Saturday, May 15, 2021

Are you Buying this Stairway to Heavenly Apartment Pods?

I’m overhauling and expanding my cityscape quilt booklet, and exploring new ideas. Warning: The Internet catacombs of interesting architectural ideas for quilters is freaking infinite. 

The photo below, I would argue, represents rainbow stairs leading to a modern, Brutalist, warm, diversity-welcoming, almost heavenly apartment building made up of hexagonal pods.

 It's mostly my fantasy, but partly influenced by the mind-boggling Guangzou Circle Building in China, designed by Italian architect Joseph di Pasquale. I figured if di Pasquale could make a coin-like circle stand on its edge to serve as a useful building, I could do the same with a coin-like hexagon. The overall hexagon shape is made up of smaller hexagons and half-hexagons - I think the lower, colorful halves look like balconies, and I can imagine putting plants peeping out from their top edge (as in this hypothetical 3-second  drawing). 

I haven’t yet stitched the stairs in position, and probably won’t until I know what will go under the building. In the meantime, I get to play with the components, giving me way too many options! 

- When I turn the building upside down, it takes on an almost heart shape. Perhaps the Hallmark Channel should film movies here. I like the way the colorful hexagon halves become window shades.

- If I place the stairs off-center on the hexagon unit, below, it looks like an artistic apartment building with hexagon "blocks" piled  haphazardly - a formation which could continue to grow asymmetrically, like a coral reef.

- With the apartment unit sideways, below, the hexagons halves become two sides of a pleat that sticks out. (The blue is the cement, the colors are the drapes?)

All of the above also look a bit like trees to me, with the stairs as the trunk.  

But when I flip the stairs upside down, I got a high fiber ice cream cone! 

Just what I wanted! Your thoughts on what these things might be are also welcomed!

How did I make the components? The stairs took me a solid week of wrestling and gnashing my teeth over the rules of perspective, to figure out a non-tedious semi-improvisational approach, which I am trying to codify for my revised book. As for the hexagons, oy, I actually basted each half-hexagon and hexagon piece around freezer paper, and then did traditional y-seam piecing. I don't recommend it; it wasn’t fun; you can’t see the flaws but they are there. If and when I do this again, I am going to do it with English Paper Piecing, much the same way I made my masked hexagon quilt, by sewing two different color rectangles first the traditional way, and then basting that unit around a cardstock hexagon, and sewing hexagons together by hand or with a machine zig zag. 

Stay tuned, more experimental buildings are coming!

Friday, April 30, 2021

A Funny Thing Happened on my Way to a Vaccination Quilt

Here's what I just made, instead of a quilt

There are two immutable quilting laws that correspond to Murphy's law: (1) Your bobbin is low; and, (2) Anything that can look like a phallic symbol, will.

The latter law kicked in when I decided I needed to make a quilt that would encourage people to get vaccinated.  I'd been thinking a lot about about friends who struggle with needle phobia, but desperately want a vaccine. I admire their courage, and want to thank and encourage them and others.

Would it be possible to make a quilt with friendly-looking hypodermics? I started by reviewing photos online.  I did some drawings, like this one.

The vertical lines on the lower image show that I was testing whether I could turn this into a Foundation Paper Piecing (FPP) pattern. But it was way too complex. Also, ideally, I wanted a pattern that could be improvisational (I have a measuring phobia). 

I also thought it might be fun to arrange needles in a circle - which meant wedge-shaped needles.

All those thoughts led to this: 
About 30 of them could turn into something like this: 

It looked good in my graphic design program! But when I made a couple,  I wound up with...
Swords. Carrot Swords. You know, carrots with sword-shaped handles, like vegetarian Vikings used. (None were found at archeological sites, because they composted).

Back to the drawing board. Clearly, hypodermic chambers are unrecognizable when wedge-shaped. I changed the pattern to make the body a rectangle, but with long narrow background (white) wedges on both horizontal sides). I FPP'd one.
First run:
I screwed up the long white edges there - they should have been longer. Worse, with the tiny pieces, this was no fun, and I wouldn't want to make 5, let alone 30.

So forget the wedges - I was back to rectangles, simplified further.
Instead of FPP these, I measured and cut fabric strips for each piece, and chain pieced them to make these: 
I did mess up the grey placement on the handles (the dark greys should form an intact H, not a broken one.) But that was okay, I told myself - the weird handles looked kind of artsy  To solve the bigger problem of needles being too thin to piece, I planned to embroider a line of thick floss, emerging from each tip, shooting across the white rectangle.

Are you sensing where this is going? When I put this collection up on my design wall....
I'm sorry. I cannot NOT see phallic symbols here, inexplicably linked to broken letter "H"s (or "I's"), for some kind of profound statement on ego and sexuality.

Argh! I thought long and hard (no pun intended) about what I wanted to say, and then I went back to my graphics program and made the meme at the top of the page. I don't think any of the needles it depicts could be construed as X-rated unless your mind has been hopelessly sullied by reading this blog post. 

I don't know if I'll ever turn these scraps into a vaccination quilt. Maybe a Viking quilt?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

My Newest City Quilt, a Triumph (for the Cat)

Fresh from the photographer! My newest quilt - it's about 70" high. I should have blocked it, look at that top edge, curved like an archery bow, oy!

This quilt started out with a pile of buildings from my earlier city quilts. Playing with leftovers is SO much more fun than starting from scratch. Along with not having to face a blank design wall, trying to redeem flawed fragments makes me feel environmentally noble - like I'm keeping them out of landfill and thereby saving the world! 

The biggest decision I had to make was whether to turn my leftovers into three quilts or one. It did occur to me that the top row could be finished by itself and called Emerald City....
...which would make the middle row Amethyst City....
...and the bottom row, Sapphire City? (Plus, whatever gemstone is orange. Are there any orange gemstones?)
My stash has way too many large-motif prints that can be challenging to use. I decided to use them for the skies. Two of the prints came from well-worn 50s/60s aprons. 

The first apron - from my family - was this groovy rainbow fabric, a weave so coarse it might be linen. There's a stubborn 1/4" bloodstain that probably makes it unshowable; and the apron was small and oddly shaped, so I had to set one strip sideways, down the far right edge. Despite its limitations, I love its happy, Peter Max mood.

The second old apron, from a thrift shop, was the hallucinogenic print below, in colors (beigeish-orange, burgundy & neon green?!) so horrible they were almost good! 

The pyramid in the Amethyst neighborhood - arguably inspired by the Louvre - is set against another vintage fabric sky, a mostly white floral that I'm guessing is from the 70s. 

Because I myself happen to be a vintage quilter (quilting since 1991, breathing since much earlier), I have sadly learned that old fabric - no matter how intoxicating the design, or how good the condition  - is likely to be weaker than new stuff. It rips much more easily. A quilt with old fabric simply won't last as long. 

I considered this, but what the hell, psychedelic rainbows and beige-orange flowers are worth it. If Covid  has taught us anything, it's that we should live for today! I did throw in some new fabric skies; in the purple section, I used this Kaffe Fasset floral print: 

And others, like these light green polka dots. 

In the blue section, below, the half shell was my first draft for two Hollywood Bowls that wound up on two Los Angeles- themed quilts. The mostly black-and-white tower to the left resembles LAX's control tower. The structures are set against a new blue print (by Frou-Frou) with floating triangles on a pale blue background. Initially I thought of the triangle print as the sky; but now I think it looks more like a building with triangular windows, which works, too!

And speaking of triangles, there's another triangle-based building on the far right of the blue city: 

This was based on the Hearst Tower in New York City. Here's my photo of it. (Taken way back in the old days, when people "travelled.")  
And below is a more careful version of it that I made for one of my New York quilts. The points match and there's perspective because it's not improv pieced like the one above; I made a foundation paper piecing pattern.

This quilt itself a sort of landmark. It's my first quilt which was fully embraced by a cat during and after construction. 

Here's the story: My newly-minted college grad daughter, Class of '20, moved back in with us a year ago, when the pandemic broke out. She wanted to adopt a kitten, an idea I'd always resisted because I worried it would endanger itself in my sewing area (which doesn't have a door, and is challenging to block off), not to mention that I didn't want cat fur all over my stash. 

Well, the best laid plans. Cleocatra turned out to be charming, brilliant, and sneaky; she easily moved and slithered past the heavy folding doggie gate that we placed in different configurations at the entryway.

She also outcharmed my emotional resistance to cat fur. So here is Cleo, celebrating her victory, right after I finished the quilt and laid it on the floor.

I surrendered completely.
To see my earlier city quilts, click "Cityscape quilts" in the word cloud on the right. My booklet, with the methods I use to make quilts like these is in my Etsy shop, here. Cat fur removal methods will be gratefully accepted! (I already ordered a Chom Chom roller.)

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Pandemic Porch Quilt Show, Days 54 - 55: Hands for Grandma, Grandma's Hands

On Day 55, I hung two baby-related quilts that date back to the 1990s - and the one on the right was inspired by a quilt 140 years older than that! 
First, a nap quilt I made for my son, when I'd done very little applique, and wanted to dip my toe in the water. The flowers are raw-edge appliqued, with zigzag stitches to contain the fraying. The leaves were straight-stitch machine-appliqued, so their edges are nicely frayed.
Amazingly, the flowers and even their hand-embroidered centers have held up well over the years.  

The second quilt was made from my son's handprint, when he was about 3. It was a gift for his grandparents, who hung this quilt proudly in their home. 
The next photo shows the simple quilting. 
Don't credit me for the striking design - it was inspired by a red-and-white hand-print quilt I saw at a 1997 exhibit at Los Angeles' Gene Autry Museum, called, "Quilts in the Machine Age." That quilt, made in Kansas circa 1878, was an early machine-quilted masterpiece. Find a photo at the Kansas Historical Society archives, HERE. Warning: You will probably want to make your own version! My 2013 blog post with more info about this quilt is HERE.

DAY 55 I didn't make this quilt - it was one of my greatest thrift shop finds! I'm guessing it was made in the 40s. It's been well used-  there are threadbare spots - but it is still charming. 
The fabrics are faded but still fascinating. 
In the next photo, note that the pink/white/orange checkerboard hexagon (with puffy white flowers), just right of center, is made of two pieces of fabric joined! She must have been working from very small scraps!

The back is just as impressive, thanks to the exquisite hand quilting. (By the way, the big light splotches below are sunspots, not necessarily worn spots, though the quilt does have those, too.) 

Next installment: A lot more color! 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Pandemic Porch Quilt Show, Days 50 - 53: Coffee, Coffee, Coffee, Japan

Everyone need at least one muse, but the more, the better. Plenty of humans inspire my work, but I also have a liquid muse: Coffee! And I have the quilts to prove it! On Day 51, I hung out my first series: 

These are tessellated mugs, with 3D "prairie point" folded handles that stick out. If you're scratching your head, you're not alone; so many people have told me these don't look like mugs at all; they see fish, aliens, and/or chicken heads. Fine! Whatever! I see mugs! The ovals are not alien eyeballs, they're the coffee! My first version used solids, for a clean modern look. 

With my second, I used batiks - the borders especially looks (to me) like poured coffee. (Some people might see fish in muddy waters, though). 

And finally, a version that combines prints and solids - I call this, "Clouds in my Coffee."

But wait, there's more! On Day 52, I showed off the next four:

First, a long, tall piece with what looks like eyeballs staring out of  cups. It's black-and-white and red all over, and only required about 5 fabrics (not counting the binding or back). 

Second, (52B), a piece headline "100 Cups of Coffee on the Wall.)

Along the right-hand side, it's strung with empty cream cups and a black plastic coffee cup at the bottom....

The lettering on top was cut from  a foil supermarket coffee bag (for "100 cups".) and a genuine burlap coffee bag (for "on the wall").

Third, (52c), my good luck/good coffee amulet quilt. You need a lot of knowledge, plus all the luck you can get, to make a perfect cup. I did quite a bit of research into coffee-making modes that are also graphically pleasing! 

The red lines are genuine coffee stirrers. Here's a closeup of the Moka pot corner: 

Fourth (52d) is my "Need Coffee" wallhanging, made from batiks. It has an imaginary coffee pipeline, starting with the sun (on light blue) in the upper left corner; then the beans are green moving to the right; they turn downward, get darker and darker brown, before finally spilling into a sea of coffee down the bottom. 

Patterns and/or directions for most of these quilts are in my "Quilts for Coffee Lovers' booklet, available from my etsy shop, CathyPStudio. Click on the link HERE.  

Finally - a couple of weeks ago you saw a bunch of large quilts inspired by my residence in Japan in the early 1980s (HERE.)

Here's one more - it was made for relaxation between the larger Japan projects. I'm not sure if it's a baby quilt or an art quilt - it measures 34" x 42". 

I used improvisational curved piecing, a technique that has taken the quilt world by storm , with an interesting history. Several years back, I blogged the history, and my own tutorial, HERE. Debbie Bowles' book, "Cutting Curves from Straight Pieces," was helpful, too. 

I got plenty of quilting practice, making feathers and vines, in the red area. 

The back has many more Japanese (and Japanesque) fragments. The grey in the borders are from a traditional jacket...

The tossed doll fabric  on navy was from a furoshiki, a wrapping cloth....

And the fabric with the white x's (third strip up from the bottom), is from a yukata, a long lightweight robe that I loved wearing for many years!
More porch quilts to come!