Colorplay as therapy

The carefully chosen palette for my next current project has been sitting there on the cutting table since I took a picture of it to share, over a week ago (it has now entered “current” project status, as you’ll see). It’s not that I don’t want to work on it, I do, other things keep getting in the way, including my own “quilt design block.”

Short “house” update: the heating/hot water system is working about as well as it’s probably ever going to work, after the plumber’s visit last Friday during which he finally figured out that a 5″ section of copper pipe was almost completely blocked by water deposits and cleaned it out. He’s coming back though, with the owner and a service person from Vaillant, the manufacturer, to replace the section of pipe, and figure out why else it’s not performing up to par. And of course, it’s a bit hard to tell if it’s going to heat the house to my satisfaction in winter anyway, since it’s the end of April and it’s not exactly cold here right now.

Other than that, there are various other things, some small, some not, that the owners need to take care of for us before they take off for Canada in mid-May. I’m still making weekly trips to the hardware store for this and that, and yet another trip to Ikea is probably on the schedule for this weekend. I did get a really great office chair for a lot less than I expected to spend there last weekend, so that was an unexpected pleasure.

Back to this project on my cutting table. I’ve been thinking about working on it more than actually working on it, and part of the reason for the delay before actually setting rotary cutter to fabric has been due to a niggling little feeling that something’s not quite right. I did make templates for a couple of pieces, and actually traced one of them onto the border print, but I wasn’t keen on taking that next step, so I kept turning my mind to other things. I finally decided that the lovely border print was the big problem and had to go, because it’s just not fitting in with my (admittedly slightly foggy) vision of the finished product.

After that flash of insight late last night, I was determined to progress today in the studio, and I had all day to do it in since I had nowhere to go. I spent all morning drawing trying to draw appliqué designs for the spaces that I’d planned to use the border print for, only to be soundly defeated by fusible web by early afternoon. I HATE that stuff! I don’t know why I ever bother with it, truly. I didn’t even get past peeling the paper off of it after fusing it to the appliqué piece. I could only get some of the paper off, and the rest stuck terribly and never would come away. Into the trash bin it went.

Still determined to get something done today, I started cutting, and threw eight pieces up on the wall. I looked at it and lost my nerve, or whatever it was I had left at that point. Maybe I just didn’t know what to cut and place next color-wise. I decided to break into the Hoffman Watercolor Wraps that I bought for this project before the move, and play with the colors, since the embellishments that will go on the quilt will be made of these fabrics. This is how I spent a very happy hour or so in the late afternoon:

fabrics from the Watercolor Wraps

There were 160 different bali fabrics in the eight tubes that I bought, and I sorted and played and pared down until I had 128 left. I thought maybe I’d have a better direction in mind if I could visualize more of the whole thing, or at least more of the whole color scheme. The row on the left is winter/spring and/or air/water colors and the row on the right is summer/fall and/or fire/earth colors. I hope. I think it helped the whole design process a bit though I’m not entirely positive, but I do feel better now. It’s possible that I feel better because I played with all these fabrics and colors though, and not necessarily because I’ve made any great design decisions!

The appliqué patterns I spent the morning agonizing over may become quilting designs, though I’ll hit the Arts & Crafts shop tomorrow for a different kind of fusible web and perhaps torture myself some more at a later date if the design really needs the appliqué. Hopefully life will allow me a bit of studio time tomorrow to see if my color play today opened the floodgates to design heaven. At least it’s officially a “current” project now, since I have cut into the fabric. 🙂

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The Misery Quilt update

The misery rolls on with this quilt, as there are times it seems that it’ll never get done. Okay, I’ll admit that it hasn’t been the top priority lately (though I can’t really figure out what HAS been the top priority, just not the quilt in any case), but I really need to be getting on with it if it’s going to be done by Christmas (ha!). Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that I finally had to set a (possibly fuzzy) deadline for completion? I don’t like to do that to myself because then I get stressed, but I had to aim for something, just to have a goal here.

Anyway, when I sit down to do this satin stitching around the medallions in the border, sometimes the planets will all be in perfect alignment and everything will go well, and it turns out looking like this (click for a bigger pic):

Satin stitching when it's good

And then there are the other (sometimes more frequent) times, when for some unknown reason, it turns out all crooked and wobbly looking:

Satin stitch when you get to rip it out

I think maybe the edge of the open toe appliqué foot is just hitting the edge of the lighter fabric at times, and at other times it sort of slips off the edge, and then I get wobbles. Since there are multiple layers of fabric and fusible web here, I guess I’m not surprised, but it is frustrating. When this happens we get to pull out the X-acto knife and rip this tiny satin stitching with the lovely silk thread out. A very sharp X-acto knife is the only way I’ve figured out to get the stitches out easily, and without tearing up the fabric or stretching it out and making a complete mess of it. There is that slight risk of cutting right through the fabric of course, which would necessitate a much different usage of the X-acto knife if there wasn’t any Prozac handy right then.

If I mess up these borders, I think the whole shebang may find a permanent home in the deepest part of the basement storage room with all the other skeletons. The leftover scraps will have to be hidden too, so that I can forget I ever had any thoughts of making this quilt. Is it any wonder that working on this thing feels like a chore? And then there’s the comic relief:

Shadow being helpful
I think Shadow thinks it’s time for bed, not quilting. He’s quite the little manager. If I’m not in bed early enough to suit (think “right after dinner”), he bugs me until I get there, sometimes for hours on end. Obviously he’s aptly named…pest that he is!

The quiet, the memories and the quilting

I was a bachelorette this weekend, as ITMan took the girls to Girl Scout Camp (is he a great dad, or what? Good thing he likes that kind of stuff, because nobody will ever get me to do that camping thing ever again. “Roughing it” in my book is a hotel without room service and a spa!). I decided that I wouldn’t go check the mail on Friday to see if my thread was there, since I began to see light at the end of the 11-year-long tunnel that was the Dresden Plate Drama quilt. I started this quilt in 1996 (I might have said ’95 here before, but I really think ’96 now), so it’s long past time to see it finished!

This quilt carries many memories with it; not surprising considering it’s older than my youngest daughter. I spent a lot of time sifting through them as I finished it up. The pattern is from the May, 1994 issue of McCall’s Quilting, the first quilting magazine issue I ever bought, even before I was “a quilter.” I can’t lay my hands on it right at the moment, but I do still have that magazine. I know I have it somewhere, because there’s another quilt in it that I’ve always wanted to make, and besides that you all know I’m a confirmed packrat. The fabric is my absolute favorite fabric of all time, a Christmas print from VIP Fabrics. I had to have my mom search out more of it for me and ship it over, and I ended up with a total of 18 yards of the stuff, 13-14 of which went into this quilt in one place or another. (I still have the rest, wonder where it’ll end up?) This was the first block I made (you can see all these pics bigger if you click, but beware, they’re big files!):

Dresden Drama Block

This wonderful kaleidoscopic effect is just so stunning in this fabric. Every single plate in this quilt is slightly different. I cut a total of 364 (or was it 384?) petals the old fashioned way, by hand with a template. I took my first appliqué stitches on these plates, sad as they were! Too big, too far apart, using the wrong weight and color of thread, Continue reading The quiet, the memories and the quilting

Quilting and the shape of your head

After many years about thirty minutes of thoughtful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that a good portion of success in quilting is dependent on the shape of your head. If your head is somewhat skinny and tall, and set back a bit, it’s easier to see what you’re doing and your back doesn’t hurt so much when you quilt for long hours. Those with shorter, somewhat wide and angled heads are at a disadvantage. What?? Oh, you thought I meant…no, no, no, not that kind of head! I meant the head of the sewing machine! 😀 Let me explain.

For years I was happy (and so was my back) with my Pfaff 1475 machine. Then when I bought the new 2056 model, I noticed I had a harder time seeing the needle without hunching down farther in the chair, and then I had more back pain, especially when machine quilting. Here’s the side by side shape comparison:

Pfaff 1475 headPfaff 2056 head

On the left is the 1475, and on the right is the 2056. As you can see, the head of the 2056 is wider, and the needle is set back farther from the front of the head. Continue reading Quilting and the shape of your head

Retreating to the comfort zone

For the last two (or maybe more) weeks, I’ve been trying to design the outer borders for the bird quilt (a.k.a. “The Misery Quilt“). I really thought it needed some curves in the outer border(s), and maybe some more embroidery of some sort as well. I did test stitch-outs of a couple of embroidery options, and just didn’t have that “this is it” feeling about any of it. I played around with a diagram of the quilt, drawing curved appliquéd borders, viewing with mirrors, and just wasn’t terribly happy with any of it. I tried designing an appliquéd border without planning any embroidery to go with it, and still wasn’t happy with it.

Soft-Edge Piecing

Soft-Edge Piecing,
by Jinny Beyer

After a few really grouchy days (I get like that when I’m creatively stumped), I finally threw in the pencil, and headed to the bookshelf for inspiration. As I’d already been through all my books on borders and design, as well as all the books like the MAQS Founder’s Collection with all its prizewinning beauties, I pulled out Jinny Beyer’s Soft Edge Piecing for starters. I’m working with a border print and the soft edge piecing technique was in the original plan for the quilt way back when, maybe ten plans ago now. I really didn’t expect to have a flash of inspiration at that point, but desperation had set in.

Maybe the quilting goddess is smiling on this quilt (finally!), because I did see something in the Soft Edge Piecing book that had me grabbing for my fabrics to try it out. Here’s the result (click for a larger view):

Birds quilt border

I really, really like it! I had that “this is it” feeling immediately. The border print looks prefect between the light and dark borders, and I already know exactly how I’ll quilt parts of it, too. (Oh, and you see that tiny little satin stitching? I used the same technique on another part of the borders for this quilt and I used my Pfaff machine. I tried it on the Bernina this time, Continue reading Retreating to the comfort zone

Creativity Derailed

Make no mistake, the almost-perfect fabric is indeed here, there’s just not enough of it.

Okay, here’s what happens all too regularly lately when I start quilting (it used to be that I never started quilting, because I never stopped quilting, but lately, life gets in the way most of the time :(): Last night as I went to sleep, I finally had an idea forming about what to do with the in-between parts on this Feathered Star quilt that I’m working on, the one with the borders that prompted the appliqué experiments. By “in-between parts” I mean the parts in between the star in the middle and the appliqué borders. So this afternoon, I sit down to draw out what I want to do on paper, and proceed to play with fabric, and begin to be happy that it looks like what I imagined it would be.

I’m playing along happily and enjoying the process (except for the fusible web part anyway), until I start looking at the whole thing together, the Feathered Star in the middle, the setting blocks around it, and the appliquéd borders, and I decided that the green is too, um…green and boring and there’s too much of it all together there, and I’d rather use something lighter between the center and the border.

Too green

A search ensues, and I find nothing in my stash that will work, it’s Sunday, and even if the Gussy Goose was open today they probably wouldn’t have what I needed anyway. Make no mistake, the almost-perfect fabric is indeed here, there’s just not enough of it. I say “almost” perfect, because if it was really perfect, it might not have flowers on it. This could be the story of my quilting life, and it happens so often that when it doesn’t happen, it’s a Quilting Warm Fuzzy Feeling occasion. If I had enough of this lighter green, I’d use it in the curvy parts on the setting squares around the star, and in the space between the star and the borders as you see it here. It just adds more sparkle to the whole thing. Sadly, it’s not to be, at least not today.

Much better green

This is one of the problems that can come up when you design as you go along, I suppose. This search for the perfect fabric is sometimes comical, really. I decide I need something else, and start digging through my carefully-sorted-by-color stacks of fabric, and sometimes, like today, I find the perfect (or almost perfect) thing, but there’s not enough yardage to make it work. Further digging yields nothing, and I continue to paw through stacks, and even look at other projects in progress thinking to sabotage them in favor of the current one. Usually I know better from the start, since I have an amazing memory for fabrics and patterns and I have a really good idea what’s in my fabric stash, and I know in the beginning that there’s probably nothing there.

There are those occasions when a fabric shortage and the resulting desperate search produces serendipitous creative solutions to the problem and the quilt is better for it in the end, but that just doesn’t happen all the time. It’s not happening today, for sure. I’ve looked and looked, even tried to sabotage, and it’s just not going to work. So, my creativity has been derailed completely, and I think I have to find something else to do at this point, like cook dinner or something equally boring. This project is officially on hold until the two quilt shops nearby are open again on Tuesday. sigh Hear me Birgit?? I’ll be coming your way on Tuesday!