The Arty Zig

>> Friday, January 27, 2012

A couple months ago, Pat Bravo asked if anyone would be willing to make Project Linus quilts out of her Art Gallery scraps. I responded yes, and lo and behold, a ginormous packet of scraps arrived at my house. They ranged across her collections, so while the aesthetic was fairly constant, the colors and sizes were not. I spent a while trying to figure out how to tame the scrappy wildness. Then I remembered Cara's designs for her guild's Habitat challenge and found my answer.

The big zig, which I have taken to calling, The Arty Zig, uses string-pieced blocks and a lot of negative space to make a statement. Or at least a large zig-zag. I made 8" blocks and randomly added the strips.

I'm not sure random was the best method, as it was a tad tricky to place the blocks in a pleasing manner given the range of colors involved. But the blocks were made and I was not remaking them. Now that I've made this once, I can see all sorts of possibilities -- fading from one color to another, multiple zig-zags within the big zig, a strip zig, and the like.

And, in what has become a common refrain in two-hippos-land, I love love love the back. Probably more than the front. There were three big chunks o' scrap in the bag and I used them for a riff on (or merely a column of) Oh Fransson's New Wave quilt.

I never thought I'd say it (so mark it down in the record books), I admit that I find that pink + coral print rather pretty. That's right, on my half birthday in 2012 (31.5 for those keeping track at home), I acknowledge that, on rare occasions, I do in fact like pink fabric. Emphasize the rare, ok? I don't want my anti-pink reputation ruined.

Which leads me back to teal, possibly my most favorite shade of blue ever and always a good option. I made this binding out of 8 million (or 30ish) scraps, some from Pat Bravo's bag o' wonders and some from yardage scraps I had in my own scrap bin. Teal is fabulous, let's just reiterate that in light of comments above.


Love in a (Snowy) Mist

>> Friday, January 20, 2012

It may be a few months late, and I may be taking advantage of needing to charge my camera to post this, but my first do.Good Stitches quilt is complete. Way back in October, I asked my group, Empower, to make "Love in the Mist" blocks. I sewed the blocks together in 5 quads, and added more white to give the blocks space to breathe (quilt blocks need a lot of oxygen, clearly).

I took the final block and much yardage to the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild retreat a couple weekends ago. My subtraction skills were a little lacking when I cut the pieces to flank the quad unit, which led to much annoyance with myself. But there's always a way to recover, and in this case, the back was a little slimmer than intended, but it worked out. As Rossie remarked, my quilting stories frequently involve mismeasurements or unplanned detours due to insufficient yardage. Which have all worked out just fine, so mismeasure away!

I have included this gratuitous shot simply because I love it. But I will take this opportunity to note that I quilted the top in a rectangular grid of sorts -- which is much more visible on the image of the back, above. I used both orange and gray thread on the front, and gray thread on the back. The gray performed beautifully while the orange bled in a couple of spots. I'm working on removing those stains before I drop it off.

Teal Ta-Dot binding gave the quilt just the pop it needed. I think may be my new favorite fabric. Or maybe I just love teal (true statement) and therefore have been missing this fabric all my life. I'm just about out of it but Brenda, my always-hilarious local dealer of all things delightful in fabric, promises me she has more on order. When I get back to Michigan, I'll buy some more Teal Ta-Dots and drop Love in a (Snowy) Mist off at Alternatives for Girls, where all of the dGS:Empower quilts will go.


A Little Housekeeping

>> Thursday, January 19, 2012

Since I'm currently in Cincinnati (excited to check out Sewn Studio tonight), I cannot sweep or mop or vacuum or bleach or wipe or wash or take care of any other pertinent house cleaning tasks (a tragedy for sure). In light of this state of affairs, I decided it was high time I clean up the blog a bit. Or rather update it: it sorely needed some modernization and freshness. I made a new header, remembered how to install it, and altered the colors of sidebars and such. I'll still tweak things here and there, but I'm pretty pleased to check this off my to-do list. {Click on over from Google Reader to see, not just read about, the changes.}

Feedback--good or constructive--is much appreciated. If there's anything you'd like altered or added, removed or rethought, tell me! This holds for the blog more generally: if there's something you'd like me to post about, stop posting about or consider posting about, let me know.


Star Light, Star Bright

>> Sunday, January 15, 2012

I was out running errands today and trying to get some pictures of a new quilt. After finding a piece of dry sidewalk (we did get some snow on Friday), I snapped several photos and then noticed a man watching me. Several others had walked past, but this guy paused. I wanted to think it was the amazing quilt I had laid out in front of him. But no. He was simply concerned that the light was uneven. "Though maybe you want that," he hurried to add after commenting on my apparently poorly chosen photo-shoot location. Admittedly, I was more concerned with the natural light + dry area arithmetic than anything else. That said, when looking at the photos I took about a week ago of Star Light, Star Bright, I remembered that there is one advantage to more typically gray winter days: even light.

When you know you want a quilt to be bigger than a yard of fabric, it's probably wise to think about how much background fabric might be necessary to make that happen. Or not, and things will work out, just without a solid blue background across the entire quilt. The white space has grown on me since I added it to enlarge what would have been an otherwise paltry quilt. Conceptually, I wanted interlocking stars across a vast sky. And as long as the sky doesn't need to be all royal blue, I think I accomplished the goal.

Laura Gunn's Dogwood Flower seems to be a constant in many of the quilts I've made over the past 8 months. The supply is dwindling, so it will lose its privileged place. But whenever I reach into the scrap bin for the perfect complementary fabric, it stands out. Aqua + royal blue is pretty sweet.

I've had what I think of as the Michael Miller "Eye" print (the middle one) in my stash for several years now. I'm glad I finally found a good way to use it. It could be chopped up into smaller pieces, but there's something about the repeat I find enticing. I added some Riley Blake green circles and Monaluna brown circles, and kept things fairly simple on the back.

A little free-motion stippling and 1/3 yard of Orange Jewels (from Lizzy House's 1001 Peeps) later, and the quilt was finished. I used flannel as batting, which helped it crinkle up quite well in the dryer. I was able to drop this off to its new owner, Dov, on Wednesday. Dov is a little young to grasp what a quilt is, and his older brother was more interested in its possibility as a road for his trucks than anything else, but I think it will be well-used in all sorts of ways in the future.

In other news, I'm off to Cincinnati tomorrow for a little under 2 weeks of research. Stephanie gave me some tips about things to do and see, but I'd love to hear more. If you live in or know the Queen City, where should I go, eat, drink, pet fabric, see cool things? I'll have a car, so I should be pretty mobile.


Organic Imperfection

>> Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taking pictures of big quilts is really hard. I co-opted my roommate into aiding and abetting, but we still ran into some trouble. It would probably help if we were 6 feet tall or so, but that describes neither of us. And I haven't noticed too many college basketball players wandering down my street. Because if they were, I would totally borrow their heights and wingspans. I'm sure they wouldn't find a random woman asking them to hold up a quilt weird or anything like that.

The trick, it seems, is hangers. And a sunny day. Which we've had our unfair share of this winter. I assume we'll pay for it soon, or next year. But in the meantime, I am not complaining about sunny and 40 degree days in January. The tree shadow even sort of makes sense for this quilt (see: name). So about this quilt...I started it in the late summer and finished it in the late fall. I chopped up several large scraps of Marimekko fabric (from the clearance bin at the Crate & Barrel outlet), added eggplant purple borders, and decimated the five yards of Bella White in my stash.

Speaking of stash decimation, I ran out of gray as I was piecing the back. To be honest, I think I knew I wouldn't have enough, but I think I thought that adding the the rectangle of the Starling print (on the top) would be sufficient. I was wrong. At which point I pieced together the stripes on the bottom, yielding a sufficiently large, if somewhat devilish to baste, quilt back. It was easier to photograph, though -- the snow smudges really make the image, me thinks.

The name of the quilt came to me after I pulled it out of the dryer. When I first contemplated how to quilt it, I considered straight lines. Then I pondered boxes. At which point I began to trace circles (makes perfect sense, no?). The circle idea had merit, but proved impossible to execute in the way I envisioned. Which led me straight back to lines, just of the less straight and less perfect variety. They're straight-ish, at irregular intervals, and they're fabulous. There's something wonderfully organic and imperfect about it, and I think Organic Imperfection may well be my quilting mantra (not that I chant it or anything. That would produce weird looks, especially from the basketball player I find to hold up my quilts in the future).

As imperfect and organic as the quilt might be, I did plan two very important elements: the size (full) and the spacing. I knew I wanted to use a lot of negative space, but I also wanted a quilt that would drape over my bed. Hence, I wanted the design to make sense when it sprawled across my bed (and dominates my small bedroom). The framed leaves and flowers start at 16" from the bottom of the quilt, so they rest at the bottom of the bed. And because planning sometimes yields splendid results, when I fold the quilt, it can lie at the base of the bed and show off its prettiness. Or the stripes, which are similarly positioned, though more robust than pretty.

I employed a very rigorous selection process when choosing the binding. Tough decisions require examining every possible option, which I did, mostly by opening my storage boxes of fabric,  positioning them alongside the quilt, and plucking options. I even considered pink (magenta, really, but it is technically a pink) which made my roommate gasp. But I naturally I rejected it. Finding a color that works with white and gray is the easy part; finding one that elevates purple and green is much harder. But I prevailed, and this deep goldenrod accomplishes the task quite well. Nothing imperfect about it.


X2Y4–6Z8O20(OH,F)4: More Than a Random String of Letters and Numbers

>> Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's been an odd winter here in the sort-of midwest. December was quite warm, snow barely covered the ground, and the sun has made more than one appearance. I won't complain. I will, however, choose fabrics far more congruent with the SoCal winter where this quilt now lives. Cheery, bright, fun yellows, oranges, greens, and aquas. The aquas were a later addition, when I plopped the chosen fabrics down and they sat next to some aqua dots and looked super awesome. I like super awesome, so some additional fabrics wedged themselves into the palette.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love public libraries? I love them. Especially my local one. It has all sorts of goodies (DVDs, trashy-mystery-novels-I-would-never-spend-money-on, good contemporary fiction, magazines, etc) in addition to a decent selection of craft books. I requested Sandi Henderson's Sewing Bits and Pieces and picked it up in mid-December. To be honest, not many of the books' projects spoke to me (which is fine, since I borrowed it from the library). But I'm always on the lookout for new quilts to try, and the picnic quilt looked pretty neat.

I think this is the "correct" orientation, but I actually like the other way better. Scratch that. Yesterday I liked the other way better. Today I like this way better. Good thing it can go either way and matters not at all. Anyhow, the work of this quilt is in the set-up, in the cutting and ironing. I got out the wax paper and cardboard to make the templates and spent an evening making myself these scallop shapes. Since this is a baby quilt, not a family picnic quilt, I knew it would be smaller than the one in the book. I made 44 scallops (rather than 80) and omitted the borders. I also appliqued the scallops onto a piece of cotton to stabilize it and make it easier. It added heft, but it was worth it. I could use 3 pins instead of 12 for each scallop. And goodness knows, I prefer fewer pins.

As you may be able to see, the scallops get appliqued down. (Don't mind the imperfect curves. I excel at imperfection.) I was tempted to use straight-line quilting or maybe do some sort of cross-hatch sort of thing. But it's for a baby, and I wanted to make sure the scallops would stay put. Stippling accomplished that goal. And I knew as soon as I chose those teal Ta-Dots that I would use them for the binding as well.

I may be indecisive about which way I prefer the front, but I can say with certainty that I love the back. Possibly more than the front. I took the pieces I had left from cutting out the scallops (which differed in size because some of them started their life in the scrap bin and others came from yardage) and sashed them and pretty much just adore them.

Yep, definitely awesome, that back. Micah was named for both the prophet -- a champion of social justice -- and the rock. Having never had the chance to name a quilt via chemical compounds, it seemed wise to seize this opportunity. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, the chemical formula for mica is X2Y4–6Z8O20(OH,F)4.  A fine name for a quilt, no?


That's a Wrap

>> Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in Quilts: 26 quilts.
Some simple, some complex.
Some small, some big.
Most you've seen, a few you haven't.
Most for others, one for me.

Three standouts from 2011 Quilting:
Pops of color
Negative space
New techniques (pojagi, paper piecing, applique, big circles)

Three goals for 2012:
Curved piecing
Make a quilt for my living room
Sew an item of clothing


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