Monday, November 30, 2009

New Hoffman Challenge Fabric

I had several things scheduled for today, and I did do some Christmas shopping, but then I went rogue and drove to Shipshewana to buy the Hoffman Challenge fabric. Here it is. This picture doesn't show the color well; it's much more aqua but the photo gives a better idea of the range of colors than the picture on their web site. The real fabric is much less solid color than it appears. The design is directional, and there's about an 8 inch repeat. I like the Jacobean/Persian design, but hate the color. The coordinates Hoffman is pushing to go with it seem to be all in the green and blue range also.

I have no idea what I might make for the challenge this year, or even if I will make anything, but I'm ready for inspiration.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pressing Tip

I always have trouble pressing a block with lots of seam intersections so that the seams are really flat. A hard ironing board and a heavy iron help, but I don't like steam. Lately, I've been trying this method, which I like, and I thought I'd pass it on. It will be familiar to anyone who has done lots of garment sewing, especially tailoring, but I've never heard it mentioned by quilters, and I never thought of it myself until recently.

Here's the basket block; see all the nasty intersections to make flat. There are more on the other side too.

Here's the tool I'm using. I don't know what this is called, but it's used to press seams open before they're pressed together, and it has all those weird curves and points to accommodate different seams. For quilting all you need is a long flat piece of wood; a 12 inch piece of 2 by 2 would work fine. Wood is the best because it is a good conductor of heat and pulls the heat out of the fabric quickly so that the seam cools in the position you want it to be.

All you do is press the seam together, then open the block and press the seam to the side, as usual. While the fabric is hot, put the wood piece on the seam, press down, and hold it for about 10 seconds or so.

You end up with a flat seam without worrying about scorching or puckering from steam. If you really want to use steam, give just a second of steam before you put the wood down.

(Do you think that woman needs cosmetic surgery on her hands? Yikes!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

It's been a disgracefully unproductive week here. There's been a bunch of time-consuming things to do: trips to buy a replacement faucet for a leaky one, hair appointments, waiting at the VW dealer, making on-line Christmas orders, and so on. We're going to my son's for Thanksgiving, so preparing for that is not one of them, thank goodness.

The piecing of the basket blocks goes slowly anyway. There are points and seams to match up and pin, and of course this is where any earlier errors come back to haunt you. Part of the problem is that I think I used a different method of making 1/4 inch seam long ago when I started these blocks, and so there is a slight difference.

In addition, I am one of several people demonstrating different ways of making curved seams at guild Monday, and I've been practicing, making samples, and digging out some information to display. I've got a copy of Stack a New Deck by Karla Alexander with ideas, and I can use my quilt Refraction too. I'm not expecting great enthusiasm from the conservative people in the guild about the irregular look of blocks made this way, but a variety of options and ideas is a good thing.

In spite of talking about using up fabric, I had a hard time deciding on fabric to sacrifice for some sample blocks. I finally chose these brights, which I bought a few years ago, and am so tired of. I'm not sure how they'll look put together, but maybe they will make a good kids quilt for someone. The combination of fabrics may be another cause for raised eyebrows.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Boring Baskets: Moving On

Boring Baskets as a working title doesn't refer to the finished look, I hope, but to the piecing process: slow enough to be tedious and time-consuming, and not difficult enough to be terribly interesting. This quilt has been in process a very long time.

After lots and lots of thought and advice and shopping and stash-rummaging, I settled on this blue fabric for the baskets, and can get back to piecing blocks. Ironically, although I had thought I couldn't move on until I settled on a basket fabric, when I started working today, I found there were several steps before the basket triangle had to go on. So more time has passed. But now, I hope I can buckle down and finish the blocks; the slow part with the flowers and the leaf unit has been done, and I'm sewing large units together now. There are also alternate blocks, but they are mostly strip piecing, all squares, no triangles.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I Dreamed a Dream

I dreamed last night that I had laboriously finished a quilt, working under some kind of deadline; when I washed it, it faded, the binding came off one side, and an actual large hole appeared. What a nightmare! I've eaten breakfast before telling this, so it won't come true. Do you know that superstition?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm Not Crazy About It...

but it's done. As you can see, I didn't add much since the last version. Some of the fabrics and embellishment materials are still on the work table, so I may do another block before I forget some of the skills I remembered in making this--like, Duh, you CAN cover a button with a more interesting fabric than that plain purple one. In fact, that's why that metallic brocade has a circular hole in it!

Other news: I received one of those "We're sorry blah, blah, blah" letters from Road to California about Refraction, and and acceptance for my Ghost Orchid quilt in an exhibit called Quilting Natural Florida. This exhibit will hang in the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville from January to March, 2010. So I guess one for two isn't too bad, although we all know which one of these had more entries. The rest of you who entered Road to California, if you didn't get a rejection yet, you'll probably get a nice fat letter of acceptance on the December 1 date.

I'm off today to Yoders in Shipshewana to buy the new Hoffman Challenge fabric (if they have it), and look for fabric to jazz up my Boring Baskets project. It's beautiful Indian Summer weather here, a perfect day to see the Indiana countryside. I love the look of the bare fields before the snow comes, all swept clean for winter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Going Crazy Again

The other day, Debra said she was going to break down, stop kidding herself, and USE the materials she'd been saving for a "big, important project". By coincidence, I'd been doing that myself, from the jumping off place of a bit of machine embroidery Debra sent me a while ago. I have lots of small pieces of kimono fabric left from the days when I made and sold small bags. Some of this fabric is beautiful, and some is just tiny bits, but I keep waiting for just the right project.

Then I decided to use some bits in a crazy block for Alz quilts. Here it is in its naked state,

and here it is now, partially embellished.

Making a crazy quilt block is a strange experience; I don't know whether I like it or not. Embellishment is not my style, but I can see a certain fascination, and I understand why people get hooked. On the other hand, I am painfully rusty at embroidery. I used to do lots of it because it was good to do while keeping one eye on small children, and I was fairly skillful. Now I can barely remember how do the stitches, and I feel like the tomboyish heroine of a novel, forced to work on her sampler--tangling threads, needle pricks, etc.

I haven't even skimmed the surface of my kimono scraps, so the big project is still waiting.

And as a pleasant surprise, Dawn who writes a great blog titled Subversive Stitchers, linked to my blog and said kind things. If you haven't seen her blog, you should. She features different bloggers including links, and has some terrific pictures in the sidebar. The Boob Scarves picture alone is worth a click!

Monday, November 09, 2009

SOFA Chicago, Faust, Family

My husband and I had a wonderful twenty-four hours in Chicago this weekend. We left early enough to see the SOFA (Sculptural Objects, Functional Art) at Navy Pier. This is a large, very pricey art show with galleries from ten countries representing several hundred artists. There's lots of Chihuly-type glass, jewelry, ceramics, and a very small amount of fiber art. Hilde Morin, Carol Shinn, who takes thread painting to a new level, and Lesley Richmond were three of the artists represented. Photos were frowned on, but look at the links. Lesley Richmond uses photographed images which she paints with a resist, removes the negative space fabric, and then paints the fabric remaining, producing a lacy metallic image that is still as flexible as cloth. I particularly loved her work. You might also enjoy looking at the work of Amy Orr, who does mixed media, patchwork-like pieces.

It was a perfect fall day, the kind of day that makes Chicago one of the most beautiful cities anywhere: brilliant blue sky, gleaming buildings, the glorious lake. We walked through Millennium Park and across the new footbridge connecting it with the Art Institute's just completed contemporary wing. That footbridge is made to move, rather disconcerting at first. (The pictures above show the humongous Trump Tower reflecting some smaller buildings, the view of the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park from the Millennium Park bridge, and the view of the lake looking down Monroe street from the bridge.) There wasn't much time in the Art Institute, but it will still be there in January when outside isn't so lovely.

In the evening we had dinner and went to the Lyric Opera to see Faust, not a favorite of mine. I hate the women-as-victims opera plots, and the music just seems trite to me.

Sunday morning we drove to see my son and his family. The twins are still adorable. We had quiet time, and then played outside with the leaves, and came home to a still-beautiful day.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Personal Style?

I just recently read a post about influence, finding one's own style, etc., which seems to lead into this post of mine. Do I have a personal style? If so, it's not discernible from these three things I just finished.

This is based on a scene in Innsbruck, Austria, that I photographed last spring. I love the candy-like colors of the houses and their charming shapes against the blue sky, and tried to capture it here. The river was originally much lighter, and I added paint to darken it. The paint caused its own problems, but the effect is still better than the lighter fabric.

Here's one of my scanned flower images. I originally made a postcard from the image, but this time made it larger for a mini-quilt. I like the added texture of the French knot centers on this version.

And finally, another scrap lap quilt for the guild's service project collection. This is from the collection of Mary Ellen Hopkins scrap blocks that I work on from time to time. It's fun to see the number of patterns than can be made from what's essentially a block with a dark triangle and a light triangle. This quilt was the largest piece I've free motion quilted using the Supreme Slider, and I continue to love that little gadget. The quilt is only 36 x 48 because we have required sizes, but I plan to work up to something a bit bigger now and see how it goes.

Anyway, there doesn't seem to be any continuity here. I just like to go from flower to flower, I guess.