Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wild Horses

Some things you just cannot plan for.
Quilting takes time, and a lot of planning, from choosing the fabric, to the design, and the colors, complimentary and primary. The "feel" of the quilt is often hard to settle on. Many of the quilts I make with a specific recipient in mind are meditations on the person, and my relationship with the person, and the other people surrounding this person. But sometime things need to happen more quickly.

A couple of weeks ago, my father's health took a nose dive, due to him falling into cardiac arrest. Luckily my mother was with him, and got him help immediately. A week in the ICU was followed by transfer to another hospital and a triple bypass heart surgery. He's still there, and, though improving, will be there for a while longer as he awaits a defibrillator implant. After that he'll be heading home, but will be facing a long recovery.
During day 3 of this, I was at home, trying to relax via sewing after a turn at the hospital. I'd left my father, and my mother with him, and headed home. We did not then know what the prognosis would be. At home I was working on a quilt for my daughter, and thinking about the things I could do to help my dad, and my mom, and the things I could not do. And then it hit me. My dad was going to be in bed for a while; I'd donated quilts to hospitals before; I'd make a quilt for my dad to use at the hospital. This was a way I could use my hobby to make things a bit nicer for my father, regardless of prognosis.
I left my daughter's quilt, and went to the fabric store. Luckily, I know my father well enough so that the rumination part of the creative process didn't need to take long. My dad's a life-long lover of horses. He loves westerns, and has a great fondness for the myth of the west and of the cowboy. I would make him a horse and cowboy quilt. I also knew I wanted the quilt to have movement, and a sense of the outdoors. I bought fabric of horses running free and 4 other fabrics in blue, green, and brown. Out of them, I made this:
And a detail: 
I made the strips "wonky" because I thought it would add to the dynamic feel I was going for. A friend also pointed out that it fits with the Old West theme as it makes it more "rustic". I hadn't thought of that, but it works.
The reverse looks like this:
And a close up:
The quilt is knotted with reddish brown embroidery floss, intentionally used to recall to mind the quilts of the 1800s. The quilt is Single size, and will, I hope, be useful to my dad as he convalesces in front of the tv or computer.
It turns out the unit he's in at the hospital will not let him keep a personal blanket, so this will have to wait till he gets home. I will however, print him a picture of the quilt and take the print out to him. He can keep it with the rest of the cards, photos and pictures his grandkids have made for him.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Earlier I posted about a quilt I'd made for a friend's daughter, Audrey, and you can read about it here: Part of the fun about that quilt was the scrappiness of it, and the fact that it enabled me to make use of my fabric stash. In fact, it was so much fun, I decided to make another one, posted about here:
Then I made this one.

And a close up:

The inner block is a dolphin fabric I used for a different baby quilt and the strips are all from my wall o'fabrics.
I enjoyed making these, and it was great to see how one pattern can have such different feels to it, depending on the color palette I used. This last one is also different from the others in that the blocks have yellow sashing. I felt that the piece was turning out too dark, and was deliberating how to lighten it up. When I talked to AJ about it, he suggested light sashing, in a fabric that was not too busy. Perfect.

Comfy Quilt for Robin

My sister in law Robin is one busy lady. She's got a family (husband and two teenage kids), a cat, a dog, and is holding down three part time jobs. Busy.
A few months ago, while at  my in-laws, Robin was not feeling well and snuggled on the couch in the daisy quilt of the last post. She liked it so much I decided to make her a comfy quilt of her own, in the hopes that she will actually have some time to use it, and not just when she is sick.
Since this is a new sister in law, I did not know her likes and dislikes as far as colors and patterns go. Facebook to the rescue. I contacted my niece and asked her about her mom's favorite colors. Turns out, the hands-down favorite is red (and no red robin jokes, please, she said). I went to the store and bought some fat quarters in different reds. I also bought some super comfy shaggy kind of fabric (I don't know what it's called...) to put around the borders for extra snuggle-ness.
The quilt:

And a detail:

The design is one of my favorites, the disappearing nine-patch. I love the randomness of the finished look. I then bordered the piece with black swirly fabric and added a broad border of the super-snuggly red fabric. Red satin blanket binding finished it off.  The back is made of flannel for added coziness.
I presented it to Robin at Christmas and she was feeling the edges over and over as she repeatedly stated that it is just HER size. She was NOT planning to share it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let there be Daisies

A couple of years ago I found a colorful, striking fabric of daisies on a black background. I continued scrounging around the fabric store (which I do all too frequently...) and found a  complimenting fabric: smaller daisies on a black background! I immediately snatched both up. When I got home I washed them, folded them neatly, and put them on the fabric shelves I have in my sewing room, er, studio. And there they sat for a while, folded with other fabrics that had grabbed my attention when I saw them.

One weekend a few months later I found myself bored. This doesn't happen often, and when it does, it doesn't last long as I always have projects in various stages of completion lying around the house. But that weekend, none of the existing projects excited me. So I went to the shelves of fabric, and started looking at them and touching them (Fabric selection has always been a very tactile thing for me; I am not sure why). I saw the Daisies and the project jumped into my brain, fully formed. I cut the big daisies into panels, used a burgundy fabric to sash the squares, with white (with black polka dotes) cornerstones, and bordered the whole thing with the smaller daisies, using the red as corner stones this time. Like so:

Detail? Here it is:

Using squares and all straight lines made this project quick and easy, just what I needed that weekend. It was gratifying, contained, and I liked the vibrancy of the colors.

I listed it on Etsy, but when AJ saw it he declared his mom would love it. So he bought it off Etsy and gave it to his mom for Christmas. She liked it so much she refused to use it for a while, preferring to drape it over her couch and look at it. I think it is being used now though...I'll have to check

Comfy Quilts

Some quilts are for babies to lie on, some are for beds of all sizes. Some are for hanging on walls, and others are for lounging. The lounging quilts I call Comfy Quilts.
When my sister-in-law was pregnant with her second child, I knew I'd make a baby quilt (about which I'll post in another post), and when Jo said she was having kind of a rough pregnancy, I decided to make her a comfy quilt. I hoped she would use the quilt for whatever she needed, whether on the couch, around her shoulders, on her legs, whatever.
Jo is a person of nature. She hikes, climbs, camps. She is studying the areas where water meets land and so I decided to make her a quilt that encompasses both green and blue, and one that has motion, as she does. I wanted this quilt to be soothing rather than lively, and that helped decide on the colors, graduating shades of blue and green, and the pattern, which was not symmetrical but not too random.
Here it is:

And a detail:

The squares are made of smaller squares made of triangles made of strips. First I made regular squares of strips of different shades and widths. Then I cut them into triangles. Then I mixed up the triangles and combined them into different squares.

The border is of a blue fabric with the streets of Paris on it. I use this fabric in everything I make for Jo, or her kids. It is from a dress her grandmother made for her mother when she (Jo's mother) was a teenager. I first got this for Jo and my brother's wedding Chuppah about which you can read here: Chuppah for Yair and Joanna. It was given to me by Joanna's mother. I used it in the Chuppah and had some left over. I've been incorporating bits of it into things for their family ever since.

When I gave it to Joanna she thought that was for the baby. I had fun giving her another one a few months later when the baby was born!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A recent Creation

Monsters! I love them. Some are scary, some are sweet, some can occasionally be a mix of both.
When I found a monster panel fabric I bought it, even though I had no project planned for it then. I knew I'd find something to do with it. I mean, we're talking monsters!

Quilting projects without an intended recipients are quite liberating as I just work with color and composition (painting with fabric?) and am not bound in any way by my conception about the person who'll use it. I have no idea who'll use it after all.

And here's what I've done with it:

And a close up:

And another close up (because these monsters are just too cute):

I cut out the panels, leaving the blue and purple border they came with, and sewed white sashing around them. I know there's an official term for the interrupted sashing I have here, I just don't know what it is. Basically in each corner I sewed a purple fabric with itty bitty pictures of the monsters. This was the original border of the fabric. It was good to use it even though I initially did not know how I would incorporate it. Around the panels I sewed a lime green border, which was a lot of fun.

The backing of the quilt is squiggly purple fabric, with some of the lime green fabric used as the border. This, apart from being a fun fabric to work with, also adds cohesion to the quilt as the front and back have the same border and binding.

In honor of this quilt I have revived my etsy shop, and will hopefully be listing a few more on there in the coming couple of weeks.

The really fun part? As I was finishing the quilt, Shira saw it and exclaimed she loves it and wants it. When I explained it's really too small for her at 4 ft. square, she asked if I could get more of the fabric and make her one too. I said sure. The following morning AJ saw the quilt and also promptly exclaimed he needs a blanket with this fabric too! Luckily, when I went back to the store, they still had some, so I bought 4 more yards.

The later fun will be the challenge of creating 3 different quilts of the same fabric, and having each quilt be its own thing. I'm looking forward to that.

Shira's Quilt

Shira's always liked color. She liked it when she was little and she likes it now.
When it was time to make Shira a quilt for her twin size bed, I knew it had to have color. I also wanted it to be a quilt she could grow with, and so didn't want any one color to dominate the others. Another thing I wanted to take into account is her personality, which has always been very dynamic. This is a person who's always felt comfortable being physical. When younger she was constantly running, skipping, jumping, hopping, climbing, whatever. She plays sports and is full of energy. She learns things by doing them.
So the dynamic aspect needed, for me, to be present in her quilt (much as it was in her baby quilt, I just now realize).
I decided on the fun, and sweet pattern of bow ties (or candy wrapper as it's sometimes called), which I thought would work over the years for her. The dynamic aspect came out in using different color fabric for each bow tie and in the arrangement. Instead of the usual lining up the bow ties in rows, with each bow tie angled the same way, I decided to organize them in concentric squares, and put the whole thing on point, so it creates concentric diamond shapes. Like so:

And a detail:

The bow ties are made from many different fabrics. And the whole thing is brought to cohesion with the lavender fabric for background. This works well also because purple has been a constant favorite of Shira's. Another element that helped bring the quilt together is the multiple borders around the patchwork. I have 3 thin borders, including one in the lavender, and one thicker one.
The whole thing is quilted onto a store-bought blanket and bound together. The blanket is dark purple and so that worked well together as well. The blanket has worn since I got it for her, and the quilt is now her lighter blanker, reserved for warmer nights, or as a second blanket for really cold nights (like the ones we had a little while ago).
She still likes it, and is still a dynamic person. I enjoy looking at it and, as always, enjoying seeing how fabric continues evolving in meaning as it gets incorporated into different projects, and the recipients evolve and developed.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rahel's Quilt

When Rahel moved from the toddler bed to a twin size bed, she got a big blanket. This was not one I made, but one from the store. However, the following year, I decided to change this. I wanted to make her a blanket that suited her, and included the colors she liked at the time, but also one that would stay relevant as she grew older. At the time she really liked pink (shocking, now, to anybody who knows her) and dark red. I found a great twisty pattern in a photograph and proceeded to figure out how to make it. This usually involves doodles on graph paper, and little bits of cut paper moved about the design comes together. This takes math, especially geometry.
When I was younger I was not very successful in math. I struggled with it in high school and college, had tutoring, and had to take the HS exit exam 3 times before I passed, barely. I remember the day I realized I am using math and geometry in my quilting, and how easy it comes to me in that context. I guess I was not just "bad" at math. Rather, I had no relevant context in which to use and understand it. Now I do.
The pattern for Rahel's quilt involved triangles and squares, with colors intertwining and the pieces forming diamond shapes. I worked hard on it. Here it is spread out on my bed, with the cat getting involved:

And a detail:

I quilted this top onto her blanket, using it as batting, and bound them together to make the whole. The quilting technique here is "knotting" as opposed to sewing. I used white yarn sewn through all layers, looped, and knotted. I did this in the center of each cream colored square. I find this technique useful when the quilt is too thick to fit comfortably in my little sewing machine. If the knots are close enough to each other, the quilting works well in holding the piece together.

I gave it to Rahel for a birthday and she loved it. She used it for many years as her main blanket and now, though she's got another, bigger one, she still wraps herself in this regularly, and keeps it in her room, using it sometimes in addition to her other blanket.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And now for something (almost) completely different

When AJ and I first got together, he was much interested in my quilting. He asked questions, and wanted to learn different aspects of my hobby. After talking about it for a bit he suggested we make a quilt together. I was thrilled. The idea was that he would design it and I would construct it.
I showed him some of my quilty books, and photos, and we talked about fabric and design. It became immediately apparent the fabric would include skulls.
AJ likes skulls.
I took him to my favorite fancy fabric store, New Pieces, and we looked there. Then we looked at my favorite go-to store, Joanne's, and looked there. Then we went back to New Pieces. Eventually we got fabric from both stores to go with the design AJ decided on. We got a comforter from Ikea to use as batting, and set to work. The quilt would be warm, for winter-time, and big. AJ had a queen size bed and I tend to roll in my blankets, like a burrito. (I do it in my sleep without realizing it) So the quilt needed to be big enough for both of us to use comfortably when I spent nights at his place. It ended up being 3 yards square. Huge.
Here it is:

The only area large enough to spread this out, was on my living room floor. It's huge.
Here are some close ups:
This is the center block

And this is the corner block:
The fabrics here were chosen by AJ, except for the black background. It was a lot of fun doing this with him.
But that's not the end of the story.

I also wanted to surprise AJ, and make this his birthday present, so I decided to make the quilt reversible, and designed a reverse side. I wanted to use similar colors, and incorporate more skulls, but also didn't want it to be too similar. I ended up with this:

I did it by cutting 2.5 inch strips and sewing them in even-increasing lengths, to make the wedges.  I didn't really plan the order of the strips, and if you look at the quilt closely you can tell the wedges are not of the same size. There are nine of them, which is also unusual, and was not planned. The design is similar to the strip circles I made for myself years before and is, in essence, one giant strip circle, but with skulls, and a spider's web feel if you look at it a certain way. I sewed some decorative stitches on top of the main seams, in red zigzags, and appliqued the whole thing onto the backing.
Now the quilt was not only huge, but heavy! It is so heavy.

A close up:

I presented it to AJ for his birthday and he promptly named it "the coolest blanket in the universe", which is kind of funny considering how warm it is. He also declared it impossible to say which side was more awesome.
We use it now, as our winter blanket, and alternate sides, using it strip circle side up for a couple of weeks and then flipping it over to the AJ-design side for a couple of weeks.
It was great to share this experience with AJ, to have him be interested in my creativity, and to work on a creative project together.


I make a lot of baby quilts.
Baby quilts are fairly quick, so gratification's quick. They are also symbols of joyous occasions, and are much appreciated by the parents as well as the baby lying on them. When I make a baby quilt it is quite often a mix of my current mood/fixation/challenge, my knowledge about the parents' likes and dislikes, and a kind of meditation on an unknown person. Sometimes the designs come easily and other times I have to ponder quite a bit. My baby quilts have ranged in color, size and design, and are always a product of me processing the various factors.
A few years ago, beginning 4 years ago, I went through a very colorful period. I made baby quilts that were lively (or loud, depending on your perspective), with high contrast and lots of elements.
As luck would have it, I had two nephews born in that period. So I got to make two extremely colorful baby boy quilts.
Now I hardly ever gender code baby quilts (unless I know this is important to the parents). When I started making the first of these two quilts, I knew I wanted something with an animal theme. Both of the baby's parents are biologists, and naturalists, and I knew this kid would get a lot of natural world education. At the same time, I wanted COLOR!
The answer? Animals and batik.

And a detail of the animal block:

I warned about the color contrast, didn't I?
I love this quilt, though it's not a color combination I normally use. I loved the dynamic nature of the colors. I think the parents loved it too, and I know they keep it in the living room.

A few months after this was made, another baby boy was due to be born. It was time for COLOR quilt number two. And this one presented different things to me. I wanted this one to be more uniform, to be dynamic without too many colors. I looked in some of my books and found a pattern that seemed right. I changed the colors a bit, to make more contrast, and this is how it came out:

Two shades of blue, a green and a yellow.  I like how they work together, and the combination of triangles and squares.

This quilt was sent off to Israel, and I forgot to take a picture of it before it went abroad. Luckily there are digital cameras...
These two COLORFUL quilts are the most colorful I've ever made. They reflect a certain period in my quilting. I love them