Quilt Bee · Quilts

Undead Bee

I had just about given up hope — no, I HAD given up hope of our Far Flung Bee block exchange ever finishing its run, so I put up a note on Flickr.  So I was pretty excited today to get a wee package in the mailbox, all the way from New Zealand.

Inside were there incredibly cute Bee Blocks from Deb.  Ah, Deb, they are wonderful!  I like the accent of the dark text block in the center of the tulip–a variation I hadn’t seen before.  I think that’s the beauty of Bee Blocks.  Each quilter brings her own vision and stash to the creation of a block, and that’s why I was pretty dejected when I wrote on our Flickr group that I thought the our bee had joined the dead.

I think some of our members have struggled with deadlines because of busy family lives, which can also include full-time employment, a full load of classes at school and other life-absorbing experiences.  But have you been in a bee that sort of petered-out?  How did you feel about it?  Do you stay away from Bees?  Join them whenever you can?  Love the interaction?  Bemoan that you’re not getting your “own stuff done” because of all the bee blocks you agreed to crank out?

So, Bee Block Exchanges.  Love ’em?  Hate ’em?  And why?

Quilts · WIP

Autumn Quilt Borders

For this WIP Wednesday, kindly hosted by Lee of Freshly Pieced fabrics (click to head back there and see what others are doing), I chose to resurrect an ancient Work In Progress: my autumn quilt.

I had updated my computer software to work with my printer, and while you think that’s a strange way to begin a post about borders, I depend on it a lot (I use Quilt-Pro) to help me work out templates and dimensions.  So I had kind of mocked up this one, but didn’t want to go to all the trouble to do square-in-a-square on the borders.

So this was the next version.  While it seems silly to spend time at a computer when you’re working on a quilt, I did it for two reason: my annual Horrid Sickness had descended (complete with a 2-hour Urgent Care visit) and I felt like sludge most of the week, but more importantly, I was running on low in the autumn fabrics that I’d used to make this quilt, and I wanted to use what I had instead of buying more.  I’d been collecting these for about a decade, so the colors weren’t going to be easy to find, even if I did want to buy more.

Then I got a tiny nudge in my brain to use the golds in the outside Flying Geese block.  Anything I do in the program will be more pronounced, as I’m working with solids, but I did like this version.

Here’s the quilt.

So here are all the new Flying Geese pieces laid out around the quilt.  I had stopped with that small stripy border and was ready to yank it off if I didn’t like it, but. . . I like it.  Trust me on this.  I simply did two Half-Square-Triangles (HST) for the corners and now have to figure out how it will all work.

I laid out all the giant EPP hexagons on my guest bedroom bed to see how they all looked together.  I love them, but have lots more figuring out to do.  That will have to wait until after Christmas, I think!

And here’s your funny for the day:

Please head back to WIP Wednesday to enjoy the fruits of other quilters’ labors.

Textiles & Fabric · WIP

WIP and Scenes from Italy

I think we are all breathing a sigh of relief that we can answer our phones again without being assaulted during dinner by robo-calls from a candidate.  Or go to our mailboxes without needing a forklift for the thousands of pounds of campaign fliers.  I live in California and thought I had it bad until we talked to our son who lives in Ohio.  My sympathies to all who live in swing states; thanks for participating in the process.

So it is so nice to return to a routine, and today is Works in Progress Wednesday, hosted by Lee over at Freshly Pieced. Actually today it is being guest-hosted by Svetlana, and she echoes my sentiment of enjoying the weekly accounting that we do every week to keep us on track.

Last night as I watched the election returns come in with my husband, sister and brother-in-law (who are visiting), I was able to finish up this seventh hexagon.  I just keep the basket of pieces downstairs by the television and work on it whenever I am parked in front of the tube.  This hexie I could christen the political hexie, for it seemed like that’s what I was watching most as I worked on it.  I don’t know what I’ll do with them all–Downton Abbey starts up in January so maybe I’ll have some more completed before I have to decide.

But I have just returned from a trip my husband and I took to Italy, where he participated in the Collegium Ramazzini, a scientific conference in Carpi (a little town northeast of Bologna).  Not only did we visit Carpi, but also Bologna, Padua (and the Scrovegni Chapel), Venice, and Burano–a colorful island near Venice of brightly painted houses.

This is a wall from the 11th century in a church in Bologna.  Love those patchwork designs.  Everything old is new again, isn’t it?

I can’t believe they let us walk on this ancient stone floor from the Peter/Paul Cathedral in Venice, but here it is.

My husband found this fabric shop for us to look at (Bologna), but I only bought fabric in a shop across from the two (slightly leaning) towers.  Below you can see the man cutting my wool challis.

I’m thinking a scarf or something.  Fabric was really expensive over there.

But they do wrap it up nicely to bring home.

I’ve been collecting tea towels for use on the back of quilts, and here’s the one from Padua.  We thought it interesting that the thing we went to see most — Scrovegni Chapel with Giotto’s frescoes — was not even listed on the back.

In sunny Burano, we saw a woman sitting out by the canal making lace.  By hand.  Burano is known for its lace and lacemakers, and apparently it’s a dying art because none of the young woman want to learn it.  We watched her for a while, as she used her needle and thread to create tiny stitches and knots over a paper pattern.

Here’s a close-up of her pattern.  She’s created the main flowers, then will come back in and create the webbing to hold it all together.

I found the quilt shop in Venice!  This is right as you come off the Ca’D’Oro vaparetto stop.

But the prices are enough to make you swoon.  Twenty-one euros a meter (39″) works out to about 25 bucks per yard.  I try to remind myself of the luxury of all the fabrics we have here in the States at about half the cost.  I’ve learned not to buy quilt fabrics imported from the United States when I’m traveling, but if I have time, I’ll duck into a shop for a pattern or an interesting notion.

I’ll leave you with three photos: the first two are from the island of Burano and the last is from our final, foggy, morning in Venice, before we headed home.


Craft vs. Art

Ken Price: “Untitled Two Parts”

For a while now, I’ve been intrigued by a comment by Ken Price, a ceramic sculptor, an artist.  Since he sometimes did representational shapes like cups, saucers and covered jars, the “cultural prejudice against clay as a hobby-craft material unsuitable for major art” reared its head to often typecast him as a craftsman, not an artist  (quotes from an article in the LATimes).  Just like our quilts.  My art professor in college, when I asked him when he’d ever okay a show of quilts, said “Over my dead body.”  He was kidding (well, maybe not) and the answer stung.  I realized that even though there is now more recognition for the quilt as an art form, too often we are put in the craft category.  So I was intrigued by the following quote (also from the LATimes article):

Price did distinguish between craft and art, but it’s important to note that he respected them both.  “A craftsman knows what he’s going to make and an artist doesn’t know what he’s going to make,” he once said, “or what the finished product is going to look like.”

These words did echo in my head as I worked on English Elizabeth.  Like Price, I took my fabrics and my technical skills and knew that somewhere I’d end up with a quilt.  But I didn’t know what I was going to make, or what the finished product was going to look like.  My quilts will never hang in a museum, but the journey for this quilt was so different than my usual, that Price’s words resonated.

There’s an interesting energy that comes from trying something new, or to use a cliché: “stepping out of your comfort zone.”  Usually, for me, a quilt begins at the computer, doodling around in my computer program or imitating something I’d seen before, but this process–to create out of whole cloth, literally, was an experience that I found seductive, scary and immensely satisfying.

200 Quilts · Creating · Four-in-Art

English Elizabeth’s Technical Side

See the previous posts for the reveal of English Elizabeth (above), part of the Four-in-Art quilt group.

One of the Twelve-by-Twelve artists (after who we are patterning our group) said she likes commercial fabrics and always uses that as a starting point for her creations.  And even though I suggested this adventure of an art quilt, I was frankly a bit terrified of the whole idea, so starting with a commercial fabric seemed really appealing.

The commercial fabric I’d chosen for the background was from the Madrona Road line of fabrics by Violet Craft (from Michael Miller) and it had Queen Anne’s lace in a blue and an orange colorway.  I had a scrap of blue leftover from my Harvesting the Wind quilt, but it was only about 15″ square.  That was it.

I decided to be open to anything and while I was picking up some fusing supplies in our Jumbo Fabric Store, these black snaps jumped into my basket.  Okay then, great-grandma and I are doing something with black snaps.  I printed out a picture of English Elizabeth, put white papers around the edge to give a sense of the size of this thing, and arranged some black snaps marching up the sides.


Most of the Twelves used an art journal of some kind, so I dragged out a blank one and started writing–always my fall-back mode.  Then I used my (very) rudimentary art skills and sketched out some possibilities.

Things were starting to click in the old brain.  I have an EPSON inkjet printer with DuraBright inks, and I’d had good success with printing onto fabric for all my quilt labels, so I thought I would try printing English Elizabeth onto some lighter-colored fabrics.  I did some research on the DuraBright inks and apparently they are water-resistant.  I knew that I’d probably never wash this quilt, but I had, in the past, done a test sample and the ink stayed on through a run through the washer.  (However, if you really want permanence, Spoonflower for fabric design or Micron pens for labels might be the best way.)

Auditioning fabrics.  I initially thought I wanted to pick up that light mustardy hue in the fabric, but instead I was intrigued by the thought of printing Elizabeth onto some creamy floral fabric–making her into her own garden of flowers.

I auditioned several sizes, like the one that was 5″ across. I ironed freezer paper onto a square of two creamy floral fabrics and ran them through the printer, fingers crossed.  (I put tape on three sides of the stabilized fabric, leaving the bottom edge free.)  It was working well!  There was some trepidation every time I tried a new idea.  Would the artsy part of it work?  Would the technical side of it work?  It was lovely having my great-grandmother look at me all afternoon.

I chose the fabric sample with larger flowers, but when I laid English Elizabeth down, the blue showed through.  Before I cut around her head and shoulders, I ironed some featherweight fusible interfacing onto the back of the fabric, placing the printed side against a piece of white paper, just in case the printing would transfer.  It didn’t.

I wanted to print this phrase I’d come up with onto my fabric, but my printer isn’t wide enough.  I had a stamp set of alphabet letters, so it was back out to the Jumbo Fabric Store to buy some fabric/textile paint.  That is a whole other story (did you know how many kinds of puffy paint there is??) but let’s just say I finally selected a “fabric stamp pad” by the brand name of Scribbles, and had enough time to go by the embroidery floss aisle to pick up some variegated pearl cotton for attaching those snaps.  Somehow.

Worried about the “heft” of the fabric, I ironed a piece of featherweight interfacing to the back of the blue, and then started stitching.

Auditioning colors. I did do a couple of blossoms in the aqua-blue pearl cotton, but ended up cutting them off and going with the yellow-peach pearl cotton instead.  I wasn’t crazy about the spacing in the word LOVED–that “L” seemed to hang off the edge of the word, so I converted the O to a snap-flower to even out the spaces.  I trend to the pristine in my quilting.  You know: all those points sharp and crisp, those seams perfectly joined, so to let the messy and random into the quilting was interesting.  I might even say, beneficial.

Ready to go to quilting.

Usually all embellishment comes AFTER quilting, but I wanted those snap-flowers to be a part of the piece and to be able to quilt around them. I quilted with light gray thread in both top and bobbin.

English Elizabeth, detail.  I went in with gray and cream-colored thread to outline the contours of her face and to delineate her jacket.  My mother still has those beads of her grandmother’s and yes, she does wear them.  I wonder when this photo was taken.  It was obviously posed, and she had pulled back her hair into a tight bun.  But that allowed her large eyes to dominate, along with that Mona-Lisa-like smile.

English Elizabeth, detail.

The snap flowers.  There are only four holes, but five petals on the individual flower of the Queen Anne’s lace stalk. So I put two petals into one hole.  Sometimes they looked really funky.

I bound it with a narrow straight binding, using another piece of fabric from that line, the cross-hatches suggesting a fence to me.

Back of the piece, showing the quilting.  I used the folded corners method to hang this quilt: a dowel, cut to the length of the back of the quilt minus 1/4″ will slip into those corners, and hang on a push pin.

Was making this all roses and fairy dust?  No.  I procrastinated beginning on this piece because the whole idea was so different.  It’s like driving to the frozen yogurt shop, in a way.  If you go there often enough, like my husband and I did during this long hot summer, the way there is easy, smooth and oh-so-familiar.  But when we wanted to try a new shop, on a different side of the city, we had to figure out a way to get there.

I did finally arrive at a satisfying place, and although the road was different and strange, sometimes frustrating and scary, I have the sweet smile of my great-grandmother looking down on me as I work, confirming that, for me, that the new path was good.



New Theme for Four-in-Art

While we are still figuring out the rules and learning our way around this little group, it’s my turn to choose the sub-theme to our grand theme of “Nature.”  I’ve gone back and forth between three different ideas, and while I won’t name the other two just in case they pop into someone else’s head, I’ve chosen “Tree.”

We all have memories of trees that we’ve climbed, going up high secure in the branches to touch the clouds, or merely to hide away from doing chores.  I’ve planted more than my fair share of saplings, skinny and pliable in the wind.  During the holidays many of us will decorate trees and with trees, bringing winter scenes into our homes.  Our autumn colors arrive in January, when the liquid amber trees turn a bright rusty red, like a belle-of-ball who arrived too late for Northern fall colors.

January in Washington, DC found me photographing stark limbs, their branches like sculptures marching down the National Mall.

Yet I also love the cherry tree’s shy blossoms of pink and white, and then all the spring trees unfurling their green buds to summer’s fat wide leaves, shading me on a hot summer’s day.

But I also think of family trees, of generations linked by blood and branches.  (This is a picture of my son Matthew, his lovely wife Kim and their four daughters.)

So, there’s the new theme.  Let’s see where we go. Reveal date is February 1st.