The Really Really Scrappy Quilt

“Its not such a bad little quilt, Charlie Brown.”

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And now, the rest of the story 🙂

About a year ago a new book came out called Slow Stitch. I guess I was being thrifty at the moment, because I didn’t buy it. And then it sold out, and so I wanted it REALLY REALLY BAD. One day I saw on the author’s blog that it was going to be re-printed. Oh joy! I pre-ordered it from Amazon. So the past week or so I’ve been reading it in the morning. The author is really all about using what we have, and even goes into using re-purposing used clothing and fabric. I have a LOT of fabric to use up before I could ever get into buying thrift store clothes for quilts. She also talks about traditional kantha stitching, and an idea began to grow.

Two weeks ago, before rug hooking camp, I set about cutting one inch strips of fabric. They have a student sale at camp, and last year I sold bags of the strips for knitting your own rugs. The fabrics I was going through had already been sorted into bags to sell/give away, and as I came to scraps too small for the strips, I set them aside in neat piles, probably to give away. When I came home from camp, the piles were still there. Such nice little scraps, I thought, and put them in a container in the closet.

Then, last week, Maria Shell wrote a great blog post about how she loves using small scraps. Those scraps in the closet began calling to me! I would make a completely scrappy quilt, NO PLANNING. Use the scraps just as they came. No design wall. And I would make a real Kantha quilt/blanket. I even ordered some cotton gauze for the middle layer, so it would be really nice to stitch through. The only rule I made was that after sewing 3 or four scraps together, I would square them up to the nearest quarter inch.

I had been sewing the scraps together whenever I had a few minutes to spare. So Tuesday, after I finished the little needle keeper, I set about making my wonderful Really Really Scrappy Quilt. In the end, I had to put the big pieces on the design wall to see how they would fit together.

Its not such a bad little quilt. But I’m not sure its one that I want to spend hours and hours of hand stitching on. I do really want to do a kantha style blanket, but I’m thinking that a little more planning and design process wouldn’t be a bad thing 🙂

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Blocked!

Usually on Monday I am raring to get into the studio and start working. I had lots of things I could work on, and new ideas that were begging to get started. I just could not make myself start on any of them. Maybe its because I was feeling extra stiff–yes, we’ll blame it on that. I went to the gym and spent a good long time on the bike and in the pool.

Monday night I FINALLY finished stitching on this little piece–inspired by the cover art on the latest issue of Quilting Arts magazine and my planned trip to rug hooking camp. Stitching on wool seemed like the perfect travel project. But filling every square inch of this little piece with stitches took FOREVER. And what the heck was I going to do with it?

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Well….C., the same new friend from my SLO workshops who suggested the fabric to frame my little embroidered piece, took this wool embroidery and folded it and suggested making a needle-keeper (is that what they’re called?)

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So that’s what I did. Tuesday morning I had a plan. I decided to line it with a really pretty piece of dyed wool, and stitch those two pieces together with blanket stitch.

I didn’t want to sew the sides up, because I wanted to be able to lay it flat to see the design as a whole. Then I realized I wanted a pocket for my thimble, so there was the perfect scrap of fabric just laying on the cutting table, waiting for me.

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This was just the little jump start I needed. I spent the rest of the day in the studio, working on a project that I was quite enthused about… I’ll tell you more about that next time 🙂

What I Did First

When I come home from a trip, or when I have finished a large project, sometimes I don’t know what to do next. I used to worry that I was losing my mojo, and felt a lot of pressure to “get right back in there.” But after this trip, I felt relaxed about the whole thing. For a few days I concentrated more on working in the garden and exercising, something I hadn’t done much on this trip. That was good for me.

But I know that it is best to keep working consistently at your art. I have several projects to complete, and I have fairly well-formulated plans for some new projects. Plus, there’s “Noah!” But I chose a small embroidered piece that was almost done. I was pretty sure I could finish it in a day.

It was this small piece. I had finished up the embroidery on it (remember, it was already a quilt sandwich itself,) and I had attached a large border of a really nice textured fabric to it, added batting to the whole thing, and basted it well, so I could hand quilt it.

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Well, that did not go so well. Even though it was well basted, it was bunchy in spots. More bunchy than I am willing to put up with. I threw it in a corner and left for Cambria.

When I came back, I knew what I needed to do. I UNDID all that hand quilting! The batting was reusable, but I threw away the muslin backing. I headed into the studio to find an appropriate backing. There on the cutting table was this piece of fabric! I have put this piece of fabric in the “to go” pile several times. But I always rescue it, because it is a really nice Japanese fabric. Its just that it was dark and dull colors. This little piece was a bit dark and dull. This fabric would be perfect.

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As I laid it out to cut it the right size, I had the idea that if I cut it large enough, I could use it as an extra large binding, folded over from the back. I put together the sandwich, revved up the Juki, and went to work. I simply quilted along the block lines within the embroidered piece, and then changed thread colors, and did a simple grid on the light “frame” fabric. I carefully cut the batting one inch from the edge, and then the backing another two inches from that, so I could fold it over twice to make a nice firm binding, and I hand stitched it carefully to the front.

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Plans don’t always go this well. This little piece almost ended up in the discard bin, several times! The whole successful process tickled me so much I wanted to share it with you. Sometimes you do need to stop working on a project, but many times you just need to continue on, and see what happens.

When I walk by this piece now, I see a lot of blank space on that surround. Perhaps a little more embroidery? 🙂

Rug Camp!

Cambria Pines Rug Camp is just a wonderful experience, all the way around. Its also fun to go to the same place for a period of time (I think I’ve gone six out of the last 7 years.) You get to know people a little  bit, and look forward to seeing them every year.

My teacher this year was Donna Hrkman. She is a wonderful artist who has chosen rug hooking as the medium to express her work. She specializes in portraits, so I was always a little too intimidated to take her as a teacher. I didn’t want to do portraits, but I admired her work a great deal.

This is one of her most well-known pieces “Steam Punk Reverie.”

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Look at the detail in this portrait of an Indian boy. To do this monochromatic rug, she dyed nine shades of the same color.

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This is her newest rug, a portrait of her son. I LOVE the way she superimposed him on top of a scene of the downtown area where he works and plays and lives.

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Okay. So it was finally time to start my portrait of Noah. Donna spent individual time with each student to get them started. I had to start on the eyes, which I was dreading. But with a little encouragement from Donna (and also, she drew in the highlights in his eyes,) I got started. I was really so very happy with how they came out.

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The next day, I filled in with more colors, trying to choose the right shade for each area.

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The NEXT day, I wanted to start working on the “natural” side of him. I had a lot of natural wools with me. I chose eleven of them, and then pre-cut strips so I would have a palette to work from. This is the same thing I do when I am starting an improv quilt. If I just keep the large pieces of fabric in front of me, I have a hard time starting. But if I cut strips of the fabric in the sizes I think I might use, it is a lot easier to make the next step.

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And here is what four days of concentrated rug hooking looks like. I was so pleased with what I was able to accomplish. I still think his face looks too fat. In looking at the earlier photos, I think I can see the problem. There will be some unhooking soon, I think.

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On Wednesday, we have a rug show. Everyone brings their rugs, and they clear out the dining hall and put up a wonderful display. I was pleased to see my big rug displayed with this nice group of rugs.

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And thus ends Cambria Pines Rug Camp for another year. I have so many quilting ideas that have been percolating and have been put on the back burner for a while. I am excited to get started on some of those projects. But I will set Noah up at my rug hooking station, and will continue to work on him.