Category Archives: In Process

I Really Have Been Sewing

Recent posts to the contrary, I have been giving my sewing machine a workout between a fantasy, glittery collage piece and assignments for my “Mod Meets Improv” online class.

The fantasy piece evolved from the latest bunch of sparkly scraps from the theatrical costume shop, plus some donated fabric (the birds) that was going begging.

The Costume Shop Jungle

Much of the fabric was leftover from dresses for “Dreamgirls.”

The green fabric was tricky to work with as it shreds easily. I hope to give my jungle a pillowcase finish and then outline quilt some of the birds and flowers.

My online class, taught by Elizabeth Barton, has pushed me to develop several quilt designs on paper. The class title may say improv, but if it’s a class with Elizabeth you know you’ll be designing on paper first. Some of the homework has been a bit basic for me, but the feedback has been helpful, as always.

The top row are practice pieces: floating 4 patches, curved piece grid, and half square triangles in a complementary color scheme. In the bottom row are some of my better colored pencil designs. The one on the left follows the lines of the traditional rail fence. The middle design is based on outside stairs I saw from our Airbnb in Quebec.

I’m now working on an original mod/improv design that has lots of negative space, in white of course. I’d forgotten how you need to press towards the darker fabric when you work with white fabric. Otherwise, the darker color shows and when the darker color is red, it really shows.

The class has been fine, but I’m sorry more students aren’t active in the online forum. It’s a great chance to get feedback and see what other students are up to. You can watch a video of work done in previous classes.

I’m linking to Nina Marie’s Off The Wall Friday.

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On The Bias

To my surprise I’ve completed the top for “It’s Not All Black and White.” Design and construction were relatively pain-free, and I still had two feet of black bias tape left. I started with 20 yards. I see more bias tape projects in my future.

Early days when I was arranging my blocks. The green strips to the right were meant to go between the blocks, but they didn’t work.
Sewn together top that measures about 38 by 53 inches.

Of course I have to develop a quilting plan, but I do have the backing fabric, thanks to thrift store shopping.

Old Alexander Henry fabric. I got 6+ yards for $4.

While I’m bragging on my thrift store finds, here are a few others – 3 yards of wool for $4 and two men’s shirts for $4 each. The striped shirt is a silk/rayon blend.

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Next, Please

After many years of making quilts I find myself in a strange position. Right now I have only two unquilted tops, and one of those I may change, so that leaves just one. As for UFOs, none come to mind though maybe one or two small ones lurk hidden in the bottom of a drawer.

So I have no excuse not to get cracking on new designs. The time has come to work up all those drawings and inspirational photos I’ve saved. I’m starting with a photo of a puzzle by Rex Ray that I saved many years ago. A recent BluPrint class on bias tape applique by Latifah Saafir jogged my memory of that photo, and I decided to develop a mash up of that puzzle and bias tape.

Rex Ray Rallenta puzzle

First, I pulled together a pile of fabric possibilities because, for me, fabric almost always comes first. I wanted to use black and white prints for the curved shapes, with black bias tape edges, and backgrounds in bold solids.

Then, I developed a rough sketch from the Rex Ray puzzle and some rough dimensions for the blocks.

Next came practicing the bias tape technique. I had already signed up for a discounted trial of BluPrint so I could watch Latifah Saafir’s class on bias tape applique. Her technique seemed sensible so I tried it out on a sample block.

Let me note here that I dislike BluPrint as I’m constantly bombarded with ads that encourage me to purchase stuff from them, there’s no interaction possible with the instructors (you could chat with the instructors and fellow students on Craftsy, see this link about this), and the bias tape applique class isn’t listed as one of the “own forever” classes. I have an email in to BluPrint about that.

Latifaah has you begin stitching the bias tape on the inside edge using a zipper foot and moving your needle position. The cupping of the outer edge is supposed to happen. That gets fixed with lots of steam and ironing.
I’ve added an inner shape and more bias tape. I don’t like the shapes or the line you can see on the bias tape where the edges don’t quite meet. And let’s not talk about the fabrics. But that’s why you do a practice piece.

It seems I’m capable of using this technique and I think it has possibilities for my design, so all I need is yards of black bias tape and some shapes. Then, the fun of matching up my fabrics will begin.

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Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process, Inspiration, Project Ideas

A Change of Perspective

Last week I subjected you to umpteen iterations of layouts for “Arches.” I know, I’m the only one who saw much difference among all the versions. This week I’d like to present my final layout and thank all of you who made such helpful comments. They guided me to the version I will quilt.

It turned out I simply needed to make the width the long side, which changes how the parts relate to each other. I also added a turquoise strip along the bottom with a few narrow strip insertions.

Monty Don’s program (one of those sweetly earnest British reality TV shows featuring “Britain’s favorite gardener”) on French gardens may have subconsciously influenced me. All the gardens had geometrically pruned hedges and espaliered trees. The tall, narrow pairs of mirror image curves remind me of that rigorously trimmed French greenery. Not my taste in gardens, but I like it in a quilt.

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If I Sew It

I know I’ll be ripping it out tomorrow. Some projects demand that I change my mind after the sewing is done. My current project, “Arches,” is like that. After an early burst of inspiration that came together in a few hours, work on it since has been a slog. Each time I make a change, something else is off, and my seam ripper rears its pointy head.

Someone sent me a photo of Colleen Cole’s “Pockets of Time,” and I just had to start free cutting curves into solid color fabrics. I think my piece is different from hers. Certainly my palette is different with the turquoises, cobalt, hot pink, putty, and brownish gray.


Early stages when I thought I was close to done.
Then I started fussing, and added a divider between the left third and the right two-thirds
I decided the overall shape was too dumpy, and went to a thin version. This may blow my aim to have a piece at least 36 inches wide, which is a minimum for many shows.
Trying a pink strip instead of blue. You get points for finding it.
Gave up on tall version and went back to dumpy, minus the dividing strip. Hate it.
I’ve gone back to a tall format and kept the left side strip. I think this may be where I’ll stop, except for some minor fiddling around the edges. Sometimes I just get tired of a piece and want to call it done.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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Two Years of Mystery

Sometimes I conclude I should give up on a piece – it just isn’t coming together, an average first grader could do better, lots of effort only seems to make it worse, etc. I suspect you’ve been there.

“Blues” was my latest reason to throw in the rotary cutter. It began with lots of blue and blue/green fabrics, and included hand embroidered blocks. It ended in deep frustration and taught me there’s a reason why Paul Klee is considered an art master and I’m not.

My inspiration was Klee’s “It’s About Time.”

I mangled it to this.

Dated 10/17

Feeling utterly defeated, I hung it on a hanger, shoved it to one side of the fabric closet, and ignored it. I made other pieces since 2017, but this one kept bugging me. Damn it, I had put too much time in it to abandon ship. I cogitated and remembered another Klee painting. If he got me into this mess, surely he could get me out.

The possible solution I saw was to use transparent colored organza and narrow strips to give my poor “Blues” coherency. At first I played with tissue paper and overlays.

Then, I painted a lot of silk organza, cut it into strips, and backed it with Misty Fuse. I was so glad I had a 5 pack of Teflon sheets. Then I began playing.

I added thin bias strips, many of which I made myself (insert pat on back here.)

It didn’t seem like enough, so I added already fused spheres from an earlier project to echo all the circles in the original fabrics. By now I had certainly strayed from the original inspiration.

I added a few more spheres and will sew them down, along with the thin strips. Once that’s done I can quilt it after I cut off about 3 inches from the left side.

Oh no, more decisions. At least I have a title – “Let The Mystery Be.” Thanks to Iris DeMent for a great song. I’ve linked to Off The Wall Friday.

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Evolution Of An Art Quilt

As I’ve told you before, despite my efforts to plan work in advance, often I begin with fabrics and work out a design from them. Recently I finished a top I call “Dark and Deep,” that grew from vintage linen stenciled with trees. That gave me my theme, trees, but nothing else was set.

Let me introduce you to the starting lineup of fabrics I pulled for this project. The vintage linen is in the middle with the brown paint. I lined the open work section with a strip of painted cloth. To the right of that piece are two of my tree photos, edited and printed on cloth. I printed or painted the pinkish pieces, and used the curtain lace on the lower right as a stencil.

At the stage above I’ve created more blue fabrics to work with the tones of the darker photo, and cut curves into some of the fabric chunks. The little pink squares, printed with a linoleum block, did not make the final, nor did the fabric printed with feathers.

I’m trying more blue fabrics above, and the whole enterprise has become chunky.

The piece has lost a tier and is beginning to be more horizontal though it’s still block like.

It took a walk on the towpath to give me the unifying factor, the thin tree trunks.

I made them with mostly raw edge bias strips cut with slightly curved edges. Some are packaged strips, a quilt show give away, which I painted with white and brown paint. Others are cut from Mackenna Ryan fabric. I joined the blocks with as many curves as I could. I also talked myself into breaking up the photos with applied raw edge bias strips. That so needed to happen.

Lessons learned (or re-learned): no piece of fabric is too precious not to cut/modify/cover up, a big theme helps when working improvisationally, edge stability is important when using wobbly fabric (that linen), and layers of texture add depth.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.

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