Quilters Lead Pieceful Lives.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Busy Town

Yep, another grand nephew for my friend Mari. His name is Zachary and he is the brother of Jonathan and Lydia.

This one features brightly colored cars and trucks and buildings and trees.....a busy town indeed!

And the reverse of this two-sided quilt features more of the same.

Monday, September 29, 2014


...or what I did on my summer vacation.

I finished my previous quilt right before we left for Greece and Turkey. And, for one of the few times, I had nothing else in my queue! So when we got back I looked around for a good project to help pass the summer away. Stumbled across the work of Emiko Loeb, a Japanese textile artist who does some amazing things. I found one that I liked and adapted it into the piece you see here. Thus the name: "Lines".

It is a simple piece which features the interplay of the 4 shades of blue and the 5 shades of gray, spiced up with the "woven" black strips as a counterpoint.  Trying to find five shades of gray that worked together was a real challenge (good thing I wasn't looking for 50!). For this piece, I felt I needed fabrics with a very minimal pattern so as not to distract from the design itself.  

I designed the construction using the 5 grays as the vertical sections. Within them are squares and rectangles and strips that build up into bigger sections. Of course, no set-in seams. There are only 118 pieces, so it did not take very long to do the cutting and finish the piecing. You may be able to see some of the seams if you look really closely.

One oddity is the dark gray band in the lower left side that looks like it is a shadow from the black strip. It really is the same color gray as the rest of the section, but even in person it looks darker. No idea why. Maybe one of those eye vs. mind things.

Coincidentally, as I was putting it together, I saw a write-up on matchstick quilting. This is a technique where the quilting is done in 1/4" lines over the entire quilt. I jumped up! Lines! This seemed like the perfect approach to take for this piece. Oh...If I had only known.

I have done pieces with shadow quilting before (which is similar), but this was a different beast altogether.

For the quilting, I decided to match the thread colors in each of the 5 gray sections. And there would be no quilting on the blue or black strips, so that they would "pop' a little (actually, I did ditch quilt around all of them using clear monofilament thread).

And off I went. And went. And went.  OK....1/4" lines....on a piece that is basically 34" x 42". Start...stitch...stop...jump...repeat.  When it was all done, it took nearly two months of work, and there are a total of 773 individual parallel lines of quilting!  Easily, the most extensive quilting I have ever done.

Like many of my other "art" quilts, I put this one on stretcher bars, like a painted canvas. So no need to bind. 

And since I did this just for fun, I am offering it for sale!  The price is $150 (plus shipping if you are not local) or free to relatives.  If you're interested, send me an email. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Monkey Time!

This quilt is for Wendy's personal trainer and friend, Rich.  He and his wife, Tanya, are having their first child at the end of July.  The greens and browns are the colors of the baby's room.
I really went out of my comfort zone with the quilting in the dark brown areas. It is stippled, but I kind of made a "scribble" to represent the monkey's fur. Yes, lines crossed over other lines!  How radical.
The quilting in the sky is all horizontal to be suggestive of clouds.  In contrast, the quilting in the vines is all vertical.  The leaves were done to look like... leaves!  And yes, that is a banana that he (she?) is holding.
On the elephant quilt, Wendy suggested adding eyelashes. For this one, the pattern called for a thin horizontal line to represent the mouth. That didn't work for us. So she suggested the triangle shape to be consistent with the eyes and nose. Much better!!!  And of course, we added a tongue; if you look really closely, you will see that the fabric is a scrap leftover from the Happy Hedgehogs quilt!  That's what a stash is for!
This is another adorable pattern from CountedQuilts.com! (See the Mama Elephant quilt from May.) 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy Hedgehogs

While looking for fabrics for the "Mama Elephant" quilt , we saw this cute and colorful hedgehog fabric and just had to buy it!  And who doesn't like smiling hedgehogs!!!!!

Luckily, the next quilt in the queue was a baby quilt (for our friend Linda's new grandson Aiden), which was to include royal blue and white.  So I quickly sketched out a simple nine-patch on the spot, we found the blue and white, a matching multi-colored stripe, and voila!

And we bought enough hedgehog fabric to make a matching morsbag for Linda.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Personal Post

This is not a post for another new quilt by me. Rather, I am using this forum for a personal message (with a quilting tie-in).  Please allow me this indulgence.

I am a member of the Illinois Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Last Saturday, the day before Mother's Day, our chapter participated in the "Mother's Dream" quilt project. This is a national project to visually (and viscerally) craft our powerful statement about the impact of gun violence on families. We made dozens of quilt blocks in honor of loved ones lost to gunfire. THANK YOU to St. Sabina in Chicago, and Purpose Over Pain for hosting us! More than 60 guests from all across the state made this gathering such a success.

These blocks, and dozens of others from around the country, will be stitched into quilts. These will then be displayed at Mom's events to reinforce the daily tragedy of gun violence.

While we were making the blocks, the moms (and a few dads) shared the stories of their sons and daughters who had been killed. Many of these were random shootings. Though some happened many years ago, their pain was still very real.  Here is one example:

Fire chief, and Purpose OverPain co-founder, Annette Nance-Holt holds the quilt squares she made. May 10, the very day of our quilting bee, was the 7th anniversary of her beloved son Blair's shooting.

To see the entire album of photos from the event, please click here.

And, if you feel so moved, please click the Mom's link above and add your name to the cause.

Thank you.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mama Elephant and Elephinfant

Welcome to a new generation!  Camden Sherr was born on May 3 and is the first great-grandchild for my mother-in-law Pauline.  The new parents, Jesse and Amy, created their nursery with an elephant theme.  I wanted to do something other than  a)  paper-pieced elephants (done that too many times!), or b) some cutesy elephant fabs (done that too). So after a bit of research, I was able to find this great pattern.

This is a very different kind of quilt than I have made in the past.  As I said, it is not paper-pieced, nor is it a "blocks" quilt.  Rather, per the pattern, strips are cut in various lengths (from the appropriate colors), and then assembled in columns. Then the columns are joined. All straight 1/4" seams!!!!
For the quilting on the elephants, I did stipling, but again, unlike what I usually do. Normally, when I stiple, I just do random loopy lines (as I did here in the sky/background), but try very hard not to cross any previous line.  Here I wanted to simulate the look of elephant skin:

So I went for a cross-hatch look.

For the ears, I did straight-line shadow quilting.

The lovely lady-like eyelashes were a late addition suggested by my wife. So cute!  And if you've ever seen an elephant up close, you know they really do have long eyelashes!

PS:  also in the queue is a monkey quilt from the same pattern author. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Pythagoras' Lute

This is one of those quilts that has a big "WOW!" factor and looks way more complicated to make than it is.

The secret is that, while the spirals are the dominant feature that your brain interprets from what your eyes see, in actuality, the quilt is made of 10 wedges, each containing a series of pentagrams which build on each other as they expand outward. And there is not one curved line in the quilt!

For more on the history and math behind this design, click here

Since there are 10 wedges, there must also be 10 colors. I used the 7 colors of the spectrum plus red-violet, yellow-green, and blue-green to get to ten. The pattern for this paper-pieced quilt was clear and very easy to follow. Each of the 10 wedges has the same structure; the only thing that changes is the colors of the pieces within them.  And notice that opposing spirals contain the reverse set of colors.

The only thing I didn't like about the pattern was the finishing instructions. They used the "sew-the-back-to-the-top-right-sides-together-and-turn-inside-out" method. This is something I rarely do, even with a basic square quilt!  And with 10 outside points and 10 inside points, and all those bulky seams, this seemed very problematic to me.

So what to do? I thought about raw-edge stitching this to a background or folding and appliqueing, but was not comfortable with either of those approaches. Then...Voila!  I called on old Pythagoras himself to help me come up with setting triangles (3 different sizes; forward and reverse pieces) to turn the decahedron into a square.

Since there are 10 wedges, each one must be 36 degrees. So I used this calculator to determine the unknown sides of the "filler" triangles. Then I made cardboard templates for each of the three shapes. Just to be safe, I made each one a little bigger and trimmed as necessary. Since the background fab was solid black, I could fold it and cut two pieces at once. Then I used one as the forward piece and one as its reverse.

Quilting, as usual, was minimal.  For the Lute, I used clear monofilament and just ditch stitched along each wedge's edge.  For the background, I used black thread and stipled.

As with some of my other colorful and 3D quilts, I mounted this one on stretcher bars. This keeps the quilt top taut. Check out my Quilting Tips blog for instructions on how to do this.

And where will this quilt reside?  I am happy to say that it will be offered for auction at the Hands Of Peace Gala later this month.  HOP is an interfaith organization developing peacebuilding and leadership skills in Israeli, Palestinian and American teens through the power of dialogue and personal relationships.  I chose to make this pattern since it shows that, even though individuals may have differences (here, literally, size, shape, and color), they can all work in beautiful harmony and come together as one central unifying entity.

Peace and beauty to all.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sebastian's Ark

Another quilt made for a new grand-nephew of my friend Mari.

This time, she asked Jackie, the new mom, to look at my blog for ideas or inspiration. She did so and fell in love with the Noah's Ark quilt.  So that's what Mari asked me to make. 

Once again I used the animals and ark patterns found in "A Quilter's Ark", by Margaret Rolfe.  But, I decided to make a version of the pattern since I didn't want to make the exact same one again.  So I removed the solid blocks and created 10 pairs of animals (male and female!) instead of 13. By eliminating the solid blocks, I was able to put the animals around the perimeter, separated by sashing. This meant that the center ark image (including the rainbow) was larger than in the original (about 40 cubits by 20 cubits). 

The ark is monogrammed with baby Sebastian's name! The front features a peaceful sky and calm waters, while the back has a roiling, storm-tossed sea.

I stiple quilted in matching lavender in the backgrounds around the animals. This makes them puff up and look more life-like. The water has wavy quilted lines, while the "wood" of the ark is reinforced by straight "lumber" lines.  The rainbow is edge-quilted using clear monofilament thread.   

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sunflower Mosaic

As you have probably noticed, I am always looking for something new to do in the quilting genre and am always up for a challenge.  One of the things I've had in my to-do queue has been a mosaic quilt. I got the idea this summer while at the British Museum in London. We saw some ancient mosaics and I thought "that would be neat to do in a quilt".  Obviously, you would want to keep the size of such a piece to a minimum (no bedspreads here!).

A little over a month ago, my mother-in-law Pauline requested another quilt for her apartment. She has a small wall in the bathroom over the towel bar that is vacant (heavens!), and asked if I could come up with something to put there.  Bingo! Mosaic time!  She wanted something bright, and it just popped into my head: van Gogh's Sunflowers!  Here is Vincent's original:

Yup!  That'll do.

So I did some Googling on "mosaic quilts" and eventually found an excellent how-to book: "Mosaic Picture Quilts", by Pat Durbin. The process is similar to making a watercolor quilt (like this one) or a
postage stamp quilt (like this one) in that tiny squares (in this case 1 1/8") are used to make the picture, but that's where the similarity ends. Watercolor quilts are pieced (sewn) like most other quilt tops (and the focus is on color "value"). Postage stamp tops are sewn or fused and then sewn. Mosaics are simply fused.

For mosaics, first you put a transparent grid (also purchased from Pat Durbin) over the original picture. Like so:

Each of the squares should then be treated as if it were a pixel in a digital photograph.
You then draw squares (mine were 1") on a large piece of paper. In effect then, you scale up the original picture to the actual finished size of the quilt. You can then draw the picture, square by square, onto the large sheet, or just use the original + transparency as a guide as you go along. My objective was not to try to duplicate the picture exactly, but to make a reasonable facsimile out of fabric.

Next, a thin, non-fusible interfacing is placed over the large paper. This is the base that the squares will be fused onto. You want it to be thin enough that you can still see the grid squares (and/or drawn-in pattern) through it.

Now the fun part (well, the first fun part): I went through my stash to find appropriately colored scraps of fabric. I ended up with a whole bunch, but as I started the mosaic process, I realized that using batiks (or at least somewhat mottled fabrics) was a better approach than trying to make tiny pieces of different fabs blend together nicely.

Then, starting at one corner and working diagonally, I cut a square (lined with Steam-a-Seam Lite), and fused it into place.  In some areas, as I went along, I sketched parts of the picture directly onto the interfacing. For those squares on the original that had multiple colors (say part of a petal and part of the blue background), I would cut and trim two (or more) fabrics) to approximate the "pattern" (pixel) in that same square of the orig-transparency.  Besides being necessary to creating the facsimile, this adds some dimensionality to the piece.

The squares are 1 1/8", so that when they are fused onto the 1" grid there is a slight overlap (as you can see above). So this is a "mosaic" technique in the sense of building a picture with tiny pieces of material, but, of course, in tile mosaics, there is no overlap.

And here is the final result:

Since the piece has all of those fused squares (some with 4 layers of fabric!), plus the interfacing, it is pretty stiff. Of course, there is also the batting and backing fab. And since it is a small, wall-hanging piece, there was really no need for a lot of quilting (you can see the quilting better from this photo of
the back):

The vase is not quilted; this may make it physically stand out from the quilted areas, though not as much as in a normal (i.e., just pieced) quilt.

Because of the fusing, I didn't want to hold the layers together with safety pins as I normally do (holes in fused pieces do not "heal" when the pins are removed!). So I did something which is normally an anathema in quilting: I basted close to the outer edge on the bottom and 1/3 of the way up each side. This allowed me to keep the sandwich together without pins while I got the quilting going. After I quilted the "table" and a few inches of the background, I removed the basting and just held the rest together with a few thin straight pins parallel to the top (and right near the edge, where the holes would later be covered by the binding).

And speaking of the binding, I did something which I don't think I've done before (another challenge!): since this is supposed to look like a painting, I didn't want the narrow binding to appear as a "skinny frame". So, instead of making one long strip that would go all the way around (as is normally done), I made two strips. Each strip consisted of one part background blue fab and one part table bottom brown squiggles fab. I then sewed them on as usual, but had to join the raw ends at both the top and bottom.  So the binding is integrated into the picture and is actually barely distinguishable.

And there it is. My first mosaic quilt!

When I gave it to Pauline, she insisted that it be hung in the living room, as it is "too nice to hide in the bathroom". So that's where it now resides.

For additional tips and information, see this post in my Quilt Tips blog.