Friday, January 29, 2010

Introducing Remy from Clarke's Cove....

 Not much sewing this week, as I have been watching my nephew, Remy.
 Remy just turned one year old and is such a joy.  He loves Clemson, where his big brother is a junior, and is dressed in Clemson orange.  Today he helped Uncle Russ fill the bird feeders before the winter weather moves in, and visited the "old man's garage" to play on the tractor and in the mustang.  He will carry an old cell phone around for hours and loves the TV remotes.   We get to spoil him and that is the fun part!
  Jen, Remy's mom, is out of state for a wedding this week.  And today the mail brought us a package from her.  Jen is an artist and makes wall art out of natural and found materials....old crab traps, driftwood, fishing nets, etc.  She customizes each one and ours is no exception.  We just love it.    The small boat on the dock is named "SS stitch and sew"!
So special.  
 Thank you, Jen and Dan.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zen Something?

Zen garden, zen mat, zen challenge thing.....whatever I call it, the piecing is completed.  This is so out of my box!   I tried about 6 arrangements on the design wall, and luckily I used a favorite tool--digital camera--to help me visualize it all.  Wouldn't you know I settled on the first arrangement I laid out!   Thank goodness, I had a photo to go by.
I used 3 different blacks for the background, which is hardly noticeable...and a lot of  "creative" piecing.  Actually I worked in sections adding strips and hunks to widen or lengthen  the area to fit to the next section.  Then I added a 3 inch border.   It is about 16 inches by 44 inches before I quilt it.
I had only intended to use one of the fabric circles, and now I think I need to use both and create another one.  I think I will do another zentangle on some hand dyed fabric that I did last summer.   And then the quilting....which is the fun part for me.  

Since I was taking photos, I snapped a quick one of the folded fabric pinwheel.
The pinwheel block is a 6 inch block. 
Now, to clean up the sewing room and get dinner.
Happy stitching.
It was so rainy over the weekend that I thought we would float away.  Two inches is a lot of rain.  So on Saturday  I stitched up about 80 blocks for the President's signature quilt for our guild.  I know it sounds like a lot, but really they are very simple.  Just three pastel  strips  per unit.  All are now pressed and ready for the signature strip to be added.
I also finished up the remaining zentangles for my challenge.  I am now ready to get it assembled.  I want to create the feel/look of  a  zen garden...with my twist on it.   Russ and I visited  one while in North Carolina last summer.  Very quiet and peaceful  and just steps from the road.   The zentangles will be the "stepping stones" through the "sand"---which will be  black fabric heavily quilted with close curves.  One of the required fabric circles will be the round element in the garden.  
I also tried the small folded fabric pinwheel that Carol posted on her  blog.  It turned out really cute.  I may have to do more of these and make a small wall hanging.  It's a great way to use small squares.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exercises for creativity?

I have all four strip sets of the french braid done and up on the design wall.  Right now I am auditioning fabric to be used in the separator bands.  I originally thought I would piece the separator bands, but now I think not.  I have two different batiks that have strong dark and light areas and I will probably choose one of them to use by itself.  That's why it is still on the design wall....each time I walk in and look at it, I change my mind on the selection!  I have plenty of small projects to do, so there is no rush in deciding. 
I read through the first chapter in the Art Quilt Workbook that came in the mail yesterday.  Elin (one of the authors) was right in her comment, I am going to enjoy working through it. I thought it was so neat that she found my blog and left a comment. 
The first chapter briefly covered design principles---like I mentioned in an earlier post.  In the section on visual elements of design, one statement jumped out at me. Line direction communicates movement and direction.  Horizontal lines are calm and passive.  That was how I felt about the horizontal layout design in my Turning 60 quilt....a very calming effect!  
And the section on the creative process is great.  My post on my creative thought process for the guild challenge  explained how I got through my block.  Little did I know that there are a lot of ways to get past this.  And this section gives me insight to other ways to improve my creativity and get over the wall/block/stump/mountain!  First step is to do the  first exercise they suggest, which is word play.    Got my plan, now I need to get to work.
Happy stitching.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Challenge and Zentangles

I love it when an inspiration hits! 
The two fabric circles in the photo are the basis of our guild challenge for 2010.  Sarge referred to it as "the circle of creativity" challenge.  After 5 months of un-inspiration, I came up with the zentangle (drawn on paper) on the right in the photo and a plan for my challenge entry.
The creative thought process......
First:  I really don't do circles in my quilting, or rather in my piecing.  So that was my block.  BLOCK--exactly!  I needed to be able to put the circle in a block or rectangle, something with straight edges.
Second:  Next thought that clicked....zentangles.  Zentangles are  really just doodles and suppose to have a calming influence, which I needed.   And I have always liked pen and ink type drawings. 
 Third:   So, why not take a section of the pattern in the circle and use it in a zentangle?  And create movement by using the curve of the circle.   Then fill in the background with "stippling" like quilting free motion.
Thus the example on paper is the first zentangle using elements from the two fabric circles and now the basis of my challenge.   Wait.....the  challenge needs to be quilted item!  Not made of paper. 
Fourth:  How do I get the zentangle design to fabric.  Applique--no way.  Scan and print onto Printed Treasures--possible but costly and difficult to work with.  Paint--messy.  How about ink, that's it.  Use Pigma pen to draw and color in the zentangles directly onto fabric. 
Fifth:  I used freezer paper to stabilize the solid color fabrics I pulled from my stash.  I selected colors that were close to the colors in the challenge squares and ironed them to freezer paper.  Next, I drew different size squares and rectangles on the fabric.  While watching 24 (I just love Chloe and  have to see Jack save the world) last night, I doodled 3 of these zentangles. 
Yes, these are done free hand....didn't even know I could draw!  I did use a round plate to create the first curved  line to begin, but the rest of the doodles are just parts of the design from the fabric.  I really like the bamboo leaves. 
Tonight I plan on doing a couple more on blue fabric.   The design for the layout is not completely formed in my head, only a vague idea so far.  But since I have some focus, I am sure it will come together.
So thank you to Delia for giving me inspiration!
Happy stitching.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Infections and the computer and zentangles

Both the computer and I got infected on Friday.  I got whatever my husband had last week and ran a fever Friday and Saturday.  In the meantime, the computer got a virus/Trojan  (run your virus scan at least 3 times a week and always on Friday!).  So it was 10 hours on the phone Saturday to get it fixed.  We found traces still this morning and have just gotten back up and running.  Russ told me to sit in the sun and read, and let him deal with the computer.   Another light bulb moment! 
I read on Delia's blog about zentangles.  It intrigued me, so I googled to find out about it last week.  I sat in the sun  today and doodled a few zentangles.  Inspiration was the small circle of fabric for our guild challenge this year.    I have been looking at that small fabric piece since September and  was totally uninspired.  I think an idea is sprouting for the challenge finally.   I won't be doing anything large with this, probably a  small banner  or maybe a "zen mat"!   At least I am calmer now and have a focus for the challenge. 
Here's hoping for a better week.  Happy stitching.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Featherweight Story

I nicknamed my featherweight "Stinkpot".  Three  reasons for the name.  First, my Dad, who always found a nickname for everyone, called my daughter "Stinkpot".  I think it was in reference to the diapers!  And second, it was Deana who bought the featherweight at a yard sale while she was in college in Philadelphia.  I think she paid $28 for it.   And third, when I opened the case, it smelled bad!  I have read that it is very typical of the old machine cases....lots of mold, etc.  A little vinegar cleaning and baking soda helped rid the smell.
Deana stayed in Philly after college and worked for several years.  The featherweight was given to me to keep for her until she had room for it.  Then in 2001, my machine died and I bought a replacement that I was not happy with as it spent a lot of time in the shop being repaired.  In frustration I pulled the featherweight out and  got it cleaned and oiled and it sewed like a dream.  Such beautiful even stitches on that tiny thing.  I pieced a king size top on it that summer.  
Then life deaths, selling a house, moving to a new one, that kind of thing.  The featherweight was moved too and stored in the closet of the new sewing room.  When I got back to stitching again,  I bought a mechanical Janome for $200, rather than deal with the machine I did not like.  But at a workshop a year later, the Janome began to make horrible a jack hammer.    Could it be time for another machine?  Or did I just need a lighter weight machine to haul around to workshops and Bee night?
Light Bulb moment...... I had the perfect machine for classes and taking to Bee, the featherweight! 
That was probably 3 years ago and the featherweight is used on a regular basis now.  And several of the  girls at Bee have found their  own featherweights, too. 
Two years ago, Russ bought me a padded case to carry Stinkpot in, and she went with us to the mountain cabin for Christmas this year.   Oh, and I researched the history of this specific machine (see the links section for featherweight info).....she was made in Scotland in 1949.  I'm a little silly about such things....I was born in 1949 too, so I know she was meant for me. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tool case and Art Quilt study group

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a pattern kit for a travel case for sewing items.  When sorting and putting things away a few days ago, I found it under a stack of fabric.  I figured I should make it up to have to take to workshops and Bee nights.  She had included some fabric, batting, and velcro.
It made up quick and turned out nice.
I must admit I made a couple of changes to the pattern.   Instead of making four vertical pockets across, I only did three.   I left the middle pocket larger to get my snips and rotary cutter in.  I also made the fold over flap about 2 inches longer to be sure my small cutting  mat would fit in the back pocket.
The overall size when finished is 7 inches by 19 inches.
I did just a bit of quilting on the fold over portion.
Great gift...thanks, Deb.
A new activity was announced at our guild meeting last Art Quilt study group.  I said sign me up, of course.  We are going to work our way through the book,  Art Quilt Workbook, meeting once a month to discuss each technique.  Then we are to create a project---small probably 9" by 12"---using the technique.   And now I am thinking, "What was I thinking?   I already have 2 challenges to do along with the current quilts. And 2 on-line classes I have signed up for."   But  I am committed to try it, and it should be fun.  Maybe I can figure out how to combine a couple of things.
And the best news is that our guild program next month is Leah from 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting!!  Woo-hoo.....I am  so excited about that and really looking forward to her program. 
And this is just January and I feel my calendar is packed.  It should be a great year!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Non- quilting essentials

Yesterday I cleaned and straightened up the sewing room.  So many odds and ends scattered all over the place.  As I was putting things back in there place, I was struck with the thought on the things I use all the time that are not originally intended for quilting.  So here are a few of my favorites before I put them away.
Brushes of all types to remove lint and fuzz from the machines.  Soft bristles like the  tiny artist brush and the craft brushes  and  a stiff one from the  my husband's workshop (he uses it for gluing) are kept next to my machine. 
 Alcohol prep pads used in hospital labs are  for wiping off lint  from the brushes.
The red netting over the cone of thread is recycled from  produce at the grocery store. 
The black base used as a spindle to hold the thread is from a  pack of CD's. 
An old medicine bottle with a small hole punched in the top is my used needle disposal case.
Small screw driver for removing the bobbin cover plate on my Janome.  Russ found this at  Harbor Freight and gave it to me for my birthday.  It has several different size bits.  It's easy for me to hold.
 Forceps, not too large, for turning project corners inside out. 
Plastic straws?  Yep, I have a collection of them from fast food places.  I cut a short length of straw and slip it over the thread spool holder on my featherweight machine to keep the spool turning evenly when sewing. 
The metal pin dish is magnetic and from the parts store for automotive supplies.   Only $2 rather than the $8 or $9 at the fabric store.
 The blue plastic strips are cut from a self-adhering storage bag for traveling that I found at the $ store.  It's great to use as a spool  wrap to keep the thread from being a tangled mess. 
And the shelf liner, also from the $ store is cut up for a lot of uses.....under my  smaller cutting  mats to prevent slipping,  and a section under the machine pedal  to keep it in place, and stitched onto pincushion bottoms, and sometimes used under my featherweight to protect the table top surface. 
I am sucker for gadgets and things that make my life easier.  I probably missed a few, but would love to know about things I haven't discovered.  Till then, happy stitching.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Off set Borders

Juanita's comment on yesterday's post lead me to review a couple of articles that  Ellen Lindner has on her website.  They are excellent and include lots of photos of her work and art quilts. 
I realized I didn't even mention borders for art quilts or wall hangings.  This is a photo of a favorite piece, The Dogwood,  that I do not have as it was donated to the Alzheimer's Association for auction.  It is only bordered on two sides, the bottom and the right side.  I love the asymmetrical effect and the way the flying geese anchor it.
 I also used the off set border in  Morning Brew, the second photo.  The background was pieced of scraps, and then I selected the border fabric.  I made the border 1/4 the size of the body of the wall hanging.  Still the width of the border in both are in proportion to the overall size,  and the color of  fabric used provide contrast  and unity.  
Like the old saying goes, "whatever makes you happy "....go with it.                         

Sunday, January 10, 2010 wide do I go?

This year I have had emails asking  how to determine the size or width of the border on a quilt.  I have researched it over the years and even have a couple of books on borders.  A lot of inspiration and how to info, but not a lot of help in planning the width or how to decide.   Finally I researched  the principals of design in art, since quilting is my visual art form.   There are 6 main topics here:  unity, variety, balance, contrast, proportion and pattern/rhythm.  From  these I figured out "my formula" that pleases my eye. 

First:  I like to use a narrow sashing--usually 1 inch--to stop the  block pattern and for contrast.  Often in my quilts it is black or a strong accent color to bring out a color in the body of the quilt.   Also for unity the narrowest border should be closest to the center of the quilt.  For my watercolor quilts because they are much smaller in size, I will usually use an inset  "piping style" piece that ends up 1/2 inch. 
The inset piping piece is cut 1 1/2 inches and folded in half wrong sides together.  It is sewn to the body of the quilt top with the raw edges matched and the folded edge toward the center.  The folded edge is not sewn down.  It gives the effect like a  mat on a framed picture.     This photo shows a cream inset piping and  a very narrow dark red sashing and then a dark border. The contrast stops the eye and the color of the piping puts the eye back in the center.   This was a round robin poster project from last year.  Four different quilters created  1/4 of the center, using a variety of techniques. 

Second:  The  width of the  border should be at least one-half to two-thirds the size of the quilt block used in the quilt.  This proportion keeps the eye on the center of the quilt which is the most important.   The overall finished width of the border should not be larger than one quilt block.
 In the scrappy mountains quilt top the finished  blocks are 8  inches by 9 1/2 inches.  So  to be pleasing to my eye, the overall border should be no more than 8 inches and the outer fabric no more than 5 inches.   I finished adding the borders today and very pleased with the result.  I used a black sashing--1 1/2 inches wides to stop the pattern, and a 5 inch outer border.  That makes a total border about 5 1/2 inches when finished.   I promise to quit blogging on about this quilt and get it quilted soon.

The photo on the left shows a scrap quilt I love, but the border is too narrow overall.  Its just not one of my most successful quilts.  The quilt uses 2 blocks, a snowball block and 9 patch variation.   Both were 6 inch blocks.  The first border (the zig-zag area) is 3 1/2 inches and I used a 3 inch final border of floral fabric.  My thinking was the border would be almost equal  to the block size, and I should not make the outer any larger.  Wrong!  When I look at it now, it seems unfinished, out of proportion, off-balance.  Because I did not stop the design with a sashing, the out border needed to be larger than the inner one. Just one more thing to keep in mind.
Third:  There are always exceptions to the above because each quilt tells its own story and has its own rhythm.    See the above photo and description to understand this.  If  I was adding applique (or a type of pieced border)  to the quilt, the outer border  should probably  be wider to keep the overall appearance in balance.  

So, my general rule/formula is a border about 2/3 the size of the block used, and be prepared to rip it out or add to it if needed!  When I find the absolute for border width, believe me, I will write the book.  Until then, happy stitching.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bee Night and gift 61

All 6 of us gathered at Shelia's last night for bee.  Over delicious chili and corn muffins we carried on about what happened this past week.  It was fun, and then Shelia gave me a birthday gift that almost brought me to tears.  It's a key fob so you can always find your keys, and it has a cardinal on it.  How very sweet and special this is to me.  Thank you, Shelia, for being in my life.
And then there was the elephant garlic .....she sent her husband to the store for 8 large cloves of garlic.  He returned with 8 packages of elephant garlic.  He got exactly what she asked for.  Understand that each one has 4-5 large cloves itself...see the photo.  So Shelia gave each of us a package of elephant garlic.  What a hoot! 
The blue item in the background is a Versadisk that Shelia got me too.  Apparently  it's the latest "non-quilting" quilt-y item.  Sit on it rather than a pillow and it improves posture and eases back issues.  I think I will name it the quilter's whoopee cushion.   Sarge instructed me to sit down carefully as it can throw you off the chair.   I tried it and it is great.
Finally there is the book, with a catch to it of course.  Shelia issued a challenge to the Bee.  Make a project from this book, Hand Applique by Machine, by April.   Oh boy,  not exactly in my favorite box here.  The projects are small--thank goodness-- and fairly simple in design.   And at least they are floral and that is a plus for me.  
Ok, enough blogging, I have fabric to wash and cut,  and a border to attach. 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Scrappy Mountains

Scappy Mountains is ready for a border.  I really like the colors and design of this one.  I realized another thing about my quilting insights last night as I was pressing this top.  I like the simple--easy piecing--blocks that let the fabric or color do the work!  I used  a lot of tone on tone fabrics for the darks and the lights included some pattern prints.  I auditioned a few border colors and decided on a tone on tone turquoise blue.  I will use a black insert strip about 1 1/2" around the mountains to stop the pattern. 
With the  method ( from  for delectable mountains, you get nice points and easy to match blocks.  What appears difficult is very simple to contruct.  I love the sharp points that look like I worked very hard to get.  An accurate 1/2 inch seam and careful squaring up of the block is all it really required.  And is was all pieced on the featherweight!
I ordered more fabric from this morning.  I had  a birthday coupon to use and needed black fabric and found some on sale for half price.  Seemed like a no-brainer to me.  Russ ordered more tools this week, and I order fabric....that way we are both happy.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Quiche, please!

I served this quiche Friday night at Bee.  It is a variation of the Bisquik Impossible pie recipe.  I noted my changes too.  And any leftovers reheat well too.
Impossible Quiche---without a crust
6-8 slices of crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
1/2 C diced or cubed ham---I use leftovers
1/2 package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1/4 C chopped sweet onion
1 C of cheese--I use a mixture of Colby, Cheedar and Monterey Jack, rather than Swiss
3 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
3/4 C Bisquick mix
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sprinkle bacon, ham, onion, and the spinach  in a  greased 9 inch pie plate.  Whisk eggs and mix together.  Add the Bisquick and pepper. Stir in the cheese combination.  Pour over the meat and onion in the pie plate.  Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until set in the center and lightly browned.   Serves 6.

Be sure to check out the finished snowflake quilt at 365 days of free motion quilting.  I think it is an amazing design and the quilting is wonderful. 
Happy Stitches.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside

And here's the proof.....our small falls froze over last night.  For South Carolina a high in the 30's is cold.  Russ took these photos.
The water is still flowing but the splash has frozen over the rocks.

Bee night

Friday night was Bee night....quiche, salad, coconut cake and brownies and fabric scraps!  And lots of catching up on  what's going on with everyone.  Susan--aka Sarge--spent the evening stitching a million tiny beads on her "out of the box art quilt".  She took the class from Marilyn Wall at QSC retreat to create an art quilt from a garden photo.  I will try to get a photo when it is finished to post. 

Another member, Deb, does free-lance work for Fabric Editions.  She generously shares leftover scraps  from project designs  and samples that she does for them.   I spent the afternoon yesterday sorting and pressing and have an over flowing box full.  There's enough for a nice size scrap quilt for Habitat for Humanity, our guild's on-going philanthrophy project.  Thanks, Deb.
Suzanne was working on her school marm costume for Roper Mountain Science Center.  She's the historian of our group and does wonderful applique and hand  work.  I spent the evening stitching on the french braid and finished the second run.  It's looking good.
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