Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Aren't those Hoffman Challenge coordinates beautiful? I ordered the package from Keepsake Quilting with a gift certificate, but won't use them. The last week in January is traditionally Hoffman Challenge week for me. My husband goes away for the week, making it easier to focus. So yesterday I refined the design, did some cutting, and plan to cut more and audition fabrics today. I probably won't post pictures for a while; it's not that I think my idea is so great anyone would copy it, but it's not unique, so I don't even like to plant a tiny seed. All I'll say is that I'm doing lots of fussy cutting, and the finished product will not look at all like the fabric or the coordinates. Ironically, the more I hack up that fabric, the prettier it looks to me! Who else is thinking about this challenge? It's still early---

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Keeping Posted

I was amazed to see that I haven't posted for a week. It's been a busy time. My husband had a surgical procedure done on his eye which, besides being worrisome, required driving and sitting in waiting rooms. Everything went well, and although his vision may not improve, the problem has been arrested, and the scary complications did not develop. Yesterday we went to Chicago, checked on son, daughter-in-law, and of course most importantly, the twins. Everyone is thriving. We then had a terrific dinner at a new restaurant called Powerhouse; it's one of those places where the menu is seasonal, the meat comes from small local farms, the produce is organic, etc. Delicious, but expensive. I had cod (NOT local, obviously.) Then we saw La Traviata with Renee Fleming at the Lyric Opera. She's so lovely that you can forget the idiotic, courtesan-with-heart-of-gold-dying-nobly-of-consumption plot. It didn't bring tears to my eyes like the film Atonement did though.

As far as creative things, I have gotten this far:

I need to applique the circle and sew two last sections together, and then I will put it aside for a while and work on the Hoffman challenge. Later I'll come back and think about embellishments and quilting. Thanks for everyone's input.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The World's Most Unnecessary Quilting Tool

Looking through catalogs lately I've seen several contenders for this title, but today I found the winner in the Keepsake Quilting catalog: a ruler to cut bindings. One end is straight (you line it up with the edge of the fabric for straight bindings), and one end is cut at a 45 degree angle (you line it up with the fabric for bias bindings). You can buy this ruler in 2 1/4" width or in 2" width. Now since all rulers will cut a 2 or 2 1/4 inch strip, and all rulers have a 45 degree line, WHY IS THIS NECESSARY? Each ruler costs $13.50, so for less than $30, you can have two unneeded tools! My choice for runner-up would be those pins with arrows pointing left and right and up and down. Any other nominations out there?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Still Thinking

Thanks for all of the helpful comments about my design dilemma. It's amazing and wonderful to see what other people think of, and please, feel free to weigh in again! Following Debra and Nellie's idea I did stitch together the small yellow shape in the upper right to see what it looks like.

I was really intrigued by Liz and Fran's idea of using some of both, so here is what it would look like if some shapes were smooth and some irregular.

Fran's idea of a diptych certainly made me think. I'm not sure I'm ready for that many more blue blocks. But if this were a smaller piece it would be something to consider seriously. While I mull this over, I'm going to stitch together the background blue blocks. This is slow because I have to be systematic to make sure I don't confuse the placement. I take four blocks off the wall, carry them to the sewing machine, stitch and press in a certain order, and then carry them back. Since the design wall is clear across the room from the sewing machine, I tell myself this is good exercise.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

After tinkering with this blue piece for a while, I had finally got the large circular shapes looking as good as possible, I thought. The original sketch I made for this in a class was circular shapes crossed by lines, some behind, some in front, some through the circles. I'm trying to get the effect of spheres floating in space. Even after much work the "spheres" or "blobs" still weren't satisfactory to me.

Then last night I realized that I could piece the contrasting squares, cut them into a true circular shape, and applique them to the background. I think that was what I originally planned long ago, but I got so caught up with these curving blocks in the background that I forgot my old idea. So here is what it looks like with the small circle on lower left roughly shaped and pinned on.

It looks much smaller because the seam allowances are gone. I think I like it better, but I think the original would look better also when tightened up with seam allowances. And will the rough and irregular streaks look odd if the spheres are so regular? I'm still debating. Any comments?

I've also decided to try the Hoffman Challenge after all and began to plan that. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do, so that would be easy, I thought. Wrong. So last night was not a restful night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Take It Further, One More Time

Thank you to everyone who commented on my Take It Further piece. The best part of the challenge for me has been hearing from so many new people, and seeing what they're working on. The Flickr group for the challenge has some lovely things.

Before giving this topic a rest, I have a few more thoughts on the color scheme and on color in general. Clarifying some ideas will have to be the "further" part of the challenge for me. I complained about the colors, but while putting away some purple fabric, I found this in my drawer.

I bought this a while back simply because I liked the colors and thought it might be a focus fabric! Ironic, isn't it?
And then, on my wall is this piece I made a couple of years ago.

Same thing again.
The challenge palette, the fabric, and the little quilt thing all have the same triad color scheme of bluish purple, bluish green, and reddish orange. What's different is the values of the colors and the proportions. So here are my conclusions:

1. Value makes all the difference. What I disliked about the palette was the small range of values, no real dark (although there was a light).
2. Proportion is important. Equal amounts of all colors is boring. Again, I looked at those equal swatches and went "Yuck!"
3. These three-color combinations really need all three colors. I wasn't joking when I said that the purple and green alone make me wince. There has to be a third color.

None of these conclusions are new to anyone who works with color or has any art training. I "knew" them myself; but sometimes you need a real, concrete exercise to make things clear. Which leads to a conclusion about myself: I jump to conclusions! But then, I knew that too. Thanks, Sharon, for a great reminder.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Japanese Iris - TIF Completed

I finished this today; it's pretty if you like purple! Actually, I like the design very much; my only contribution to that was using Adobe Illustrator to make it oval instead of the original round because I wanted a rectangular finished product. The distortion of the flowers is very slight and of course they're stylized anyway. The colors work well together actually, except that I got the placement of light and dark stems exactly opposite from what they should be to give an effect of shading--next time I'll think more.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

TIF Progress

I'm almost finished with the applique. What I have found most interesting about this is seeing the way the colors interact; they always do, of course, but for some reason this piece is a strong example. The greens and purples in the first photo were actually painful to me, but when the creamy peach flowers were added the pain stopped. The light lavender in the stitching and fabric paint (which looks pink in photo) helps too. All that's left is a touch of yellow in the flower center and the oval frame which will be dark green I think. Then the quilting. I would have done the arrangement of dark and light in the stems differently if I'd auditioned, but oh, well---

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Post Card for a Cause

Here's a link describing a new way a fabric post card can do good: by benefitting the Children's Miracle Network. Sounds like fun.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Easy Curves

Debra asked how I made the abstract blocks in the blue piece I'm working on, so here's a tutorial. They're wonky, free-cut curved blocks. The technique is basically the same for any kind of curved piecing, but this is easy because the curves can be gentle, and you don't have to worry about getting them perfectly straight, because they'll be trimmed later. You start by cutting a block bigger than you need though, so there's some waste. I cut my squares 5 inches to trim down to 3.5. I usually work with three or four squares at a time.

Stack them, right side up, and cut in a random way with gentle curves into two or three pieces.

Then clip the in-curved piece about every one half inch, not going in quite a quarter of an inch.

Then you shuffle: I take the top left hand piece and put it on the bottom, and then take the bottom right hand piece and put it on the top. They're partially shuffled here.

Then line the pieces up, flip the in-curved piece over, and put a pin in the center.

Then gently pull the top piece so that the edges line up. The corners will not match; the top one will over lap about a quarter of an inch.

Sew as usual, pushing the fullness out of the way. On a gentle curve there isn't much.

When you get to the center remove the pin and rearrange the pieces so that edges on the rest of the seam are lined up. If a pucker seems to be forming, stop, lift the presser foot, and rearrange the fullness. On a sharper curve, you may have to do this a couple of times.

Do the other seam the same way, always putting the in-curving piece on top. You end up with three blocks, each one different. There was very little distortion on these blocks, but sometimes depending on the type of curve, there may be more. Trim them, and play with them.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Quiet Sunday

Actually, I've been working obsessively on this thing:

It's not where I want it yet, but it's come a long way, and I'm not ashamed to show it. I still want to add more detail to the background and work on the circular shapes so that they're less blocky. This is actually lots of fun. I made A LOT of blocks and then began to move them around to approximate the design I had in mind. It's interesting to see how a block that seemed like it would never work can turn out to be just the right thing for another area--sort of like working a jigsaw. But I still had to make some blocks specifically for a particular place. You can click on it to see better.

I did take a break long enough to choose fabrics for Take It Further Challenge:

The light fabric is more peach and less pink than it looks in the picture. I didn't try to keep the same mid value slightly grayed tones because I don't particularly like them. Browsing around to see what other people are doing made me think better of them however. But these fabrics should work for me.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Take It Further

I'm participating in this challenge, and the January challenge was just posted; there's the theme "some one you look up to", or a palette consisting of two medium-value violets (one darker than the other), two medium greens, and a pale peachy/yellow. OK, let's get the negative reaction out of the way first. "Someone you look up to" sounds like the kind of essay topic that would have brought groans and eye rolls from my eighth graders, and those colors are insipid, or to be less judgmental, "out of my comfort zone." After more thought, I remembered that I admire Eleanor Roosevelt, so I scanned in a picture and checked the exact words of my favorite quotation; I could do one of those photo/collage things. Or, since the colors look like violets or iris, I found some pictures, scanned them in, and may probably do a machine applique. This will NOT be slow cloth.

Since I want this to be fairly quick, I took this design from a book called 4000 Motifs of Flowers and Plants by Leslie McCallum. It's a wonderful resource of designs, historical and original, and like the Dover books, they're copyright free.

But first, I have to make some more little blue blocks so I can get to the cutting table.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year, New Snowfall, New Project

The snow began late New Year's Eve, continued all day yesterday and into the night, and here's the view from my bedroom window this morning. There's something about a snowy woods, isn't there? Even without Robert Frost, the sight is so evocative and peaceful. That pile of snow on the deck rail gives you an idea of the depth, close to 18 inches I think. Fortunately we have a new snow blower, and the road crews here are excellent, so life is pretty normal. It was nice to be semi-snowed-in yesterday though. Here's what I'm working on.

It's at the stage where you just have to have faith (I'm not sure I do). There will be more of the yellow shapes and swirls and lines of some color in addition to the blue shading. Right now I've just tried to outline the perimeter.

It's amazingly difficult just to line up these little blocks on the wall and have them halfway straight. If anyone wants to develop a new product, I would suggest a design-wall fabric marked with a grid. It would be very helpful; so helpful that I'm surprised it hasn't been done. Of course I could take mine down and mark it myself. A Sharpie would work, and so would lines of stitching, but I can't see that happening.

It's also fun to see so many people blogging again after the holiday break, isn't it? I particularly enjoyed Sharon B's post about weighing her stash and supplies. My husband feels a bit more at ease about my fabric weight now!