Friday, March 25, 2016

Caution- Curves Ahead

One of the things I love about collaborative projects is the things you learn and share. Case in point, a lovely (and slightly irreverent) discussion about piecing, specifically curved piecing that happened  with Bee Sewcialites at QuiltCon over Chinese food. It's remarkable how many ways you can put a curve together and there are so many wonderful, detailed tutorials out there.

For me, I have tried many of these, and have had great success with most of them. But since I'm a garment sewer first and had a few skills from that, I realized that perhaps some of the techniques used to inset sleeve scythes might be helpful when tackling exaggerated pieced curves in quilting.

March's prompt for our Bee Sewcial (#beesewcial/ #inspiredbybeesewcial on IG), was "Layers". A word rich in meaning and potential. One of the things I have thought about, especially after making a fun baby quilt for a friend, was all the different ways maps have influenced civilization, and all the different types of maps that exist. I used a special "map" (flight path map) in the quilting of "Flight Path".
Flight Path
photo compliments of Nathalie Bearden

But, one type of map has been calling to me, A topographical map or topo map. But instead of quilting a topo map and while keeping in mind this months prompt, I tackled piecing one.

Bee Sewcial March Topo  block for Hillary,
Entropy Always Wins


To do that, you need to have a confident handle on curves. I use a mixed skill base for that, and because I dislike using throwaway materials (paper/freezer paper), have developed a modified technique that works, I think, rather well.

Felicity (@felicityquilts), also used this technique in her months Bee Sewcial block and it prompted a discussion of the steps in construction of dramatic curves. So, here goes…..
(disclaimer: I'm a visual person, so I learn most by studying pictures. I read directions only when necessary, and I follow them as needed. I have included both in this discussion, pick what works for you, BUT the only way you'll become comfortable with curves is to actually practice making them).

Materials:
Fabrics for project
Marking pencil or pen
Sharp scissors (very important)
Hot iron
Sewing machine with 1/4" foot, thread
Water solvable glue (I use Elmers, but any fabric glue that you can was wash out works).


1. Choose a starting fabric. If you have a finished size in mind, have your starting fabric several inches larger in all directions since you'll be trimming to size at the end.
2. If you have a design in mind, and are a planner, great. Just going for it is great too.
3. On the right side of your fabric, using your marking pencil/pen, draw out a curved line.
drawn curve in faint white with making pencil

4. Cut away the fabric leaving a  1/4" seam allowance.

5. Using your sharp scissors, clip the curves with tiny, closely spaced v's.  DON'T clip past your drawn curve.

 Continue along the length of your curve.

6. Turn your fabric to the wrong side and press the seam to the back of the fabric, using the drawn seam line as a guide and ease the curve with your fingers, carefully folding back the fabric and pressing as you do.  Do not worry if you press back more than 1/4". The clipped v's  aid in the pressing especially around dramatic curves.

Concave curves press easier than convex ones. You may have to overlap some of the v's and press slowly on the convex portions. You can use Flatter, starch or just water to help you at this point. Go slow and use a hot iron. Try to keep the pressed curves smooth. Having many tiny cut v's make smoother curves.
7. Flip fabric to right side, tuck any unruly clipped curves to the back, press.
8. Select your next fabric and lay out on your pressing surface right sides up. Place your prepped, ironed fabric right sides up on top and adjust to your satisfaction. Press through both fabrics tucking back any unruly clipped seams.
fabric to be added at bottom.
pieced curves with clipped pressed seams at top

9. Carefully lift the top fabric at one end and add dots or a thin bead of glue part way along the clipped edge. Keep glue restricted to the clipped edge only. Gently place the fabric back in place and iron to set. Keep lifting, gluing and ironing until the entire curved edge is set in place.
I use Elmer Glue in a glue dispensing bottle

Occasionally glue gets on the front. Don't fret , it washes out.

10. Flip to back side and gently trim  using the clipped edge as your guild for the trimming. Be careful here to not cut your recently pieced fabric.

11. Using the clipped and now trimmed edge, as your guide, clip the areas of the added fabric using the already clipped and glued v's as your guide.
make sure your v's are clipped before sewing

12. Sew, in the pressed seam along the crease created by ironing. Go slowly around the curves easing the fabric out of the way, especially around the dramatic curves. I use a 1/4" foot not for measuring but so that I can see what I'm doing.
sew carefully along the pressed crease

13. Go back to your ironing board, pressing the seam to one side. Your fabric will fall to one side or the other. Press to that side.
14. Admire your work.
15. Repeat these steps as many times as necessary to complete your design.

I use this method for inset circles and circuloid shapes (the blue portion of the Topo block) and for the pupil in my other "Layers" March Bee Sewcial block.
Pupil added with identical method. Even with many pieced seams this method works well.
Have fun with curves!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wabi-Sabi 2016

Each year, or at least for the past several in which I have been quilt making, I tinker with a design element, or a design theme. I like to, if possible use it frequently and in different situations. I have toyed with metallic threads, inset seams, nano particle fabric and doing important things to binding. Sometimes juggling all design concepts in a single composition.
Retroreflective
inset seaming with nano particle material
Metallic thread used for some quilting
retroreflective insert extends into binding


I confess to having picked-out stitching, redone piecing and ripped out and replaced whole portions of quilts to make them "perfect" (to me).

hand quilted binding (Dark Shadows)

Metallic thread quilted double-sided binding (Binary)
 But after a series of rather revealing life events centering around homeownership, cars and health, teenagers and older parents, I have learned a few new things about myself (old horse, new tricks).

Most importantly, there are just some things I can do NOTHING about. I cannot repair the roof on my house, or the dent in my car. We all age, despite the media hype that 50 is the new 30. Most of us become empty nesters, at least for a while and if we are lucky to have had parents in our lives for all of our lives, then they do get old and eventually need our help. When all of these things happen at about the same time it's overwhelming. Having coping skills that involve creating is imperative.

To kick off the new year,   I got a book by Marie Kondo. "The life-changing magic of tidying up". And since I did need a little magic in my life, I read her book, cover to cover. I will confess to not dealing with every stitch of clothing in one event, but I have made at least 6 trips to Goodwill with carfuls of stuff. It feels good. I found some things that I had thought lost. One of her essential tenants is holding each item you own and deciding if it brings you joy. Answer Yes and you keep the item, anything else goes. A bit drastic I know, but for me, it was a journey with another profound discovery.

Wabi-Sabi: "the art of finding beauty in imperfection…to see the singular beauty in something that at first does not appear obviously beautiful. Bringing wabi-sabi into ones life doesn't require money or even special skills. It takes a mind quiet enough to appreciate muted beauty, courage not to fear bareness, willingness to accept things as they are. It depends on the ability to slow down, shifting balance from doing to being, to appreciating rather than perfecting".

"Once quiet you can appreciate the minute detail that gives something character, you have permission to look but also touch. And in the process of connection, you don't have to understand why you are drawn to something, but you do have to accept it as it is. Wabi-Sabi is a state of mind and a way of being. It is the subtle art of being at peace with yourself and your surroundings".

I'm still in the process of sorting and de-cluttering, general tidying-up and most importantly, being at peace,  but I'm moving forward. I have brought some of this centering into my creating too. I have expanded my creative space to include virtual inspiration from many friends and acquaintances on social media. My 2016 already includes collaborative work and trades with several friends. I will continue to ask and accept creative comments via social media and from my guild. I'm teaching 12 college engineers/scientists to be quilters. We have met twice already and cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have new quilters in the making and in my life.

 I will, in the spirit of life-changing events and collaboration, gift several projects this year. If I can keep myself organized I will tag these collaborative endeavors as #colabquiltproject.  I have already begun by sending a small mini quilt to a thoughtful IG follower.

Mini quilt- Gifted
Black batting accentuates the seaming which is a nod shadowing. It happens and I'm OK with it.
Machine and hand quilted
Back, pieced

 I will have a larger quilt to give away at years end. It's all good, really good. Most of my day to day ramblings and posting occur over on Instagram. I hail by the same name, spontaneousthreads.

This year it's all about the process. A hands-on, celebration of  letting go. About making mistakes and accepting them for what they really are, growth, discovery and sometimes if I'm lucky, hidden beauty……….. and realizing at the end of the day, I am OK with all of that.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Something more, nothing less

The last of 2015 and a great way say goodbye and thanks.



This is the 5th quilt of this year that was made entirely from scraps. While the other 4 were solids only projects, smaller in scale, this, the largest of the projects, is made entirely from prints. Since I sew less frequently with prints these days, it's taken a few years to accumulate the raw material. The prints scraps drawer was large and I sorted (mostly strips and variations of rectangles) into ROYGBIV piles. The whites/grays and blacks were reserved for the negative space.

I posted while I made and reflected too. I hatched 2 plans. One to make a quit from the scraps and, then to share whatever was left over with whomever would take them.

I started piecing the week before the terrible events in Paris.  By the time I got to purple I was struggling with the color and the piecing, because my "selection" was limited in both volume and variety. Then, Paris happened and I just couldn't begin to understand that level of hatred and violence so I gave my pain to the purple and joined the sorrow of the  greater world as we all searched  for the over reaching question of Why? Right them and there, in the midst of literally picking up the pieces and trying to put something together,  I knew what had to happen.

The main color blocks are arranged more or less in a rainbow spectrum, discreet and isolated,  I'm sure the in-your-face symbolism is lost on no one.  The improv pieced negative space starts with dominant whites in the upper left (yes, more symbolism) and descends to black in the lower left (I know, I know). Some asked and the answer to why black and purple… it's because that is what it felt like when I was piecing purple… I was struggling and the world around me was dark and sad,  looking for answers and finding none.

Despite current events,  there is a bright side to the quilt as well, all those pieces have memories attached to them, memories that I got to revisit when making this quilt. Family quilts, graduation gifts, celebrations of babies and birthdays. A few pieces are from quilts that have hung in Houston and at QuiltCon. A piece or 2 from quilts that have won ribbons. The oldest piece is from a  quilt that my son (now 21) and I made together when he was in kindergarden.

I also learned something more about myself. Most of my "precious" fabric scraps were all orange, and what I deem precious may not be what everyone else holds dear.  No surprise there. I had more blues than any other color,  My greens were mostly yellow-green, bright green and an occasional blue-green. I include pink in the rainbow because  like it.  I had the least amount of purple.  I deliberately chose to piece the background negative space from light to dark because that's what made the most sense while I was making this quilt. I almost  had enough scraps to make that happen, but was a bit shy of my mark in the print selection of medium to dark grays. I did have enough scraps, just not enough variety of scraps.  It didn't stop me from cutting a few additional strips of gray prints from my stash to complete the quilt top.  Those extra scraps will now go to good homes.

The back is scrappy pieced from large stash pieces that have sat on my shelves for a time (OK, years). I learned something here too. I had in my possession large floral and floral/damask like prints in all the colors that I needed ( I wonder why?). I must at some time have desired to own these, and I have used them in projects past because they were all odd shapes (i.e.: not standard cuts). I think it funny that they are nearly all by different designers (yet all floral/damask), and I had just enough to piece this back. Coincidence? Maybe…… maybe not. I also pieced the back keeping the prints directional. Once done, I realized that the direction was not the way I intended. But I also let that go. I didn't have other fabric to use and those were the pieces that made the back. It is what it is and I am OK with that.

Besides the greater metaphorical putting together the pieces while making this quilt, I  literally picked up the pieces in its making. Pulled them off the floor where they had been sorted into piles by color. I know some people save precious fabric for a dream project, but the other thing I learned is those "precious" scraps are just a piece of fabric. Taken by themselves, they can't keep you warm, offer you comfort or even fill your belly if you're hungry. (I guess if they are precious enough, you could sell them piece by piece), but if you take all those pieces and make them into a quilt you can do all three of those things. You will have created something greater that can give comfort, can keep you warm and in the most desperate times could be sold or traded for food. Something to think on. Something that I won't forget.

Maybe this quilt was destined to happen, maybe I just had to wait long enough for all the pieces to fall into place.




"Accumulated"
74 x 86"
original design, improv pieced
made entirely from curated print scraps of various ages and makers. Nearly all 100% cotton, a few, cotton/linen blend.
Batting: 100% wool Quilters Dream
Thread: (piecing) Aurifil 50 wt 100% cotton in #2021
             (quilting) Aurifil 40 wt 100% cotton #  bobbin and top thread
Quilting: Bernina modified #4 stitch, stretched 4x, Bernina domestic machine 820.
Binding: scrappy color graded to match negative space, 2" SOG




Monday, February 1, 2016

Flight Path

First finish of 2016.
#colabquiltproject 

Flight path
42.5 x 40.5 "
A gift for a sweet baby boy and his mama

Front
Kona cotton solids in (background blues): evening, prussian, navy
                                  (center whites/grays): white, shale, steel
                                  (perimeter): snow, shadow, shale and charcoal

Backing fabric: a single unpieced map print by Jim Holtz for Eclectic Elements: Expedition
                             

The quilting (  completely by accident)  makes a pattern similar to the flight paths of planes. The recipients mom is a big fan of globes and this is a nod to her.

Thread: Aurifil 50 wt top color matched: 2021, 2526, 1158, 6720 and 2780. Bobbin 2021

Quilting: a superb collaboration with stellar suggestions form Christine Perrigo (@ccpquilts) and Shelby Skumanich (@godshomemovies). Curved and straight line, some free hand some drawn, which was a first for me.
quilting extends into borders


curved intersections


Batting: recycled 100% cotton

Binding: Jennifer Sampou "Shimmer" for Robert Kaufman. 2" straight of grain.



Friday, January 1, 2016

Let's Get Linear! Bee Sewcial January 2016


Art by: Muovo, Sunny Todd Prints and David Howard. All are inspiration for January's Theme and Variation Challenge.

Bee sewcial 2016 January

Theme and variations 
This month we shall compose (a quilt not music) by establishing a theme (linear piecing) and then pushing it’s boundaries (the variations). 

Theme: “Linear”, 
Variations: It’s all about the line. Linear improvisational piecing in all its forms. I have provided several examples of what I’m looking for in the inspirational photos by designers David Howard, Muovo, Sunny Todd Pints. This is only a sample of the many possibilities one can envision at the intersection of the line with geometric shape.  I’m certain you can think of many more. Please compose your linear creation(s) so I get the equivalent of 2-12” blocks or 1-12 x 24” block, which ever size platform fits your creation.  These are approximate measurements, so no need to fret the inches as long as when trimming to fit, I’m not trimming off your design.  No raw edge appliqué. One great book for design inspiration and research is “Print & Pattern Geometric, Bowie Style”. 

Composers notes:

Palette:
  yellows: Kona curry/ochre/butterscotch/yarrow (rich dark yellows)

grays: all are fair game, but please stay away from the darkest grays (charcoal, 
           pepper and black).

neutrals: Kona white/snow/oyster/bone/natural 

           shocking pop of color: in just one area of your design add a shocking pop of    
           color by choosing a medium saturated color in any of the fabrics that fall under  
           the broad spectrum of pinks/ oranges/reds (the Kona color chart has too many   
           choices to mention and all are acceptable).  

I am not posting any sample blocks this year, just inspirational pictures.  Please post all WIP under the #beesewcial and #inspiredbybeesewcial hashtags on IG and on Flickr. Please tag each bee mate as well so no one will miss your feed. 





Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Checking the list and mailing things once


The packages of scraps, selvedges, hexies and orphan blocks are ready to go to their new homes. In the process of finishing a quilt, I "found" a few more so there will be 8 packages on their way.

I need mailing addresses for the following people.

Please send them to me at: spontaneousthreads at gmail dot com

For some of you I only have your "blogger"  name, so please forgive my not calling you by your given name. I am also posting this list on IG. I sincerely hope you all get this message.

Sylvia Shaefer, Aunt TC, Pajtr, Kathy (kayakquilting), Betty (b78ayers), Kathryn (kupitis), Teje and Jodi (gmmeenan).

Thank you all for participating and happy making!!!




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I am so very thankful- a humble give away.


For many, many reasons, this time of the year often brings with it a time for reflection and thanks. I am truly grateful and forever thankful for my family, my friends (near and far), my health; but also for my freedom, and for the gift of life. I have had a safe childhood, warm home. I  live in a country where I chose a profession based on skill and aptitude instead of social standing and gender. My life has had it's twists and turns and it's ups and downs (who's hasn't), but everyday is a day of my own.  I very recently went back to college to teach, but also to learn.  I don't know what the future holds, but the now is pretty awesome.

In celebration of a year of many firsts, and because I am thankful to have been able to reach high and challenge myself, I have some gifts to give. They are humble gifts, but hopefully will spark a project or 2 for their recipients. As I embark on my final quilt of the year, made from very humble beginnings, (all scraps, but prints not solids), I'd like to share, to give back to the community of makers who each and every day offer kind words and encouragement to me and to others.

I have 7 large tyvek envelopes (14 x 10") stuffed with fabric. All scraps, all from my stash, collected over the last 3 years. The bags are loosely curated into the following:
A &B:2 bags- selvedges only
C:1 bag fabric in random shapes and one 6x9" bag stuffed full of selvedges
D:1 bag of already made hexies and many 2 1/2" squares for you to make more, plus one 6x9" bag stuffed full of selvedges
E:1 bag orphan blocks from various projects, lots of  varying sized triangle pieces of fabric and one 6x9" bag stuffed full of selvedges
F:1 bag jelly roll strips (various lengths) and one 6x9" bag stuffed full of selvedges
G:1 bag charm squares and smaller squares and one 6x9" bag stuffed full of selvedges

Most of the fabric scraps are small, but all are usable. They have served me well but now it's time for them to go and be other projects in other makers hands.

I want to give these 7 bags away to 7 people.

All you have to do is leave me a comment and specify in your comment which bag you would prefer (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). I will do my very best to match bags with preferences, knowing that it will likely be impossible for everyone to get their hearts desire. I will select 7 people at random and send you your preferred bag. Please leave one comment per person. If you have a project in mind for these scraps/selvedges, please feel free to share.

That's it. Simple and easy.
Recipients will be announced here and on Instagram on November 17th.

Thank YOU!!!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Traditional to Modern a Front Range Guild Challenge

There seems to be much interest in looking at our Quilting roots but making them perhaps more relevant to the newer sewing/quilting esthetic that appeals to new and established quilters.

The Front Range Modern Quilt Guild took up the challenge earlier this year with just this thought in mind. Take an older block and make it modern. And just to make it interesting you could only, use black and white (solids/prints and shades within the black and white spectrum) and one other color. Simple right???!!!

I chose a very simple block. The tried and true Split rail. Three equal strip of fabric, often rotated 90" in a single, simple block.

block by phoebemoon
Based on your color choice and placement the secondary design comes into play.
So, 3 colors to work with, a simple block with 3 strips of fabric.
Now, toss them in the air and maybe vary the length and width of said strips and you get…..

Modern Spelunking ( the name derives from the fact that when all was said and done, the placement and the design reminds me a bit of the stalactites and stalagmites you see in caves)

53 x 48.5"

I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could work with transparency without strict measurements. I did sketch the design roughly on graph paper to get the proportions correct, but did not add any numerical measurements;  the actual construction of the quilt was done on the fly. I did end up with some spectacular failed attempts at getting those transparency sections to work, and I did make my life a little bit harder by having many of the sections at angles, and not the same angles to boot. But that made the whole process  a bit more interesting and very satisfying in the end.


Front, no flash
Front, with flash
The nano particle fabric reads bright white
Top: 100% quilting cotton; Kona snow, black, caribbean, breakers, and retroreflective nano particle fabric.
Back
Back: IKEA 100% cotton bedding


Threads: Aurifil 100% cotton, 50 wt in 2021, 4241, 2810. Superior metallic in peacock blue


Binding: 2" SOG, kona snow

Quilting: straight line and FMQ triangles. Matchstick quilting focally