Thursday, June 27, 2013

Back to the Lake

It's summertime, and what better time to head for the lake?

Yes, after leaving Lida behind last week, it was time to get out a lake scene quilt top that had been sitting since last November. This one is larger than any landscape I've made, and the old studio had become so cramped that the quilt top had to be designed in the living room. I'd progressed as far as possible on it and then stashed it in the closet. With the new studio up and running, there's room to work on it now.

This is by no means the entire quilt top; it's only a section of the lower left quadrant. The turtles (pinned on in the first photo and fused on in the second one) were designed with just two fabrics and needed embellishment to look more real. Tsukineko inks are somewhat transparent, so I left those in the drawer and chose some Jacquard textile colors instead. Turns out they're only semi-opaque. Two other bottles of fabric paint caught my eye, some Scribbles 3D left over from painting T-shirts a long time ago. One of them was just about the right color for the sides and stripes on my turtles. I used a tiny paintbrush to spread the paint just enough to keep it from gobbing anywhere while leaving it thick enough to cover well. I'm not entirely thrilled with the results (lots of guesswork due to my shadowy photos), but they could have been worse.

The turtle shells will be free-motion quilted, following the spiral lines in the fabric. In fact everything on this quilt--rocks, water, geese, grass, dogwood branches and blossoms, and water lilies--will be quilted in free motion.

Leaving that on the cutting table to dry, I reluctantly turned to a task I've been putting off for months--altering the hem of this dress to wear to my niece's wedding next week. It's made of no-fuss crinkle cotton and should pack beautifully for the trip to Maine (where I'm also hoping to get some great coastline/island photos for quilt inspiration).
After running a single row of straight-stitch 3 inches away from the old hem edge, I pressed the new hem up on that stitch line (all freakin' 5 yards of it) and used an overedge serger-type stitch on the fold, similar to the original hem. (There is no blue area in this. That's just a trick of the light.)

All that remained was to trim, extremely slowly and carefully, the old hem away from the underside--the challenge being of course not to cut into the dress itself. Mission accomplished (with an iced coffee close at hand to keep my mind from going into Zen mode like it usually does during anything monotonous). Whew! And now I have some nice, long, 3-inch wide turquoise strips for my scrap drawer.

By Tuesday the paint was dry on the turtles and the whole quilt top was ready to be sandwiched. Realizing there was nothing in my fabric stash large enough to serve as a back for this quilt, I turned my thoughts to designing a new landscape. I have to say, happiness is having a design wall and space large enough to audition 6 half-yard panels of Vicki Welsh hand-dyes at once. What a mood-booster this was!

The lake quilt top is still on the cutting table. (I'm not quite ready to show a closeup shot of it.) Yesterday I found an interesting green print at JoAnn Fabrics for the quilt back, with enough leftover yardage to use as foliage in a future landscape quilt.
Signing off here to go shoe shopping...ugh! The only shopping I like is fabric shopping, so it takes an upcoming event like a wedding to get me into any shoe or clothing store.
Hmm...wonder if there's a shoe store near JoAnn Fabrics....
Hooking up with FMQ Friday over at Leah Day's site. Her post about finding a balance between intensity and sanity certainly strikes a chord with me. Click on some of her reader hookups to see what they're up to. Also getting my whoop whoop on (for having finished my turtles) by hooking up to Whoop Whoop Fridays. Look what Sarah has managed to piece in just a few days! (And check out the multitude of reader hookups at the bottom of her post!)
Everyone have a great week next week. I probably won't be posting then but will look forward to catching up with everybody after we return from Maine.
Speaking of posting, if anyone is having trouble posting comments on this blog, you are not alone; I know of at least two people who've commented on my blog in the past but haven't been able to do so for the last two or three weeks. None of my settings had changed, so I contacted Blogger (Google). Hopefully they'll figure out what's going on and fix it. So please keep trying, I love to hear from you. Yesterday I did enable comment moderation (the only setting I've ever changed), after learning that apparently spammers can post vulgar language or ads on your blog and cause your blog to be deleted. Not taking any chances on that! Again, very sorry if you are having difficulty. Please keep trying. Thanks,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Leaving Lida

She's done! Lida Luna is finished at last. After cutting out a jillion sections of gradient batik for binding strips, then piecing them together so that the dark-, medium- and light-gray sections were positioned just so around the quilt, I machine stitched the whole strip onto the front--only to discover that after the first 2 feet or so, the sections had not landed where I'd planned. Seems I'd made a geometric miscalculation at the corners (let's leave it at that). Being in no mood to rip it out and start repiecing, I told myself the new arrangement looked better than the original, that fate had stepped in and improved my plan. Yep, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. So here's how it worked out (minus the pins at the top and my bad photo-crop job). 
Lida Luna by Linda Wulf Koenig, June 20, 2013
Lida's boa and tail feathers have been attached for some time now, but she just got her beak painted last night and her eyes sewn on this morning. By that time we'd bonded, so when I took her to Moore's Sewing and Learning Center this afternoon to put her on exhibit, it felt a little like taking a pet to the kennel for a long stay. I kept waiting to hear a screech from the trunk on the drive over.
So now she's hanging side-by-side with my previous landscape quilt, Rock of Ages.
If you're in or near the Louisville, KY area, stop in at Moore's and take a look. There is no way to convey the texture of a landscape quilt with a photo, it just doesn't translate. But here's a side-angled shot that at least hints at the dimensional effect of the bird's body, which was appliqued over two (graded) layers of extra batting. Still not entirely obvious, though, until you see it in person.

 And one more shot, a close-up of Lida the moonbird:
Darn it, it looks like her right eye needs to be moved a bit further from her beak. Oh well. As Rosanne Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner) of Saturday Night Live often complained in her nasal whine, "It's always something." That's ok, I'll fix it before Lida goes to a permanent home. For now, she and I can use a break from one another.
Meanwhile, I'm on to my next project. Don't tell Lida, but it involves a family of geese.
Hooking up here with Sarah's Whoop Whoop Friday post, as Lida's completion is definitely a whoop whoop. Sarah's beautiful quilted pillow has spurred me to get that un-used pillow form out of storage and get busy.
Also hooking up here with Leah Day's FMQ Friday post. She's creating a specific space in her house for handsewing, and asking if we have a particular spot where we like to handsew. Interesting coincidence, as I've been debating whether or not to use this nook in the studio for that very thing. 
When the room was a bedroom for my boys, I made a cushion for the window seat (which is actually a storage bin my VVHH built). They could sit there and read or just stare out at the beautiful foliage between our house and the one next door. I'm not sure they actually did that, although somewhere there's a photo of the younger one climbing up there in his diaper. So now I'm considering making another cushion for it and using the space again for something other than storage (the bin is full of batting and that pillow form I mentioned). And the thread couldn't get much handier for handsewing, now could it?
Looking forward to seeing other folks' handsewing nooks over at Leah's site. Instructions for hooking up at her site and Sarah's are on their pages at the bottom of their posts (links above), and are very easy to follow. Check them out, along with their reader hookups. Inspiration abounds!
Happy summer, everybody!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Down (and Back Up) to Business

As mentioned in the update at the bottom of my last post (What a Blockhead, Charlie Brown), my mostly free-motion quilt Lida Luna got blocked in the end, though not nearly as thoroughly as it would have been had Lida the bird not been attached to it already.

She's protected here with about 6 cotton and linen hankies (my press cloths), as is the Angelina fiber moon and its tulle halo. I kept the iron as far away from Lida as possible but managed to get most of any excess fullness shrunk out of the background. I couldn't really tell how flat the whole piece would end up until after the excess batting, backing and top were trimmed from the edges. Here it is (below) with the first two edges done, and you can already see that it probably won't be a total disaster.

There's only one area, about 6 inches in length and fortunately near the edge, where the fullness didn't shrink out entirely. I'll try to ease it flat when I sew the binding on. That's really all I can do at this point, and it will probably be okay. Other than that, the quilt squared up nicely after its final trim.
This brings me to my not-so-favorite part of finishing quilts: choosing the binding. The cool thing is, for the first time ever, I have an actual design wall! My VVHH (very versatile handy husband) finished making the panels Saturday out of some corrugated board, styrofoam insulation panels, and cotton batting. By that afternoon, the design wall was up!
By Sunday morning it was down. Like, on the floor. Long story short, duct tape ain't what it used to be. But the 3M mounting pads were still proudly stuck on the wall--all 28 of them--as if to say, "Hey, we did our job."
So up the stairs came VVHH with the drill and electric screwdriver, some really long screws, and even--get this--some little white plastic covers to hide the screw-heads. Problem solved. (Only one patch job was needed, after the drill bit bent a little and chewed up some of the design wall cover. I whipped out a small square of fresh cotton batting and some Nancy's Notions mending tape. Second problem solved.) And no one will ever know those mounting pads are still on the wall!
My first color choice for Lida Luna's binding was solid black, which naturally looks pretty good around a nearly achromatic quilt, but before cutting up my black batik, I'm trying one other thing. The strips in this photo are cut from the leftover gradient fabric I used for the water in the quilt.

If I can get the light, medium and dark areas placed just right around the quilt, I'll piece them all together into one long binding strip, and away we'll go. Otherwise, it's back to black.

Meanwhile, after a day of going nearly cross-eyed arranging those black, gray and white gradient strips, I turned to some color work for a break.

If you're interested in color theory, Gloria Loughman's book Radiant Landscapes goes into more detail than any of the Landscape Quilting books I've found so far. For the first time, I took an in-depth look at the color wheel that's been sitting in my drawer for over a year and noticed all the ways it can be used. After making a color chart of all these color pencils (none of them are exactly the color of the paint on the pencil, of course), I began charting some of the color combinations Gloria talks about, starting with split complementary, shown below. It's been a fun and educational project, but now the binding strips are calling me back to the design wall.

Hooking up with Leah Day's FMQ Friday post--she's got a new project started and has made tremendous progress on the stunningly gorgeous Duchess Reigns. Check out her other links, as well, along with her reader hookups. Also hopping over to Sarah's Whoop Whoop Friday post and hooking up, since I'm whooping about my design wall. Take a look at the feathers she stitched this week, and her beautiful stack of quilts headed for orphans in Ethiopia. Too cool!
Speaking of cool, you folks who are living in the roasting zones try to stay that way--cool, that is. We hit almost 100 Thursday, and some places went over it. Be safe--stay inside with your AC/fan and quilt away!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What a Blockhead, Charlie Brown

Yesterday I would have been thrilled to report that Lida the moonbird is finally attached to her quilt, Lida Luna.

Today I'm a little less thrilled, because it hit me this morning that I did not block the quilt before attaching her.

Holy crap.

In the manifesto under my blog profile, I mention the fun, the challenges, and the 'aha moments' of landscape quilting. This will be one of the challenges.

I always block landscape quilts. Or at least I did until now. As any teacher of this particular quilting genre will tell you, it is a necessary step in getting the final piece to hang square, straight and flat against the wall. Blocking in this case means laying the quilt flat (or hanging it) against a firm, heat-resistant surface, pinning it down square, and steaming the holy heck out of it. After that, it sits, sometimes for a couple of days, untouched and unmoved (very important to prevent warping or uneven stretching) until it's completely dry.

I'll admit to being a bit distracted these days, with the studio move just completed and two trips in the offing (where the h*ll did my two bathing suits go???). Add to that the nagging feeling that Lida Luna has been, for various reasons, taking more time than I ever dreamed it would--hence the rush. It's not that I have a deadline; I don't (although Moore's Sewing & Learning Center has very kindly offered to exhibit it as soon as it's done). It's just that there are so many unmade quilts in my head, and ever since my 60th birthday last year, there seems to be some internal pressure that can almost qualify as a deadline--though one of my own making. The good news is, the same thing happened when I turned 50 (only then it was writing books instead of quilting), and after a couple of years I finally got past that time-crunch illusion. I'm looking forward to that downshift again this time around. What is it about decennial birthdays? The years in between never bother me, and it's never about 'growing old' for me, either. It's just the time thing. Grrrr.

Back to the quilt. Some might ask, why not steam it even though Lida is already attached? Answer: Lida would most likely wrinkle in a few places. Right now she's smooth and nicely rounded, puffed out with a couple of thin layers of batting between her and the quilt. There's also a good chance the acrylic yarn on her feathers would be affected (like, melted--or at least wilted), although you never touch the iron directly to the surface, and I would certainly test a yarn sample first. (It took 6 hours to attach those 30 or so little knitted lengths of yarn--you bet your booty I'd test it first!)

Ok, what about taking Lida off the quilt, steaming it, then re-attaching her? Answer: Are you crazy? Just kidding, and yes, this may sound stubborn, but after the long hours spent and the eyestrain and sore fingers endured to secure Lida firmly to the quilt, I'd sooner put the whole project on a shelf than detach her now. And it's so close to being finished...

Which leaves at least one more option, and it's the one I'm considering. Would it be possible to steam carefully around Lida without causing her to draw up and wrinkle? And even if she didn't, would the quilt then warp in her area because of the uneven shrinkage overall? Something tells me it might. Then again, would that matter, if the quilt hasn't yet been trimmed and squared?

This all boils down to the lesser of two evils. If I don't block the quilt, it may start out hanging flat and square but eventually stretch out of shape while hanging on the wall. If I do manage to block most of the quilt without crinkling Lida in the least, it may still be impossible to square. Remember, there is a lake in this quilt. One cardinal rule with landscape quilts portraying a water line or a horizon line is that the top and bottom of the quilt must be parallel to that line--and hence to each other. From there, you square your sides. This is sometimes trickier than it would seem and, with an unblocked area in the quilt, could be downright impossible. The result, as in the first scenario, is that the water line could look all wonky or the whole quilt could hang unevenly. Who wants a crooked or saggy quilt hanging on the wall?

Then again, any distortion after blocking could (crossing my fingers here) end up being so minimal that it's nearly unnoticeable after all's said and done. Considering that Lida is 16 inches long, that might be a stretch. No pun intended.

I'm trying to look at it this way: whichever way this goes, it will be a learning experience. (Gulp.)

Wish me luck...

Update, June 7:  I spent yesterday afternoon carefully blocking the areas around Lida. It might not be perfectly flat, but if I do a little bit of easing in a couple of areas, I think it will hang fine. Whew!! So since I have a little something to whoop-whoop about after all, I'm hooking up here with Whoop Whoop Fridays. Sarah has just finished a quilt that makes me happy just looking at it. Remember to also look below her post to see what her readers are working on. Lots of inspiration there! Also hooking up with Leah Day at FMQ Fridays. She's mulling over the importance (or lack thereof) of the occasional renegade stitch on her AMAZING quilt, Duchess Reigns. Check it out, and check out her hookups, too.