Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stews and Brews

Happy autumn!

I started this first, blissfully temperate week of the season by giving the lake quilt a title (Still Waters) and making and attaching a sleeve and a label. Then it was time to figure out where and how to store it until it's sold.

So, on to the next project. I had been working on a beach scene with some funky palm trees, but here's where they are at the moment--in pieces, waiting for re-piecing and fusing.

And I'm just not feeling it right now. I think it will happen, but something else has been brewing on the creative burner for a while, and it feels like time to turn up the heat. It started with a photo of me that my husband took in February on Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.

In my imagination, this industrial-strength railing was gone. (Do you remember the days when historical landmarks had no railings? I do, because I'm no spring chicken, as you can see in the photo. But apparently these days we need protection from some insane contemporary urge to hurl ourselves off high places. Personally, I always maintained a healthy distance from edges like this, and my family and friends were kind enough not to push me over.)

Also in my imagination, a young lady hurried down the flagstone path (no concrete sidewalks in my head) toward this garrison, and she was dressed in something from well before before the Civil War. Long story short, she was a Medieval chick, and this garrison was part of a castle somewhere in old England. I don't care if the terrain and trees aren't quite authentic for that part of the globe...when it's your quilt, you get to make it your world! So a few months ago, I went online and looked at sites with free stock photos, and found this one...

...and pasted her (minus the log and surrounding greenery) over me in that photo. Then I proceeded to obliterate the railing, bit by bit, by cloning nearby parts of the forest and pasting them over it.

Today I digitally manipulated the photo so that just the main outlines and shadows were visible in a stark black-and-white version, and printed it out in 4x4 poster mode (16 printer pages).

Then the work began, cutting off the margins and matching up the pages and taping them together to get a roughly 32" x 40" photo.

At least I thought that was work. The real work began with the freezer paper overlay. Tracing solid lines from this etchy-sketchy, shadow/highlight photo (and no lightbox) proved to be somewhat challenging. After two hours of tracing (and a fair amount of erasing) I left it sitting and will resume tomorrow.

So that's it for this week, except to say that Wednesday my husband and I tried an incredibly delicious Oktoberfest Stew recipe that my daughter-in-law had found on Pinterest. We scarfed it in two days. If you like that sort of thing, head for But don't do it until you check out Leah Day's FMQ Friday post and look at the reader hookups there. And if you have a blog about free-motion quilting, please consider hooking up there if you haven't already and sharing what you're up to (it's easy; instructions are near the bottom of the page). I don't know about you, but my greatest inspiration comes from seeing what other people are doing. And it's a good excuse to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine ;).

Enjoy the season!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Floating on Air...I Mean, Water

Floating on air because the lake quilt is finally finished! I say "finally," because this yard of fabric (which was destined to be lakewater from the moment I saw it) first went on the design board in May of 2012. I immediately had a mental image of ducks or geese swimming on it.

And sure enough, geese were the first elements to go on the quilt top. Their original home was in this drapery/upholstery fabric my friend Kathy bought at a yard sale for $1. I trimmed the bottom of the gander to make it appear he's swimming instead of wading.

The turtles were patterned from a photo I took at Bernheim Forrest in Claremont, KY, and the rocks were cut from the strange but awesome fabric on the right. I stared at it until the rock shapes started popping out at me and I knew where to cut. Large and small pieces were overlapped and glued onto the quilt top to make a more natural-looking sort of 'rock jetty.' Fabric markers were used to shade various areas of the rocks.

The flowers, both the blue ones and the dogwood blossoms, came from the same fabric--an old sheet. Cutting these out was quite a project, especially those skinny little stems. I fused the fabric to some Steam-a-Seam2 first; otherwise it would have been nearly impossible, both to cut the flowers and then to apply them to the quilt top. Fabric markers were used to shade and deepen the color of the flowers.

The grass in the foreground is made up of 3 or 4 sections of the grass landscape fabric below, and the larger dogwood branches came from the beautiful 'burl' woodgrain fabric on the right. The smaller, more twiggy branches were drawn in with a brown Sharpie and then thread-painted with a variegated thread. The same thread was used to free-motion stitch the larger branches, pretty much just following the printed grain of the wood. That's one thing about landscape quilting--you rarely have to come up with a particular free-motion stitch, because it usually works better and looks more natural if you just follow the lines of the element you're quilting. Then again, if you want to use a specific stitch design, you can--it's up to you!

The aquatic grass came from a strip of the fat quarter pictured below. I used fabric markers to shade it in some areas. That wavy green area integrated well with the background (lake) fabric, since it was just about the same shade.

When the piecing was finished (except for the caladiums, a recent save) and everything was tacked down with 100-wt. thread, I realized there simply wasn't enough space in my tiny bedroom to quilt this. So the finished (minus caladiums) quilt-top languished for many months in a closet (alongside my lizard totem quilt)--until our son's old room was made into the new quilting studio and everything could spread out again. Hallelujah! That was a big day for me!

I thought it might be fun to look at some 'before and after' photos. Until I see them, I forget what an amazing difference the actual quilting makes. However, if your time is short and you want to skip on down to the photo of the finished quilt, it won't hurt my feelings. :)

First, the geese:

Sorry about the pins!

Then the turtles (which were embellished with fabric paint) and the rocks (which were embellished with lots of fabric marker and free-motion satin stitching):

And, the entire quilt:

All right, cutting to the chase, here's a bigger photo of the finished quilt:

Again...sorry about the pins, but this time they're just holding the quilt up on the design wall!

All that's left to do is to make a sleeve and a label. Some people say your quilt isn't finished until you've done those things, but by golly it's been long enough, and I say it's finished! :)

UPDATE, February 27, 2020: This quilt will be featured in the Spring issue of Art Quilting Studio magazine, out on stands March 1, 2020. It also received a ribbon at the Kentucky State fair a couple of years ago.

Hooking up a day later than usual with Leah Day's FMQ Friday and Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Fridays. Leah's up to a secret project again (and she turned a pen--how cool is that? I've always wished I knew how to do woodworking. My husband and son do, so I should be able to learn, right?) Sarah has had company this week, so she's again very generously sharing other folks' work. Check them both out; you won't be sorry you did. Don't forget to look at their reader hookups, either. Lots of inspiration!

Happy almost fall, everyone--my favorite season!! :)


Friday, September 13, 2013

Coming into Home Stretch

Lots of progress on the lake quilt this week. Tomorrow it comes to a halt as I head out of town again, this time to TN to visit my mom. After that it's off to the Bourbon Festival in Bardstown, KY, and then hopefully I'll be back in the studio to finish this up. In the meantime, here's what got done:

1. Quilted the geese. Mostly just outlined their major areas in a free-motion satin-stitch so that their bodies would puff out a bit and look more dimensional.

2. Quilted the turtles. Gotta admit I wasn't looking forward to this, but they turned out to be more fun than challenging, although there was definitely a 'learning curve.' For them, I used a combination of free-motion satin-stitch and free-motion straight-stitch. With the first turtle, I had to break thread roughly 8 times as I kept working myself into areas I couldn't easily get out of. With the second turtle, it was one continuous thread, start to finish, no breaks. At that point I was pumped enough to do a third one! Alas, there are but two...

3. Quilted this frog.

Just kidding. We found this little guy yesterday on the porcelain-berry vine in the back yard. He was only 1-1/4 inches long, and turned green as soon as my husband picked him up. He's called a grey tree frog. I love frogs. Ok, back to quilting:

4. Time to steam-block the quilt. Tools: carpeted floor, flannel-back vinyl table cloth (flannel side up), old cotton sheet, quilt face-down, lots of T-pins, press cloth, spray bottle of water, and iron. This photo was taken just after the quilt was blocked (took about an hour after pinning). After that, it lay untouched overnight, until there was no question it was dry. And what a difference. I always forget just how much smoother and better these wall quilts look after they're steamed and dried. Blocking 'marries' the quilt layers without flattening them (hold the iron just grazing the backing; do not set its full weight down on the quilt!!), shrinks out any warping, and makes it far less likely that those buried knots will ever work their way out. 

5. Time to square. Pinned the blocked, dry quilt back up on the design wall. And suddenly it hit me that I could use a plumb bob to get a true vertical line. I'm sure people do this all the time, but I never had a design wall until this quilt, so the idea had never occurred to me. Wow, what a timesaver!

See the string hanging from the flower pin? That's just a paper clip (not the old wire kind) clamped onto the bottom end of the string. This (the string plus the clip) is a makeshift plumb bob. The paper clip is heavy enough to pull the string into a straight (plumb) line. When the paper clip stops swinging around in the air currents caused by your window air conditioner, your pedestal fan and your ceiling fan, you can get your true vertical line and mark it on the quilt! (And yes, I had to turn off the window unit, pedestal fan and ceiling fan--one by one. That darned paper clip didn't stop moving until all three were off and the air was perfectly still. Hey--ding ding ding--here's an idea: Maybe I should have used a bigger paper clip. Duh.

Oh well, next time. :)

Anyway, the quilt is now squared and trimmed, and binding strips have been cut. I'll save that photo for next time.

Now it's time to sign off and do the fifth load of laundry. Why do I always think I can save all the chores until the last day before a trip? Hooking up with Leah Day's FMQ Friday post--she's teaching her husband to stitch free-motion--is this cool, or what??? (Wait, do we really want our spouses in our spaces? I might have to think twice about that... ;) Anyway, his first free-motion attempt is pretty impressive. Also hooking up with Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Fridays post, where she has got a clean house this week (I'm SO jealous, but yes, now and then it just has to be done) and is generously sharing other folks' work instead of her own.

Have a good weekend, everyone, and if you're having 75 degree weather like we are today, take a break from quilting and get outdoors!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Putting Myself on Notice

While continuing work on the lake quilt this week, I noticed a potential problem. Do you see it?

See the dark part of the turtle's foot near the bottom edge of the quilt? Notice how close it is to the edge. It suddenly occurred to me that, by the time the bottom edge gets squared and trimmed and the binding gets sewn on, at least part of the turtle's foot will probably be under the binding. Why had I not noticed this before???

As I stood there in disbelief and speculated--because I'm nothing if not analytical (*snicker*: notice the first four letters of that word)--I wondered if, before the rock fabric got quilted and satin-stitched, there might have been more space between the turtle's foot and the bottom edge....

Hmmm. So I looked back at an old photo of the quilt top, taken before any quilting was done:

And there it was. The turtle's foot actually started out just enough above the edge that its proximity didn't get my attention--but the 'drawing up' of the fabric during quilting had now brought it close enough to be an issue.
So, what to do? I could border the quilt--which I'd had no intention of doing--however, I didn't leave enough backing fabric and batting around the edges of the quilt top to do that.
Except at the bottom. AHA!! A light bulb flashed on in my head. Could I attach a border at the bottom, alone--no sides or top? Ehhhh, maybe not. Depending on the color, it would probably end up looking like some weird fenceboard or dirt road or patch of grass...wait...a patch of grass? No, that would look too 'manicured' for such a natural setting, but what about a hedge? Nah. Again, too manicured. Ok, what about a patch of groundcover, which you see in nature all the time? My clover fabric is the right scale, but it seems much more suited for a meadow than for a lake scene. I hunted for some fern fabric, but found only little bitty ferns--which in the foreground would have skewed the quilt's perspective.
On my fifth foray into the stash, out came a piece of fabric I'd thought might never get used--a yard (the minimum cut allowed when I bought it at Eleanor Burns' tent sale at the 2012 Paducah Quilt Show) of big ol' caladium leaves. That's right, caladium leaves. I know...crazy, huh? Do caladiums even grow in the wild? They probably do somewhere...doesn't everything? At this point, I almost didn't care. 
And wonder of wonders, they worked--at least, visually. In fact, they made the quilt pop. As any quilter will know, that was what sold me. Suddenly the yellow-green in the middle section of water became more obvious. Why? Because of all that yellow-green in the caladium leaves! It balanced the quilt and gave it a finish I wasn't even aware it needed. Just cover the caladium leaves up in this next photo, and you'll probably see what I mean.
So, it turns out I did myself two favors, however unintentional. By placing the turtle too close to the edge, I was forced to add a foreground that (I think) improved the overall landscape--and I had serendipitously included enough batting and backing on the bottom edge to do that very thing. Big, big WHEW.
After quilting the caladium leaves yesterday, I took a break and re-auditioned some fabrics with my funky palm trees. Remember this first, not-so-successful audition from last week's post?

Ok, on to the second attempt, below. I like this much better, but we'll see. Going to have to live with it for a few days first. (Notice I'm paying more attention to the space between major elements and quilt-top edges. Lesson learned. :)
Heading over to Leah Day's FMQ Friday to see what she's up to today, and to Sarah Craig's Whoop Whoop Friday. These two gals and their reader hookups always give me an infusion of creative energy. They'll probably do the same for you, so check them out.
Which reminds me--this has been mentioned before, but it's worth saying again--there are a lot of those wonderful reader hookup blogs I've visited and tried to comment on, but for some reason, on many of them, my comments never show up. My daughter-in-law has had the same problem with my blog: she comments, but it never comes through. If any of you know why this is happening, please give me a heads-up in a comment on this blog. If you don't see it come up within a couple of days, then you may be having the same problem. :(
Have a great weekend, everyone. Just two weeks until fall--my favorite season! :))