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.

 

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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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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 🙂

One Stitch at a Time

One stitch at a time–that’s all I seem capable of these days. But when you think about it, that’s all any of us are capable of, right? Whether by machine and very fast, or by hand and very slow, we have to take one stitch at a time. And isn’t that exactly what we love about our work with textiles, whatever they may be. The very fact that we can take one stitch at a time, and eventually end up with a masterpiece, if we will just continue on, is a miracle!

Lately, I’ve been taking one stitch at a time on my rug. I made a macaw in flight!

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I made an owl.

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I put him in front of a moon.

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And then one day, the rug was finished. (In case you’re interested, I am still going to “tweak” that sunset section behind the elephants.)

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Only, two friends (and myself) agreed that the rug needed a border. I found these wools, dyed a deep green/brown with a hint of burgundy, and they seem like they will work well. One thing about a border, I can work faster in a straight line! I will add the words “He holds all creation together” at the top, and the scripture reference “Colossians 1:15-20 at the bottom. The lettering will be done in that golden/apricot color that is the same color as the cross in the background.

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In the evenings, I’ve been obsessively stitching away on this little piece. It became my travel project for the time I spent teaching in San Luis Obispo. I mentioned to one of the workshop attendees that I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. And she picked out a piece of fabric from my stash and mentioned using it as a background/frame. And now I know what I will do with it.

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Oh, teaching–I thoroughly enjoyed my time teaching in SLO. The women in the workshop were delightful, and they seemed to enjoy learning and working on the projects that I taught. Is more teaching in my future? We will see, we will see 🙂

Close-ups:

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The Trouble with Teaching

The trouble with teaching is that it takes a lot of brain power to prepare for it. At least that’s how it is for me. I can’t really think about starting a NEW. IMPORTANT. PROJECT. when I am thinking about teaching. All I can think about is “oh, I could share this,” or “wouldn’t that be great to have a sample of that to share.” And you can see, those are not bad thoughts. I just won’t be starting one of the big projects I have in my mind until after this teaching gig is done.

In the meantime, I wanted to have as many examples as possible to share with the class. I had a LOT of unfinished samples…ahem…have I mentioned I don’t like binding quilts?

In fact, I had five small pieces that needed to be finished. So one by one, I set out to get that done. I also didn’t have any handwork for my evenings, so finishing these substituted for that for a few days.

This is the “header” for the “what they said” series. It has a facing instead of a binding. This is my favorite method to face quilts now. 

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You’ve seen this before. Its not finished (I’m planning to bead it) but I wanted to take it to share with the class. So now it has a binding on it.

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And a binding on this little wonky piece, just to keep it contained. Oh, you’ll notice that I hand-stitched the binding to the front. Usually I machine sew my binding down. But I always say I think its weird that quilters do all of that beautiful hand-work on a binding, and hide it on the back.

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And this piece has been hanging around FOREVER, with unfinished edges. That was partly because I just didn’t know what to do with it. It was stitched almost to the very edge, and I didn’t want to cover up any stitching with a stupid old binding. I thought about zig-zagging the edge. And then it came to me–just do that by hand! It took quite a while. But I think it is the perfect edge for this little piece.

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Close-up. Hint: if you do this, it goes a lot quicker with #5 perle cotton 🙂

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And then I had this hexagon piece. I just didn’t know WHAT to do with it. I thought about mounting it on a board. I thought about putting it on top of another quilt (which is what I did.) But how to finish all those dang edges… I just didn’t want to fool with binding it. I was pretty sure it would not be my best work, trying to turn all those corners. So because I had “zig-zagged” the previous piece by hand, I thought, hey, that might work! I literally took 5 stitches, and said, no way am I going to go around this whole piece by hand. So then I decided to try zig-zagging by machine. I auditioned several green fabrics, and in the end, this beautiful piece won out. I placed the hexagon, which was already a complete quilt sandwich, on top of the piece, got it just where I wanted it, and pinned it carefully in place, on a flat surface. First, I straight stitched about 1/8″ from the edge, all around the piece. I thought zig zagging might distort it. Then I started zig-zagging. Three colors of thread, and three rounds of small zig zag later, it was firmly in place. Then I could cut out the back of the foundation fabric. Made a sandwich, and quilted it simply. It came out just the way I envisioned. Oh, and side-note. I thought I would just quilt it on my Janome, since I had a big quilt under the Juki. I had to stop three times in the first five minutes for stupid things, so I switched over to the Juki. Ahhhhh… much better 🙂

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Close-up:

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As I mentioned, I didn’t have any piece to work on in the evening. This was driving me nuts. I also have seen quite a few things lately that have little tiny pieces of fabric sewn together. I got this book. Her work fascinates me. So finally, after all these little quilts were finished, I decided one night to just make a sandwich out of some leftover muslin and batting that was laying around in the studio.I brought the sandwich, my bag of Cherrywood little scraps, and four or five “neutral” fabrics out to my comfy chair. I was somehow going to sew patches on top of this. As soon as I sat down, I knew I didn’t want to have muslin showing through on the front. So I set about hand piecing little bits of fabric together. Yesterday I got tired of hand-piecing, so I put the rest of it together by machine. And now I have a fun little piece to stitch on in the evening.

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So you can see, there are more good than bad things about teaching! I am looking forward to this assignment.

I’m Teaching!

Next month I will be doing an evening lecture and trunk show at the San Luis Obispo Quilters, on Monday, May 9. Tuesday, May 10, I will be doing a workshop on Kantha stitching, and Wednesday, May 11, will be a workshop on Improv Patching and Piecing. I am excited to have the opportunity to share the way I love to work with other quilters. If you are interested in attending any of these events, Click here to go to their website. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, there is an email address.

Here is an example of the improve patching and piecing, with some kantha stitching in the circles:

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And a close-up of kantha stitching:

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I am always careful to clarify that my stitching is “kantha inspired.” I know what kantha stitching is, and I can tell you how to do it, but what I do is a little different than traditional kantha.

Look at this! I think I mentioned being intrigued by this artist’s needle weaving. Well, I tried it out. Its a bit painstaking, but it was also fun to do as a former weaver. Seeing how the colors interact when they are woven is what I like the best. This is just a small piece, maybe 9″X 11″.

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Close-up:

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Is A Puzzlement

Anyone else out there a fan of old musicals? This is one of my favorite songs from “The King and I.” IS A PUZZLEMENT, the king says emphatically! Anyway, that’s what happens when you madly piece together blocks without measuring or using a straight edge. At some point, you’ve got to “pay the piper,” and figure out how to fit them together.

Remember? Here’s the start–just three simple blocks. Three different sizes, in my mind.

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And here’s the finished collection of them. I pretty much liked the way I had put them up on the wall as I went along. I do think about where I’m placing them at the time. At this point, I had pretty much run out of the fabric, and I was thinking about what I wanted to use as a spacer/background fabric.

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I agreed with Jenny. I didn’t actually want a background fabric. So I found a few more pieces of the Cherrywood, and just used those as “spacers,” when the blocks just wouldn’t fit together. I also made a few smaller squares to fit into the small spaces.

Here I think you can see I am starting to put together chunks of blocks. This actually requires a LOT of thought, and my brain gets tired.

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As I take pieces from the design wall to the sewing machine, here is my simple method to remember what I was doing. I put this big pearl head pin up in the corner where the block came from. And I put the smaller pin in the upper right hand corner of the block I am working on, no matter how big or small it is. That way I remember which way it goes when I get back to the design wall.

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And here is the finished top, “His Kingdom Will Never End.” I am very pleased with it. One of the things I was trying to avoid was long straight seam lines. But at some point, there is no way to avoid that, unless you are willing to do a lot of “Y” seams. I was not willing to do that.

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But I stubbornly wanted this red (and brown square) in the center of the quilt. This is the only place I did (machine stitched) Y seams. I am pretty proud of how well that came out!

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And thus ends another quilt puzzlement. Now it will wait while I think about how I want to quilt it. By machine, no double, because I tend not to want to work by hand on a piece with so many seams. Now its time to clean up the studio, and think about my next project!

The Little Trees

Making trees on quilts is not a new idea. Making these kinds of trees on quilts is not a new idea. Maybe appliquéing them with the zig zag stitch is a new idea? Probably not. Whatever, I had great great fun creating these little quilts on my Sisters quilting retreat with BF Robin.

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Brought them home, and of course, none of them were exactly square, or exactly the same size. Because that’s how I work. I like working that way, and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, USUALLY at some point, you do want to square a quilt up. In this case, after measuring all of them, I decided that I would make all of them 17 inches square. I had kept all the leftover scraps from that project in one place. I KNOW, how organized of me! Anyway, I looked at each, and decided on how I would like to frame each one. I do love how they came out. Each is different, but they are all slightly related, as I drew from the same group of fabrics as I worked on them, and then as I framed them.

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Next, the quilting!

Etsy!!!

I did it! I made it a goal to add my two new quilts to Etsy. The first one took forever, and was rather painful. The second one was a snap.

These two quilts were so fun to do, and really got me back on track, working consistently in the studio. Unlike what I do many times (finish a top and then put it away to “think” about it) I decided I needed to quilt these, finish the edges, AND put the words on them. In other words, COMPLETE them! What a blast. And then as I was completing them, I thought, why not challenge myself to list them on Etsy, as this seems to have been built up into a near paranoia in my mind.

Done, and done! Wow, that feels good.

The Eyes of the Lord:

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Close-ups:

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And, in The Signature of Jesus series (because a cross appeared in my ‘improvisational’ work):

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Close-ups:

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You can see them in my Etsy shop by clicking here.

On the Way to Organization

While emptying out my grandpa’s cupboard (where I keep the majority of my stash,) I came across a pile of squares and circles.

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“Grandpa’s cupboard”

The squares were left over from the recent baby quilt I made for a niece, and the circles were from an abandoned project (I think.) I also save the circles that I cut out of the background fabric when I zig zag circles on top.

(back of quilt top, showing the circles trimmed out.)

(back of quilt top, showing the circles trimmed out.)

Anyway, they were right near the leftovers of a cute print that I had used for the back of my niece’s baby quilt. Hmmm. I wonder if I could make something out of these? I have another niece who is pregnant, so need to be fair and make her a quilt too. And wouldn’t it be fun for these baby cousins to have similar (but different!) quilts.

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This project was so fun. I sewed the squares into four patches. I cut rectangles from the print to add to the four patches. There was just enough of the print to cut out two squares the size of the four patches. And two four patches that did not have the print added to them. Then I started zig zagging the circles on top. As I cut the back out of the circles (to minimize bulk,) I saved those circles to be used in other squares.

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After all the pieces had enough circles attached, I figured out how I could fit these squares and rectangles together evenly, and sewed them into strips, and then joined the strips into a small quilt top. I refused to put it on the design wall–just joined them together as they looked good on the sewing table. I love the way it looks. Its only 36″ square, so I plan to get some solids that match and cut 2 1/2″ strips to add borders all around. And of course, I still have a few circles to add to the borders. I will say that zig zagging pieces is a lot easier when you are just adding them to a block instead of a whole quilt top.

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Studio update: I have windows! And the huge organization/purge continues. I filled 6 grocery sacks with good fabric to give to my crafty sister and nieces! Don’t worry, I have plenty of fabric left for my own use…

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