At Five Islands III – The Mess

In case you harbour any illusions that I work in a tidy way – I wish to share the chaos on my cutting table!

Creating a textile wall art piece is an exercise in mess! It may start out looking orderly, but it quickly degenerates into piles of tiny scraps of fabric scattered everywhere; some so small I need fine tweezers to pick them up and place them.

The Mess!

Step 1 is to guesstimate the size of the piece of fabric (leaving enough for me to trim my way to the shape I intend), then Step 2 is adding fusible web to the back. I use a silicon sheet when pressing to be sure I’m not sticking fusible web to my ironing board.

Step 3 – I cut out whatever small shape I need and carefully place it on the background (which is already fused to the muslin base). Sometimes to get a shape, I cut that element from the paper printout of the scene – that’s what I’ve done with Ruby – I’m using my paper cutout to help me position all the other elements. Ultimately, I’m going to print the Ruby enlargement (~115%) on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of prepared fabric (for her to fit the size of this piece I’ve had to crop and enlarge various parts of the photo to get the overall magnification right).

After establishing a position for my horizon, I work from distant background to foreground – carefully layering the bits of fabric and pressing the cutouts into place, waiting for them to cool before adding the next bit. At this point, I’m also trying to visualize where I’ll be thread-painting to build texture and detail to the scene – in the case of the mud flat at low tide, the brown bits of fabric will be stitched with light blue thread, the water will be stitched with brown thread to blur the boundaries of water and mud.

I just thought you’d find the mess I work with interesting. I use both course and fine permanent markers to adjust colour, sometimes I’m even able to cut bits from previous projects printed on fabric sheets to provide a bit of added detail. I was looking at the rocky beach from a fabric print-out of Black Rock Beach but the pebbles are too large to be useful for the gravel path in front of the bench at Five Islands Park. I will use a bit of Stonehenge fabric and thread-paint it to get the effect I want.

Now to do more on this project….

At Five Islands II

I’ve just spent the morning working on the distant background – the NS mainland in the far distance, the islands closer to the Parrsboro shore and the nearby headland. Then I started on the mud flats – it’s fiddly and the bits of fabric may be too large but I won’t know that until I get the foreground developed. I can always remove some of the bits of brown and fill in with thread-painting.

Shaping & Fusing Elements

Looking at the photo, Ruby might be just a bit too close to the centre – I may want to position her a smidgen closer to the right edge. But now I’ve got the layout positioned so that her head is above the headland. I also like how the sky has turned out – it’s a piece of fabric I purchased quite a while ago. I will add in some more grey clouds on the right, probably using some organza, but this will thread-paint nicely.

Gotta go do other things now. Back at this tomorrow.

At Five Islands

Immediately after giving up on the Diamonds Quilt, I turned to a new wall art project: At Five Islands.

I’ve written about my visit to the Five Islands Park this past July. While at the park, I managed to capture a photo of my friend Ruby who had been on the trip with me:

At Five Islands

I knew I would turn the photo into a piece of fibre art. I started by enlarging the photo so I could make the panel 15″ x 12″ and have Ruby still be prominent. Next I dug out a bunch of fabrics and scraps from the stash trying to match colour.

At Five Islands – Picking Fabrics

Then I sketched in some features (using a Friction pen which will disappear when I fuse fabric elements in place).

At Five Islands – Sketching The Scene

This morning I started cutting small bits of fabric to “paint” the scene:

At Five Islands – Preliminary Layout

Nothing is fused in place yet. I’m still trying to get the feel of the layout. I can see I need to squash the vertical aspect quite a bit because I want Ruby’s head to be well above the landscape behind her.

The challenge with this piece is getting the feel of the wet mud flat of the Bay of Fundy at low tide. Yesterday I painted a piece of fabric using an acrylic wash but the colour is much too bright for the scene. I need something quite a bit darker; I also need to cut away much more.

St. Margaret’s Bay

I have been studying a couple of my watercolour paintings of the ocean – I’ve spent hours in front of them trying to understand how to set up the mud flat. Because the water reflects the sky it has to be the same colour – it’s the subtle shadowing of the “land” elements that make us read “water”. With watercolour, the water is painted first with the darker land elements added after the water has dried. I need to do the same with my piece – lay down the water fabric then add strips representing “mud” on top. The thread painting will fill in the flow of the remaining surface water on the mud.

Next step is to add fusible interfacing to each of the small fabric pieces, shape them, then fuse them in place.

 

Diamonds IV – Time To Quit!

We had a snow storm yesterday – a good day for sewing. I managed to get half of the diamond blocks assembled but then I faced reality – if I aligned the left side and the top square on my cutting board I had a seriously wobbly diagonal that can’t be repaired easily! I’ll explain….

Half Of The Top Panel Assembled

I worked hard at getting precise diamond points and I was successful to a great extent. Laid out on batting the slight irregularities in the diamonds would smooth out as the cotton adhered to the batting.

Closeup Of The Diamonds

However the diagonal edge is about 2 1/2″ – 3″ too long!

The Problem With The Diagonal

I could take the whole assembled panel apart and try shaving small amounts from each diamond but then aligning the points would be very difficult.

Wobbly Diagonal

Even with the “dart” the further diagonal edge is still wobbly.

Second Side Of Panel Started

You can see how the wobble is beginning here on the second side – the problem at this point seems limited to the edge triangles but I suspect were I to replace those elements and continue adding rows I’d find the problem with the diagonal developing as the diagonal gets longer.

This has not been my favourite project – it’s been a fight from the beginning. I think it’s time to call it quits. That means actually throwing out the whole thing, not keeping it around as a U(n) F(finished) O(object). Just forget it.

I was thinking about axing the project at 6:00 am after I’d rolled over to register online for an aquafit class next Wednesday and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I was thinking maybe I should just slice the quilt, cut out the fullness, sew a seam across the diamonds, trim the diagonal, then continue working on the second half, maybe do the same thing there if I needed to.

I have a name for the project – “At War With Itself” – I’m doing fine with regard to COVID-19, the mess in the US has had me transfixed for five years. I think this quilt has been a reflection of that angst – my inner harmony seems lost. Do I want to quickly finish the piece with all it’s ugliness? Or should I simply get rid of it and start afresh? I suppose if I’m going to throw it away I might have a go at the splice and see how awful it looks – maybe awful is OK?

Diamonds III

I’d no sooner posted earlier this morning when my friend Deb texted me “Saw your post and have a few brighter fabrics if you want me to bring them up to audition? ”  “Sure, I said.” and within a few minutes Deb was at my door with a small pile of fabrics she thought might fit into my array.

I choose a couple, then went through my stash again, this time not worrying about “Dots” but just looking for fabrics in shades that might work with the diamonds in my layout.

Layout With Edges

I cut out a number of diamonds in bold colours and dropped them into the layout on my floor. Looking at my pile of unused diamonds it’s obvious I’ve removed most of the very pale diamonds and substituted much stronger colours.

While I was rummaging in the stash, I came across a “dots” fabric I thought would be dark enough to blend with the rest so I cut out half diamonds for the sides, top/bottom, and corners. The dots are much further apart but the pattern is soft enough that it isn’t distracting from the main panel, just framing it. I will need more borders but I’ll deal with that when I have this all assembled (I may have just enough of the dots left for a narrow border and I will add a narrow turquoise border I think; what else, I’m not sure yet).

My layout is complete. I can tell by looking at the photo I should still move a few diamonds but I’m now reasonably happy with what I have.

Assembly Beginning

I began assembling diamonds starting in what will become the bottom right corner (or upper left – I’ll see later which way I think the quilt will work best).

I’ll carry on with setting up the diagonal rows and attaching them to one another – painstaking work, because I want the points to align – that takes careful pinning at the joins before I sew. However, I’ve managed to align the points in these two rows reasonably well, hoping to be able to continue as I go along.

What I’ve realized is my decision to use the tiny dots jellyroll for this diamond project was a problem from the start – the strips were too narrow to make diamonds themselves and stitching them together set up conflicts I wasn’t able to resolve. That kept me stuck, not knowing how to move ahead. Stepping away from the lighter diamonds and deciding to use stronger colours freed me to explore my stash and consider other possibilities.

Diamonds II

I finished sewing the strip pairs, then cut out the diamonds and when I laid them out this is what I had – definitely DULL!

First Layout

I do believe even if I had set up the strip pairs differently my outcome would have been the same – too many lights and darks and very few medium. The colour differences turned out to be much too subtle to allow me to do anything more with them.

Possible Substitutes

I felt I needed to add more colour – I grabbed some Grunge fabrics and some Fossil Fern to brighten the layout…

Definitely Brighter

I found myself removing the light diamonds and substituting the other fabrics – this is my layout for the moment. From here, I need to pick up the diagonal rows, and press all the pieces before sewing those rows together. I should also add another row to the bottom so that my row ends with full diamonds on the two bottom corners (at the moment I’m place holding with half diamonds – I have enough light diamonds that I pulled out to move pieces around and reinsert 10 diamonds. That will allow me half diamonds on all the edges with the corners being the ones belonging to the set.

The other question I’m pondering is whether to try finding another fabric in a very different colour for a central focus – I don’t have one at this point. I’d intended the turquoise to be my focal colour but with all the other colours now added that’s not happening. I could make one large turquoise diamond but I think it would overpower the rest, particularly since there aren’t clusters of very small diamonds in the array (which I really don’t want to do) to offset the ones I have.

I also ave no idea what fabric to use for the border half diamonds! Should it blend? Should it contrast? I have lots of turquoise Grunge – my original thoughts were to use that for the bordering, but now I’m not so sure. I may have to shop for a dark dots fabric that will blend with what I have; pretty sure I don’t want anything too bright.

I’ll simply carry on for now, pressing and assembling the diagonal rows….

Diamonds – Finally…

After weeks of walking around these forty 2 1/2″ fabric strips, I finally managed to get started.

Remember, I’m trying to create a quilt based on diamonds, from a jellyroll of 2 1/2″ strips.  I came up with a way of combining strips to end up with a reasonable size diamond and a possibly pleasing colour flow.

I paired up strips close in colour, then sewed three pairs along one edge. I stopped to create a diamond template based on the 4 1/2″ width (twice as tall as wide) using a file folder (for stiffness) and cut out three diamonds from the sewn dark pair, which left me with six half diamonds from the off-cuts. I laid the diamonds out on the two other uncut strips to see how the this would look.

Dark Diamonds On Uncut Strips

I could immediately see that if I stitched the second side of each pair, when I cut out a diamond, the off-cut would also be a stitched diamond (same size) that I could open and press rather than trying to sew two half diamonds (which is difficult!). So I sewed the second side of the medium and light pairs and cut them into diamonds:

Diamonds From Three Strip Pairs

The contrast between the light/medium/dark was stark so I introduced the turquoise Grunge fabric I was intending to use as a contrast – as half diamonds and as a full diamond (If I decide to use full diamonds in turquoise I will cut them as diamonds, not as half-diamonds).

Before sewing more strip pairs together I made a better template using quilting template plastic, backed it with file folder cardboard, marked the seam line along one edge as a reference and included the end cuts so I don’t have to cut a gazillion dog-ears from the diamonds after I’ve cut them all.

I stitched two more pairs, this time on both sides of the strips, cut them into diamonds and added them to the array.

Now you can start to see how I might be able to work on colour flow since the remaining 14 pairs are an array of light/medium/dark hues.

Jellyroll Collection

It’ll be interesting to see how much colour flow I can actually manage from this collection of fabrics – I won’t know until I’ve stitched all the remaining pairs, cut out the diamonds and start laying them on the floor (I don’t have a design wall – I don’t have a spare wall in my apartment studio to accommodate one).

Let you know how it goes once I’ve got a layout.

iPhone Cases & Small Zippered Bags

I’m preparing for an upcoming class on using zipper tape for bag-making.

I had on hand a couple of fabric sample sets with cuts of each fabric in the colourway. The samples were 13″ wide so I cut 5 1/2″ strips, then 1 3/4″ strips from the leftover bits, sewed them to the wider pieces to create a “header”, then made them up into small zippered bags. They’re in my gift stash. I left three bags unassembled so I can use them to demonstrate for the class.

Before that, I’d made 10 more iPhone bags, having given away the first batch. Also useful to have on hand as a gift. I also left two of these bags unassembled as examples for the class.

Small Zippered Bags / iPhone Cases

Just keeping busy while I’m trying to wrap my head around the “diamonds” quilt I want to do. I’m closer than I was. I’ve paired up the jellyroll strips again, this time matching up strips closer in shade – I think that will work better. The pairs of strips are currently laying on one of my sewing tables – maybe later this afternoon, or tomorrow morning, I will sew them up and cut out diamonds….

Comet Quilt – Completed

Finally finished. Yesterday I attached the hidden binding (mitring the corners) and hand stitched it to the back.

Comet Quilt - Top

Comet Quilt – Top

I’m happy with the colour flow from top left to bottom right. The bronze “sparkle” in the background fabric shows nicely, as well – I didn’t see that as a possibility when I ordered the fabric. There’s also a blue speckle which is brought out by the medium blue shades in the brighter blocks.

The back turned out nicely, as well.  I was able to incorporate the single pink triangle there. In the photo, the blocks look darker than they are – that’s because in a brighter light (it’s a dark cloudy day today – a large snowstorm is forecast to start around noon) the bronze sparkle in the blocks from the background fabric do show.

Just about every scrap of fabric I had leftover from the front got used in that strip. I was lucky to be able to complete the 125 blocks I needed for the stripe.

When I was making the quilt back  made sure I’d have enough fabric from the offcuts to be able to make the hidden binding. I like how the elements of the back come to the edge of the quilt that way rather than being interrupted by a conventional binding.

Comet Quilt – Back

This morning I pulled out two complementary jellyroll packages from the stash. Now I have to figure out some way to use them in a quilt. That’s my next project.

Comet Quilt VI – The Back

All those bright blue triangles I had leftover when I remade so many of those HST blocks? I used them to make more HST blocks for the insert on the back of the quilt!

25 of 125 blocks

The quilt top is 54″ x 68″. I need to make the back 4″ larger in both length and width: 58″ x 72″ or thereabouts (I’ll be using the off-cuts to do a hidden binding after the quilt is quilted). My HST blocks finish at 3″ so I needed 25 of them for the length (one extra row just in case), and 5 blocks for the width (15″ to make the back panel wide enough: 42″ + 16 1/2″) will do it.

I needed 125 blocks to construct the insert strip. The strip will be bordered with two dark strips – a finished 1″ strip using the last small scraps I had of the Sparkle fabric (not a single bit left), and one other (finished width 1/2″) yet to be determined!

Back strip under construction

I have assembled two of the 25 blocks elements – 3 to go. I should get those done today. Tomorrow I’ll put the quilt back together, set up the sandwich and then think about what kind of quilting design would complement the Comet Quilt top – no idea about that yet.