24 October 2013

Back to batiks...

My artist friend, Morian, got married last month. She's been such a great inspiration to me since I first saw her lively and colorful pet portraits. I think I first met her at the Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar a few years ago. And it turns out she also works where I used to work back in the late 1990s.

Once I discovered her wedding date, I knew I wanted to make her a quilt. I also wanted to use batiks because they are so painterly in tone and they'd be a natural for her. If nothing else, it would go with the batik fabric bowl i made for her a year ago.

Adapted from Villa Rosa Designs' Tulsa Town pattern, I jogged the centerline to minimize matching seams. The rusty red background was a repurchase of a batik I loved from and used a couple of years ago in the Garden Gate quilt I started at Quilt Camp 2011.

The back wound up being large expanses of even more of my favorite batiks.

One of the little details I worked into the front was a Dr. Who TARDIS. When Tom first saw the top's layout, he thought a TARDIS would make itself right at home. I chose these swirls and he later told me it was just the right choice because apparently there was a Dr. Who episode/image pairing Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' and the TARDIS. I have to take his word for this because I just have not been able to sit through an entire episode.

23 October 2013

Charity quilt tops...

At my local quilt shop, Quiltworks, there are bags filled with charm squares to be put together for Infant Crisis Services here in the Oklahoma City area. Volunteers share the tasks for all phases of quilt making. While groups of quilters get together to share the work, they also let us sign out bags to be sewn at home and returned. I picked up a couple of bags in the summer.

The first one was pretty straight-forward and went together without much ado. It's a big part of my process to build my quilt tops/backs on the computer first. This means photographing one of each color/pattern, then building the top digitally in Illustrator or Photoshop. They're both apps I use in my professional world (graphic design) so using them is second-nature to me.

The second packet presented more of a challenge. The theme was dogs and it even had a few Snoopy squares. So I got busy playing around with what I had. I was amused by just this many iterations of the same 48 squares.

This is the 'winner.'

These got returned within a few days. Other volunteers will handle the quilting and binding. I also have a couple of Christmas packets and although they're photographed, I have not 'built' the tops (digitally) yet. Santa's gonna be making that list soon, so I'd better get in gear!

This Bento Box variation top is a charity quilt our guild is working on. It got started at a Sew Day in September and I volunteered to finish piecing the top together by assembling the last three 16-block rows. The batting and backing are lined up and it's heading to the quilter soon. It'll make a bright and happy addition to someone's life.

I love Lucy...

July was a busy month. In addition to working on some quilts, I also added a 'new' sewing machine to the family. A few of the folks in OKCMQG have adopted vintage machines—namely Singer Featherweights (1933-1964). It's the same model my mother had (though I don't know the age of hers) and on which I first learned to sew around five or six. Years later, she gave me that same machine. I used it quite regularly in the late 1980s when I was sewing decorative 'country' collars at home. I kept a ruffler attached to it and it served me quite well. Trouble was that when I divorced in 1993, I left it behind in the house. It just never occurred to me to keep it with me. Yeah, I didn't think about it for years and wanted to kick myself. Alas.

Twenty years later and 'all the other kids have one,' so I jumped on the bandwagon. There were lots less expensive ones to be had, but I bought a pristine one from Jim Sorrell in Seminole. He is pretty much the Singer Guru in the area. Another lady in our guild was headed out there to have him look at her Singer 301 and I tagged along for the ride. Angela's machine needed just a basic tune-up so was a really good value for what she paid. I had a chance to ooh-and-ah over all the pretty Featherweights at his shop and came away with a 1952-made one. It wasn't until later when Angela named hers Ethel that I named mine Lucy. Yes, there's the Lucille Ball connection, but I also have affection/affinity for Lucy Van Pelt, of "Peanuts" fame. Charles Schultz's comic strip started in 1950 but its Sunday presence launched in 1952. Tah dah!

I told Tom early on that having Lucy was primarily an emotional purchase for me. Yes, I do like how she sews and all the attachments and so forth. But it's the aroma of the case (supposedly from the glue used to adhere its lining) that takes me back to a very pleasant bubble in my childhood. And threading it makes me happy as I recall how fascinated I first was with the delicate little wire spring on the tension knob—'Wow, machines are cool!' Lastly, she is a classicly, silver screen-gorgeous.

Sometime in the early 1990s, my mother also gave me her 1975 Lady Kenmore model 1914. It was a top-of-the-line (at its time) and newer model of my first machine from 1971 (see below). I gave the older one to a friend. I used that 'newer' machine for everything until getting Bertie a couple of years ago.

From our trip to Ohio, I brought back a Japanese clone machine, a White. I am not quite clear if it belonged to Tom's mother or grandmother, though Tom remembers it being used in the home. She's a beauty and runs pretty well. Ideally, I'd like to send her in for a tune up, but unless I really plan on sewing on her, she's fine to look at, as is. Oh, and there's also a sweet little portable typewriter Tom's dad gave me. Vintage typewriters live in another part of the house.

I'd also been keeping an eye open for a Sears Kenmore 1601 model sewing machine. It is the same model as MY first machine I got when I was about 14. I found this one in Midwest City last month. She was in rough shape so I got her for less than asking price. She could use some maintenance and replaced bobbin winder if I use her, but again, she's fine to look at, as is. After all, isn't it all about sentimental value?

What's been quite educational in this whole vintage machine process is how expensive these machines were when they were new and what they'd cost in today's dollars. For instance, that Kenmore 1601 was under $200 back in 1971. That's around $1,100 today. I would be hard pressed to buy a 14-year-old an $1,100 sewing machine today. Yep, I was, and still am, spoiled.

So now, I have five sewing machines, including a seldom-used Singer serger. I am trying to keep the herd in check. Wish me luck.

Is it ironic that as we get older and have less time that we amass more things that once made us happy? Pharaohs were buried with their earthly treasures and the things to take them to the next world. At this rate, I am going to need a pretty big pyramid.


In mid-July, a pal in my quilting guild posted a photo of a herringbone-patterned quilt made with half-square triangles. It got me to thinking I'd like to make one. So I checked out a few more online and started laying out my own. The design evolved through a couple of different color palettes and I finally decided to use those two moda Comma charm packs I had on hand. (Little did I know 
when I bought the second one that I already had the first.) I also had a few fat quarters in the same line. What I think I really 'made' this design was using the solid yellow gold and lime green diagonally in the background.

I started cutting and piecing the top together within a couple of days. As I joined the squares to later split diagonally, I dangled them from a wire grid like fish on stringers. What a great catch!
I also came up with an easy way to accurately trim my HSTs by modifying one of my square templates.
Over the next week or so, I finished the top and started planning the backing. I used up some of the last remaining charm squares and finished with big lime commas.

I knew I wanted its quilting to be special. I strongly considered my usual choice of stitched patterns but wasn't 100% over the moon about any of them. In mid-August, I was in Quiltworks (who am I fooling, I'm in there lots!) and came across so perfect quilting on one of their samples. I made arrangements to meet Wendy Wells and delivered my quilt to her on August 20. By September 5th, I had it back in hand.
I finished binding it (more orange!) by September 20.
I think it's my favorite so far!

22 October 2013

Happy 2wenty Thr3e...

I knew I wanted to make a quilt for my dear friend, Kelsey. Back in June, I found this fabric on Etsy—antique cameras—one of the things she collects. I started with this as my base and found more fabric from the moda line 2wenty Thr3e and added some Comma and Fandango. I loved the bright and cheerful colors and prints. They so reflect Kelsey's beautiful personality.

A couple of weeks before, Wanda gave me a couple Villa Rosa Designs cards, and one of them (Intrigue) seemed perfect for this project. The pattern for our Oklahoma City Modern Quilt Guild's raffle quilts for Oklahoma tornado relief was graciously donated by Villa Rosa Designs (Tulsa Town). 
I got the whole thing put together and tried doing a little something different with the backing. I'd already bought the yardage so was a bit limited in options. I finally got around to asking Kelsey how old she was going to be this year. TWENTY-THREE! Well, it was all meant to be and I played it up to the hilt.

Again, Wanda quilted this for me. I loved the vines of hearts. Finally, I had lots of fun with the label on the back and the tiny piece of printed selvage appliqued to the front. I had so much fun making this quilt for an absolutely wonderful person! I love you Kelsey!

Consolation prize...

Back in May, before giving this quilt to a friend (she was right, it DOES go with the colors in her new house!), I decided to make this next one for myself. It's one of the first times I saw a quilt top at Quiltworks and immediately bought the pattern and the fabric on the spot. The pattern is Off Track, and the fabric is combined lines from Parson Gray (Curious Nature and Seven Wonders). Oddly enough, I'd bought a few fat quarters of these lines in December 2012 and more in March 2013. I'd certainly say the look grew on me.

Once I got the top pulled together, I had the thought that it would be perfect for another friend of mine who has a real appreciation for great color and texture. Wait! This is the one to take the place of the last one I just gave away. I've still got it but it may find itself heading west, someday.

Wanda also quilted this one for me. I am just loving having someone do the quilting. By the time I get to that point, I am ready to have it done and am happy to let someone who knows what they're doing and can get it done quickly, for not too much expense, finish it off. I am a bit on a kick of using orange-red for binding these days.

What's next? Kelsey's Birthday Quilt!


(Forgot to post this on August 22nd!)

Three quilts done, Done, DONE!

One was finished and delivered on July 12. Another given as a birthday present on July 14. And, for now, the third one's MINE!

I started the first one earlier this year. You've seen it here before. People on Facebook are probably sick of seeing it. What's really changed is that I decided to give it to a friend AND I found someone to do the machine quilting. I didn't realize what a huge difference this single factor would make in my output.

I met Wanda Pinkerton-Holley quite by accident. I was at Savage Quilter for some fabric and Wanda was in there offering to quilt some charity quilts shortly after the May 20th tornadoes in Moore, Oklahoma. She recently moved her home and business, Expressions in Quilting, from the the Wichita area to be closer to her daughter and grandbaby. Because I'd only had one other quilt quilted by someone else (Stars over Bali Skies BOM), I was not first-hand experienced with edge-to-edge computer-generated quilting until I visited with Wanda in early June. Within only a few weeks, she did these three for me! If 'done is better than perfect,' nothing's better than DONE!

I've got another in the works, just delivered to the quilter. I'm trying Wendy Wells, who has done lots of the model quilts at Quiltworks. I saw one the other day, and the interlocking circles pattern was perfect for my herringbone top. That'll be my next post.

(I'll show some details of these three, plus the fourth, in my post.)

11 April 2013

Stuff for OKCMQG...

Madrona Road Challenge mini-quilt

As I mentioned in my last post, OKCMQG was participating in the Michael Miller Madrona Road Challenge. While initially set up as a (national) Modern Quilt Guild challenge prior to QuiltCon, ours is an unofficial spin-off, and smaller—under 24" x 24". We were provided several fat eighths (9" x 22") of fabric from the line (and I bought a little additional yardage to complete my design). We were permitted to use matching solids, but only patterns from the line. To avoid inadvertently copying someone else design, I made it a point to NOT look at other challenge solutions online. (See note below.)

I decided on my design pretty quickly. The idea was to create a macro version of their Broken Herringbone pattern. I chose to use one pattern for each of the solids in the pattern. The 'big' detail I insisted upon was replicating the precise angles and proportions of the original. Most of the time, one would use 90-degree angles for this kind of layout, but THIS pattern was 95 degrees and I was determined to match it! After more work in Photoshop and Illustrator than I should probably admit, I discovered a big error in my layout and had to modify that. I was reminded how often our brains fill in what we think we see even when it's clearly different from what's there. Perception becomes reality, for sure.

Under the heading of 'save everything,' I used an old (bought it in college) adjustable triangle (once used for hand lettering and drafting) to cut my strips. Shown is how I substituted each solid for a pattern. Once I got all of the top pieced, I had a nice wide strip left over that I used for the backing. I did simple straight line quilting. As it worked out, the front and back layered nicely and, seen below, there's an interesting translucence. Yay!

After finishing the mini quilt and before showing it off at our April meeting, I finally looked at the other challenge solutions online. Here are three of its siblings. Even though there are just a few from hundreds created, maybe there's really nothing new under the sun. I enjoyed it all the same!

Here are some of the challenge pieces shown off the other night. Emily showed hers off in March, and Shana did TWO, but I don't have photos.

Cuppy cake!

One of the girls in the guild had her birthday last week. She loves cuppy cakes. I promised her a special treat because I couldn't get her a real cuppy cake for her birthday. It's mostly knitted, but the whipped cream was crocheted. I made a few adjustments to the pattern due to yarn thickness. Pearl-top pins make this an even cuter pincushion! Happy Birthday, Shana!

Next post—my foray into paper piecing my newest Block of the Month subscription!

29 March 2013

Proud as a...

'Only' 11 months after checking out the book from the library and working on it here and there, I finally finished up this little project.
I thought this project absolutely PERFECT for my friend whose pseudonym is Gwendolyn Peacock. 

It took me a bit of time to collect the fabric I wanted to use. I quickly discovered I would not be able to find the Liberty fabrics specified. At the time, I was well in the throes of my batik phase. The body fabric was a pretty easy decision, but I didn't know how I planned to replicate the tail feather 'eye' look. I even went so far as to buy some feathers to use.

Every so often, I'd find a fabric that I thought might work, and would buy a fat quarter here and there. I also needed to find the pins and sequins I'd use. At the beginning of March, I felt my prayers were answered when I came across this exotic piece of Ombre Marrakesh by Michael Miller. I saw lots of peacock feathers and a varied range of tones. As it turns out, this beautiful print is only seen if your look at the underside of the 'feathers.' The wrong side has smaller batik pieces appliquéd onto them.

For the eyes, I finally cut into my new felt collection. I once imagined I would plan my first cut into the pristine pieces of felt as a ceremony or sacred event. Reality—I tugged a corner big enough to use from the stack, chopped off each color, and smushed the remainder back into the stack. How quickly we forget the once regal and revered.

This is the finished project, only a mere 50 weeks later! I gave it to Gwen this past 'Gwendsday' and she loved it! I know it'll have a good home. We both remembered one of the first gifts I gave her was also a homemade pincushion—an Araucana chicken.

An extra treat was that my project was mentioned in OKCMQG's March Flaunt Your Finish post. Special thanks to Leslie for doing such a wonderful job gathering our write-ups and photos, editing, and sharing our finished projects! Unbeknownst to me until recently, I've been a big fan of Leslie's for a couple of years. She's done a couple of houndstooth quilts, including a PLAID ONE—the first one just a month or so before I did mine for Baby Cairo. I bet I came across her blog way back then while doing research and was duly amazed and inspired.

18 March 2013

Closer to done, and just beginning...

I'm happy to report Juggling Summer Shortcake quilt top is done! A couple of weeks ago, it was still a computer image. It went together pretty easily. Once all the blocks were done and I laid them out on the floor following my computer design, I knew I wanted to rearrange the single-pattern ones. I'm pretty pleased with it. I've no idea when I'll finish (back, quilt, and bind) it, or where it will find its home, but I'm glad to have this much done. I'm also liking the idea of photographing against a stockade fence. (This appears to be a popular option of which I just recently became aware. Thanks Amanda and others.) I've tried indoor options up until now—the hot tub cover, a folding screen, and a slide projector screen. So, weather permitting, I'm liking this option as long as I don't mind the wind. Hey, it's Oklahoma, folks!

For at least a couple of months, I've been wanting to check out the Oklahoma City Modern Quilt Guild. They hold their monthly meetings the same night as another sewing group I've been considering. Last Monday evening, I held to my plans of attending an OKCMQG meeting and found it to be quite delightful. I knew a couple of the members in person and a couple others via their blogs or Facebook. Lucky me—it happened to be the night they were sharing the swag they brought back from QUILTCON in Austin, Texas, February 21-24. There were great stories from the event, and I'm already dreaming about the next one in 2015! (They spoke highly of the lectures which are now available for FREE on Craftsy!) Some brought some truly beautiful show-and-tell items. I also enjoyed that members spoke of their favorite fabric lines with the same glee and excitement I've been known to possess. (Posessed—that's me!) Within 24 hours, I signed up to become a member. Tah dah! 

One of the projects OKCMQG is doing their own Madrona Road Challenge—theirs a mini-quilt using several fat eighths from the line supplied by Michael Miller Fabrics. I picked up my bundle of fabrics last Friday and came up with what I wanted to do pretty quickly. As usual, I worked out my design on the computer first—Illustrator and Photoshop. I took three good stabs at it, refining details along the way, and I am finally happy with my layout. I have some of the fabric cut and still need to go buy some solid white to use as a background. We're all bringing our submissions to the April meeting. I can't wait to see what everyone else has done! I expect to get it put together in the next few days but may wait to post it until after April 8th. I'm pretty excited about it!

OH, and I almost forgot to mention it—I signed up for The Local Quilt Block of the Month at Quiltworks. It's that wonky piece with those fabrics I love from Carolyn Friedlander. So, starting in April, I'll have another something to keep me company for nine months. (I'm still thinking about creating some blocks based on my own homes over time.) It's lots of paper piecing and I've only had limited experience with that process in a class I took in May 2011. Here's to jumping into the deep end—head first!

06 March 2013

In the works...

This is the Photoshop layout of the quilt I'm working on right now. The pattern is Shortcake and it's made for jelly rolls. I am using the Zen Chic Juggling Summer jelly roll I bought about five weeks ago. I discovered/fell in love with the fabric line just before this past Christmas and used it it two of my favorite pieces.

Quiltworks offered a class in this quilt pattern but I decided to download the pattern online and set out on my own. I wanted a 'modern' vibe, so opted for using a medium gray as my neutral—new concept for me. This is the second quilt top in a row in which I've used significant areas of solid color(s).

Although I've managed to streamline the process a little, it's a bit more tedious than quick-go strip piecing. Yesterday, when Savage Quilter (moved two doors north into far more spacious and better lit space) had its 5th Birthday sale, I bought the fabric for the binding. I haven't really thought about the backing yet. I've only done a dozen blocks so far. I'll keep you posted as it comes together.

<— Oh, and here is the original pattern. It's a much different and daintier look.

14 February 2013

I'm in love...

There's a new line of fabric in my life. It first crossed my path when I saw the upcoming Quiltworks BOM. I liked the quilt pattern but didn't really NOTICE the print until a week or so ago. Since then, I've fallen hard.

After a hard search, I have some in my hot little hands. I found a jelly roll on Etsy and it arrived today.

It's called Architextures, designed by Carolyn Friedlander. Of course, I love the architectural elements, but even more so, it reminds me of the old textures we used to use in graphic design—Formatt, Chartpak, Letraset, and prestype—and all the old art board mechanicals we did in the dark ages, before computers/desktop publishing. Nostalgia!
The new BOM program does not start until April, and I haven't yet committed. Instead of standard piecing techniques, it uses paper piecing and I wouldn't mind learning more about that. When I first saw this quilt pattern, before I really looked at the fabric print, I was thinking about designing my own using this as a theme. Mine would have representations of homes in which I've lived over the years. I sketched out a couple and think it's all doable. So, do I buy their BOM and do it their way; customize it; or buy the fabric on my own and do my own thing?

Right now there appears to be a scarcity of this line fabric. Quiltworks is getting theirs in soon and says they're getting extra bolts to accommodate backing yardages. What shall I do? Ah, decisions, decisions.

31 January 2013

In dangerous hands...

I don't always know why I buy things.

Sometimes, it's just because they are pretty. My friends know this about me. Especially Gwen.

Hence, the beautiful box of 108 pieces of felt from WoolFeltCentral.com, Gwen's felt source. For me, it is as much about the acquisition as the application. Once I had these gems in my hot little fists, I knew I had to—wait for it—catalog them! Sigh. Roll out a blank Excel spreadsheet and get to work! I love this stuff.

A couple of years ago, when I started organizing my fabric via a color system, I discovered Joen Wolfrom's Ultimate 3-in-1 Color Tool. She assigns a number from 1 to 24 to colors on the color wheel, and then sub-numbers for values/tints. When I get new fabric, I photograph it, assign it one of these color numbers, and then add it to my visual data base. When the images are sorted by color name, they display in spectral order. Bliss! It's not a perfect system but mostly does what I need.

So, I made the spreadsheet using the information the seller. This included their colors' names, the order in which they were packed, and the DMC floss match color they provided. I then went on the quest to find or create swatches for all 108 colors and then put the appropriate swatch on the appropriate row. Then it was time to assign the Color Tool numeric value. And if all this wasn't enough, I then assigned two different tonal values to each swatch. These values came from looking at each swatch under a red, and then a green lens. All tolled, this took much of one weekend and a few afternoons. Here's a screenshot of one of the simpler sorts. If it's not worth obsessing over, is it really worth doing? Ha!

On the more 'normal' side of life, I think it's fair to say I have friends who like felt. And actually make things from felt—REALLY darling things from felt. From Gwen, here are five monkeys waiting to jump on a bed, and a waterspout, spider, and sunshine. Pretty dern cute, eh?

Even if I never make anything from my beautiful pieces of good quality felt, I really enjoy having it all the same. And, when/if I do, you'll see it here!

Also felt-related, I relented and finally purchased a Christmas stocking kit, on clearance. Some of my friends make these and seem to enjoy the experience. I'm still a little befuddled about the process, but now I have a chance (and plenty of time) to try one, too! I haven't done that much up-close, detailed hand stitching in recent years, so this will certainly require a different set of skills. Truth be told, I loved it for the mouse and the candy cane! I'll let you know how it goes.

Kapalua Batik...

I am not sure how long ago I purchased this jellyroll, but I know it's been sitting around awhile. I never had much of a plan for it, but finally made a quilt top from it this month.

I knew I wanted to add some solids (yes, SOLIDS) to my next project, so what better place to hide some in plain sight among all these colors? I found four solids I could love—a bright chartreuse, a deep raspberry sherbet, scrumptious eggplant, and bright orange. I played around with several different designs on the computer. I wanted to intersperse the solids but wasn't sure about its order—randomness, hard pattern, or perceived randomness IN a pattern? And then, what would be the easiest way to sew it all together? My first runs at it looked something like:

Colorful, but not too orderly/orderly enough. Then I was reminded of a zig zag pattern I liked and came up with how I wanted to  sew 20 sets of two strips, then each of the solids onto that. I arranged all 40 strips into a spectral order I liked, numbered them (you'll see number labels in my layouts), and paired them. Here are those 20 sets of strips, arranged beautifully. Yes, it did take quite a bit of manipulating to get them to lay this way, but what good is having beautiful fabric if you can't fondle it?

Once all of the pairs were put together, I needed to add them to their solids. Which way to best attach the solids—long strips or short ones? Short ones won the day. (Based on the arrangement in this shot, I am wondering if I am a wanna-be bartender? Look at the cocktail napkin fanning of those blocks!) Problems I ran into in this jelly roll of strips was the fact that all the long edges were already 'pinked' and they were not all consistent in width. Using all those edges as guides gave me some wonky dimensions. This required some adjusting of seams along the way and that gobbled up lots of time. In the future, I will straight cut all the strips into a width I know is consistent and even.

So I had the idea in my mind and printed out so I could follow it while piecing. Zig zag. I attached 80 pairs of paired batiks to 80 solids and started thinking about the vertical strips I'd build to make the zig zag. Hold on a minute. What if I rotated these blocks and mixed up the pattern a little? Hmmm. Sure, I could do that. It wouldn't be a hard zig zag, but more of a suggested zig zag?
Time to commit. Here's how the columns of blocks went together. Having to go back and 'fix' some of the strip inconsistencies made this part of the process a bit more tedious than necessary, but all in all, it still went together fairly well. Oh, did I mention I wanted the back seams to be pretty, too? I pressed and flared my seams and love the effect even though no one sees them.

I'm not sure how I'm going to finish, back, or bind this top, but I'm happy to have this much done. Right now it's about 54" x 67". Voila!