Saturday, August 26, 2006

Something Borrowed

I'm trying to knock out a couple posts while my children are getting ready for bed. I'll keep most of my life ramblings on my music blog, but for the record, I will just say that--for the sake of my children--I have been pee'd on by a hamster. What greater love? Okay, here's a quickie. I bought five old quilt blocks at a sale one year and pulled them together into a little quilt that we actually now use as a piano bench cover.

Aren't these blocks fantastic! I love the icky, icky greens; the random 9-patch in the lower right corner; the make-do quality. My star quilt is a simulacrum of this artistry born of necessity. I set the blocks with a repro shirting and bordered this piece simply with dark civil war era prints. The quilting is basic as well. The backing is pieced in thirds of the same fabrics used in the bindings. It has a beautiful simplicity and earnestness to it, I think.

You Say Vase, I Say Vase

Get it. Well, I try. This is another quilt I have up in my office. I was once in a quilting group that kind of sank of its own weight when it turned out only three of us ever finished anything and the rest just bought a lot of fabric. But, one thing we tried were little quilt challenges. This was for a flower and vase challenge. It is one of the few needleturn applique things I've done. It just takes too darn long.

I am particularly fond of the vase fabric. I had it in at least three colorways and worked it in tons of projects. It's so perfect! I combined several different elements from an old Brannock and Patek book to make the flowers, vase, and star corners. If you're very observant, you'll recognize some of the checkerboard border fabric from the sashing on the strippy star quilt. If you're not, you won't. The quilt is heavily stippled around the applique pieces--even at this distance you can see it. I quilted the vase along the wavy lines in the fabric, which added a nice dimensionality to it. I like that I chose yellow for the background. The real yellow is a bit more acid and brighter than the way it looks in the photo (kinda mellow gold). Just a few months ago, I found a set of wool flowers on eBay that look just like this design, and I arranged them in the dining room to go at all cock-eyed angles so that I have somehow reproduced my quilted still life in reality. Freaky!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Here Comes the Sun

So, as I mentioned, I have two color palettes. You've seen the muddy, now here comes the sun. I also love bright, bright colors--especially for my children's quilts. I don't care what Pottery Barn is selling folks; kids are not especially into tasteful color palettes. They want bright stuff, the whole crayola universe. The next few posts will be about my sunny side.

Here's the first quilt I made for my daughter. It's from a Judy Martin book on stars. I am particularly fond of lime (as you will see), so I used the surprising number of limes I had in my stash (yep, this is a complete stash quilt, which may say something frightening about me) for the background. I pulled the other colors to stand out against the greens. I wanted a multi-color border, so I just cut squares from the star fabrics and then made binding from the leftover scraps. The background is stippled, and each star element is quilted individually in a kind of shape-maze. I quilted a spiral circle in each border square (can you tell I didn't have any children when I made this?). Actually, there's so much quilting that I started to pull up the back threads a bit. I did enter this one in a quilt show and expected to be body slammed for the quilting issues, but instead, I got recognition for color use. Perhaps they were blinded by the profusion of lime?

Here's the second quilt I made for my daughter. This one is completely from a Fons and Porter kit; it's one of the few quilts I ever saw where I wanted it to look exactly like the picture. Again with the lime! I still look at this quilt from time to time, when--for example--I'm putting away all her clothes or cleaning her room, and cannot believe I made all those little 9-patches. Whew! The daisies are appliqued with a machine button-hole stitch. This one is stipled in the background with straight-line quilting through all the 9-patches to frame the daisies. Each daisy has a spiral quilted in the center (I was in a mega-spiral phase!), and the setting triangles are each quilted with a triangular maze shape. I love this quilt. It's so happy and open.

Also, one great thing about bright multi-colored quilts--they go with almost any bright solid. My daughter's nursery was painted jalapeno green and purple. Her room now is painted pink and yellow. And, it still all works. Embrace the brightness!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Little Big Quilt

I love taking classes, but I don't have much time to do that anymore. When my parents lived in Atlanta and I was footloose and fancyfree, I drove to visit and take a class with the Little Quilts ladies. It was designed as a methods class in which you produced a small star quilt (4 blocks). The goal was to learn their method for selecting colors, using "magic" colors that spark others, using mix-matched piecing, getting an antique-y feel to your quilt. Well, I left the class with four blocks and a mission. I just wanted to keep making these stars. I cut up my scraps and stash and through all the requisite pieces into a box. Then, I would sit for a couple hours "auditioning" fabrics and building the little stars. I would pre-assemble them and store each star--unsewn--between the pages of a quilt book. Eventually, I filled a few books and decided to sew. Then, I had stacks and stacks of stars . . . and absolutely no clue what to do with them. In looking at a book of antique quilts, I found a strippy set quilt. A-ha!! So, I set them this way. Here's the resulting quilt:

Years after taking that first class, I had the opportunity to show my finished quilt top to the Little Quilts ladies, from whom I was taking another workshop at a retreat. They were suitably impressed. At that time, I had some loony notion that I would big stitch quilt it by hand. Um . . . yeah, that didn't work out. Instead, I finally finished machine quilting it a few months ago (about 7 yrs after starting the project). Each one of those setting triangles is quilted with a folked-out fleur- de-lis pattern, the stars are quilting in a plus sign, the setting sashes are quilted in rolling loops, and the border is quilted with stars. About half way through quilting this, I cursed myself and decided to never make another big project. But, I do love it!

In my second Little Quilts class, the goal was to learn their color techniques (which I already had down after obsessively making a billion star blocks) and to make a small 4-patch doll quilt with these techniques. Well, about 75% of the class seemed really confused about the color stuff, so while they kvetched, I made my four patch quilt. And, then, with more than half the class to go, I was essentially done. This is when I learned that nothing turns a quilting class against a member faster than being efficient and paying attention (meow!). At this time, I was really obsessed with 16-patches for some reason, and sitting there, I realized that I could turn a lot of my 4-patch scraps into strip sets to make little 16-patches. So, I did. This also peeved a lot of people, because now I was making an even more intricate quilt while they were struggling with the 4-patch (really meow). Good gravy. Anyway, this is the quilt that resulted:

Like the larger quilt, this small one hangs in my office. The 16-patch blocks are 3.5 inches, I think. It's quilted fairly minimally. I gave the 4-patch to my sister, and it's somewhere in her house. It had the best pink in it. Ah, fabric memories.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Muddy Corner of the World

I am kind of schizophrenic when it comes to color choices. I have a bright (Kaffe Fassett/KP Kids bright) side and then a very muddy side (I think I saw Diane Gaudynski use that term once, and it is absolutely perfect). I am not a pastel or jewel tone (ack!) girl--though when making quilts for others I sometimes will do muddy pastels. So, what do I mean by muddy. Well, I'm more a repro/Brannock/Patek/CountryThreads girl. Actually, many moons ago I took two classes with the Country Threads ladies, and this post is about those quilts.

One was a pieced mystery; the other an applique project. The mystery was called "spaghetti for a crowd." Looking at this quilt now, I find it hard to believe that I made it. It's huge, first of all, and it has a very nice pieced sashing that I would never have patience for now . . . two children later. But these colors are all me! I remember that my red was the envy of the class; it's the most perfect deep brick sliding ever so slightly to rusty orange. After completing these billion pieced triangles, I laid out the entire quilt once night whilst watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To this day, I can even remember the episode (Buffy tried to kill Faith) because I paced back and forth over and over rearranging the blocks--and of course, as soon as the quilt was done, I found some I would have moved. It took me another year to find the right border (I think this is a Terry Clothier Thompson print), and then probably another year to finish it. It hung in my office for a year, and then I finished another quilt with a long story (to be blogged about later) and replaced it. It fits in perfectly in my dining room:

The applique took me even longer to finish. This is another big piece with an elaborate border. When I made it, I had a huge quilt room with all the fixin's and all the free time in the world. The scope of this project would probably turn me away now (though I'm in the midst of charting out Brannock's Flowers quilt). That I did finish it fills me with a fabu sense of accomplishment. Actually, it never stood a chance of becoming a quilt until I bought a newsed Bernina 1090 about three years after the class. As you likely know if you're reading this blog, the 1090 has a blanket stitch for embroidery (something my 1030 didn't have). As soon as I got the 1090, I went to town and whipped it out over a few weeks; I remember Ken Burns's Louis Armstrong bio was on. By the end of the actual class, all I had finished was the pieced sun and two or three letters, which I had hand-stitched. I especially love the stalk of morning glories; the background for this section is pieced as well and has one of my all-time favorite shirtings, a great chicken print. In the original pattern, some of the letters were reversed to be "folky," but since I don't actually suffer from a learning disability, I decided it was okay to place them all correctly. After I finished this, I was so happy with it that I entered it in a local show and received criticism because my plaids and stripes didn't match. No duh. The letters are crooked, too.

Wooly Bully

Wow, that was exciting. Okay, in taking pictures of all the quilts I've made and still own (well, not including those we regularly cuddle with), I also decided to take pictures of quilts from which I draw inspiration. I've collected wool utility quilts for a few years. I have most of them stacked in the dining room, but I've hung a couple beautiful examples on the walls in the living room. The colors in these quilts, the outrageous mixings of textures, and the work that went into quilts made of cast-offs for everyday use (as Alice Walker would say) is so touching and, indeed, inspirational. Each undoubtedly has a fantastic story behind it.

The wool nine patch was one of the first I bought; isn't it fantastic the way the black and white plaid jumps out. This quilt and the wool fan are hand quilted.
Can you imagine piecing wool on a curve? And then handquilting it? Good gravy! All of the others are tied. The tied quilts have the best backings and bindings. One very simple quilt of suit samples has an odd polyester-y tropical print binding that seems like it might have once been a 40s dress. The muddy colors of most really appeal to me--dusky blues, barn reds, mustards, black, forest greens, faded greys. I do have one chinese coin wool quilt that looks very modern and could hang quite comfortably next to a Rothko. It's the top folded quilt in the little shelf (which I found especially to fit these quilts). In the other photo of folded quilts, you can see my dog, who is clearly less than impressed.

Trying to Upload

If all goes well, you will see the fabric that I'm using in my latest project. I love (LOVE) this fabric; everytime I look at it, it reminds me of that scene in The Great Gatsby when Daisy cries over Jay's shirts. It was remarkably painful to cut it, but I got through it (thanks to the soundtrack from Pride and Prejudice).

Saturday, August 19, 2006

And so it begins

I was randomly searching for a new project (ha!) the other night and stumbled upon some webring devoted to quilts. Because I have so little to do, I thought, "well, gee, why don't I have a quilting blog?" And, so it begins . . . here's the only issue. I have no clue whatsoever how to upload photos. So, as soon as I get a quick tutorial from my husband, I'll post a bunch of my finished work, and then can document my work in progress. Actually, I'm starting a quilt for a friend this weekend, so imagine the possibilities. Stay tuned.