I expect this will be the last post on this little series, as I’ve now finished and posted the last few samples of the 100day challenge that ends in three days’ time, on Nov. 10th. I made them all the same size, mounted most of them over 3.25sq.in squares of foam core, lacing them as shown in this photo –
There are a few set in or on heavy duty clear plastic, so l now have what might be described as a set of 100 mis-matched drink coasters. However, they sit nicely in several re-purposed handy see-through plastic containers which contained certain foods from our supermarket.
Most of the other participants in the challenge are nearing the end of a quilt or other project they’ve been making in this time; several have made a few small projects, one or two have approached and practiced fabric dyeing methods, and there are a few who’ve used their time to sharpen up drawing and photography skills. Several times in the last 3 months I’ve been asked by someone what I am going to make out of all these little pieces? Each time, I’ve answered that in effect I’m not making any ‘thing’, explaining that I always intended these little pieces to be a set of exploratory samples of materials and techniques, a more orderly approach than I have had to sample making in the past. (and which it would be a good idea to maintain, too) I found as time went on that they also reflected my developing interest in several design motifs for textures and larger features of a couple of new works I now feel very keen to start. This combination learning and planning project may in time have an additional bonus – if I ever have another in person workshop teaching opportunity, at least some of them will be handy to take along for reference and inspiration.
I’ve been excited by some of the results, and others have shown that they are, at least for the moment, not something I want to pursue further. Because these samples are not meant to go together, I won’t even try to take a photo of all 100 of them; but if you’d like to see more of them, go to my Instagram page
The pandemic pattern on my mind at the moment is that miniscule unit of the highly infectious corona virus that emerged in China late last year, swept through Earth’s human population and turned our normal lives upside down. Everyone has already experienced at least some effect of inconvenience and anxiety, and the illness itself is causing pain, death and sorrow. The majority of patients recover, but some of those people are left with residual physical and/or neurological effects.
Thanks to the wonders of electron microscopy we’re all too familiar with what the virus looks like. The particles of virus are not molecules or cells but virions, represented everywhere as a round thing with spiky bits. I have always intended to represent this PP in some shocking colours to convey the severity of its threat.
Thinking about colour and the virus, I googled and found my way to an interesting article on how the colour in those graphic images is completely due to artistic licence. Electron microscope images of the virus are seen in shades of grey only, as the virions’ particle size is many times smaller than what can be affected by light waves to appear coloured. Adding colour to the images draws our attention, making them more scary, so my instinct to use flourescent and bright colours for drama was spot on.
I’m starting a new larger piece, aiming to submit to Quilt National. Entries have been open for months, but I’ve only just focused in the past few days. Most of the times I have been selected for QN, I’ve made my entries in the last few weeks before closing, so I’m more or less on my accustomed schedule 😉 With the book club and my mahjong group in recess for the duration, there’s little social activity to interfere with it !!
Late last week I began dabbling with samples and fabrics, but for one reason and another, none of these urged me to continue in this vein.
At first I thought cream background with cream thread would be great … but the result is quite blah, though it took me 3 different samples to be convinced. I do think that would look lovely in greys or gentle sunset/sunrise colours, even though ‘soft colours’ aren’t my thing. Never say never. Slices of pieced strips aren’t ‘it’ this time, either, though I sewed one piece with cream, another with gold and the third with light silver/gold. Metallic threads definitely need a dark background to literally shine. Finally, the upper right hand sample needs more experimenting: there’s no drama, although there could be, and this idea needs more work, which would take time I don’t have.
Late on Sunday afternoon, I found some marvellous overdyed fabric that I thought a whole lot of red and purple/darkish shapes would look great on. I assembled the reds, called it a day and was all set to start stitching today. But in the shower early this morning, a different image came to mind; one with serious meaning and an apt title. The result was I felt I had to totally change my fabric ideas again, for the third time. I think this might be the first time I have ever had a title for a quilt before the quilt is actually under way.
The fact that I found some fabric I’d completely forgotten about, and by sheer fortune had a reel of matching thread, convinced me I had done the right thing by changing the fabrics/thread combo yet again.It took several hours to put the previous lots of fabric away, and then turn out the scrap bag to pull pieces of the things I now needed: hand dyed fabrics in warm earthy colours, with no commercial prints and, interestingly, no commercial plains this time- they just won’t work, even though I normally mix them all. However, I found lots of scraps of hand dyed fabrics plus some yardage of several colours, so now I have plenty of ironed fabrics gathered ready to do a sort of mosaic type of design using the oversewn technique that I’ve recently found so agreeable.
This quilt has a dark theme, one to do with this dreadful pandemic, so there will be no clear bright colours, and nothing with any white in the fabric. It’s not that I’ve become stricken with depression or anything, it just wouldn’t be appropriate, given the title and imagery.
My work always references landscape in the process of change, and the landscape of much of my native Australia has recently suffered the onslaught of ravaging bushfires. I have some things to say, which have begun to appear in my recent work.
A few years ago I was thinking about these again, took photos of course, but for various reasons I was sidetracked from this idea. The 2014 samples (above) were very quick, totally improvisational, and worked directly from the scrap bag! as there is no ‘pattern’ for this kind of thing. Without being backed (stabilised) they were pinned onto the fabric and sewn down, so are not very robust samples. I think of them as sketches, and therefore very important, as a little fabric piece is the most powerful aide memoire of all. So then we come to this week’s samples:
From these three the following notes are important to me:
On the left, the black backing (with misty fuse showing) has yet to be trimmed away like the other two.
Considering the size, it seems unnecessary to form the more distant landscape elements of miniature patchwork – see the difference in the 2014 samples. At this size, simplify to clarify.
The skies in the right pair are a bit too much for that scale of landscape, perhaps even not abstract enough. I realise I prefer a simpler, plainer neutral sky, not necessarily blue, either, just ‘light’.
Foregrounds – I will need to be much more selective of the fabric here: the middle one in particular is far too big a print for that role.
My next move must be to go through my scrap bags again, selecting only plains, subtle textures, hand dyeds and hand dyed look alikes in Australian landscape colours, and light coloured neutrals.
This means most of what is already out on my table can be bagged up and put away out of sight, less overwhelming.
These take very little fabric.
Consider gold, silver, pewter, black or red for the ‘framing’ of these pieces …
The quilt on our bed is showing ravages of Time, unfortunately, and now I’m in the planning phase of making a new one. I love improvisational piecing of course, so whatever I do it’s a commitment to a fair bit of sewing; but by doing a few units a day I know from experience it won’t take long. Anyway, I have a few recorded books to catch up on 🙂 The quilting of a 2.5m x 2.5m bedspread by machine or hand is something I am not prepared to struggle with these days, and will hire a long arm quilter to handle that part. It’s possibly time to book someone so that I have a deadline …
Earlier this year I bought some wonderful blues and greens from my friend Janet Jo Smith who hand dyes fabrics and teaches that skill. If you live in USA you might like to check her website for what she has or could provide for you. From our daughter’s home in Greeley, Janet Jo is ‘just down the road’ at Morrison CO.
Let me share with you some of what I’m considering. I love grids, and so this will be a patchwork quilt of repeated units, cut and pieced freehand so the blocks will be alike, but not exactly the same as they would be in the finest traditional patchwork.
Since early in my post-traditional, freehand piecing period to the present, I’ve used variations of it several times, beginning with Window Onto Bougainville Street :
I recently came across this small wall quilt, unfinished and untitled, that has been hiding, forgotten, in a cupboard for some years! I really like it, and will complete the hand quilting that in the plain blocks echoes the patchwork pattern. It’s already quilted in the ditch, and I’m still a bit amazed at having forgotten it existed.
In my recent Gramado beginners class, one of the students drew up several diagrams of possibilities for what she had in mind, and among them was an interesting variation which from memory might have been something like this – I remember the corner was a triangle with at least one border around it, but of course in a large unit there could be several rows of border – and then some arrangement of ‘rays’ as in this first pair pictured below. And I like the middle pair too.
In freehand / improvisational piecing, there are no pattern templates, you just cut and sew as you go, seam by seam mostly. No blocks are precisely alike but they are all ‘alike’ to a great degree as a rule. So to me it’s important to take a little time to plan, put my idea into a diagram if necessary, and then take a little more time to make a few samples before setting out on a project.
The third pair is way too clunky and out of the question. If I’d trimmed less from those blocks, the pattern parts might have been in more pleasing proportion, but, I was already preferring the two sets above, anyway.
I spent a couple of hours making these, and can tell you that trimmed at (8inches) or 20cm squares, I will need 12×12 units, ie 144 ( always make extras, so 180 or 190 perhaps) to give 240cm per side, which is close to the 2.5m per side I came up with flinging the tape measure over the bed the other day. Once I’ve decided which pattern to use, I will cut pieces of fabric about 25cm x 25cm – rough, not precise – and then will begin cutting and sewing. In the quilt I’m planning, the murky browny green colour will appear in every block and therefore will be the ‘background’ colour, paired with the greens, blues and citrus colours and prints in every block.
The positive and negative looking blocks result from the rotary cut, pattern-free method I use. With two pieces of fabric, one on top of the other, and with both sides facing up, cut through the layers with the rotary cutter to the shapes you want. As the cutter slices through both fabrics at the same time, the edge shapes match exactly when you take them apart and rearrange to sew together. Experience has taught me that 2, 3 and 4 layers of fabric are fine; but unless the rotary blade is new and very sharp, 5 fabrics is a bit more difficult, and with 6 the fabric layers tend to shift ever so slightly, and some of the edges do not match so well, so 6 is the maximum with a very new blade and some care. Plus – and this is important – the layers you cut through and rearrange all need to be set out and sewn together one unit at a time, and the groupings need a ruler or something to hold them down until it’s their turn, otherwise it is very easy to get them hopelessly mixed up, particularly if you have a companionable cat or a breezy crossflow from doors or windows in your work area!
I’ve used arcs or quadrants a number of times – such as in the start of a quilt I made for daughter Anna years back. The quilt that is wearing out features a large section of these blocks arranged into ‘circles’ but much as I love the pattern, I don’t intend to use them again.