Category Archives: Completed Projects

My Latest Craft Addiction

I am very late to the little zipper pouch party. Other bloggers have churned them out by the armload as gifts and gussied them up with cunning shapes and zipper variations. I’ve been avoiding this kind of project due to my fear of zippers – installing them, that is.

Finally, I decided it was time to pull up my big girl pants and have a go. I searched Sew Mama Sew for tutorials, and settled on Melly Sews 15 minute zipper pouch. It’s a basic, no pockets, lined pouch that can be resized to suit. Besides, Melly has a video that shows each step.

As you know, I’ve built up a stock of fabric bits I’ve tortured in some way with various surface design experiments. What better way to use them than to make pouches. I began with some batik fabric I had pleated and sewed down in diamond patterns. It wasn’t going to make it to a quilt, so I chose it for my first effort.

I dug out an old zipper, chose fabric for a lining and sat down with Melly’s video. An hour later I had a zipped pouch. Melly is a lot faster than I am.

Emboldened by this success, I tackled an upholstery sample scrap next. The extra thickness was a bit of a challenge but the pouch got made, albeit a bit crookedly. The pouch now holds my Fabrico pens.

Next up was a fat quarter I bought at a quilt show – cute fabric but I couldn’t figure out how to use it in a quilt. I learned that it’s wise to interface quilting cotton used this way, but my colored pencils weigh down the bag so that oopsie is concealed.

Finally, I remembered some linen I bought in Canada that could give more body to a bag. In fact it gives so much body I can’t get the bag to stay open so the lining shows. It’s a teal color, to complete my green family lining color theme.

After four bags, I think I’m done. My next goal is learning to take glamor shots of my work – craft porn.

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Filed under Completed Projects, Techniques

Yet Another Scrap Quilt

Everywhere I look on social media quilting pundits are touting the glories of reuse and recycling. Just this week I found TrashN2Tees on Instagram. So, it would seem I’m accidentally in the vanguard with my scrap projects. Of course, quilters have always used scraps as a money saving practice, even before Earth Day.

My latest scrap project used leftovers from my faux torn paper quilt, “The Smokies.” Why bother storing them? “Lattices” developed from weaving the craggy edged remnants together and adding very large hand stitching to the exposed background cloth. It was sloppy but fun to make.

Here you can see the perle cotton stitching scattered over the surface. I did the blue stitching before quilting, and the orange after, working between the top and backing. I also fused non woven interfacing to the back of the top before doing any hand stitching so the stitches wouldn’t draw up.

 

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Revisiting Garment Sewing

I grew up with a mother and grandmother who sewed all kinds of garments, and taught me the rudiments of making my own clothes. Attention to detail ran a distant second to speed in my work. It always had to get done for a deadline and a basted hem worked just fine.

In college I stopped sewing as much. Button fly Levis became my uniform along with chambray shirts, and the army/navy surplus store supplied my clothing needs. Once I was working, it was a thrill to shop for clothes that someone else had made. I loved being free of the dorky homemade look my own efforts produced.

Over the years I noticed that patterns became much more expensive, as did nice fabric. I grew up used to fine woolens and fully lined jackets and skirts. To reproduce such garments became cost prohibitive, so I wasn’t tempted to even try to make my clothes. In fact, some of my first quilts used old fabric from my clothing sewing days.

All this is by way of saying it’s been a long time since I sewed any clothing other than Halloween costumes.

Fast forward to my growing collection of silk fabrics, capped by bits of hand dyed kimono silk I bought from Laura Murray. I’ve made quilts with neck ties and intended to make one with all that silk, but when I saw this pattern by Barb Callahan at a quilt show I decided to make myself a flowing vest instead.

silk-vest

Because I had been away from this kind of sewing for so long (I don’t count my theatrical costume making stint as I simply followed orders) I bought some pattern tracing material to make a trial vest before cutting into my pretties. The result seemed large so I took fullness off the back and side seams.

Once I thought I had the right fit, it was time to cut the silk. Now, because I had many different weights of silk I decided to interface the lightest with a product called French Fuse, a fusible nylon tricot. I found the tricot was difficult to sew on which caused a few difficulties, but nothing I couldn’t force my machine through. The real problem I faced was the huge amount of fabric the vest needed – about 2.5 yards for the exterior and 2 yards for the lining. The largest piece of fabric I had was about 3/4 of a yard so I got creative in patching the segments, which of course created more seams to sew through.

The pattern calls for a process known as bagging out to sew the exterior and lining together. That worked pretty well, except for the armpits. I chanted Tim Gunn’s “make it work” mantra as I forced my fabric into a semblance of submission. I also changed the way of sewing the shoulder seams together, opting for a tabbed tuck method I sort of made up.

So, here’s front and back views of my vest in all its harlequin glory.

img_8904

You’re wondering about the lining fabric? It’s a silk Bill Blass scarf I bought at a women’s organization fund raising sale It’s also faced with French Fuse.

img_8906The finished product makes quite a statement and is very full, even though I removed about 8 inches from the original pattern. I plan to wear it to gatherings of art quilters, though it would make a great garment for shoplifting. I could hide a lot of merchandise in those folds.

 

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Beatles Challenge Is Done and Dusted

I mentioned my guild’s Beatles song challenge as one of my projects for 2017. I chose Paperback Writer, and had great fun researching old pulp paperback covers.

dark-street-murders-coverThe legs encased in seamed stockings drew me to this cover for my inspiration. It was one of several that featured women’s gams. I changed it up a bit, added other bits appropriate to a pulp mystery story, and drew it out.  Since books need titles, I picked a 1964 Beatles song, Baby’s In Black, as suitable to the occasion.

Once I sewed together the green/yellow/black ombre fabrics as the background, I fused the figures and shadows on.

baby-partsI used black organza and black netting for the shadows. The red title piece was sewn on and then the fabric in back was cut off to reduce bulk. Drawing the gun gave me some difficulty until I simplified it. According to my husband the barrel is too short, but he wasn’t the one who had to cut it out. BTW, my husband also asked where the blood was. I told him the guy sustained a head wound.

babys-in-black

 

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Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

On Top Of Old Smoky

While the weather here bounced around from 12 to 50 degrees I was revisiting the Smoky Mountains in fabric. I settled on an arrangement of my faux paper strips, sewed them down, and cobbled a way to finish the edges. I used no batting, but fused Decor Bond to my foundation fabric, and it’s a good thing I did. The finished product is heavy and might buckle without that extra firmness.

Because the fabric strips were three layers thick (top fabric, fusing, interfacing) I elected to trim up the side edges and sew some twill tape to them. I pressed the edges to the back and hand sewed them down. The top edge got the same treatment, while the bottom edge, which is only one layer thick, got turned under.

smokies-back

This project came with a bonus. I bypassed my scraps bins for the trimmings and created another small piece with them for this month’s scrap quilt. The base layer is fabric I had silk screened with thickened dye.

interwovenThe finished product, The Smokies, measures 20 by 25 inches.

the-smokies

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Look At The Birdie

My paper pieced birds project has moved right along. I’ve completed the quilting, and only binding it remains. I got tired of paper piecing the birds, so I stopped at 23. I placed 22 of them on stylized branches and reserved one for a label.

My original inspiration was this quilt which introduced me to the McCall’s Quilting bird pattern.

paper pieced birdsMy quilt doesn’t have quite the same modern feel, but I was going with scraps and some Fossil Fern fabric in blue. I tried a layout with just straight branches but felt my birds needed to be a bit more grounded (or treed.)

birds5You can see I’m trying to branch out from the birds’ perches.

Ultimately I ended up with this. The quilting is a chevron pattern done with a walking foot.

look-at-the-birdie

Right after I quilted my birds I saw the wall below on a trip to my local grocery store. Maybe the image wormed its way into my subconscious, but I could swear I never noticed the pattern before.

supermarket-wall

 

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Filed under Completed Projects, Modern Quilting

Year End Thoughts On My Master Class

I signed up for Elizabeth Barton’s master class at the end of 2015 on a whim after I saw she had a last minute cancellation. I had taken her working in series online class so I was familiar with her style. Would I do it again? Yes.

The class was valuable to me though I don’t agree with everything said about my work. A lot I did agree with. I made nine pieces I most likely wouldn’t have made without the class and several sketches that have promise for future work. I learned a lot from Elizabeth’s critiques of my class mates’ work. She can really put her finger on the soft spots and make specific suggestions for improvements. Each class member had a different style and I was so glad no attempts were made to change those styles. I’ve observed in some workshops that students will emulate the teacher’s work. Elizabeth never showed us hers.

Why did I decide to invest in the class?

A little background. I began my art quilt journey in 2011 and was pretty much self-guided. I did give myself a workshop with Rosalie Dace as a retirement gift, and jumped off a cliff into original design. Here’s the never quilted piece I made. I did alter it a bit and sew it together once I got home, but I got stuck on how to FMQ a 36 by 48 inch piece. It resides in my big black trunk waiting for my FMQ skills to improve.

img_0728Probably I would have done better to take that class in 2013, when I knew more about what I wanted to do.

Around 2015 I joined an art quilt critique group, and realized how helpful the knowledgeable input of others could be. That group has since become more focused on art quilt beginners, who are at a different stage than me. Others have looked at my work and made helpful suggestions, but I’ve had no regular review of my work in progress.

So, back to the master class. Mentally I was ready for knowledgeable review of my work. I wasn’t going to dissolve into tears if someone pointed out a flaw and I needed a more disciplined approach to improving my work. What I hadn’t realized was the time it would take to develop ideas in a disciplined way. Typically I work on two or three projects at the same time, and flit among them depending on my inspiration and whim. Some are finished quickly, while others lurk behind the door to my sewing room (on the piece of flannel there) for months.

I also didn’t realize how different it is to have someone review my work from its inception in a sketch. I learned that a keen eye at this stage can save a lot of trouble later on. Elizabeth kindly pointed out black holes in the middle of my sketches, blah ideas, tweaks that could make the piece sparkle, and how boys would see boobs in my half circles.

Elizabeth asked us to answer some questions about our experience. Here are excerpts from my evaluation:

This year I’ve been forced to do what I knew I needed to do, but kept avoiding – develop ideas in sketch form first. I love physically playing with fabrics, so composing on the fly was addictive. The problem was that identifying design weaknesses came much later in the development process, so making changes was harder.

I came into the class with a fair ability to sort values and identify where value changes were needed. I also had few problems with nonrepresentational use of color. Much of this was based on intuition. The class has helped me be able to say, that’s right/not right, BECAUSE…  I’ve gained a more disciplined approach to my work, though I’ll still continue to have my play times.

Before this class my work was either abstract or fairly representational, with no middle ground. When I worked from a photo I did some rearrangement of elements, but didn’t really leave the photo behind. During the class I worked to extrapolate elements from photos, without creating a recognizable rendering of the photo.

I feel my two major weaknesses are difficulties with proportion and balance in compositions and not thinking things through.  Proportion is often critical in abstract works as the viewer has little identifiable subject matter to focus on so the relationships among the shapes are important. Proportions aren’t camouflaged by other pictorial elements.

I tend to go with one of the first few design possibilities rather than try other approaches in my excitement over what I think is the perfect design. Later, sometimes after I’ve made the piece, I realize I should have done things differently.

Lessons learned: slow down, but keep going.


While we gave Elizabeth evaluations of our progress, she didn’t give each of us an overall evaluation. The closest she got for me was, “Great work JMM!!!  it’s been a pleasure….” at the end of her last set of comments. Well, that was nice, and certainly epitomizes Elizabeth’s use of punctuation.

My resolve is to continue a more disciplined approach to my work, and develop sketches of some kind (pencil, collage, etc.) to work out my design beforehand. It’s funny that I would draft layouts and colors for my traditional quilts but felt such planning would impede my art quilts. I think there’s a strong bias toward improv inspiration in art quilting, that working directly with your fabric on the design wall is the way to proceed. It’s certainly one way to proceed, but may not be the most effective.

As always, the advice is out there; but you have to be in a receptive frame of mind to embrace it. It took me five years, but now I’m ready.

 

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, Completed Projects