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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sochi scraps

After a few evenings of slicing and dicing and stitching, the pile of leftovers from the Sochi quilt is dwindling. Some of the pieces have been relocated for their protection into nicely tamed 1.5 and 2.5" strips, and I also have a nice little pile of 1" diamonds on my tiny portable design board. I feel like a dragon hoarding treasure when I look at all these bright little jewels in such pretty heaps!
Here there be fabric!
I found that I couldn't make myself slice up the pre-cut pattern pieces that were all so pretty and perfect -- whew, sorry about that alliteration -- so I arranged the half-diamonds into a few 3-piece triangles, then sewed those into one larger triangle. (The y-seams with pieces this big aren't a problem, and I like the effect so much that I'm actually considering making a whole quilt with this technique.) I also used all the end-of-row angle cuts to make a bunch of 4" triangles, then after a bit of time playing with the pieces on the wall I decided to use the small triangles to border the larger one. It took a little effort to figure out exactly how wide to sew the white strip so the border segments would fit correctly (it finishes at 3/4", for anyone wondering). I'm still not sure whether this will be it, or whether I'll continue with this piece...
Sochi aftermath piecing
In addition to the precut triangles, I also did some freeform stitching with the oddly shaped scraps. I could have probably just incorporated them into the freeform 60-degree scrap quilt that still needs a little work, but there's plenty more fabric in bigger chunks for that task. I'm not terribly thrilled with this yet -- I might slash it into some strips and use it to frame some embroidery panels. It is pretty though - like a very cheerful piece of stained glass.

Sochi aftermath -- freeform version

Monday, March 3, 2014

Color Journals: Green for Lynn

Last week our journal group finally managed to have a meeting on a snow-free Tuesday evening. I pulled out my tiny twister to make Lynn's segment. I was a little hesitant to commit to this idea, because it doesn't have any "deeper meaning" or philosophical statement, but she asked for green and white and this is what was speaking to me at the time. So, a miniature wreath for Lynn!

Next up: a "Story" page for Marlene's mustard-color journal.
Twisted greens for Lynn's journal. Approximately 10" square. 
Tiny cut glass beads at every intersection add just the slightest sparkle. 
I did manage to find a nice quote for the label on the back.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sochi-inspired quilt

Was there a quilter anywhere who was not impressed by the patchwork-themed design work at the Sochi Olympics?
There is something especially beautiful about the irony of the rainbow spectrum of this gorgeous artwork, in light of the human-rights violations that are the reality in modern Russia. As soon as I saw the design, I started piling up fabrics that I wanted to use for my version. I even have all those nifty 60-degree diamond rulers all warmed up! And, lucky me, just before the closing ceremonies, as I was tracking down my isometric graph paper to get to design work, the Hoffman fabric company saved me the effort by publishing a free pattern called When Bali Met Sochi.
This is the batik version of the "When Bali Met Sochi" quilt shown with the Hoffman pattern.
They planned it out for their new line of batiks, which is terrific, but I didn't want to buy anything (much) when I already own a really nice collection of bright mostly-solid geometric prints. The pattern called for 29 (!) fabrics, but I added a few more to make the pattern a little bigger and because I couldn't decide which to omit. I hit the scrap stash pretty hard with this project, so there are a few prints that are only represented in one or two diamonds. I will confess to purchasing a few quarter-yard cuts to round out some blanks in the spectrum -- mostly in the blue range, because I just don't buy those. I could have used a little more color variety within the prints to better approximate the many varied Olympics motifs, but the mostly monotones or analogous prints work well too.

I started cutting the day after I printed the pattern. Cutting all the edge and half-diamond pieces with those skinny 30-degree angles required attention to detail, but it was worth the effort in the end. Interesting tidbit: I didn't even use the 60-degree rulers for the initial cutting (although they were useful for trimming up the pieced diamonds); the ruler I used most was the 2.5 x 18" Omni ruler with the angle lines printed on it -- this was a great opportunity to practice using those angle lines instead of just the straight edges!

The sewing itself was a snap, so the top is already finished and waiting to be quilted!

This is my version of "When Angelina Saw Sochi" - approx. 71 x 77
I have the perfect length of the perfect fabric for the back, which I just washed this morning. I'm planning to iron and piece it this evening, because this project has catapulted to the front of the To-Quilt-Next line!
"Clover Sunshine Favorites" by Alison Glass for Andover Fabrics
And, happy bonus, I am now left with a gorgeous pile of well-pressed, nicely angled, coordinating scraps, all ready for the playing! I cut a bunch of 1" diamond pieces with my Sidekick ruler and whipped up this little beauty:
A mini version of Jaybird's Rock Candy pattern; it's only 10" across the short distance of this hex!
And I'm also working on some freeform piecing with nothing particular in mind...placemats? A table runner? Who knows what will result! Tune in later to find out!