Monthly Archives: November 2013

Bitty Pieces

My current leftovers project made with one and 3/4 inch half square triangles (HSTs) has convinced me miniature quilts and I are not simpatico. Here’s a link to miniature quilts made by Kate Adams, an expert in miniatures.  Her larger quilts can measure 9 by 9 inches!

Obviously, my project isn’t really a miniature, since the body will finish at 18 inches square, but I shrank the pattern block, Kate Spain’s Joy, from an 8 and a half inch to a 3 inch one.

Joy, free quilt pattern by Kate Spain for Moda FabricsI found this pattern on Quilt Inspiration’s free holiday pattern blog post, where the HSTs caught my eye.  I had over 100 one and 3/4 inch HSTs left over from the bead corners of my Beaded Curtain quilt, and I wanted to use them up.

Beadedcurtain_mostlyboundHSTsI also had leftover fabric for all four ombre colors and an almost solid that matched the robin’s egg blue, so I figured I was in good shape.  Then the fun began.

It’s been a while since I’ve followed any pattern that calls for lots of points matching so those skills were a bit rusty.  Then, there was the challenge of making those pinwheel blocks.  I did manage to do the center swirl to reduce bulk.

pinwheel_backI threw out the pressing pattern set out in the pattern as I would have been sewing over four fabric layers in too many seams.  For me this meant pressing open seams.

row_backsI did try an alternative setting of solid bands between the rows to reduce bulk (and points matching), but I didn’t like it.

trial_settingSo now all the rows are sewn together, I’ve auditioned borders, made my choices, and fused it all to fleece.  I plan to make this into a pillow so I won’t do any quilting.  Some of the seam intersections are so thick it’s like driving on a washboard road.

rainbow_pillowLessons learned:

Think through how the pieces will go together for pressing in any pattern you’re using.  This pattern called for pressing all of the row seams towards the pinwheels. Bulky seams alert!  I ignored that and alternated the pressing direction every other row.

Quilters who create miniatures are either brilliant or crazy.

This project has confirmed that I don’t like to do this kind of sewing. I thought I should revisit it to see if my tastes had changed.  They haven’t.

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Filed under In Process

A Quilt That Whispers, Not Shouts

I think I’ve finally made a subtle quilt with nuanced colors.  I’ve mentioned Subtle Points before when it was still under construction. I just finished sewing on the hanging sleeve and placing it above my bed so now I’m ready to see if it passes the subtle test in the opinion of others.

Subtle_PointsThe brightest part of this quilt is the kind-of aqua triangles.  Those started out as a peachy colored silk crepe (from my grandmother’s legacy) that I dyed with yellows, blues and purples.  The combination really muted all the colors involved.

The pinks and purple fabrics are hand dyed old table linens and a gray bed sheet left over from a shower curtain project (from about 2001.) The grays are hand dyes by Vicki Welsh, while the outer print is a batik that’s been languishing in my stash because no one could play with it.  The bronze solid is a Kaffe Fassett shot cotton. The blobby print that started this whole project is by McKenna Ryan.

On the back I used up that McKenna Ryan print and cleaned out some other oldies from my stash.  Those drawers are getting emptier.

Subtle_Points_backThe quilting is basic, just large diamonds.  The label is a leftover block.  You can see the tuck for ease in the hanging sleeve as I hadn’t yet pulled out the basting when I took the photo.

Just to show you how hard it is for me to restrain my use of bright color, here’s an early example of my color sense.

early artworkI must have been five when I did this.  It was in some old family photos and records I’ve been scanning, and I just had to scan it, too.


Filed under Completed Projects, dyeing

Breaking Into The Silk

I have a confession to make – I hoard silk.  Every once in a while I pull out the container with my silk stash and murmur “my precious” as I pet my collection.  That collection includes a piece of silk my mother bought when I was in high school and a bolt of silk crepe my grandmother had bought to sew into ladies’ delicate undergarments. Did I mention the 25 fat eighths of solid color dupioni I’ve had since 2005?

Oh, I’ve used a bit of silk dupioni in a table runner and have made a few wall hangings out of silk ties, but the bulk of the reds, yellows, purples, and lustrous prints has been awaiting my magnum opus.

But as I work towards using up the fabric I have rather than buying more, all that silk is beginning to niggle at me.  So I’ve begun easing bits of it into small projects, like pillows.

The silk I own is mostly dupioni, which has a shimmer, but is prone to shred at the edges – not good for cutting into small pieces.  Other silk in my collection is slithery.  All except the crepe ravels badly.  What I do to counteract some of this behavior is to iron fusible knit interfacing to the back of the material before I cut it.

silk_backingThis interfacing comes in white and black and makes the silk much easier to handle.  The only downside is the seams are a bit bulky, especially with the dupioni.  I sometimes iron them open to try to deal with this.

I decided to make something functional with my silk, and settled on a large pillow since some of my decorative pillows look a bit tired. I pulled out a hand painted silk scarf I picked up for a few bucks at a tag sale and my collection of dupioni fat eighths. After fusing interfacing to the backs I cut some simple squares and rectangles and sewed them together.

silk_pillowI used 30 weight cotton thread for the stitch work after fusing the top to fleece. Then I recalled some leftover batik backing material and made what turned into a flange around the edge, with mitered corners.  I used up the last of that batik to make the back, combining it with the last of another piece from my stash.

pillow_backThe buttons came about after I realized that none of my zippers were long enough and by this time I was on a kick to use only what I already had.  So I finally used the sensor buttonhole maker on the sewing machine I’ve had since 2006.

The buttons came from my jar of all those extra buttons that come with clothing.

buttons_closeupNow all I need to do is buy a pillow form to fit.  That is not in my stash, drat it.


Filed under In Process, Techniques

Reflections of Nature Quilt Show

On a recent gloomy Sunday a friend and I headed out to the annual Cleveland Metroparks quilt show held at the Rocky River nature preserve.

Rocky_River_OhioThe show’s rules stipulate that all quilts in the show must have some nature related theme, either blindingly obvious or somehow made to relate. There were birds, especially eagles; lots of flowers and leaves; landscapes; and some abstracts.  I was especially taken with several small pieces that used embellishments.

IMG_3442I apologize for not knowing the creator’s name, but I believe rolled up zippers were used to make the flowers.

Point_Betsie_Lighthouse_Denise_DeLucaIn Point Betsie Lighthouse torn fabric strips with raw edges enhance the scene.

Dandelion_Harriet_TreynorDandelion, complete with ladybug, uses frayed cording to wonderfully depict the fluffiness of a gone to seed dandelion. There’s an organza layer and a frame made to look like the wavy edges of an old photo. I just love the black corners that replicate those hinges used in old scrapbooks.

Dandelion_detailBig stitch work is the highlight of Water Lilies.

Water_lilies_Judith_Kessler_SmithIt’s mounted on a board and framed.

Circle_of_Life_Mikel_DuffyCircle of Life throws in the color wheel.  While the photo doesn’t show it, the quilting thread color changes to match the color the stitching links to.

Tina_CrawfordAnd, lest you think I never appreciate cute, here’s a little scene in wool with lots of 3D effects. Again, I’m not sure of the creator’s name but I think it’s by Tina Crawford.

One last comment about this and other quilt shows – I wish someone would develop better portable lighting to show off the work displayed. At many shows the lights are yards above the quilts, and some work is difficult to appreciate fully because of shadows and underlit corners.

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Filed under Quilt Shows

I’m So Sharp I’ll Cut Myself

That was my father’s verdict on my approach to projects, and it hasn’t changed that much since childhood. I tend to get all self-congratulatory about my cleverness, and then find out I’ve actually been boneheaded.

Case in point, my little Argyle quilt. It began last year as an attempt to use fabric that just wouldn’t play well with anyone else. I used Sandi Cummings’ techniques from her Thinking Outside the Block book to slice and dice an odd assortment of print fabric.  This year I cut up that made fabric into strips, inserted other strips cut wonky, and tried out some strip insertions on the long sides.

ArgyleTo embellish I did some decorative machine stitching.  Then I began to quilt the thing and the boneheadedness began.  First, I forgot to switch to my walking foot so lumpiness developed in the top.  At this point I decided it wasn’t worth ripping out since I wasn’t so crazy about the piece anyway.

Argyle_detailThen, after I finished whatever quilting I thought was sufficient, I decided to finish the edges by simply turning over the backing around the edges.  This approach is used by Frieda Anderson, among many others, and can be a great way to finish small pieces that won’t be washed.

Out came my wavy rotary cutter blade and I had those edges nicely trimmed and pressed to the front, with quarter inch steam-a-seam holding the fabric in place.  I topstitched the edges and thought I was done.

Then I noticed that the edges were fraying a bit and I reached the uh-oh moment.  Frieda and company fused the edging before cutting it, so it didn’t ravel.  I somehow overlooked that step.

On to edge finish method two.  I sewed a close zigzag over the scalloped edges and called the piece complete.


Filed under Commentary, In Process, Techniques

There’s A Reason I Don’t Do Crafts

At a really big Craftsy sale I signed up for Tara Rebman’s quilt as you go tote class for just $10.  Last week I finally got around to doing the class using some old wool shirts (yes, donated by my husband) and wool scraps.  After spending three times the amount of time I thought this project would take, all I can say is hand crafted purses are worth every penny their makers ask.

ToteThese are the lining and outer bag pieces after I fused Decor bond to the lining, and channel quilted the wool to batting and utility cloth. Tara suggests using some free motion quilting as well, but I thought the wool was too thick for that to be successful.

It took me about a half day to reach this point, as I had to cut out the pattern for four layers, the Decor bond kept refusing to stick to the lining material, and the thick wool required some ingenuity in getting it under my presser foot.  All told the tote has five layers- three for the outer part and two for the lining.

tote_layersTara shows a cool way to insert a zippered pocket, but I went with a simple open pocket, saving my energy for sewing bias binding around the edges.

And I needed every bit of energy for that wrestling match.  It was more awkward than difficult as I hauled the bag through the throat of my sewing machine.

tote_fronttote_backHere’s the front and back of the finished tote.  The bag bottom is Essex linen fused to (more) Decor bond, so it’s got a lot of body.  In fact, the whole thing is constructed along the lines of a brick outhouse.

If I don’t count my time, I figure it cost me about $20 to make this tote. I’m including the cost of the class, 1.5 yards each of Decor bond and utility cloth, and a magnetic snap.  Everything else came from my stash and batting scraps. Though I often exercise a bit of magical thinking in declaring my stash to be “free,” all the wool for this project was either recycled from clothing or given to me so it cost me nothing.

While I think the class is a good one, I don’t think I’ll be making more totes any time soon.  I’ll gladly pay someone else to make one.


Filed under Completed Projects

A Post In Which I Kvetch

I’m mad at myself for feeling dissatisfied about the reception a quilt of mine received at a local show.  Yes, it won a blue ribbon, but so did many others.  Two people, one of them a quilt show judge, said they really liked it, and I didn’t solicit their opinions. But when I attended the show and kind of hung out near my quilt for a few minutes (and don’t tell me you’ve never done that), I noticed that very few folks stopped to look at it. It seemed to be covered with the cloak of invisibility. Instead, folks cooed over cute quilts, pastel quilts, quilts loaded with flowers.  The kinds of quilts I’ve never made.

I’m also peeved with myself for expecting any different reaction.  The show in question featured traditional quilts by local quilters.  Some of the quilts were made from kits. Some featured personally meaningful photos scanned onto cloth.  Others were developed from workshops and block swaps. The show entries were a good reflection of the kinds of quilts made by members of the sponsoring guild.  Mine wasn’t.

So what did I expect?  It was a lesson that I need to select entries appropriate to the show.  In the case of this show I probably shouldn’t have entered my quilt. I had hoped that viewers might think, hmm, that sliver thing might be interesting to try or maybe I should use stripes more.  Indeed, some may have thought just that. However, it didn’t fit with the vibe and audience for that show.  Though I consider the quilt to be traditional (it’s a symmetrical medallion), I don’t think it was perceived that way.

A recent post by Kathleen Loomis at Art With A Needle led me to believe I’m not the only quilter who sometimes feels a disconnect between a show and her quilt. Loomis’ work is on a different, far superior plane than mine (she’s entering Quilt National and other juried shows) but sometimes you just have to find the right venue to display your work.

Oh well, Just A Sliver was fun to make with Lisa O’Neill’s technique, and Eva Birch creatively extended the circle theme in her quilting.




Filed under Commentary

(Very) Occasional Wednesday Salon

Some quilt artists’ work seems to show up everywhere online, but others, like Linda Levin’s, is less ubiquitous.  It may be she protects her work more (an issue with some shows that will disqualify any work that’s appeared online) or she doesn’t work online social networks.  I haven’t found any mention that she currently teaches, designs fabric lines, or blogs.

She’s been juried into Quilt National at least seven times.  Her artistic statement as given on her website is:

“…I try to capture not a specific scene, but an atmosphere, a mood or a moment.

For me, the tactile qualities of the fabric, the light and shadow created by seams and raw edges and the interplay of colors provide endless opportunities for exploration.”

She dyes and paints the fabrics she uses and says she loves the feel of fabric – a sentiment that’s way better than pretentious statements of intent.  A quick Google search revealed little in the way of personal information or interviews with her.

So here are a few of my favorites by her that I found on her website.  I have no idea when they were created.  Her series pieces are numbered, but there’s no way to tell if they were made the same year or even the same decade.

CityWithFootnotesXIII_medI’m beginning with City with Footnotes XIII because the New York City skyline is a subject Levin uses often. I like the warm colors at the bottom (possibly reflections of fall trees or lighting) leading up to daylight reflected in the glass of the skyscrapers.

Bilbao_II_medBilbao II is much curvier and seems to have been inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, based on the title and the photo I found of the museum.

CPW_Dawn_medCentral Park West Dawn, another urban scape, is softer than the NYC landscape above.  To me it reflects how Central Park provides breathing room in a densely populated city.

CPW-Fall-II_medCentral Park West Fall II swirls the building grid and turns it into a giant tree.  It’s as if the windows become leaves blown around by the wind.

Frenchmans_Bay_II_medFrenchman’s Bay II is part of Levin’s Maine series.

LindaLevin-12x12_1My final selection is part of Levin’s 12 by 12 series.  I like how the different colors of quilting thread change how I perceive the fabric colors.  It may be that Levin painted over everything after doing the quilting.

What I’ve seen of Levin’s work shows consistency in technique.  I don’t know if her early pieces were more traditional or if there’s been changes in her work over the decades.  I respect her decision about what pieces to show publicly though I’d love to see a retrospective of her work over the decades.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Inspiration

The Shirt Off His Back

Well, my husband wasn’t wearing them because the cuffs were so frayed and they were made of pinpoint oxford cotton, so why not cut those shirts up.  This project began when I was looking through a Kaffe Fassett book and was taken with a baby quilt made of men’s shirting fabrics.  I don’t think Kaffe actually cut up shirts, but I went with what I had.

kaffe_fassett_baby_quiltI found that men’s shirts contain a lot of fabric.  Here’s what I have left after cutting over 200 2 and a half inch squares. The center back box pleat in men’s dress shirts gave me an extra 4 to 5 inches of fabric.

cutup_shirtsSo far I’ve sewn 75 squares together, out of about 220 squares cut.  I don’t know what the final size of this top will be.  It will depend on how quickly I tire of sewing those squares together.

The fun part of this project is creating and inserting “quirky” squares with little pops of color.  Kaffe used vivid solids.  I’m using bits of a yellow and blue stripe plus a few half square triangles left over from an old Bonnie Hunter quilt.



Filed under In Process