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June’s Swatch of the Month started off with excitement as it was a new technique of applique and a stencil pattern I enjoy. It was also my first chance to try out my new sewing nook in our new home!
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I had some trouble matching up the pieces of the applique to the base fabric, but I made my best guess and I suppose it turned out alright.
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The “puffy” applique was a bit challenging, probably because of the lack of preciseness. Instead of matching up lines or keeping fabric flat, I had to purposefully stitch down the applique in “puffs.”
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And then some pieces didn’t really “puff” at all, so not sure why that was. For pieces too small for applique, I chose to do a backstitch outline of each piece with embroidery thread.
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For embellishment, I chose to do a mixture of running stitches and beaded accents around the larger petals.
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I like the multiple layers of texture, with so many different thread colors, types, and stitches. It took a long time to finish this Swatch because of the detail but I like how it turned out.
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In this swatch I start to show a divergence from following the suggested color choices and pattern and putting my own take on it. I think it is what I need to keep engaged. More color and variation!

The Last Wave

I wanted to share an update on my Ocean Waves quilt. I last shared in August, almost a year ago!, and a lot has been completed since then. I had a recent burst of energy to complete the quilt when my friend Gerry presented me with this year’s county fair entry book! I realized I was so close, I had to get the quilt finished in time for fair. So I pulled it out as I hadn’t touched it in a while, and low and behold I had a small two foot long piece to quilt left. What?! Amazing. Inspired, I spent a few evenings and weekend afternoons finishing the hand quilting.
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To backtrack a little bit, for the little black triangles along the edges, I chose to do one of the sprial waves that makes up the sprial circle in the squares in the middle.
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For the black edge border, I chose to do a fan pattern. I freehand drew it with chalk and then stitched.
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With the black fan edge border complete, making the entire quilt quilted by hand, I eagerly jumped into binding and finishing the quilt. I discovered in my fabric stash I still had enough hand dyed fabric from the inner skinny blue border to do the binding.
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Reading through some of my Amish quilt books, I decided to follow the technique in “An Amish Adventure” for the binding. I was attracted to the double fabric of a mitered binding without the miter. I did decide I wanted a wide binding, so instead of cutting it the suggested 2 inches, I believe I cut it (I can’t remember now!) 4 1/2 inches thick, then pressed it in half, which once sewed on to the quilt made a generous 1 inch binding. I made four separate lengths to sew onto each side.
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I sewed the two short lengths on, then the two long sides on, leaving about an inch or two on each side to create the corner.
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I read of so many quilters who dislike binding the quilt, but I find it to be so thrilling, because it is a task that marks the completion of the quilt. When working with a quilted quilt the touch and feel is different. To watch the raw edges disappear under the binding and the quilt becomes complete is so sweet.
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In only a few evenings I had the binding all sewn and the quilt was done! Finishing a quilt of this size is anti-climactic, for so many years it was always a goal, always a project needing to work on, and then suddenly, it is finished. It is an empty feeling, a feeling of what is next? And then that thought fills me, what is next? And then the emptiness is enjoyable with a sense of possibility, what is next? I’m going to let that ruminate for a while! And I will post pictures soon, once I get some of the quilt in its entirety. So exciting!

Yesterday I had a lovely afternoon escaping the heat for the mountains, to see some wildflowers and our mountain quilt at an art show in Mammoth Lakes.

DSC02259The Mono Council for the Arts has a show called “Hello Spring” that has been up since April, and I finally made it up to see the show. So many beautiful pieces of artwork bursting with color and life. When we submitted a picture of the quilt to the show, the curator was excited because they hadn’t had a quilt in one of their shows before!

DSC02260I was particularly pleased with how they hung the quilt so artfully from a branch. What a great idea! They pinned strips of fabric at different lengths depending on the curve of the branch. Cool!

PicMonkey CollageWe also had a great time going for a wildflower hike. While it is summer already here down in the valley, up in the mountains it is still spring!

April’s swatch barely held my attention. Circle’s again?!
DSC02160But I persevered, which included having it sit away for several weeks while I fumed in my mind about more circles. Guess polka dots aren’t really my thing.

DSC02162The swatch finally caught my attention when I decided to embellish with beads and stitches, making a clam shell pattern.

DSC02251May was a tad better, at least it was a different stencil design! But the technique of reverse applique was the same we had done previously. Perhaps you can hear some impatience in my tone.

DSC02256I haven’t done a club where the pattern is decided for you. I find that I am balking at the limitation of being told, do it this way.

DSC02254And yet with that restriction, comes creativity. It is often once I get to the embellishment with beads that I begin to enjoy the swatch.

DSC02253For May I decided to play with sequins, and the Alabama Chanin book has some great examples of how to stitch them down using only threads in different patterns and using beads too!DSC02252I also enjoyed adding not just beading, but simple running stitches. The piece fairly sings with all the layers and textures. Was my perseverance rewarded? Yes! And June and July (which both have already arrived in my mail box) look promising as we are going to dive into doing a different technique. Yay! Even if July is polka dots … again.

Have you had a project that challenged your interest and still you pushed through? Did you find a benefit come out in the end?

Self-Portrait

In April, our Out of the Box quilt group decided to do a mini challenge of a self-portrait. We were inspired by a self-portrait quilt at this year’s Road to California quilt show. We wanted the challenge to be a simple and easy one, so suggested a small size of 8×10, allowing the process to not get bogged down in size, and allow the quilter to focus on the idea of the self-portrait.

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May 11, 2013: From the right, my mom Jacqueline, and friends Jayne, Elin and Heather help prepare my wedding bouquet.

As I thought about what I wanted to do, I had a decision to quilt an image of my face or be more abstract. I was drawn towards the challenge of picking a subject that embodied important elements of me. Over the course of a few days I scribbled down ideas as I thought of them: nature, the land where I grew up, my husband, my family, being outdoors, my love of botany and wildflowers, the women who came before me, and the women who are my family and friends today that support me. And in a passing moment, I glanced at a photo of my wedding bouquet, and I thought, that is it. Perfect. The bouquet was made up of flowers that my mother and friends collected from around the land I grew up on and put together. It embodied the moment when my husband and I became a family. It reminded me of the moment when all my community was together, family and friends supporting me on this life adventure. It reminds me of all the women who came before me, my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, who also held bouquets in their hand on their wedding day.

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I zoomed in to a picture of me holding my bouquet, and printed it out on a regular letter size piece of paper. Using tracing paper, I tried to capture indivudal flower petals and stems. I ignored some of the smaller more detailed flowers and stems, and tried to pick out the primary shapes. I chose to highlight the three main dogwood flowers in the middle, the yellow iris to the left, the purple penstemon in the back, and the globe lilies on the right. From the tracing paper, I transferred the shapes onto fusible webbing, and then ironed that to various colored fabric, and cut out each petal and stem shape. I moved and arranged the fabric pieces until I liked their composition.

IMG_3508Two other nature themes I am passionate about and love are water and oak trees. I sketched several different scenarios with both, and settled on a circular quilt, with a wave pattern spiraling around the outside. I freehand drew the first wave spiral, then traced a smaller wave inside that so I could have two different colors. I transferred these two circles onto fusible webbing, and cut out two blues. I then placed my fabric flowers into the middle of the waves. Since I had focused so much on the shape of individual flowers, I felt the bouquet overall looked flat. I cut a few more random stems, and a few leaves for the dogwood flowers, and added these to the mix. It was exactly what the piece needed, and I knew my composition was complete.

DSC01992Next, I quilted all the raw edge applique by stitching around the outside of each piece of fabric with a similar matching color. This took forever! Each little piece, I would wind a bobbin of matching thread, rethread the machine, stitch, change colors, repeat …

DSC01994When our Out of the Box group gathered to share our self-portraits (which were amazing by the way, with their intimacy and creativity!), I shared my frustration over the endless changes of bobbin threads. And my world was rocked when several of the group asked why I bothered to change my bobbin thread at all! Why I bother? Don’t you have to? Apparently, not! Both Marilyn and Margaret left their bobbin thread one color, while only making the color thread changes up top. Brilliant!

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Here’s Marilyn’s self-portrait, left is back and the right is the front. You can see how she changed color several times on front but kept the same light beige color for the back. Amazing! We did chat about how your machine stitch tension probably needs to be good, so you don’t see the bobbin thread color in the front, and if the contrast is too much you might need a darker neutral color in the back. Otherwise, I can’t wait to give this a try! I think it is interesting how our minds can get stuck in a “this is how you have to do it”, even though nobody probably ever said to me “you have to always match your bobbin thread” …. This is another great example of why I love the collaboration with our quilt group. Gets our minds and creativity out of the box!

DSC02005I really enjoyed this project in that it challenged me to take an idea and translate it into an image. It encouraged me to reflect on how I see myself, what is important and meaningful to me, and how I want to portray myself to the world. Nature. Family. Community. Color and fabric!

DSC01999And so on this Mother’s Day weekend, I want to thank my mom for raising me to be the woman I am today. And to all the women in my life, friends, aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers … I am who I am because I had you in life. Thank you.

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As I set out to start on the March swatch of the month, I was somewhat disheartened with the pattern. I had waited long enough to start my March swatch that April had already arrived. Eagerly opening the package, I saw that April was circles, March was circles, and January was circles.DSC01847While the stencils were different sizes of polka dot (March was medium), they were still the same pattern. Instantly I felt bored. But I persevered, and asked myself how can I enjoy this month? I told myself just start it and see.

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Both the top layer and bottom layer were apple color. The suggested treatment was negative reverse applique. The stitching of the polka dots was finished quickly, and then I was cutting out around the circles.

DSC01854So then I had a swatch of funny little circles popping out of the background fabric. At this point, I was thumbing through the book, looking for ideas on how to make this month’s block more interesting. And I settled on adding some star embellishment with embroidery thread.

DSC01848Random circles received a random number of little red embroidered stars. Cute! But I quickly ran out of interest in doing the stars, and left most of the circles blank.

DSC01849What next? I had committed to myself to experiment more with adding beading, so wanted to find away to add beading. Since so much fabric was cut away from around the circles, this area between circles intrigued me. Grabbing chalk, I tried sketching a random pattern around the circles. And. I. Loved. It. Finally I found the thing that makes this swatch sing!

DSC01850I love the undulating curve of the beaded line, the way the sparkly beads catch the light and make the whole piece move. I used the bugle beads with button craft thread and a simple running stitch went quite quickly.

DSC01853I love that depending on the angle or direction you look, the overall effect has so many different repeating patterns. I started this month’s swatch less than infused, and ended up really enjoying myself. Or maybe I found myself somewhere in the thread.

721e84f2adc74a2d68645da8382da5f5Quote from www.slowstitching.com

 

 

 

Opening up the February Swatch of the Month mail, I was thrilled to discover that it was the Angie’s Fall stencil pattern. This is one design I have long admired in the Alabama Chanin line. The top fabric was a lovely Italian Plum, and the bottom fabric a Ruby color. Yum!

IMG_3368The guide suggested to work in backstitch reverse applique with embroidery floss. I immediately started in, and enjoyed every second. Because of the intricate nature of the design, this swatch took a lot longer to complete, but was also very portable.

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Only needing the spool of embroidery floss and scissors, I could tuck in my bag and bring with me anywhere! I stitched a lot at work on my lunch break, and on the weekend in coffee shops. Anywhere I sat for a second I was stitching.

DSC01696After the stitching was done, I cut away the center pieces of the designs for the reverse applique. Many pieces were so small I didn’t cut them, so the pattern was very diverse. Adding in beading embellishment, I chose to do varying patterns in specific spots to emphasize the stencil.

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As this swatch took me so much longer than the other swatches I’ve stitched, this recent  article in Quilting Daily really spoke to me. I didn’t realize there was a growing interest in the “Slow Stitching Movement”, as I’ve always loved to hand stitch.

DSC01697In the article, they suggest to stitch intentionally. “When you slow stitch, think about what you want to accomplish with your stitching and focus on it intently.” The beading has been difficult for me, so I just try, and think about where I wanted to go, and do it slowly. The beading adds more time, but the end result is interesting and different. At first I was unsure of the beading, but as I added more, it added a pop and pizzazz that wasn’t there before.

DSC01699And of course here is my requisite back of the swatch photo. I love the tail ends of the string. There is one Alabama Chanin technique that keeps the knots on top of the fabric, I hope to try it on one of the swatches!

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