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My designs for my puzzle pieces began as sketches as part of an online quilting class I took called Inspired to Design with Elizabeth Barton. One of the main lessons I learned in the class is to make your pattern sketches without judgement, and make a lot of them! In various exercises, Elizabeth would encourage us to draw at least a dozen, if not more, sketches that we would then choose from a final design.

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On the left, you can see a black and white print out of one of my designs from the class. That particular lesson was playing with positive and negative space, cutting out shapes from paper and re-arranging them to make patterns. I liked the pattern I made but felt it needed a bit more transforming to be a part of this group quilt. So taking Elizabeth’s technique to heart, I drew MANY more sketches from the original inspiration. In this process of making many sketches I started to be drawn to squiggly lines and floating circles.

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Putting my block together, I started with the floating circles. One of the fabrics we had in our fabric pull to use for our puzzle pieces was this fantastic green and blue circle design! I cut out individual circles and arranged them in a random cascading pattern.

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Next were my squiggly lines. I chose two of the bright blue fabrics in our fabric set, and randomly cut wavy squiggly curvy lines. Between each set of stacked circles I layered around two to three squiggly lines.

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The design was quite lovely at this point, but I hadn’t yet used any of our maroon or red fabrics in the design. I thought a little bit of a color pop would be important to tie the block in with the other blocks, so I cut a few circles out of the bright fabric and layered them behind the cascading circles.

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For my second color piece, I deviated wildly from my original paper cut-out sketch (seen far left). I think this is a great example of how continually making sketch after sketch without judgement lets you discover new ideas you didn’t realize you had. As I sketched, I was drawn to the idea of interlocking circles that create depth and motion.

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This block was a bit more difficult to pull off. Well, I made it easy one way because I was free-hand cutting the circles, and didn’t mind a bit of wonkiness. Rather, the difficulty was because I ran out of fusible webbing, and it being a Sunday I had no quilt shop open to purchase more. This was my day to complete it though, so I forged ahead, knowing I could glue down the design instead of fuse. However, this made all the pieces very loose and wobbly as I tried to place them, and made it take twice as long to glue each little piece!

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It had been ages since I free-motion quilted, and I felt a bit rusty at first to start. However, those pesky deadlines were looming again, so I forged ahead to complete it. The stitching and design isn’t as fine or detailed as I imagined in my head, but I got it done. We have a saying at work right now, “do and be done.” I have been swamped with projects and deadlines, and often times find myself only able to complete something as well as I can in that moment, instead of having the time to finesse, re-do and make perfect. I think it is good to have time to make something as good as you can, but I think it can also be good to complete something in the time you have available and move on, for it is better to be completed than not done at all. So in that spirit, I completed my puzzle pieces, and they are good enough, and will join our Puzzlement quilt for everyone to enjoy.

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Click here to see my post on our group process of making Puzzlement and you can see the quilt in person at our bi-annual guild show, May 28-29 at the Methodist Church in Bishop from 10am – 5pm on Saturday and 10am – 4pm on Sunday.

At this year’s Road to California quilt show, Margaret and I saw a quilt that perked our interest, and we brought back inspiration to our Out of the Box quilt group. The loose idea was making a quilt with independent blocks that would be connected in a temporary way, so the blocks could move, shift, and rotate direction and location.

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We had our first meet-up to discuss the project and how it might come together. We made a few decisions like: we would all make two blocks, they would all be mostly abstract with circles and rectangles, and that we would all be restricted to using the same fabrics. We all brought various fabrics that we could contribute to the project, and we spent the hour pairing and selecting and coming up with a color scheme.

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At our second meeting, we brought sketches, patterns, and some roughly assembled blocks, to discuss the direction designs were going and to get inspiration from each other. There was such a range of patterns! The creativity in the room was contagious. A couple additional decisions that emerged were incorporating triangles (in addition to circles and rectangles) and having multiple layers making the designs more interesting and complex.

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At our third meeting, we brought our full size blocks together to share and compare. At this point, each of us had only pinned, fused or glued, with the thought that if something needed changing it could … But it didn’t! All the blocks looked absolutely vibrant together. Each was unique, but all worked together as a whole. We all went home to quilt and bind our blocks to finish them up.

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At our fourth meeting, we came together with our finished blocks, and finalized how they were going to be hung and tested how they moved and worked together on the finished quilt. We had smiles on our faces and there was lots of joy in the room as we rearranged and hung blocks. After each adjustment, we stood back to admire the design. The quilt really worked! I’ll share more about the blocks I made, and how we secured the blocks together and how they move. Our quilt, “Puzzlement,” will be shown at our guild show this coming Memorial Day weekend! You can catch the show at the Methodist Church in Bishop on Fowler Street on Saturday May 28 – Sunday May 29.

Baby Quilt for Hunter

I love making a quilt for each new baby coming into the world. I enjoy thinking about their parents and their personalities, and from there picking a set of fabrics and colors for their new baby. For Hunter, I knew he would be born into a family that loves the outdoors and is connected to the earth. Thinking about a quilt for him, I was drawn to this collection of fabrics from Hawthorn Threads, with its motifs of butterflies, pine cones, feathers and leaves and flowers. IMG_5226

I knew I wanted to pair the fabrics with solids, and decided I like yellow as the compliment. For pattern, I was recently drawn to the North Wind block.

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As I was sewing the quilt in March, our weather was turning from winter to spring. We’d have windy days with the wind blowing from the north, bringing us the warmer weather of spring.

IMG_5282And it felt like spring inside too! Choosing yellow was such a pleasure to work and sew with. As sunlight streamed in my windows on a weekend morning and I sat stitching with a cup of tea, I felt like I was calling spring to arrive.

DSC03092I chose to make the entire quilt one large north wind block. I quilted it with a walking foot, simple diagonal lines matching the points of the yellow triangles to emphasize the direction of movement in the quilt.

DSC03101I used all the remaining fabrics from the collection in the back. I imagine that Hunter will get lots of play time on this quilt, inside and outside!

DSC03103As I stitched, I hoped that Hunter would revel in growing up in the great outdoors, with the north wind bringing him fun adventures.

Over the Easter weekend, we were lucky to have my folks visiting. My mom and I love getting crafty, and soon we were scheming about dyeing eggs. We wanted to dye colorful eggs for a hunt when we had friends over. I had been wanting to try the Ukranian egg dyeing technique called Pysanky. Mom was wanting to try natural dyeing. So naturally, we decided to try them all!

I live in a small town where we are lucky to have one small market and a gas station that sells some food items. Hoping to not have to drive into “the city” 15 miles away where the chain grocery stores are, we walked into town with our finger’s crossed. And we were in luck! We were able to purchase eggs, cabbage, vinegar and onion skins from the grocery, and we found food dye coloring at the gas station!

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There commenced a crazy and fun afternoon of multi-tasking and creativity. We referenced websites and blogs for various tutorials, had multiple pots boiling on the stove, and lots of jars and plants all over the place. Please excuse the photos as I only just managed to snap a few with my phone as we went from step to step, and some are a tad blurry.

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The cashier at the grocery store inspired us with a video tutorial to try using leaves and flowers to make a design on the naturally dyed eggs. Collecting various leaves and flowers from the yard outside, we wrapped them arranged on the egg with cheesecloth (most tutorials called for pantyhose).

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Then you put the egg in the dye bath! We tried onion skins (dark red/brown), tumeric (yellow) and red cabbage (blue).

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The onion skins and tumeric were done after boiling for 20 minutes. The red cabbage had to sit overnight before it held its color. It felt like Christmas morning to unwrap each and see the beautiful design revealed!

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Then, we were on to the Pysanky method. This website is fantastic for their instructions. We didn’t have the traditional tools, and instead used wax and tjanting from my batik supplies. First, you lightly draw with pencil guiding lines on the egg, and then wax and dye much like the batik process.IMG_5344

Here’s my egg after two colors and layers have been added. It is quite a challenge to control the wax and make a smooth straight line.

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And here is my egg with all layers complete and the wax still on the egg. There are five colors, counting the white as the first layer.

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Then, to get the wax off, you hold it up to a candle, and ever so slowly, bit by bit, melt and wipe, melt and wipe, until all the wax is removed. Its actually quite pleasant and goes by quickly.

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And here’s the finished product! My mom’s is on the left with swirling squares, and mine is on the right, like peacock feathers.

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The icing on the cake after all this fun of coloring eggs, was having my friend’s two-year-old over for an Easter egg hunt. We told her the Easter bunny had also visited my house and we needed help finding all the eggs. And she helped, first by finding all the eggs, and then hiding them for us to hide!

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Soy and Ice Fabric

Last Sunday our Out of the Box group gathered again to play with fabric. This time Margaret was showing us how to use soy wax to make batik patterns. She brought a pot full of hot soy wax and we played!

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We tried using different found objects like lids and cookie cutters as stamps. We tried painting with paint brushes to make our own designs. I brought some previously ice dyed fabric to paint. We all had a hand at seeing how the wax felt and worked.

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When I got home, I bleached my two pieces of fabric to lighten the background color. Then I ice dyed the fabric again to give a little more color. Kind of seems redundant now that I type it! My thought was to give the background a different color than what it had before.

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One benefit of using soy wax is that it is easy to rinse out. Instead of the endless boiling required when using beeswax for batik, soy wax can just be rinsed in the sink! After rinsing and drying and ironing, I compared how the fabrics looked to when we started.

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They are definitely lighter than the original, with the batik patterns standing out! But I don’t think my second ice dye really gave much added color. I still like how they turned out!

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I have two new fun fabrics to add to my stash, and a great new technique to add to my skill set. I look forward to experimenting with it more and collecting items to stamp with! How do you like to make patterns with soy wax?

 

Acorns – Seeds of Hope

In September, my childhood home burned in the Butte Fire. After four years of drought, California was dry and burned like tinder. The property was once a verdant forest, and in a moment became a blackened and bare world.

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After the grief and sadness at losing what once was, I started to feel hope. Visiting the property after the burn, walking the familiar trails and roads, I felt comforted by the resiliency of mother nature. The land will come back. It might be different, it might take a while, but it will. Already there are ferns and tree sprouts bringing green to the property, and we planted acorns and wildflower seeds.

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It was this thought of new beginnings that I started making wool acorns. My mom was visiting and we had a companionable day rolling wool roving into cute little acorn balls!

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I had collected some acorn tops last year for just such an occasion. We rolled balls and matched them to tops. So adorably cute!

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It was addicting, rolling each wool acorn. As soon as one was finished another was quickly started.

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Soon I started to get an idea about making them into ornaments. With Christmas approaching I thought they’d make great Christmas gifts! I drilled a hole in each top and strung it with string, and then glued the top to the acorn.

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After stringing the acorn, I felt if needed something more to stand as an ornament. What about a leaf to go with it? Beautiful black oaks grew all over our property, and I love the shape of their leaves.

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I found a sketch of a black oak leaf, shrunk it to a smaller size, and cut out shapes from wool felt.

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On each leaf I stitched lines for veins, and the ornaments were done!

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I loved each one, with its unique characteristics and style. I made so many, imagining that each was a gift of hope of what the future could hold for each person I gifted one to.

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And I remembered to keep a few for myself! Two acorns found their way onto my annual wreath, this year made from cuttings from our Christmas tree and sage brush collected here in the valley.

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Is it just me or do the acorns make everything look just that much cuter?

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Here’s to acorns that carry the hope of regrowth and a greener future!

 

Last weekend I had the great fortune to attend a two day workshop at Road to California with Gloria Loughman called Confident Colour. Before going I made time for one dye session, making a range of blues and oranges to bring to the class.

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The workshop started with a brief lecture on how to read the color wheel, and the basic types of color combinations. We colored in examples of the combinations, which would be our choices to work from for the rest of the workshop.

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Throughout the two days, we were tasked with making the same quilt pattern over and over, trying out different color combinations. The first quilt we were asked to do a monochromatic scheme, the hardest to do! I chose blue-green as my color.

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Halfway through the first day, Gloria gave a short demonstration on how to paint a sky fabric. I was entranced. I loved it and couldn’t wait to try.

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After dipping a piece of plain white fabric in water, I spread it out on a plastic surface. Mixing colors, starting from light to dark, I slowly painted the sky. It’s almost like watercolor the way the colors blend and combine.

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I really think the sky makes the quilt too! On the left is my monochromatic quilt as I first made it in the morning, with a plain blue piece for the sky. And on the right is after I learned to paint skies I went back and made a new one. The sky can turn the whole mood of the quilt, here making it stormy and dark.

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The second coolest thing about the workshop was learning to use the color wheel! We all have seen a color wheel, and basically understand how it works. What was really neat and what I had never done before was choose a color combination and select fabrics to match by holding them up next to the wheel. I really got a feel for which fabrics fell where on the wheel, and how a particular color wouldn’t fit within the selected scheme.

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This was my second quilt, with a complementary color scheme, from blue-green to red-orange. I love the sky so much! I would however, not put the orange hill in the foreground, I think I could have gone with all blue hills.

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My third quilt is my favorite. I chose a triad color scheme, using green, violet and orange. The sky was so fun to paint, and the mountains fairly shimmer with color. I really enjoyed Gloria’s teaching style. She left plenty of time for working and asking questions, but also filled the workshop with endless techniques and tips. On the second day she introduced making linear lines in the landscape by cutting up individual segments and laying them over another color.

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For my fourth quilt, I chose a split complementary, picking a range of greens from yellow-green to blue-green and a red-violet for accent.

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Gloria left us with lots of tips and ideas for how to quilt our finished pieces.

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Here are my friend Margaret’s quilts, I really love her gray cloud sky that she painted with some orange. Just makes it pop!

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And here’s a few others from the class. Amazing how even when working within set limits there is so much individual creativity!

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And here are my four completed colorscapes! What should I do with them? Combine them into one quilt? Make each a small wall hanging?

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