Archive for the ‘OOB Panel Quilt’ Category

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!

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I have wonderful exciting news to share! Our mountain quilt was accepted into this year’s Road to California quilt show!

IMG_2283The Road to California Quilt Show will be January 22-25 in Ontario, California. Time to make travel plans!

10615982_10152505978488387_6138535904460096095_nWe were excited when our quilt won Best of Show at our local county fair. Now the excitement keeps on coming!

Here’s what the judge at our county fair said about the quilt: “Open spaces and mountain range clearly defined. Perspective well handled and attended to. Appliqued textures and beading add a sense of realism to overall piece. Quilting motifs are appropriate and natural to the piece. Facing is appropriate for art composition. Fits Fair Theme.”

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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.


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.


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.

PicMonkey Collage

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

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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.

PicMonkey Collage2
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.

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.

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?!


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.

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My mountain quilt panel was to the point where it was time to quilt! I eagerly sat down at my Kenmore machine, switched to my darning foot, dropped the feed dogs, and prepared to have fun. Ugh. Every few minutes my machine would sieze up, the needle would get stuck in the down position, and the only way I could figure to get unstuck would be each time to completely take apart the bobbin machinery, then put it all together again, start again and then a few minutes later . . . jam!

Then I had this light bulb moment of, maybe I need a different machine! For years I’ve quilted on my Kenmore, inherited from my great-aunt Clarkia. It is a workhorse, solid metal, and has served me beautifully for all these years. But suddenly it hit me, that maybe I was pushing the machine too hard, and there is a different machine that would meet what I want it to accomplish better.

I started to call my quilter friends. And something surprising emerged: they all have Brother 1500 quilting machines! I read reviews online, spoke with my friends, and got the impression it was exactly the machine I was imagining: simple and functional for piecing and quilting quilts.

My quilter friend Margaret now quilts on her Bernina, but had a Brother 1500 originally, and generously brought the machine by my house to lend it to me so I could give it a try! Here’s my first swatch when I gave the machine my first try. It was a breeze! A gentle humming sound and I easily stitched patterns. I felt the world of possibility open up.

Last weekend I eagerly cleared my Saturday of obligations, and began to quilt my mountain panel quilt. Margaret had given me some tips on how to do the sky, that in landscapes, put lines closer together towards the horizon and further apart as you got towards the top. It did take a bit of courage as I made my first stitches!

I first sketched my lines with chalk, to get a feel for what my intended stitching might look like. This was a helpful technique, as I could erase and redraw until I liked what I saw, and then when I stitched I could follow my lines. I had fun following the pattern in the hand dyed fabric, outlining the white clouds and emphasizing the stormy purple and blue.

My courage served me well, and the sky came together beautifully, and I continued on to the mountains. I had a brief side trip to purchase more thread at the craft store mid-afternoon, as I didn’t have any colors that matched what I wanted for my mountains. Again, I sketched the lines with chalk, and then stitched them with thread.

I chose a kind of topographic echoing repeating line pattern to emphasize the shape and flow of the mountains. I echoed but also made it random, giving it a realistic look. I wanted my snow patches to stand out, so I stitched around them with the mountain color, and then came back with white thread and stitched the white snow patches down.

And there is the top third! I was able to achieve more detail and control with the new machine. I can’t wait to continue quilting the rest! But wait, can you see in the photograph, it is white below the mountains. It’s true, I tore apart my entire bottom two-thirds of the panel. I removed all the quilting and took my light green fabrics off. This weekend I’ll reassemble it, and it shouldn’t take too long. I’ve selected the colors for the background fabric, and then will put back on top the tree trunk, leaves, bushes etc. And then I’ll quilt!

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I’ve spent the last month working on the leaves for my cottonwood tree. I raided all my scraps, and combed them for my greens, and cut the greens into hundreds of little pieces.

IMG_7948I then traced my tree trunk onto solvy, and then sandwiched my fabric leaves between two pieces of solvy.

IMG_7949I pinned the layers together in many places as possible, to help secure the fabric leaves and keep them from moving or shifting.

IMG_7951I wanted to free motion quilt the leaves, so played around with sketching a few designs I wanted to quilt the leaves with. I settled on a type of feather leafing design.

IMG_7953I drew the design onto the solvy with marker, and then quilted the lines I drew.

IMG_7955After rinsing the solvy off, I was left with leaves and stitches. I thought it looked quite nice on the tree branch!

IMG_7968After my test run, I went to work on the whole tree. The solvy is quite easily torn, and soon I was super frustrated as every few minutes it would tear. I finally found a couple of solutions, dropping my feed dogs so they wouldn’t tear the underside, and double layering the solvy. After using these two tricks, the whole thing stitched up easy.

IMG_7970With our monthly March meeting approaching, I also worked on creating my quilt sandwich, and started playing around with quilting bushes.

IMG_7976At our meeting today, it was thrilling to see all the panels come together. Here’s my panel next to Cathy’s. The tree is really coming together!

IMG_7973I love the detail Penny added to hers, flowers, rocks, and a little rabbit!

IMG_7974More detail coming together.

IMG_7975Bushes! So many different techniques and colors.

IMG_7979And the entire quilt! Stunning. Except. For. My. Panel.

I’m at a complete loss – how did I completely miss pick the right green color! My panel stands out like a sore thumb. We discussed the light shade of my panel. We came up with a few solutions, that could help, to bring elements from Cathy’s onto my panel.

IMG_7980But I’ve known this for awhile, and it just isn’t going away. I don’t want everyone’s reactions who see the quilt to always be, what’s up with the light panel on the left? I think I may need to recognize the mistake, and despite the work it might take, start all over. After all, I dyed lots of green fabric last weekend (pictures to come!), so it was like I knew this was coming. And it isn’t starting over, I just need to pick new background greens, and transfer all my embellishments on top, and then start quilting.

I also had this moment today, when my ancient Kenmore sewing machine seized up for the millionth time when trying to free motion quilt, I need a new machine! I don’t want or need all the bells and whistles of computer or fancy stitches, just a sturdy machine that can piece and free motion quilt. What kind of machine do you sew on? I’m in the market!

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A Springtime View

IMG_7937Another monthly meet up of our Out of the Box Panel Quilt. We were somewhat of a quiet bunch today, we hung our panels and sat gazing at the progress we’ve made. The mountains stretch across in wonderful detail. We’ve all begun to add greens and elements to our foregrounds.


Conversation centered around how we want to finish the quilt. We discussed what length our panels will be, and decided on 37 inches, 371/2 if you include the binding allowance. We discussed when to start quilting, and decided anyone can start when they are ready! No reason to wait. We did agree to all use the same batting, so the thickness is similar between panels. Jan and Nela generously shared their favorite batting with us, and we each went home with a strip to use.


IMG_7940Some new detail on the quilt: Marilyn’s cabin and the wild iris and quail nest. I am going to start working on a couple iris to extend over into my panel as well. I love Cathy’s California Sister butterfly!


Our goal is to have the quilt finished in time for our May guild show. That means we have three months left! We thought about what needs to be accomplished in that time to keep us on track for finishing. By the March meeting we will have all our embellishments on the quilt, by April each panel will be quilted, and at our May meeting we will bind and work on the sleeve. We are thinking we will do an invisible binding, like I did on my poppy wall hanging. For hanging, we were thinking one sleeve all the way across. Our thought is that this would minimize shifting and moving. We’ll see as it gets closer!

My goals to work on before our March meeting are: finishing the leaves for the cottonwood, making some yarn bushes, and a few iris. Then I’ll be ready to quilt!

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Cathy and I met up this morning to work on our foreground. Things are a little simpler for me, as I am an edge piece, so I am mainly collaborating with Cathy on my piece.

IMG_7870We started by laying out what ideas and colors we had so far. My kitchen table was just wide and long enough for our two panels to lay out side by side. Cathy is going to have an iris field in the bottom of her panel. We talked about how it would look good if it extended into mine a bit.

IMG_7868I auditioned a few fabrics next to hers, to pick colors of similar values. Finally my ice dyed fabric has a place! The multi colored patterning on it matched with the effect well. I chose a green dominated color for the stem background, and a purple dominated color for the flowers.

IMG_7872I started cutting the fabrics into rough shapes to see how’d they look, and Cathy let me borrow one of her iris to get a feel. Aren’t her iris lovely?! I can’t wait to make a few of my own for the corner. I think I’ll make them slightly smaller, as my iris section is smaller. I turned on my iron, and we worked away cutting, fusing, and placing. Sometimes we’d chat, ask the other’s opinion, sometimes we’d work in silence, in our own little world. It felt companionable and pleasant. What a great new way to make a quilt!

IMG_7873Then we both started playing around with our background greens, auditioning different colors, talking about where the light to darker colors would look good, and how to not just have straight lines, but more natural looking lines. We looked at pictures of the valley, and it looks like different groupings of bushes and grasses make different colored sections across the valley. So I tried putting out a layered approach, of different greens, and then cut them to different shapes and sizes. I’m thinking my stitching on top can be where I put in detail of bushes and grass using different colored threads.

IMG_7879Here you can start to see my layers cut out and layed down. They are very plain, so I think that puts more emphasis on the stitching making the pattern and design. I am thinking I will practice some different designs that might work! Maybe sketch out a couple, think about how lines could make the impression of bushes.

IMG_7884Did you also notice the brown of my tree changed?! I kept looking at my first tree, and it just seemed too dark. I like the brown that Cathy chose for her tree branch, and decided I needed to lighten my tree color. I knew it was going to be one of those details, that if I left it in, it would continue to haunt me. So best to change it now. I didn’t have any brown colors on hand, but Cathy had a hand-dyed brown she generously gave me to use, so I cut out another tree! Don’t you think it looks better?

IMG_7878This time, I traced it onto the fusible webbing as one solid piece. The last tree I broke into smaller pieces, thinking I’d save on fabric, but I didn’t like how once laid down they weren’t one piece. This way today used up more fabric, but I think the tree being one piece looks better.


Photo by Cathy

And our end layout for this session! Our tree branches are lined up, and our greens picked out and cut.


Photo by Cathy

The last thing I did was take a piece of solvy (water soluble stabilizer), and very roughly trace the outline of our tree, both our branches together. My idea for the leaves is to cut fabric into a million little pieces, sandwich them between two pieces of solvy, and quilt the leaves roughly together. Then I will dissolve the solvy in water, and I’ll be left with a loose netting of leaves and string I can layer over our tree branches. I want to try this technique to mimic the way the background can be seen through the leaves. I don’t want to cut out solid chunks of fabric, I want the leaves to be varied in their thickness and have the background show through. We’ll see how it works! That will be next weekend’s project.

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Saturday, we got together for our January  meet up as part of our OOB panel quilt project. As I was heading over, I felt some trepidation as I hadn’t done a single thing since our last meeting. I brought supplies hoping I could work a little bit while we met, and hoped I’d leave feeling reinspired. As the panels were pinned up on the design wall, I was inspired. Everyone had chosen greens to be their foreground base color. Everyone brought little details they had worked on, to see how they’d look and where they should go.

IMG_7843Cathy had begun to make iris. She’s going to have a lot more in the quilt, but here are her first two.

IMG_7844Nela put together two quail with a nest. Aren’t they divine?

IMG_7846Marilyn made a bush using thread and netting, to go in front of her cabin. She’s going to make a few more, this was her first prototype.

IMG_7848Margaret played around with using different fabric, yarn and thread to make bushes.

IMG_7851While everyone pinned and adjusted and talked, I was busy cutting and fusing. Soon I had my sky and most of my mountain pieces fused down.

IMG_7842And then, with all the mountains pinned up, the view came together. Doesn’t that mountain line just really pop? And the sky really brings it all together. I just love it.

IMG_7854And here it is from the other end! Our space is too small to get a straight on view from the front, or actually, I just need to use a different lens next time.

We discussed how and when we are going to stitch everything down. We talked about what kind of batting we were going to use, asking Jan for her expertise and advise. I don’t remember what it is called, so I’ll tell you next time! But we are all going to use the same. We talked about what color fabric to bind each panel with. Blue and gray were colors mentioned. We talked about how we want to try to have it done for our guild quilt show in May, yikes! That’s not very far off. But we are moving along quickly, so maybe we can make it!

And I did leave inspired. As soon as I got home, I continued to work. I cut out my foothill pieces and fused them down. I cut out my cottonwood trunk, and green trees at the horizon. I worked on sketching and cutting and fusing little white snow pieces to the mountains.

IMG_7865Here’s my mountains with foothills and snow added in.

IMG_7862And here’s with the tree, and some possible greens for a foreground. Cathy and I are going to get together next weekend, to line up our tree branches that extend from my panel to hers, and to work on coordinating our background greens. After I have those placed and fused down, I can start to work on leaves for the cottonwood, and bushes for the foreground. It is coming together!

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A few weekends ago, our Out of the Box group met for our December meeting. We each brought our panel, and hung the strips on Nela’s design wall. We each had worked individually at home on piecing our mountain strips. This was going to be the first time we saw them all together. IMG_7820After we lined up the tops of the panels, we matched up the individual pieces, moving and adjusting as needed, to make sure major mountain lines and horizon matched up.

IMG_7814We all used different colors to make up the mountains, but chose to use the same piece of dyed fabric for the sky. I think it it absolutely stunning, with the white clouds and specks of purple. A really dramatic sky. Sky fabric hand dyed by Cathy. Makes the mountain scene look painted!

IMG_7822After all was lined up and pinned, we stepped back and enjoyed the view. It was stunning to see it all come together. To see what we’d already done, and to imagine what the finished product might look like. We have barely begun!

IMG_7827 StitchHere’s the mountain scene as a panorama, multiple photos stitched together. I want to work on adding some snow to my mountains, and maybe changing the fabric of the bottom foothill pieces, to be more brown and tan (my panel is Mt. Humphreys to the far left).

IMG_7835Then we moved onto the foreground. We chatted about greens and how to fill in the valley floor. We discussed how to transition the horizon line from the mountains to the valley.

IMG_7840We tried out various fabrics and color schemes, chatting with our neighboring panels about possible ideas.

IMG_7836Cathy and my panel border each other. I really want to have a big cottonwood in my foreground. We discussed how the cottonwood should extend over into her panel a bit, so she’ll get some of the trunk and leaves.

IMG_7839We laid out our paper strips, and Cathy sketched us a cottonwood to use as a guide. I’ve been thinking how I want sew the trunk and leaves. Maybe brown fabric for the trunk, with stitching to add textured bark. For the leaves, somehow using netting or solvy to stitch small scraps of green, to make a tree full of leaves. How would you sew a cottonwood tree with fabric?

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