Creating · This-and-That

Color, Venice and Valentino • This and That July 2021

“Fashion is not ‘art’, because the latter is sufficient in itself while the former always has a purpose, a function, a use. Recognizing the differences is the first step to instructing mutual listening, made up of curiosity, enthusiasm, and respect. This listening needs time, just like Haute Couture and ultimately also like art. In fact, the maturation of the project was slow, a rhythm perhaps unusual for our world but just and intimate for the world that I would like to.” -Pierpaolo Piccioli (from here)

And if you understood that, then you are more experienced than I in the language of haute couture–the clothing, the dresses, the fashion that is more concept than something you would hang in your closet. But just like the movie The Devil Wore Prada in that withering scene where Meryl Streep’s character critiques Ann Hamilton’s sweater, the fashion houses often tilt us to what’s coming in shape, in color and in what we’ll be wearing post-pandemic when we finally decide to crawl into stores and buy ourselves some clothes.

It’s also very likely that we’ll be seeing some influences on the colors we use in our quilts, or maybe even the shapes we’ll experiment with (if you are a half-way, non-traditional quilter). Or not.

So I was pretty amazed by the colors put together by the designer for Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli, and while I can’t pretend to really absorb what he said (above), I do speak the language of color, and thought you might like to see some of his designs, shown recently in the magical city of Venice, Italy. The contrast between that very old city with its own recent struggles with over-tourism, pollution and dwindling residents is a perfect contrast and foil to the glamorous, hand-sewn clothing made with extraordinary precision with pricey fabrics.

As Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times wrote: “[The designer Piccioli] has been conversing with contemporary artists — about their work, sure, but mostly about life in general, process, emotion, what turns them on — thinking about how to integrate their points of commonality in cloth…The result — shown at sunset beneath the brick arches of the former shipbuilding yard of Venice, with water lapping at the edges of the runway…was as powerful an argument for the interconnectedness of time, human connection and creativity as anything fashion has produced. The lushness of Mr. Piccioli’s palette — as a designer, he is the best colorist since Yves Saint Laurent — was on full display; so was his throwaway elegance, and his generosity. Not just to his atelier (his show notes name-checked the individuals who sewed each garment [italics are mine]) but to the bodies that will wear the clothes.”

from here

So, what do I see?

In the above image, I see scale: large shapes on a larger garment, then those same large shapes on a more narrow profile of a dress. The designer plays with scale in many of his other pieces, using different shapes to emphasize different parts of the body, and different lines (like those flowing hats!).

I also see a lot of color blocking: large swaths of color against slivers of color (a bit of scale, again), causing each to accent the other. This collection is not about fussy little prints. Mostly I see lush, elegant and rich, deep colors:

palette generator from here

This palette is missing the mint of the shirt. Sure, it’s a metallic shimmer of color and hard to catch, but that really makes this grouping, in my mind.

In this one, the palette generator is capturing a lot of the background, but it’s that’s slice of bubble-gum pink against those deep coral trousers which really caught my eye. The grey isn’t those flat greys we are used to seeing in our quilting fabrics, but a soft mellow gray, warmed up slightly, but not heading towards taupe or green-gray — maybe a deep off-white?

Orchid appears to be heading our way, but a vivid hue of that color, especially when paired with bright jungle green.

While the palette generator captured a lot of the background (I don’t see that pinky brown anywhere on the model), this palette is a “be-still-my-heart” series of shades for me as I love aqua blue. But it’s a new take on that–a refreshing deeper shade.

Now to shift gears from haute couture to the nuts and bolts of my life lately:

How about some velcro bolts? This is the boot they gave me to wear while my ankle heals. I hate it for a variety of good and not-so-good reasons (would it kill them to add some color?). The doctor okayed my getting around the house without it, so I’ve just decided to ace-bandage-wrap my ankle for protection, stay off it, and stay home. What’s four more weeks of pandemic quarantine?

Very proud of this: I drew the spools up by hand. Well, digital hand. Yes, it’s in my favorite color (aqua blue). I have found lately that getting the hang of a few tools in my Affinity Designer has opened up new worlds for me in terms of satisfaction with my work; it was a bit of a struggle at first, but a bit smoother sailing now. And why did I make these?

Pattern Shop Refresh!

I didn’t like the nuts-and-boltsy (notice how I’m stretching the metaphor) look of BEFORE as it was too chunky and disparate. I also wanted something as well that would indicate degree of difficulty at a glance. So, I made spools. And I like how the shop looks now.

This is the new display pattern front. I still have a few things left to do, but have finished most. PayHip upgraded some of their marketplace tools, so I thought it was a good time for me to fuss around a bit, too.

Quilting SeaDepths (a variation of Azulejos) in spurts, while listening to this:

I like how the themes overlap: the ocean in Harper’s book with the theme of SeaDepths on my newest quilt. I can hardly wait to go upstairs and quilt. I’ve listened to two of her others: The Dry and The Lost Man and loved both of those. I will reserve my review on this until I finish it (5 more hours). While I listen, I think of Susan of PatchNPlay, and her trip to Tasmania. I can’t wait to show off the backing I chose for this quilt.

Lastly, there seems to something in the zeitgeist here, but truth! Patti chose this without knowing all the other watery connections I’ve just mentioned. If you jump on this link, you can see a lot of the blocks she’s received, all laid out together. I love how nice they all play together.

And that’s it for today. Happy July, Happy Not Wearing My Boot, and Happy Quilting!

300 Quilts · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Shine: The Circles Quilt

I Hear America Singing • Quilt Finish

Where does patriotism come from? The title for my quilt, “I Hear America Singing,” is from a poem by poet Walt Whitman. Today he might have been considered a type of patriotic American — one who saw and acknowledged the multitudes of regular Americans — and heard them sing their song of daily work (poem is at end of post).

“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,” said Whitman, and the poem, written in 1860 and published shortly before Lincoln’s inauguration, was a celebratory poem, lauding you and I — she and him, and those people over there. Karen Swallow Prior, in an article from The Atlantic, makes the observation that “Whitman’s claim stemmed from a belief that both poetry and democracy derive their power from their ability to create a unified whole out of disparate parts—a notion that is especially relevant at a time when America feels bitterly divided.” She goes on to say that:

“Notably, Whitman’s grammar (“the United States are”) signals his understanding of the country as a plural noun—not one uniform body, but a union of disparate parts. Whitman was centrally concerned with the American experiment in democracy and its power to produce “out of many, one,” even at as great a cost as the Civil War and the faltering Reconstruction. Whitman thus celebrates in his work the many kinds of individuals who make up a society as well as the tensions that bring individuals together in a variegated community.”

As Whitman asserts later in the preface to his Leaves of Grass:

The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors … but always most in the common people.

We often think that the ideal of “patriot” has an affiliation with war: the machines of war, the fighting and dying and the slogans and the confrontations, which leads in the end to the cemeteries of war, with honoring our war dead. We make that connection easily because we honor those who fought for our freedoms. I acknowledge them and am grateful for them. However, if it is defined only this way, it’s easy to feel separated from the idea of being a patriot, from patriotism, and make “them” responsible for the well-being of our country.

So on this Fourth of July, I wanted to emphasize a different sort of connection to patriot. That it is not found in going to war. It’s not in defined battles. It’s in us, the people. It’s in our going out of our way to take care of our neighbors, with their varied songs and carols and labor and daily work. It’s in going to that daily work, from the work of masons and shipbuilders and deckhands and mothering and washing and sewing: “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.”

Stephan Cushman noted, “Although we hear the words “patriot,” “patriotic,” and “patriotism” all around us … we do not have many useful public models for combining genuine celebration of the United States with constructive criticism of it.”  Cushman gives a nod to the idea that “patriot” is a formal label that can be worn on one’s chest. But after noting that Whitman used that word sparingly in his volume of poetry Leaves of Grass, Cushman goes on to say:

“Different readers might offer different explanations for the paucity of direct references to patriotism in Whitman’s writing, but one that feels plausible to me is that someone so deeply engaged in celebrating various aspects of the United States, and in identifying himself with his image or images of an American ethos, had little need or ability to separate himself from that celebration and objectify it with an abstract term like “patriotism.” Or, to put the matter more bluntly and reductively, Whitman was too busy celebrating himself and his country, and insisting on the connections between them, to spend much time crowing self-righteously about how patriotic he was and how deeply he believed in the value of patriotism.”

Perhaps the greatest patriotism is in seeing each other, in realizing how alike we are and how dissimilar we are, making us figure out how to negotiate, how to keep the peace, how to be respectful. This is why one reason my husband and I photographed this quilt at our county’s 1903 Courthouse, a place administering and honoring those laws that are part of the the thousand daily comprises we make to keep our country stable and thriving. We also chose this place because it’s also really beautiful, with its craftmanship intact; this place generates in me that old-fashioned kind of feeling of pride, and yes, of patriotism.

As I have traveled around the world, I have found patriots in all countries, loyal to the carols they hear around them, fiercely proud of what makes their country the best one ever. It would indeed be a great world if we could all think like that, seeing this similarity as something that can unite.

Finally, Swallow Prior brings another gentle affirmation for this idea of America as a poem by mentioning Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, who “describes the importance of multiple viewpoints, arguments, and counterarguments to ‘political assembly,’ [and wonders] how ‘will one hear the nuances of even this debate unless one also makes oneself available to the songs of birds or poets?’ The basis of poetry is precisely those connections forged between different elements, different voices, and different perspectives. In envisioning the United States as “the greatest poem,” Whitman links the essence of poetry, which is unity within diversity, to the essence of democracy.”

I am a patriot of the singing kind, the poetry kind. I will always love America. And so I present to you my quilt, I Hear America Singing, a celebration of that great American poem that Whitman believed us to be.

I Hear America Singing
Quilt #252
68″ square
Many of the English paper-pieced blocks for this quilt are available free here on this blog. Other blocks and the finishing instructions are in my pattern shop.

The backing was a printed sateen cotton from the designers Minick and Simpson, using the prints from the front of the quilt. The label was attached later and is not visible.

There’s a lot of quilting in this quilt!

Other posts about this quilt, and the blocks that I designed, are found above in the tab Shine: The Circles Quilt.

I Hear America Singing, by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
The above Instagram post is from July 2020, when I began this journey.
#ihearamericasinging_quilt

300 Quilts · Giveaway · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish · Quilt Patterns

Pomegranates • Giveaway

Where does inspiration begin?

Does it start here? How about both places? Today is a pattern announcement, a quilt top done announcement and the best part: a giveaway!

My friend, Kenna Ogg of Madison Cottage Design, is launching her line of batiks from Banyan Batiks (made by Northcott) and asked me to help her share the pictures and flavors of her line of fabrics. And at the end of the post, be sure to enter to win a fat quarter stack of these beautiful fabrics, rich in the tones of fall and winter.

So when she sent them to me to dream up a quilt, I kept thinking about my friend Karen’s pomegranate tree, and how she was always so generous with the fruit:

Pomegranates come on in the fall and into winter, so the two ideas merged into one.

(Posed under a citrus bush)

I arranged the fabrics, trying to get a feel for the richness of the color, then one night drew up the quilt idea in my Affinity software, and a quilt pattern was on its way!

I drew up a pomegranate shape, adding the bit at the top (the calyx), then traced it onto fusing material, cutting out the center of the circle so the quilt wouldn’t be too stiff. I then cut around the outside and fused it down to a four-patch.

All are on! Now the borders.

It’s a fun way to show off the luscious tones of this line of batiks. I had a hard time photographing them in the night when I was working, so here’s a photo from Kenna:

This is what she’ll send the winner of the giveaway: Twenty Fat Quarters. Yes, you can make the Pomegranates quilt from that. But now you can also score a discount on the pattern, as I’m launching it at the same time. Head over to my pattern shop on PayHip, navigate to the pattern and for a 30% discount on this pattern enter the following code at checkout:

PomegranatesOPQuilt30

There are three places you can enter the giveaway:

The giveaway is now closed.
Congratulations to Esther, who wrote:
“Love the fabric and the pattern! Pomegranates and the pomegranate tree are beautiful. The tree and fruit provide habitat for birds. Maybe this will be the year I plant a tree or two, there are a number of varieties, some with pink arils and lighter rind that I think would make a nice combo with the standards. I think there are many references in the bible and poetry as to their beauty and symbolism, though right now I can’t pull one out of my memory. As far as harvesting the arils, I just “go for it” since I’m only cleaning one at a time. If I was ambitious, I’d make pomegranate jelly. I like to use the arils in a salad of winter greens, with slices of bosc pear and fuyu persimmon and a vinagrette.”

Here, on this blog (I’ll pick a winner on Thursday evening, and email the winner). OR, on my Instagram account. OR on Kenna’s Instagram account. And of course, you’ve figured out by now that if you enter all three places, that’s three times the chances. I will mail your name and address to Kenna and she’ll send them out. Good luck.

Leave me a comment below, telling me what you think is the easiest method to get the arils (the seeds) out of the pomemgranate: get on an old shirt and head out to the picnic table and just go for it, or submerge the fruit in a water bath, letting the arils sink to the bottom while the pith floats to the top. And of course, since I love your stories, any pomegranate story or memory you want to leave me will make me smile.

A red-stained juicy pomegranate smile!

Covid-19 Times · Live-Online Classes · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Zoom

Triad Harmony Workshop

A song from my childhood always pops into my head when I start my Zoom classes, bright and early, on Saturday morning. It’s something about “bright, smiling faces” that are “all in their places,” and when you see that class portrait where I cue them all to look at the camera and smile, it certainly resonates. (I like to do a class portrait, giving the students time to compose themselves, so as to avoid that strange deer-in-the-headlights-slightly-tipsy portrait that can happen when we try to freeze a video feed with a snapshot.)

The portrait above is the Coastal Quilters from Santa Barbara, one of those Guild engagements that morphed from in-person to Zoom. Again, I have to say I’m really loving teaching this way, with everyone in their own spaces with their own equipment and fabrics. (Do we have to go back to the other way?) I did teach one Zoom class once where they all gathered in the back room of a quilt shop, masks in place, but there wasn’t the interaction; I really missed the individual conversations that the traditional Zoom set-up allows.

And this is what a busy workshop looks like in reality. Everyone is on task (since I took this unannounced, I have blurred out any faces), working hard at creating their own versions of Triad Harmony. This is later in the afternoon and they had all made incredible progress.

Something I do — which I think is unusual — is a Follow-up Workshop Session, one week later. It’s one of the best parts of the class, in my opinion.

In this Follow-Up class, the students send me photos of their quilts the day before, and I put them up into a slide show. This is my view from my computer, and we all engage in discussing the quilts, the fabric choices, successes, and challenges. It’s a lovely time to hear from the quilt makers, the quilters involved at a granular level in creating these masterpieces. It’s not often that we get to talk like this, and it’s a treasured time.

I wish I could have had you all there. More than once, someone said, I was scared to work with this precision, but it went together really well. Or they’d say, they had a stack of triangles cut and changed out. At that point, several people picked up their stacks and flashed them at the camera. A couple of people had theirs already quilted, some were still finishing up borders, and one quilter had printed off onto paper an image of the fabric she was missing in order to show us how it should look. All in all, the follow-up class motivated them to work hard, and finish up as much as they could.

Enjoy the show!

Karen B.
Sue B.
Margaret D.
Heather G.
Marcia G.
Gail B.
Ranell H.
Carole K.
Sue K.
(The black is for display only.)
Susan K.
Tami K.
Barbara M.
Polly M.
Sue O.
Karen P.
detail, Karen P: dimensional wedges
Bee S. (with bee fabrics!)

I try to give something a little extra to each class, and for this class I included four different videos they could watch, with different tips and instructions for making the quilt, as well as a line drawing for use in coloring in preferences.

I also included pattern pieces that would make a larger size, shown here for comparison. I’ve updated the pattern in my PayHip shop, and the pattern now includes the larger size. The fabric line I chose for the larger size is Geo Stones, by Riley Blake.

Thank you all, Coastal Quilters, for a lovely experience!

Behind the Curtain · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt

Spectral Light

My husband is a photographer who specializes in small landscapes: detailed shots of flowers that he finds around our neighborhood. Since we live in a climate that is temperate, we have plants from Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, and even Madagascar, and he finds and captures them all in their exquisite tiny details. The plant above is called Mother of Millions.

But sometimes when you step back, the plant just isn’t quite so lovely. And so it is with quilts.

I had challenged myself to make a larger version of Triad Harmony, which — when it’s figured out — will be added into the first pattern. I had spent hours drafting patterns, printing them out, perfecting them, and finally it was time to try it in cloth.

Fail.

I really thought it was a loser. I had great fabric, Gem Stones by Riley Blake (shown on this post). I thought, well…every quilt starts out as spindly Mother of Millions plant, with their virtues disguised in the making. I wondered if this smaller quilt just couldn’t scale up to the larger version. So I stepped away for a day, a bit grumpy about the whole thing. But I just needed to look at the details.

And the details came down — as so often it does — to contrast. The second tier of triad blocks needed contrast from the outer heavens in which this star lives. I needed to change out some pieces, but now I think it’s on track. I will soon get the borders on, then take it off my design wall to quilt it. The moral of the story? Keep working, make changes and soon the quilt will show itself.

In other news, I had a wonderful class last Saturday with the Coastal Quilters from Santa Barbara, a Zoom class of 19 students. We have our follow-up session this coming Saturday, and their quilt pictures have been coming in. I am most excited about this–this follow-up session is such a wonderful time where we talk about quilts. That write-up is coming soon, as is a giveaway for the new Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. So stay tuned!

colorful image from here

About the name: I had originally wanted to name this quilt Spectra, as that is plural for spectrum, or an array of light. But when I found out that it is the brand name for a breast milk pump (?!?), I quickly changed my mind. I read that car manufacturers go through this on a large scale, as not only do they have to check English, but the car’s name in many other languages as well.

And now, a little light reading:

from here

Happy Quilting!

P.S. Did you notice I changed this triad piece, too? I subbed out the lightest piece for a really dark one — you know, more contrasting — and then I rotated it to put that darkest piece at the lower edge.

Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Shine: The Circles Quilt

SHINE: The Circles Quilt • Collaboration with QuiltMania

SHINE: the Circles Quilt

First I’m going to tell you the short version.

Shine is going back out into the world again, this time in collaboration with QuiltMania Magazine. If you are a subscriber to their newsletter, you’ll receive access to the newly revised patterns, free, as a thank you for subscribing.

Block One: Swirlygig

Now the long version.

When Covid-19 hit the proverbial fan, one April morning in my mailbox was a heartfelt letter from Carol, writing in her regular QuiltMania Newsletter about some of the difficulties magazines like hers were facing.  I contacted them, offering my help in any way (you know I’m a fangirl).

Block Two: Sunshine

After some correspondence, it was decided that they would release SHINE: The Circles Quilt out into the world, bit by bit on their blog, and after further developments, as a thank you for subscribing to their newsletter.  I was happy with this, and thinking it would be released quickly, revised all the formerly free patterns on this blog into a new format.  I sent them to back to QuiltMania where they were translated into French.  

Block Three: Ljublana

Wondering if they’d be out by July, I started work on another set of the circles, this time in Red, White, and Blue.  You may have seen them here, here, and here.  I am still working on them, but am borrowing an idea from my friend Carol, who is also working on a Red, White and Blue quilt.  We hope to get these quilts finished in time for the Inauguration in January.  That gives me a little more time.

So here we go on a new journey with SHINE! Underneath each block is the name, and a link to where it lives on this blog. Each of these posts has detailed instructions and photos, which may prove helpful in your sewing. The full set is up above, in my header, under SHINE: The Circles Quilt.

This is how it looked on their blog this morning. 

Above is the teaser in their newsletter, which you’ll want to subscribe to.  

Here’s the scheduled release dates of the free quilt blocks from QuiltMania:
September: Blocks 1, 2 and 3
October: Blocks 4, 5 and 6
November:  Blocks 7, 8 and 9
December: Blocks 10, 11 and 12

In case you can’t wait, the complete pattern is coming soon to my PayHip shop.  Currently up up on PayHip are the last four blocks of SHINE (13 through 16) and the quilt’s finishing directions, which are written in Hobbit Elvish.  Just kidding (sort of), but certainly they are from my earliest days as a pattern writer and will soon be revised to my current format and standards. (When the new patterns drop, if you have purchased either of these, you’ll be able to download the new ones without additional cost.)

I used fabric from the Minick and Simpson recent lines of red, white, and blue, as well as other Moda and Riley Blake fabrics for the backgrounds.

Happy Labor Day this weekend. Here is a less-than-happy version of Work (Le Travail), by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (c. 1863) from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. I am happy that they worked in a woman in “travail” down in the lower right corner. I am beyond happy that my current work of quilting doesn’t resemble anything in this picture. (Okay, maybe sometimes.)

Keep stitching!