Archive for November, 2013

With the long holiday weekend ahead of me, I knew I wanted to dye fabric, partly inspired by the mountain panel quilt I am working on. After our last meeting, I felt like I needed more purple brown colors for mountains and greens for valley. IMG_7727This was the first time I tried to dye the fabric to match a color in mind. Usually I am just surprised and pleased by whatever results I get. This time, I was trying to dye colors similar to ones our group had picked as good tones for the mountains.

IMG_7729For the greens, I was trying for more of the light grey green color our valley often gets. You know, that unique color of the sagebrush and rabbitbrush.

IMG_7734Using previous notes of dye sessions helped me to pick starting colors to mix from. All the fabrics dyed were made with some mixture of maroon brown, Parisian blue, and marigold.

IMG_7738-2I do enjoy the randomness of dyeing, and often it is the most pleasing aspect of the process. The surprise I feel of what the results are when I pull the fabrics from the dryer and iron them flat. Their sumptuousness never ceases to please me. But I do take notes, so that if I were to want to replicate a color I could, or in this case, I could direct my efforts somewhat in a direction of a color I am striving for.

IMG_7740On each fabric before dyeing, I write a number, and keep notes as I go of what amounts I mixed for that color. Then I cut a little square from each, glue to paper, and write next to it how much I mixed for that color. I have a binder of these notes with little color squares! They are fun to look through not only for inspiration but to remember all the colors I’ve dyed and used in different quilts.

IMG_7742I also dyed a couple of pieces of fabric using the ice dyeing method. I was hoping to get some colors I could fussy-cut to be particular mountain pieces. We’ll have to see if what I dyed turns out to be something that works with the quilt!

IMG_7745The ice dye fabric is stunning on its own, and even if I don’t use it in the mountain quilt, it will be good for something! Time to go cut fabric and play. More updates later!

Anyone have pictures of Mount Humphrey in the spring I could use as inspiration? Or a cottonwood in the valley, fully leafed out in the spring? I want to put a big cottonwood tree in my foreground, and it would be great to have a photo to use to prompt my colors and sketching.

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A few years ago, a group formed from our quilt guild, of quilters who were interested in art quilting. We call ourselves Out of the Box, and we’ve done different projects together, learning new skills and playing with new techniques. Last year, we challenged ourselves to work in a series. This year, we decided to do a panel quilt together.

photo 1-2

In September, we met to discuss the idea, how it would work, and to share and show examples of other group quilts. We agreed we wanted to do a landscape quilt that was more realistic than abstract. We agreed we wanted to make individual panels, that when hung side by side, looked like one quilt. Each panel would reflect the individuality of the quilter. We chose a familiar landscape to anyone who has visited or lived in the Owens Valley: the mountain skyline of Mt. Tom, Basin, and Humphrey.

photo 2-2

We decided to make our panels long and skinny. The quilt would be 36″ x 70″, so each of us would make a 10″ x 36″ panel. We selected a photo to use as inspiration. Our next meeting was in October, when we came back together to sketch out the look.

photo-2Nela had sketched the mountain scene at the top of each panel, so that the horizon line stretched across the quilt. We also discussed our foreground, and what we’d liek to see there. We decided on a spring scene, with green fields and grass. We are going to put in a big cottonwood tree, a creek with iris flowers, deer and butterflies and a lizard, an old cabin, a mule, and wagon. It was fun to talk about what we think makes our home unique, and how we can portray it in our quilt.

For our November meeting, we came back together with our fabrics, to choose colors for the mountains.

IMG_7711Again, we hung our paper panels on Nela’s design board, and auditioned different fabrics.

IMG_7709When a particular mountain or portion crossed two panels, we worked together on deciding what colors to choose.

IMG_7707After selecting a fabric we’d like, like this beautiful blue sky cloud piece that Cathy hand dyed, we cut it into sections, so each person went home with a little piece.

IMG_7714We made notes on the paper panels, and attached names to the fabric to keep it all straight. Foothills, Mt. Tom, Basin, Humphrey . . .

IMG_7721My panel is on the far left, and I have Mt. Humphrey. Here’s the mountain in draft form! Next I’ll cut out the fabric into shapes, fuse, and lay onto a muslin fabric base.

IMG_7712Fabric was scattered all over the work tables as we pinned, cut, talked, visited, played, laughed, and enjoyed each other’s company. Part of what is so enjoyable about this new project is the time it takes as we work together to make the quilt. Instead of quilting being a solitary craft, we’ve now made it into a social collaborative experience.

At our next meeting in December, we’ll bring our mountain scapes together, to see how each interacts with the other. Maybe colors will need to be added, lines adjusted, or clouds added. Then it will be on to the foreground!

I do think I need to have a dye session, as I am low on greens. Maybe some ice dyeing to get multi patterned fabric. I’ll have to think about how to make it look like fields of sagebrush.

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The quilt that travels continues to grow, though now from home, not from the road. With the time change, cooler weather, and darker evenings, I find myself enjoying picking up a little hand sewing each evening. The quilt and sewing kit sit by the couch, ready for a few minutes of sewing.


The quilt has now grown to be 24 inches square!


Amazing how just doing a little bit each day can grow so quickly.


And suddenly I needed more supplies. So this morning I took some time to restock my sewing kit. I jotted down some notes because I couldn’t remember how big I originally chose to make my triangles, and wanted to figure out a quick way to cut more.

IMG_7646I needed more templates cut from cardboard. As the quilt grows, templates need to be left on the edges to connect more triangles to. So my pile of templates has been dwindling as more and more are left in the quilt. I raided our recycling, and cut more from thin cardboard.

IMG_7652I also needed more triangles, and discovered if I cut rows and then use the 60 degree triangle ruler, it goes quite quickly.

IMG_7647And after a little bit (I’ll admit, these things don’t just happen in a few minutes, it does take some time), I had a couple of piles of scrap colors.

IMG_7648A few other things I’ve discovered: regular thread I use on the machine can be challenging to hand sew with. I end up with these monstrous knots and have to cut the thread, knot, restring, restart . . . I’m thinking I might try using quilting thread for the hand sewing whip stitch parts, because that is where I seem to run into the most trouble. I’ll continue using just simple white machine thread for basting the triangles into squares, because that uses a large amount of thread. Now my sewing kit is stocked for another few weeks of stitching triangles!

IMG_7653I will admit, this will be my first, entirely hand pieced quilt. I love to sew by hand, and have quilted by hand, but have never pieced a quilt by hand!

IMG_7661Taken at a glance, it seems like a tremendous amount of work. But taken piece by piece, bit by bit, it isn’t hard at all. I feel like there is a parable for life in there somewhere.


How big will it grow? Nobody knows!

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