I took a class from Karen Bolan about designing a minimalist quilt. When I told my husband what I was doing he laughed. “Right, the Bling Queen is going to go minimalist.” In my defense, I had chosen mostly tone-on-tone fabrics that I thought would lend themselves very well to a minimalist style. Then the class started and all bets were off.
We were doing freezer paper foundation piecing, which I’ve done before, so you would think that I would have remembered that whatever I designed would turn out backwards. You would also think that I would have remembered that foundation piecing doesn’t work well with directional fabric if you put in a lot of funky angles. I put in angles that I totally forgot were going to face the other way in the finished block and the background I wanted to use was one of the few that had a directional print.
The good news is that before I started cutting fabric I realized what I had chosen was not going to work. The better news is that this was a Zoom workshop so I could easily make a change. My eyes fell on my Halloween collection, and the block above is what I did.
So, yeah, the workshop was an epic fail as far as doing a minimalist quilt. It was an epic fail as far as doing an entire quilt as well, since I only made one block (and I know that I won’t be making multiples of it).
But the workshop was also a major win because I now have an idea for those directional fabrics. Furthermore, that idea will work well for a donation quilt, which takes a lot of pressure off me if I don’t have to make a minimalist quilt that I want to hang in my house. There is a benefit to making an attractive experiment that can go to someone who really needs a quilt.
Even better, the workshop was a major win because I really like my little Halloween block, I’ve got more of the fabric with the moon faces if I decide to make a full quilt, and even if I do nothing more with it this year I’ve got something new to look at for my second favorite holiday.
I wanted green beads for a project, and remembered that I had started some other projects with green beads so I looked in a plastic box that I had wedged in a pile before Christmas. I found beads for the current project, but I also found an experiment that might become something else. I think when I started this, I planned for the wide part to be on the bottom, like a tear drop. I sort of like it as an ice cream cone.
I also like it on its side, like a forest. Perhaps I’ll make an underquilt out of some bright, warm fabric to balance the cool greens. Or perhaps I’ll stuff it back in the box for another time. Who knows what I’ll want to do with this experiment tomorrow, or next week, or next month?
I unearthed an experiment of space fabric layered on batting and quilted, and decided it would be an ideal foundation for my fig applique. Don’t ask why, just go with it. I attached the applique with some running stitches, and added beads and embroidered leaves.
The binding is narrow sheer ribbon. The planet patch covers the spot where the ribbon ends meet. Technically, this is a single fig in space, but the plural sounds better to me so that’s what the piece is called – Figs In Space. Consider this your whimsy for the day.
The improvisational piecing panels swam to the top of the nearest pile in the sewing room, so I finished the quilt.
I knew I wanted to do something with the raw edges of the panels, so in the true spirit of improvisational art I used what was at hand. Some thick embroidery thread and beads left from another project either had to go in the very next project or be put away. You don’t need to be psychic to guess what I did.
I’m pleased with the quilt, but I do wish I knew why this one worked and other improv pieces I’ve tried didn’t. Perhaps the stars were in alignment, perhaps I’m honing in my signature color palette, perhaps I like it because people I’ve shown it to like it. Fortunately, I have lots more scraps for more experiments.
My husband asked for pecan pie to celebrate 3/14, Pi Day. I have a great recipe, because it’s easy – when you have all the ingredients. When you don’t, well, how else should one celebrate a made-up math holiday than by experimenting?
First, I had some Trefoil Girl Scout cookies that needed eating and not entirely by me, which is a problem because I’m the only one who really likes those cookies. I decided to make the crust from them, which worked fine except I ended up with more cookie crumbs than required. My experiment was to add a little more butter and use them all. It worked. Then I discovered I didn’t have corn syrup for the filling, so I used molasses. That made the filling a little bitter, so I added chocolate chips – and more butter. Heaven only knows what the calorie count is, but the pie tastes good. That’s all that matters with cooking experiments.
The same is true of quilting experiments. I took Peggy Martin‘s Jelly-roll Jive workshop on Sunday, only instead of a jelly-roll I brought some 2 1/2″ strips from my stash. I chose from the not-quite-scraps drawer, those pieces too large to go in the scrap bag but too small to make an entire quilt. I figured if I got a decent block out of it, great; if not, I hadn’t lost much.
Turns out I got a great five blocks. I made four blocks from blue and beige fabric. My first thought was to make a traditional 4-block medallion wall-hanging, but turning it on point is more interesting. I’m not sure how I’ll fill it out, but that’s an experiment for another day.
A second experiment for another day is this last block that I made from fat quarters I bought in New Mexico. I have enough fabric of a similar nature to make a small wall-hanging, and a boatload of beads that might find a home on the piece.
I hope all your experiments go well today and every day.
I had some green felt left over from the project with ribbon roses, and some hand-dyed purple cotton thread, so I decided to resurrect my purplework project. Purplework is like redwork, just in purple. I thought I had sketched some patterns a long time ago, but I couldn’t find them. “Self,” I said, “wing it.”
To be honest, I did use Helen Stubbings’ Simply Redwork for inspiration. The motif in the picture above is the whole reason I bought the book.
These flowers are from her book too. Once I finished them, I took out some other embroidery books and played.
I’m not sure what I was thinking with this one. I might add beads, or I might turn the pointy motif into a tiny sea creature by adding legs and antennae.
This last piece definitely needs more beads. I started with a paisley motif, but stopped partway through because I liked the idea of hanging flowers. Now I’m not so sure. The great thing about this project is everything was left over, so even if I’m not entirely pleased with the result I’ve learned something for the next time.
And you thought I meant fabric with flowers and trees. No, this is actually some plastic-y non-woven material that bills itself as a plant and seed blanket. My husband bought it at our local Orchard Supply Hardware store, but for some reason I can only find an online link at Amazon. He gave me a leftover chunk and asked if I thought I could use it for a quilt.
Boy, could I.
The material is nubbly, like an iron-on interfacing, so it grabs hold and won’t shift during sewing. I sprinkled sequins and seed beads over the background and quilted them in place. While the material is as transparent as a tulle or netting, it won’t allow the small beads to slip through the holes.
It also shimmers, making it a good candidate for water effects.
You can make reasonably clean cuts close to the stitching line.
I have no idea how long this material will hold up, nor what it will do to the cotton underneath it. That’s part of this experiment. Still and all, it’s fun to play with.
I was in the midst of creating small projects with odd scraps of aida cloth and embroidery floss when I was inspired by an article about the human brain. There was a simple line drawing of the brain in the magazine. “Self,” I said, “that would go well as a cross-stitch.” I charted a design on graph paper, then did the stitching, which was a first for me. There was room left on the scrap of aida cloth, so I stitched in the words Thread Brain. There was still room, so I added another line: A Story.
Now I have a title and cover art, but what comes after that? Since I have yet to come up with a story in words, I decided to continue a story in thread. I have lots of leftover floss, so I made a multi-colored field and stitched an outline of a brain.
There is room on this scrap of aida cloth, so I’m making another image, this time of the two hemispheres of the brain.
I have no idea where this will lead, but I’m keeping my fingers occupied and using up the odd bits and pieces that clutter my sewing room. That’s good enough for now.
I took a moment to celebrate Chocolate Ice Cream Day last week, hoping to calm my brain enough to do something creative. It worked. The next day, I had ideas for two small pieces. Yes, it’s only a start, but I’m counting it as a success.
I’ve been experimenting with sewing squares on acrylic felt, then melting the felt. This time, I thought I would lay down a grid of thread first, and put something on top of that. The dragon applique was just sitting there, so I stitched it over the grid.
This yellow fabric was on top of the scrap basket. I cut circles from it, and scattered them over the surface. There weren’t enough. “Self,” I said, “why not see if a circle of thread will work just as well as a circle of fabric.”
The next step was melting the felt with my craft heat gun. The dragon didn’t mind at all.
The yellow circles weren’t quite as pleased. I added a bead to make them feel better.
Here is the little circle of thread. It isn’t as noticeable as I expected. If I try this again, I’ll make the circle from parallel lines instead of one big meandering line.
One of my favorite scenes in “The Lion In Winter” is the argument Katherine Hepburn has with Peter O’Toole which ends with her shouting “There’ll be pork in the trees by morning!” I mention this because I’m planning to base my Progressive tree block project on that scene.
The first collection of fabrics that I chose didn’t quite work, so I went to plan B. The first design I chose didn’t quite work, so I went to plan C.
The first paint treatment I chose was based on a pig cookie cutter. Turns out that was too clunky.
The second treatment used a simple leaf with subtle enhancement from a fine-line green pen. Turns out that was too subtle.
The third treatment uses more colors of paint and bolder enhancement with a medium-line black pen.
I guess my next project is going to be based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with the third choice that is just right.