Friday, January 17, 2020

An Accidental Landscape

On New Year's Eve, my best friend reminded me of the old saying that whatever you do the first day (some say the first hour) of the New Year will be what you do most of the year.

I'm not superstitious, but just to be on the safe side, I headed upstairs New Year's Day and randomly pulled a beautiful streaked batik from my stash. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Stepping back, I gazed at it. Suddenly, one area (taped off in the photo) jumped out at me. To me it looked almost like an entire ready-made landscape. And in short order it was on the cutting mat and trimmed out to be just that.

I could see this wasn't going to take much embellishment, and not all that much quilting, either.

A little while later, it had only a few additions--two eagles, three evergreens, and a hedgerow.

Oh, and one subtraction...placed a scrap of gold over those green blobs near the center.

Unfortunately the hedgerow appeared to be floating. Not good.


I added a length of nubby variegated yarn, mostly browns, to the base of the hedgerow. This seemed to ground it and made the eagles visually pop a bit, as well.

All quilting was free motion, spaced anywhere from 1/4 inch to 1-1/4 inches apart, following most of the lines in the streaked pattern. The trees and eagles were outline-quilted.


Binding in a dark brown further emphasized the eagles. Here's the finished landscape:

"Eagles Hunting at Sundown"
As you might guess, this was a lot quicker than any of my other landscape quilts, since most of the scene was already there. Two afternoons, and it was finished except for the sleeve. I hope more of these accidental landscapes will "pop out" of other pieces of streaked batik in my stash!

Have a great weekend.


Friday, January 3, 2020

Portrait of Lucy

With all gifts now opened, photos can be shown of a project that was secret until Christmas.

For a couple of years I've wanted to make a portrait quilt of my granddaughter, Lucy, as a surprise for her parents. The trick was finding a photo of her that had enough contrast to "posterize" into three clearly defined tones. This is the posterized photo...

...and here is the finished quilt, roughly 22" x 17," titled, simply, Lucy Maeve.

I've only made one other portrait quilt, several years ago, for my son who was grieving the loss of his best friend. I learned the process from a couple of books, but now there are videos on the internet that teach it step-by-step. It isn't hard, but there can be a lot of fussy-cutting, especially if you are including shading and highlights in the subject's hair.

Below are a few photos of the quilt in progress:

Tracing the photo using a storm door (my light box is too small)  >

Traced pattern at left for the medium-tone fabric
(all one piece, which required cutting out all the
little spaces where the light tone would show);
traced pattern at right for the dark-tone fabric
(1 large and 80+ tiny pieces)  ^

Fussy-cutting my traced pattern after fusing it to the medium-tone fabric

(The 80+ dark pieces are backed with fusible web, rough-cut and waiting in the plastic bag, to be fussy-cut and fused to the quilt last.)

Paper backing torn away...medium-tone fabric ready to be fused onto the light-tone background (off camera). Being all one piece, this was tricky to position correctly. (The color looks wrong here just because of the incandescent light shining on it. All the other lights are full-spectrum lamps.)  > 

< Fused! It was going well, but at this point I was getting nervous--it was time to make her eye and her eyebrow, and I knew that could make or break the quilt.

It went fine, but boy, was I careful, especially when
painting the white spots in the pupil. Breathed a huge
sigh of relief when that was done and I realized this
portrait might be a success after all.

Got so caught up in what I was doing, I forgot to photograph the dark sections as they were fused.

Time to piece the flower (this time the light box was used). The flower wasn't in the photo, but because Lucy's crouched position wasn't totally clear after posterizing, I needed something that was obviously near the ground to give it context.

All total, this project took me 63 hours, from the first photo tracing to sewing my label on the back. I don't know if that's fast, slow or average, and the only reason I logged my time at all was in case I ever decide to make another one. It's always good to know how much of a commitment you're in for beforehand.

Would I do a project like this again? Probably, but only as a heartfelt gift, like this one; never on commission (actually I don't make anything on commission, deadlines having proven fatal to my creativity). Those 63 hours were grabbed at every possible opportunity during November and December, which was quite a feat with holidays and Christmas prep happening. To be fair, I did manage to make two couch-sized quilts for Lucy for Christmas, but working on anything for my Etsy shop was out of the question.

Next time there will be a small landscape art quilt, using very little piecing.

Happy new year!


Monday, October 28, 2019

Hawaiian Bay

Before my hiatus, I had started piecing a landscape quilt, which had only gotten this far. And I wasn't thrilled with it.

The initial idea was to use that stripey fabric, which I'd had for a long time, for water, and to incorporate the sky fabric I had painted a couple of years ago.

The sailboat, printed on fabric and using a photo I'd taken in Maine, was auditioned before actually cutting it out. It was really too large for the scene. (I've since figured out how to change the size in my photo program, but that was after the quilt was finished.)

The sand, flower and grass fabrics looked okay but nothing was "popping" (except maybe those sunflowers). The whole thing looked kind of drab to me. So I put it aside.

After the 3+ month hiatus I pulled it out of storage, and ended up taking all the foreground fabrics off and putting them back in my stash.

Then I took a good, hard look at what was left. On a whim, I pulled out my scrap box and added one little orange batik strip. And suddenly, we were off to the races.

It morphed into this pieced scene...

...but even as it did, that painted sun kept nagging at me. It was really pretty ugly (sorry for the oxymoron!).

Fusing a bright-yellow batik piece over the sun took care of that problem. Much better. Then a heron, a sailboat, and some shells were added.

Quilting was fairly quick, using both free motion and machine regulated stitching.

Binding was made, using the faux-piped method (it's on YouTube). Here are some closeups of the interior (click to enlarge):

Seed beads were hand-sewn to the centers of the "flowers."
And the finished quilt...

So, landscapes are done for 2019; I'm working on Christmas presents now! One of them has me really excited but I can't share it until after Christmas. Someone in the family might see it too early!

Enjoy the upcoming holidays, wherever you are and whatever you celebrate. Peace and love to all.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Although my eight-week hiatus from knitting and quilting turned into 3 months, the nerve is still not completely healed, but it will get there. Toward the end, I finally caved in and cheated...but only a little.

At 17" x 20", Up with the Dawn is much smaller than most of my landscapes, and less densely pieced and quilted, so it wasn't that much of a strain and didn't take very long to make. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

For years, I had been meaning to use that fabric for the sky in a landscape, but just couldn't seem to make it work until now.

One other landscape quilt quickly followed, and is nearly finished. I'll save that one for next time. In the meantime, it feels really good to be able to blog again. I've missed that almost as much as the quilting!

Thanks so much for stopping by. If you're in the northern hemisphere, happy autumn, my favorite season...time to make a pot of chili and a batch of chocolate fudge. If you're in the southern hemisphere, happy spring!