New Bed Quilt, 3

October 25th, 2019

About 1/3 of the number required are now done. As you just can’t tell until there’s a mass of them whether something that stands out as problematic early on is still annoying in the very large number the final number 180 will include a few extras.

In this first very early pinup version, the arrows on the top row point the opposite way to those on the next, row, and so on. This is one possibility, but there are other layout alternatives pictured below, with comments.

As more colours are added in, still all on the citrus-to-strong blues spectrum, the colour scheme becomes richer and more interesting. Colours are echoed in hand dyes and prints, and I’m loving it. The next two pics are layout alternatives, auditions if you like. So far the first, above, is still my preferred choice.

Layout alternative 2 – Four blocks grouped with arrows all meeting in the centre…. and this is great, until you consider the next group, which is inevitable if this layout is chosen:

Layout alternative 3 – I’d have to lay out lots of these to see if they work well in a large number. A consequence of every pair of blocks being cut freehand is that, as they’re all different, where they meet can look a bit jarring just now. But maybe that won’t matter in the grand scheme, so I’m cool and flexible at this stage!

Other possibilities exist, such as this next one. A couple of simpler but related blocks were made and added in. What I have only just noticed in writing this post is that in the lower left hand corner another possibility suggests itself, and I need to test that with a bunch of blocks –

One thing I could do, with or without either of the above alternatives, is to make some different blocks on the same theme and insert them here and there for variety. I did only 2 which is why they’re the same (See basic construction notes on cutting shapes to fit.)

Another possibility is that blocks could be grouped with triangle shapes in the middle and the blocks bordered and sashed – hmmmm.

Border each group of 4 with the background fabric. I’m not suggesting sashing would actually be this wide – I’m just using offcuts to get the idea of the effect. As I might be running a bit short of background at the end, I’m not keen to cut more than I have to just to play! I’m keeping ALL offcuts, just in case I need to cobble together a few shapes from small scraps!

Freehand or Improv Piecing Basics

October 20th, 2019

I periodically post this set of basic instructions on piecing organic looking patchwork without drafting a pattern. Though it is possible to hand sew here, more complex constructions require cutting and re-piecing, making it a machine piecing technique for most purposes. Writing elsewhere this morning of Nancy Crow, America’s foremost art quilt maker and teacher who assembles her designs by improvisational piecing, I had reason to mention the innovative Canadian quilter Marilyn Stothers who first devised it nearly 35 years ago. Looking for information about it, I found this video: At the time, the rotary cutter was still a very new tool in quiltmaking, so Marilyn is pictured cutting her fabrics with scissors.

At the start of a 1992 4-day workshop on improvisational design in art quilt making, Nancy Crow taught these basics as a fast piecing technique to help us work through the many design exercises for that class. Nancy taught so many quilters how to do this, that for a few years at least it became known as ‘Nancy Crow’s piecing technique’ though now it’s universally known as improvisational or improv.

Freehand or improvisational piecing has become a modern convention which you’ll see everywhere. Some designs may look complicated, but they all involve the same basic steps, and with practice you too will be able to achieve more complex constructions.

The main things to remember are:

  • before cutting, place both fabrics with right sides facing up – yes, that feels counter-intuitive, I know.
  • with no built-in seam allowances, as you cut and sew the area of fabric becomes progressively smaller – so start out larger in anticipation, and add in more if needed.

There are video tutorials available; for example, Alicia Merrett ‘s YouTube videos, are good in a very precise, controlled way, but they were pitched to careful traditional quilters.  Down the years I’ve found my own way of working includes pinning along curves; but there is no ‘correct’ way to do this, and if your result is flat -you’ve got it right. Beyond this, experience will teach you whatever you want to know – think it, try it.  And, if you ever need my advice or help, feel free to contact me directly.

New Bed Quilt, 2.

October 9th, 2019

As I’ve been out of the house for much of today, progress for 3 days might seem slow with 18 squares, but there are so only about another 150 to go, she says with a blithe waive of the hand and a broad smile. I think this will all average out at about 6-8 squares a day, which means the piecing should all be done by early-mid November. There’s no doubt with all straight sewing, this is working up more quickly than it would if there was a curve in the design, at least the way I do them, pinning each curved seam before sewing – that adds up over a large project like this.

Right now I am ready to cut into some lovely citric, greeny-yellow fabric, and there are many more different fabrics in the colours from warm turquoise blues and warm greens that will add up to a lovely colour scheme.

Also, at the moment I’m showing them pinned in rows of blocks oriented in the opposing direction, as per this pic:

An early pic with one layout possibility. Pairs of fabric pieces are being cut freehand and pieced, and as the number grows other possible layouts will be explored. There will be no sashing or borders. The edges will be bound with doubled french binding, showing about 1cm in the front side; my preferred edging technique.

I like this look, but will fiddle with other layout possibilities, such as groups of 4 with all the triangle corners in the centre of the 4 piece block, and will post a pic or two in another few days, so stay posted.

Needing A New Quilt For Our Own Bed

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 🙂 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.

Gramado – My Exhibition Favourites

October 1st, 2019

Another part of the recent Gramado experience was the exhibition of finalists in the festival’s annual international quilt competition. Of course Brasilians enter, but it also attracts entries from other latin American countries in the region around Rio Grande do Sul. Categories and conditions for this year’s show were listed on the website, Just note that here my computer automatically swung into translation mode using Google Translate, and as often happens, one or two results presented some humour. For example, as translated, the rules mention ‘best killed to the machine‘ and ‘best killed to the hand’ – which was the best GT could do with ‘quilted by machine’ and ‘quilted by hand’ in that context. GT’s amazingly helpful, but sometimes results are surprising, a little bizarre, requiring a moment’s thought. I can assure you no quilters or festival organisers were killed in the execution of this contest.

Before the doors opened to let the crowds into the event centre that afternoon, I took the opportunity to photograph those quilts which I felt were outstanding, only some of which received awards; but then I am not a judge, and am not a big winner of awards, either 🙂 Enjoy!

One that caught my eye early is Roads Interrupted by Maria Cristina Maluf Gardolinski of Brasil. If you know my own work you’ll realise I strongly relate to this landscape; and had the pleasure of having Christina in my advanced class a few days later.

Christina Maluf, Roads Interrupted, guesstimated 75cm x 50cm.

A new take on a traditional favourite is Modern Double Wedding Ring by Mariso Rego of Argentina. I don’t know if this is an original design or not, as I think I’ve seen i or something very like it before – a Modern Quilt pattern, perhaps? But either way I love the way segments are missing from what is one of my favourite traditional designs, and that where showing, the centres of the motifs are very improvisational, reminiscent of the piecing styles that began to appear in the early 90s and have become contemporary, art quilt tradition.

Double bed size Modern Double Wedding Ring, Marisa Rego.

Here is a cheerful bright scrap quilt of house blocks, Casitas, also by Marisa Rego. The choice and arrangement of clear bright colours is excellent, and if you look carefully you’ll find a little neutral grey here and there among them which, with the cream background gives the eye a resting point now and then. This same design in soft greys, beiges and creams would also be very elegant. I might have to start saving …

Casitas by Marisa Rego, double bed size.

This next one I just loved. The Brasilian Club of Patchwork and Quilting from Sao Paulo exhibited a collection of nature themed wall quilts, including gardens, forests and groups of wild birds and animals in natural habitats. This lovely one of hexagons with added petals and centres has a beautiful floral garden texture. The added petals are sort of generic such as children might draw, and the petal colours themselves suggest popular cultivated flowers, as these are the colours of stocks, lupins or geraniums. The hexagon bases behind the flower petals are floral and garden prints, adding to that ‘flower bed’ feeling. The edge of the quilt itself is unbound, and I was dying to turn it over and see what the back was like, but refrained. I spent quite a bit of time with this effective quilt, re-visiting briefly as I walked to the elevator up to the classrooms each day. (It was hung on a purple screen, showing in the lower RHS)

Maria de Lourdes Diaz My Little Piece of Paradise, wall quilt about 150cm x 90cm.

I love this next one, featuring the figure of a fisherman casting a net over what is a sea of blocks in water colours, and the whole design was enhanced by watery wavy machine quilting pattern. Is this a collection of friendship fabrics? Maybe … but other interpretations could be made if we knew more about it. Regardless, it’s lovely.

Friendship Sea by Carla Wendt and Rosani Canc, approx. 150cm x 90cm

Kaleidoscope by Angela Ines Moller is impressive in its complexity. In highly detailed patchwork, compiled of fussy cut pieces of fabric built into approx 2inch or 4-5cm hexagons in rich colours, set against black. The black background is quilted in a pattern that echoes the hexagon panels.

Kaleidoscope by Angela Ines Moller, approx 200m w x 125cm h

One of several lovely machine quilted whole cloth wall quilts in the show, this one stood out to me for composition and variety of filling patterns. Additionally, the effect of the quilting was enhanced by using a top thread of either a very pale grey or a pale blue, which by comparison with others nearby lent greater depth to the texture. There was little if any buckling, or rippling of the surface, demonstrating the balance of quilting intensity across the whole quilt. Fantastic.

Snow Garden, Leila Passoa Brasil. guesstimate 110c, x 60cm

Well done everyone whose quilts I’ve shown, and if I’ve made any errors with names or other detail please don’t hesitate to let me know. There’s one quilt I adored, very large and beautifully made…. BUT I blurred the photo of the name card so badly I just can’t pick the maker’s name out – if you know this quilter, please let me know?

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