Saturday, December 27, 2014

Questions about Improv Quilt

I thought I'd take the time to answer some questions about the quilt you hadn't thought to ask.

Sherri asked a question on her blog about our quilt making process.  She asked

What blocks and supports your improvisational flow?

This is the first improv quilt I have ever made.  The biggest challenge I had in making this quilt is the lack of guidance.  I am used to hand holding with quilt patterns, and then sometimes I will veer off into my own direction.  This means that I can pretty much know what the finished product will look like.  With fewer directions, I was left on my own to make my own decisions from the very beginning.  While this is freeing, it is also very scary, especially since I was making the quilt for a book.  I wanted to please the author and make a quilt she would be proud to have in her book. It felt like she had specific ideas about what she wanted but she wasn't going to tell us!

Eventually I decided to let go of the idea that it was a quilt for Sherri.  I was going to make a quilt for me, since it would stay in my house.  Once I stopped trying to please someone else, the flow worked much easier for me.

The other thing that blocks me - the reason that this is my first improv quilt - is that improv quilts aren't conventionally beautiful.  This means that when I hang it up in my living room, my guests ignore it or glance at it without making a comment. I 'm sure they were wondering, "What was she thinking?!"  I enjoyed the process of making it, and I love the quirkiness of it, but I don't particularly like the aesthetics of it.  Sherri Lynn has featured some antique quilts on her blog and has tape recorded some conversations as she studies the quilt.  I like the idea of really studying a quilt instead of just looking at it and saying "pretty".  I think improv quilts tend to lend themselves more to this kind of in-depth study than traditional quilts do.

Both of the quilts shown on this post were made without a pattern. One has straight lines made with a ruler. The other one is cut free form.  They both let me be free and play.  I used lots of colors on the rail fence quilt. Lots of leftover fabric. But I also added some color as I went along, as some days I wanted to add a different flavor based on my mood. The one on the right has a more limited palette, but the play was in the design choice.  They both held my attention long enough to get to the finish stage, which says a lot to me.  They are both complex quilts - the rail fence with the variety of scrap fabrics used and the interplay of the different fabrics, and improv quilt with the interplay of the lines coming in at different angles.

I have a feeling that the quilt that will go down the generations to represent me will be something that many people found ugly and tucked in the back of a closet or the attic.  Centuries from now, people will wonder about the person who made this ugly quilt.  Would I want one of these quilts to be my legacy? I don't think so, because they don't completely represent me. But then, neither do the ones that are more conventionally pretty.

Neither one is traditionally beautiful.  This means that most people will glance at them and walk away.  Not worth their time.  Both of the quilts require more study and analysis before the beauty becomes apparent.  I think the people who walk away at first glance are missing out.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Improv Quilt Reveal

Sherri Lynn Wood's book The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting, and Living Courageously is available for pre-order on Amazon.  It officially comes out March 17, 2015.  What this means is that I can now reveal the improv quilt I made earlier this year. Forgive the photo heavy post. I've had a lot of time to take pictures of this quilt!

As I said earlier, I was one of the testers of one of the patterns in this book.  My quilt didn't make it in the book unfortunately, but I appreciated the opportunity to participate. This quilt was all about rhythm.  The score of this quilt is rhythm. I kept my palette very simple with just black and white. I wanted an accent color. I was debating between red and green, but my daughter recommended purple, and so I went with that. I think it was the best choice.

We were to make striped fabric by cutting the fabric into strips free form and then make a quilt out of it.  I deliberately kept my strips from being too straight, not that I would have been able to cut straight lines without a ruler.

I cut the strips in half so I could get variety in mixing and matching.  Then, I sewed them together into stripes of five fabrics.  I made some deliberately dark, some deliberately light, and some medium. I think I had five or six rows.
 I cut them into squares.
 Then I cut them in half to make half square triangles.
I mixed and matched the HSTs so that the would meet at an angle and look like L's.  I sewed them together and stacked them up.

I tried to keep it improv, so I didn't do too much arranging, but I did put them on the design floor to see how it looked. Also since I used the floor in a room that did not have the sewing machine, I was able to keep it improv and free form. I sewed blocks together to make rows.  Sometimes I would have to add more fabric to get the blocks to fit together since they turned out to be different sizes.

After I had all the rows together, I had to try to make the rows fit.  This meant I added more fabric where there were empty spaces.  I wanted a bigger quilt, so I tried to add more than trim away to get them to become the right size.

Zeus helped make sure the quilt didn't escape while I was working on it.

After all the rows were joined, I had to add nips and tucks where the quilt was lumpy.  I did this several times, putting the quilt on the floor to make sure it was as flat as it could be.

Squaring up the quilt was the hardest part, since there wasn't a single line that was straight that I could use. But I folded the quilt and cut to the smallest space, but sometimes I added more fabric to help make the difference.  I quilted it with straight lines using a squiggly stitch my machine provided.

Shasta Matova

As you can see, most of the quilt is composed of half square triangles that were joined at an angle to form a box shape.  There is one nine patch, and two blocks that were joined straight together instead of being made into a box shape.  I did this deliberately for an added improv touch.

I like almost everything about this quilt. It isn't conventionally pretty, but I like it.  The dark spot on the bottom right (second to bottom row) where the nine patch and the maverick block run together bothers me sometimes, but they do add to the improv look of it.

1 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

My sister and I took a couple of my quilts to photograph on some construction equipment.  Now I can finally show these to you. Which one is your favorite quilt walk photo?

2 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

3 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova
4 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

5 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

6 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

7 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

8 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

9 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

10 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

11 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

12 Improv Quilt
Shasta Matova

I hope you enjoyed seeing this quilt reveal. I have waited anxiously to show it to you.

Call to Participate

This is an old post I found in my drafts folder. I decided to publish it even though it is late, since it will give you a chance to get the history behind the quilt I will be posting.

Sherri Lynn Wood at Daintytime put out a call to participate in her new book on improv quilts, and I have signed up.  She has about 20 people who have signed up to participate for each quilt, and only one or two quilts are likely to be chosen to be in the book.  The person whose quilt is in the book will get a free book, and the others will be put in a drawing for a chance to get the book.  It is exciting to be a part of a project like this - to try out some new techniques. She gives some general guidelines, and we have to interpret them into fabric.

I am not going to be blogging about the process of making the quilt until we get the go ahead from Sheri Lynn, but I did want people to know about it and generally know that I am planning to participate.  I haven't cut fabric without a ruler. I've made a couple quilts without a pattern - just winging putting different shapes together, but I wasn't sure how to get those curved spaces in and still wind up with a flat quilt. She provided us with a great video that showed how easy it could be. I am excited about doing that part.

While that part seems freeing, it also seems restrictive.  Not because of anything she did or said, but how I feel about it.  I want a quilt that winds up looking appealing, and at least stand a chance of being good enough to be in the book.  I like those improv quilts that really show the free spirit of the quilter, but I've also read others complain about quilts that look like fabric throw up.   So I am waffling right now trying to decide what fabrics to use, and what direction I want to take this quilt.

On the other hand, it is also freeing knowing that there are so many people who are participating.  If my quilt turns out awful or if it somehow gets stalled, there are others whose quilts will be made, and will be better than mine.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Take Your Quilt on a Walk Day

In my last post, I showed you a quilt I surreptitiously photographed on some city equipment.  I had invited my sister to come serve as my bodyguard or cohort in crime, but she was busy.  The following day, she called me to see if I still wanted to take that photograph walk.  Of course I said yes!  This time I brought two quilts.  I chose these two because I thought their lines would look good with the white lines on that cargo bed, but also because these two quilts haven't gotten properly introduced.  I brought the improv quilt, because I only got a few photographs of it the previous day, and a rail fence quilt.   I can now freely show you the rail fence quilt in its full glory!  Which one do you like the best? Why?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Photographing Improv Quilt

As I was walking the dog yesterday afternoon, I noticed that some construction equipment was still parked at the school.  I had seen it earlier and thought that I would love to use it as a backdrop of a quilt, but yesterday I got brave and came back in the evening to take the photos. I drove, so I could make a quick getaway!

There some neighbors who looked from a distance to make sure I wasn't doing anything wrong, and I was nervous being watched so some of my shots didn't come out very clear.  I knew I would be able to explain myself to anyone who asked, even the police or the owner of the equipment.  There were some shots that turned out really well.  I like this one the best of all of them.  Since I chose the improv quilt for this project, I still can't show it to you because I got the directions in a book that isn't published yet.  This quilt is probably the most photographed of all of my quilts, probably because there is so much time between its finish date and its reveal date.

One of my daughter's guests did ask me about the quilt.  I don't know if I mentioned it, because none of my family members mentioned it even though it has been hanging on the wall almost all year.  Apparently it isn't their style.  I think an improv quilt isn't "pretty", but requires more looking and analysis to seeing its virtue.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Migrating Geese Race

Migrating Geese

The geese are migrating in all four directions for my Lansing Leaves quilt, and they are racing to the finish to see which group will get there first.  There is no method to my madness.  I started with one row to see how it would work, and started another so that I could chain piece them. Eventually I decided that I should press with an iron instead of finger pressing, and it seemed more efficient to start another row.  The last row took a while to start because I was trying to decide which fabric should be able to go first - should it be my favorite or my least favorite that needs to be "unsewn". Do I even like one fabric better than another.   Finally, I decided to pick a random one and the race began for all four rows. You only see three rows in the photo, because the longest one is in the sewing machine.

I also don't know how many geese I will need, so I am going backward and doing the first step of sewing and cutting the individual geese from time to time.

Border Contrast

This border scares me a bit.  This quilt has the least contrast between the fabrics (dark vs. light) than any other quilts I have made.  I tend to make sure there is strong contrast so you can see all my hard work.  The borders have even less contrast than the blocks.  I keep telling myself that it will be fine - after all, that's what happens in the fall, all the colors jumble together into one glorious pile, and you can't tell one leaf from the next until you look closely.  

Photo Story

I've been thinking about a blogger/designer who talked about a photo story.  Instead of having a simple picture, add other pictures around it to make it a theme and create a mood.  I looked up online collage makers to try this, and found picmonkey.  I remember that site - I might even have used it before.  I added some random photos of Lansing Leaves. I know it isn't very creative - all of the photos are of the quilt - but it does tell a story behind the scenes of the hotel room where it started and the yard sale table that serves as the design wall. This table was also used to stage the house I was selling, and I remember sitting in the breezeway reading a book as I was waiting for a contractor to finish.  The collage also reminds you of the curved piecing aspect of the quilt. It shows the improvement of my sewing skills over time, as I found curved piecing to be rather easy.  The hint of the improv quilt on the wall tells its chronology in line of the quilts I made, and that part tells the story of secrets yet to be revealed.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quilt Trends

I drove my daughter to a job interview, which happens to be very close to Quilt Trends in Columbus. I hadn't been to the store, so I decided to stop in.  It is a cute little store. They had a variety of items, and a long arm which they rent.  I am still on a strict budget, particularly since I haven't finished organizing the studio yet.  They had a lot of quilts on display, and their Christmas display was especially striking, and I couldn't resist buying the pattern book so I could make a similar display for the holidays. I also bought a stiff brush to use with the fabric paint sticks I got as a gift.

And just to prove that progress is being made on the Lansing Leaves quilt, here are the pieces for the migrating geese border. I did have to add new fabric, but will also use as much of the original fabric as possible.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

 Hello and Welcome! Today, I am going to tell you a little bit about myself as I participate in the Around the World Blog Hop. I'm not sure who started it, but I heard about it from A Quilting Life.  The concept is pretty simple. Just answer the following four questions:
  1. What am I working on?
  2. How does my work differ from others?
  3. Why do I write/create what I do?
  4. How does my writing/creative process work? 

I'm so happy you asked. As I answer, I grabbed some random pictures from my blog to give you a taste of what types of things I have made. These are older quilts from when I started this blog.  I don't think they show the variety of quilts that interest me, but they will give you an idea about what I've made.

What am I working on? 
My current plan is to work on projects that have already been started.  I still like these projects, so there is no point in abandoning them just to start something new.  I am working on a quilt I started last month. I am calling it Lansing Leaves because it was started in Lansing. I also have a couple of other projects that I started earlier this year that I want to go back and finish before tackling even older projects.

I also write a variety of articles for HubPages as you can see in my sidebar. There, I write about genealogy, quilting, health, finance, relationships, and anything else that occurs to me at the moment.

How does my work differ from others? 
 My work is very eclectic - I like improv quilts, crazy quilts, modern quilts, traditional quilts, two color quilts, scrap quilts, reproduction quilts, small quilts -  I like them all.  I tend to flit from one project and one type of project to another, and sometimes it is hard to make the adjustment, especially when I flit from something very casual like an improv quilt to something that requires more attention, like a Jane Stickle block. 

I like to make sure that my work is different from anyone else's, so I try to use a different fabric than others (even if it is similar), or try to change up a pattern. I am also trying to develop more confidence to create my own patterns.

 Why do I write/create what I do? 

Because I would go crazy if I didn't!  I thoroughly enjoy creating - whether it is cooking, quilting, or writing an article - it nourishes my soul.  I also like the fact that there is an end result - a quilt, an article, something I can eat.  It makes me feel productive and avoids feelings of guilt for simply wasting my time.

How does my writing/creative process work?

I find something I like, and I work on it, and then something calls me and I move back and forth as my interest calls.  When I am designing my own quilt or writing an article, I have a general plan in my head, and then I just start and let it take me where it goes. I stop as needed to do research if I get stuck or need help.   The end product is generally very different from what I originally envisioned, but it is usually much better.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about me. If you would like to write a post answering these questions, I would love to read it. Please let me know in the comments if you do!

[Edited to add:

It turns out that the way this blog hop works is that you get tagged by someone to write yours, and then you tag others to write theirs.  Angela from soscrappy has been kind enough to retroactively tag me.  Instead of specifically tagging people, she stated that she would tag the first three people who wanted to join in.  I like that plan.  If you want to be tagged, let me know, and I'll tag you in a future post.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lansing Purchases

I usually document my purchases of fabric on my blog. I don't know why really. Maybe it is so that I ask myself, "when was the last time I bought something?," I can look it up.

When I went to Lansing, I noticed that there were two craft stores on my way from the freeway exit to the job site.  There was a Michaels, a Hobby Lobby. I later discovered that there was a Joann's not too far away, and just a little more driving would take me to a quilt store.  Yes, there were four, count them - four-  places for me to shop!  I haven't been buying many quilt supplies lately, mostly because I have too much already, so it was a little dangerous going to these places. But, yes, I did go to all of these places.  After work, I would stop by at one of the places just to window shop, but I did pick up a little bit at each place.

I was tired, and I remembered that I didn't want to buy too much stuff, but I did realize that this isn't a touristy place, and I couldn't find the usual souvenir bricabrac, so I decided that I could buy souvenirs that would remind me of my Lansing journey in the form of fabric.  My quilting budget would be spared!

When I went to the Joann, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby, I was disappointed in that they looked like the stores in my home state.  In fact, they were smaller than the ones here, so there wasn't much there that I hadn't seen before.  I also didn't have coupons with me and no time to find or print them, so that limited me even further.

Let me show you the souvenirs I got. 

Since I was limiting fabric purchases to quilts I was actually making, I decided to look at ribbons and beads.  Here are the things I got from the box stores.  Yes it looks like I am going to have to work on my crazy quilts really soon. There are quarter yard pieces of different ribbons I can use on a crazy quilt.  Some beads. A charm of a snake.  On the bottom right, there are charms of elephants - that's my favorite purchase of the trip.

At the quilt store, there was more temptation there in the form of fabric.  I allowed myself a few pieces since I was having a hard time deciding. There are two quarter yard pieces, two 5" packs, and a book to go along with the ribbons. In case you are wondering about the sashiko in the background, that's something Tanya made for me.

That's it. That's all I bought in the entire month!  In case you are wondering about the progress of my Lansing Leaves quilt, I have started cutting the fabric.It looks pretty good as a table topper for the dining room set I got at a yard sale.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lansing Leaves Quilt Progress

Okay, I have to admit that there hasn't been any physical work done on the Lansing Leaves Quilt.  [edit, I put the leaves border on].  I have decided that I want to use Migrating Geese as a border instead of leaving it plain.  I'm pretty sure now that I "borrowed" at least one of the fabrics out of this kit, and I don't have any big pieces that work well as a substitute.  I did find a fat quarter collection that does work, so I have decided to piece a border.  I think this will also make me feel better about using a kit, because with this change, the quilt will not look very much like all the others that were made from this kit.  I am actually pretty excited about this, because I think flying geese will work well with the leaves in this fall quilt. I've been trying out different sizes of borders to see what I like better.

Since it was Pets on Quilts day, I decided to let Zeus showcase my progress so far. I had to put the quilt on top of him, since otherwise you wouldn't get to see the quilt!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lansing Leaves Quilt

I am a slow quilter - just methodically working a few minutes a day here and there and making slow progress.  This means that my blog rarely has a final ta-da Here's the Quilt I Made Today posts.  What it is supposed to have is some in progress shots to show what has been happening so you can see the quilt unfolding over time.

The one quilt I made this year, I couldn't show you, because I was testing a pattern that will be published in a book.  It was disappointing that I couldn't show you, because it left for little quilty blog fodder during the time I was making it.

Recently,  I started a new quilt, and I couldn't show that one to you either!  This time it was because I couldn't transfer the photos from my camera to my computer. So instead of slowly seeing the unfolding, you can see all of the photos at once.   My job sent me to Lansing for a month. I like to think that the hotel cleaning staff enjoyed seeing the quilt progressing, but I hardly saw them, and when I did, they didn't mention it.  I was working crazy hours at work, and just had a few minutes here and there to work on the quilt in the hotel room, but over the month, I think I made pretty good progress.

It all started with a fabric from a kit and a photograph in the quilt shop brochure.   They were teaching a class on it.  I also had a template from a book I got from the library.  A kit was faster to pack then trying to figure out what make and whether I had everything I needed.

Next step was to cut the fabric and sew the strips together that make up the leaves. That's where I discovered that taking a bigger ruler would have helped. I only had a six inch square ruler.

After that, it was time to use the template to cut the fabric.  I had to buy some scissors. I was planning on rotary cutting, but scissors worked much better.

Here's a look at my sewing space. I had to move the sewing machine to cut the fabric.

For some reason, I thought that the leaves in the center were bigger than the leaves on the sides, and that I was missing parts of the template, so I wasted some time making the missing templates, but I finally figured out the blocks were the same size and these three templates really fit together.

Checking the layout on the design bed.

I found a walking path in the neighborhood, and everything is very green.  It seemed strange to come back and work with fall colors.

  All the blocks are now pieced.

The blocks have all been trimmed and the rows have been sewn together. Time for the inner border. Since I didn't have a pattern, I had to try to figure out the border sizes, after long days of work. I also wasn't sure where Borders 1, 2 and 3 from the kit were supposed to go. There are four fabrics in borders, so I wasn't sure whether one has to be used in more than one place or whether I "borrowed" one of the borders for another quilt.

After I had finished cutting and sewing, I realized that I had done the math incorrectly (forgot to add one of the seams), so the border would be too small for the next round of leaves. I didn't have enough fabric to cut all new borders, so I made just two of the borders slightly larger than the others.


I was going to have time on the weekend to put together the rest of the top, but I wound up working all that weekend too, and then it was time to start packing up.

I'm home now and I have housework to do again, and preparing my own food. It seems like it may be a little while before I can finish this quilt.