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Stitching the Waves

Almost every evening, I sew on my Ocean Waves quilt. I have it in a basket next to our couch, ready to pull onto my lap, with a little bag of thread, needle, thimble and scissors.

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Right now, we are enjoying the show Hell on Wheels, and I stitch away while transported back in time. In about a 45 minute show, I can sew around nine triangles. Just recently, I switched to a new needle, as I noticed my previous needle started to bend and be curved from all the use.

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I tried a quilting hoop with a stand, hoping it would help with my posture and back pain from sitting too much. I didn’t really like it, as it was awkward to use and move the huge quilt around. Instead, I’ve switched to a very small quilting hoop, which means I need to move it every three triangles, but the small diameter means I don’t hunch curved over it as much.

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For every triangle, I am stitching a quarter inch triangle smaller inside. I can do about three triangles for each thread length, before I need to knot and re-thread.

IMG_1893 For the black squares, I chose a sashiko pattern from a Japanese quilting book I have, of three waves cresting in a circle. I made a cardboard stencil of the pattern to transfer it to the black fabric when I am ready to quilt.

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The chalk holds up relatively well while sewing, not disappearing and staying long enough for me to quilt around all the lines.

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I was somewhat shocked when I realized I hadn’t posted about my Ocean Waves since December 2012. Yikes! I thought it was time to share what I’ve been up to, and I was curious to get a sense for how much quilting is left to do. I hung the quilt on our clothes line and enjoyed taking some pictures today.

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Every night, as I quilt only a few triangles, I wasn’t really sure how far along I was. I’m nearing the edge, and had the sense I was getting close, but how close? If you can imagine the quilt continuing to the top, instead of hanging over the clothes line, I have one row of triangles and black squares along the left long edge and top edge. Then after that, I have the black border to do. I think I can safely say I’m over half way there!

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It was also a treat to get to get a sense for how the stitching is going to look when it is all done. I picked the patterns with a specific hope and look in mind, and am just now getting to see their effect.

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The circle wave sits simply in the black square, surrounded by swirling triangles.

IMG_8672I am happy with the look of the triangles too, the dense stitching creates a textured effect that is just wonderful.

IMG_8681Here’s from the back, I hand dyed some fabric, and I think the variation adds interest while still allowing the stitch pattern to shine through.

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I still have two different sized small black triangles to fill, they fit in at various parts along the edge of the quilt. And to decide on the stitching for the black border. I have some ideas in mind! But that will be the next post. Time to get stitching!

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I have often found inspiration from Pinterest. This time, it was this braided strip quilt. I was attracted to the simple geometry, and thought my hand dyed fabrics would be a natural complement to the simple design.

IMG_2272I was also intrigued by the interesting construction. You start with cutting a triangle, and then sewing stripes to each edge of the triangle. I was attracted by the notion of no measuring, just cutting strips and sewing.

IMG_2274The quilt quickly grew, with 4 1/2 inch stripes. I was also inspired by Gee’s Bend quilts, and didn’t want to worry too much about if I had enough fabric of each color. For each stripe, I’d pick a color, and if I didn’t have enough for the stripe, I’d try to pick a similar color and finish the stripe so it was long enough. The color shifts are so imperceptible you can barely catch them, but if you look closely they are there.

IMG_2290After basting the three layers, I began to quilt. I wanted to emphasize the stripey braided shape, so I chose to simply follow the stripes in multiple rows of stitches.

IMG_2418I wanted the stitching to be playful, so I switched colors for each row, and ultimately ended up doing four stripes of stitches, in varying distances from each other.

IMG_2448Rummaging through my dyed fabrics, this bright berry color popped out at me, and I thought it was be a electric complement as the binding next to the mostly neutral colored fabrics of the quilt. Last night I finished sewing the binding on, washed the quilt this morning, and it is done!

IMG_8420The front. I was somewhat surprised by the look. I have a very small house and sewing area, and hadn’t been able to see the whole quilt during the piecing phase. I was pretty much selecting colors randomly, but I think the balance and look came out nice!

IMG_8432I like the place on the quilt where the braids come together into a v.

IMG_8418I emphasized this v with the quilting, making the v connect the colors of the two different stripes to make the v.

IMG_8416The shocking berry color next to the colors of the quilt.

IMG_8441I love how it makes the other colors pop!

IMG_8440For the back, I pieced together various pieces of dyed fabrics I had. The long narrow stripe was leftover pieces from the front that were trimmed off the edges.

IMG_8438The back shows off the quilting pattern and thread colors.

IMG_8439In some ways, I think the back is almost a quilt in itself! Maybe this is a two sided quilt!

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(Three posts in three days, yikes!)

My goal this weekend was to have a kitchen dye session, making more of my California poppy  fabric, dyed back in 2010. After each dye session I keep detailed notes on what colors I used in what amounts, so that if I wanted to repeat a color run I could. I’ve never tried though, always preferring instead to experiment and make new colors. This time though, I wanted to dye more of the same colors, so I referred to my notes to repeat the colors.

PicMonkey CollageHere’s my notes and the fabric colors. It was a Blue Green to Red Orange run, made with Cerulean Blue, Deep Yellow and Fuchsia Red.  I looked through my dyes and I had fuchsia red, cerulean blue, and shoot, no deep yellow on hand! But I had Bright Yellow, so figured that was probably pretty close, and started to mix up my colors.

Oops, not. Bright Yellow is NOT like Deep Yellow. The fabrics came out so different! Here’s a screen shot from Dharma’s website, using their super cool color comparison picker tool. The Deep Yellow is so much more golden, which is probably what made my original run so orange and made me think of poppies.

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My colors I dyed this weekend were very red and blue. I don’t think the bright yellow quite had enough oomph against the reds and blues to make the oranges and greens I was hoping for.

IMG_8348I still love them though! They almost remind me more of dessert colors: cool reds and browns, bright pops of sky blue, and golden yellows.

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The yellows weren’t made with the bright yellow, those were using Marigold.

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So now I’ll just have to have another dye session to try to make more poppy colors, after I purchase some Deep Yellow!

IMG_8359The reds and browns remind me of Death Valley.

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What do the colors remind you of?

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Maybe I’ll make up some charm packs and post them for sale in my really really close to launching etsy shop!

You might remember last June we had a baby shower for my friend Kim. I posted on the paper garlands I stitched as decoration for the shower. One of our activities was also to personalize quilt squares for June, which I planned to later sew up into a quilt. This was my second of such quilts, they are so fun to make!

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I had pre-cut flannel fabric squares in various colors, and had drawn borders on each square to give folks a guide for writing and drawing their message for June within the seam limits. Kim had two baby showers, and brought her squares to both, and also distributed to various friends and families, until we had a large stack of quilt squares!

IMG_8129In May, I visited with Kim and baby June (already 8 months old!). June was a big help laying out the squares.

IMG_8131I think she loved the feel and colors of the squares. Maybe she’ll be a quilter too, like her mom and grandma!

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Kim also got to make a square, for the center, with June’s name, date of birth, time and weight.

IMG_8136There was so much love for June, the blanket quickly reached full size with just the squares. We played around with laying out of fun arrangement of random colors.

IMG_8137With both of our machines stitching, and June keeping us company, the quilt top quickly was pieced.

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That afternoon, I basted the three layers and began quilting. I opted for the walking foot, with just simple quilting around the edges of each block.

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It was such a pleasure to read each message as I quilted. The love for June absolutely shines from the quilt! The flannel fabric was hard to work with, the fabric is pretty stretchy, and my squares quickly became pretty wonky. Luckily, there was so much love and color in the quilt, my funky stitching kind of just disappeared!

IMG_2264For a binding, I chose a bright yellow, to be a bright pop of color against the pretty blues, greens and pinks that made up the majority of the quilt.

IMG_8150The backing fabric was a cute flannel pattern, of zoo animals. Doesn’t it look cute with the yellow?

IMG_8148After running it through the washing machine to erase the marker lines, the quilt got a cozy, snuggly, slightly wrinkled look. Perfect.

IMG_8146Here’s a few close-ups of the cute and heartfelt messages to June. The fabric pens did fade slightly after washing, but not too bad.

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May the quilt wrap June in all the love of this world she is going to grow up in!

IMG_8142I’m hoping the quilt gets dragged from room to room, inside and outside, made into forts, used as a table for tea parties, snuggled with at night, washed a million times, and loved until it is threadbare. I hope you enjoy it June!

 

East Side Splendor

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From left to right, panels roughly 10″x37″: Serena Johnson, Cathy Cannon, Nela Dunaway, Jan Dunaway, Penny Kehus, Margaret Phelps, and Marilyn Oltmans.

And our group quilt is done. Wow! What a feeling. We hung our panels, and sat around in companionable silence admiring them. Every now and then one of us would exclaim. We took pictures. We smiled and laughed, exhilarated with our accomplishment.

IMG_8067And then after taking a few moments to take in the entire quilt, we began to see the smaller, more intimate details. Jan embellished with hand stitching embroidery and beads.

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Penny’s intricate stitching.

IMG_8074Plants and bushes. Penny extended hers off the edge of the quilt!

IMG_8078The interplay between panels, working together but being uniquely separate.

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And with this project barely completed, we already began talking about the next one! We will take a break over the summer, and meet up again in the fall to discuss and choose our next endeavor.

IMG_8082Nela made us labels for the backs of the quilts, so we took a few moments to quickly stitch them on. Marilyn volunteered to take the panels and sew on the hanging sleeve.

IMG_8088It felt strangely light to return home without my panel, without my mind humming with ideas for what I would do next. I feel a new sense of openness, wondering what is next? I’m not pulled to any one project, this one having been my sole focus for so long. It is a feeling of lightness, knowing I could go in whatever direction pulls me and inspires me!

Reflecting on this experience this morning, I am struck again and again by the sense of companionship I received working on a collaborative quilt. The relationships we established and grew with each other seem almost as meaningful as the quilt we made together. The way we supported each other, with critique and positive encouragement, made the quilt the astonishing piece that it is. As we discussed our next project, a sense of play, creativity, experiment, history, and community played an important part in what we might choose next. I am grateful for this experience, and hope you have enjoyed following us. You can see the quilt in person at our guild quilt show, May 24 – 25 in Bishop, and later at our county fair in the fall.

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A sneak peak of Nela’s quilt made about our Calico Quilt Guild. Stop by the show to see it!

{This post is part of a series. To see other posts in this series, please click here}

Deciding on Done

These last two weekends have been a big push to finish my mountain panel. May is a busy month for a lot of folks, so our group decided to complete our panels this month. Next Saturday we meet up to put on sleeves and to figure out how to hang them. I’ve been working furiously to get my panel done. It has helped to have a deadline, I think sometimes a quilt project can languish as enthusiasm wanes, but with this project the pace has been fast enough that my interest has stayed fresh and my motivation high.

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Last weekend, Cathy again stopped by so I could compare my panel to hers. As you might have noticed, I changed my green! Like I’ve shared before, it was something that continually nagged at me, and it truly wasn’t that difficult to pull out the little stitching I’d done, pick different greens, and put it all back together. Cathy and I compared our main elements, making sure general themes and colors lined up between panels. I’m so happy with the change. While there are differences between our panels, the transition isn’t so harsh or obvious. By making the value change and making our panels more similar, I feel that our different techniques and elements can be more appreciated and enjoyed.

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I also spent last weekend working on my iris. I found some simple images online, enlarged them to the size I wanted, and re sketched and manipulated them until I had what I liked. I traced them, then cut out fabric pieces on fusible webbing.

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Here are the iris on the fusible webbing mat. This new tool I recently learned about and immediately purchased works wonders! It allows you to iron pieces of fusible fabrics together, and then peel them off the mat and fuse to your fabric. Miraculous. Another one of those techniques I learned while working with the other quilters in our group.

I continued to quilt more, thinking of the panel as a series of layers. First I wanted to quilt my bottom layer of green valley floor. Then the tree as the second layer, and then the flowers and other embellishment as the last layer.

PicMonkey Collage3I got really excited about quilting the cottonwood tree. As you probably have noticed, it is one of the main features of my panel, and I thought a lot about how to create the texture of bark on the plain brown fabric. I browsed around on the Free Motion Quilting Project site, and ended up selecting #3, gentle flames. I traced my tree outline and then practiced drawing the pattern before I tried it on the machine. I wanted to get the feel of how the lines moved and their look. I mimicked the effect of quilting while drawing by not lifting my pencil, so I could get comfortable with travel stitching. Leah Day teaches and used travel stitching a lot, something that really helps with making complex free motion quilting designs. Really free motion quilting is just drawing a zentangle with thread!
IMG_2191After the tree bark, I moved on to the leaves. Remember, I pre-cut and stitched together my tree canopy. Now I laid down the leaves, and pinned them like crazy till I had the layout I liked. I moved and adjusted as desired, making different sections of tree branches and mountains peep through the leaves. I than crazily stitched all the leaves down. It was a little slow going because of all the layers, I was constantly stopping and going, using a pin needle to push the leaf fabrics flat under my darning foot. I used three different colors, the first just to get everything stitched down, the second a lighter brighter color to make highlights on the tops of the leaves, and the third a darker color to make shadows. I think it is little touches like this that the viewer appreciates without even realizing was done.

IMG_2194Can you see the shadows lengthening on the fabric? It was an epic day of stitching! Towards afternoon, I finished quilting the iris, and all my embellishments were stitched down. I hung my quilt on the wall to look at, and peered up close, stood away. I’d stand and look at it, then leave the room and come back. Then I went and read a book, did some chores, and came back to it. I was debating about whether it was done, or if it needed something else. I had ideas of more bushes made with yarn that Lesley hand spun me, maybe a great blue heron sitting in the tree, or flying across the sky. Did I need to stitch more bushes? Put a few more colors in the leaves? This is that moment when you can do too much, or one more addition might make it come together. In the end, I decided anything more might be too much, and it was done. White space or open space or unused space can be good. A quilt needs to breath and have room. And with six more panels next to mine, there is going to be plenty more detail. I thought my open valley below the tree might complement the other panels well, as there is so much open space in this valley where we live. And so I started to bind it! Why wait?!

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We chose as a group to do a hidden binding, pulled to the back, so the quilt goes right to the edge. I sewed my last seam, stitched my last stitch, ironed my last piece of fabric, and called it good. I can’t wait to see all of our panels side by side! We meet on Saturday, and I can hardly contain my anticipation.

{This post is part of a series. To see other posts in this series, please click here}

 

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