Sunday, September 27, 2009

Art Quilts at Play, Davila and Waterston

All the books at Joanne's were 30% off yesterday which made this too expensive, i.e., 29.95, book only $20 which I'm willing to pay for something full of ideas, how-tos, and inspiration. A whole part of me wants to do a lot of art quilts, another part of me is totally fascinated by more traditional quilts. I often compromise with my own take on traditional. The whole art quilt movement has totally fascinated me from the its inception because I have been reading and following quilting in the US since the 1970s.

I deeply admire a whole bunch of talented and innovative women whose names are almost legendary by now. I am a little appalled by the proliferation of "stuff" for art quilters. A little appalled because things like paint sticks look like great, great fun, so are all the dyes and paints and new methods of altering cloth. But they are expensive and are touted in magazines in a very hucksterish manner. And yet I think anyone with a creative urge ought to have available interesting and inspiring tools.

The extreme embellishment that is so popular right now seems to me a symptom of the consumerism that has left the American economy in a terrible mess. I feel there is a psychic connection in the over-the-top-ness of consumerism whether it's bankers with obscene bonuses or middle class families building McMansions they can't afford, or the quilter who believes encrusting a quilt with all kinds of embellishment is a personal expression.

This book offers a lot of examples that are relatively simple, things that give me a feeling for how to use techniques I have not used to produce a small quilt that says something, perhaps one that could be a visual expression of a poem I would add to it. My ideas are tumbling about. We'll see what might come up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Growing on my Design Wall

I posted a picture of this quilt many blocks ago. This is just to say I'm working steadily, if kind of slowly, and it's growing. I have three more rows to make -- 18 blocks. They take about 45 minutes each. These are not ironed and of course not sewn together, just pinned up. The browns along the edges are ridding me of a lot of small scraps that had accumulated in that color family. A small exercise in stash busting.

Below is a close up. The meeting of the angled pieces is difficult and I am so un-profestionist that I try but when I don't succeed, I don't sweat it. This will eventually be a charity quilt. I don't believe we should necessarily give away our mistakes -- well, maybe I do believe that. Maybe we get a bit embarrassed showing friends the quilts where hte points aren't pointy or the joints don't meet right, but a quilt is a warm bed cover and there are far too many people in need of any warm bed cover. They deserve something nice, I'm sure, but need trumps nice any day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Treasure in the stash

Above: more beautiful designs. Are there people who can resist picking up shells on a beach? Resist the shapes and the suble colors? How limited their lives must be if they are not irresistibly drawn to shells.

But that is not today's subject. Rachel called this afternoon asking a silly question. She said, "I need a piece of batting not very thick that's about 20 by 6 inches. Would you have anything like that?" Would I? I always have batting. It's usually not very thick. I'm happy to give it away for any reasonable reason - this was reupholstering a little lady's rocking chair she recently found second hand and was tearing the old upholstery off in order to put on a a lovely paisley in s sea foam green -- what a lovely quilt that design would make if it were not far too heavy. Anyway, it was a remnant. I cannot supply the cream colored braid she will need to finish it. It's always a pleasure to watch any fabric project take shape and satisfyig to share in it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

:Leaf patterns

Having read Joan Colvin's book about nature and her suggest we study how trees grow and how limbs and leaves overlap, I have been looking at leaves -- the patterns they make, the way light falls on different ones differently. You don't have to anticipate using these insights or the photos as guides for potential quilts -- although they could be that. It's just good for the eye and the sense of pattern and appreciation of how wonderfully complex and interesting al of nature is.

I took these leaf pictures recently. I'll probably be taking more since autumn is very much just around the corner as the brisk early morning breezes testify.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Six-Year Old UFO

Why did this not very big quilt take six years to make? Here is the history, as I remember it, though some steps may have been forgotten.

1. About six years ago I was visiting on Cape Cod and went to the wonderful Heartbeat Quilt store and when there found a fabric in black and white, just printing which was taken from the writing of a gentleman farmer who kept fowl. He wrote about how he fed them and cared for them. I bought a remnant piece, less than a yard but it contained the whole quote and partial repeats. I said to myself I would use it in some quilt featuring chickens. I put it away.

2. Possibly two years later a vendor at an Empire Quilt Guild meeting had a beautiful fabric with roosters -- gorgeous creatures with metallic print in their multicolored plumage. I thought ah, this is it!

3. But I didn't know what to do with it so I put it aside.

4. One day, possibly three years after the first purchase, I decided to put the rooster in the fabric on a red background with a bi-colored kind of picture frame. I pulled out reds and then prints in deep greens and some blueish greens and cut them out, decided to sew about 35 squares which I did. Then I got out the rooster fabric and ironed fusing on the back. Then I put it away because I didn't want to take the time to fancy cut all those roosters just then.

5. Maybe a year later I decided to do the fancy cutting. I did one or two roosters, which took so long I put it away and told myself I would do it on bus trips. I didn't.

6. Eventually I moved here in April and made a pile of my UFOs. were several

7.Then I made a baby quilt for Cori to give someone and asked her to fancy cut the roosters since she says she's often bored at her job with nothing to do. I told her there was no rush since this had been going on a long, long time. But she did it very quickly.

8. Now I have a design wall so I pinned roosters to squares and put them on the wall. After a few days I wasn't satisfied so I turned half on point and liked it better. There is a picture of the two arrangements on an earlier post here. That meant the roosters had to be positioned differently on the square. I was glad I hadn't fused them yet. I was finishing other UFOs.

9. After a few weeks I fused the roosters and put them all up on point, rearranging a few times so specific roosters weren't clustered together. I finished another UFO.

10. As I looked at them, I felt they looked crowded, so I though about putting some red stripping between the squares. I dug through my stash and found a red with a pattern of partly metallic wheat heads. I cut it into 2 inch strips and began sewing them together. I was making a block quilt by then for a charity and divided my time -- more time going to the charity quilt.

11. About half way through sewing the roosters together I began to have serious fears that I wouldn't have enough of the red/wheat fabric -- I hadn't measured and done all the arithmetic to be sure. Slowly I forged ahead. By the finish I had a strip 2 inches wide and less than 20 inches long left over -- only.

12. That was about a month ago. Then I had to add the edge and corner triangles as I put the rows of blocks together. That took longer than I expected. Then finding a border fabric for the written part on the back that started the whole project was another stash search. Then of course, it had to be quilted.

13.When I had done the squares, I still wanted to outline quilt the roosters to make them pop out. That was very time consuming for they are complex beasts.

14. Finally last week-end I finished that, searched my stash again for something to use as a bias binding. I found an unlikely and so ugly I can't remember why I purchased the stuff, green print. It actually works fine as binding since the pattern disappears.

15.I added the last rooster on red square to the back to write on as a label. And viola!! After six years or so, it is finished and it fits on my table perfectly as a table cloth. I love seeing it there. PHEEW!! Some quilts are a long work in progress.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nature's Studio, Joan Colvin

I just purchased this book, Nature's Studio by Joan Colvin. She is one of a handful of art quilters whose work I have been following for between 15 and 20 years. I could barely wait when I got the book a couple of days ago and sat down and read about half of it, stopping on every page to savor the illustrations which are her quilts, or details of them. It's beautiful, very intelligently written and thoughtful.

I have no hope of being a quilt artist, quilting will always be a hobby for me with writing my real "art". But quilting is so immediately satisfying and so diverse, I can explore all kinds of things without feeling the internalized pressure I would if I were intent on producing quilts that are art. This is what I know about myself. Also that I cannot get too much of looking at the art others produce. I marvel at the intricacy of Colvin's nature pieces. Her quilts with people bother me a little bit, they are as wonderfully made as the others but the people are too pretty for me -- but that's a matter of my taste, I suspect I'm very much in the minority.

This is a "how to" book in the broader sense, it begins with the inspiration and assurances that the reader's inspiration is exactly what s/he should be following. And then she discusses many ways that can be done. Having this book is a joy.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


This selvage quilt has been nearly finished for about two months. I managed to quilt the center -- simply and not more than is needed to keep it all in place. Then marked a Greek key design around the border and stopped when we finally had about three weeks that were truly summery -- hot and humid -- weather. In such conditions I cannot work with a pile of quilt partly in my lap. So I put it aside and worked only on small blocks.

But now the border quilting is done, and I've bound it with wide pieces of selvage -- what elsel? At the top of the picture the edge is turned over to show the two Indonesial batiks that are on the back, The lighter piece was yardage and the darker, more complex pattern was a sarong panel -- if I were a small person, as many Indonesian women are, say about 5-2 and weighing only about 100 pounds, I would probably have used that piece as a sarong myself. But alas, I'm a more typical American woman of a certain age with a certain girth that is not truly large but is defnitely not petite. Anyway, it always feels great to say "Finished!"

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Stashing Weakness

I always remember things I say [in public] I'm going to do, and that includes the resolution I posted here some months ago to use my stash and resist additions. Oh, weak willed one! Oh, woe, woe -- or it should be whoa, whoa! It's end of summer sale time, don't you know? What is one to do when the marked down fabrics have an additional 50% off sign on them? Good intentions, done with the wind. And then the FQs said buy-2-get-1-free and then the remnants where 50% off their already marked down price. Sooooooo.... See above.

Some of my rationalizations: the light colored pieces that don't show their pale prints are just the thing I prefer to use instead of stark white as backgrounds, one is ecru and one pale yellow with white dots. The flower print, a sort of fabric I almost never buy, is just asking to be stacked-and-whacked and turned into something far more fascinating than a pretty floral. I have lots of blues, both bright and navy but it's my favorite color -- what more should I say. Red with black dots what a great accept piece. Aren't he stripes sweet? And the moose -- well if you had a daughter like I have a daughter who has been a moose fanatic for almost ever, you'd never pass up a moose-y fabric. It will be the heart of some future throw, for sure. Oh, and the box of thread? Why ask? Of course I need thread -- 26 Gutterman [from Germany, of coruse] colors for 19.95. What more can I say. I'm a happy quilter.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Slow quilting

I have been quilting -- mostly trying to finish things. I get bored pretty quickly with some kinds of quilting the quilt so I do only a portion a day until it's finally done. However,I took time out to make a couple of very simple blocks for a swap. Blue was specified and when I pulled out my blue stash I realized how big it is. So I think I'd better think blue for a while. I've been on a red and green spree, time for blue/purls not this block as it's really too simple, for me it probably will only work very well if it were black-white with red in the middle. But I'm not even sure about that.

The roosters are coming along, slowly. I knew I wanted to outline quilt them to make them pop up, as they truly do when outlined since they have the additional stiffness of the fusing material on their backs. I like them that way. But it's very -- did I say VERY? -- labor intensive so I do half a dozen and move to something else. But in quilting, as in life and zen, the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step and every six roosters add up and I'll be done anon. Then I have only to bind it. I'll take time out when all if finished to detail the long -- like five years -- life span of this former UFO. Well, it's still a UFO but actively in progress now.