Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hang 'em High

This week, VVHH (very versatile handy husband) did me the honor of mounting a decorative curtain rod high over the twin bed, so that we could hang the 42 x 35 fall landscape quilt recently completed. (Click any photos to enlarge.)

I found the rod online, on sale, at Target. With its beautiful leaf pattern, it seemed perfectly appropriate for a landscape with trees. The brackets are adjusted to the shortest length, so the quilt hangs fairly close to the wall.

This is the first quilt (other than my initial amateur attempt) kept for myself.

After that, it was time to hang the Oriental piece (which I won't sell because of the wonky inner border). This rod has been up quite a while in the studio and comes in handy for temporary hanging before a sale or an exhibit. In between times, I'll leave this piece on display. Nobody will see it but us and an occasional guest (the studio doubles as a guest room, with a folding cot stored in the closet). Being small, this hangs kind of high, but doesn't get in the way when I'm using the old Singer (under cover in the photo).

Anyway, time for a new project! On impulse, I took this digital photo fabric panel from Artworks, Aqua Nuance, out of the closet.

My friend Janet gave me this for Christmas, and I've been hesitant to do anything to it other than quilting, since it's utterly breathtaking just as it is. But after staring at it for a while, I got out my favorite ship fabric...
This is only part of a curtain panel found at Goodwill for two dollars.
These ships have been used in two previous quilts.

...and cut out one of the ships, after backing it with paper-backed fusible.

Needs more wake...looks like it's going backwards!

Here it's being auditioned after a rough cut...

...and here it's been fussy cut, tweaked with paint markers and Sharpies, and then fused in a lower position than when auditioned. The ship's waves are playing better with the panel waves now that some white paint has been applied.

Then some rocks were cut from a Wilmington Wind and Waves fat quarter and added to the beach.

Now it seemed to need a third element, maybe somewhere on the cliffs at left. Maybe a castle? Out came the tracing paper.

Next, a Stonehenge fabric by Northcott Mills. And some scissors and a black Sharpie.

Then a heavy outline of Fray Check was applied to the finished castle (should have applied paper-backed fusible before cutting but forgot).

Far from perfect, but not bad.

Well this is a wonky photo! Late in the day is not good for me, at least for photos. Not enough light at left, either, but you get the idea.
Now it seems to need some seagulls, and something to "stop the action" at far right. Maybe a boulder. Still mulling that over.

Have a great weekend!


Friday, May 5, 2017


The last few weeks in the studio were spent working on another "String-Me-Along" quilt top (pattern by Dodi Lee Poulsen, available at Fons & Porter's website). This time, purple is the popper. It would be more of a popper with white polka-dots instead of black, but this was the only cotton polka-dotted purple I could find online. And for some reason I was bent on purple.

Right after the photo was taken, I was reminded that it was the one-year anniversary of Prince's death. Coincidence? Anyway, Purple Rain it is.

After finishing the quilt top, the mood to sandwich and baste just didn't strike me. Instead the top was put aside for an Asian print fat-quarter that's been beckoning from the shelf for years.

This is only about 1/4 of the piece, but you get the idea. There were four different vases in it, each of which I backed with fusible and then carefully cut out for raw-edge applique.

[Note: I always turn down a corner when photographing a fabric, as the 'wrong side' sometimes works better than the 'right side' for a particular quilt. I keep these photos on file in my computer, categorized according to type, for quick reference.]

Several Stonehenge fabrics (by Northcott Mills) were auditioned, and these two, to the right and below, were chosen for the background and the inner border.

Apparently I'd failed to photograph the outer border fabric (also a Stonehenge) for my files, but here it is in the finished quilt photos.

29 x 19 inches

As you can see, there were some issues with squaring. I steam-blocked the quilt, first pinning the pink border as straight as I could get it--which wasn't very straight. Blocking did improve it, and of course after the quilt dried the outer edges were trimmed square and then bound, so ultimately the quilt is square. So, what was the problem? Well, the background fabric, which is not nearly as densely woven as the batiks I usually work with, should have been stabilized for such dense quilting. Lesson learned!

The next photo shows the texture a little better.

The foreground feathers were drawn freehand on tracing paper, re-traced on freezer paper, and thread-traced right through the freezer paper onto the quilt with a 100-weight (very fine) thread. They were then free-motion quilted over that fine thread tracing with a contrasting 40-weight variegated thread, and then re-stitched for more definition. (The feathers above the vase were quilted in a 100-weight thread that matched the background, for a much more subtle appearance than those in the foreground.)

The inner border features the only decorative machine stitch used on the quilt, a Greek Key stitch. This, too, would have benefited from some stabilization.

The vases were outlined with an applique stitch in clear mono-poly thread.

There was a bit of a fight with the fabric in the area between this vase and the feathers, and it won a couple of times. Again, not stable enough!

Speaking of stable(s), it seems we're in for a cold, wet race day tomorrow for the 143rd running of our famous Kentucky Derby here in my hometown (I'd bet on a mudder...poor horses!), but we've been lucky compared to a lot of folks in the U.S. Thoughts and prayers for all who have been or are being affected by destructive spring weather.

'Til next time,


Friday, April 7, 2017

Fall Finish

This week, at last, a finish for the fall woodland scene. This is one of those that came from my head. No photo involved---although that would have been extremely helpful.

42" x 35"  The right-hand side was slightly in shadow when photographed.
This landscape will stay with me. It's the only one I've kept other than my very first, and it will hang in the same room, on the opposite wall.

Here are some (slightly blurry) closeups:

There's more than one deer here. I enjoyed somewhat camouflaging most of the creatures in this quilt.

And for the first time in a landscape, I used some of the decorative machine stitches on my Janome 8900. (Other than those, everything was stitched in free motion.) Here are a couple of bad closeups of those:

I enjoyed the quilting far, far more than the piecing--which gave me all kinds of headaches. At left is an in-process shot, showing many of the threads being used. Also shown are some of the paint markers that came in handy for touch-ups that are necessary when stitching landscapes. For example, crossing a skinny tree branch with the light-colored thread you're using to stipple the sky...hardly worth breaking thread for. After stitching, just darken that section of thread with a brown or gray or black marker, and immediately it blends in and disappears. Despite these shortcuts, there are still literally hundreds of stops and starts in this quilt.

Below is an idea that sped up my binding handwork a bit. A sock hanger from the department store worked great for reeling my thread off the spool and threading it through the needle at the same time. Just clamp a little binder clip on the open end to keep the spool from falling off.

Have a great weekend!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fall into Spring

It's always obvious here when a landscape quilt has been pieced on the design wall...

Tracking all around the room (and down the stairs)

...and this was after all the larger scraps were picked up and thrown in the can! You can't worry about the fallout when you're in the middle of fussy-cutting and piecing, but the larger pieces do drive me crazy.

This project (see old post about it) has been a struggle from the get-go. Notice how long it's been since the start! I think that's because for the first time I'm making something that came from a self-imposed sense of obligation, instead of inspiration.

I knew better. And now I really know better. The entire project, every step of the way, has been like pulling teeth, with one obstacle after another, and has taken far longer to piece than it should have. But as has been mentioned before, I'm nothing if not stubborn, so finally it's basted and ready to go under the machine.

What turned me loose to make actual progress? Well, I gave myself permission to experiment with many different threads and some decorative machine stitches, and to leave knots on the back instead of burying them (there are sometimes several hundred knots to bury on a mid-to-large size landscape---which can be difficult at best due to very dense stitching, and extremely time-consuming).

Something tells me this quilt is destined for my own wall, over the twin bed (which used to have a cool poster hanging over it, but is now blank). The colors are perfect, and fall is my favorite season.

Happy spring!