Sunday, September 28, 2014

Marshmallows and Solid Fabrics Cure Lots of Things

In our last several installments, in a daringly unoriginal yet effective attempt to have fun, I cut out squares and rectangles, centered them on other squares and rectangles, and zig-zag stitched them down.
As you can well imagine, after three weeks of this,  (123) I became flippin' sick of squares. So I decided to cut corners, make freeform ovals, gluestick and zig-zag stitch those down, arranging them in a linear rather than a centered fashion, overlapping as I moved up. Here's where that got me:

Cute, no? At first I titled it Cairns. But these are hardly somber Celtic stacks. In fact, the more I looked, the more I thought: S'mores.
This particular  quilt is only about 20" wide, but I think on a larger scale, a bunch of s'more stacks could be a good concept for a baby quilt. 

And speaking of babies, by the time I was finished, I was also getting sick of my solid collection. which hadn't been refreshed since the Clinton Administration (Mazel tov, Chelsea!). 

So I treated myself to a trip to the LQS, where - talk about your cost-effective psychotherapy - I made myself a thrilling little pile of sparkling lush new Kona solids. I limited myself to eight and bought a quarter-yard of each. Thus, at about $7 bucks a yard. I exited the store having spent less than $30, temporarily cured of most psychosomatic complaints. See if it works for you. (Or do it vicariously through this picture. Instructions: Stare at it for 10 seconds. Close your eyes. Sip a fruity sangria.)
Do you feel better yet? I sure do! 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Roosevelts Made Me Do It: Stacked Squares with Modern Solids

In our last two installments (1, 2) , I used scrap batik fabrics to make a couple of these:
(Wrapped around a stretched canvas & frame backing, to amp the wall-power.) 

I mentioned that this highly therapeutic 'stacked squares' game could be as easily played with solids, for a modern quilt'look. Thanks to Ken Burn's insanely interesting Roosevelts documentary, I found the time to make a solid version. 

First, I cut out and experimented with a mess of blocks: (and I do mean mess). 
Made nine appealing ones. Put them on a congenial 13" square of fabric (blue green in my case ) and backed it with Warm'n'Natural batting (but no backing fabric until later). Find threads in the relevant colors (or close) and zig-zag around the edges (not quite a satin stitch). 
I haven't yet stitched around the central purple-with-white-polka-dot strip because I'm not sure I want to keep it. Before and after the stitching steps, there are SO many ways to play. I experimented with these strips.
Kind of looks like a Xmas package.That might be good, depending on who you're giving it to. Wouldn't it be fun to wrap the fabric strips all the way around to the back of the stretched canvas?
I also tested curly borders:
Meh. I left the borders unadorned, added a grey backing fabric, and finished the edges with a zig-zag satin stitch over embroidery thread, aka a corded edging.  

I used a variegated thread and a serpentine zig-zag to make the two vertical and two horizonal lines that run down the alleys between the blocks.

Finally, on Friday night, I was watching how Franklin and Eleanor handled the beginning of World War II - it was quite stressful - whenever WWII documentaries are on TV, why do I always find myself looking for pictures of my mother in Poland being hustled off to a concentration camp? - so I decided to cut tiny rectangles and attach them with just a stitch or two, or a French knot, of embroidery floss:
I may take them off. Although they got me through most of the war, I'm not completely sold. 
This project could turn into so many things - a pillow, tote bag,  artsy wallhanging, potholder, children's class project, Roosevelt memorial tower & vase cover..,
, you name it! For details on how to construct (glue stick and scissors are required) go to my first post on the subject, two weeks ago. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Increase Your Quilts' Self-Esteem With Stretched Canvas

In our last installment, I performed the following 12-step highly-effective in-home psychotherapy:

1-11. Cut out colorful batik squares, rectangles, and strips, and stack them on top of each other. Use a few dots from a school glue stitck to affix. (For a 'modern quilt,' use solids instead of batiks, and a newer glue stick.)

12. Zig-zag around all the edges.

That's pretty much it. Oh, you should quilt it. Embellishment is then an option. I decided to go for it:

Old metal stag button:
Glass "evil eye" protection bead.....

Pen spring, with seed beads threaded through....
 Tiny dice from a Vegas rosary, so there's already a hole, plus faux pearl:

The final size was 15" x 15" After embellishment, I fooled around with mounting it on a 12" x 12" stretched canvas that happened to be lying around the house....
...Something I've never done before. Several people wrote to me with excellent suggestions. I'm especially grateful to Bethany Garner, a Canadian quilter who makes stunning art quilts and a fantastic blog at She explained her technique, developed by another awesome art quilter, Cathy Breedyk Law, whose art quilt blog is here. The technique (too long to relate here) involves cutting squares out of the corners of the quilt, minus a seam allowance, then stitching the cut edges together (like boxing corners on a purse). Bethany answered many of my questions and I will definitely try it in the future. But I didn't want to cut into this particular quilt. 

So instead I very carefully tucked in the corners, like wrapping a gift. My thumbtacks weren't very strong, so I wound up using mostly a staple gun.
It's not perfect, but still, wow!  I can't stop looking at how slick this is! DH says I can add 400% to the price (but I'm not selling this one).

However, speaking of sales, I was so pleased with it - and I have a community gallery auction coming up - so I decided to make another one to sell:
Instead of zig-zag stitching around each fabric, like in the first piece, I quilted a grid over the whole thing with gold metallic thread. (Embellishment came after that). The cut edges remain raw. 

The backing canvas is 12" x 12" so I made this quilt the same size, to avoid wrapping.  I painted the stretched canvas to match (painting the front of the canvas was unnecessary, but I did it anyway). Here's the first coat:

After a couple of coats, I stitched the quilt onto the front through the back, with strong silamide beading thread: 

Here's the back:
(Ignore that paint thing on the lower left.) A curved needle didn't work at all. I wound up stitching through the back, through the quilt, under the outer edges of the appliqued squares on the front. I don't know how I would have done this if the edges of the squares had been stitched down. How does one sew so the stitches don't show from the front? 

I'm calling this piece "Earth, Wind, and Fire" because of the wild diversity of embellishments. There's a teardrop-shaped dichroic glass bead:
 A silver plated branch:
A lightly-toasted wooden button: 
Four lapis stone cubes: 
 A metal charm and a sequin:
An 'evil eye' glass bead: 
African rolled copper beads: 
 And another one of these.  
And more. Wouldn't this be a great project to do with kids?

Now I'm collecting stretched canvases for future quilts (cheap at Big Lots and Tuesday Morning, but limited sizes there). This new-to-me presentation has changed my quilting/life forever! It definitely makes a small quilt look less like a shmata/potholder and more like capital-a Art!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Just Sew: Stacked Squares Color Psychotherapy

Life is tough. The news sucks. You're tired of thinking. You're creatively stuck. You already sewed strips. You need a new therapy.

Here's another game that will make life much better: Stacked Squares Color Psychotherapy.

Rules: Use batik scraps, or solids. (The latter for more of a 'Modern' quilt look) If you don't have any batik or solid scraps, buy a pack of charms (or smaller).

Rule #1: Don't let anyone give you any rules, including me.

#2. Cut a bunch of them into 3" squares - maybe 12 - and lay them out on a larger piece of fabric. You can use your rotary cutter to cut these squares, if you like, but scissors are fine too. Precision is counter to our mental health aspirations.

#3. Pull your scrap bin (or stack of charms) over to where you are sitting or standing. Now, take your scissors and freehand cut smaller than 3" squares, and start stacking them on top of the 3" squares.

#4. Make even smaller squares and pile them on top.

#5. Play. Rectangles, strips, even circles are okay.

 #6. Don't stop to iron unless something is really creased.
 #7. Don't worry about all those dangly threads.
  #8. It's easy to start suffering over a particular unit. When you find yourself suffering/self-critcizing, work on a different one.
#9. As you finish a unit, use a temporary school glue stick to glue the layers together. You only need a dot in the middle of each layer (unless you have a strip, in which case, a couple of swipes should do it.) No need for complete coverage. 
Here's a ton of psychotherapy on less than a fat quarter of fabric: 
Isn't this satisfying? They each have a unique little personality. From left to right, Sue, Bill, Joe, Frank, Linda....oh never mind. 

#10. Sure they're adorable, you're saying, but they're a hairy mess. You could embrace that - stitch a button in the center of each and send it through the washer and dryer for a shaggy, groovy textured objet d'art. Name it "Hair."

#11. But let's say you're not in a hippie mood. OK, in that case, get out your gold metallic thread and install a topstitching needle in your machine. Don magnifying headgear.

#12. Pick 9 squares that you really love. NOW YOU CAN IRON THEM REALLY REALLY FLAT.

#13. Arrange and lightly glue them on a piece of fabric that's about 15" x 15".

#14. Put a piece of batting behind the fabric. (this will serve as stabilizer. If you don't want to add batting yet, put some kind of stabilizer behind).

#15. Zig-zag around all the edges.
How's that for a personality change? Now you have to rename them Yvette, Diaphanous, Aragorn, Cumberbatch, etc. 

#16. Quilt the background. 

Here's nine of them on a trial run gallery wrap. I'm deciding whether to leave it as is;
Or to add buttons/beads: 
This is for a fundraising auction at my local community arts center. What do you think? Naked or dressed?

The other big question: What's a gallery wrap and how do you do it? It involves installing the above onto one of these: 
I'm figuring out how to do it. Suggestions/directions welcomed. 

Tell me about your favorite quilt therapy!