Posts Tagged ‘quilting life’

Scraps Be Gone

June 20, 2018

My plan to use scraps for my tea towel quilt is working. I pulled out all the odd blue remnants, cut them into 1 1/2” or 2 1/2” strips, and started sewing.

The great thing about a scrap quilt is the more fabric you use, the less you notice the disparities. Country calicoes and ethnic prints? Cool. Formal versus funky stripes? No problem. Blues that don’t always play nice together? The flow keeps them from fighting.

I decided I would try the same technique with the backing. My flannel collection is getting thin, but I bet I can piece together something interesting from this stack.

This will be a couch quilt, something to huddle under on a cold winter day (yes, we get one or two of them in California). It might also be a conversation starter, although I’m well aware that when someone asks, “How did you come up with the idea?” they’re really asking, “Mercy, what were you thinking!” Doesn’t matter – my scrap pile is smaller, and I’m getting my projects finished.

Luck and wisdom!

The Creative Power of Packaging

June 13, 2018

I bought a kit at a white elephant sale simply because of the way it was packaged. The kit contained all the makings for felt ornaments. They’re cute, but I didn’t buy the kit for the ornaments. This is the item that drew me in:

I can’t resist bright shiny things that are also tiny and cute

As I disassembled the kit to retrieve my shiny, glittery rick rack (which I have no idea what to do with but I really, really wanted), my inner voice spoke. “Self, use this same technique on your next Unfinished Quilt Project.”

My challenge is to create a quilt out of these tea towels. I like them too much to wipe dishes with them. They don’t go together thematically, but they have a similar color scheme. And I have a drawer full of blue and green scraps.

I realized that successful packaging has a point of interest and good flow. Since the concept worked to sell me a kit of felt ornaments (which I will make at some point), it will work to create a quilt.

Luck and wisdom!

Gambling With Beauty

June 11, 2018

My husband and I are not gamblers, except with plants. Going to the nursery is our version of hitting the casinos. We never spend more than we can afford to lose, because although we are gambling with beauty it’s still even money whether those plants will live or not.

Most of the time we’re willing to let the plants accept their fate, but this little orange critter was an exception. We both loved the leaves, and the way the orange petals glow. It wasn’t doing well where we first planted it, so my husband dug it up and put it in a pot. It did okay, but wasn’t thriving. My husband moved it next to the front door, gave it a new pot, and hoped for the best. The gamble paid off.

I realized that I can use this example for both my writing and my quilting. Sometimes I write a scene or a character that doesn’t fit the story, just as I sometimes make a block that doesn’t fit with the other units of the quilt. Instead of trying to force the odd one to conform, I’m going to save it. I can cut a scene or even an entire chapter and paste it to a file. I can put the orphan block in a bag or bin. Someday, I’ll find the right place for those bits, and watch them bloom.

Graffiti Quilt – An Omen, Or Just Crankiness?

May 30, 2018

The latest Challenge Group project is to do something with graphics, graffiti, or lettering. At first I thought of doing an illuminated letter, but then I discovered fabric that looked like a concrete brick wall. “Self,” I said, “make something bright and cheerful on that.” It didn’t quite work out.

Not exactly cheerful

No matter how hard I tried, I could not come up with anything bright and cheerful. Even my message is a downer.

What if this is exactly the world you asked for?

The back is no better. It is a remnant of a piece I bought to make a series of World War I quilts. I’ve also used it for some fire quilts.

Good for explosions or fire

I suppose I’m in a dark mood because there’s an election coming up and my phone is ringing off the hook with campaign calls. We’ll see if my cheeriness returns after the results are announced.

Luck and wisdom!

Art Lessons

July 6, 2016

I think I’ve mentioned that the art quilt critique group I belong to has decided to give ourselves art lessons. Specifically, we’re going to explore elements of design in a semi-structured way. None of us are in a position to enroll in a formal art program, so we’re going the do-it-yourself route. In the past, I’ve incorporated our assignments into a project I wanted to do anyway. I planned to treat our latest assignment, exploring negative space, the same way. Then I changed my mind.

The tree wants to disappear

The tree wants to disappear

This is not the start to the project I need to get finished. It is, however, a good piece to explore negative space. The fabric for the tree limbs seems to drop away from view. That’s partly because it is a delicately grayed green, and grayed colors retreat. The background contributes to the effect, because it is so exuberantly busy.

The grapevine wants to show off

The grapevine wants to show off

This is the project I need to get finished for a challenge on the theme Colors of The Vineyard. You can see that both projects use the same background fabric. I originally planned to use the yellow and green fabrics on the same piece, but a little voice said, “Think before you cut.”

So I thought, and realized that I had the opportunity to do something new in my art quilting. I could use a project as an art journal page, in effect giving myself permission to abandon a piece if it didn’t work. I fused the green branches onto a small bit of the background and immediately realized the fabric wouldn’t do at all for my challenge piece.

I will show the green piece at the next art quilt critique meeting, and ask the other members what they would do if it were their quilt. If I like their ideas, the project may evolve, but if not it has a place in my art journal. I’m already beading the yellow piece for the challenge. And I’m very excited to be taking baby steps toward becoming a more dedicated art student.

Luck and wisdom!

It Needs Light

June 1, 2016

Despite having the blackest thumbs on either side of the Mississippi, I have committed myself to growing an orchid. The plant was a gift, so I’m motivated enough to research it. By research I mean I went to Alden Lane Nursery and asked Sue the orchid guru what to do. She said the variety I own thrives on neglect. Then she said something that I knew I could adapt to all my creative endeavors. “It needs light.”

This bit of wisdom applies to my stacks in the sewing room. They need to be turned over once in a while so the bits on the bottom come to light.

My orchid, trimmed and basking in shaded light

My orchid, trimmed and basking in shaded light

She also said if I paid attention, the plant would tell me when it needs water. As long as the roots are green, they’re hydrated.

Still green, still growing

Still green, still growing

That definitely fits with my fiber art and writing projects. The fabric and my characters often refuse to talk to me, but they will send out clues now and again. When I pay attention, I know what they want and the project goes smoothly.

I discovered other lessons I could transfer from the garden to my work. This is harder than you might think, as my husband is the gardener in the family (see above if you’ve forgotten why plants dread my approach). Still, he has created a garden that reveals surprises at different angles.

The lily bed

The lily bed

Here are massed lilies. I am especially fond of this view because I’m the clutterbug in the family. Yet here for all to see is the value of letting things run riot, creating their own beauty.

The shrimp plant

The shrimp plant

We bought this shrimp plant because I thought it was cute. It had one itty-bitty flower when we brought it home, and look at it now. Thus we see the value of planning for the best despite evidence to the contrary.

Trevor the garden gargoyle

Trevor the garden gargoyle

Here is my last lesson from the garden – find yourself a patron saint. Trevor the gargoyle doesn’t actually solve my artistic problems, but I laugh whenever I see him and sometimes that’s enough. When it isn’t, I’m taking a cue from my orchid and finding myself some light.

Luck and wisdom!

My Accidental Modern

April 20, 2016

A few years ago I started a collection of shamrock and leprechaun fabric, with one green print of numbers. I had a title – Logarithms and Leprechauns – and an idea to use bargello piecing. That was where it stopped until PBS ran a series on the 1916 Easter Uprising. I pulled out the project bag and started cutting.

The piecing went as you might expect. I put a couple of strips together and said, “Self, if you separate the strips into two rows the piece will be more interesting.” So I did that, sewed a couple more strips together and said, “Self, if you smoosh the two sections together the piece will be more interesting.” So I did that, and then it was time to audition borders. That’s when I turned the piece on its side and discovered I had made a modern quilt.

Should I rename this Barging Into Modern?

Should I rename this Barging Into Modern?

I brought it to my friendship group and they agreed it is sorta kinda maybe modern. That’s good enough for me. I pieced the back with the leprechaun fabric (because it refused to play nice with the fabrics for the top).

The leprechauns that started it all

The leprechauns that started it all

Luck and wisdom!

Precision

February 17, 2016

Precision is not as simple as you might think. As the contestants on my new favorite TV guilty pleasure, Team Ninja Warrior, demonstrate each week, your brain tells you one thing but reality tells you another. This month’s Progressive project required me to assemble two long strips of rectangles, which would be sewn next to a 60 1/4″ separator strip. This was my result.

They were supposed to be even, not staggered

They were supposed to be even, not staggered

I’ve been quilting long enough to know what a quarter inch seam allowance looks like – or so I thought. Turns out if you are two threads off on each seam, after twenty seams you’re an inch out of alignment. Fortunately for me, I erred on the skinny side, so I didn’t have to rip out any seams, just make the seam allowance a little bigger. The smaller strip of rectangles measured out perfectly when I pressed the seams again.

The moral of the story is your ruler really is your best friend. The corollary is always remember to reward yourself when you follow all the steps precisely.

Flowers -  no calories, always welcome

Flowers – no calories, always welcome

Luck and wisdom!

I’m In It For The Trees

January 27, 2016

You know you’ve been a quilter too long when you stop paying attention to the movie because something on the screen sparked an idea for a new quilt. I was watching “War and Peace” and stopped paying attention to James Norton‘s splendid portrayal of Prince Andrei because he was standing by a way cool tree that I thought would make a great focal point for an art quilt.

Not the tree in the movie, but a fine tree all the same

Not the tree in the movie, but a fine tree all the same

This isn’t the first time I’ve been sidetracked by quilt ideas. I attended a concert and forgot all about the music because the light show sparked an idea for a wonderful way to use some of my batiks. I look at the ocean and see how I could strip-piece a wave breaking on the rocks. Don’t even get me started on how a night sky makes me itch to bring out my beads.

The black and white batik uses a frog motif

The black and white batik uses a frog motif

At the moment, I’m particularly struck by trees. I’ve also done frogs, roses, space scenes and maps. I can never tell when the mood will strike for a new series, or why something takes me by the throat and demands I explore it. All I know is that it’s great fun to be inspired, even if I do miss part of the movie.

Luck and wisdom!

I Deny the Reality of Finite Space

January 20, 2016

The return of rain to California is such a miracle it is spilling over to other things, like my to-do list. I actually finished the piece for the Quilting Arts readers challenge. This represents my super power, which is putting more stuff into any given area than one might think possible. I call it “I Deny the Reality of Finite Space.”

I Deny the Reality of Finite Space - a study in beads

I Deny the Reality of Finite Space – a study in beads

This piece will also be my Challenge Group project on the theme of holes. There are holes in the beads, holes in the button, and holes in the quilt itself.

Lani Longshore quilt detail

Here is a shot of the real secret to my success in stuffing (hint: I cheat).

Perhaps my real super power is hiding stuff on the back?

Perhaps my real super power is hiding stuff?

Luck and wisdom!