Monday, November 23, 2020

Pandemic Porch Quilt Show Day 34 - 35: My Two Weirdest Quilts in Two Days

Day #34: Blooming Cactus
Choosing an eye-pleasing color palette did not come naturally to me, and here's the evidence. Let's breathe slowly as we approach this bed-size quilt, so as not to trigger sea-sickness. 
It's slightly less terrible when you get very close,  thanks to the blue oasis. 
Longtime quilters will recognize this pattern immediately, as a Blooming Nine Patch, from the bestselling 1996 quilt book 'Traditions with a Twist' by Blanche Young and Dalene Young Stone, still widely available (used) online - and sooooo worth it, just for this one pattern. 

Sure, I knew that the orange and brown were awful, but I believed I was on a mission to prove ugly fabrics could be beautiful. Specifically, I wanted to redeem this crackly orange and brown batik, which I cut from a designer hippie halter-top-and-bell-bottom set that my extremely stylish mother wore in the 60s or 70s  (probably purchased at Filene's Basement, in downtown Boston). 

In hindsight, this fabric is irredeemable. (Except: As a faux Halloween pumpkin.)

The fabric I most love on this quilt is near the center, and also on the back - an African wax print. It looks really great when not in eyeshot of brown and orange.

But despite the chaloshes (terrible) colors, I learned more from making this quilt - as a new quilter - than any other quilt. Specifically, I learned how much fun it is to make gradual color and value shifts that create movement across the quilt. I still find this activity utterly thrilling (especially because I now use better colors.) 

The print that follows the halter top, and that forms the appliqued flowers, was cut from a different garment, a batik Indonesian shirt. The outermost blue fabric (which is also in the center of the quilt) is an American cowboy sky-themed fabric. The international diversity of these fabrics makes me laugh! 

And no quilt is complete without buttons. (They're in the middle of the flowers.)
Whether you use ugly or beautiful fabric (and today I courageously recommend the latter), planning a Blooming Nine Patch takes you straight out of your left brain, and deposits you happily into the other side. I had such a ball working through the color shifts, that I felt like I could make nothing but Blooming Nine Patches for the rest of my quilting life and be perfectly happy! 

Day 35: Necktie Archeology, 80" x 99"

Poundwise, this is my heaviest quilt, and one of my longest. My porch ceiling isn't high enough - in the photo above, the bottom of the quilt is folded on the floor. It holds 68 appliqued neckties, most intact, plus a whole lot of vintage buttons, all dating from the 1950s to today. They were gathered over many years, from flea markets, thrift shops, friends and relatives.
On the right side of the quilt they’re chronologically arranged, from bottom to top. The oldest necktie, a sleazy narrow grey number which runs horizontally along the bottom, features a bathing-suit clad pinup girl hidden in the lining. I think it's from the late 50s - but one viewer told me that it could be a reproduction (Google it - there are lots of old pinup girl neckties, as well as reproductions, sold online.)
Above that come the 1960s ties, with ultra wide psychedelic paisleys;
Then upward to novelty neckties: Elvis, the Wizard of Oz, a giant trout, beer, photography, golf course, space shuttles, warplanes, Forbes Magazine, laptop computers, Tabasco Slurpees (?), and so much more. My favorite tie is the brown and gold “how to tie a tie” tie that I wove vertically through the middle.
In the lower left of the quilt - as a nod to the tie’s role as a phallic symbol - I placed the neckties related to love, sex, marriage, obstetrics and babies - including in the center, a blue-and gold necktie with the word "Viagra" repeated on it, again and again. (Presumably that tie has extra interfacing.)
Almost all the ties on this quilt are intact, and sewn in place with relatively large stitches. I did move most labels from the back to the front (on the narrow end), for documentation, but other than that, in theory, someone could cut the ties off, steam them, and wear it! See more photos in my blog post, here. This quilt is looking for the right home, ideally with a passionate necktie afficianado, who has at least one blank, strong, high wall, and it's on sale for only $4000 (negotiable, I'll throw in shipping!)

Monday, November 16, 2020

Pandemic Porch Quilt Show, Days 29 - 33: Flamingos and Hashtags and Adverbs, Oh My!

Day 29: Flamingo Carrom 

This was made in the early 2000's, when my kids, my fabric stash, and I were so young! Also, I was obsessed with Marilyn Doheney's wedge rulers. Despite the frenetic color, and, lordy, the gold lame in the center (what was I thinking?)....

...I still sort of love it. Flamingos and zebras and tigers, oh my! 

Day 30: Frankenquilt! 
The previous project left me a bunch of extra wedges, which I stuffed into my UFO cabinet. About 15 years later, I pulled them out and made the central circle and inner border of this quilt: 
The outer borders were more recent experiments in modern hashtag blocks.
I tried to come up with different ways to make hashtags.

This time, I had the sense not to put gold lame in the middle. Just a  nice soothing solid yellow. 
Read more about this quilt in my blog post here.

Day 31: New York State of Mind 
This was my first cityscape quilt, made in 2018, and it happened completely by accident. I was trying to make improv modern ladders. When I offset the tops, skyscrapers appeared! 
I used my trusty Doheney wedge ruler to make the top portion.  The circles and triangles over the wedges create something that looks like a group of diverse people. All happy accidents! The quilting was then inspired by NYC's iconic Chrysler Building. 
More photos in this blog post. The intentional city quilts that followed this quilt are blogged here.

Day 32: "The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs"
The quotation is from writer Stephen King, and it's so true! In researching this quilt, I plowed through (adverb) an exhausting yet non-comprehensive list of 3732 adverbs.  
I rubber stamped the adverbs I abuse most, onto pieces of fabric, before piecing and appliqueing everything together.  A closer look is in my earlier blog post, here

DAY #33: Seven Sisters Potential Wedding Canopy (Chuppah)

This quilt was made in the '90s, using the technique in the book "Magic Stack and Whack Quilts" by Bethany Reynolds, which was was all the rage - for good reason! Start with large scale print; stack layers, matching printed motifs precisely.

Then rotary cut diamonds - you wind up with multiple sets of 6 identical pieces. When you sew them together, they kaleidoscope, and non-quilting friends declare you a genius! You humbly say, "Aw, shucks," but you and your guild know the truth - even relative beginners can follow this book, have a blast with it, and come up with something spectacular.
The simple-looking bias tape border took MUCH longer (and more skill) than the center.

(There's a "Chai," the Hebrew word for "Life," quilted in gold thread in the corner, but it's hard to see.) I think this quilt would make an excellent, dignified wedding canopy, but no one has asked, so it's still a wedding virgin.

More porch show quilts coming soon!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Almost Ancient: English Paper Pieced Mosaics with Cheryl Lynch's New Fabric

My newest finished piece!
It's a tabletopper or wallhanging, about 20" across, made up of seven English Paper Pieced (EPP) blocks. The faux mosaic fabric - those little pieces aren't separate, they're printed - are from a fascinating new collection by my friend, quilt designer Cheryl Lynch. 

In recent years, Cheryl's been designing mosaic quilt patterns, made by cutting fabrics into small pieces. But even more recently, she designed fabric with the look of complex mosaics - but you can finish in a fraction of the time. 

Cheryl gifted me with these FQs.

First I cut out a bunch of 3.75" equilateral triangles, and moved them around.

For the next test, I pulled a purple floral print from my stash. 
Etcetera. I liked all the options - Facebook and Instagram polls of my friends resulted in no clear winner - so I put those triangles aside and decided to see what this fabric would look like in the smaller, more complicated stars in my EPP book, "Hexagon Star Quilts".

I started by printing seven patterns from the book onto my newest notion, water-soluble "Hugs'n Kisses Applique Paper," by Helen Stubbings. (No affiliation). In the past, when planning to do EPP by machine, I printed designs onto Decor Bond (by Pellon), a medium-weight fusible interfacing, which remains in the project. But I was eager to see how the applique paper would work. Here's one  page printed onto the applique paper - I cut out Star 5 from this page.  
With EPP, each piece is fused to a slighly larger piece of fabric; the fabric is wrapped around it; then everything is sewn together by hand or machine - I used the latter. Here's more or less what Star #5 looked like finished.
I made six more blocks (all 6" high), including the next one which is the centerpiece. This green fabric isn't one of Cheryl's - it's from my stash, and I stitched the white lines to give it a mosaic look. 
The stars surrounding the center include Star 39, below, with the addition of a gold-brown print from my stash:  

Next, Star 56, with my violet print added: 

Star 65: 

Star 28

And last, Star 15

The results are in the photos on top of this post, and the bottom. How did I like the applique paper? Compared to Decor Bond, it's not quite as stiff, and therefore more challenging to fold small sharp-angled pieces accurately.

But I discovered that when I scored the fabric with a sharp-edged piece of plastic - like a credit card - next to the interfacing, it made accurate folding and basting more achievable. The big advantage of applique paper over Decor Bond is that the former will dissolve in the wash, presumably leaving a softer project than the latter. 

Here's the back after all the pieces were sewn together. 
From a distance:
I laid it on batting, traced around the top (with a water soluble marker), then cut out the batting inside the traced line. This results in a slightly smaller piece of batting than the top. 

Next I placed the top on my backing fabric, and cut out the backing fabric about 3/8" larger than the top all the way around. All the concave angles must be clipped, in order to get them to turn under.
Make a sandwich: Backing fabric on the table,  wrong side up;  batting on top of that; and the pieced top on top, right side up. Pin or clamp the edges every few inches. Do a hand whipstitch, stitching the outer folds on the top piece to new folds you create as you go, on the backing fabric. Finally, I stitched around the edges with a machine straight stitch.  You can't see the hand whipstitches in this photo from the back, but you can see the machine straight stitching. 

The entire back:
And the front, all quilted, this time on a white background. 

Very European, esta bien? And thanks to Cheryl's fabric, it took a lot less time to make than, say, Gaudi's Parc Guell in Barcelona. See more of this fabric, and projects made from it, in this excellent new article. It is now available in quilt shops. More information about my EPP book is here.