Sunday, June 17, 2018

Accidental Skyscraper Quilt, Plus One for a Quirky Baby

It's amazing how many quilts I make when I'm trying to make something else entirely. Take this one:


Even closer, you can see the Chrysler Building quilting.

(Here's the actual top of that iconic New York building:
Photograph by Leena Hietanen:
I didn't set out to make a quilt about New York City skyscrapers. I started out by scouring my stash for a large piece of fabric to use on the back of a different quilt. I happened across a small stack of Jan Mullens fabric scraps, purchased in the 1990s at (before it was bought by Amazon), when my children were small. I had bought a yard of about 6 different coordinating fabrics. Lurid as some of them are (oy, that magenta!), they served me well, in dozens of kid quilts.
I was surprised that I had any left at all, and decided maybe I could make something quick, fun and modern. I added solids, did some improv piecing, and, perhaps a little too quickly, wound up with this on my (vanilla batting) design wall (Yes, that's my Pez collection above my design wall. It has an excessive impact on my color choices, so don't try this at home):
And yes, I made the rookie mistake of adding the strips, one by one, to the same side of the first strip, which is pretty much guaranteed to make your quilt bend toward freedom.

What to do? Call it "Quilt for a Baby Who Won't Crawl Straight"? Or maybe hide the bend by adding more strips? The central area looked like ladders, so I started making more improv ladders, this time from solids. At this stage, I was calling the quilt  "Stairway to Heaven." I took pictures, and posted them to Facebook to crowdsource whether the additions helped or hurt.
I also took some pictures leaving the baby quilt portion out completely. 
There was no consensus on Facebook - the Russians apparently don't care - so I decided to leave the baby quilt out.  At some point, I offset the tops of the ladders. They instantly became skyscrapers. The next thing you know, I had the quilt on the top of this page. 

So I still have to figure out what to do with the cockeyed baby quilt. (Yesterday a visitor suggested I call it "Drunken Baby Quilt," but I don't want to encourage babies to drink to excess.) What it really needs the right mother,  one with a sense of humor who doesn't mind a baby quilt whose stripes aren't straight! Does it look any better on the horizontal? Does it look like a toothy smile to you?  Suggestions welcomed!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mini-Quilt Challenge: Connecting With Hard-to-Love Colors

A personal question: How do you feel about this color scheme?
It's the palette for Curated Quilts magazine's "Connections" new mini-quilt challenge (There's still time for you to enter - photos due June 15, challenge rules here!) 

My first reaction was "ugh!"  They're calling that color in the upper right, in the picture above, "mustard." And the middle bottom is named "moss green." But it struck me how similar they are to the colors of my late unlamented 1960s childhood kitchen, avocado green and harvest gold, which themselves are euphemisms for "overripe avocados" and, I am sorry to say, "upchuck tan."

Still, I liked the "connections" theme. Plus, the whole point of challenges is to force you to do something new, and often, uncomfortable. So I made this 10" square piece:
Everything that isn't white is an applique. The star on the upper left hangs out beyond the edge (thanks to a yellow felt backing):
How did I get to stars? The first things "connections" suggested to me was people holding hands. That made me think of linked paper dolls. Then I thought about linked 5-pointed stars, with touching points. So I grabbed some scrap paper (the informational paper that comes with batting), and did a back-and-forth fold,
 ...and folded that strip back-and-forth into squares...
 Drew a rough star....
 Cut it out, leaving tips intact...
 Unfolded it and out came this....
I was intrigued by the shapes between the stars, so I repeated the exercise, but this time in my graphics program - drawing a star, and flipping it to make rows, then flipping the rows to make columns,  just as I'd done by folding paper, but more accurate. It printed out like this:
There were four distinct shapes: the stars (in yellow, below); the "lozenges" in brown; the teal diamonds; and then, what I thought of as "joined pentagons" - the shapes in light lavender, which look like two pentagons joined at their bases.
This struck me as interesting! Plus I could fancy it up a bit more if I fit smaller 5-sided stars into the pentagons (in pink), and four-sided stars (in turquoise) to break up the big lozenges!
That was not the actual color scheme - I assigned every element a color from the challenge's official choices. Then I printed out the pattern page, which without color looked like this:
I traced the shapes onto paper-backed fusible web, then pressed the pieces to the backs of solid-color fabrics. Cut out the shapes, and fused them, at an angle, on a 10" x 10" white background square.  I appliqued each shape with the neatest zig-zag I could muster (as opposed to mustard.) All the white areas are background fabric, except inside the mustard lozenge below. (Just thinking about mustard lozenges makes my throat hurt.)
I added a single lighter green star as an afterthought - 
It represents the birth of fresh, new baby avocados to take the place of aging avocados elsewhere on the quilt, and in the unrenovated mid-century kitchens of America.

Check out how a lot of talented quilters turned this color scheme from somber to fascinating, at the bottom of this page. There are some really great quilts! And I'm growing fonder of the palette! (Except mustard.)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Even More Eclipse-Inspired Quilts, with No-Bleach Discharge

It's nine months since the one-in-a-lifetime lunar eclipse last August, 2017, and since then, I've made a bunch of eclipse-inspired quilts, here and here. Below is number #3, a small piece measuring 6.5" x 8.5", all batiks, with 1" squares as the background....
Number 4, at 15" x 22", more batiks...
...For added atmospherics, I threw on some sparkly gold tulle...
...and purple netting from a vegetable bag....
Finally, #5, the piece I wanted to make from the beginning, 
It measures 12.5" x 7", and was inspired by the photo my friend Anne took of an Atlanta sidewalk during the eclipse. 
At a glance the photo shows sun shining through leaves, but at a second glance, you see the sunlight is shaped like tiny moons. To interpret the scene, I used a process called "discharge," similar to bleaching - removing dye from colored fabric  - with a product called deColourant* which is safer than bleach, for fibers and for people. 

I began by sewing together strips of brown and purple batiks to serve as the background. With an x-acto knife, I cut tiny moons from freezer paper. Ironed that stencil onto the patchwork, and applied two kinds* of deCoulerant - one that removes the dye, leaving white moons, and another that removes and replaces the dye with gold. 
I moved the stencil several times, after waiting for it to dry between applications, to cover the whole piece.
 Once dry,  I  pressed everything with a hot iron, which triggers the dye removal.
 Peeled back the freezer paper, washed out the fabric, and let it dry.
 Just for fun, I added leaves, flower petals, and an eclipse.
I laid the top onto batting and backing fabric (the purple-and-white batik you can see along the bottom and right), and strewed the leaves and petals about. With a temporary glue stick, I swiped some of them and stuck them in place.
 ...Then carefully laid a piece of dark purple tulle on top and freemotion quilted around the moons, leaves and petals.
I cut the three layers even, and satin-stitched around the perimeter a couple of times with purple thread. A purple marker took care of remaining white bits.
 And there it is, all done! It has a nice sculptural look around all the internal shapes. I think I'm finished making eclipse quilts, but you never know!

*The deColourant product recently changed ownership and formulation. The plain and metallic gold versions I used for this quilt are no longer available. Learn about the new products here, or for an informative PDF, click on: "deColourant and deColourant Mist FAQs". 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Something Fishy: More Quilted Silk Scrap Brooches

In February, I showed some Valentine's Day hearts made from felt, silk scraps and tulle. After the holiday, I wanted to go beyond hearts, so I dug up my aquatic life pattern e-book, printed out shapes, and used them to make....this butterfly fish...
...a winking crab....

 ...a lumpfish...
 ...a surprised angelfish....
,,,a bored Angelfish...

Same eye, different fish:
...a second seahorse (first one was here)...

A couple of snipefish...

...and cichlids...

...and sharks....


And so forth. Because I was running low on pin backings, I stitched gold safety pins to the back (You can also stitch a barrette finding or jump ring for a pendant; or, glue magnets to the back). I drip Fray Check on all the knots. 

These have made easy-to-transport gifts, which I inflict on friends and family on all occasions and non-occasions. I pinned them all to the back of a quilted wallhanging whose front was heavily sun-damaged. I roll this quilt up and carry it. When I meet someone who needs a brooch, I unroll it and let them choose!
Since making them, I revised and updated the ocean creatures pattern book with complete instructions for these brooches, as well as using these patterns to make applique quilts, especially from upcycled denim. More silk scrap valentines and a free tutorial are here. The pattern book is still available on my Etsy and blog shop.