I’ve just finished sewing and trimming the last of the small blocks, attaching them to the larger blocks, trimming the resulting blocks and auditioning them on the floor. (I don’t have a flannel hanging wall in my apartment – there isn’t a spare wall to set one – so I use the floor space beside my cutting table for laying out quilt blocks. Good thing I can still get down on my knees and back up again!)
Before I laid out the last column, I removed the palest yellow blocks – they stood out as weak. I had enough large blocks assembled that I could draw in stronger ones. Having arranged all fifty, I began moving them around. I’m trying to avoid duplication in both columns and rows.
here are two diagonals happening here – completely unanticipated when I started out. There are the “top left – bottom right” diagonals – I’m also trying to avoid duplication along those rows. The large pie shapes on the “top right-bottom left” diagonals also stand out – not as obviously as the other diagonals but they’re visible, so I have to take time tomorrow to examine the array closely for duplication and colour flow.
I’d say, I’m about on schedule for this quilt. Once I’m happy with the layout, assembling the top won’t take long – sew the columns, add sashing between the columns – 3-4 hours.
I’m already thinking about the back panel. The temptation would be to add a bordered strip of Drunkard’s Path blocks (which I did in the previous quilt), but I want to come up with something different, yet complementary. I’ll sleep on that. It shouldn’t take more than a day or two to get the backing done.
I expect quilting the quilt sandwich (once it’s set up) should take about a week. I have 2 weeks before the Parrsboro exhibit. I’ll be cutting it fine, but I should be able to finish this quilt so I can include it in the collection.
At the moment I have four rows of 9 blocks (I’ll probably make it 10; that was what I planned initially). I’ve finished 40 of 60 half-blocks. Now that I have evolved a technique for sewing the small Drunkard’s Path blocks I’m going more quickly.
The array is, at the moment, an audition. I won’t do much moving around until I finish the remaining 24 semi-blocks. Then I will be able to decide what to put where.
With this much laid out, I started thinking about sashing and borders. These three fabrics were in my “backing” collection. I tried several grey printed fabrics for the sashing/inner border but the dense black dots on white will be neutral, yet strong enough, to make the colours stand out. I have a hunch the white with fewer dots might be best as my wide outer border.
Just thinkin’ about it all as a rest from sewing those small blocks!
I have all 60 large blocks sewn together. I’ve begun working on the small quarter size ones. So far I have stitched thirty – leaving me ninety small blocks to go.
The 6 1/2″ Drunkard’s Path block is relatively easy to sew – with the “L” piece on top, three pins, one on each end, one in the middle, the fabric spreads itself out so the opposing curved edges more or less align themselves. Sewing slowly, I get a nice 1/4″ seam on the curve.
The 3 1/2″ block is DIFFICULT! Because it’s small it’s hard to put in three pins to hold the centre and the ends. I think I’ve figured out how to sew them more efficiently. Again, with the “L” piece on top, I just use two pins, one on each end, then sewing slowly, using my fine point tweezers, (with lots of stopping to realign the opposing curved edges), I adjust top and bottom as I go. I’ve just finished a dozen this way – it took me about 12 minutes to sew the batch.
Each large block is sewn to two small ones to set up a half-block element. Two half-block elements go together to make a block. I intend to assemble 5 blocks into a strip. The strip width will finish at 9″. For the moment, I think I want five strips (5 x 9″ = 45″), with 1″ sashing I’ll end up with 49″ width; add 2 1/2″ border I finish at 55″. Finished length I will worry about once I have the strips sewn.
It’s taken two days to get the cutting done. I decided I to use scraps which meant scouring through my many boxes of small fabric pieces. I decided to stick with “red” as my colour focus for the large blocks (using up the grey 6 1/2″ strips, leftover from my previous quilt, for the backgrounds). I have enough quarter circles and backgrounds for 60 blocks – the quilt I’m imagining will use 50 – the extras will let me to make choices when I lay things out.
Actually, I began yesterday collecting and cutting smaller scraps for the small 3 1/2″ blocks – using up a bunch of 5″ charm pieces I had from a couple of collections. I find 5″ squares are not all that useful. I have incorporated them in a couple of quilts but I prefer cutting what I need from larger fabric pieces; I’m trying to clear out the 5″ squares I have left in my stash – getting close. I ended up with a wide variety of colours both for the quarter circles and the backgrounds (the two piles at the top right in the photo) – I have enough for 120 blocks, plus 24 more light backgrounds (in case I need them to balance out lights and darks when I start sewing blocks).
My plan is to begin with the large blocks which I find easier to sew. I should get those done in a few days. Lord knows how long it will take to assemble the 120 small blocks.
This quilt is an improvisation – I will randomly select a quarter circle and pair it with a grey background – I will do that for all of the pieces and hope the result will be interesting! When I constructed the strip for the back of my last quilt that’s what I did and the effect was more than pleasing. I’m aiming to make five strips which I will join using sashing of some sort or other – that decision I will make when I get there. Right now, my focus is on the blocks – both large and small. I’m expecting the blending of lights and darks (both with the large blocks and the small ones) will create an interesting colour flow!
Just need to get started – not today, though. It’s time to stop for lunch and then get out to enjoy the lovely warmish sunny day!
Along my street we’ve got Bradford Pear trees which are filled with lovely “apple/cherry” like blossoms early in the spring. They last maybe a week/ten days and that’s it. I’ve photographed the trees and the flowers each spring I’ve lived in my apartment (going on seven years). I’ll take pictures – of the same trees – again this year.
I did a bit of research to learn more about Bradford Pear trees and discovered they aren’t the best choice although they’re used widely to line streets. One writer identified several reasons why you should avoid them: they grow tall – 40-50 feet, the flowers have a strong, somewhat unpleasant fragrance, often have weak branches – sometimes falling apart after 20 years (!), and they cross pollinate with related trees causing problems if fruit pears are growing anywhere near. Nevertheless, I love how the flower clusters look which is why I decided to include one in this floral collection.
I decided to do very little stitching on the flowers, thinking the detail on the stems, leaves, buds and branch would more than offset the spare flower detail. A good decision, here.
This is #12. The series is now complete.
I’ve laid them out on the floor to think about the display arrangement. I still have to add paper backing, a label, and a sawtooth hanger on the back of each before I can say they are finished. I’ll get that done over the weekend. I plan on showing the full set in Truro, I think. Brandt will only want ten for the December show in Tatamagouche this year – I will have a difficult time deciding which two to hold back! I’m happy with all of them.
Now I can move on to a new quilt, along with some clothing I want to make for the summer.
This flower isn’t from a photo. My friend Elayne gave me a bundle of four 1-yard pieces of Hawaiian barkcloth a number of years ago. It has lovely tropical flowers very sharply printed on a 100% medium weight cotton fabric. I’ve made a couple of wall art pieces from it by carefully cutting out flowers and leaves and mounting them on a raw silk background, then thread painting the resulting image.
I’ve shared the fabric with participants when I’ve done workshops on raw-edge appliqué with thread painting. I still have a lot left. I liked this printed Cereus bloom so I chose it to be one of the flowers in this 6″x6″ project.
This particular fabric had a lot of grey in the leaves and in the centre of the flower – I chose to obscure it with the thread painting. The challenge with this fabric is the weave is somewhat loose so the raw edges are “raw.” I do my best to tame them with edge stitching. I can see a few loose threads in the photo – I will use my very fine pointed tweezers to pull those threads out, and trim what I can’t remove with very sharp, fine embroidery scissors.
When I’ve finished the last flower – Bradford Pear (which grows just down the street) – I’ll decide which of the twelve pieces will go into the final collection of ten. This one may just stand out as different enough to be eliminated. I’ll see.
Lots of thread changing involved in stitching this flower. You’re not aware of the changes because they mirror the shading of the petals and sepals.
Again, the difficult decision – how much to stitch and what to leave open. I’ve enhanced the brightness of the flower colours using the Inktense watercolour pencils – just enough to make different areas stand out a bit more. Overall I’m happy with the detail I’ve managed with this flower.
I took the eight completed pieces to the knitting group yesterday – the reaction was favourable – I guess I’m not wasting my time on this 6×6 project.
What was clear, however, is the women had no sense of the complexity of the work – that for ten of the pieces I’m doing a fabric/threadpainting rendering based on my own photos (the remaining two I adapted from fabric floral prints).
I explained to the gals that I started by going through my photos setting aside any I thought might be turned into a 6×6 piece. Next I edited them, adjusting the colour and cropping them to a 6.2″ x 6.2″ square so when I print them they are the right size for mounting and the colour strong enough to permit me to embellish them. Then I print each photo on a letter size piece of cotton lawn fabric (which is backed with plastic so it can move easily through the printer). After the print dries for a day or so, I removed the plastic and back the fabric with a fusible paperbacked glue sheet before I carefully “fussy cut” each flower.
At the start of the project I had prepared myself a dozen 9 1/2″ x 91/2″ squares of silk tussah which I’d backed with Sewer’s Dream stabilizer to keep the silk from fraying. I marked the position of the 6×6 square using a heat-erasable pen so I’d know where to place the flowers. After each flower was cut out I carefully positioned it onto the silk background, and fused it in place. On some flowers I added extra leaves before the final fusing.
Before doing any thread painting I use a heat-erasable pen to suggest the colour boundaries to be stitched. I might also intensify some colour with Inktense colour pencils or permanent markers. Then I begin sewing.
First I pull spools of thread from my thread stash (which at this point is quite large – a couple of hundred spools in every colour imaginable, a mixture of rayon and polyester – on this project the fibre content doesn’t matter, the colour does, so I mix and match). I constantly change thread (and bobbin) colour as I outline or infill aspects of each flower. For some flower renderings I’ve had to create machine stitches. After finishing each flower, I add my signature.
As I explained my process to the women they found themselves looking at the pieces differently, examining the detail more carefully. At first glance these pieces aren’t necessarily complex but the process of arriving at a finished 6×6 textile wall art piece takes me anywhere from 6-7 hours over a couple of days – likely longer than were I to simply paint the flowers on the 6×6 canvas!
Yesterday when I stopped working on the Iris it didn’t feel done to me. There wasn’t enough detail on the leaves. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to colour them a bit more or just add a bit of stitching – in the end I did both. I shaded both the cluster of leaves on the left as well as the leaves beside the stem. Then I thread-painted the shading. Because the leaves are darker they blend into the whole, not drawing attention to themselves. I’m much happier with this piece now.
I thought this piece would be easy and straightforward – not so. The first thing I had to do was tone down the reflection both in the flower and on the leaves – I used Derwent Intense watercolour pencils to shade away the white. That gave me better overall colour to work with.
I started thread painting by outlining the leaves and leaf veins. Then onto the flower. Using a strong yellow I stitched the highlights on the petals. Next came the dark red at the throat, then the brighter red of the centre. I wasn’t intending to fill the entire centre area but an edge stitching at the red/pink boundary was jarring and left the red centre very dull so I took it out and reworked the area – filling it in. After that, I added the pink, and stitched the pistil. I needed to create a stitch for the stigma (of the pistil), and another for the stamens, I filled in the style of the pistil in a darker red.
Up close there is more stitching than I’d prefer, but when the piece sits next to the other 7 completed pieces, the flower shading stands out and the piece fits in with the others.