The Glow of Orange

It’s October, cool, and time to think about glorious leaves falling.  I love to see the leaves drift down from the trees, and I love the colors as the chlorophyll breaks down.  The shades of red and yellow taking over from the green are spellbinding.  And orange is there, too.

Orange is not my favorite color in decorating or in quilts.  But this time of year, I incorporate it into our lives.  Our guild’s designated Challenge Queen, Tess, loves to require a bit of orange in her rules; so I’m learning to incorporate it without screaming.  And, if the theme is fall, I get to use pumpkins, which I love.  I love their shapes, texture, and color.  The pillow here is wool appliqué. The pumpkin and leaves wools were purchased hand dyes, the background is a recycled wool skirt, felted and reused.

Two recent projects include pumpkins.  This 5” x 7” framed piece is a pumpkin appliquéd onto a fabric replica of an old sampler in colors of autumn.

Another pumpkin is hand appliquéd on an old linen doily with free-motion machine quilting, hand embroidery, and beading.  It is attached to a remnant of an old quilt and measures 22” x 17”.

The middle layer is a found remnant of linen drapery fabric. I just love the grasshopper.  You can click on any photo to enlarge it, but this is one you might really want to examine.

Above is the entire piece.

This post describes some earlier quilts with fall themes and colors.

And to read more about Tess and challenge quilts, you can type “challenge” in the search box, or click on that category name.  There are several related posts.  Many include orange.

And, an earlier quilt called After the Chlorophyll is here.

On My Design Wall

I have a magic wall in my sewing room.  Two 4’ x 8’ sheets of foam insulation board are covered with fleece and nailed to the wall.  They hold projects for me to consider, analyze, rearrange, and organize for sewing.

My grandmother did not have a design wall.  Quilters these days are advised to use a vertical wall to consider color placement and other options in the quiltmaking process.  I am fortunate to have space to have a permanent design wall, but there are options to use one that can be put away when it’s not in use.

In the photo here, you see that my space is larger than most quilts I make.  The left side holds a wall quilt in progress.  Once I start sewing the blocks together, I’ll put them back on the wall in units so the layout doesn’t become confusing.  The magic of this wall is that fabric clings to the fleece (or flannel, or batting, whatever you use) without pins. This makes it easy to move blocks around until the arrangement is just right!  Once several blocks are sewn together, the weight sometimes makes it necessary to add pins to hold things in place.  And, yes, I do move to the floor when the whole thing is too cumbersome to hang – but by then the design decisions have been made.

My wall also serves as a holding station for projects on the way to becoming.  As I see pieces in progress (as on the right side of the photo here) I plan ways to bring them to completion, or combine them with another project.  Serendipity comes into play sometimes as stray blocks sit beside each other and become companions in a quilt.


The blocks on the wall are a reinterpretation of Miss Lily’s Red Baskets, which I shared here.  I stitched all these little baskets (they finish at 5 1/2” square) with Kaffe Fassett fabrics onto a Cherrywood background.  Once I put them on the wall, they needed something.  I decided to use the focus baskets like one in Miss Lily’s project, but, rather than one, I used three.  And, rather than a bow, I added these birds cut from a funky whimsical fabric I had on hand.  The leaves came from that fabric, too.  While the baskets are all needleturn applique, the birds and leaves are raw-edged.  They are held in place with Jude Hill’s invisible baste stitch.  As I do the free motion machine quilting, I’ll stitch these pieces down.

This photo shows my debate about using all basket blocks, or including some free-flying birds.

As usual, you can click on any image to enlarge it.  When done, just exit the photo and you’ll come back to this page.

Quilters’ Retreat

A few days ago, I crashed a party.  We were on a backroads jaunt and I remembered that some of my friends were attending a quilting retreat at a nearby wildlife refuge.  I asked Jim to make a stop and let me say Hello.  He asked, “Can you just pop in?  Were you invited? “  I assured him, “It will be fine.  They won’t mind.  They will all be happy to show me their projects.”

And, they were.  They were busy.  They were happy.  And they did not mind my intrusion.

There is a reason many quilters like the bee motif.  Quilters and bees buzz about with a purpose in mind and get things done!

I was greeted with smiles and hugs from many friends, and made the acquaintance of new quilters as well.  Sheila and Barbara and Jean and Donna were the first to see me and report on the fun.  I didn’t get photos of everyone’s work, but everyone was busy and productive.
Angie was piecing some animals.  Mary was working with baskets.  Jean had stars on her design wall.  She had discovered that her alternate blocks were cut from directional fabric, unnoticed until they were put on the wall.  She had lots of advisors to help her decide how to deal with this dilemma.

Joyce had two big appliqué projects: a Baltimore Album that just needs a few details and a border attached, and a fabulous Kim McLean pattern all with big pieces of Kaffe fabrics.  Joyce is one of our guild’s charter members and she still produces more quilts than several of the rest of us combined!  She was sitting beside Hilda, her BFF for more than FIFTY years.  They have worked on many projects and been to many retreats and heard many stories in that time, don’t you know?

Dewey was there with his longarm machine and an eight-foot table.  He had already quilted two quilts at the retreat for other participants and was doodling on his machine while he waited for others to get backs prepared for him to quilt their tops.

Here is Donna working on a One-Block Wonder.  And Dewey had just finished the quilting on her Friendship Garden  before the retreat.  Now she can add the binding and label and it’s done!

Mary had run to the store, but her work-in-progress is here.  Mary is the organizer of this event.  Someone has to take charge and she does it well!  She reserves the space, organizes the guest list, plans the food, and assures that everyone has fun.  And she is successful, because these people plan their calendars around Mary’s retreat dates.  Because of her, the sisterhood thrives.

Candace is a local designer and teacher with her own line of patterns.  Here she is working on a new pattern design.  And there were some of her finished products with chickens made from her hand-woven fabrics.  Wow!

Lynn was putting the finishing touches on a garden scene, while Eleanor was working on a batik project complete with labels to insure that every block ended up in exactly the right place.

Getting away from home, focusing on a project or two, socializing while you work, learning from each other, what a blast!  I loved visiting this beehive.

Pomegranates and Poinsettias


For many years I decorated for Christmas using my Grandmother’s basket quilt she made in 1890 (that story is  here).  When I started quilting, I longed to make my own holiday quilt.  Now one of the first steps in decorating our house for Christmas is to swap out the fall quilts for red and green ones.


I love to sew with red and green fabrics during this time of the year so I often start a new project for my sewing serenity during the season.  In the days of Christmas 2008, I began work on what became  Pomegranates and Poinsettias.  I was spending quite a bit of time with my mother-in-law, Sadie, during a time of failing health for her.

She loved helping me decide which red fabric should be used for a particular bloom, which green should be used for stems and leaves.  She loved the sampler background (as does everyone else who sees this quilt), and when I decided to add buttons for the berries, she giggled like a little girl.  Imagine, putting BUTTONS on a quilt.
That was something her mother had never done!  This piece was finished in June 2009 and has been the focal point on a wall in our house every Christmas since.  It is based the Holly Threads pattern by Need’l Love.  Mine finishes at 44″ square.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Red Coneflower

 

red-coneflowerA recently purchased linen doily reminded me of a mat for a framed portrait.  I didn’t have a photo on fabric that fit, and wanted to stitch something on this marvelous piece of linen with the wide handmade tatting.

A simple coneflower is always fun to appliqué, and I had seen somewhere the idea of using a spool of thread as the vase.  So, a few snippets of fabric, a good tv show in the background, a bright light at my side, and the stitching began.

Once the appliqué and embroidery were done (see the French knots at the base of the seed head?), it was time to find a base to set off the oval.  The French General print in red was perfect.  So, I layered wool batting beneath the oval, threaded up the machine with silk thread, and echoed the appliqué with free motion quilting.

Once I cut away the remaining batting from behind the red fabric, it was time to seed stitch the piece to an old quilt as the back of the assembly.  A yellow and white pieced basket quilt from an antique store fit the bill, but the white was a bit stark.  A scrap of red ticking came to the rescue, adding another layer of matting to the frame job.

red-coneflower-backAs I neared the finish, I hadn’t come up with a title.  But my original plan to let the doily serve as an inner mat for a portrait was still on my mind, so Portrait of Red Coneflower was simple enough.  One more vintage doily (with a history and stains to prove it) served as the label.

The finished piece measures 16” x 20” and the hanging sleeve utilized a leftover strip of the red ticking.

G’s Treehouse

G's treehouseA couple of years ago a friend of mine told me she was having a baby, a little girl.  This beautiful mother-to-be loved a particular line of fabric which included birds and flowers.

I gathered together some of the fabric from the collection, made a tree, planted some flowers at the base, and constructed a birdhouse.  I had a ball!

A note about the some fabric:  just as I never follow a pattern exactly, I don’t think I’ve ever made anything solely from one designer’s collection.  Though the collections are a great way to get coordinating colors and a variety of scales and patterns, I find they are often a bit static.  I like to add a zinger or a focus, or just something different from another source.  In this case, the collection didn’t have a fabric that said “tree trunk” to me, so I used a little brown check.  Likewise, there was not the right blue for the birdhouse.  And I’m confident that the leaves were cut from green fabrics from the collection and perhaps from others as well.

G's treehouse birdhouseI cut the background to the finished size of the quilt (38″ x 65″), adding a bit in all directions to allow for shrinkage that comes with appliqué and quilting.  The tree, branches, and leaves were all freely cut using the eyeball method on top of the background.  Needle turn appliqué was used throughout.  I like raw edges on leaves (as in After the Chlorophyll, Shade Tree Mechanic, and a few other projects) but this was to be a baby quilt to be used, and I didn’t want fraying to be an issue when washed.  Nor did I want the little one getting stray threads in her hand or mouth.

G's treehouse detailBroderie perse (a fancy word for fussy cutting) was used with the flower centers at the base of the tree.  The birds were larger than those printed on the fabric, but I mimicked the birds the designers had used when I made patterns for mine.

The tree bark was quilted with a dark brown thread, the rest with a matching thread that simply gave texture.  The exception to this was some of the embellishing stitches around the flower heads.  In some cases, there were details printed on the fabric that couldn’t easily be cut out and appliquéd, so I recaptured those with the quilting stitch using a heavier thread.  All threads used were cotton, and the batting was cotton.  That is often my preferred fiber for all components of a quilt, but certainly is the case when it’s for a baby.  Seed stitch was used to embroider the seeds the bird on the ground is eating.

All quilting was done on the sewing machine, hand-guided, free motion stitching.  A variety of motifs were used, including echoing, vines with leaves,  curved crosshatching,  vaguely parallel lines.

Now G is having a little brother.  Hmmm….

Rescued Remnants

It’s been eleven weeks since I wrote about an adventure buying vintage linens.  Only today is this piece finished, featuring pieces of an old tablecloth found on that excursion.

This quilt has been in development since I brought that pile in the house.  Growing, developing, changing.  Pink is not my “go-to” color, maybe that’s why it took so long for me to hear what the fabric was saying.

I know, people have been referred for psychological help when they said their quilts talked to them.  But quilts do talk.  If only you are willing to listen.

Here is the conversation as this process ensued: Vintage Tablecloth (VT) and me (SG).

VT:  This basket motif wants to be the centerpiece of a medallion-like wall hanging.

SG:  Ok.  I’ll cut one out in an irregular shape and stitch it to a background. With wool batting underneath so you rise to be noticed.

VT:  What background?  The green pieces from the tablecloth without holes?

SG:  Ok.  Done.  Centered, stitched on the machine with dense machine quilting to make the embroidery pop.

VT:  Oh, I’m disappointed.  I’m not featured as I should be.  I need accentuating.

SG:  Ok.  I’ll cut you out from that background and put you on something darker.

VT:  How about pink?  See my perky little bow, let’s do pink!

SG:  Noooo, I don’t like pink too much.  Let’s try something else.  Let’s pick up all those other colors.  Here.  I like this stripe.

VT:  Ok.  But horizontally, no.  Vertically, no.  Both too plain.  I’m fancy.

SG:  Agreed.  How about mitering the stripe so there’s some geometric interest?

VT:  Yes, Mrs. G, I know you have to get that in there somewhere.

SG:  Done.  Now on the green.

VT:  uh-uh.  I want pink.

SG:  Pink?  I don’t like pink.  I don’t even buy pink fabric. Oh, wait, here is a gradated solid.  I bought a pack of these pastels (Lord, what WAS I thinking? That’s not me at all.)  But it does work with the colors in the ribbon. How about a pink border around the basket on the stripe?

VT:  Yes.  At last you heard me.  Pink.  Pink.  Pink.

SG:  Ok.  There is now a border around the basket.  It’s pink.  And, can I let it be raw-edged, since that is the way I applied the basket?

VT:  Yes.  Sure.

SG:  Done.  Now that is going on the green background from the original tablecloth.  Good grief, how many layers is this?  I guess I should cut triangles from the green and frame the center rather than continue to build thickness.  More cutting and fitting and sewing.  But that’s what it needs to be.

Now I need to layer the quilt.  Cotton batting this time, and look, I found a pink calico for the backing.

VT:  Ok, I’m done talking.  Have your way with me now as you quilt.  Oh, I guess you will bind me with that stripe, too; since that seems to be the only fabric you can use for a binding.  But will you not make it bias this time?  Let’s be a little bit subtle with it, ok?

SG:  Good idea.  Especially since I’ve used almost all of the stripe and it will have a jillion seams anyway.  But I’ll place the stripes perpendicular to the edge.

Quilting is done.  I repeated the bow motif from the original basket.  I drew a replica, resized, marked it on corners of quilt, and stitched with heavy pink thread.  I quilted the remainder using a matching fine thread (silk) so the emphasis is on the texture, not the stitch.

VT:  Your quilting worked out nicely.  But now the center stripe is a bit puffy.  Can you get it to settle down a bit?

SG:  Sure.  I’ll do the seed stitch with a matching thread.  But it makes a mess on the back.

VT:  Find something pink.  You use vintage linens for the labels anyway.  Just find one large enough to cover that center square.

SG:  I agree that it needs to be pink.  I don’t have any vintage pink stuff (nor pink dye).  I don’t DO pink.  But, you are right – any other color will be too high contrast.  It is the back, after all.

VT:  So, wait.  You don’t have to finish today.  Wait until you find the right thing.

SG:  Oh, WOW.  I saw this pink linen handkerchief at an antique mall. With lace.  It was $3.  More than I normally pay for a hankie to stitch on as a label.  But I thought of you and bought it.

VT:  Good girl.  I’m worth it.

rescued remnants backSG:  Done.  Label attached with seed stitch that just goes through to the batting.  Sleeve attached the same way.  You aren’t square, close though.  (16” x 17″).  And you speak “pink”

 

Bee Still my Heart

bee skep on notebook page leftbee skep on notebook page right

I see that today has been designated as National Honey Bee Day, begun to increase community awareness of beekeeping in the U.S.  Such a holiday is a perfect excuse to share a few pieces of fiber art with a beekeeping theme.

After I sold my childhood home to Billy, a former colleague of my Daddy, I received a treasured package.  Billy was doing some remodeling and found two of my Daddy’s high school science lab books behind the walls of a closet.  His graduation from Sycamore High School was in 1932, so the Biology and Physical Science lab manuals predate that.

I never knew my Daddy could draw, but in these books I found his drawings of crawfish, birds, fish, chemistry lab equipment, and BEES.  I was excited to find his handwriting, which looked exactly like it did later in life, but the drawings were a wonderful surprise.  I scanned some of the images and printed them on parchment paper and framed them as Christmas gifts for family members, but the lab on the bees got special treatment.

Beekeeping detail rightI printed those two pages on commercially prepared fabric for printing, then used those as the background for appliquéd bee skeps, vines, leaves, berries, and bees.  Cotton was used for the vines and leaves, beehives are a woven cotton, berries are made with silk ribbon, and the bees are appliquéd from felted wool.  The quilting is hand guided free motion on a domestic sewing machine. Each piece of this pair finishes at 12” x 15”. In keeping with the school theme, I entitled this pair Beekeeping 101.

beauty & beesThis reconnection with my Daddy’s history with bees spurred me to stitch several more quilts with bees and beehives.  I modified a pattern from Maggie Bonanomi to create Beauty and the Bees in wool.  The background is commercially handdyed and felted black wool.  All the appliqué pieces are felted wool from recycled clothing, mine and Goodwill’s.  The pink berries and tendrils are machine couched with my free motion couching foot, one of the most fun-to-use tools in my toolbox!

Still busy as a bee, I wanted a colony on blue.  So I created a simple design using a single bee skep, and used needleturn appliqué on the Blackbird Design fabric that looks like a cross stitch sampler.  I return to that fabric frequently, in different colorways, because it adds another layer of interest to any quilt while paying tribute to another one of my needlework loves – cross stitch.  A section of this piece appears in the banner at the top of the page.

bees in guest bedroomThe Beehive on Blue was made to fit an oval frame (8″ x 10″) I found somewhere.  That’s a shape I love and find those frames hard to leave in the store.  So one came home with me, got a coat of chalk paint, and holds my quilt.  It is honored with the presence of an original drawing of a bee by my art instructor and friend, Mark Ballard.

Fifty-Two Tuesdays has a block with a beeskep on linen.  There’s one in Fifty-Two Wednesdays, and  I’ve used this motif in a series of beginning appliqué classes.  I’m certain it will reappear many times.  I sometimes find interesting bee buttons or charms that need a home in a textile hive.

My Daddy, the beekeeper, would have been surprised that those lab manuals were still around, I think.  He built this house in 1946, after having owned at least two farms, then living in another house in town. so why did he keep science lab manuals for fourteen years?  I know if he could see my fabric beehives, he would pretend to think they were silly, printing his workbook pages and sewing on them.  But secretly he would be pleased.  As I think he would be pleased that I treasure such wonderful memories of those glorious mornings checking the beehives with him.

Note:  more details about Beauty and the Bees and working with wool are here.

Strollin’

Strollin'My latest art quilt features a guinea.  I love these funny looking birds; the pattern on their feathers reminds me of little old women wearing black calico dresses, and I love their spirit of self-confidence.  I guess it should be noted that I admire them from a distance.  I don’t think our neighbors would like for us to have them on our property.

My guineas must be relegated to quilts and buttons and such.

Strollin' closeupI found a black and white batik fabric a couple of years ago that said “guinea” to me.  I made an album quilt of Sunbonnet Sue-style guineas and called it Guineas on Parade.

 

The art quilt here uses the same fabric and pattern I drew for that larger quilt.  This one is needleturn appliquéd onto a brown and white checked background (more on the philosophy of that here).  The sunflower in the border is raw edge appliqué on a brown  hand-dyed fabric.  All quilting is hand-guided, freemotion quilting using cotton thread.

Strollin' back closeupThis piece finishes at 16” x 20”.  For the back, I used a delightful batik I bought in Paducah.  Even though it’s on the back, it harkens to my philosophy of “using the good stuff“.

In addition to Guineas on Parade, I’ve included guinea buttons on a block in 52 Tuesdays, and an appliquéd guinea in 52 Wednesdays.  

I found a delightful poem about guineas online. In part, it reads

They seldom walk –‘tis a run or a trot,

Snatching bugs left and right, one for each polka-dot.

The poem in its entirety can be found here.

When I see a guinea, or hear one, it takes me back to a sunny day of softball practice where the “buck-wheat” cry of these birds interrupted our practice.  Those friends, the serenity of a spring day, the joy of playing in the rural outdoors, all come to mind and I feel a smile spreading across my face.

Hartwell Commons

Hartwell CommonsKits to make quilts are wonderful.  They are a great way to make a quilt if you don’t have a large fabric stash, if you aren’t comfortable selecting fabrics, or if you just want to jump right in with a ready supply of coordinated fabrics in the right colors.  A good friend advises that they are great for travel or retreat projects, because they are packaged ready to sew on the go.

Hartwell Commons was made from a kit.  I ordered the block-of-the-month kit early in my quilting career, I suppose it was in 2002 or so.  When the first package arrived, the schoolhouse block, I opened it ready to jump right in.

Instructions were given for two techniques; paper foundation piecing, and appliqué.  I did not know either one.  So I bundled it all back up and put it back in its big ziploc bag.  It waited month by month as its companions arrived in the mail and the charges were added to my credit card bill.  I paid the bill knowing that maybe someday I would have the skills to make the quilt.

My friend’s advice came to light a couple of years down the road when we were preparing for a girls’ getaway to a friends’ lake house.  I was lamenting that I didn’t know what project to take, and Dale said, “do you have a kit?”

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I did.  I grabbed the first couple of month’s packages, some substitute fabrics (I had already realized that using someone else’s idea of fabric combinations was not my way of working) and off we went to Lake Hartwell.

Hartwell Commons churchBy then, I had learned both techniques of paper foundation piecing and needleturn appliqué.  I love to do handwork and don’t like to travel with my sewing machine, so appliqué was the approach I used.

Once started, I quickly finished all the houses, but uh-oh, I didn’t know all the embroidery stitches and had never worked with silk ribbon.  So the blocks sat again waiting.  The next retreat with the same group of gals to the same place meant the embellishment phase could begin.

The embroidery was done, blocks were assembled by machine, and I was ready to do the quilting.  I referred to Leah Day’s 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs website for ideas and video instructions on filler designs for the background.  All the varied filler designs are still favorites of mine, and I often run downstairs to look at this quilt on the wall when I need ideas on another project.

Hartwell Commons labelQuilt details:  Finished size is 85” x 88”.  The pattern is called The Quilted Village by the City Stitcher. Cotton fabrics, silk thread embroidery.  Completed 2010.  Cotton batting. Quilting thread DMC machine embroidery thread, two-ply, 50 weight cotton.  Free motion quilted on home machine.  Since there are lots of goat farms around Lake Hartwell, I made the label in the shape of a goat.