Monday, March 31, 2014

Black White and Red String Quilt Top


I am so pleased with the way this came out!  In only about 2 weeks, I've been able to finish this quilt top.  It came together quickly.  I was able to concentrate on it at Quilt Camp last week, finished the blocks this weekend, laid them out and put it all together.   [It is pretty square in real life.  It's just hanging on a slumped mattress against the wall in this picture.]


Here is one of the finished blocks.   It's a little hard to see the solitary block in the full layout because the layout makes the secondary red, black and white squares.   I purposely laid out the strings (2-1/2 in strip sets of black and white; 1 honey bun thrown in, too, for some narrower strips) so that there would be a white side and a black side with the intention of creating additional black and white blocks in the final layout.  I love it!

This is a block before it's trimmed.  The instructions have you start with a foundation square (I used muslin).  Then you lay down the color strip corner to corner, then lay down the second strip and sew it down through the foundation, then flip it and sew down the next string.  You keep building the blocks that way until it's done.  Heartstrings block guidelines / instructions are here.

Here's the back side of the untrimmed block.  You can see how sturdy the foundation square is; how it keeps things nice and tidy.   It also makes it quite a bit heavier than the usual 1-layered quilt top.  I'm wondering if I need to add a batting, or if the muslin will be enough?

Maybe a light batt?   It may take another 5 years to finish this quilt.  At least I can say I finished the top.

Missives from Quilt Camp Spring 2014

I made progress on several projects, but no spectacular finishes--yet.  Here are some sneak peaks ...

Tree of Life Wall Quilt

I made progress on The Tree of Life wall quilt that I worked on last year at Quilt Camp.  I stitched down the tree silhouette.  Then I sandwiched it with batting, and stitched around the tree to make it pop out.  It really added a nice relief to the piece.  Now I need to work out how I want to quilt the rest of the background.  I didn't feel I had the right thread with me to blend with the background so I decided to wait on finishing it.  

String Quilt in Red, Black and White

The test block from The Red String Quilt.  I completed 1 block and trimmed it up before starting any of the other blocks.  I laid it out as inspiration and guide--always visible as I sewed on the strips for the remaining blocks.  I spent most of the Quilt Camp weekend working on this one project.  By the end of the weekend, I only had 1 strip left to sew on the white side of the blocks.   Great progress!

Easy Origami Bag

This was my warm-up project Friday night.  I always bring a small-ish project that I can warm up with, and actually finish on Friday night.    I used 2 squares of fabric about 20 inches square.  Instructions here. 

Flying Geese Quilt

During my stay-cation, I spent most of the week quilting this Flying Geese quilt.  With my new sewing table (made by my sweet husband), it's easier to quilt at home than at camp.  That wasn't always the case.  I brought this along for show-and-share.  I didn't finish it, but I made serious progress during the week.  The whole center part is quilted now.

At the sewing expo at the local tech school the week before, one of the vendors was drawing / auditioning possible machine quilting patterns on a photo of the quilt top on her iPad.  I asked what app it was, and she told me.  So I played with Doodle Pro to do the same with this quilt.  Very helpful for getting familiar with the motifs, and developing a path over the quilt.  I had originally thought I wanted to do feathers in the channels (It's a flying geese quilt--feathers are called for!), but it seemed like it would be too heavy, too much quilting for this light-hearted quilt.  So I went with the more open undulations instead.

View from the back of the quilt -- so far.

View from the front


Afternoon Break

Quilt Camp took place at Silver Birch Ranch, a camp only about 20 minutes from where I grew up in Northern Wisconsin.  They were still in the throes of winter, but I did venture out to walk the roads Saturday afternoon.  Here's some of what I saw that afternoon [Here's what you missed, Ma!] :

Although there is little snow still on the ground in the horse pen, I was standing knee-deep in a snowbank to get this pony shot.  The horses had thick coats and good fat layers to keep them warm.

The chickens were really hard to photograph because they are always in motion.   There's a setting for that on my camera, but heck if I can find it in the moment!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2BD39 Logo Challenge

This week, Kim challenged us to create a logo inspired by one she had seen in real life at a local cafe.  I spent an embarrassing amount of time on this, not because I had problems with PSE, but because I've been thinking about my logo since 1994 when I started my little production company.  I knew I wanted a simple green leaf and the words -- that's what it's been all this time.  I took so long because I was making it more complicated than the lesson needed to be.  Once I settled into design and Kim's given recipe with circles (not leaf shapes), it all went well.  I followed her recipe pretty faithfully. 

My tweaks were the chosen fonts :
Pea Miss Mariss for my name
Pea Aimee for Sweet Leaf Productions

Textures :
Green Leaf Texture from Stockvault
Kim Klassen's 1402 texture for the background

A few tweaks (for another day?)
I might make that outer ring not so dark, or change the color a bit.  It's kind of heavy next to everything else.   Maybe a blend mode will take care of that?

I'm going to let this settle a while ...  Someday, maybe I'll add it to the header of my blog. ;-)

Beyond Layers

Sunday, March 09, 2014

2BD38 : 3-Point Composition

For this week's lesson, Kim suggested we set up a 3-point composition.  This is such a simple idea with pleasing results!   I always struggle with the still-life  set-ups, working intuitively, or experimenting until I get something that feels right ...  well, this strategy takes the guess-work out of it.  3-point composition just FEELS right.

Thinking Out Loud :
For this image, I started out thinking about writers and creative people and the blank page.  I've always been very comfortable with the paper aisles in office supply stores--all that clean white paper--so much potential there!  So many blank pages to fill--It's exciting!  No fear of writer's block ...   Then I got to thinking : I wanted this image to tell a story.   Not the idea of someone writing easily and effortlessly.  I wanted to see the struggle ...  Maybe they were writing a letter, confessing something that was difficult to say,  not knowing how to say it.  Maybe it's being written to someone who will never read it, or could never reciprocate ... star-crossed lovers ...  Hence the struggle ...  the page crumbled and tossed, but then retrieved and smoothed out to be reconsidered ...  Doesn't that tell a more interesting story?  A more HUMAN story?  ["Yes, I think you might have something there, Mr Fennyman!"]  "Create" is perhaps not the right word for what I was after with this image ...  Catharsis.  Rumi has a quote ...  something like even if it's hard to say the words, if they come from the heart,  they will be received by the heart of the intended.  Even if the outcome is not what you had hoped.  Sometimes it helps to get the words out, to work through the feelings, even if no one else reads it. 

As for the props : I've been collecting feathers.  We have an influx of Canadian Geese every summer and they drop lots of feathers in the park ...  I actually made the walnut ink a few summers ago ... and the paper was an actual letter to my friend J--Yes, we're old school that way, still appreciating a hand-written letter on fine stationary. ;-)  In the letter, I'm explaining all this to her, but having a little trouble with the old-style pen and ink.  I wasn't actually writing with the feather--the shaft was cracked, so it wouldn't have worked.  I have a glass pen but it didn't have the flair of a feather.   I think the ink needs some gum Arabic to make it write smoother--hence the blotches on the page.

Here's the recipe :
Layer 1 ) Background image
Layer 2) Texture - Kim Klassen's Paper-Stained Light - Multiply Blend Mode; 58% opacity
Layer 3) Texture - Kim Klassen's Silence - Soft Light 30%
Layer 4) Texture - Kim Klassen's Paper & Paste - Multiple 59%
Layer 5) Text -  Create - Zapfino font
Layer 6) Text - Write what's in your heart - Windsong font

I think Paper-stained Light was one of the very first Kim Klassen Textures I ever got.  Still one of my favorites!
Beyond Layers

Sunday, March 02, 2014

New Threads : Polyester Pallette of Colors

I purchased this set of polyester embroidery thread from Thread Art during their Black Friday sale around Thanksgiving.  You can still purchase this set of 80 spools for a similar price (It amounts to about $1/spool).   I actually bought a 120 spool set, but I don't see that as an option now.  They even threw in a couple extra spools.

Since it's polyester embroidery thread, it's STRONG with a nice sheen to it.  I wanted to try it out before I blogged about it which is why you didn't see it last December.  It seems to work just fine in my sewing machine--for embroidery, and quilting.  I used it on the Birds & Bees Snowflake pillow.  I'm quite happy with it.  It feels good to be sewing again!  All for the want of of decent threads!

This is what I saw when I opened the box.  At first, I was a little daunted--I'm always a little daunted when I see so many styrofoam packing peanuts.  But that didn't last long.  Being December,  I was like a kid in a candy store!  Every new spool was a new color and felt like a new treat!

It was actually kind of fun to pull out each spool, put them on the stands, and arrange the colors.  As a Librarian, I like a good "order from chaos" exercise.  And this certainly qualified!

I realized one of the reasons I took a sabbatical from sewing and quilting 18 months ago was because I was so frustrated with my Madiera rayon embroidery thread constantly breaking.  I thought there was something wrong with my machine, and then I realized the thread was literally rotten--You can break it just by pulling on it.  I was so disgusted and disheartened -- To pay that much for a box of embroidery thread, and it doesn't last very long (less than 5 years).    I kept it covered, and out of direct sunlight, just like I was supposed to do for preservation.  And it still didn't last.   ;-(

Well--I made the switch to polyester embroidery thread.  It's come a long way ... and so have I. Maybe Thread Art doesn't make the best thread out there, but it's good enough, and the price is right.

You might ask, do I really need 120 spools of embroidery thread?  All in different colors?  YES!  This is the palette of thread colors which is just as important as a fabric stash.  If you don't have the right color, it can stop a project dead in it's tracks.  Fortunately, my husband does NOT ask this question.  He knows how important a creative life is for me

There's a little blue cap at the top of each spool that you can pop off to hold the thread end when you're finished with it.  I think they' re making improvements to that system.  It's not perfect (thread can still unspool slightly), but it's good enough.  Likewise, it's not the most expensive thread out there (Heck, I bought the fancy stuff last time around, and look where it got me), but it's good enough.

The spools are a little taller than the Sulky spools, which means they don't fit in the Slimline thread boxes.  I have the wooden racks to keep them in order and somewhat contained.  I am on the hunt for a box in which to keep them out of the light, and dust-free.  It would also improve their portability.

A little later ...
I stopped at Shopko today and picked up a couple of scrap-booking project boxes.  I was hoping that there would be room enough to keep the threads on the wooden June Taylor thread stand, but no dice.  These larger thread spools can stand up in the box on their own, and still allow you to adequately see the thread color.   And the lid closes down tight, keeping out dust, and making them much more portable.  That's an issue because I have quilt camp in a few weeks.  ;-)    I also added a layer of non-slip material and a layer of batting.  This raises them just enough so that they don't roll around and tip over in the box.