Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How my Round Robin 7 quilt started

I've seen a couple of photos of my quilt top, which is still in New Zealand with Dorry. There are some delightful small elements I can see - and others I can't, so I still have some surprises to look forward to.

Here's the block I made to start it off:

Instead of giving everyone the traditional fabric starting element, I opted to send them a swatch of virtual fabric. It was a portion of a photo of a small brown leaf isolated on a larger unidentified surface, taken by a local photographer. I took the leaf away so that what they were looking at was naturally textured misty brown and tan "fabric."

Then I asked them to do a very very simple block, using colors that could be found in the photo - except they were to use one smallish area to represent themselves in any way they chose, but it should be eye-catching. I called this concept "I Spy Checkerboard." I came up with it after looking at photos of old quilts at the Western North Carolina University's Mountain Heritage Center - viewable at the Quilt Index. One of the quilts there, made between 1945 and 1955 is called Checkerboard. You will not see much resemblance between that quilt and mine. The database notes that "Several blocks appear to have replacement patches" - and the way those replacements stand out from the quilt was what I asked my fellow Robins to replicate, when they were inserting a bit of themselves into my quilt. "I Spy" quilts are usually made for children, using a variety of novelty fabrics that the child can have fun identifying elements of.

For my block, I cut out a banjo from a novelty print and appliqued it on a silk fabric. I included a couple of shinier silks among my bland tan fabrics. To make it more interesting to piece, I made two small nine-patches out of random bits of the fabrics used in the larger squares.

You'll see photos of the well-traveled quilt when Norris brings it back from Northern Virginia.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A yellow sweater

Today I finished this sweater, to include blocking and getting the buttons on.

The yarn arrived from Diane's store when Dad, Joyce and Niki were here at the end of February, so it only took me two months to finish.

It's one of the more complicated-looking patterns I've worked, but it was not really difficult.

I'm really enjoying knitting again.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Week 17 - Comfort Quilt

I think Ms. Brackman chose a simple block for this Easter weekend -

She illustrated the post (about volunteer women nurses) using beige with scrappy blue fabric squares. I didn't have that many blues designated for this quilt, so I used mine more systematically.

Next week, my Block of the Week won't be made until Sunday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My contribution to Round Robin 7 - smaller parts

I have already written about the South Pacific quilt top I put together for Dorry. It includes the work of all the members of the group. Here I have just the blocks I made for everyone else.

Rhonda chose "Handbags" and made four delightful 6 inch blocks for her quilt, one of which had some fancy shoes. In September 2009, I got to make blocks for her. Even though I only ever carry a plain leather bag, I used some quilting fantasy to make hers pretty. She gave us the fabrics on the left to use as models for the backgrounds.

Next for me was Kerry's Baking quilt. She made a quilt block reproduction of a baking powder label from her childhood that reminded her of her mother's baking. In November, 2009, I made her a pair of mid-century styled aprons. Some of the fabrics I used were in the same line as the ones she supplied, but I had fun finding something I could use to decorate the wall of Kerry's miniature kitchen. I used apron patterns from the era - one of the patterns included an appliqued chicken in a pot, so I had to do that. Happily, Dorry had some novelty fabrics with perfectly-sized and colored chickens for me to cut out.

I was slated to make a block for Judy's Virginia quilt in February, 2010, the month after my mother's funeral. Judy had made a beautifully appliqued Rose block. She gave us a green shot cotton to use. I had more trouble than usual coming up with a design this time, and I'm sure it had nothing to do with Judy's straightforward theme. I had the book Judy used for inspiration, a collection of historic quilts of Virginia, and finally decided on one of the blocks from those quilts. It was a relief to me that it came out well and I didn't have that kind of creative block again.

Heather's quilt was to be Spikey. She supplied us with three wild floral fabrics, and made a pair of circular blocks. I designed my own spikey-circular block and used all the fabrics she gave us for the center. I couldn't decide which of the black and white fabrics to use for the outer ring, so I used three of them, then threw in a green and white one I liked. All piecing, no applique for this block.

Because applique and embroidery are not my strong suits, I was a little fearful of the detail I was going to have to do for Jo's Butterfly quilt. Jo supplied two green fabrics for us, and she used them in a pieced background for her block. She asked us to use butterflies from our native areas so I chose the Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail - a butterfly I didn't even know about until I did my internet research. It looks like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, but is almost twice as large. I used photographs of our mountains my sister-in-law Joanna had taken in addition to Jo's fabrics for the background, and I was very happy with my machine appliqued and embroidered result, finished in June 2010.

I'll post and describe my own block next week. I have seen photos of everyone else's finished quilts but my own is to be a surprise. Dorry will bring it back from New Zealand and Norris will be picking it up from her in Virginia in two weeks when he has to be in her area for a business meeting.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My contribution to Round Robin 7

Just received word the Round Robin Reveal took place in New Zealand not long ago - Tuesday night, their time. So now I can post photos of my part during the last two years. The biggest project for me was putting Dorry's quilt together at the end (last fall). She chose South Pacific for her theme and began with a beautiful appliqued Tiki Man. Other members of the group used other native Maori designs, and included flora and fauna and scenes of New Zealand. Dorry's sister, who is one of the original members, made three blocks, and had an idea to include an interpretation of the Fish and Chips shop Dorry likes to stop at on every trip home. That gave me an idea about how to put all the blocks together in a spiral, starting with the Tiki Man at the center.

(if you click on this photo, then click again, you should get a much higher resolution version that you can see details in.)

Another element of this project is contributing to a journal that goes to the owner with the quilt. For the journal, we have taken to photographing our piece of the quilt in various scenes appropriate to the subject, or showing it in a setting unique to our part of the world, in a take off on the Flat Stanley concept. My part of Dorry's quilt (besides putting the blocks together into a whole quilt top) was the fish in the lower right hand corner. When I completed the applique, I put it on the floor and sure enough, Lu showed up. I did some photo-magic tricks to move him to a South Pacific beach, looking very possessive of his Catch of the Day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

New quilting inspiration

Yesterday I took a class from the Asheville area's first and only Certified Zentangle Instructor. I had read a lot about Zentangles and had tried some of the designs in pen on regular paper - there's nothing like using the proper tools to get a job done.

And I'm one of those people who never could draw.

These are drawn with a very fine archival pen on 3.5 inch tiles of fine paper. Shading is done in pencil with a lead smudger (called a "stump") to even out and soften the strokes. No erasers permitted!

The "no erasers" rule is a little like quilting with a high speed industrial machine - it takes very little time to put in a lot of stitches, but if you decide what you did isn't working, it's hours to remove them. It's better to figure out how to make the best of it.

The main thing I wanted to get out of the class is the almost random way of combining patterns, something that art quilters do all the time. I've always been more comfortable with planned, regular motifs and background fills, but some quilts, like the one I have on the machine right now, need less formality.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Week 16 - White House

In Barbara Brackman's Blockbase, this week's block looks very different - two of what are small blue floral squares are actually nine patches, and two are pieced in three strips. Where she placed the striped fabric in her instructions in place of the tri-color strip in her illustration was not striped at all.

I didn't have a striped fabric I wanted to use for this block, so I made my block as she had illustrated it on the blog - minus a cross seam in the striped areas. I liked the way the red and gold makes the effect of patriotic bunting.

The center of my pinwheel is a wee bit off, but I've about decided it's not enough off to try to fix it. I didn't see it until I looked at the photo. I was focused on the diagonals making the center "x". They do line up nicely and I'd no doubt stretch things out of place if I start taking out stitches. I may not be able to improve it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A trip to New Zealand

After I had completed my part of Round Robin 7, I had lots of time to make a tote bag for Dorry who will be taking off for her native New Zealand tomorrow. She is hauling my part of the exchange, taking classes, seeing a quilt show, and shopping in addition to meeting with all the other members of the group. I thought a nice sturdy fabric bag could be useful to her there.

For this Round Robin, we were each to pick a "word." (I'll post about mine later, I didn't adhere strictly to the rules.) Dorry's word was South Pacific - so I made her bag to go with that theme.

For one side of the basket, I used a New Zealand pattern for a quilted pocket - the bright blue bird is a Pukeko. Dorry's sister Kerry sent me the pattern. It's very different from what I usually do, so I stuck fairly closely to the designer's color scheme.

For the other side, I quilted a traditional block using a native NZ fabric (the blue stripe with Koru curls) as well as fabrics I had that had spiral motifs.

The inside of the bag has additional pockets. Norris took it to Dorry on his last business trip. Inside, loosely wrapped in tissue paper, were the quilt top I put together for Dorry, and the journal of everyone's contributions. Dorry will have to get these items through international customs but they are supposed to be a surprise, so I didn't think it would be wise to seal them in real wrapping paper.

I hope Dorry likes the surprise - at least she seemed to like the bag!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My first Round Robin quilt

Anticipating the gathering of my Round Robin friends in Queenstown New Zealand next week, I wanted to show off the first quilt of mine made in collaboration with these quilters.

Round Robin quilts are traditionally made very differently from the method of this quilt. For this Round Robin, each of us started with a piece of art or photograph and cut it into 8 parts. I chose a photo of a beautiful iris growing outside our garage door. I doctored the photo a little to remove some distracting elements, resulting in this image as the starting point for the quilt.

Each member received a piece of the photo about the size of a postcard. She enlarged her part 300% and used it to create a pattern. The participants created their "slices" in fabric and quilted them without the benefit of seeing the entire photograph - they simply created their slice in fabric.

And this is the quilt that resulted!

This photo doesn't do justice to all the beautiful details my Robin-friends put into their parts of my iris.

I started the process for this quilt by making the first slice shortly after the New Zealand Symposium in the Spring of 2005. I received all the parts two years later, and finished putting them together in January 2009.

This quilt was the result of Round Robin 5 for the group. Round Robin 6 was the lilies quilt I talked about recently. I'll post the story of my Round Robin 7 quilt in the next week.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Fort Sumter

This is for Week 15 -

I really like the way the small brown and off-white squares show up when I look at this one from across the room.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Gary gets the quilts

On Thursday, Gary bought lunch for the Firehouse Bee and me, and got to see his wife's finished quilts.

(I'm in the aqua sweater on the left)

The Bee ladies had no trouble talking him into entering the quilt in the local guild show next September. It can be displayed as an exhibition quilt. The woman in charge of the show layout is the one just behind Gary's shoulder on the right. She can make sure it gets a place that properly shows it off. Gary said he and Barbara went to the show every year, even when she was in a wheelchair.

When Gary phoned me Wednesday to make sure I would be there for lunch, he said he was concerned he was going to fall apart at the sight of the finished quilt. Helen (of the Bee) had set it up so he would see it when he first came in the door.

After the lunch and photos, Gary said it was good it was displayed like that, and that it was such a beautiful spring - it was a happy quilt and he felt happy to see it (and he didn't break down at all, though some of the ladies did.)

I know some readers will be interested to know about the framed quilt on the wall in the back of the previous photo. Here's a closeup. The bee ladies made it for the firehouse, in appreciation for use of the community room there for years.

One of the senior firefighters Norris works with was so taken with it he had it framed, making sure the label with its dedication was readable under the glass.

This bee meets at a sort of "substation" to the one in our neighborhood - a good 20-25 minutes drive from our house. Everything they do is a "community quilt." These are quilts that are given to shelters and social services organizations. Gary had given them Barbara's quilting equipment and fabrics which are now stored in the bee's lockers at the fire station. Some of the fabrics have already gone into quilts for deserving families.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blue Sweater

I finished the last of the knitting projects I'd left laying around for the last ten years or so, with this sweater. My dress form modelled for the photo when we had some snow blowing on Tuesday morning. Norris is taking a class in Tennessee and it had been too warm to want to try it on until that weird storm brought in such cold weather.

I bought the yarn (it makes the stripes all by itself!) at the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival at the Howard County Fairgrounds back in the 1990's. I went with my friend Diane who moved to Oregon where she now owns Woodland Woolworks. The sweater shows my consistent taste at least - I chose to knit texture even before I did much quilting.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

first picture of quilting in progress

Dorry has given me her entry in a guild challenge to quilt. You'll learn a bit more about that when I get it quilted. She'll have been to New Zealand and back before I can post pictures, but I don't want anyone to think I'm not quilting! I just don't want to show very much until it's done and she's seen it.

But Dorry asked me to quilt the borders with something based on this motif, from an ad for a local pub

.... in three borders of her quilt. While the ad's shamrocks are pretty as colored silhouettes, they are too complicated for me to quilt, with too many of the stems and tendrils to really show up well as quilting motifs for all the trouble it would be. Her borders have flying geese inserts going around the quilt pointed clockwise, so I redrew the overlapping shamrocks to grow directionally, and last weekend I finished quilting the main design. Now I'll be spending quite a bit of time filling in around it but this is what it looked like yesterday before I started that process.

I didn't tell Dorry exactly what I was going to do done with her pieced triangles just under this border, so I've cropped that out of the photo.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Civil War Week 14 - Fox and Geese

This was another straightforward block to piece in the series. I wanted a pink and brown block somewhere along the way because I don't think I've ever done one.

When we hit that 1/4 mark last week, my friends who are also making these blocks started talking a bit about how we plan to lay them out in the quilt. I had been planning to take a group picture when I got to week 16, because they will make a nice 4x4 grid, but I was anxious to see the blocks through the camera. Here they are are positioned left to right, top to bottom in the order we made them. The color distribution at least makes it appear they belong together. I would change the positions to better distribute the darker and lighter blocks, and the strong diagonals.

I can see that I need to be sure I repeat a few more of the strongest colored fabrics, like the dark blue of the week 12 block.

Sampler quilts are often the first quilt we make. The variety of blocks can be a challenge put together. I can't say they are a favorite of mine, but working on a different block every week has been fun and I think I will like the end result. I have been interested in Civil War history for decades so I'm pretty familiar with the events Ms. Brackman describes. The details she includes, snippets from contemporary diaries and letters, and tying the quilt blocks in to the history make me look forward to reading her posts every week. Sharing photos with friends all around the world is a real bonus.