Saturday, July 14, 2012

Narrowing Down the Details

I've been mulling over in my head different ways to approach the background for the "Forest Quilt". What was facing me was a 5x6 foot template on the design wall with only the trees completed, a design change to create a darker background, and my never having "free styled" an art/functional quilt before. I needed a way to decide on color placement that was easy to manage.

I decided to build a template to scale of the trees, by photocopying the sketch I made, then cutting out the tree trunks. I then cut out tiny pieces from each of my colors and auditioned them on a grey fabric, as I found a white background too distracting. I pulled out all the teals and bright colors to see what I had left to work with.

But then I found the sketch copy too distracting, for it read as a bunch of white sticks.  To work out that solution, I grabbed that grey crumb block I made a couple months ago, redesigned it as a rectangle, then carefully cut out the tree trunks from that. I now had a template that accurately portrayed the fabrics used in the trunks.

Next, I realized I didn't have enough dark fabric, and needed to round out my stash. For the record, I have a small stash compared to other quilters. Come on, I've seen your brag pictures and your studio photos. I have a different mindset. My kids and I have moved around every 18 months or so since 2003, and before that, there was the 11 years in the military. We have learned to tread lightly on this planet and only own what we need, not necessarily what we want. When I plan a quilt, I do my best to use what is on hand, and only buy yardage for a specific project.  So off to the store I ran. I hit up two stores in the area, Cloth and Bobbin for some deep blues and blacks, then I went on to explore Lonni Rossi to finish up the palette. I'm glad I went. Ms Rossi is a wonderful lady who was launching her new line of fabrics,  "French Twist", and was having a party today to celebrate. She talked me into adding a deep gold/brown to add sparkle in the night. I'm glad I did.  I came home to make a Mariner's Compass out of that, which I will show you later.

After all fabrics were washed, dried and ironed, I cut off pieces of those and completed the audition.

 I settled on a small bit of gold/brown near the top and the bottom heavy with deep blues and blacks. I think I have a pretty good plan moving forward. The background will be a combination of leaf blocks, winding way blocks and a couple of stars here and there, all subtle and monochromatic. The trees will be the stars of this show, but they will have an amazing group of backup singers.

Monday, July 9, 2012

This Is Not a Place to Get Lost At Night

 "For these woods go on for miles and miles . .. . . ."

I'm here to officially announce, I have finished the trees! I'd show you pictures, but you've seen enough already. I am working now on redesigning the background after hearing my daughter's critiques of the sample crumb blocks I made. Her reaction? The conversation went something like this,"

"Those are too bright. I wanted teal."
"Those are teal."


 "No," she replied,  "this is teal."
"That's not teal, that is a steel blue, more like a cadet blue."
"Well I thought it was teal. I want the quilt to be smoky and dark."
"But I finished the trees and they are already white. And I showed you my drawing. Now I'm not sure what you want." I'm feeling a little frustrated now, especially since I bought all of that teal fabric.
"I want the colors to be like that song, "You've Come to These Woods to Hunt Me." This is her current favorite song, a haunting, melancholy melody befitting of any young, teenage girl seeking her voice as she merges into adulthood. I listened to this song again, more closely, transcribing the lyrics. I marveled at my daughter's vision, her way of seeing color when she hears a song. And these are such sad lyrics,

And you’ve come far, I know.
You’re a long way from home
With loved ones who are waiting to hold you

Classic emotions for someone who is seeking a quest of what, they are not sure of. It made me pause and remember again what it was like to be 14. It wasn't an easy time at all, I do remember that. I decided after some thought to redirect this quilt again to try to encapsulate this time, that emotion, or more pointedly, those whirl of feelings,  that time in life when one was never sure which thought might surface or when, and only hoping that the appropriate response would appear when needed. When speaking or engaging felt so overwhelming at times, all one could do was stand still like a statue. I will try my best to honor all of that behind the trees. I also plan to intertwine my own, motherly love to help guide her through that fog.

I do remember fondly, my children's innocence when they were so young, before they found out that sadness and evil existed. I came across this YouTube video today of this preschooler painting and wanted to share it with you. But you've seen it already, I bet, since over a million viewers have. This little one just had her first gallery opening in New York last month at the tender age of five, where she sold all of her paintings the first week.

As I watched it, I had so many thoughts and questions that ran through my mind as a mom.
  • How in the world did they remove all that paint from her hair?
  • I wish I had the wisdom to set aside a room in my home for my own kids to do this.
  • Jeesh! That's alot of paint and canvas! Isn't that expensive?
  • She looks so confident and focused, and sure of herself.
  • How cool it must be to just play in my art like that and not worry about the end result.
  • If only I had set up just one session like this in Children's Church. I bet then, they would never had asked me again to run it. Then I wouldn't have been left by myself to manage without help for three years.
Well, I'll stop here. I've saddle you already with pictures of failed blocks, sad music and videos of over indulged children. (That last comment is mainly due to my being a neat freak coupled with being secretly jealous of all that fearlessness.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stuck Indoors Like the Rest of the U.S.

Forecast Temps

Every blog post I've read today from the quilters in the states say the same thing.  IT IS SO HOT!! Here in Philadelphia area, or at least where my apartment is, it is 101 degrees, or 38 degrees celsius for my quilter friends and allies across the pond. It is too hot to do much at all outside, and this is coming from a woman who lived in the sub tropics for almost 20 years. I've lived up North for 2 years now and I'm afraid my blood has thickened too much to deal with this heat as I once did. But when I look at the weather map, it's actually cooler in the tropics.

So inside I stayed, where I practiced appliqueing circles by machine.  The more I practice this, the more I am convinced that the type of machine stitches you have available decides your success. I have better control when I hand sew circles. If any of you out there who doesn't own a fancy machine but has success sewing circles, please blog about it with photos so I can see how you do it. I don't have a good blind stitch, so please share if you have a way to make it look great with a top stitch or zig zag.  By the time I got to the third, outer circle, I caved in and went back to the standard, hide the bodies satin stitch. I would like to learn past that.

Anyway, since my sewing room faces southwest, it is now too hot to sew. But before I finished in there, I sewed a Dresden within a Dresden for my block swap partner for July, Marina, in the Netherlands.  Marina graciously allowed me to sew anything I wanted, as long as it was purple.  Thanks Marina, I just bought a Dresden ruler and wanted to try it out. I love the Dresden design, and now I love purple. I'll be sending this your way on Monday.  I go now to baste Laura's quilt to begin the next to final step towards completion.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

This Is How I Procrastinate

I haven't posted anything in a while because I wanted to at least finish the tree trunks before talking about the background a bit.  But I can only take so much of piecing grey on grey. I only got this far before I needed to stop for color therapy. It's too bad, because as you can see, I am almost done with the trees. But I hit a wall.

 So this morning I sat on my porch, sipped my coffee and thought about art. I thought about coffee and art, googled a few pictures and found that Van Gogh did a painting of a coffee pot with lemons.

I love coffee. And I love art. Instead of spending my day off celebrating the 4th of July (it's way too hot to go outside), I pulled out my sketch pad, made a layout, grabbed some colors, and played with nylon thread, a narrow satin stitch and some stabilizer. I've never done machine applique because I'm not good at it. But you know what? We will never get good at anything if we don't get started. By the time I stopped this evening, I went from this,

  To this,

and finally to this.

 I think the secret to machine applique, is actually owning a machine that is capable of doing it. One that has that special blanket stitch, a big open toe foot and really good light over the threadplate, which is especially important when sewing two dark purples together. I think I will finish off this project by sewing the hand units by hand, then embellishing with perle cotton to hide the invisible thread.  Not so invisible, is it?

But, the color therapy worked. I feel refreshed and I'm ready to finish off those trees. Over the next weekend, I'll finish up the trees and baste Laura's quilt.