Friday, August 31, 2012

I'm a Honey Bee Quilter

I love Bees.  I’m talking about the insect here, which as this is a quilting blog might easily get confused with a quilting bee.  I love that they play such an important role to life here on Earth.  We know that over 1/3 of our food supply relies upon them for pollination services and we know that pollination is essential for the reproduction of the plants the bee services.  So if the honey bee does not pollinate the crops, the crops do not grow and produce the food that gets harvested and brought to the store where we buy it.  So there is a direct connection between bees pollinating and sustaining life on Earth.  

Why may you ask am I taking about Bees?  Because I feel in the quilting world I’m a honey bee.  Just as a bee hops from one plant to another, I find myself hopping from one quilting style to another.  Bees pollinate in their travels, contributing the all important elements needed in the chain of reproduction.   I feel that as I move back and forth from one quilting style to another I leave a little behind in knowledge and skill that perpetuates the craft – sort of like quilting pollen.  Perhaps I’m looking for a way to legitimize what may appear as my flighty interest from one quilting discipline to the next (traditional to modern to traditional and back again).  It isn’t that I love any one style over the other; I love them all just as the bees love all flowers.  

 I’m babbling about this because lately I find myself stressing over what to bring to show and tell at quilt meetings.   Because I easily move from traditional style to modern style projects almost on a daily basis,  I find myself finishing more of one particular method then another so I have nothing for show and tell when I’m going to either my traditional group meeting or my modern group meeting.  I’m hesitant to bring say a traditionally pieced Lemoyne Star project with reproduction fabric to my modern group meeting even though this may be my latest finished project or particular interest at the moment.  I’m afraid to have someone call me out and say ‘hey that’s NOT modern!’ and of course my feelings are the same for my traditional group.  When did quilting meetings get so stressful?  Sometimes I just want to quote what Jack Nicholson said in the movie Mars Attacks “why can’t we all just get along?

Perhaps I need to keep my honey bee quilting tendencies more focused in order to have projects to show for in more than one discipline.  I suppose I’ll strive to do this.  But remember just like the honey bee I can’t be held back for long because otherwise the delicate balance of the quilt world might collapse and we’ll be left with just granny yoyo quilts or abstract line quilts exclusively. 

Oh the Humanity!

(Geez, I must have drunk too much coffee today to write this dribble.....)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Grandmothers Choice - Votes for Women

I'm embarking on another year long block of the week project.  God only knows I shouldn't take on yet another project but I can't help myself.  I truly enjoyed the weekly posts of the last 12 month endeavor I participated in when I did the Civil War 150th anniversary quilt posted each week by Barbara Brackman  I hated to see it end I enjoyed it so much.  So I was really excited to see Barbara is hosting a new block of the week starting in September. 

This quilting project is called Grandmothers Choice - Votes for Women and its focus will be on the history and stories from the women's suffrage movement.  I love history.  And I especially love history as it pertains to women.  My vintage book collection that I've assembled over the years has over 50 books focusing on women's domestic history.  So this particular project really sparks my interest.

As I've just finished my fabric reorganization project and can now really see what fabrics I have in my stash, this morning I went shopping on my shelves to see what I have available to use for this upcoming project.  Before I went to my stash however I browsed a few website selling fabric (see, fabric collecting and buying really IS an addiction!!!) to check out what's new out there.
Fabric in William Morris/Art Nouveau style from my stash

After looking at absolutely gorgeous fabric on line, I've narrowed my focus down to William Morris (WM) style prints.  WM prints reflect the Art Nouveau design era with naturalistic presentations of nature.  Prints in this genre have a lot of vines and leaves presented in a flowing style.  Sadly in my own collection I have only ONE genuine William Morris but I have a good number of prints characteristic of the WM style that I could use.
My only William Morris print

I've decided along with traditionally styled WM I'm going to add a modern touch and incorporate contemporary WM inspired prints.  The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of combining 'old' and 'new'.  I like eclectic and I think this will be a good marriage of opposing styles with the common thread of an interpretation of a particular designer that will in the end compliment each other.  At least it makes sense in my head.  I'll have to see how a few completed blocks come together first to really see if this is possible. 
WM on the left - modern interpretation on the right

Some modern interpretations of the Art Nouveau style

And you know, as much as it pains me, I'm going to have to buy a few more genuine WM prints otherwise the quilt will have too much busyness without real cohesion.  I wonder if my husband will understand this when I come home with more fabric.......

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Taking Care of the Small Stuff

Carrying on with the theme of all my posts lately, I'm going to talk some more about reorganizing my fabric collection.  As I've already written in another post, I'm thrilled with the outcome of putting my bigger cuts of fabric onto bolts and putting them on shelves, just like in a fabric store.  So after getting those bits into order I turned my focus to my fat quarters and smaller cuts of fabric (under 80cm lengths).

I thought long and hard how to organize them as well.  At first I considered putting them on smaller bolts to make them a mini version of my shelved fabric.  But after some thought I decided against that.  Number one, what a tedious project to have to cut boards to such a small size and two, once I had them on boards where would I put them?  On a mini shelf or Heaven forbid, back into a box.  No.  I needed to think of something else.  I thought of just folding them neatly and stacking them.  But I've tried this before and I eventually get frustrated when I want to pull something from the bottom of the pile because inevitably the entire stack gets messed up.  No, I wanted organized but easy to shuffle about without messing up a lot of things.

I came up with rolls.

Rolling my fat quarters solved a lot of problems.  I could store them in multiple ways - on end or piled on top of each other in a pretty basket and I could easily sort through all of them without messing up all the tedious folding of piles of fat quarters stacked on top of each other.  They look neat and tidy and they're so easy to just unroll and use.  If I decide I don't want to use that fat quarter all I have to do is re-roll and throw it back into the pile.  Easy!

To keep the rolled fabric from unrolling I used a simple printed strip that is held together with tape on the end. 

I tried to keep the rolls uniform in size but I wasn't annal about it.  Also I rolled not just fat quarters but also large scraps and fabric cuts smaller than 80cm (in other words not big enough for bolts).  Initially I wrote in the square box on the strip how much fabric was in the roll but after a while I stopped.  I can pretty much tell how much fabric is on a roll just by it's size.  Large - more than a fat quarter, medium - a fat quarter and small, scrap.  Again, easy.

I really like that I can literally spill all the rolls out onto the table to sort through and pick out what I want without making a mess. 

Overall I have to say my fabric reorganization project has been a real success.  I'm almost ready to start digging into all this visible stash to make something.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Thing of Beauty to Behold...

OK, what can I say?  I’m extremely pleased with the results of my fabric reorganization project.  I mean look at these shelves.  Are they not a thing of beauty?

I started this project with the objective to get my fabric out of the storage bags and boxes I’ve been using for years.  I wanted to actually SEE what I had without doing the ‘dumpster dive’ into multiple storage places.  After having conversations with many quilters I’ve come to the conclusion that using fabric from their stash is always a challenge simply because they forget the great stuff they have already bought because it’s out of sight.  And when they do remember some wonderful print that would be just perfect to use, they spend an unbelievable amount of time hunting in their stash for it.  Sometimes with luck they find it and other times out of shier frustration, they just forget it altogether.  Having experienced the ‘forget it’ just recently, I was determined to fix this problem once and for all.

What quilter doesn’t love browsing the quilt store shelves?  Running your hands over the fabrics, picking a few bolts out and matching them with other bolts on other shelves….  That’s just what I wanted from my fabric stash.  I wanted a quilt shop in my house.  So that’s what I strove for – visibility and accessibility.  Using the bolt system just like quilt shops do really is the solution.

Of course I can’t take credit for this idea.  Creating your own bolts and shelving them has been talked about plenty on quilter’s blogs.  Everyone comes up with solutions for themselves that fits their needs just as I did.  As I wanted to complete this project without spending a fortune, I wanted to find a ‘bolt’ solution that was cost effective and not too troublesome to do.  All I can say is thank God for my husband.  He is my ‘go to’ guy for technical problems.  If I can explain what my objective is well enough to him, he almost always comes up with a solution.  In this case I needed for him to suggest a material to be used as bolts that met these requirements:

·      Light weight
·      Adaptable in size
·      Acid free

Acid free is very important when thinking of what to use for your bolts.  I discovered the hard way years ago that storing your fabric in cardboard boxes that are not acid free, leads to the eventual destruction of your fabric.  I had scraps from a quilt project stored in a box for years and when I decided to use them in another project, I was dismayed to find that though looking perfectly sound, once you picked them up they literally fell to pieces in your hands.  The acid from the box ate away at the integrity of the fabric and they were useless.  So acid free above all else was paramount in my concerns for the bolts.

Right away my husband suggested MDF.  His reasoning was that it was cost effective and easy to size.  I researched this on the net and found that unless specifically indicated, MDF is treated with an acid process.  I told him this wouldn’t work because of the acid problem.  He came back with the suggestion of using a barrier between the fabric and the MDF.  Brilliant I thought!  And I knew just what I was going to use.  Years ago a quilting method was making the run of the web using a plastic wrap material called Press and Seal.  I found Press and Seal for less than $2 at the Reject Shop once and bought 20 rolls of it.  Needless to say I never used the stuff and it’s been stored in boxes in my sewing room every since.  Here was the perfect time to use it up.

What’s really amusing is that written across the top of the box is the statement ‘thousands of uses’.  I bet the makers never thought of this.

So, I spent days covering all the MDF boards my husband cut for me with Press and Seal.  I then spent days pulling out all my fabric and folding them onto the boards.  I found that anything less than 80cm of fabric wouldn’t work well on boards as there’s just too little of it to wrap well.  So only 80cm + fabric went onto the boards to be put on shelves.  Anything smaller would go with the billions of fat quarters and scraps I’ve yet to come up with an acceptable storage solution for.  That will be for another post.

One more thing I decided to do was utilize a three shelved rolling trolley to hold my bags of scraps and fat quarters.  This is perfect as I can roll the trolley out of the closet to get a good look at everything on the shelves.  Easy.

The next step is to organize the fabric on the shelves in some kind of order by color,  style and other categories.  But right now after working on this project for almost two weeks – I’m going to drink some wine and just sit back and admire my new in-house quilt shop.  I can’t wait to go shopping for my next quilt project!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Drowning in Textiles

I’ve been very busy lately reorganizing my fabric collection.   When I’m done I’ll post a photo.

I went ahead with my idea for putting fabric on bolts and then placing them on shelves the way fabric stores do.  It’s fantastic to be able to SEE all the fabric all at once and have the ability to then organize them according to specific categories – colour, type, style (modern/reproduction etc).  I think it’s really going to transform the way I design and execute my quilts in the future.  For one thing, I’m going to shop in my own fabric stash before heading out to the store to see what’s new.  Who would have thought that this would be a revelation to me?

During my reorganization it’s been a real eye opener not only to see and accept how much fabric I actually own, but also to revisit cuts of fabric that haven’t seen the light of day in years.   What have I learned from this process?

  • That I own ALOT more fabric then I truly thought I did.  Especially considering that any cut of fabric under 80cm didn’t even make it to the bolt which go on the shelves yet I still have baskets full of small cuts and fat quarters or less – wow.  Talk about excessive amounts of fabric!
  •  That I have an extensive range of fabrics that differ drastically from each other.  I obviously went through a period of loving chickens because I found a disturbing number of chicken prints.  I’ve also gone the gambit of colour from way out there, neon patterns to very subtle reproductions in muted tones.   I love it that I’m so eclectic in my tastes and not stagnant.
  • That in my brain and in my buying habits I can never have enough American patriotic prints and colours in my stash.  I have loads of red, white and blue and even more prints with flags, eagles and even Presidents heads printed on them.  I hope to one day use at least some of these prints for a few fantastic quilts.  If not I hope when I’m gone one of my quilting friends will be happy to inherit these.  
  • That I have more fabric in my stash then I will ever need to make quilts for the rest of my life.  Is this a good or bad thing?
  • That fabric collecting is a sickness and I’m on deaths door.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Practically Paper Piecing - My Project

My project for the Practically Paper Piecing Blog Hop is a table topper that is a mixture of paper pieced leaves on a block pieced background.

As I'm relatively new to paper piecing I decided to do a mixed project of traditional piecing and paper piecing.  The leaves are paper pieced in multi-toned bali prints and the background is made of different tones of green with a little gold thrown in for good measure.

I wanted the leaves to really stick out from the background, thats why I created the background in solids.   Also I wanted the leaves to have texture so they are individually paper pieced and then applied to the background as raw edge appliqué.  I decided on raw edge because I want this table topper to eventually have even more texture after it's washed and the raw edge of the leaves will then fray.  Also I machine appliquéd the leaves using four different decorative stitches (all leaf patterns).  I've been trying to use the multitude of wonderful decorative stitch options on my sewing machine instead of just using nothing but straight and zigzag stitching.  Also the decorative stitches add additional texture and visual interest.

The paper piecing leaves pattern were taken from the latest edition of Quiltmakers magazine article entitled Pile O Leaves by the designer Caroline Reardon.  I'm not going to reproduce it here because I don't want to violate copyright laws.  If you're interested in getting the pattern, please either download a digital copy of the magazine onto your iPad or get one at the news agent.
Lots of leaves, lots of cutting

Once I cut all the pattern pieces, I needed to decide on fabric.  That was easy.  I've had this jelly roll of Bali batiks for ages with no plan in mind for what to do with them.  The greens were perfect for this project.

After I got myself into the zone of paper piecing the leaves went pretty quickly.  I didn't make all the leaves I cut as I realised I went too nuts on cutting so many, so I just kept going until I knew I could get a nice grouping of four clusters.  This was approximately 14 leaves when I was done.  Fourteen was plenty really because by the time I hit ten I was pretty sick of leaves!

I've found that if you have a mini iron that many people use for appliqué, this is the time to pull it out and use it.  It will save lots of burns to your fingers as the leaves are pretty small and a regular sized iron is just too big to use without eventually getting burned.

A finished leaf

A bunch of finished leaves

Next I cut all the blocks for the background.  I cut all of them 6 inches by 6 inches and used a mix of green solids with one gold solid.

As I pieced the the blocks together in rows I ensured I pressed the seams open to reduce the bulk when finished.  As this is going to be a table topper I want it to lay as flat as possible once it's quilted.

Once the background blocks were pieced I arranged the leaves in a rough circular fashion in clusters of four.  I ensured there was an open space in the centre to put a decoration or bowl.

All I had to do then is appliqué the leaves on and it was done - at least to the point of finishing the top.  I've yet to quilt it - which I'll do soon and post a picture when finished.  I'll keep the quilting pretty simple so as not to take away from the impact of the leaves.

And that's it - my new table topper!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Foundation Piecing Machine

I've been working HARD lately.

I'm particapting in Kristy's (of Quiet Play's fame) Practicially Paper Piecing Blog Hop and my day to post is coming around quickly.  Friday of this week to be exact.  So I've been in frantic mode trying to get my project together and tutorial ready for post.

The project itself is coming along quite nicely.  What took all the time was deciding what to do.  Then after I made that decision (which frankly I pondered for too many days....) I needed to get the fabric together.

 I'm one of these strange sewing creatures that has to have her sewing space neat and tidy before embarking on a new project.  I don't like clutter - at least not multiple project clutter.  So all the bits of on-going projects have to be put away for me to to make room for what I'm working on presently.  Its a process.  What can I say.

Tonight after dinner I'll secret myself in my sewing room, door closed, music playing, getting into my foundation piecing groove.  My poor husband really is a quilting widower.