Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The First 2017 Finish!

First finish of 2017 is Geese Tracks and Black Shadow Applique! Yay! It feels so good to have one that's quilted to the point of getting binding on. Whew! This years starting out a little slow compared to last.
Geese Tracks & Black Shadow Applique finished!
That's 'cuz I keep having a million and one interruptions and/or demands that for some reason have to take precedence over quilting. What's up with that? hehe  So I'm just focusing on trying to enjoy the journey. Thank goodness for hand quilting. Stitch after stitch, it reminds me of why I like to do this so very much!
Always a lovely sight to see the finished texture
I was actually quite terrified to start quilting this particular quilt. Anything with applique always gets at least the minimum of hand quilting around here, but still, the overall stitching pattern was being very elusive. Finally I quit ignoring and passing over this one and just got it sandwiched and pinned so I could do something. And, as always, once it was in the hoop, it started being a no-brainer.
I think it's saying, 'care to snuggle?'
I probably over stitched the geese track blocks compared to the rest of the quilt, but that's what made sense to me. Then I did a basic clam shell stitch pattern behind the applique flowers. And on and on, working that perle cotton thread for the best texture.*wink
This one was an interesting journey for sure!
This has been another one of those moody quilts, sometimes looking quite cold and indifferent, and then at other times, feeling very warm and cozy. It all started a couple of years ago when I made a decision to sew up some geese track blocks. Didn't get very many finished when I was really quite tired of making them! So I stuck them on the wall and played with them until one day I found myself adding a surprisingly stark bit of applique to the mix. I also ramped up the challenge to myself by including a stack of gray fabrics I'd been wanting to play with forever {not an easy color for me to work with!}.
It's pretending to be shy hanging in the stairwell
One of my readers commented that the black flowers would look good in a red basket, and well, my mind started churning out the ideas. Next up was a border of tilted vases in the lovely greens that blended with the middle blocks and yes, one snazzy looking pink/red one! As I contemplated moving on the next border, I kept coming back to those blendy, more retro. looking fabrics mixed with a rather bland, medium gray fabric. It appealed to me because it was a subtle transition {while incorporating little pops of color}, yet made me anxious in terms of possibly muddying up the entire quilt. Yes, no, maybe so....
The center is where the entire quilt started....
Trusting my instincts, I went ahead with the fabrics while keeping the design very simple. Several of my readers were polite, but obviously not impressed. As would I have been had I not been involved in the designing itself! But by then, I already had a half baked idea of adding more of that silhouette looking black flower applique to the quilt.Only thing was, I really, really needed to lighten the edges of the quilt without distracting too much from the centerpiece.
And somehow it all came off, just like it was always meant to be!
After a thorough search through all possible fabric selections available to me in the quilt room {I did NOT want to go buy anything new!}, I finally turned a couple more medium gray fabrics over and used the back side. Along with the lighter white with gray print fabrics found in the stash--it seemed to give off the lighter, sparky bit of magic the quilt needed. And proved to be a very happy place to add on the black vine and flowers, which funnily enough, included a piece of black fabric turned over to maximum the color from the backside too, the perfect charcoal I was looking for! Why I didn't add leaves to the vine, I just don't know. It just seemed to be the right amount of applique at the time and it's only now that I've questioned that decision at all. But not too much. More black would have made the quilt look choppier instead of letting the eye flow around the quilt with the curve of the vine. All in all, it was immensely fun to play with the silhouette effect while attempting to not alternately darken the quilt to the point of depression!

The binding color was a tough choice as I initially thought to use pink. No go. And green, gray and black looked pretty blah too. Surprisingly enough, it was the sharp, orangey-red which made the cut {love how it ties back into one of the geese tracks block--one of the two blocks made with grandmas' fabric}. Of course there wasn't nearly enough in the stash so that had to be purchased new. Totally worth it as it helped bring the quilt more fully to that 'happy', cozy place I love my quilts to be in.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Always a Fight Getting Back Into the Groove

I was finally able to vacate the back office except for the routine, daily stuff. So nice to be able to see my desk again too. Thinking 'Yay! Gonna have lots of quilting time now' and then well, life happened. We had a houseful of teenagers over a long, busy weekend and lots of comings and goings.
Flowering Snowballs in the hoop
So great to see the teenagers have fun preparing for a Valentines formal, looking all spiffy, and then hear later that the guys bailed as soon as things wrapped up. Basketball is so much more entertaining than wearing a tie! Several of us parents indulged ourselves with a really nice meal at a good restaurant, all New Years resolutions on temporary hold of course. After everyone was packed up and traveling back home on Monday, our family sort of went into hibernation mode. That's when I finally grabbed my hand quilting again and settled into my favorite spot on the couch.*sigh
Attempting to see how the stitching will look as a whole...
Sometime later this week I was able to rouse myself enough to head upstairs and check on things in the quilting room. Everything looked sort of uninteresting and I had to almost force myself to pull out a project and get to work. Not that there's any pressure, but hey, I know this feeling and if I don't just dive in, this state of lethargy will still be winning a month later. At first I just worked on the next border to my Improv. Woven Basket quilt. After much contemplation, it looked this was the winner. Somehow a busy, complicated border just didn't look like it belonged.

A simple border plan
While checking on the progress for the Rising Sun blocks {trying to decide if they were really worth working on}, I temporarily stuck some on the wall in a mock-up border idea. Kind of interesting really, as these blocks are a joke. The more I stitch them to the background fabrics, the more I realize how messed up they are. Next time I will hand stitch them as I obviously don't have the skills to piece little bits precisely enough. My current {favorite} methods of fudging, eyeballing and winging it just don't cut it with these kinds of piecing efforts. Maybe if I slice them in half, it will help ease the puffiness in the centers? Just an idea as I absolutely refuse to take them apart and attempt a re-do.
Auditioning something off the wall
But that's not what I was wanting for this particular quilt, so they were quickly shuffled aside. Applique is more in keeping with the general mood of where this quilt seems to want to go. And yes, it's very simple as most of my applique generally is. But it feels right. And that's really all that is needed before the prep work for applique is initiated!
And then settling on a real plan of attack...
Other than that, I've been playing with my fabric stacks. Putting those together with possible new quilt project ideas. Trying to distill those ideas into something definite. This sticking to the '17 ufo's in 2017' quilt list is all fine and good, but I am burning up with the desire to start something new and of course, something vastly more interesting.*wink  Next up will be to catch up on my emails and everyone else's latest blog posts! Plus, my mom just informed me about another one of our favorite from-Washington-on-the-way-to-Oregon quilt stores' closing. What is it with the main street quilt stores having trouble staying in business? We can't be the only people who prefer to {physically} look at and touch our fabric before buying it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Improv. Wheels Quilt Top Finish and A Walk-Through

Ever since the creation of this quilt several years ago, I've been intrigued by the idea of how very much difference a tiny, little addition can make to a quilt. Just adding that simple little bird makes me love the quilt a whole lot more. Mostly because it makes me smile! And that's a good thing.
A few little applique birds
So I kept thinking this quilt needed something to cover up the big, fat, white areas {created by the corners of my wheel blocks meeting}, They just made me uncomfortable in some very odd way. Like I had walked into someone's house that wasn't mine and people were saying, 'Well, yes it's your house, don't you recognize it?'
A new quilt top finish!
 And so finally I relented. Even though I wanted the wheel look, chopping off the corners of my improv. pinwheel blocks just to get that particular look. It really doesn't make sense does it? Oh well. Nothing to do now but forge ahead. I searched and dug around for fabrics that would be capable of adding that tiny little spark of 'me' without pushing the quilt over the maximum 'busyness' factor. Everything was sort of 'meh' until the bright, cheerful plaid popped up. Can you even see that in reality, the blues and blue-greens sort of clash in the quilt? Yep. It was meant to be! Just that beautiful surge of cheerful energy and I was sold.
Some fabrics are more clashy than others....
And then it wasn't finished. Still! It kept insisting it needed a border, which just made my head hurt. Everything auditioned was cluttery and such a distraction. Piecing was a definite 'NO'. It wasn't until I went back to the floral fabric {tried out as a sashing fabric earlier in the life of the quilt}, that it started coming together for me. And if you notice, it has a touch of that clashy blue in it as well, along with spaces of white that kind of allow the quilt to ease into the border without overpowering it.*sigh
My son agreed to hold the quilt up 'inside' the house,
only agreed to an outdoor picture for next July. hehe
I knew when I impulsively bought that fabric over a year ago that it was going to be an amazing piece and wowsers, was I glad to see it again in the stash. Some fabrics are just meant to be and I'm a huge, {unapologetic} fan of sweet, distinctive looking floral fabrics finding a good place in a quilt. So go ahead and sneer when they end up, oh-so-traditionally on the borders of my quilts!
Interesting how the colorways always have connections!
I once read an article about how boring, predictable and well, plebeian, having birds and flowers represented in a quilt was. Oh. And years ago? There was also a commentor on a popular modern quilt blog who totally disdained the work of needleturn applique as being sloppy and childish looking. The funny thing was, lots of people jumped on the bandwagon right along with her. But that's fine because it had a good outcome for me at least. These kinds of 'group-think' attitudes helped me to more wholeheartedly embrace the look that I simply love from the bottom of my naive little, country-girl heart. Don't tell me what to do! lol  But the thing is, I will never willingly make a lifeless looking quilt just for the sake of perfection, or a trendy look, fabric use, or popular opinion. That's so not me, nor should it be you. Make what YOU love and let the naysayers go elsewhere or eventually, you'll probably quit making altogether. It's not worth the angst!

p.s. The floral fabric was fussy cut in 7" widths in order to incorporate the best use of large bunches of color. Also, included in the pinwheel blocks is a couple re-cycled men's shirts. Pinwheel blocks were cut and sewn according to Sujata Shah's 'Cultural Fusion' pinwheel formula, then altered to gain the big 'wheel' look that I wanted.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Progress on the 17 UFO's

Last week saw me with the quilt top finish of Chunky Crossroads. This week Gather Ye Roses and My Quilty 365 got crossed off of the 17 in 2017 list as well. I only committed to quilt top finishes with these particular projects as Meredithe assured us that progress was the point!
The three latest quilt top finishes!
Gather Ye Roses started out as tumbler block leftovers and then eventually morphed into a large tumbler basket after one day of play. At that point, I knew it needed more, but wasn't sure where to go from the over-large basket piece. Medallion style quilt? Pieced blocks? More flowers? There are so... many options you know!
Gather Ye Rosebuds looking a little washed out..
Finally I settled on a very rough draft that included smaller basket blocks, a flowing vine and space for some appliqued words. The baskets were easy, just took some time for the details. Then for the rest? Hmmm... In the drawing, my vine had what looked to be fat berries on the vines, but when I settled on 'Gather Ye Rosebuds' for the saying, the berries looked extremely wrong. Not that I'm a purist, but seriously, mentioning the word 'rosebuds' might, just maybe? create an expectation of buds on the vine as well as in the occasional basket.*sigh  These quilts, so demanding!
A look at the bottom of the quilt
However, the flowers are all just a mishmash of whatever blooms I decided to cut out at the time. Tulip shapes and other assorted floral shapes that made sense to me. I refuse to get too worked up over making sure every single detail is just 'so', and I do so love the primitive look to this asymmetrical quilt. Especially done up in the classic, traditional colors that I'm seemingly drawn to, over and over and over again through the years. I will say though, that the applique was a bit brutal at times in the overall effort of making this quilt. Hardly any machine piecing at all which means progress always comes along at the speed of the turtle, not the hare....
The large tumbler basket centerpiece
And then there was the day I spent appliqueing the centerpiece for my dear Quilty 365 quilt. Nothing else quilty that day at all, just this deceptively simple addition to my circle quilt! Words are tricky, but oh, so fun looking on the occasional quilt.
And now it's a quilt top finish!
Surprisingly, I've also moved a very little bit forward with the make-piece triangles for Shattered. It's a quilt that is primarily going to be made out of the scrap bin and while I love the look, it does get a bit tedious at time. Just saying! 76 out of 208 triangles made so far, which by my calculations is just over a fourth the way through. Every time I think, 'This is it! I'm done making these forever!'. Then I take a couple days break, think about it and come back with fresh eyes. It may be a project that takes the entire year to plow through, but I know it will be worthwhile if I just stick with it long term.
Make-fabric triangles
The really exciting progress was finishing up the hand quilting for my Geese Tracks quilt. Yay! It needs binding of course, but it's always such a great motivator to get this close to a true-blue finish. I don't even have to put the binding on for a month and I already feel like it's amazing progress.*wink
Geese Tracks and Black Shadow Applique quilt
So far, it's been really good for me to have this list, reminding me every single time I walk in the quilt room, but the years' young! There's a whole long list of projects I still want to attack, most not even cut out yet. When there's time, I'll be checking out everyone else's progress over at Meredithe's 17 UFO's in 2017. Right now, my youngest son thinks dinner is much more important that mom's quilting stuff and you know how hungry teenagers get when their stomach is empty!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Quilt Top Finish and the Current Improv. Play on the Wall

It's AHIQ time again and I've been stitching and stitching, trying to get Chunky Crossroads to a quilt top finish. I sewed as much of the applique as possible before attaching the borders to to the main part of the quilt. So much easier to deal with these smaller widths of fabric, rather than have huge wadded up balls of quilt top to deal with.
Just a little more work to do...
Hard on the hands holding that much fabric in place and out of the way. Plus it's a risky thing when it comes to keeping track of all those pins {or the needle?} if you're constantly mauling the bulk of the quilt for any length of time! {Still not using glue....} My kids already make a habit of checking the couch cushions before sitting down, but I don't want them to completely avoid the living room. Those late evening visits are just way too interesting to miss out on!

It was a simple matter to come back and applique those smaller sections onto each corner after sewing the lengths of the borders into place by machine. And yes, I measured and cut the borders to proper length before adding the applique, only adding approx. 1/2 " extra length for applique shrinkage. So glad I went ahead and added the fat flower buds too! They add a much needed bit of spark to the green and help cut the effect of the sharp green on that primitive vine.
And we have a completed quilt top!!
I wondered for awhile if the vine was overkill on this particular quilt, but once again, the power of simple applique prevailed. I'm a huge fan, as you no doubt have noticed by now? lol
Looking at Chunky Crossroads before I fold it up to put in the drawers!
It's hard to get a proper representation of this quilt as the light wants to scatter across it, light up the greens until they're almost florescent and bleach the lighter looking fabrics until there's no real print to see. In shadowy light, the quilt gets a moody sort of attitude and starts looking kind of sulky. {In a good way because it's not a pushy teenager.} I love it to pieces.  All during the many, many, many hours of applique stitching {would it never end?}, I didn't once tire of the colors and/or fabrics in the chunky crossroads blocks.
Loving this border
That feels like success! The block 'formula' is from Sujata Shah's 'wonderful Cultural Fusion' book and the border design is adapted from one I found in an oldish book called  'Mad About Folk Art' by Gerry Kimmel.

On another note, I've barely touched my Patchwork Doodle quilt. Added a few half log cabin blocks and played with some improv. circles. The funny thing is, my oldest daughter has already claimed this quilt as her own. Hello? It's not even finished! I literally have no idea where it's going, what it will look like or shhh... have any confidence in the general outcome.... {Wouldn't want to discourage the quilt from blossoming.}
Patchwork Doodle
No matter. This is the one she thinks is really cool and since I'm mom, she's quite positive it will have a happy finish-up sort of ending.*sigh  No pressure! Ahhh... My brain is so fatigued these days from attacking the end of the year bookwork. All I want to do after dinner is curl up on the couch with some mindless hand stitching or hand quilting--soothe away those tension headaches. Maybe by next month's AHIQ I'll be able to see it more clearly and know how to go forward. No harm letting it hang out on the design wall for now!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Whole Lotta Inspiration

Gwen Marston has been a huge inspiration to me ever since I stumbled upon her {and Freddy Moran's} 'Collaborative Quilting' book back in 2006. Without having ever heard of her, I bought the {rather expensive} book on a whim after simply flipping through it at a quilt store! Since then, I have bought several of her books and read them all completely through. Several times. What an incredible quilter!
Color Study Quilt by Gwen Marston
So when Sharon, over at Grass Roots Quilt Studio, mentioned a Gwen Marston exhibit here in Washington State, I was beyond excited. Surely I could fit in a visit sometime in the two month window! And yay! just this past weekend, I convinced my husband to take a slight detour previous to a family obligation near the area. LaConner Quilt & Textile Museum was only about an hour out of the way {but added up to several hours total by the end} and was totally worth the visit! At least to me. My husband sat out in the car and caught up on a couple phone calls. What a sweetheart.
Quilt by Gwen Marston
So many have taken Gwen Marston classes {or sat through a lecture} and raved about the experience on their blogs. Not having that opportunity has made me sad, but I have to say, looking at Gwens quilts in person was very moving. The sheer personality and life in her quilts is quite incredible, especially when you consider the subtle ways she uses simple form and color. It's brilliant really.
Quilt by Gwen Marston
There were two other exhibits in the museum at the same time, Sharon Tucker on the first floor, and Charlotte Bird and Ree Nancarrow on the top floor. All really, beautiful work that I'm so glad to have the opportunity to have seen. Sharon's tiny little piecing and wonderful use of color, Charlotte and Ree's fabulous stitching and thought provoking works--all wonderful stuff! But honestly, Gwen's quilts are what made my heart melt. Sorry guys. She's my hero when it comes to quiltmaking!
Quilt by Gwen Marston
I stared and stared at the stitching and considered how much texture it gives to her quilts. Roamed around the museum and then came back for another look. Pondered the many hours of work involved and was charmed by the human element in the piecing and stitching. Marveled over the fact that these simple quilts could be so intensely compelling to me and wondered if I, personally, could ever learn to incorporate elements of real connection through my own quilting efforts! Any sort of comparison kinda makes me feel like the dunce in the corner, if you know what I mean.
Quilt by Gwen Marston

The cheapest quilt was $4000 so I only bought three of them. haha  Just kidding. But I did buy her latest book which had all the exhibit quilts included. Figured I could splurge on a souvenir of such a great day.
Quilt by Gwen Marston
So jealous of all you quilters who have access these kinds of great quilt showings on a regular basis! Thank you to the many who share online though, as it gives us rural quilters an opportunity to get the occasional glimpse of a larger quilt world....

*The gal at the museum said it was perfectly alright to upload photos of these quilts on my blog provided I give credit to the maker. It didn't seem right to post a pic of every quilt though so you'll have to visit the exhibit to see them all.*wink

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A New Day, A New Score

Got the initial top put together for the Improv. Pinwheels, which, incidentally, seemed to have turned into wheels. Now it's getting an opportunity to simmer while I decide what the border will look like. Not quite ready to stop with this one as it doesn't feel finished yet.
Improv. Pinwheels
Also, yesterday saw me diving into another Improv. project. And right after I was so determined to get three other on-going projects up to a quilt top stage first!*sigh  It was one of those days. Put a kaleidoscope to your eyes, turn just a tiny bit and wallah, your whole viewpoint is changed. Yesterday was one of those humdinger of a days where 'what I thought' wasn't quite my reality any longer. Oh the joys of belonging to a large, fairly close-knit family. Things happen because well, there's a bunch of us.
Score #4--Patchwork Doodle
Which doesn't mean we have any control over any of it, except perhaps for our reaction. So to settle my jittery, out-of-sync self, I impulsively decided to turn to improv. work. After first buying Sherri Lynn Wood's 'The Improv. Handbook', the intent was to slowly work myself through all of her scores, one by one. Thus far I have only attempted two of Score #1 'floating squares' and numerous tries with Score #2 'strings'. The strings of course have been my favorite and where I have gladly stalled out for several months. A place I'm sure to return to because of how immensely satisfying they are to work with.

Anyhoo! About yesterday. Opening the book, I flipped past Score #3 'round robin' {don't have quilting partners to work thru that at the moment} and ventured straight into Score #4 'patchwork doodle', a score I've had serious doubts about the validity of. What's the point of playing with lots of different units in the same quilt. Chaos? The title to that particular chapter is 'Letting Go of Expectation' which yeah, completely appealed to my current frame of mind.
The strangely intriguing vintage fabric....
I took a second to think and then grabbed a stack of odd fabrics sitting on the back of the counter.  A smallish chunk of vintage, picnic style fabric {bought at a quilt show a couple years ago} had been luring random bits and pieces over there for months now. Strange color combination to be sure, but I've been kinda intrigued with the novelty of it. Why not play instead of carefully plan out? See where it might lead?

The neutral fabric being used here is a really light green fabric that doesn't want to photograph very well, but I think it will do the job as negative space. As uninspired as the initial results were, I didn't really care. Honestly. I just needed to cut and sew. No rulers, no plan beyond one unit at a time--no precision or serious forethought. Two improv. rows at a time {one repeated unit at a time} and eventually I reached a point where a subtle adjustment on the design board gave me something to be interested in. Instead of placing the rows together in sets, right now the intent is to move outward from the middle, mirroring unit rows top and bottom. It's starting to, well...., turn into a plan of sorts? Ha! Only up to and as far as sewing the next set of units! The one thing we quickly learn about improv. is that the outcome is very fluid. And that's okay.

Being in a mood really helped bring about instinctive decision making, something I've noticed {after the fact} two other times in my quilting life. When I don't actually care, it becomes a gut reaction, something a bit more primal. The thing is, if I were really awake on all fronts, I would have quit after the first unit results and probably tossed it all in the trash, emptied all the fabric pieces back into the proper totes, {what was I thinking!!} and promptly turned to another, much prettier project. Being on auto-pilot definitely got me over the hump of feeling queasy about design decisions and yes, firmly up to the point of considered thought and contemplation. Hmmm.... What do we have here?

I'm so glad to have fabric as a calming effect, working it's magic and smoothing out the rougher edges of life. Gotta say, in hindsight, yesterday is nothing that's going to change the course of my life or my love for anybody--one way or the other.


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