what they said, a quilt series

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Finally! All the quilts were finished, excess thread dye was removed, and I spent yesterday measuring, photographing and cataloguing the eighteen small quilts in the “what they said” series. My goal was to allow the words to be preeminent in each quilt. Who said the words was also important for the context. I tried to think about what each person was thinking and feeling and to convey that in the way the wording was embroidered.

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The quilting was secondary. Some of the quilts have little hints at the setting behind the speech.

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All of the quilts have a single block from one of my self-retreats, and Kona Snow fabric is the setting.

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I was going to create a slide show of them, but after fooling around with that for a while, I realized that I could put them on a gallery page on my website so that they could easily be viewed as an entire group. You can view all the quilts in the galleries on my website. Enjoy!

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This ‘n’ That

First of all, a big THANK YOU to the people who suggested using Vicky Welsh‘s method of dye stain removal. It worked!!! That will be my go-to method in the future. Hopefully I won’t have to use it too often.

I finished another almost-completed quilt. I had stopped because I wanted to somehow be able to do “cobblestone street” quilting in the white sections and I didn’t know what to do. Then, I started making these brick patterns on some of the “what they said” quilts, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. This is actually a verse in the Bible–in Jeremiah 6–but in The Message paraphrase. I really like it.

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A question about the Juki came up. It is a long arm sit down Juki. I got it in February. And there was a learning curve, which I hated. But now that I’ve gotten more comfortable with it, I love it. It seems to work right every time I start it up. I still keep a little sandwich nearby to try out the stitches, especially after I change the bobbin. I wrote about the learning curve on the Juki here and here.

And speaking of learning curves…This Hallelujah Chorus quilt just about did me in this week! I knew it was going to be difficult to work with. Each panel was made into a sandwich for the embroidery. When I was all done, I cut out the excess batting and backing, so now each piece was partly floppy silky fabric and partly heavy quilt sandwich. I had planned to cut each down to a specific size. I had kept fairly good notes on my plan. Then I changed my plan. Why not make them all 36 inches instead of 32? Oh, except one of them I had cut to less than ‘width of fabric.’ And then, something went haywire with my math brain. 34 + 12 = 46, NOT 44. Egad. Anyway, it took several days, and a couple of breaks to calm me down, but I got it put together into a quilt top. And now I have to figure out what else I am going to add to it. Either more embroidered circles or some very nice quilting.

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Adding to my angst (maybe that’s what happened to my math brain) was thinking about how I was going to make the quilt sandwich. I usually use all cotton fabric and batting and rely on steam to do a great deal of the work. And I knew that would not work with this silky fabric and the wool batting that I was planning to use. So I googled “making a quilt sandwich with wool and silk” and of course, there was an answer. The author used misty fuse and fused the entire top, and then strips of fusible to adhere the backing. So I tried this. And I found, once again, that I DO NOT LIKE FUSIBLE. That’s just my own preference.

Here’s the sample I made with the fused top.

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Then I made a sandwich with no fusible at all. I pinned fairly closely, and then took it to the machine to machine baste it. BTW, I LOVE the basting stitch on the Juki. It is very stable and does not distort your sandwich. So then I did as I usually do, and just removed the basting stitches from the small area I was quilting on. I don’t know if anyone else can tell the difference, but I think the quilting is prettier and softer without the fusible.

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And then, to reward myself for my hard work, I allowed myself to make a quilt sandwich with some fun “homespun” cotton fabric to embroider this saying, which I love. Because I really hate dusting🙂 Thanks to Kris for sharing this. I’ve had it on my computer desktop for a long time.

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Busy Busy

I have been busy busy busy. Finishing and quilting and embroidering and starting. Here’s what part of the studio really looks like.

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I actually finished all eighteen of the “what they said” series. I will do a slide show for you soon. But I have a question. Five of them had some of the hand-dyed threads on them, and the thread colors ran. I put Shout on them, and then I ran them through the washer with a “color catcher.” Some of the offending color came out, but not all of it. Do any of you have any other ideas? Have you tried applying color-safe bleach with a Q-tip to the dye stains?

Anyway, I am very happy to have completed them. My plan is to mount them on cradled wood panels. So that part is not done. I will order some this week, to make sure my idea will work, and then I will order the rest of them.

That left the Juki free. And so I got out two almost-finished quilts. I placed the lettering on one, and then, because I had used a “brick” design on some of the ‘what they said’ quilts, that was exactly what I had been wanting to do for the quilt nearest the Juki. The verse on there refers to a crossroads. I finished quilting that today. Only needs to have a binding on it. and a sleeve😦

By the way, I love the Juki more than ever. I love how very accurate  each stitch is. It is easy for me to exactly stitch over a line of stitching to get to the next area I need to work on.

You can see some of the panels for the Hallelujah Chorus quilt perched over there on the chair. I have almost finished the panels and the four large embroidered circles, and so this week I should be able to put the panels together into a quilt top. And then I will have to decide what the next step is. More embroidery, or machine quilting. Any which way, I am very excited to get to this next stage of the project.

I entered four quilts in Quilting in the Garden, and they were accepted. This is such a nice event, and of course, I LOVE the nursery where it is held. I am planning to take my mom to it this year, and thought it would be fun for her to see some of my quilts hanging.

And then, about that “thinkie” project. I spent a little time on it. I traced the photo on my 1/4 inch graph paper, and then went to the copy store and enlarged it 400%, which made it a 10 inch finished block. Then I spent some time drawing a pattern for it.

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And made one block.

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I don’t like it. I can see that the embroidery makes a tremendous difference in the appearance of the block, and choice of fabrics also is important. Anyway, I might try again, using some of my reproduction fabrics. I also drew a different design, and I am interested in trying that also…

I made the pattern because Kris had suggested that it might be a fun group project. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, but if any of you are interested in the pattern, you can email me (schnabel@volcano.net), and I will be glad to email you a copy of it.

So that’s about it for now. I started working on the rug of Noah again, and I occasionally knit or work on my Kantha blanket, just to get a little color in my life. I have more ideas for some fun color-work blocks, but they are still in the thinkie stage today🙂

Sometimes the Thinkie Part is the Best Part

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Once again I have noticed this quilt block that I saved on my desktop.

I am mesmerized by it. From a quilt made in the 1870’s. I think it would be so fun to make with my zig zag technique. To say nothing of the massive amount of embroidery on it! I don’t want to do that kind of embroidery, but it is definitely a big part of the design concept and the success of the overall design.

I want to go directly to the studio and start cutting out fabric. I even have a collection of fabric that I think would be fabulous for it.

Plus, look! Every block on the entire quilt is using different fabrics and colors. You know how I like that.

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But I am in the midst of quite a few projects right now. Some of them are very near completion, and I just have avoided the final bit of work needed to finish them.

And, I don’t even want to say it out loud, but the studio needs a massive cleaning out before I mess it up with yet another project.

All this sometimes makes me frustrated. But then I remind myself that part of the fun of a new project is the time spent thinking and refining a plan. Adding this and that, taking away something that doesn’t work as well.

So for now, I will keep this project in the thinkie stage, and remember to enjoy that🙂

My Favorite Quilt

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I usually rotate the quilts I use on my bed, but since putting this one on early in the spring, I haven’t wanted to change it out. I love so much about it. And I’ve been musing over the traditional/planned/accurately cut nature of it compared to how I’ve chosen to work in the past few years.

You can see that although its scrappy, it did have a basic color plan–blue and pink with some brown, green, and purple thrown in. Its mostly 1800s reproduction fabrics, which I still love, but I also threw in some of my favorite more modern prints which were in the same color ways.

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I used some of my most favorite “repeater” fabrics–those fabrics that I just couldn’t resist buying a bit more of when I found it in a shop. (That turquoisy blue serpentine print is my most-often purchased repeater fabric. There’s just something about it that fascinates me.)

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I saw the pattern in a magazine, but then I realized that the pattern was much smaller than I had thought. So I figured out how to turn a 4″ finished square into a 6 inch finished square. That made for some funny measurements, but I made little “kits” of pre-cut pieces, and that made it a little easier.

And I especially love that pink border that I was able to include. I still remember where I first saw that fabric–at Greenbaum’s in Salem, Oregon. It was on a tiny pincushion sample and they didn’t have any more of the fabric. Probably more than a year later I found a bit of it somewhere, and have used it in several of my quilts. Its just so perfect, don’t you agree? In fact, I realized after the fact, that the color of my bedroom walls, which I worked with the paint lady to custom mix, was this same perfect color of coral-pink.

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I also love the little patterns that I used to quilt it, and that I kept at it, even though it got so tedious and boring.

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I like that I continued on and made the border as the original pattern showed, even though I was so very done with this quilt by the time I got all the little squares for the middle done. I like this pattern that I figured out for the border triangles.

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Since I sleep alone in a double bed (well, with two little doggies who hog two-thirds of the bed) I like to use a quilt that just hangs over the edge about six inches. This quilt is just the perfect size for me.

I think about whether I will make another quilt like this. I think what helps me is pre-cutting the pieces into those little kits. I put each particular size into little zip lock baggies. And then I chose the pieces in the color combos that I wanted for each block as I went along. I’ve found that I don’t like strip piecing. It actually depresses me. So even though it might be slower, I find it infinitely more satisfying to finish one little block at a time.

 

Time Away

I just returned from a week-long trip to the little town of La Veta, Colorado! My BF decided that she wanted to take an intensive workshop with Judith Baker Montano, and I said, “want some company?” I have done “self-retreats” before, and find it very profitable to spend concentrated time working on projects at a location other than my studio. Plus, Colorado? That sounded fun!

All the other times I’ve done this, I traveled by car, so I could bring all the supplies I wanted. This time we would be flying, and so I had to carefully choose what I would bring. My friend Ricky Tims also lives in La Veta, and he very graciously loaned us two of his sewing machines! So all I needed was to pare down the raw materials I would bring. I ended up bringing my bags of Cherrywood fabrics, a quilt blanket “blank” for embroidering on, and then cut out 8 squares of hand-dyes for a new quilt idea I wanted to try starting on. I also brought some muslin and batting “just in case.” And of course, a big supply of perle cotton thread, scissors, rotary cutter, pins, etc. LOL, both Robin and I forgot machine sewing thread! Fortunately, Ricky had some nice thread for sale in his studio🙂

We found a great place to rent, with plenty of room to spread out all our quilting supplies. In between visits and “touristing” I managed to get quite a few bits and pieces done.

I admire piecers who work with small bits so very much. One of my current favorites is Maria Shell–check out her work in this blog post! So the first thing I wanted to do was to do some piecing with my bags of Cherrywood fabric. I also had a scrap of Ricky Tims’ multi-color fabric, and I decided that I would cut the center squares out of that, and then use the cherrywood bits to make some abstract log cabin blocks. Nothing was cut straight, but as I finished each piece, I squared it up to 4 1/2 inches. At the end I made three 6 1/2 inch blocks.

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Now, although I admire the work of others who work with small bits, this is about my limit. I get bored. So I will sit and think, and eventually these pieces will work their way into one or more projects. I did this a couple of years ago, and I used all those little blocks to make the “what they said” series, as well as several other pieces.

Next, that big blank canvas for embroidering on. I also admire the work of Judy Martin, Penny Berens, and others who work on daily “scratchings.” Once again, I don’t think I really want to spend the time doing this EVERY DAY. But I love the idea of it. So that was in my mind when I took this big (for me) blank  quilt sandwich to embroider on.

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The first day I took it out and stared at that big empty space, it started to rain. Evidently, this is “monsoon season” in Colorado, and the afternoon rains are very welcome. They don’t last long, and they cool things down nicely. So I embroidered that.

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Ricky and Justin took Robin and I out to their property (45 minutes from town!) and on the way there was an old church, the last remaining building of what had once been a small town.

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I was fascinated by it, and took several pictures of it. I decided that I wanted to try embroidering it.

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You can see with both of these that I started by cutting out simple shapes and using blanket stitch to embroider them to the blank. Hand dyes work very well for this–practically no raveling at all. I really enjoyed the “grass” stitching. Very quick and simple. I hope to do more of this.

So these embroideries were a little departure from most of my work–more representational than abstract. I enjoyed doing them, and I wonder what it will lead to. Right now I think I will keep this blank as a true travel project, and will take it with me on my travels, and add a bit to it with each new location.

The last day I got out those squares of hand-dyes that I had carefully packed. I spent a lot of time staring at my journal, making notes and thinking, and finally started two of the squares. They are for a quilt of Genesis. My brother suggested it, and I think it will be a very interesting project. Of course, some of the blocks will be on creation, but there are other interesting stories in Genesis that I am challenged to try to represent in cloth.

And now home, and I reverted right back to working on my Hallelujah Chorus quilt. I have three word panels done, and one and a half circle panels. I am motivated to work consistently on this quilt. Not only is it enjoyable to work on, I would like to finish it by November for several different display possibilities.

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Ya Gotta Keep Trying

I keep saying this to myself, as well as to others. I tried ONE MORE TIME to dye some deep colors on cotton. By the way, I am using “premium bleached muslin,” most probably from Joann’s. I am using Procion MX dyes from ProChem. And this time I followed (mostly) the instruction sheet from ProChem on “low immersion” dyeing. I wrote down three dye formulas for deep blue, deep forest green, and dark barn red. The red is not barn red, but the other two were almost exactly what I was looking for.

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I am going to see how much I like using the fabrics I have dyed. Because the rinsing required is incredible. It is much more rinsing than anyone’s instructions I have heard or read. I think they know if they tell you how much you are going to have to rinse, it will scare you off.

Nevertheless, it makes me very happy that I was actually able to dye what I set out to dye.

Dyeing. What I know for sure.

What I know for sure is that I don’t know very much about dyeing cotton. And I know that it is VERY different than dyeing wool and protein fibers, which I know a lot about. So I am reluctant to start, and then when I finally do, my results are not as expected. But like I said in my last post, you just have to try.

What happened is kind of funny. I had planned for a long time to get out there and dye some cotton. So then I decided to go through my hand-dyed fabrics and see what colors I needed. Well….I had a lot of hand-dyed fabrics. I did not feel any inspiration as I re-folded them and put them in color families. I guess I don’t need to dye any new fabrics right now. The very next day I went to the Cherrywood site and thought, I need to buy some of these fabrics! And that’s when I realized that I could probably try to dye some myself.

I looked at the colors I wanted, and wrote down some formulas to try. I was more careful about measuring than I have been in my past cotton dyeing experiments. Most of the colors I got were not nearly as intense as I hoped for. In thinking it over, I believe I did not use as much dye as is recommended. The problem I have is that there seems to be SO MUCH dye that is not retained in the fabric. But perhaps I need to think of that as “colored water” and not wasted dye.

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The solid colors I dyed.

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I had some printed fabric that I over dyed.

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The most intense colors I got! A complete surprise. I used three leftover dyes, and put part of the fabric in a jar, then added more fabric and the second dye, followed by the rest of the fabric and the last dye. So much better than I anticipated!

I formulated a plan. I would call Pro-Chem and ask them about the repeated rinsing and the wasted dye. And I would ask if they could tell me the Pro MX dye colors that would correspond to the Sabreset dye colors that I have used for so long on wool.

Let me just say this: PRO-CHEM ROCKS! Just as I remembered, a real person answered the phone. As I started to ask the question, she said, let me transfer you directly to the lab. ANOTHER real person answered the phone. Sometimes when I am asking for directions or advice, the person seems to be somewhat impatient, and so I get nervous and it takes me even longer to ask my questions (so I usually have my questions all written down ahead of time.) This woman did not sound impatient at all. She understood exactly what and why I was asking. She said that is a common problem when you go from dyeing wool to dyeing cotton–you are used to the dye exhausting and the water being clear. And she explained that this dye is so reactive that it actually bonds to the water! (so I wasn’t far off when I said I would try to think of it as colored water!) She couldn’t tell me the corresponding colors (Sabreset to Pro MX) but she said that would be a great idea if it could be done. And she said, “call back any time!” I felt so much better after talking to her.

I also re-watched portions of the Jane Dunnewald online Craftsy class on dyeing, and I studied the Pro MX color chart and compared it to the Sabreset chart. And I decided that there were just a few more colors that I need to order. And I printed out the Pro-Chem instruction sheet on low water immersion dyeing. Tonight I have three yards of muslin being pre-washed, and tomorrow I will try again to dye three deep colors.

Momentum

A few weeks ago, I made a little “in the meantime” piece because I had “nothing” to work on in the evenings–no handwork.

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Since then I have embraced the kantha blanket, and have begun the long journey of repetitive stitching that I had planned for it.

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And then, I finally bit the bullet and started a new project that I had been mulling over since last December.

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Can you guess what it is? I am doing a quilt of “The Hallelujah Chorus.” It has long been one of my favorite pieces of music. When I lived in Texas, our church choir sang it, and we were required to memorize it. The words are magnificent, and have so much meaning to me. I had the idea when I went last December to a beautiful cathedral in downtown Sacramento for a performance of The Messiah. My little idea was that the quilt had to be extremely beautiful, mostly white, with perfect extensive quilting, and of course, the words would be preeminent, and of course beautiful calligraphy. Hmmm. See why I was afraid to start it?

A little thought came along–why don’t you do what you know you can do well? So I decided to use my own handwriting, and to make my circles with embroidery. I bought some silk-type fabric at Joann’s to practice on, and it turned out that I really liked this fabric, so I stuck with it.

I wanted the piece to be a bit larger than most of my embroidered works, so I came up with the idea of doing the circles and the words in separate panels, and then after all of them are embroidered, I will join them into one quilt top and add more quilting.

All I can say is, you just have to try. It very well could have been that these things would not have worked. Heck, they still might not work. But by trying, even if I fail, I have learned something new.

And now, I must leave you. I have a bit of stitching to do🙂

The Journey

Recently I had lunch with an old friend (who creates AMAZING Pysanky eggs) and she told me about her recent trip to Spain, where she and her husband walked the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago!! The Camino has been walked by thousands of Christian pilgrims for the past thousand years. Nowadays it is still walked by pilgrims from many faiths, and many times for reasons other than a faith journey. Whatever the reason, it is something that fascinates me. Committing to walking 500 miles, and then following through with that–well that is the kind of thing that inspires me.

My friend recommended two movies–Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, a very well done documentary, and The Way, another excellent movie about the same thing. I watched both movies this past week, and was very moved by the stories of the people walking, and how they continued on in spite of pain and other difficulties. And how each person found special meaning through their walk and the camaraderie that they found along the way.

As I watched (and stitched) it reminded me of the quilting journey I am on. Many times it is a spiritual journey (nothing excites me more than stitching the beautiful words of scripture into a quilt.) Sometimes the journey I have chosen seems endless, and I wonder, “what was I thinking?” as I stitch. But like the pilgrims on their way to Santiago, I learn that the journey is what is important. I will learn many things as I stitch. Sometimes I learn that what I chose to do didn’t work so well. Sometimes there is a turn in the road, and I discover something completely new and unrelated to the current work. Always, there is value in putting hand to cloth and striving to create something beautiful.

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