simple shapes.

Mini Lotus -- 20 x 23"

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Underwater basketweaving

In addition to the Pirates bag that I made for her, I also tried something new for my mom's birthday this year: weaving. I had posted a link on my Facebook page to a fabric basket tutorial, which Mom then saw and said that she would like one in orange and blue, so I took a swing at it. I felt like I could have used four or five more hands, but eventually I think I wrangled the strips into a fairly nice little project. I won't say when her real birthday is, or how old she is (Hint: it is now significantly less than my own age!), but Happy Birthday to my mother!
Woven fabric basket, stuffed with corks to show how much wine we have consumed  
Inside the Woven Fabric Basket: Beyond the Corks

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Color Journals: Mustard for Marlene

For our round-robin book project this month, I had to make a page for Marlene, who chose the color "mustard" and asked everyone to use an old black-and-white photo (from a selection that she provided in her package, already printed onto fabric) to "tell a story" of some type. I will confess that for this project, I find it more difficult to work when there is both a color and a theme. It took most of the three weeks for me to choose which photo to use. Eventually I decided on one with a scholarly looking gentleman pointing to an open book: literacy and reading seemed like a good story to tell, particularly for a book project like this one.

I began with a miniature "bookshelf" quilt segment to run across the top of the page. I pulled out some very interesting bits from the pile of fabric strings (defined by me as anything thinner than 1.5") that are neatly pressed and piled in a corner of my space. I added a wide bit of upholstery pleather with the intent of making a set of encyclopedias, and a fussy cut globe from the explorer fabric leftover from making my kids' bedroom curtains years and years ago.
Bookshelf section - before quilting
By the end, the set of books was my favorite part of the whole project:
Detail of encyclopedia set after quilting and embellishment
The next thing I did was to find an appropriate quote (from Frederick Douglass, uncredited except here on this blog), and to digitize a font so I could use my embroidery machine for most of the wording. I used a dark gold thread on a perfect mustard scrap of Sahara Cloth, which has a lovely suede-like feel to it and looks like a hand-dyed fabric. I used most of this piece last year for my sister's quilt, but I had just enough leftover for this page.
Machine embroidered text on sahara cloth
Next I used some parchment colored fabric to make a folded booklet, with a cover made from another scrap of the same upholstery pleather lined with a print that looks exactly like a marbled endpaper.
Book within a book (front cover)
Book within a book (endpapers)
I filled the book with relevant quotes by authors ranging from my favorite Rilke to Dr. Seuss.
Book within a book (text view)
At this point, I still didn't really know how to incorporate the photo, so I just decided to crop it down inside a hexagonal frame. I used a decorative stitch to applique the piece within the framework of the embroidered quote.
Hex frame for photo.
To finish it off, I appliqued the last two words of the quote, meander quilted around the hex and the book, then added some beautiful gold freshwater pearls around the stitching on the photo frame and a doodad from an old necklace clasp as a "pocketwatch" on the photo.
Finished page for Marlene, front view
For the back, I stitched out the book Urban Threads' Dark Fairytales collection, then trimmed it down to a hex shape. I cut 1, 2, and 4" triangles, diamonds, and one jewel shape in a variety of gold and mustard scraps to complete the 14 x 15" page size. I like the back of the page even better than the front.
Finished page for Marlene, back view
Detail view of embroidery and triangle piecing
Next up: A blue page for Lesa's "ocean" journal. So many ideas for this one, the challenge will be narrowing it down to just one!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pirates quilted bag

Happy (early!) birthday to my mom, who asked me to make a bag that she can take next week when she goes to Florida to see a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game.

This is the fourth or fifth time I've used this bag pattern, so I worked on it in fits and starts instead of following each step completely and in order. This resulted in a nearly finished bag with straps that were two inches different in length AND a front pocket that was not sewn down the center. At what was supposed to be the great unveiling moment, I had to remove the top zipper and topstitching, unstitch the handle, pull it out and trim it, then put that whole section back together. THEN I had to rip out the whole bottom seam (INCLUDING the boxed corners!), fix the front pocket seam, then reassemble the whole dang thing. That oughta teach me to pay closer attention. But I bet it won't...

I used some handy "improve your blog photos" tips this time (Always take photos in natural light! Arrange your items in a scene!). And hey, what do you know, they worked!
Look at this naturally lit, black-and-gold (and Luscious Lips) scene!
I love the "raised ridges" effect of using a twin needle for the quilting.