Sunday, October 28, 2012

WIP - Shell Collection and Tree Serenade

This week I focused on two projects. The first was a redo of "Tree Serenade." The second project was work on my "Shell Collection" piece.
"Tree Serenade"
AFTER the Redo
"Tree Serenade"
BEFORE the Redo

I presented "Tree Serenade" to a private on-line critique group that I belong to. I asked the question "Is it finished?" Most felt that the white section kept it from being finished and was unsettling. The consensus was that it needed green, perhaps leaves to break it up. I spent a full studio day creating and placing leaves around the white (sky). The result was, frankly, horrible. The uneven edging just didn't jive with the rest of the straight line piecing. The following day I removed the leaves and changed out the binding, substituting green for the original white. This, at least provided an finished edge for the sky. I also, appliqu├ęd a cardinal in the middle of the piece, nestling it in amongst the leaves. This helps draw the eye from white on the left and to the quilt's center.

Detail from "Tree Serenade"
Cardinal Nestling in the Leaves
 The flowing lines quilting patterns, that I have been practicing thanks to Leah Day's assignments, are perfect for my series of blocks for "Shell Collections." In the snail blocks, I modified the filler of the pattern to be spirals in order to reference the snails.

Two Snails Block
To Be Included in "Shell Collection"

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 37

We have gone from Flowing Lines to Jagged Lines. I find when the lines flow, my work flows, but when the lines are jagged so is my work.

Whenever I am forced to confront a new pattern that doesn't come naturally to me, I begin by doodling it on paper. I did this for 10 - 15 minutes and still couldn't get the hang of Jagged Lines. Since this was an assignment that would be done on a practice sandwich never to be seen again I bit the bullet and moved to the sewing machine.

Front Side of Jagged Lines Practice Piece

Perhaps if this had been week 2 or 3 or I would have been happy with the results of Jagged Lines. Instead I found myself struggling with a sense of ineptitude. What is it about getting from point A to B with jagged lines that is so, so, SO much more difficult for me to plan for than doing the same thing with flowing lines? For now, I have opted to accept that it is.

Back Side of Jagged Lines Practice Piece

On the plus side, I feel my ability to execute straight lines and 90 degree angles has improved greatly since the early days of attempting circuit board. My lines are straight, my angles crisp and there are few hesitation knots on the back. Also, despite some navigation issues around trying to create gaps, I did well at turning the pattern along the 45 degree angle I marked at each border corner. Although I am not satisfied with the piece, I am pleased to note that I continue to improve. That is the point, after all.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Quilting Along With Leah Day - Week 36

I am loving the Flowing Line series of quilting patterns Leah has us working on this month. In this incarnation the eye shaped gaps are filled with Pivoting Paisley. This turned out to be the perfect pattern for my current WIP (work in progress) that involves a series of blocks of different sizes showcasing shells.

Full View of Scallop Shell Block
Quilted with Flowing Lines and Pivoting Paisley

So many of Leah's lessons have proven useful as I created this 15" H x 12" W block. For example how to execute a pattern in quadrants and then in rows or to work my way around a motif. The only time I have to break thread now is when I change colors or come to the end of a spool or bobbin. What a treat to not have a bunch of thread tails to tackle.

Detail of Scallop Shell Block

Then there are Leah's tips, such as the fact that she uses a Quilter's Dream mid loft poly batt. That is what I have been using for this series. The quilting stands out well enough that there was no need to photograph the backside. This piece has been soaked and blocked to remove the starch and water soluble marker. I did not iron it any time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 35

Although Leah Day designed the pattern, Goldilocks to suggest tendrils of hair, I used it in my grandniece's quilt to suggest the tidal patterns on sand. So, when Goldilocks became our Week 35 assignment and I had plans for a quilt with a working title of Shell Collection, I knew I would work up a section of beach.

Front Side of Goldilocks Sample
to be used as a section of beach in
Shell Collection

I found Goldilocks rather straightforward to execute. I can now create flowing lines and stippling with ease. My only hangup was figuring out how many times to echo a line and where to place the next pod of stippling. In retrospect I might have a preferred a few more echoing lines and a few less stipple pods on this piece.

You may find it easier to view the Goldilocks pattern on the backside. However, since I matched the front thread on the back, the contrast between the cream colored backing thread and white backing muslin isn't that large. The backing is a solid color therefore there is no distracting pattern on the fabric the way there is on the front.

Backside of Goldilocks Sample

This was my first time using Quilter's Dream Polyester Batting. I've been using Hobbs 80/20 for years. It helps to preshrink Hobbs 80/20. Whether it is the batting or my new washing machine, preshrinking my Hobbs 80/20 batts has been less than satisfactory. Instead of shrinking and thickening the batt, it tends to stretch and have areas of sparsity. Quilter's Dream doesn't require and actually discourages preshrinking. It does quilt up nicely. However, I noticed some of the poof disappeared when I ironed my sample. The final test will be to see how it handles the soak and blocking phase.

UFO's of a Different Nature

Ever wonder what to do with class samples? When I first started quilting back in the Jurassic period (1985) I signed up for workshops, lots and lots of workshops. They were a great way of picking up techniques and getting tips. They were also a great way of accumulating half finished projects and samples. Now I rarely sign up for a workshop, but I did commit to doing the assignments given by Leah Day on her blog, The Free Motion Quilting Project. I've done all 35 to date. My stash of samples was mushrooming. What to do?

The answer came when Fiber Artists Coalition decided to create an exhibition titled Salvage and Selvage. All the work in the exhibition had to include recycled materials. Why not repurpose my free motioning quilting practice pieces, using the quilt as you go method and repurpose those samples? Hence Tree Serenade was created.

Tree Serenade
48" H x 40" W
If you have been following my blog you will recognize various pieces of the quilt, such as my "wonky" quilt, several pivoting paisley incarnations, a few branching out pieces, my sample of adding acrylic paint mixed with a bonding medium and the latest assignment based on flowing lines that became the tree. If you haven't followed the blog or just want to jog your memory, scroll through the previous posts and have fun matching them to the background pieces. Note how the quilt as you go method becomes an integral part of the design.

The only portion of the quilt that did not come from Leah's assignments are the leaf clusters. These were made by spray painting dryer sheets, bonding them to drop clothes used to catch paint in my wet studio, cutting out clusters, fusing them to quilt and further securing them with free motion quilting.

Detail from Tree Serenade
Note the leaf clusters made from painted dryer sheets.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Quilting Along with Leah Day - Week 34

Front side detail of Flowing Lines
If you click on this image
you just might be able to
see the subtle stitches
forming the bark
Once again, Leah's assignment and my current artwork collided in a perfect fit. I needed to pre quilt a tree to add to the piece I am working on and Leah started a series of patterns based on Flowing Lines. I instantly (OK when I woke up the day after seeing the assignment for the first time) thought tree bark.

I am very fortunate to have a studio with large picture windows that overlook a lake that is bordered by cattails, brush and the occasional tree. My Bernina sits just a few feet from the window. So, when I look up from my work, I can watch the birds at the feeder, the ducks, geese and now coots on the lake, and study the trees. Nothing like looking at bark when you are trying to create it.

I chose a batik with multiple hues and values to represent the tree. It is the right fabric for the artwork. It really captures the light, shadow and variety of color in a tree. It is the wrong fabric if you want to share your free motion quilting with a thread that blends into the fabric. This is something you really have to see in person. Nevertheless, I have included a close-up and the backside so that you can see the stitches.

BACKSIDE detail of Flowing Lines
I followed the flowing line premise, just with a couple of tweaks. My tree is 51" long. Obviously for the bark to make sense the flowing lines needed be vertical and not horizontal. It didn't make sense and wouldn't be feasible to make each line 51" long. So the lines are closer to 9" - 12" done in staggered rows with the occasional knot (knot in a tree not made from thread) thrown in.

Confession - I have been quilting Flowing Lines and its numerous cousins first on my own and then modified based on Leah's designs from her 365 series for years. They invariably are just what I need to quilt a sky, lake, tree or beach. Therefore, branching out on the very first lesson was natural. It is the organic feel of this pattern that draws me back again and again.