Thursday, January 27, 2011

Conflicting Goals-deleted

This post contained content from a poster in a online quilting community of which I am a member.

The poster, whose user ID is "virginiadear" took offense at my using her/his content and requested I delete the entry and issue an apology instead. In a private message to me "virginiadear" explained that she/he took offense because I had "taken and used [her/his] writing without [her/his] consent, for removing [her/his] name from it, and for having edited it, changing its nature and purpose, without [her/his] agreement to such action."

While the intentions with posting "virginiadear"'s content may be debated, I certainly did not intend to cause offense, I have deleted this post. I have apologized to "virginiadear" privately, and am apologizing here for causing offense.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Black and White Braids

As I recounted in the last post, I enjoyed the Braiding technique of patchwork. This technique actually has two variants, and I've only tried one so far. The one I've tried is of sewing strips onto squares to create the braiding effect, braiding with jewels tucked in, so to speak. The other one is of just alternating strips of fabric, without the squares. This shall be my next braiding project.

However, when I finished the first Braiding project, the runner, I pretty much immediately decided to make another Braids project, but without the runner aspect. The new challenged, I decided, would be to create parallel braids, but going in different directions. I picked out the colors, mostly from my stash this time, and set to work. I took out my trusty graph paper and pencil and started doodling. Eventually I came up with a design I liked and started cutting strips of black and white fabric to go into the Braids. The Jewels, I reasoned, should be red. I like that color combination.
The strip cutting did not take long, as I'd already done that, but the layout, well, that proved a bit problematic. I wanted each braid to go in opposite direction, but I also wanted them to fit together. This took some work, and more doodles, but eventually I figured it out, like so:
It works so that the middle strip fits across both directions.
The finished quilt had 4 Braids in it:
Part of the trickiness with this design was figuring out the ending triangles, which are different depending on which end of the braid you're working on. Unlike the other Braid project I made, this one did not involve working symmetrically out from the center. Different challenges, I like.
when I finished all the braids, I realized the flaw in all my doodling: I did not have enough fabric to make a full-size piece from the braids. And since I wanted this for our couch, it needed to be bigger.
My solution: A wide border to set the middle off, then narrower borders, of the same basic colors.
Here's the end product:
I enjoyed making this one a lot. I used an old blanket as batting, and a very comfortable cotton as backing. It is a very comfy couch quilt. Big enough for  two people to cozy under on the couch.


One of the techniques I learned last year is that of Braids, or French Braids. No, I am not talking about the plaiting of hair (learned that technique years and years ago). What I am talking about is the technique in which you lay out strips of fabric so that they resemble a braid. This technique uses strips of fabric, and sometimes little squares too.
The first Braid Quilt I made was last winter. I was going to visit my (now) in-laws for Christmas for the first time, and wanted to bring AJ's mother something I'd made for her. In their kitchen they have a granite counter where they eat their breakfast, and when the counter is not used for food, it is a place for plants, and crafts, and newspaper reading. What I'm saying is AJ's parents use it a lot. So I decided to make a runner for this counter. I'd never made a runner at that point, and the concept of long and skinny as opposed to chunky and squarish was one that took me a while to get used to. How do you make a long and skinny quilt that's not too too repetitive, but not too varied either? How do you give it consistency in length? Those are the thoughts that occupied my quilty mind,
As a side-note, I am one of few people I know who actually designs quilts in that in-between state between sleep and a wake...weird, I know. But there it is.

I was having a rough time finding a pattern for Lucille's counter-top runner. So I went to the fabric store and began looking at books. Runner books. But I didn't find anything I liked much. Finally, as I was browsing the books, I came across this book about a technique I had never heard of, Braiding. Curious, I cracked it open, and immediately found the pattern I wanted. It was the first photo I looked at in that book. The idea is to have fabric in gradient shades build on each other in a longish patchwork piece. I bought some fabrics that seemed festive to me, and that I thought would go with AJ's parents' house, which is filled with cream and brown.
And I made this:

The strips of darkening brown are sewn onto the squares of green in an alternating pattern, starting from the center and working outward.
A detail of the center:
And one side going out from the center:

After all of this cream-to-brown action, I needed the back to be something different. And yet, I waned it to go with the front, so it couldn't be TOO different. Here's what I chose:
It was quite a fun challenge learning this new technique and learning how to do runners. The challenge with runners, or long-and-skinny wall hangings is keeping it straight and not having the piece veer one way or the other. This one involved a good deal of stitch ripping and resewing. Not my favorite part of  a project.
However, I enjoyed the Braiding so much I decided to do another quilt with it, and I'll post about that next.
Yep. Braids.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hanging Skull

Or, well Skully wall hanging.
Those who know AJ know he likes skulls. So when it's time for gifts for him, skulls are the easy way to go. I've made him several things with skulls, and the quilt he designed with me (and about which I posted here: has skulls. So when I was thinking about a Birthday gift for him this year, I decided to make a skull wall hanging for his study. I started looking around the web, and found this:
which is a tutorial for a skull quilt based on another skull quilt.
Now I don't usually go for tutorials, but this one was easy to follow, and the resulting quilt, I knew, would be just right for AJ.
Here's the result:

I went into my stash, looking for different white/off white/cream fabrics. I don't have a lot of those, but I was able to find enough, and with enough variety, to make a mottled skull. For the details I used various black fabrics, and the eyes, green Batik.
Detail pictures:
An eye:
The mouth

Thanks to my trusty rotary cutter the squares were super easy to cut, and my new sewing machine (oh yeah!) worked wonderfully!
I gave it to AJ for his birthday. He loved it.
As I said, he likes things with skulls.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

One Block Wonders

We all know I like scrappy quilts.

I like the color diversity. I like using up pieces from my Stash O' Fabrics. I like the continuity of projects when using fabrics for more than one project.

Another thing that runs through my quilts is their functionality. I do not make Art Quilts, but rather things that are to be used, loved, mushed, washed. I use cotton mostly and do not usually use other material or embellishments. Perhaps going along with that, many of my quilts are of traditional patterns. Sure I put my own spin on things, but really, it's about squares, triangles, and such, put together into larger, repeating blocks to make the piece. I find this rewarding, and the challenge usually comes in picking the fabrics to make unusual compositions, or in making a piece that will work well with the recipient, or creating an illusion or over (or under) lying image or feel to the piece.

Put these two things together, scrappiness and traditional patterns, and you can see why the One Block Wonder is a new thing for me. The One Block wonder involves one shape of fabric, sewn over and over again. Traditionally, One Block Wonders are triangles, or hexagons and often involved scraps. But lately, over the past few years, a new type of One Block Wonder has evolved. This uses just one fabric (or maybe two), and one shape of this single fabric, used over and over again. I've seen this in triangles, squares and hexagons and was really intrigued by it. When done a certain way, using identical areas of the cloth sewn to each other, it creates a kaleidoscopic effect which is quite striking.
This is what mine looks like finished:

The challenge here is to find a fabric that will translate well to this pattern.
The challenge for me was wrapping my head around the technique. No matter how many photos I saw, I just could not figure out how the quilts are made.
So I bought a book.
I got a book for beginning One Block Wonders and set to work studying this book. It took me over a month before I felt confident enough even to go LOOKING at fabrics. It took another 3 months before I bought any fabrics and yet another month before I started cutting triangles. I cut and cut and then started laying out the pieces to create something I liked. Eventually I started sewing it together.
A close up:
The way you create this is by buying enough fabric to allow 6 repetitions of the fabric. You cut the fabric into long strips, along the repetition so that you have 6 strips of identical fabric sections. From these you cut the triangles and then sew them together to create these hexagons. Because you are using identical patterns in each triangle, when you rotate them just right you get the kaleidoscope effect.
When I laid the hexagons out, I tried to create a piece in which the designs on each hexagon "flowed" with those in the hexagons around it. And then I found I needed to break up this flow so I added the vertical strips of black, in increasing widths, and added the borders.
Now that I've done this quilt, I know how to do it, and while I love the effect I am in no hurry to create another one (though I have one or two in mind). Working with identical pieces of 2 fabrics is not where my quilting delights lie I guess.
That said, the quilt is on our bed and we love it. I gave it to AJ as a present.
The reverse side of this quilt is more traditional and took a very long time as well. I'll post about that next.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The joy of strips

I like working with strips of fabric.
In the "olden days" quilters would cut fabric into strips when the couldn't use it as bigger pieces; when holes appeared that couldn't be darned. In our times, quilters buy fabric with the intention of cutting it into strips, as quilting is so much more of a hobby than a necessity for most of us. And lately, it seems, strip quilting has become more popular. There are books dedicated to patchwork patterns using nothing but strips. There are tools for cutting strips with ever-increasing speed and accuracy. There are even pre-selected batches of strips, called Jelly Rolls, sold at fabric shops.
I have been known to cut perfectly-good-fabric into strips, and I also love love love strips for using up small pieces from my stash o' fabrics. Strips are a great way to utilize lots of colors and textures in a single piece. They can be sewn back into blocks of many different shapes and sizes.  Looking at photos of my quilts I see there are oodles of strippy creations.
One such quilt is a baby quilt I made for the daughter of a friend and colleague of mine.  When Katy announced she's pregnant I decided to make the baby a quilt. I asked Katy about color preferences, just to be sure she and her husband are ok with non-pink baby girl stuff. When she gave the ok, I went to my fabric shelves and dug out different fabrics in blue, green, and yellow. I cut them into strips of 2.5 inches, and started sewing. Here is Isabelle's quilt:

And a detail:

The strips are sewn around 4" squares of the same fabrics as the strips, but mixed and matched. I am not sure what this pattern is called. I have seen it called "Squares", "Boxed Squares", and "Squares in Squares." I have also seen it called "Boxes".  I call it "Quilt for Isabelle" (Creative, I know). It is the same pattern I used for my cousin's "Equal Opportunity Quilt", which I posted about here:

I cut the squares and strips using my rotary cutter (yay for rotary cutters), which makes things not only more even, but more speedy. When I had all the squares I laid them on the floor (no layout wall for me), and shuffled them around till they looked right.
This quilt is easy as it's all straight lines, and quick to put together as it's all squares. But using the different fabrics, and using them for both squares and strips, makes the quilt colorful and gives it movement, something I find I like in my quilts.
Katy was happy with it when I gave it to her, and Isabelle used it when she was little. She's now almost a year old. I need to ask Katy if they're still using it...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bricks or Stones?

Sometimes a quilting pattern will have 2 or more names. The reasons for this are obvious: people name their quilts different things and a single pattern may be known by different names depending on the context, be it in time or space. Quilters in different historical periods and  geographical regions will have different names for things. Sometimes this plurality is fun, sometimes a bit frustrating, and always interesting. I find myself constructing stories in my head to explain the different names, giving personalities and experiences to the quilters who have created the names, and the quilts, in ways that make them lasting and influential.  I try to imagine what these quilters were like, what their lives were like, and who their circles included. And I do all this while creating a quilt that continues their experience. And with that realization, comes a decision: which name do I use. In the great line of quilters, some more influential than others, how will my naming fit? Also, which name suits the project best, and the recipient?
And my critical part says, "Ah, and what does your choice reveal about YOU, your own experiences, in time and space, and your life and personality?"
I usually try to shush that part of me.
Most often the primary factors I consider are the person for whom the quilt is meant, and the connotations of the pattern's various names .
For example, I made this quilt for my youngest niece:
It is made of many scrappy rectangles sewn onto squares of green and then laid out in alternating directions. A detail:
My niece (who's one year old today!) was born to a family that is firmly into recycling, reusing, and conserving. As such, I knew her quilt needed to be a scrappy quilt. I was able to use many pieces from my stash, including a piece of the blue fabric (front and center in the detail pictures) that I use in everything I make for members of that family. It is a piece of a dress my niece's great grandmother made for my niece's grandmother when she was a teenager. Very special to my sis-in-law.

But back to plurality. This pattern is called "bricks" (or "brick path") or "stepping stones". I had to choose a name and was stumped as neither one is particularly baby-like to me. However, in the end I decided that stepping stones is better. It relates to baby steps, and milestones, and growth. At least to my mind.
And so I named it "Stepping Stones for Aolani".
Aolani started taking her first steps a few weeks ago and is now walking. Now I am imagining the steps she'll take, and where they'll take her. As for the quilt, maybe it'll turn into an "I spy" quilt for her now that she's past tummy time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The color difference

Part of why I love quilting so much, well, more patchwork than quilting, is that it is like painting with fabric. I get to decide on the color, the design, the layout. I consider the subject, and the angles, and the placement. I consider lighting and textures. I know some people think it's nuts to take perfectly good fabric, cut it up into pieces, and sew it back together, but I get so much pleasure from the mixing and matching it.
Part of all this mixing and matching is experimenting with the design. So when I find a design I really like, I usually stay with it for a number of quilts. I play with colors, and with borders. I contemplate the question of sashing as well.
A couple of years ago I found a pattern I liked very much, and started playing with it. Fortunately, for my experiments, I knew of two babies getting ready to be born at the time. So I decided to make two quilts, with the same pattern, and radically different color palettes. The design itself is one that is easy to make, using rotary cutters, and enables me to do one of my favorite things with patchwork-make use of my (too extensive) fabric stash. The different fabrics are cut into strips. Another fabric is cut into narrower strips and the strips are sewn together, with the "scrappy" fabric sandwiched between two strips of the new fabric. Then these strip sandwiches are cut into squares and sewn together, rotated so that it looks like the scrappy fabric is in rectangles set into a background of the new fabric. Like so:
And a detail:
The rectangles of green are sewn into the blue strips and then sewn together at right angles. The not quite right right angles, make this quilt reminiscent of a garden path for me. I made this quilt for the son of my partner at work. They hung it up in his room as decoration and apparently the different rectangles held his gaze for hours when he was younger. He is a proud toddler now.
The other quilt I made from this pattern utilized reds rather than greens:
The narrower strips are these peacock feather looking things on green and black stripes; I thought they added more dynamics to the quilt. The rectangles are also smaller in this one, and there are more of them. This quilt was for the daughter of friends of ours, and she used it for "tummy time" when an infant.
These two quilts were done at the same time and it really was fun to play with the color and the design to create the different effects.

Some quilts are well-planned

My youngest cousin decided on her first child's name long before she got pregnant. My cousin loves the ocean; she met her husband while they were both diving instructors. They still live close to a beach and go there often. It was a given that their first child's name would be Ga'al, which means "wave" in Hebrew. There's an old Hebrew kids' story that begins "Gaal is a girl of the sea", and we all knew my cousin's child would be this kind of girl.
When my cousin got pregnant, I already knew what kind of quilt I'd make her for the baby. It had to be Sea themed, and colorful. I decided to plan the pattern myself, rather than look in a book, and happily sat down with graph paper and a ruler. I sat and drew, and erased, and drew some more, and finally came up with two types of fish patterns. In those days I did not use a rotary cutter. Instead I drew out the pattern pieces on construction paper, and used the templates to draw the shapes on fabric. Making Ga'al's quilt, I sat at my coffee table, drawing on fabric and watching tv. I drew the fishes out of different kinds of fabric, to incorporate different designs and colors, and then had to figure out how to lay them out.
Here's what I ended up doing:

Though you can't see it in the picture, the border of the quilt is red with little fishes all over it. I finished it in time for the baby's birth, and sent it off to Israel. Ga'al is a little girl now, and she still loves the water.