Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Maze Quilt

Another One Bites the Dust! This one is the quilt for my impending niece. Carlee Ann is due to be born at the very end of this year. Some would say that it's utterly uncharacteristic of me to be working ahead like this. I would have to agree. But, I have to get these quilts finished while I have the time.

This quilt is certainly the most fun of all my quilts. Note that I'm not saying it was the most fun to do, but that in and of itself, it is a fun piece to look at. And hopefully sleep under. Incidentally, it WAS fun to construct.

As you can see, the maze design worked out. Hurrah for Electric Quilt! I did end up using some commercial fabric, but you can see the red button fabric that I created. And that blue maze fabric with all the circles? That's my creation, too! I used washers and sea salt for that effect. I strip pieced the design, then quilted it in concentric squares.

Here's the fun effect that you CAN'T see through the magic of a digital camera. The thread I used to do all the quilting: GLOW-IN-THE-DARK! This is also the thread I used to finish the edges, and inscribe the label on the back. So, little Carlee with have a surprise when the lights go off!


Dear friends, I have learned a most valuable lesson. That fuzzy fabric that's oh-so-soft, right next to the polar fleece and flannel? The one that makes your hands rejoice because nothing, nothing has ever felt so soft? The fabric that doesn't SEEM too stretchy when you pull on it in the store? That fabric, no matter what the precautions you take, is impossible to work with. Here's my experience with it:

I picked out a lovely red color of this fabric to use as the border and backing on the Maze Quilt. I love using soft fabrics like this on a baby quilt, but I think I got lucky on the first quilt I did. I found fabric that was amazingly cooperative, and I was still basting with pins, so I didn't run into the same problems. This time around, things were very different.

The red fabric sheds massive quantities of red fuzzies when it's cut, meaning that my furniture, my floors, and the insides of my sewing machine were covered in red fuzz. The edges then curl, making the art of lining up edges almost impossible when adding a border to the quilt top. And forget about ironing the seams. Already, I was having misgivings.

Then I went to make the quilt sandwich, a process that involves layering the backing fabric (enter more red fuzzy fabric), the batting (fusible batting), and the quilt top (the pieced maze). This was the first time I was going to work with fusible batting, but it basically goes like this: apply the steam iron to the top of the quilt to fuse the three layers together. They remain fused together while you quilt, meaning that you can skip the nasty step of pin basting the quilt. It's supposed to be a big time-saver. Supposed to be.

As I was actually quilting, unbeknownst to me, the backing was separating from the batting, and bunching up underneath my stitches. I was more than halfway through quilting the top before I figured this out, though. ARGH! Now, I've had to rip out all of these stitches, find a new backing fabric, buy more batting, and try again.

Just when I think I have my act together and that creating THIS quilt will go smoothly, I encounter another "learning" experience. I can only hope that the more experience I have, the less disastrous these opportunities for learning will be.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Tara Quilt

Finally! A quilt is finished! A quilt is finished!

I made this quilt as a birthday present for a friend. (Tara, as I'm sure you could deduce from my oh-so-subtle pattern of naming quilts.) I could have finished it almost two weeks ago, if it weren't for my indecisiveness. I had the design completed and the sandwich quilted and still couldn't decide which way was "up." Was this a vertical composition or horizontal? Which side should be on top? There were, of course, four possibilities, and I couldn't choose. It didn't help that the options I was leaning towards were in direct opposition to the options Charles liked. What to do? The answer: let the future owner decide.

So, I bundled the quilt up and tied it a bow to present it to Tara on the day of celebration. She could then make a definitive ruling on up-edness, and I could bring it back home and add the hanging sleeve, binding, and my signature.

So, for the quilt construction itself. I experimented with fabric collage, which is a technique I have been wanting to try for AGES. Originally, I was going to create my own piece of fabric with this technique, then cut it into smaller circles and use to make an overarching design. I would then create a small quilt from this design and quilt the layers together. From there, I would cut the quilt up into small "inchies," or 1"-1.5" squares. My idea was that these could be hung somewhere together to show the overall design, but be individual units as well.

Clearly, this is not what actually happened. Here's what did: I created the large piece of fabric by collaging together bits of fabric, the strings I've cut off other bits of fabric, pieces of yarn, and angelina fibers. I sandwiched these bits between two layers of Solvy, and went to town stitching them together. This proved much more difficult than I had been led to believe. To start with, the Solvy was thin and didn't lend a ton of support; contents tended to shift during stitching, as the basting spray I used was useless in these circumstances.

Then, the moment of truth. I washed the finished product under some water, and presto! I had this delicious piece of fabric that was purply blue with sparkles. I couldn't imagine cutting this up into smaller bits. I wanted to keep it just like it was! That's when the project changed and I decided to layer it on top of a black background (the perfect color to set off the hues and sparkles in the collage) and quilt it. It would look like a piece of art that had been matted and framed. I was liking this idea more and more.

Again, it was easier said than done. If I would have planned this, I could have created the collage on the background fabric in the first place, rather than having to stich it onto the black fabric and quilt it at the same time. The fringe around the edge of the collage really caused problems all the way throughout the quilting process. It kept getting wrapped around my sewing machine foot, which meant I would have to stop sewing and CUT this beautiful fringe in order to free my machine.

In the end, of course, I am very pleased with how this turned out. I found myself, once again, wishing I could keep it. I'm beginning to wonder if this is the mark of a job well done.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Little by little, bit by bit

In an article on finding time for your quilting life amidst an already full life, I read a tip on managing one's quilting time. The person writing the article suggested that quilters work on more than one quilt at a time. The idea here is that you have several different tasks, which demand different levels of attention, care, and time. A busy quilter can pick whichever task makes the most sense for the time they have, and in that way make more progress. This makes sense on a logical level. If you set this up right, you end up doing more quilting because you have more things to choose from in terms of immediate tasks at hand. And this means you have the ability to find something that needs to be done that will fit into your current mood/time constraints.

I've been unconsciously trying this out bit by bit this year. Once I had the design and fabric for the Jacquelyn quilt (purple and blue), I've been fiddling with it off an on for about six months. But then, another quilt swoops in and takes a priority as I rush to finish it in time. As I write this, I have three quilts that I am actively working on, another design waiting in the wings, and countless ideas ruminating in my journal and mind.

The good thing about this is that I can recognize a chunk of time during the day when the sun is shining as a time when I really should be doing fabric painting. I can seize the opportunity when, at 9:00 at night I'm free to do a little work for a couple hours. But, as with everything in life, there is another side to the story. While I'm able to work on many things at once, and make slow and steady progress, it's hard to get the same sense of accomplishment, because it seems as though I'm never really finishing anything.

Take this past weekend, for instance. I did some sunprinting so that I have the blue fabric for the baby quilt. I treated some purple fabric for the Jacquelyn quilt so that it would be sparkly like the rest. I ironed all the sunprinted fabric to set in the color and prep it for cutting. And I finished piecing all the blue blocks for the Jacquelyn quilt. (This is the picture you see here, one such block, completed.)

But, at the end of the day, what did I have to show for all of this? I have a pile of blue blocks and a pile of fabric, but nothing more concrete than that. I'm hoping to change that. Mabye by the end of the weekend I'll have something more notable to show for my time.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Progress continues, sort of

Last weekend marked the last weekend of summer, the last weekend of leaving work early on Fridays, and the last holiday until Thanksgiving. It was a weekend to regroup after the relentless pace of summer weekends. I had an itinerary of crafting planned, as well as some other adventures, and just being a house bum.

It all began with a trip downtown on Friday afternoon. After leaving work at noon (!!), I hopped on the El and toodled down to the loop. I have a book of walking tours downtown, and finally got around to taking one. True to form for me, I left my digital camera at work, so dashed into a CVS to get a disposable camera. I had hoped to be able to post some of the pics I took on the tour here, but since it wasn't my camera, I won't have those pics until I fill the camera and make it to a CVS to get them developed.

In the meantime, the quiet weekend alone quickly evolved into a weekend of catching up with friends. Little time for quilting was left.

But, I DID manage to carve out some time on Monday morning to do some fabric painting for the Maze Quilt. I spent about three hours and painted four pieces of fabric. Two of them were yellow, and I laid straight pins out to create the sunprint pattern. However, the pins were too small, and it didn't create a noticeable pattern. On top of that, the colors bled togeter in an unfortunate way, such that a beautiful color of yellow looks like someone bled on it. I'm thinking that I may have to supplement with a commercial fabric for the yellow portion.

Meanwhile, the red fabric turned out pretty well. I've posted some pics here. I used buttons on the red fabric to create the sunprint. See the entry on The Wendy Quilt if you don't know about sunprinting on fabric. This technique has been a favorite as of late, but I'm not sure that it's good when you're looking for something too specific in terms of print and color.

I also worked on another project, but will hold off on posting anything more on it, as I have yet to finish it. Suffice it to say, I'm excited about it. It was an experiement that turned out infinitely better, and different, than I anticipated. I'm eager to share it with all of you!