Starburst Quilt Back

Yesterday I collected a bunch of fat quarters and large leftover pieces in the colour families used on the front of the Starburst quilt. I bought two dark navy fabrics planning to use one on one half of the back, the second on the other side. I found an image of a simple quilt, planned it out so it would fit the dimensions of the Starburst top. Today, I cut out the pieces, sewed them together and stitched up the back.

Starburst Quilt Back

Starburst Quilt Back

I also managed to assemble the quilt sandwich – top, batting, back – and now I’m ready to create some kind of simple single run design for quilting the whole thing. The blocks on the top are 6″ square – I’d like something that fills each block and brings out the diagonal of each half-square triangle. Don’t know what that is, yet. But I’ll come up with something tomorrow, I’m sure.

Starburst Quilt

Friday, I attended a day-long quilting/sewing session with 19 other women to raise money for an ailing quilter in Newfoundland. The quilt kit was for a HST (half-square triangles) quilt – Starburst. I just finished piecing the top with borders.

The quilt uses 16 batik/print fabric 10″ squares and 16 “background” 10″ squares as contrast. My problem was the background fabric in my kit didn’t offer enough contrast – a very pale blue, I think would have worked better than the mid-turquoise batik I had.

I did one quadrant on Friday then stopped. On Saturday I took apart what I’d sewn and rearranged the squares trying to get a better flow of colour because I didn’t like the colour distribution I’d started with. I also trimmed all 64 squares to 6 1/2″ hoping that would make my points all work without a lot of fuss. However, I finished piecing the squares only to discover the bias edges produced a “wobble” at the outer edge – I needed to remove about 1″ from the length of each edge. Today I began by taking 1/8″ off quite a few of the joins at the outer edge in order to make the top lay flat. Then I measured all the outer edges to make sure I ended at 48 1/2″. Finally I cut the binding fabric in the kit to 61″ length (to be sure I had enough to mitre the corners).

Just finished adding the binding – a fight to get the mitred corners to press flat but in the end I won that battle. I warned the top it was going straight into the garbage if it didn’t cooperate! It finally acquiesced.

So now I need to come up with an idea for the back and I will need backing fabric to complement the pallet used in the top. Off to the fabric shop to see what I can find.

The Solution…


Stitched Foreground

Michael Fuller wrote me yesterday

Go with the detail and time consuming fussiness. It’ll be superior to the photo copy model….”

‘OK,’ I though to myself, ‘I’ll give it a try.”

That’s where I started today – I began by printing out the black and white outlined image of Brian, the figure on the left, on some Heat ‘n Bond printing paper in order to use the outlines as templates for the fabric – BUT, here’s a glitch: the technique requires a ton of cutting with small fine scissors and for the last six weeks my arthritic right thumb isn’t working – the muscles to “open” the scissors are too weak to let me cut with any precision.

I decided to try fighting through that problem but a second issue presented itself: I cut out the entire jacket in a light fabric intending to use that as the base and building toward the darker tonal qualities until I had the jacket assembled. I fused some Heat ‘n Bond to the wrong side of my lightest fabric, cut out the overall jacket shape – that worked out OK, but when I started to build the left sleeve it became immediately obvious the slight differences in weight of fabric (although all quilting cottons) was going to create an imbalance and because each tiny piece of the puzzle is so small I would be left with a  slightly fraying “raw” edge in spite of the fact that I’ve fused some Heat ‘n Bond to the wrong side of each small piece before cutting it out.


Detail of Figures

The final thing that was obvious was how “lifeless” the construction would be. The very subtle differences in shade intensity wasn’t achievable with the fabrics I have.

I gave up after about an hour of finicky cutting and fusing and decided to use the fabric photo images after all and fused them to the background.

What I will do tomorrow is begin the process of edge stitching each figure and then stitching in the colour/shading boundaries. That is also fussy work but my wonky right hand doesn’t interfere with being able to do careful machine stitching.

Here’s The Question…

Pilots: Printed on Fabric

Pilots: Printed on fabric, laid on background

Here’s the question – I’ve been looking at the art piece and wondering how might it look if I printed the figures on fabric, fussy cut them and fused them to the scene instead of trying to create them (shadows and all) from different fabrics?


Here’s the detail, right? Lots of little pieces to be very fussy cut and fused to a base fabric – very time consuming. Doing the appliqué work will also be time consuming because I will want to stitch in all those colour demarcations, but what I get is a more realistic look to the figures which are the focus of the piece.

All I’ve done so far is print each pilot on EQ Printables Fusible Fabric and carefully cut each. I haven’t yet fused them to the background. The way we see the sun on their clothing gives the viewer a sense of the light – some brightness but not full sunshine. I can’t achieve that through piecing, even if I’m extremely careful with fabric selection.

I guess what I have to do is try one of the guys and see how he turns out – maybe Brian (the one on the left). Whichever way I do this, I think it makes sense to refrain from filling in the grasses/shrubs until after I’ve got the figures in place, that way I can build up the grass around their shoes as I go along and not as an afterthought.

In case you hadn’t noticed – this fabric wall art requires a gazillion decisions and unlike oil/acrylic painting there’s no going back – you have to live with whatever decision you choose to execute.


Yesterday I worked on the water of the bay. I wanted to suggest the white caps but not to cover the entire surface. I played around with stitches on my sewing machine – several provided possibilities. My machine allows me to modify and create actual stitches so that’s what I did. I tried a couple; in the end I modified the “grass” stitch – I made it narrower and removed several stitches from the single repeat to give me a short burst.

White Caps

Then I used Neocolori Wax Pastels to hint at the roughness of the sea.

Wind Waiting: Current State

It’s all about experimenting with the stitching before actually attempting it on the piece itself. I have just one chance at “getting it right”. Once I start stitching I have to continue, can’t take it out because the needle marks will show, so I try out different threads and stitch settings before actually working on the piece.


Looks a mess, but in my head I can see the effect of each experiment. Underneath are my tests for the water; on top I’m working on the grassy foreground – I need two effects: first, I need to imply the texture and height of the grasses and small shrubs on the bank – that will take the form of rows of horizontal stitching using three or four different variegated threads; second, I want to create a rough edge against the water – the pilots aren’t on the edge of the sandy beach (the landing zone below), they’re at the edge of the bank 89-100 ft. above the water (the launch zone). The edge of the bank, therefore, should show some grasses and twigs against the sea.

Last night I spent a couple of hours modifying some built-in stitches that will hint at that texture. (Once the pilots are constructed and appliquéd in place I will add grasses to cover their shoes because the vegetation at the edge of the bank wasn’t mowed.

So now I have to take a deep breath and start in. This is it!

Wind Waiting II


Wind Waiting – Foreground, Sea, Sky…

This morning I painted the fabric for sea, land across the bay and sky. I will accentuate the grey tone using a pale grey thread for the thread painting. The sky has come out a hazy, cloudy day. The sea is also greyish. The foreground is likely too wide, will have to try masking an inch or two to see how that looks. It will get thread painted with golden, brown threads in short vertical stitching to simulate the grass at the top of the bank.

Still using my paper cutouts of the three men.

Next step is to set a fusible stabilizer to the four background pieces and fuse them in turn on the muslin. Once that is done, I will work at the thread painting – it will take a couple of days, I’m sure.

To paint the fabric I used a mixture of a small amount of medium blue, pale yellow and strong red acrylic paint to create a muddy grey, added white to lighten it, then a bit of a darker blue to bring the mixture to a bluer grey. I wet the turquoise/white fabric for the sea then spread the paint on it using horizontal strokes with a wide sponge brush. Next I wet the solid white fabric and applied a very diluted wash of the same paint I used for the sea. The coast across the bay is a thin strip of grey fabric with a subtle print (crackle) – I used a bit of the same wash as the sea to end up with subtle hint of blue to help it blend with the sea and sky.

I laid the wet pieces of fabric on a layer of newsprint topped with paper towel to get rid of the excess paint, then hung them to dry using pants hangers in my laundry room. Turned on the fan I keep in that room and the painted fabric was dried within a short while. I press it and then laid each piece on the muslin. I’ve played with proportions trying to keep the horizon off the center line and have moved the men around so the central figure will also be slightly off the vertical midline. In my original photo the men are standing equidistant but I’m going to position the two figures on the right a bit closer together with the one on the left just a bit further to the left – that will affect the vertical positioning and draw the eye away from the center line.

So on to the next step – fusing the background fabrics to the muslin. Actually, I will first have to fuse the muslin to a stiff, heavyish stabilizer just so I have some heft to work with when I go to thread paint.


Background Fabrics Fused in Place

Now to the thread painting.

Wind Waiting

I’ve started:

I cut out a piece of muslin as my base – 34″ x 30″ to give me lots of potential border space. Marked out the actual dimensions 20″ x 30″; have marked the horizon (the shore across the bay) and an indication of the land. For the moment I have laid a strip of green fabric to show the bank the guys are standing on (it’s autumn, so the immediate foreground will likely be a more brown colour).

For the moment, the paragliding pilots are paper cutouts 11″ tall just to give me an indication of how the overall composition might turn out. I can tell I will likely foreshorten the sky since I think the pilots appear just a bit too small for the scene – but those dimensions will easily be adjusted once I’ve got water, land, and sky applied and thread painted in place.

So now to paint water and sky – it’s a windy dark day so both will be shades of grey-blue.

Double Vision Quilt IV – Completed

Finally done – the binding turned out to be a very fiddly job – I decided in the end a single fabric binding would clash with the border no matter what fabric I chose because the gradation from the dark burgundy to golden yellow was so great. The solution: to have the binding mirror the border with the joins aligning as closely with the border slanting seams as I could manage it.

Finished Quilt Top

Finished Quilt Top

It’s taken three days of measuring, sewing, unpicking, re-sewing, to make the joins look continuous. I’ve done a pretty good job although close scrutiny would show I missed by a wee bit on some of the connections but hey, this is a quilt after all, so I decided to live with the minor imperfections that showed up when I was stitching the binding on the right side.

Binding - Detail

Binding – Detail

In the end I decided to piece a simple back since the front is so complex and for some reason (which I can’t explain) I thought placing the strip on one edge was what was called for. The binding I knew would also add some interest to the back.


Finished Quilt Back

I quilted using straight vertical and horizontal lines midway between the circles. So far, I haven’t quilted the border although that is still a possibility. It’s probably a tiny bit wide to leave unquilted. For now I’m putting the quilt aside to move on to other projects.

In Mourning…

All day I’ve been feeling like someone close to me has died. It started, of course, around midnight last night when it was becoming obvious Trump would likely win the election. I went to bed, fell asleep actually, but woke around 3:00 am to go to the bathroom and on my way back to bed I took a look at on my phone and although Trump hadn’t quite got all the electoral college votes he needed he was almost there, with Clinton having no chance. I couldn’t fall asleep so I watched a movie on Netflix until 5:00 am dozed off and got up about 8:00 this morning (having made sure I wouldn’t hear the 8:00 am news with Trump making his acceptance speech) feeling such a sense of loss.

I’m Canadian – I didn’t, couldn’t, vote in the election but that didn’t mean I didn’t have a personal stake in it. Like everyone else around the world I will be personally affected by decisions this president-elect will make and there is no reason to believe he will make a 180° turn now.

David Remnick said what I was feeling and fearing:

All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.

Thomas Friedman was also direct:

Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones.

I can only hope that he does. Because if he doesn’t, all of you who voted for him — overlooking all of his obvious flaws — because you wanted radical, disruptive change, well, you’re going to get it.

And I just got an email from a Canadian friend who got the following from a Canadian friend of hers:

This morning I feel like the  loss you feel after losing a family member in an horrific accident.   I guess we have.  Careful reflection will be needed in the grieving process to be sure it is not instead a fatal epidemic. 

Feel free to pass on the message and to join me in this time honored expression of grief. 



So I’m passing on her message and while I may not wear a black armband I’m certainly feeling the loss.