Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Learning to Work Intuitively

So why am I spending my time today blogging instead of getting my things together for the show this weekend? But this is a good way to get my thoughts together so I can figure out what I want to say during the short lectures that I have scheduled.

I spent some time writing about this quilt which I made in 2004, and then realized I already did that a few months ago.

I really want to show this quilt during my lecture since it was the quilt that was a pivotal point for me as I moved away from traditional blocks and towards working more intuitively. Now this quilt lives in Alaska, which will make it difficult to show. I am considering showing an 8 x 10 photo which can be passed around.

Lessons I learned while making this quilt:
• Working intuitively is lots more fun than working from a well planned out design.
• Intuitive abstracted work can look much more natural and lifelike than something carefully planned and executed. Nature is rarely exact and carefully drafted.
• I needed to pay more attention to value. The dark purple and white in the hand dyed fabric which I added gave the quilt a bit of spark that was lacking before.

I took a workshop from Robbi Joy Eklow in 2006 and made this quilt, and learned her technique for raw edge fusing to build up shapes. I’ve used her technique for several other quilts as well. It’s a great technique if you have drafted a pattern that you want to reproduce accurately. But I found myself wanting to get away from the tediousness of the drafting and tracing, and I found myself wanting to work more intuitively again.

In 2007 for a Fast Friday Fabric Challenge, I found myself creating a quilt from a photo of vases I had set up. Robbi’s technique would have been a logical technique for this quilt, but I thought it would be quicker to cut everything freehand without drawing a pattern first. I ended up working in a very strange way of drafting pattern pieces as I needed them in order to match them up with the previous shapes, and then folding the vases in half to make sure they were symmetrical. It was wonderful fun picking colors and patterns to build the vases with, but not what I was trying to do at all.

So I decided to do the same vases again while forcing myself to be more spontaneous by not allowing myself to draw patterns for the shapes, and not allowing myself fix the symmetry by folding shapes in half first. I simplified the process by not trying to create shading with the fabric. I added a bit of shading after with transparent paints, and stitched the edges down inspired by the stitching Pamela Allen does on her quilts. I wondered when it was complete if I was a bit too timid with the shading, while the edge stitching tended to flatten the shapes.

And so I had one last try at my vases. I put away the photo I was working from, and created a similar composition from memory. Cutting fabrics freehand, some used directly from the scrap basket just as they are. This was tons of fun to make, and I am learning to trust my intuition.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Looking Back - My First Quilt

I have been sewing in one form or another as long as I can remember. Quilting was something that had appealed to me, but I was always hesitant to start such a big project.

Then about 1990, a woman from my church gave a short quilting presentation to a small group of us, and I knew I wanted to try making a small quilt.

I was still hesitant, and didn’t know quite where to start. I began by reading lots and lots of books from the library, while I tried to figure out where I wanted to start.

I was drawn to the simplicity and vibrant colors of Amish quilts, and chose this quilt form The World of Amish Quilts by Rachel and Kenneth Pellman as my inspiration. The pattern seemed simple enough for a first try, and I liked the way the pink squares lined up in diagonals.

I decided to make my version of the quilt a baby quilt, so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed by size. I replaced the brown with my favorite Amish green, and chose a dark purple in place of the blue.

I had all of my patches cut out, and my husband insisted that the dark purple was too dark for a baby quilt. And so I was persuaded to return to the fabric store in search of something that would coordinate with the pinks and greens I had already selected. I ended up with a small print calico which made my “Amish” quilt very un-Amish, but I liked the results. This quilt has been hanging on my wall since 1991.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Getting Ready for the Show in May

Two and a half weeks to the big show? It’s sneeking up on me quick. I have started gathering all my quilts in one place. I found these five that still need sleeves. Two need labels also. I will also need to decide which quilts I will hang in the space given to me, and which I will show during my short lecture. I will be talking about my first quilt, and my progression from traditional to art quilts. Detailed information about the show is on the Piecemakers website.

Sleeves are made for these quilts now, but not sewn on yet. I plan to take them to a Ladies Fellowship Craft Day at my church, and get all of my hand sewing done.

And so I though I would show you how I make sleeves and the easy way I have learned to put a bit of ease into them to leave room for the thickness of a hanging rod. I learned Robbi Joy Eklow’s technique for fully lined sleeves with ease for a hanging rod in a workshop a few years ago. Her technique is easy and the results are great, but I don’t like the extra layers of fabric behind a small quilt.

I started with a strip of fabric about the width of my quilt and six inches wide. Some shows require a wider sleeve, but a narrower one seems works just fine for me. And I prefer not to cover up a lot of the back of the quilt.

Hem the ends with a narrow hem. I like to stitch with a very narrow short zigzag which holds the edge of the hem down well so it doesn’t get caught on the hanging rod.

The trick that puts ease into the sleeve begins at the ironing board. Mark the center length of the sleeve by folding it in half lengthwise and pressing with a hot iron. Open back up, and fold the long edges of the sleeve to the center line, and press well.

Sew the long edges together (wrong sides together) with about a half inch seam (or 1cm, if you have a European machine marked in metric like I have). This will make the back of the sleeve narrower than the front.

Press the seam open. Make sure not to un-press the creases at the side of the quilt. You might repress the creases to make sure they are nice and crisp.

Center the sleeve on the back of the quilt about a half inch from the top and pin. Hand stitch the sleeve to the quilt using the creases as your stitching guide.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

My recycled challenge is completed

“Spring Relfections”
17½ x 12

Blue chambray was the perfect fabric to bind my latest quilt. This one was a lot of fun to make. I wonder if the plastic mesh will hold up over time, or if it will become brittle and flake off. Parts of it are overlaid with nylon tulle, perhaps this will help.

I was able to get some better photos today. I am reminded again of the importance of good light and a steady hand or tripod.