Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Story of Two Chains

The Irish Chain is a traditional pattern that is made using strip piecing techniques. Like many patterns, I have made a pair of quilts using the same design, because I have a hard time making fabric choice decisions. When I begin to look for fabrics for my new quilts, I go and play in the fabric stash stored in clear boxes in my sewing room. Before I know it ,I have created quite a mess around me and have more than enough fabric for at least two quilts.
My quilty friends often tease me about the size of my fabric collection. The stash has grown exponentially over the last few years.

As a last hurrah, My good friend L. and I went out to one of our favorite shops on Thursday and found some good deals in the clearance section. She found a beautiful backing for 5 dollars a meter. It will be a spectacular back. She is in the process of packing her house to move to Calgary a city that is 200 hundred miles south of here. I will miss her but know that she will enjoy being closer to her children and grandchildren. I will look forward to her visits and our occasional trips to the quilt stores to add more cloth to the stash.
Perhaps this is a good time for me to think about being a total stash buster - just using the stash without additions MMMMMM --- Nah- I am not sure that I could commit to such a decision- it is too much fun to add new fabrics to the collection. In fairness, when I make a new quilt, I make it almost exclusively from the stash- its just that I have continued to make additions to the sizeable collection.VBG

Currently, I need to buy more boxes to store the overflow on the bed at the top of the stairs.VBS I have sorted it into groupings so that I can find what I am looking for- at least most of the time. There are some things where I am organizationally challenged in my house but my sewing room is more organized than some places.
Both of the Irish chain quilts belong to our parents- the burgundy and gold one belongs to Bruce's parents and the red and black one to mine.

Getting the corners to matchup on the golden border of the burgundy quilt was a bit tricky, as I applied the border as a whole unit and then realized I was going to have problems in the corners. Sometimes I have to put something together before I can visually see what the problem is, and then I have to figure out a solution. In the end, this quilt needed me to learn how to make a mitered corner so that it turned properly. Quiltmaking helps one become a good problem solver - each quilt has its lessons and its story. Some quilts offer many lessons- perhaps you have a quilt that you have made, that has done just that?

The black and red and white Irish Chain belongs to my parents. The beautiful baby is our great niece, K. She turns 8 this week- (Happy Birthday Miss K.)
I think of the black and red quilt as my art nouveau quilt- The fabrics were bold and rich and I really loved the big flowered designed border. In previous posts I have talked about how my process has varied over the times that I have quilted. This quilt was one that I made because I wanted to experiment with the design. My later quilts were made for particular people.
Currently I am back experimenting again with fabric choices and designs.

This next week I am on holiday from School so my goal is to begin to clean out some areas like parts of the basement to make it a more liveable space.
There are lots of books these days on how to declutter your life- I can see the sense in that but find the prospect overwhelming. It is picking a spot to begin and do it some bits at a time.
I am by nature, a collector and have various collections -some small- ceramic Boyd's bears and paperweights, and some larger - quilt books and magazines, books, jewellery and fabric. I also have nice dishes and love to decorate my house seasonally. None of these things are sinful- just problematic when you live in a small house.

Part of me will need to be somewhat ruthless and get rid of a bunch of stuff we no longer use or need. I will let you know whether I was tough enough or if I wimped out... There will need to be some intermittent quilt time too to keep going- we all need carrots to stay motivated....

Until next time, Be well,

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Sea of Questions and The Man of the Sea...

The "Man of the Sea" quilt (shown above) belongs to Gary. Gary is a boat lover and I wanted to create a quilt for him that reflected his passion for the sea. I designed this quilt using an off set Mariner's Compass block and then added some patience blocks around it. The compass is floated so that it didn't disappear in the sea of sea fabrics.Gary is wonderful artist(wood carver,and painter)and is very proud to own this quilt. Some people call quilting a craft and others call it an art form. He paid me the highest compliment by calling his Man of the sea quilt a work of art. The second photo is a picture of the back of the quilt with his label. Happy Birthday to the " Man of the Sea". We hope you had a great day!

Spring seems to be making me reflective.. This blog post is sort of like a Meme about Quilting.. As the sun streamed through my bedroom window this morning, here were some things that crossed my mind- I am wondering about other people's creative quilting process. I have added my thoughts in italics..

Do you create your own designs or use a pattern?

I usually adapt patterns rather than creating my own quilt designs- I like to add borders or choose my own colors and have not yet worked with a jelly roll,fabric line or a set of fat quarters. I do have some sets of fat quarters but in general buy individual fabrics that I like.

Do you work with one type of fabrics exclusively or play around with different kinds of fabrics (eg. tone on tone, thimbleberries, civil war fabrics, batiks- my favorite, florals, novelties, 30's )
I have collected a large number of tone on tone, batiks and florals and have a small collection of '30's fabrics - these are fabrics that I gravitate to- I like some of the others but don't seem to choose them when I am buying fabric. I do have a few kits (3) and some fat quarters but mostly I have yardage- I buy between 1-2 meters(a meter is slightly larger than a yard-39 inches) unless the price is good and I think it might make a great quilt back..

When you are making a new quilt do you go to your stash or go to the fabric store?
More and more, I am working from my stash(and so I should, as it is a large beautiful collection that is meant to be used)and then I add the occasional piece to finish the quilt.

What inspires you to choose to make that particular quilt over all the other millions of quilts you could create?

For much of the last 3 or 4 years I have made quilts for other people to mark a special occasion. I seem to have finally caught up to the special events in our lives so now I amd debating what kind of quilts I will be making next? It really is hard for me to choose from the myriad of choices out there- There are so many techniques and designs that you can find on line and in books and magazines. My problem is not inspiration but making the decision of which quilt to make :-).

These were some of the things I was thinking about this morning as I was reading a stack of older quilt magazines that had sat piled up on my night stand. I have one more week of school before we have spring break, and I am caught up with my schoolwork. It has got me pondering what my spring break plans might be....( besides getting some serious cleaning done) I have been thinking about how I could get myself going on a new project while recognizing that I need to finish up some previous projects that I started this past fall. I am not very good at juggling a large number of quilt projects- if I get too many UFO's ,then I find it overwhelming and nothing gets completed. As I write I am promising myself, that I am going to get those quilts bound that have been sitting around the last few weeks- just waiting to be finished...

The other day,my good friend L., who is making some scrap quilts, asked me whether I I had any medium to dark blues, greens and red fabrics in my stash ROFLOL.. I have built up quite a collection of fabrics so, last evening, I went upstairs to my sewing room and pulled out the boxes of fabric that are sorted by both color(blue, green, pink, purple, yellow/earth colors,red and black) and themes(florals, 30's fabrics, batiks and speciality fabrics- stars,novelty or funky, sea, sunflowers, children). A couple of hours of playing later- I brought down a good collection of the three colors that she is looking for, which I hope will help her flesh out her quilt project. It was fun to go into the boxes and bring out the many fabrics to pat(I love to feel the hand of the fabric) and reflect on their stories.

Some of my fabrics have been in the box for quite awhile(over 10 years)and some were from my newest visits to the fabric stores. I have gotten better about choosing quality fabrics- you sure can feel the difference between good quality cottons and mediocre ones- there is a softness in the hand and less sizing in the better materials. I have amassed a large collection of blues and greens and less of red. What makes red- red and blue- blue or green- green?

What determines that a fabric is light, medium or dark in value? When I made the pinwheel log cabin (see earlier post) there was a difference of opinion from person to person as to what constitutes dark or medium or even light. They are not exclusive values- comparisons are a big part of determining value gradations.

One of the blogs that I really enjoy is Wanda's "Exuberant Color" Today She has an interesting post about color theory. She is a very knowledgeable lady with a wonderful blog - do check it out if you get a chance..

There are some wonderful books about color value-(" Visual Coloring" by Joen Wolfrom comes to mind). The topic of color is often offered as a course at our local quilt stores or as part of painting classes. You can find lots of information about color wheels and read about color theory.

When you come right down to it, color remains a subjective thing. My husband and I will often debate whether burgundy is purple, burgundy or brown- its a visual determination. He is a afficiando of the stars and will ask me "what color do I see around the star?" My reasonably acute vision( my middle aged eyes are not what they once were) has trouble seeing the color of stars, yet I see all sorts of gradations in the fabrics around me.
I hope you get a chance to ponder the colors of the world around you. I love it when spring comes and changes the seasonal landscape from winter drab to signs of new life- buds on the trees, sprigs of grass and crocus, tulips and daffodils.

This weekend my plan is to get some tidying done, put up some spring decorations( in the hopes that it will bring some spring weather with it) and finish up my bindings. Then perhaps I can spring forward to a new project...

Happy Quilting,

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ides of March ....

It is snowing outside yet again- perhaps it will be the last of the snow- one can only hope that is so -
Today is March 15 and I am feeling introspective - thinking about a young man who was gone too soon- a young man that was the same age as our son, now. On this day in 1975 my husband's brother David lost his life in an automobile accident. An accident that in one small moment took away a son and a brother. One is left to wonder what might have been all these years later. He is remembered for his zest for life, his gifted ability on the piano and his passion about music, mathematics and sports. He was gone before I was part of my husband's day to day life but his presence is still missed.
When I made the family photo quilt for Bruce's parents, I thought long and hard about how to include David. In the end, I chose to put him at the top in the middle. I wanted David to be remembered as a loved family member.. to acknowledge his presence and importance as a family member. The center of the quilt has my in- laws wedding picture surrounded by the families of their four adult children. I know that this quilt was well loved by Bruce's parents. It currently hangs in my mother-in law's room. When we lose our loved ones, it is the memories that help us and keep that person alive in our hearts. You remain forever in our hearts,David!

This lovely diamond log cabin quilt is not my work - well that is not completely true- I did quilt it but a good friend and quilt teacher L., made this top and gave it to me when I was searching for a quilt for a fundraising project. I quilted it up and stil have this beauty in my collection of quilts because the fundraiser project never came to pass. It is a real beauty and another variation of log cabin. The pink and black color combinations are wonderful together. I really love how she created movement with the diamonds by using various black fabrics of the same color value. It shows how you don't need to have a big background piece of fabric- you can use a combination of background fabrics equally effectively.
Here is Mars in a familiar spot- sitting on a pile of quilts- this log cabin was one that I practised meandering on when I first was learning how to meander quilts. I did not make this top either( another example of L.'s terrific work) - I just practised my quilting. Doesn't Mars look serene on it? The colors were a lovely earth combination- with some pretty batiks too!!
The log cabin pattern really is versatile and can be used to make beautiful patterns. The technique is not complicated though there are some that are more intricate than others. I do love this traditional pattern.

A big Thank you goes out to Kim She sent me a lovely note with her giveaway prize- two patterns "Yellow Brick Road" and her own pattern "Spring". Kim has just opened her own etsy shop with kits for her great bunnies "Bette" and "Buckey". Do go and check out her blog - it is one of my favorite places to visit.

Time to go and make a bracelet with beads for a friend. It is her birthday soon and I would like to give her a small gift. I can bead faster than I can quilt. Do you do other hobbies besides quilting? Quilting is my first love but sometimes I need to do other things that are not as time consuming. I enjoy the process of both hobbies- Whatever your passion I hope that it feeds your creative soul.

I am wishing for spring here in Alberta and looking forward to seeing some green grass poking its head up. It was beautiful yesterday - the snow had melted under the trees in our backyard but alas it was Mother Nature pulling a trick- there is a fresh snow pile there today,

Have a great week - May you spend some happy times together with family and friends..

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday Snooze

Just a quick change of my Header- My husband took this header picture of our two pets- This is about as compatiable as they ever get- I love how Mars cat has covered her eyes and how Dusty dog is circular. We do have some pictures of Dusty too but Mars is usually the one found lying on the quilts. Napping pets is a common sight in our home- what makes this photo atypical is that they are sleeping in the same spot.Unlike their human masters???(LOL) they don't have to wait for Sunday to have a nap!!!! This picture makes me laugh - perhaps it will give you smile too.
The quilt is a Golden Leaf quilt pattern from an Australian Patchwork and Quilting magazine. I made it around 2003- It is template pieced and has the triangle sashing to give the look of movement and topsy turvy leaves. The photo was taken in my grandmother's house in the summer of 2003. I added a pieced maple leaf border so that it would make it large enough for our queen sized bed. If I made this pattern again, I would use deeper tones for all the leaves as you lose some of the leaf points in the lighter valued leaves.
Today is the kind of day meant for quilting - the wind is blowing and the weather cool- A perfect day to stay inside and quilt. Have a great Sunday - hope that it gives you some time to do the things that you love doing best. Perhaps later on, I will be like my pets and find time to have a Sunday nap!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Spinning Log Cabin Quilt

Log Cabin quilts come in many forms and this quilt belongs to our niece Sarah and her husband, Jamie. I made it as a wedding gift in 2005. The strips for this quilt are 1-1/2 inch strips and the hearth block has red hearts in it. Sarah told me later that they had previously chosen burgundy and navy linens for their bedding so this quilt went very well with their decor.(I didn't plan it that way -it was a lucky guess):O)
The quilt has triangle sashing to give the illusion of spinning and the quilt is set in a pinwheel pattern. This quilt's strips came from many quilters' stash as I took a class one weekend in my hometown. It was a fun exchange as there was so much more variation than what I had in my own stash at the time. Each participant in the class brought a dozen sets of 10 strips of light(for a total of 120 light strips) and a dozen strip sets of dark value fabrics( for another 120 dark strips) We started the evening by trading the groups of 10 strips with one another. The only criterion was that everyone was required to bring good quality fabrics to trade. It was also interesting to see how people had grouped their colors into light and dark values. It was a fun experience and I would do it again. At the end of the evening I had built a few blocks but I was a long way from being ready to sew the blocks together.
I am sure that we were suppose to do a different layout with the completed blocks but this is yet another example of me doing my own thing with the pattern. I don't think of myself as a rebel, but I do like to put my own stamp on the quilts that I make. Log Cabin quilts have so many variations that it is not hard to find different alternatives - Sometimes, the hardest part for me is to settle on the layout and borders.

In the top picture you can see how Mars the cat has a long history of checking out my quilts and Christening them. By the way,it was Sarah's birthday yesterday so I want to wish her a very Happy Birthday!

There are still many more log cabin quilts that I would like to make- I have a book by Judy Martin called Log Cabin Quilts that has some lovely alternatives in it. And so the list continues ...

A friend and I were talking about all the quilts we would like to make before we leave this world and I said perhaps I should make a list. She said she had done that and found making the list overwhelming.. There are so many wonderful designs and patterns to make that I need to find a way to organize myself. How do you organize and decide what quilts you would like to make? I have many many books and magazines in my collection. If I am looking for something new I go back to them first, unless I have decided to take a course to learn a specific technique.

What do you do when you are looking for a new pattern? Do you keep a list of patterns or books with patterns that you want to make? Do you collect the fabrics and pattern and put them in a bin so that they are all together? I have a couple of bins of fabrics put aside that are my next quilts when I finish my current projects .. I best get moving on my current projects because I am feeling the need to start something new-

I wish I could say that it was because Spring is in the air but it has been snowing here in Alberta, for the past few days, so it will be awhile before we see the grass coming up and the blossoms on the trees...Right about now, I am tired of mittens and snowpants that my little ones at school still need- Recess is a fun time but it sure is nice when we no longer need all the extra layers of clothing so we can go outside to play...

I have really appreciated the comments that have been left on my blog- it is interesting to see how others make quilty decisions and share their process. Please feel free to add your comments... I enjoy the dialog..

Hope that you have had a good week and that you are enjoying some wonderful quilty experiences.. I am still plugging away on my Winding Ways blocks...

Tonight we turn our clocks ahead to daylight savings time so hopefully spring will decide to make its appearance soon!!

Regards from Western Canada,