Friday, March 27, 2009

Tumbling Block Munget*

I finished the tumbling block quilt this afternoon. It's been in the procure-fabrics process for a couple of years, and in the put-together-while-I'm-making-other-quilts process for nine months. I used the strip method for piecing, and backed it with minky. I know, scandalous -- synthetic fiber backing natural cotton. It's supposed to be cozy, and it is. The red minky is not as fluorescent as it appears in the photo.

I was surprised when I started quilting it that not all the fabric was black and white as I had thought -- after all, I'd gotten them off the black-and-white shelves at the quilt shop, so I just assumed. Wrong! One print was navy and white, and another brown and white. Never noticed until I saw it under my sewing machine light. All I can do is just look and smile at the mistake.

*Munget = recipient's name for blanket when she was a baby.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why quilting is addictive

The joy of finishing a quilt
is not so much that I can now sit back and admire it,
but because I am now free to start a new one.


Monday, March 23, 2009

My studio layout

Recent posts on the Quiltart list have discussed studios, and I've seen some beautiful work spaces. Here is how my "Hideaway" is laid out. It is in one half of a 40x80 metal building, the other end occupied by cars, mowers, more storage, and a more masculine workshop (which doesn't keep me out of there, however).

I'm not saying this is ideal or the most efficient, but I absolutely love working here. I had not planned to spread out and fill the whole area, but since it is available, I followed the rule about stuff growing to fill available space, and therefore expanded from wall to wall.

The colors depicted here approximate the actual colors in the room. The high, white ceiling has four very large skylights so that the room always feels well-lighted during the day. The interior walls are brick red, hung with a bunch of finished quilts, and the painted green concrete floor is splattered Jackson Pollock style, and stamped with leaf shapes.

You can see that my ironing table is across the room from where I sew, calculated to force me to keep the blood circulating in my legs. When I have a lot of little seams to press as I go, I use a little Clover iron by the side of the sewing machine.

Here is a shot of the Hideaway when I had it rearranged for a church potluck.


Purse mania

My latest foray into purse construction (previous purses not yet posed for photos):

At our last Tuesday guild night Linda brought me a simple purse pattern, and I couldn't help but try it out immediately. It starts with a square, and with a bit of simple folding, voila, there's your purse. It is a flat purse with three pockets. Naturally, the size of your beginning square affects the size of your finished purse. The larger purse started with a 24" square and ended up about 10x12", perfect for carrying a magazine, logic puzzle book, or spiral notebook while traveling, with pockets for pens - and chocolates (but of course). One of the two outside pockets is seen in the smaller purse.

Instead of using the recommended covered cording for the handle, and which I hate, hate, hate struggling with (can't find the nifty turning tool I bought a year ago), I made bound flat straps.

I am in the process of making a denim rag purse with the same pattern, washing my patched square over and over so as to make it more ragged.

Pattern source: Three pocket tote by Karen Montgomery

Friday, March 13, 2009

Standard sewing machine, 1887

My newest machine is also my oldest one, purchased from an octogenarian friend whose mother had been the original owner. This is a Standard sewing machine with a breadbox-looking cover. Later they made the machines to fold under the top so that it could serve as a table when not in use. The latest patent date on this one is 1887. The machine has been serviced and is in working order.
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, the Standard Sewing Machine Company began manufacturing sewing machines in 1884. Standard was one of the many manufacturers that sprang up shortly after the dissolution of the Sewing Machine Combination of Singer, Wheeler & Wilson, and Grover & Baker. Their most popular model was the Standard Rotary, which was manufactured basically unchanged from the 1880s through 1910s... The Standard Company was apparently acquired by the Osaan company around 1929 and is believed to have later been bought out by the Singer Manufacturing Co. in the 1930s.

--From The Encyclopedia of Antique Sewing Machines, 3rd Edition

I use my other three machines (I should start giving them names) on a regular basis; the 20-year-old Kenmore (made by Janome) is in Alabama for my visits there; my little black Singer Featherweight 221 (8th grade graduation gift) for trotting out to quilting groups; and my Janome 6600, my workhorse in the Hideaway studio. My goal is to make a quilt using the above machine, partly to justify its existence in my keep-it-simple life. But as I said, we do have power outages here once in awhile, and a treadle sewing machine is a good backup.

Fabric Art Workshop: Foil, Fabric beads, Shiva, Lasagne dyeing

Last night, since my quilt project was stopped by the lack of batting, I did some catch-up with the Surface Design book.

First I did foiling on fabric using fusible web and hot glue gun. The book did not mention what kind of foil to use, and no one in the group discussed it either, so I used the foil leaf I had on hand. On looking closely at the pictures in the book, I think they used plastic-backed foil. With little bits of foil leaf floating all around my studio, I do believe the other kind would be the best choice. I scanned my finished experiment, but the foil does not show up well on the print fabric I used. The dimensional foil shapes using hot glue were very interesting -- will use in the future!

Second I made fabric beads, similar to the paper magazine beads I made back in the early 70s, only much easier since fusible web was used to back the fabric. The drawback to the paper beads was the inevitable leakage of white glue resulting in sticky fingers. The beads above were made with Fairy Frost fabric. Having a variety, and using embellishments on the beads, would make them an interesting addition to a quilt. They would be a good project for a day when you don't want to have to think about what you're doing. The background is my experiment using Shiva Paintstiks. I don't know what future Shiva Paintstiks have in my work, but I'm glad to have them in my fabric-painting repertoire.

The last catch-up experiment was the least successful: lasagne dying with silk. I cut my five 6-inch squares of silk, stacked them, and applied the Dyna-flow paints, as per instructions. This morning I pulled them apart, and each layer was almost identical to the top layer. Neither had the paints wicked out laterally to the degree I had hoped. Today I will try again, perhaps adding more paint. I only have one piece of silk from which to cut, so experimenting with other types of weaves will have to come later.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Back to the basics

I am happy to report the following:
  1. I've always wanted a treadle sewing machine, and found one this week, still with the original family. The patent date on it is 1887. Still works. Will post photo soon. Now I can sew next time we have a power outage!
  2. I'm almost finished with the scrapbook I thought I'd finish last Friday. I need a change of pace, so the next ones will be 8x8 instead of 12x12.
  3. After all morning scrapbooking, I spent all afternoon and into the evening quilting. Had planned on a minkee backing for the quilt I'm working on, but the tumbling block seams were too bulky and need batting to even out the texture.
  4. Having no batting, I finished off the evening experimenting with foiling, fabric beads, and silk painting as per instructions in the Surface Design book. Made a big mess, foil leaf pieces fluttering all over the place. Will post photos soon.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Color & Composition: Achromatic

I had plenty of black and white fabrics on hand to do this exercise with real fabric. However, some of it had been cut into diamonds for my tumbling block quilt, so I had to do some piecing in order to keep from having to drive 30 miles to the closest quilt shop that carries a good supply of black and white fabrics. Again, I didn't read the part about making a focal point of the extreme ends of the value scale, and I think that if I had, the results might be a touch more interesting. However, the strong values in the left foreground provides a focal point of its own, don't you think?

Color & Composition: Monochromatic

Ideally I would be following instructions and making this composition of fabric, but I looked through my stash and found almost nothing in the way of solids, and considered the two fabric sources in town and knew they would not have the all the colors I needed. With those limitations, I ended up doing this exercise with Photoshop, and probably experienced working with value just as well that way, and learned more about Photoshop, which is always a goal of mine.

The inspiration for this composition was to be taken from a small portion of our original contour drawing, which I did. What I didn't do -- I discovered too late (I thought I'd read all the info, but obviously skipped a section) -- there was to be a focal point created from the two colors at the extreme light and dark ends of the monochromatic scale. I don't plan to re-do this exercise, but will keep it in mind as a possibility if ever working with monochromatics again.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Race car quilt

The Nascar quilt is finished! I mentioned before that this is the simplest piecing design I have ever done, primarily because when I went through the bins of donated fabric, I found the white-background blocks, already cut. Most of these quilts that we send to the hospital are tied, but since tying hurts my fingers, I went ahead and machine quilted it with green thread in long, wavy diagonal lines.