Saturday, December 31, 2011

Quick Quilt

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a lady who invited me to participate in a craft fair in the area. She'd seem my stuff online and thought I might like to try and sell them at the fair. I'd never done a craft fair before (as a seller) and was pretty excited. I asked around and everybody said to bring smallish items as many people will admire large, complex quilts, but few if any will buy them. What they'll buy is items that are inexpensive. So I set about creating some items that were not difficult, complex, or too time consuming, to sell at the fair. I made several sets of place mats, which I love, and also wanted to have some baby/lap quilts available.
In keeping with my 2011 sewing resolution, I wanted to use up my fabric, and avoid buying new fabric, so I stood in front of my wall o' fabrics for a while and let my eyes wonder over the fabrics, looking for possible combinations. This is kind of like looking at an optical illusion image; if I look too closely I miss it, but if I "skim" over the surface, patterns and connections jump out at me.
I ended up making two quilts from fabrics gifted to me by my cousin-in-law, Debbie, in combination with fabrics I already had. One is this:
Close up, you say? Sure!

Debbie had gifted me about 10 yards of the "Cars" fabric, and this is the second item I've made from it. The pattern here is a disappearing nine patch, which I use repeatedly. In this quilt, I used only three fabrics so the pattern is much more consistent than in the "random" ones I have made.
The second quilt uses a very (very) colorful fish fabric and I wanted it to be super colorful, but also have a consistent design to tie it all together.
And a close up:

The design is pretty simple, but the color combination makes the whole thing "pop". Truth be told, it might "pop" a bit too much, for my taste, but I do like the color combination.
Both of these were fairly quick to make and I had them done in time for the fair. Sadly, neither one sold and so now they go on Etsy. I hope they'll find a home soon...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bat Mitzva Quilt

My younger daughter’s Bat Mitzva was this summer. For me, this is a reason for a quilt; it’s also a reason for many other things, but over the years I’ve made kids quilts when they’re born, sometimes when they move into “big kid” beds, and now Bat Mitzvas. This is the fourth Bat Mitzva quilt I’ve made and, as before, this one presented a unique challenge. The challenge with a quilt for a 13 year old is mostly in the design. How do create something that she will like now, and with which she’ll keep growing and that will keep being true to who she'll become. If baby quilts are about the adults as much as the babies, quilts for teens are about the kid, and the adult that teen will become.  I pondered and pondered and could not find a pattern I liked for this one. She’s got such contradictions in her personalities! It’s wonderful in a person and can create difficulties in quilt design.

So, in the end, I asked her what she’d like. She didn’t know but asked to look through my quilt books. This struck me as wonderful! My child, looking into her future, looking at images of the past for ideas. I also used this as a chance to hang out with her, and talk for a bit, over several days, which is a joy.
In the end she picked, to some surprise on my part, an Amish design. She did ask to change the colors a bit though, asking for blues, greens and greys, on a white background. Further, she wanted no fabric with pattern or design on it. Hmm…Challenging. My first step was to buy fabrics of different hues of the colors she wanted and cut them into squares:

I also cut squares of the same size in white fabric. Next I sewed the colors and white into these squares. I did it by putting two squares together and sewing two lines, each one ¼ of an inch from the center, on either side, then cutting them and pressing them open. Like so:

This process actually took me quite a while. I’ve lost count by the end, but at some point I counted 500 squares (that’s  a LOT of squares!)
And then I put them all together, working the pieces for maximum random effect:

Now that it’s cold enough my daughter finally has it on her bed, and that is where we took the picture. She even made her bed so I could take a decent picture:

The lighting in the room is messing with the colors a bit, but you get the idea...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Two new Baby Quilts

A quick post about two quilts I recently made for colleagues who are expecting (separate) babies.
I enjoy making baby quilts. A lot. They offer great opportunities to experiment as they are smallish, and, honestly, the parents are happy with them pretty much no matter what, and the baby won’t have much of an opinion, until he/she is older anyway.
In other posts I’ve ruminated on the meditative aspect of baby quilts, and the thought process that goes into making them. This post is not about that. This post is about the beauty of using fabrics from my stash and repurposing them. 

Here are the two new quilts:
And a close up:
(The colors are more accurate on the close up)
And the second one: 

The tops for both are made entirely from fabrics I already had, all in flannel, saved as remnants from earlier projects (such as PJs for the kids when they were little). The first one is a simple Bargello type pattern (I made a much more complex one Here). Part of the beauty in Bargello is in its simplicity. You sew strips together into one piece, and then sew that piece into a tube. Then you open the tube in different locations to determine the layout. So the first row was opened between fabrics the dark blue and the yellow fabric, the second between the yellow and the froggy fabric, and so on. Then, because I wanted it a bit bigger, I included another row of all the fabrics, which is why the rows begin and end with the same fabric.

The second top is made in one of my all time favorite patterns, the disappearing nine patch. The pattern is fairly simple, and the secret here is in the layout. To make this you sew a nine patch, nine squares of different patterns into a larger square. Then,  you cut the nine patch into four, creating four squares that are larger than the original pieces. Then you lay those out in any pattern you want. For this one I chose to randomize the squares, and then played with them to increase the “random” effect.

Both of these patterns are lots of fun to work with as they yield such different results depending on color and layout. And in the end they bring comfort and cozy cuddles to new babies and their parents.
Really it’s a win-win-win.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I find quilts inspiring. I find the art form itself inspiring, as well as find quilters themselves inspiring.  I find inspiration in the colors, creativity, versatility, and variation found in quilts and quilting.
The art form is inspiring because, among other things, it is so versatile. If you type “quilt” into a search engine you will get many many (many) hits, and they will be quite different one from the other. Quilts are made for function, form, art, therapy, memorials, and many other reasons. Quits are made from a HUGE variety of materials. Art quilts often may not be used as blankets, while I find all quilts to be art. There are numerous techniques, and styles to quilting, and they vary by region, time in history, and available materials.

And this is also where my admiration of quilters comes in. Quilters use what they have, from feed sacks to silk, from buttons to branches. Quilters use scraps of fabric as well as specially-bought material. They use worn out clothes, and clothes of the departed (in memory quilts especially). They use ribbons and lace and whatever else they may find and they use it in endlessly creative combinations.They use these materials, and create combinations, inspired by what they see around them, what they see in their mind's eye, and the results are both varied and wonderful.

As with anything, quilting goes through fads and a quick history lesson will show patterns that were popular at one region or time, falling out of usage in others. A textile expert can look at a quilt and tell you when it was made just by the color combinations (and dye techniques) seen in the fabric.  During times of financial hardships, certain materials are used more; during times of transition or social crisis (wars, depressions, etc) quilts reflect the mood and mindset of the quilters and their communities. Quilts are used as visual histories of families and peoples.
I’m not an expert, in textile or quilting history (though I have several research projects already mapped out, in my head), so my inspiration comes in random waves. People send me links (especially my mother-thanks Imma!), or magazines, or books. I’ve been to quilt shows and craft fairs, museum exhibits and garage sales. And every once in a while, something will grab me, REALLY grab me.

The latest quilter whose work has grabbed me is this one: Jimmy McBride. 
Now it’s rare to find a male quilter; this is by and large a female dominated art/hobby/craft/what-have-you. So when a male quilter comes to my attention, I sit up. And in this case, the quilts are stunning. I got a link to this man’s work from my husband (thanks AJ!):
And when I went there I found space-themed quilts of such detail and intensity, I was floored.  The quilter goes by “intergalactic transport” and has a website, blog, and etsy shop which are amazing to peruse (and I did). In his quilts, he incorporates real images from space with images of his own. He does piecing, appliqué, embroidery and quilting. The quilts are detailed, very detailed.

Here’s one image: 

The Pillars of Creation. (I copied the image from his Etsy shop: Stellar Quilts)

You can see the rest of his stuff, and read about his creative process (with lots of photos!) at:

So inspiring!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Purple Doodle

In keeping with my monochromatic doodling endeavors, here’s a picture, or two, of another quilt, this time in purple.

The design is my trusted disappearing nine-patch. I love this pattern! It is so versatile and easy. And the trickiness of it is that it looks so random. It keeps the eye wondering along it, looking for repetitions and patterns. I find this pattern dynamic, and relaxing all at the same time. And I think it’s even more so with the monochromatic palette I’ve been playing with recently.

Here’s a close up-can you tell where the blocks are?

And here’s the back.

Next up-two flannely quilts for colleagues expecting babies in the next month or so.
Also, coming soon, pictures of my daughter’s Bat Mitzva Quilt, which I’ve finished but have yet to photograph.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baby Quilt

My friend Karen is about to have a baby. Like any new mother-to-be, she is both excited, and nervous, and researching, and accumulating. It was not hard to figure I'd make her a baby quilt. What was more difficult is figuring out the colors and designs. Karen likes to wear black, and her baby shower was Nightmare Before Christmas themed. Right, so black and spooky it is, right? Maybe not. The big mystery with these things is in how the parents will bring up the kid. Dark and Spooky? More mainstream? Is this quilt for the Mama, or the baby? Also, I wanted to take the Dad's interests into account, and he's a professional car racer. Clearly, I needed to think about this. So I did. And then I decided to make the quilt reversible. And then I started sewing.
But first, the design. I saw a photo of an interesting design and set about deconstructing it (ah, the joy of graph paper drawings!). The design was harder than it first looked so this took me a while. But finally, I had it, and it was time to start cutting fabric.
One side of the quilt looks like this:

The design here of black patterned fabrics and purple sashing looked too dark when I was laying it out on my floor. I needed something to make it "pop". I looked and looked at my shelves of fabric and finally decided on blue taffeta. Not only is the taffeta lighter in shade, but it also has a sheen to it. Here's a close up:

Stepping back from this pieced top, it did look awfully dark and spooky, and so the other side needed to be brighter. Now it may be just me, but car racing goes with flames, and I just happened to have flame fabric is the reverse:

The finished product is 42 x 59 inches and will be something that the baby can use as he grows. So for now it's for Mama and Dad, but later, I hope the kid will use it for himself.
I gave it to the parents-to-be this past weekend, so now I can post about it!
And onward we go.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monochromatic doodles

I've often thought that quilting, or rather, piecing, is like painting with fabrics. I enjoy using different color fabrics to create images. I like to think of color combinations, the composition of the piece, and the balance of things.  I enjoy the process of designing the piece, and then seeing it come together as one, cohesive piece.
So, of course, in my need to challenge myself, I decided to try for a monochromatic piece. The challenge here was finding a way to put together different fabrics not only of the same color palette, but of the same color. Granted, each fabric had a different pattern on it, yet it was still an interesting process. First I considered my ever-trusty strips. However, I quickly got past that one as it seems I've done many strip pieces recently. Then I thought of a disappearing nine-patch (one of my favorite piecing designs), but, again, I've done several of these and wanted something new.
And then, I saw a photo in a quilting magazine, and decided to try it. This is a design that has 4 different blocks, in various strip and square combinations, and I thought it would work well for a monochromatic doodle in fabric. I only had the photo of this quilt and so I spent some happy time, with my graph paper, deconstructing the piece and figuring out how to measure, cut and piece the various fabrics.
This made me happy.
I then went to my stash and found some fat quarters, and other remnants, of enough green fabrics to put together, and created this:

And a close up:
So some of the blocks are of 3x3 squares, arranged in a nine-patch. Some are of three strips (3x9) and some are of 3 shorter strips and one longer one. The fourth kind of block is a four-patch of larger squares. Altogether they make up a lively jumble of fabrics and patterns. The different blocks arranged in non-consistent ways make me think of this as a doodle.
Next up-a purple monochromatic piece, though I haven't decided whether to make it with this design, or in the disappearing nine-patch.
So many options for painting with fabric!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Donation Quilts

I make quilts for fun, really, and for trying out new things.  I like to give them to people, sure, but I often make them without a specific recipient in mind.  A few years ago there was a dearth of new babies in my family and immediate circle of friends. There were no big milestone-type occasions for me to plan a quilt around. So I started looking around for places to which I could donate quilts.  The first place I found was Quilts For Kids, which was mentioned to me on an online community to which I belong on LiveJournal. Quilts for Kids is a nation-wide organization which distributes quilts to children’s wards and NICUs in hospitals across the nation.  Their quilt donation method is great: they give you cut fabric for a top and more fabric for the backing, with instructions on how to layout and sew the fabric, and then you piece it, provide batting, and quilt the whole thing together. You mail it back to the organization. Ordering a kit is easy and the patterns are too. The main thing is to add color and comfort to kids in hospitals. This is a worthy cause to which I have been contributing pretty regularly. I’ve made several quilts for them, and have posted about one of them here:

A few months ago I was perusing the Quilts for Kids website and noticed that there is a local chapter of the organization, in San Francisco. The organization encourages people to work with local chapters as that enables them to contribute to local hospitals, etc. I contacted Patti, who runs the local chapter and learned that she does things a bit differently. She asks people to make a top and then she provides batting, backing and quilting. She’s got a long arm machine (over which I admit I am jealous). I like this idea. It lets me play with color and design, and experiment on new techniques, etc. and STILL be able to donate the quilt.
Right now Patti is working with the Ronald McDonald house in SF, which provides housing for kids who come here for treatment and their parents. Unfortunately, Patti told me, the House has some returning kids, teenage boys who have had a recurrence of cancer. I immediately set about to make a quilt for one of the boys. Now teenage boys often have specifics likes, dislikes and ideas about what befits a boy/young man. I looked in my stash and pondered and pondered (and bought a couple of brown fat quarters), and finally came up with this:

The design is called “Warm Wishes” and is one which I’ve used, and about which I’ve blogged here, before. It is an extremely versatile design. Every quilt I’ve made using this design has a totally different feel. Consider these:

In any case, I made this one in blues, green, and browns, and shipped it off to Patti. She finished it, and gave it to the House. I am glad it found a good home, and glad to cheer somebody in need, and so thankful that my hobby can be useful and meaningful to others. I’ve already started planning the next one, though it’ll have to wait a bit.
Here is the picture of the finished quilt for the Ronald McDonald House in SF:

If anybody reading this is interested in contacting Quilts for Kids, the link is at the bottom of my blog page.