I Am Rich

Can you believe how my stash of solid fabrics has grown?  I think often of how I am inspired by people who just use what they have and make art (like the Gees Bend quilters.)  I try to emulate that, but the truth is, I can (and do) go and buy fabric when the mood strikes.  But I am not referring to being rich in fabric (which I am.)  I am rich in so many other ways.  I am blessed with good friends, and my best friend went and bought me 1/3 yard (my favorite amount to buy) of almost every kona color imaginable!  That whole first row was a gift from my BFF!  As I told her, it was so fun to receive such an extravagant gift, but more than that, it made me feel that this new venture was validated, and it made me feel loved.

 

Here is the first little ‘art quilt’ that started my venture into using solids.  I finished embroidering the words, quilted it, and then used the backing fabric to do a quick machine binding.

Here is another way I am rich–my two little furry friends.  They are quite the pair–Sophie the dachshund was from a rescue organization, and Mr. Monk the pug came from the local pound–they gave him to me half-price because he was a senior citizen.  He is a jewel!  Do any of you use quilts for chair covers?

I am thoroughly enjoying my venture into ‘housetop’ quilts.  I have finished 4 tops already, and am in the midst of  quilting them.  Fun!

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Solid Success

So in my last post I mentioned going through a bunch of old magazines for inspiration.  Most of the quilts in the little pictures that I cut out were made of large simple shapes.  Some were wonky, and others were straight.  But they were mostly simple shapes, and large pieces of fabric.  In the last magazine that I looked at, one picture really caught my eye.  It was a pattern by Pam Rocco (she doesn’t seem to have a website, but she is a frequent contributor to Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine.)  It was patterned after the ‘Housetop’ quilts made by the quilters of Gees Bend.

I am a real fan of the Gees Bend quilters.  I love the fact that they just took what they had, which was very little, and made art out of it.  And, I was fortunate enough to see several of them at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show.  I was very touched by the depth and reality of their relationship with God.  As they talked to the hundreds of women at  that quilt show, they just naturally talked about God, praising him for the good in their life, and how they had to rely on Him in hard times.  They broke out in song quite often, singing some of the old spiritual hymns.  I bought one of their books that day, and I refer to it frequently for inspiration.  I had just found this quote in their book about a week ago, and I LOVE it!

Didn’t nobody teach me to make quilts.  I just learned it by myself, about twelve or thirteen.  I was seeing my grandmama piecing it up, and then I start.  I just taken me some pieces and put it together, piece them up til they look like I want them to look.  That’s all.  Mary L. Bennett

So that was it!  I would do a housetop quilt!  I picked out my colors, which were a little different than my usual choices, a little bolder colors.

I got to work, cutting pieces without measuring, and fitting them as I went.  I did use my rotary cutter and ruler.  I didn’t finish it that night, so planned to put the last few rounds on the next morning.

The next morning, before I started sewing, I read a bit in my Bible, and it just happened to be in Matthew 10.  I noticed a verse that I had never noticed before:

“What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!”  (Jesus speaking to his disciples,  NLT)

Huh!  And here I was working on a ‘housetop’ quilt.  I finished the last few rounds.  The brown fabric that is the last round is a special fabric that I wanted to include in this quilt.  It was from a line of fabrics made to replicate the fabrics used by the Gees Bend quilters, and I bought it in Sisters when I met the GB quilters.  I had to do a little finagling to figure out how to use the 1/2 yard of that fabric to make it fit.  And as you can see, I actually had to ‘fill in’ with a bit of the other fabric.  Making do with what I had, just as the original quilters would do.  I am very happy with how it turned out.  I would have made it a little larger, but then I really wouldn’t have had enough brown fabric.

Later that night, I was still thinking about that verse and the quilt.  And I came up with my next BIG IDEA.  You guys are going to get tired of me and my big ideas LOL.  Anyway, I was VERY excited about this one.  I actually like quilting words. Its pretty easy, and I just like the idea of it.  And I thought, how perfect–these solid fabrics are the perfect vehicle to quilt words on–and how great to choose some of my favorite passages from the Bible and quilt them right into the quilt.

My BFF and I joke that we have a ‘manufacturing’ gene, and so of course, I am thinking about all the variations I can make with this, both with colorways, and verses.  I imagine I WILL make a few more of these.  I have my solids all re-organized and ready for me to pick the next colors out.  And then I will be done.

Solids, Attempts Number One and Two

So, even though I said I didn’t like fusing, I decided to give it a try.  I had a bit of an idea in the back of my mind, and a picture in a magazine that was intriguing, so I went ahead and picked out some of the fabrics I wanted to use, and pre-fused them with Wonder Under, Melody Johnson style.   Ack.  Did I mention I don’t like fusing?  Anyway, I carried on, and finished fusing this little piece.  I left the middle blank because I wanted to feature this verse that I just love:

“And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart, till the Devil whispered behind the leaves ‘It’s pretty, but is it Art?’”–Rudyard Kipling

Isn’t that the fear that most of us have–“Is it art?”  Anyway, I am happy enough with this little piece.  I will finish embroidering the verse, and add some more embroidery touches, then add the back and quilt it a bit. And then it will be done.  I think it is a very unbalanced piece, but somehow that seems perfect for the tentative question in the verse.

Oh, and one more thing.  You might be looking at this and saying, it doesn’t LOOK like solids to me.  And you would be right.  I ‘allowed’ myself to add a few batiks into the fabric choices, and then they were basically almost all the fabrics I chose to use.  So now the batiks have been banished to the cupboard so I will be FORCED to work with solids!

So then , before I finished this little piece, I came up with what I thought was MY BIG IDEA.  I was very excited about the prospects of this project.  It involved doing some strip piecing for the background and then appliqueing circles and shapes on top for my perle cotton embroidery.  I love the work of Marianne Burr.  I actually was fortunate enough to take some lessons with her last summer.

I re-organized my piles of solids into lights for the background and medium darks for the foreground, with the third pile (in the background) available for accents if necessary.

I finally had a free morning and I got busy cutting strips and piecing them back together.  I put them on the design wall and then plopped some of the darker fabrics on top to see if there was enough contrast.  Meh.  I didn’t really like what I had done that much.  Sometimes I will leave something on the design wall for a while to see if it grows on me, or if maybe I’ll get the NEXT BIG IDEA.

At this point I was quite discouraged with myself, so I took the doggies out for a walk, and then I came home and sat in the big chair thinking about what a failure I was.  Finally I picked up a pile of old quilt magazines and thumbed through them looking for ideas.  I cut out little pictures of what I liked, ideas that might work with solids.  That was Fun!  And eventually, I came up with the NEXT BIG IDEA.  But you’ll have to come back tomorrow for that one!

 

Solids…What Are They Good For?

I dunno.  But I guess I’m gonna find out!  Over the years I’ve been attracted to the work of artists who work with solid colors.  So I would pick up a few solids here and there.  And of course there’s the wonderful Amish quilts.  And then I started reading Melody Johnson’s blog.  And she kept encouraging you to get more solids.  She would even tell you when Joanne’s was having a sale on solids.

So Sunday I went to Joannes and picked up a few more solids…  their thread was on sale too…

I am not putting these solid fabrics away until I do SOMETHING with them!

Did you know my favorite color was pink?

Today or tomorrow I plan to work on a new project using these solid colored fabrics.  Right now I am just using the ‘think method.’ (those of you old enough will recognize The Music Man quote.  I use the think method a lot…)

Fixing the Middle and More Feathers

Thanks so much for the nice comments and positive response to my new blog!  To answer KC’s question–Yes, you can use the ironing board/steam method for handquilting.  After I steam the quilt sandwich, I just take it to the sewing machine  and machine baste it  in about an 8 inch grid.  I set my sewing machine on the slowest speed, and make big stitches–probably 3/4 of an inch, so its pretty easy to remove them as I go along.  I don’t use a hoop or a frame when I hand quilt, and this method keeps the layers very stable.  Most of the time I am hand quilting a larger quilt–like full or twin size.

So I thought I’d just share with you my thought process in changing something I didn’t like in a quilt.  That quilt with the concentric strips that I was quilting feathers on?  Well, my main reason for making that quilt was that I had seen a small picture of an antique quilt with concentric stripes that really intrigued me.  In the antique quilt I think the center square was probably just a four inch red block.  But I thought, why not put something more interesting in the center?  I didn’t want the center to be the focus, but I did think it would just make the quilt more interesting.  And of course I had grand ideas of making hundreds of these striped quilts, each with a different interesting center.   Ha!  Its a little monotonous making concentric stripes.  And also more and more difficult to keep squared up, as you will see in the first picture.  Anyway, I didn’t put much thought into what I chose for the center.  I like chickens, so I chose a chicken print.

When I showed it to my BFF, she said “I really like it except for the chicken center.”  Harumph.  I liked the chicken center just fine and that was all that mattered.  When I got it out almost a year later to start quilting it, I looked again, and thought the chicken center was just fine.  Then when I put the feathers around the center, and took some pictures I thought Ruh Roh.  That doesn’t look very good.  The feathers added some elegance to the concentric stripes, and that homey chicken picture didn’t fit anymore.

So I am going to replace it.  Thankfully, I didn’t quilt the chicken center.  So I will just carefully cut it out, and then applique a new center in its place.  I might use a little fusible around the edges if I think its necessary, but I don’t think I”ll have to do that.  I don’t like fusible that much.  Speaking of fusible, and this is totally off-topic, Melody Johnson is a quilter who has made a career out of making fantastic art quilts that are entirely fused, and she has a beautiful blog that I enjoy every day.  She is doing a ‘quilt along with Melody’ this month.  So far, I’ve just been watching, but I might jump in and fuse a few things.  Goodness knows, I’ve got more than my fair share of fusible web around this place.

Back to replacing my center.  I do this type of previewing quite often, as I am fond of large prints, and often try to place them in strategic places in my quilts.  I just fold the piece I am previewing to the approximate size I need it to be and place it on top of the quilt that I want to use it in.  Usually I do this on my design wall, but I was in a hurry this morning, so it is just placed on my unmade bed…

First I tried this understated oriental print.  Pretty.

My BFF liked this sunflower print because it was the most vibrant.

I am surprised at myself, but I kind of like this oriental print the best because it is understated, and the concentric stripes are still the ‘star’ of the quilt.

What do you all think?  You can tell me the truth.  As you can see from my interactions with my BFF, I still pretty much do what I want to do!

I got a new kind of thread to try today–trilobal polyester.  BFF has been using it (she is a professional long arm quilter) and she really likes the elegant sheen it adds to a quilt.  I thought it might work good on the New York Beauty quilt.  Most of that quilting I am doing in the ‘ditch’ so it doesn’t show much.  But in the arcs and wedges I will do a little quilting that shows.  On paper, I’ve drawn several possibilities for filling in the space.  One of the things I tried was filling in the space with feathers.  So I had to try out the new thread as soon as I got home.  I really like the way it looks, although these pictures don’t show the sheen of it too much.  Once you get the hang of these feathers, it is amazingly easy to fit them in almost anywhere!

 

 

So I’ll say so long for now.  There’s still a little time to take a few stitches  before going to bed!

 

How I Make a Quilt Sandwich

Since I blog about food quite a bit on my other blog, some of the readers are quite intrigued with the ‘quilt sandwich’ that I keep referring to.  I don’t actually like making quilt sandwiches.  I think its the most boring, labor intensive part of quilting.  But it must be done in order to get to the next stage of fun!  I make my quilt sandwich differently than most of my friends, who look at me skeptically when I describe what I do.  But it works for me, so I thought I’d share it with anyone who might be interested.

Originally I learned this in a workshop from Judy Dains, who uses it to make small (like 36″ square or less) wall quilts.  But due to lack of space, or maybe laziness, I have been successful making my large (70″ x 80″) quilt sandwiches this same way.

I make them on the ironing board.

So you need to have good quality cotton batting.  My most favorite batting is Quilter’s Dream Request.  This is not available locally, so once in a while I will order it from Hancock’s of Paducah, especially when they are having a sale and free shipping.  Otherwise, I like Warm and White, which is usually available at Joanne’s and I wait until it is on sale there too.  You can use an 80/20 blend, like Hobbs, but it doesn’t work quite as well.  And basically you steam the three layers together.

The best way is to start from the center, steam the back, lay the batting on top and steam it, and then put the quilt top in place and steam it.  (BTW, this is the New York Beauty quilt from Karen K. Stone.  I got tired of paper piecing by the time I got to the border, and made my own border.)

Then I take my long plastic ruler and slide it underneath the sandwich, between the quilt backing and the ironing board,  so I can put some pins in place.  But I only put the pins about every 15 inches or so.  The steam does most of the work making the three layers stick together.

The hardest part is carefully moving the sandwich to the next portion that needs to be steamed.  If the quilt is smaller than your ironing board, it is no big deal.  But if it is larger, as both quilts were that I did recently, you have to be careful that none of the layers wrinkle as you move them.  If the quilt is large, I just do one half and then carefully flip and do the other half.  The sandwich is quite stable this way.  I like to take it to the machine and either machine baste it or if possible, stabilize it by quilting along the blocks.  I use either the walking foot or sometimes the darning foot (free motion) for this part.

Here I am just free motion quilting along the setting ‘stars’ in the design–to stabilize the quilt.  (BTW, you might be able to see that I pin using a straight pin and ‘pinmoors,’  something I picked up at the last quilt show I went to.  I like them pretty well.)

That stabilized the whole center of the quilt, so I just machine basted the edge.  I turn my machine speed down to the slowest speed for machine basting.

And now all the pins are removed, and you have a completely stable quilt sandwich ready to go any time the mood strikes. My backs are just as smooth as any other quilt backs, and there is no bending over or crawling around on the ground.  And no pesky pins getting in the way either.   I made this quilt for machine quilting because of all the pointy spikes, and I made myself another one for hand quilting in the evening.  BTW, that little star is Gwen Marston’s liberated star.

I just took this picture to show that when you are machine quilting, it is best to have as much of the quilt top supported on the table, and to keep the area that you are working on nice and flat and smooth.  I love having this ‘industrial’ table that my machine sets into.

I am pretty new at making feathers, but I am enjoying putting them here, there, and everywhere.

I took this really close-up shot so you can see this method of making feathers.  My BFF showed me how to do this.  Basically you make one loop, and then backtrack along it PARTWAY, and then do the next loop.  Make another loop, backtrack along it partway and make the next loop.  This probably isn’t clear.  But try drawing it with a pen.  It is a nice little rhythm, and I think its a little easier than traditional feathers.

Well, this is the first entry on my quilting blog.  Don’t know if there’s a need for another quilting blog out there.  But I’ve got a lot  to say, and I like taking pictures, and I love quilting, so I’ll probably be back!  Don’t know how much technical advice I’ll be offering though.  Its kind of hard to figure out how to describe how to do something technical!