Posts Tagged ‘samples’

Auditioning From The Scrap Bag

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

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 ­čśë With the book club and my mahjong group in recess for the duration, there’s little social activity to interfere with it !!

Auditioning from the scrap bag

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.

Left – strips of pieced stripes; Upper right: what can I say; Lower right: segments oversewn with (a) cream and (b) flourescent red – too much wrong with this idea.

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.

Continuing Miniature Landscapes

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

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.

My next work will incorporate miniature landscapes, following on from those about which I recently posted, http://www.alisonschwabe.com/weblog/?p=5480

Miniature landscape samples c. 2014.

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:

Mini landscape samples, March 2020. 6-7cm longest measurement.

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 …

Needing A New Quilt For Our Own Bed

Friday, October 4th, 2019

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 ­čÖé 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.

Is this a traditional block? I think of it as ‘that little sun block’ – shown here in one 4″ x 4″ sample made years ago, and which I love. But it’s probably too small for the size quilt I’m planning. I know it would look marvellous, but sewing 600+ or so little units would be fairly fiddly at that size, and that could take me for ever.

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 :

Window Onto Bougainville St., 1993, detail

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.

Recently this small unfinished quilt turned up from the deep recesses of a seldom emptied cupboard …

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.

My little line diagram looked a bit lacking, boring, austere – so adding another two cuts (ie another ray) made it more interesting I feel.

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!

Basic arcs, using 4 fabrics, lower left; cut three times. Two options to arrange:
Option 1 –upper left rearrange so there is one segment of every colour in each unit.
Option 2 – right rearrange so each unit comprises pairs of 2 colours
Anna’s quilt, 2007.

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.

UFO Or Sample, Terminology Or State Of Mind?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

We’re┬á nearing the end of the year 2018, and though it’s a bit early to be thinking about the life-changing New Year Resolution just yet, another thing I tend to do as the Spring moves into Summer is a bit of tidying and a bit of chucking out, though really, if I’m honest it’s more like just moving stuff about a bit.┬á My summer clothes and winter clothes certainly do need to be swapped between cupboards, and any day now would be good.┬á But in the sewing room (I think it’s a bit pretentious to call it ‘my studio’) I tend to declutter my pin board and put away all samply-UFO things that I’ve really stopped ‘seeing’ and thinking about.

We artists all know some perfectly valid reasons why you can lose a sense of excitement over a project, and at such times the smartest thing mental health thing to do is call it a ‘Sample’ and put it wherever your samples go.┬á Mine go in a large opaque shopping bag.┬á I really don’t have many UFOs precisely because I do make samples to explore design or technique.┬á But once every few years, I jump right into a project, then have second thoughts.┬á At that time I decide the UFO is a ‘False Start’, and put that in the samples bag, too.

Now, if the UFO has become a rather advanced and possibly large project of fabric thread and you’re deciding to abandon it, I advise you be honest with yourself, suppress any guilt feelings, and select one of these options.┬á First, you could start referring to it as an ‘Ongoing Project’ as you put it aside for a while – but this does come with the implication that work has merely paused, not stopped.

If that is not true. or if it has been paused for so long that you know you have really abandoned it, you could consider cutting the UFO into dog-basket sized pieces, back each with some cosy flannel and edge with a machine sewn binding.┬á This is something useful for the family pets or gifts for your friends’ dogs.┬á Cats, too, like quilty mats, and you might find one of these useful in training a young cat where it is permitted to drape itself in your home and to help it develop a sense of its own special place.┬á (Key word ‘might’)┬á With a multiple UFO problem, you could make up a whole batch and donate them to your local animal rescue centre….getting rid of the UFOs and your guilt in one fell swoop.

Finally, I have heard of some makers cutting up their ‘false starts’ or advanced samples and using them in other, new, quilts.┬á I think that is an extreme and unsatisfactory solution, because the influence of the failed false start will always be there, enabling continued denial and showing that to some extent the sample/false start is controlling the maker.

Oh, and the pic above – just a snippet of a small sample of something which didn’t actually go further, as many samples don’t.

 

 

 

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