Inspiration

In just a week I am heading to Pacific Grove to attend Empty Spools! I love Pacific Grove (my favorite knitting and quilting shops just a block away from each other) and I have toyed with the idea of attending Empty Spools for a long time. When I saw Katie Pasquini Masopust was going to be teaching, and her topic was Artful Log Cabins, I decided to go for it.

You’re supposed to pick an inspiration picture, and I thought I’d share my inspiration with you. I went back through the millions of photos on my computer, looking for ones that I loved, and that I thought might work for this class.

Summer garden:

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My house (notice the smoky background? this is when I returned home after evacuating during the big Butte fire.)

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My favorite flowering almond bush:

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Flowering cherry tree:

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The “secret garden” at Belknap Hot Springs in central Oregon–one of my favorite places on earth!

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Just a rose at a traffic stop:

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Lantana, another of my favorite flowers:

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The summer garden. Ultimately, I chose this picture, because I thought it had a little more contrast than some of the other pictures, and also because when I saw a thumbprint of it, I thought the light shining on the tree trunk looked like a cathedral window in the middle of a garden.

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I had 8X10’s made of each of these pictures, and I have to say I am enjoying looking at them. I plan to take them with me to get Katie’s input on whether they will work for this technique.

Can’t Stop Knitting……..

I have lots to tell you about. But it seems I can’t stop knitting long enough to write a real post…

When I was in Anaheim for my rug hooking retreat, my friend Shelley wrote about a new knitting project she was working on–a blanket made out of leftover yarn and mitered squares. Before I became a quilter I spun and knit all the time, and mitered squares were one of my favorite techniques. I do still have lots of leftover yarn from my knitting days, and now I can’t stop. Just one more square….

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If you haven’t tried mitered square knitting, don’t start. I’m warning you. Its addicting.

I’ll be back later to catch you up on other projects I am working on.

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Tangents

Here’s what happens when you finish a large project, and have some extra time. Tangents. Also, its all related to an upcoming trip, and I MUST HAVE THE PERFECT TRAVEL PROJECT for any trip. Even if the whole point of the trip is for rug hooking and getting started on a new rug hooking project that I am very excited about. I need something for my evenings. Something new and fun.

So, I noticed with my “stupid sewing” project that I really loved the colors of thread that I had picked out. Only with the darker background of this project, these colors didn’t show up quite as well. Maybe I would choose a neutral background and use just these threads to do some kind of stitching.

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Much doodling sketching ensued. I came up with this partial design while sitting in church Sunday and decided to go with it. A quilt sandwich has been made, and I am doing some experimental stitching on it.

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While cleaning out my fabric bins, I came across a collection of fat quarters that I had gotten a bit ago that I was very enamored of, and had not yet had time to play with. Maybe I’d take them and do some hand piecing on my trip. I decided to try this out. Did I even still like hand piecing? To be honest, I started on the machine. Then I decided that these little fiddly pieces would probably be easier to hand piece.

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As of today, I am undecided about which project I will take with me. I did remember that I had another travel project from my Colorado trip, so I will bring that for sure. I am leaving a little early for my rug hooking retreat so that I can visit the Road to California show! I will return with lots of new ideas, I am sure.

My Hands

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about “needing” something to hand sew (embroider) in the evenings. Vickie asked about how my hands were holding up. Actually, I wanted something to hand embroider on BECAUSE of my hands.

I had carpal tunnel surgery five years ago. Before having the surgery done, I had carpal tunnel syndrome for about 10 years. Carpal tunnel affects different people in different ways. For me, it meant that I just couldn’t do any handwork before noon (my hands would go numb)…and of course, it did hurt if I used my hands for too long. I got carpal tunnel from knitting (literally) hundreds of hats on circular needles, which kept your wrists bent in a non-ergonomic way. I would wake up with my hands in that same cramped position.

So now, I am very aware of my hands. I want to keep using them as long as possible. And that is why I wanted something to hand embroider. If I have several different types of handwork to do, I can rotate, and each thing uses my hands in a different way. I was knitting and making yo yo’s a lot, and knew I needed to vary what I was doing. Hand embroidery, as long as I am using good fabric (NOT batik, too tight a weave) and nice batting (really nice cotton or wool) is easy on my hands.

I do most of my binding by machine. My BF did give me these clips, which are really helpful. Recently I used them when I whipped the edge of a rug. They eliminate the need for pinching the fabric together, which I find hard on my hands. Here is a link to my yo yo maker. They are fun and addicting to make. That’s why I needed something else to work on 🙂

Cleaning and Restarting

One morning I woke up and knew this was the day! The day that I would clean out my fabric stash cubbies. I got sidetracked by a couple of unexpected chores, but I finally went out there and got it done! It feels so good to go through your fabric, weed out a few old things (or in my case, little bits and pieces) and know what you have and where it is. I have a LOT of commercial solids, and unfortunately, I stopped working with them a while ago, in favor of the hand dyes. But I might come back to them, knowing what is available.

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I actually didn’t straighten out the two cubbies with my hand dyes and my 1800’s reproduction fabrics. I know what’s in there already.

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Next, I decided that I liked the idea of using 36 of my stars (made from my box of 2 inch squares) as the center for a medallion, so I sewed those together, and then auditioned a few fabrics for the next few rows of the medallion. Because I had straightened out my fabrics, I found this birdhouse fabric that I had bought recently and really liked. I might use it in the medallion quilt with that gray fabric as a background. Before I put everything away, I decided to use the pink “log” fabric as the next border, and cut that and sewed it to the stars, about a 3″ width.

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The reason for doing all this was to clear the design wall. I wanted to get back to the small compositions I had made for my “characteristics of God” series. I am anxious to get back to work on these. I have 3 or 4 more fabrics out to make into compositions.

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And lastly, for your inspiration, here is a great little saying that perfectly describes the creative process.

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Noah!

The Noah! rug is finished! If you knew Noah, you would know why there has to be an exclamation point after his name in the title of the rug. He is quite the dog. One of the most frustrating and most loved dogs I have ever owned. And I’ve owned a lot of dogs. If you’re interested, you can read more about him over on my other blog. Just check out the topic of Noah.

And here’s a link to my thought process when I started this rug. And a link to the start of it, with some help from my teacher at rug camp.

And here is the completed rug. Its not perfect, but its the first portrait I have ever done, and I am so pleased with how its turned out, especially his eyes. Who would have thought you could capture such expressive eyes with 1/4 inch strips of wool pushed through a linen backing?

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Stupid Sewing

A few days ago I was talking to my BF, and tried to express what I was feeling. “I don’t have any hand sewing project right now. I want to do something, but don’t seem to be able to make a decision about what to do/how to put it together. I look at artists like Judy Martin and Penny Berens, and it seems like they just work without a plan, but I know that that’s not true.” I was having trouble expressing what I wanted to say, but my BF knew just what I needed “Its time for some stupid sewing!” she said happily.

Stupid sewing. I don’t think we coined the phrase, but basically it means just sewing together fabric without a plan or any pressure to make something significant. It may or may not turn out well. But in the process you are freed up to create, and sometimes the act of creating will teach you what you need to do next.

So stupid sewing it was. I had set aside this piece of golden brown fabric, thinking that it might be nice to embroider on. And I had made a few larger yo yo’s with the new yo yo maker I got myself for Christmas. I thought that the print I used for them was just outstanding. It was a beginning.

 

In short order, I put together this little composition, used wool batting, muslin backing, and chose a few colors of threads, and there it was. SOMETHING I could embroider on.

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Pretty fast I noticed it did not have enough color and contrast. Got out the pile of cherrywood bits and pieces and cut some small squares to add. Oh, and maybe a few smaller yo yo’s.

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That’s better.

Now, one of the things I learned at Nancy Crow’s workshop is that prints are sometimes difficult. I LIKE prints. But she is right. This print on the side is somewhat distracting. It might get some stuff put on top of it. But for now it stays.

My mind is working, and I am learning things as I go. Best of all, I am happy to have SOMETHING to stitch in the evenings.

 

Last Quilt of the Year!

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When I last wrote, I vowed to clean up the studio. I did start that. I made one last Artful Oven Mitt, and then I put away all those scraps and insulbright. And I started to clear off the Janome table. And I came to this quilt, that had been folded up on the back of the table for….maybe a couple of years! I know I had the idea to make it after Victoria Findlay Wolfe won Best in Show at Quiltcon with her double wedding ring quilt. I found a date of 2012 for that quilt, so maybe I started this one in 2013.

ANYWAY, it has sat there for a while. I knew it was there, but I thought I was stuck on how to quilt parts of it. When I unfolded it, I found that I had made that decision at some point in time, and all it needed was to continue on quilting that design to get it finished. This is what I was enjoying on the Juki when I first got it–finishing up old tops and half-finished quilts!

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This is one of my zig zag wedding ring quilts. I really do enjoy making these. They seem to hold up very well in the wash. You can see where I thought I was being artful and incorporated some decorator big print fabric in there. And I carefully organized the colors for the background squares and the small squares for the rings. I’m not sure any more what exactly I was thinking of…

ANYWAY, when I finished it and threw it on my bed to see if I had missed any spots, I was pleasantly surprised. I really like this quilt, and will keep it for myself for a nice springtime quilt.

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I think it shrank quite a bit when I washed it, because most of the background fabric was some loosely woven hand dyed fabric. That caused the small “ring” squares to poof up bit more than usual.

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I decided to not do an end-of-the-year review. Just too much work. I know that I have worked consistently, and am content with what I have produced. The Hallelujah! quilt took the majority of the time, but I also finished up the “what they said” series. And I did make a serious dent in the large bin of unfinished tops.

Happy New Year to one and all! Be sure to make time for quilting and creating in the new year.

The Best Christmas Present

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on the Hallelujah! quilt, Maria Shell wrote about making Christmas gifts, and she generously offered to send her Artful Oven Mitt pattern to commenters. I had been quite intrigued by her oven mitts, and although I am a dismal garment sewer, I was hopeful that I could make these. What fun gifts they would be! I immediately thought of about 20 people who might appreciate receiving an Artful Oven Mitt!

And sure enough. Maria’s pattern is very well written, and when I followed the directions carefully, my first artful oven mitt was finished! It went straight into the box headed for my BF, and arrived in plenty of time before Christmas.

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I call receiving this oven mitt pattern “the best Christmas present” because I really just needed something colorful and not too hard after working for months on a neutral colored quilt. I had so much fun digging through some scraps and getting out other fabrics to make oven mitts for friends and family.

Here’s a Christmas-themed one for my friend who really likes Christmas:

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Another friend gave me some designer fabric samples, and I used those to create two more colorful mitts.

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I also started another one, but mistakenly drew the pattern (with a sharpie marker) the same on both sides. I like the lining fabric I was using so much that I just sewed the one that had sharpie marks wrong side out for a mitt for myself 🙂

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And one more for good measure. I love this Starry Starry Night fabric that I got at Joann’s. You might see that I have used some orphan blocks in some of the mitts.

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Maria is offering her pattern for $10.00, which includes shipping from Alaska! Just email her. The full size pattern for the mitt is included, so you don’t have to figure out how to enlarge a pattern. The insulbright (heat resistant batting)  is available at Joann’s (use your 50% coupon) or at Amazon. Here’s another of Maria’s posts about her process.

The studio is a mess of insulbright and colorful scraps. I am going to give myself a few more days of oven mitt creation, and then the STUDIO WILL BE CLEANED for the New Year. I have a few new ideas I am anxious to try out, as well as that series that I started on the Character of God.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Hallelujah!

The Hallelujah! quilt is now completely finished! I finished it in time to hang it in our church the Sunday before Christmas.

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Some notes on the process… my original idea came last year as I sat in a beautiful cathedral for a performance of Handel’s Messiah. I wanted to try to do something that would evoke the baroque beauty of the cathedral–the ornate over-the-top painting and carving and details everywhere. In my original idea I wanted to do a whole cloth silk quilt with ornate machine quilting and machine lettering.

I thought about this quilt a LOT before I was brave enough to start it. By that time, I had decided to hand-stitch the lettering, and to include 4 large circles that would offset the verses. I spent a lot of time thinking about which words I would include. The Hallelujah Chorus repeats phrases and words, and many times they actually overlap in the singing. In the end, I eliminated most of the repeats, except where I thought they were needed for emphasis.

When I decided to hand-stitch the lettering and the four large circles, I decided that I needed to do the piece in panels, because it is much easier to hand-stitch a smaller piece. For the most part, the seams are unnoticeable. Once I had all those panels finished, I carefully assembled them and put them up on the design wall. That is when I started thinking about adding more circles. It seemed more in keeping with the way I currently work. Once I auditioned a few, I actually liked the way they looked And so about 50 circles were added to the piece.

I decided to use wool batting. My way of constructing a quilt sandwich is to use 100% cotton batting and to use steam to “stick” the layers of cotton together. But now I was using “silky” fabric and wool batting. There was no sticking going on there! I decided to hand baste it. I was able to do this on my cutting table. And I was very pleasantly surprised that there was actually no slipping of the layers going on. The hand basting held everything together very nicely through the embroidery of all 50 circles, and then through the machine quilting.

In between here, you might remember, the Juki quilter went on the blink. This was anxiety producing, but it actually gave me no option but to hunker down and get everything embroidered while I awaited the Juki’s return.

And then it was time to quilt. Now, I had been doodling quilting designs for almost a year. But you know…QUILTING is different than doodling. I knew I wanted to include feathers and cross-hatching. And some sort of background fill. Many of my sketches included a lot more design elements. In the end, I decided to only use 3 quilting designs since the circles were filling in a lot of space.

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But I don’t know how to explain this except to say…I DIDN’T KNOW. I started putting feathers where there was space, and tried out some crosshatching, and then some pebble filler. I outlined all the lettering as I went along. But somehow I didn’t know that I would need to put quilting everywhere–between all the lines of words and between each word! I think I would have been overwhelmed if I had realized that this was what I needed to do.

In the end, I enjoyed every minute of the quilting. It took three concentrated days. Each day I would take the quilt and put it on the design wall, and mark where I though I could fit another feather or some crosshatching. I took it back to the machine and put those feathers and crosshatching in place. And then I filled in with endless pebbles. When all was done, I found the perfect piece of golden brown fabric for the binding, and after it was applied, I soaked the quilt in cold water to make sure all the blue pen came out, spun the extra water out, and then blocked it on my design wall.

In the midst of the quilting, I listened to the Hallelujah Chorus. It is such a magnificent, complex piece of work. My quilt is a very humble homage to Handel’s work, and beyond that, to bring honor and glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.