Monthly Archives: October 2012

Crossing the International Quilt Line

Thanks to Luana Rubin of eQuilter, I can ogle quilts from many international quilt festivals.  It’s fascinating to see the types of quilts – the materials used, the quilting, the subjects chosen – created and exhibited in other countries.  Of course, some quilts are exhibited internationally. For example, some of Japan’s premier quilters are juried into major U.S. exhibits.  However, I’m more interested in the products of the talented, but not necessarily at the pinnacle, quilters abroad.

This quilt of Russian “babuskas” caught my eye with its quartet of older ladies seated outside and surrounded by chickens.  My guess is commercial fabrics were used, along with what looks like a rag rug for the background cloth.  I love the use of 3D in the leaves and the chickens.  At first glance I thought the border print was hokey, but then I decided it looks like something one of the women would choose to decorate her home.  Luana Rubin took this photo at the 2012 Moscow Quilt Exhibition.

Next up is a quilt from the 2012 Tokyo Quilt Festival.  I have no idea how the quilter made all those round fabric balls, but I love the little faces that lurk on some of the fabric.  Check out the one with the gold ruff around its kitty face, and all those yoyos on the background fabric.

TD2_655 by Luana RubinTD2_654 by Luana Rubin

And in yet another part of the globe, Australia, quilters aren’t shy about color.  This quilt by Merelyn Pearce makes every rod and cone in my eyes snap to attention.  I expect those birds to swoop into the flowers.

MerelynPearce_029 by Luana Rubin

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A Quilt Show Quandary

Each time I go to a local quilt show I see some quilts that I recognize from quilt store catalogs as kits or blocks of the month.  Both types of quilts have the pattern and fabric already matched up and the purchaser simply has to cut the fabric, sew the pieces together, and quilt the top after layering with batting and backing.  They are great boons for busy quilters who want to jump start their quilting or who are hesitant about fabric selection.  Sometimes the kits or blocks of the month are so appealing the quilter has to make one just like the sample.  And after all, that’s the goal of the kit designers.

Spring Bouquet Quilt Kit Featuring Over the Rainbow Batiks by Laundry Basket QuiltsPoppy Bella's Bird Quilt Kit Featuring Bella by Lotta Jansdotter for Windham Fabrics

What’s wrong with this you ask?  Absolutely nothing – until those quilts are entered in a judged quilt show and critiqued for their color and design as well as their workmanship.  The judges have no way to tell whether the color and design of a quilt are planned by the entrant, or by a designer or quilt store.  Mixing kit/block of the month entries with from scratch ones in awarding ribbons is like comparing apples to oranges.  This may be more of a problem in shows that use the elimination system of judging, but it can also be a problem in shows that use the point system.  The quilt critique form of one show in my area allots 45 out of 100 points to color and design.

Am I suggesting that kit or block of the month quilts be excluded from quilt shows?  Absolutely not, though some guilds say no kit quilts in their entry rules. However,  I do think that kit/block of the month quilts should be evaluated differently from the way home grown ones are assessed. At the least, the judges should be made aware the quilts are made from kits. Possibly the judges should consider only workmanship for such quilts. I’ve found some guilds specify this in their show entry rules.

And even such an approach may be a slippery slope.  The Spring Bouquet quilt kit pictured above comes with the applique pieces cut out and already attached to fusible material.  I’ve seen longarm quilters advertising add-on services such as sewn on and stitched down binding.  The “quilter” simply supplies the top and the fabric.  It’s conceivable that everything about a quilt’s creation except sewing the top together could be outsourced, so to speak.

If the quilter is happy with the end product, that’s great.  It certainly avoids that “dorky homemade look.”  Just don’t judge the product the same way made from scratch quilts are.


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SQ Loses the Snark

SQ tends to steer clear of heartwarming stories that feature quilts as the vehicle for peace, love and understanding as she finds they set off her gag reflex.  However, she was brought up short recently when a quilt of hers took on a life of its own.

Recently a relative was hospitalized after suffering a stroke.  SQ’s husband suggested that a quilt might brighten up the hospital room.  So, SQ chose a pastel quilt for DH to take with him on his hospital visit.  Now, this quilt has many technical deficiencies, but is cheerful, and if it doesn’t make it back to the mother ship (aka SQ’s big black trunk) that’s OK.  It’s also been washed a few times so its sturdiness is a known quantity.

Well, DH came home from the hospital and reported that he could pick up some commissions for SQ from the hospital staff who liked the quilt.  Then, when SQ visited the hospital, one of the nurses turned out to be a quilter, so we had a lovely chat about local quilt shops and the quilting frame her husband had built for her.  I’m sure this was mind numbing for everyone else, but we enjoyed it.

Whenever someone new came into the room, the quilt was remarked on, and it did indeed brighten up the sterile room.  Family members went on about how difficult it must have been to make.  I didn’t go into construction details but simply said anyone can make a quilt.

Currently the relative and the quilt are in hospice.  I don’t know if the relative is aware of it as she is asleep most of the time, but it does seem to cheer up all the visitors.  And that’s a good thing, given the circumstances.

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Child’s Play

Every so often a group I hang with called the Different Drummer gets together to play.  Since we’re quilters fiber artists our idea of play usually involves cloth.  At our latest get together we went back to the childhood technique of coating leaves with paint and pressing them onto cloth.  We also painted plain cloth with transparent paint and tried sprinkling kosher salt on the wet cloth.

We glopped acrylic paint onto plastic plates, poked around the garden for likely looking leaves, and took turns using our custom mixed colors.  Through it all we laughed, a lot.  And here’s what we took home from the party.

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Guys Are Art Quilters, Too

Since at most quilt related events you might as well convert the men’s room to an extra ladies’ room, I was excited to learn about another male quilter – Kent Williams.  And he’s an art quilter, too.  Now, I can count the number of male quilters I know of on the fingers of one hand – John Flynn, Ricky Tims, and Michael James – and still have some digits left.  I just realized that all compose abstract works, though Ricky Tims has tried his hand (or needle) at many different types of quilting.

And Kent Williams is no exception to my male=abstract work generalization. Here’s what Mr. Williams says about his inspiration. “Most of the time, I’m pursuing some kind of patterning idea, repeating elements while varying them slightly to create large, complex compositions. As a structuring device, I like to use algorithm-like operations that send sets of fabrics past one another, forming patterns that owe something to both choice and chance.”  He’s not kidding about that math stuff.  The quilt below is called “Sine Me Up.”

Apparently he eschews triangles, but what he does with slender bars of fabric works fine without 45 degree angles.  In the following piece he made for a church, called “Lift Your Voices,” I love his use of the space between each of the 12 sections.

Here’s a picture of Kent at work, laying out a few thousand small pieces of fabric.  To quote from his blog, “My quilts would be pretty easy to draw, especially with a computer, but I don’t use a computer to draw them first. Instead, I come up with an idea I want to pursue, then I choose a set of fabrics, then I cut the fabrics, then I start laying out the pieces. I never quite know what’s going to appear down there on the floor; and … I often have to climb up on a ladder to see what I’ve done.”  Hmmm, I can see his quilt workshop supply list – fabric, rotary cutter, sewing machine, stepladder…..

And I think Kent’s intention for his work sums up art quilts well, “My quilts are designed as works of art. They’re meant to be hung on a wall, pored over, reflected upon.”  They just happen to use fabric as their medium.

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Do You Get Fussy?

As I looked at Vicki Welsh’s blog posts about an online block party she’s in, I realized again how much a block can be transformed from OK to amazing with fussy cutting.  Here’s some examples of Vicki’s fussy cutting using Paula Nadelstern’s puzzle block technique, and using some of her own shibori hand dyes.

Sep-29-GC-4Vicki-Welsh-GC-Block-2Vicki-Welsh-GC-shibori-4And here’s some examples of fussy cutting from other block party participants.

GC #6 Aunt Eliza's Starnew jersey block 012My takeaway from Vicki’s post is to be more mindful of the cool effects possible with traditional block patterns using fabric placement. And maybe I’ll get back to my Paula Nadelstern workshop materials.  Now where did I put that fabric I bought for my puzzle blocks?  It’s probably with the workshop’s handouts, wherever they are.

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Rainbow Connection

It’s amazing what my subconscious gets up to while I’m working on quilting projects.  As I sewed two small quilts that feature circles and half circles, my brain was mashing up my interest in luminosity, what I learned from Joen Wolfrom’s Color Play, and my strips of scrap fabric. The result? A color wash paper pieced string quilt that said “make me” on Monday. It was pieced by Thursday night.

Here’s the effect I was going for in this quilt, minus the cute factor.

.This was not a carefully thought out project.  Under the guidance of radio waves from Alpha Centauri (as good an explanation as any) I pulled out my scrap strip bins from the closet, sorted the strips into color piles, arranged each pile in a rough color intensity order, and retrieved an old phone book stashed beneath my sewing table.  The phone book?  Oh, I tear out pages and use them as the paper for my paper piecing.  They’re great for 8 inch square blocks.

My goal was to use only scraps that were already cut in strips, and with 3 or 4 exceptions I succeeded.  I did use a lot of the reverse sides of my fabric, especially for the light sides of my squares.  Some of the blocks I made didn’t play well with the others, so they’ve been set aside in the bin of orphan blocks.  And some of the color transitions aren’t as smooth as I’d like, but I stuck with my rule that I could use only scraps or fabric already in my possession.

Here’s the result of all that strip work done on autopilot.  I still have to remove about half the paper, but the phone book paper tears very easily, especially since I used a size 14 needle to make the holes bigger.  I’m thinking of binding it in dark purple, but have no ideas about how to quilt it.  And I have no idea what to call it. For now I’m content to have worked out in fabric some of that color theory I’ve been pondering.

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The Tomato Bomb

Ever since I began my online fabric dyeing class I’ve been itching to try the instructor’s recipe for tomato.  I envisioned my cloth a sassy orangey red with jaunty yellow bits.  Kind of like the color of this bowl of cherry tomatoes.

Well, I have to say this dyeing session was an abject failure.  But, hey, I’m here to make the mistakes so you can avoid them.  I wish I could tell you what went wrong, but I haven’t a clue.  The dye color looked fine in my containers, and my fabric was a tomato color right after I added it to the dye bath.  However, I noticed the dye looked much lighter in the containers after 20 some hours passed.  And the lack of color was really noticeable once I rinsed my fabric.  Here’s a picture of the sorry results.

And then, I tried to make teal using the instructor’s recipe.  Well, instead I concocted a strange brown-purple. That’s on the right hand piece above.  Turns out there was an error in the recipe.  After that I was ready for some success, and the leaf green mix turned out much better than tomato and teal.  The cloth on upper part of the picture below is a re-purposed tablecloth; that on the lower part is Kona PFD cotton.  It’s strange how these fabrics take dye differently.

The color isn’t nearly as gray as the pictures make it look.
The takeaway from this experience seems to be that dyeing is an unpredictable process.  Sometimes there are happy accidents and sometimes there are bombs.

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Free Online Classes

The SQ has made it a policy not to promote specific businesses related to quilting as she’s not blogging to sell her own products or services.  So, no mutual promotion here.  However, sometimes something good (and free) comes along the SQ wants to share with folks.

Craftsy, which offers online crafts classes, has several free mini-classes available.  Three are of potential interest to quilters – block of the month, quilt backs with Elizabeth Hartman, and sewing machine 911.  The SQ has sampled all of them and thinks for the price of registering with Craftsy (and getting e-mails from them) they’re worthwhile.  For the record, the SQ has taken three regular Craftsy courses and found them worth the money.  Wait for the half price offers.

The block of the month class lets you choose which ones you want to make (it’s now up to 9 different blocks which include Dresden plate, half square triangles, and paper piecing) and you can see all the different blocks made by people following the class.  Sewing Machine 911 is good for folks who are new to sewing machines.  Much of the advice is common sense, but there are occasional gems.  And Elizabeth Hartman’s quilt backs class lets you see and hear her in action.  She really is technique and precision oriented.  And I love her backs.

Creative Quilt Backs

I see that a free mini-class in modern buttercream is offered.  I wonder what crumb coating your layers like a professional is about? Sounds like something I used to discourage my son from doing.  I hadn’t realized there was a difference between traditional and modern buttercream.  Personally, as long as my buttercream has butter in it, I’m happy.

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Hexed Again

Now that I’ve started on hexagons I’m seeing them everywhere.  In fact, I started a Pinterest board of my favorite discoveries.  I finished the appliqued hexagons with perle cotton and big stitches. It’s called “Where did the hexies go?” I need to steam this to remove the fold creases.

The other hexagon-like top I’ve made isn’t as far along.

I’m playing with the width of this one, and will probably made it skinnier.  “Blue Hexies” is made up of batiks and African cloth with some prints I’ve had for about 8 years thrown in.  It’s based on a pattern called “Paper Lantern” in an old (1994!) book by Sara Nephew (Easy & Elegant Quilts.)

This seems to be the year of the hexie, at least in quilt book publications.  Two new titles are just out – Hexa-go-go and Pieced Hexies: A New Tradition in English Paper Piecing.  The former book has a more “modern” feel, while the latter is geared to original designs within each hexagonal piece.  The October/November Quilters Newsletter has an article about the Pieced Hexies approach.   Both books have you use papers and lots of hand sewing.


And, finally, here’s a tutorial for a super size hexagon place mat from Spoonflower.  Wish I had thought to use flannel lining on my hexies to give them a little loft.

At my last MQG meeting a variety of methods to produce hexies were presented.  Members used plastic hexagon templates, specially made papers you tear out, specially made plastic pop out shapes, and homemade templates for appliqued hexagons.  Two members had containers full of hexagons made during TV watching.  Beats darning socks while watching “Our Miss Brooks.”  (Note: in a previous century women used to repair the worn heels of socks with darning thread and a wooden darning egg.  I still have my mother’s egg.)

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