After a few days of fast sewing and meticulous pressing, my improvised Cunningham quilt top is done. Corner matching, as expected, was a bit of a pain. Promise that you won’t look very closely at them! Truthfully, I needed the practice, so all is good.
I am happy with the warm and energetic feeling that the quilt design suggests.
It has been fun to make it up as I go along. I’ve decided not to add any borders, but I still need to choose backing fabric and make a binding strip.
I came to learn quilting almost as an afterthought. As I started to get ideas for making fiber objects, I became aware that I lacked the skills I needed to realize them. Thus started my quilting education. There are some things about quilting I like – choosing fabrics, developing my design, adding surface details and actually doing the quilting. The things I dislike are cutting many identical pieces of fabric, squaring up blocks and especially matching corners.
So naturally I am drawn to improvisational piecing. Joe Cunningham (aka Joe the Quilter) and his process were a revelation to me. He offers the promise of freedom. Freedom from all the dull parts of quilting, which leaves more time for fun. The quilt featured at the top of my post is one of his. His website can be found here:
Joe Cunningham has been a professional quilter since 1979. His philosophy is unique. He doesn’t use patterns. He designs out of his head, adjusting things as he goes along. He has no specific end in mind. He explains that as the quilt approaches the finish, he finds out what it will look like. He practices randomness, chance and serendipity. To this end, his method relies on chance from the first cut.
As an example, the class I took with Joe featured a quilt called “Rock the Block.” Here is how to make it:
Step 1: Choose three fabrics. Include one big print. The other two can be prints that don’t necessarily go with the big print. Also choose a solid color that you will cut into narrow strips, which Joe called “sticks.”
Step 2. Cut out a square. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but does need to be bigger than 7 inches.
Step 3. Cut off a corner.
Step 4: Cut out a triangle from one of the other fabrics. Sew it to the square at the cut edge.
Step 5: Cut through the square, across both pieces of fabric.
Step 6: Sew in a stick.
Step 7: Press seams open and trim the block with a 6 and 1/2 inch square ruler.
Repeat steps 2 through 7 until you have enough blocks for the size quilt you want to make. Use all the different combinations of your three fabrics. Your blocks might look like these.
Or they may look entirely un-like these!
Now the fun begins. Lay out your blocks in rows. Move them around, arranging the blocks until they look “pleasing to you.” Lacking a design wall, I laid mine on the floor.
So far, this has been painless. Nay, it has been truly pleasurable. I plan to add more yellow blocks around all sides. Some of them will have patterned fabric crumbs and a few “sticks” sewn into them. Some may not.
While I acknowledge there will be corners to sew, I plan to adopt a laisser-faire attitude about the matching part. If this sort of design process is intriguing to you, I suggest you check out Joe the Quilter’s website to see more of his quilts.
It took only a few days to determine and apply the surface decoration on this piece. And I have stretched the truth a little in calling this one finished. I have sewn on a wide border that still needs machine quilting, and the whole thing needs to be mounted to an artist’s canvas. Since I can’t purchase that item until pandemic restrictions are lifted, I am content to call this object finished.
This is a detail I altered from the original image. In my photograph there was a road in the foreground. I changed it to a stream and depicted it with sunlight glinting off its waters. I achieved this with metallic yarn sewn on with couching.
Here is my trick to get my running stitch straight. By using painter’s tape to mark my fabric, I could hand stitch while watching TV. Also I don’t have to remove marks.
Close up of lower right section showing sun. Clouds and stream are reflecting the sunset. The triangles were stamped onto the fabric using metallic paint.
I feel pretty good about this fiber object. It communicates well the idea of sunset and its color range. I like the balance between the elements and the level of detail. And it allowed me to practice my piecing and embroidery skills.
It’s been a while since I wrote about the state of “stuckness” For me, this means that the project is not flowing very well. Over the last few days, I have been toying with a technique called “Stitch and Flip”. I learned it from a BluPrint.com class on how to piece improvisationally. The instructor is Jacquie Gering.
Basically, you sew a piece of contrasting fabric across the corner of a square, then flip the piece over to cover the corner. You can cover one, two, three or all four corners of the square. I was struck by how much the finished squares resembled little fish. This drove my desire to give it a try. Here is a sketch of what I envision:
And here are the fabrics I have chosen. The batik is the front half of the fish sewn over corners of two squares. On two more squares I am sewing triangles to represent the belly and tail of the fish.
Then the whole block is assembled. A four by one inch rectangle finishes the block.
I had hoped to easily make a several “schools” of these little fishes, with five or six in each block, ultimately creating an underwater scene on a lap quilt. Cute, Fun – right? But somehow I kept screwing up the assembling. Much ripping, muttering and re-sewing ensued. My completed blocks are not lining up right! I can’t seem to square them properly! In addition, I don’t have enough background fabric to proceed! And of course, the fabric I need is in Hobby Lobby, which is closed indefinitely!!!
So this project is in limbo. I did sketch a few sea turtles, which might get included in this project, if I can figure out how to get them there.
So sadly, I will set the fish aside while I ruminate on the process. It won’t be the first or last time that I got stuck in the middle. Meanwhile my paint order from Dharma Trading has arrived. So I will play with paint until the lightbulb goes off in my brain.
After a nice long break and trip to visit family, I’m ready to get sewing again. It’s time for another mini quilt. This small gems can be framed and hung as art, or turned into pillows, journal covers or other accessories. I plan to use many of the hand-painted fabrics leftover from making the Gateway Arch quilt. I have so many scraps!
This fiber object starts with four small daisies.
I like this fabric because it has the appearance of a watercolor sketch. I’m going to use these squares as the focal points for some monochromatic log cabin blocks. First I tinted the background with my color choices. Then I gathered matching fabrics in a wide range of values.
Starting with the daisy square, I sewed on strips, working from light to dark. It was a relaxing afternoon, listening to the radio, cutting, sewing and pressing. After a few hours I had these four log cabins done. They are roughly seven inches square.
Sometimes you need to turn your fabrics to the wrong side, especially if you find the tonal value needed. Here are the back sides of two of the squares, showing reversed fabrics.
And here are the four log cabins arranged in a pleasing fashion.
In my next blog, I will carry on with joining the squares, making the quilt sandwich and quilting the resulting block. See you then!
A culmination of six months spent thinking about and working on it, here is the Gateway Arch quilt. I finishing sewing on the binding while watching the Super Bowl (Yay KC Chiefs!) I feel an odd combination of elation, satisfaction and relief. The finished object is largely what I had envisioned.
The colors are wonderful. The curving shapes are a good representation of the real arch. I’m happy with the embroidery.
The construction flaws bother me a little more that I had expected them to, especially the waviness of the right border. How did that happen?
The arch shapes were made from hand-painted fabric cut apart into shapes that mirrored the arch’s steel panels and then fused to a solid background. This piece was then cut into the sixteen square background block on the left edge and appliqued on the right edge before being top-stitched in matching thread. Shading was painted on with acrylic paints after the block was finished.
I had a lot of fun with free motion quilting. I chose patterns to emulate aspects of the landscape or city-scape. I did a lot of experimenting with thread colors, either matching or contrasting with the background colors as the spirit moved me. Eventually I hand painted some thread to get the colors I needed. The idea for the fireworks came from my memory of a July 4th trip when my family stopped in St. Louis for dinner.
This project was a real stretch from the perspective of skills required. Thanks go to Bluprint.com for all the quilting tutorials I accessed. I learned a lot about painting on fabric, matching points, sewing curved shapes and putting the whole thing together. I also learned about the limitations of my current tools and studio space.
What’s next? I have a few ideas. But first I’ll be taking a short break from quilting to focus on painting, knitting and teaching.
Ho, ho ho – I must have been a good girl. Santa left me some wonderful art supplies this Christmas. He knows that I am playing around with color these days.
True confession: Santa was working from my list. This set of 36 watercolors is made by Arteza. The first thing I did after unwrapping them was swatch each color. The Prismacolor pencils are the erasable type. I’ve been told these are very useful in sketching, specifically the line drawing used to start a water color.
Since Christmas day I have been working fairly steadily on the Arches quilt. I’m pleased that I have finished assembling the hand painted backgrounds of the16 blocks that make up the quilt design.
The images below show a few completed blocks compared to the reference photos I worked from. Here is the upper right block.
This photo shows two blocks, representing the slender upper sections of the Arch.
I’m on a roll now. My hope is to finish the quilt top before the new year.
On a shopping trip to Tulsa I found the backing fabric – a purple-black color with a graffiti style print on it. I still need to choose border fabric. But what color? I am considering something lighter, just to provide separation from the dark blue and purple of the background. But I don’t want the border to compete with the bright yellow-gold of the subject fabric. Suggestions would be welcome.
Here in the central time zone we are mere hours away from the winter solstice – the official start of winter. With all the busyness of Christmas preparations, I didn’t make a special fiber object to celebrate the change of season. Instead today I am recycling one of my Inktober drawings made on the prompt of Snow. The reference photo I used for this charming scene was taken in front of my brother’s home in Ohio. While I did use artistic liberties with the content of the background across the pond, the scene is essentially like reality. There is an air of nostalgia about it, not unlike the way I feel at this time of year.
Work on the Arches quilt continues. I have solved some of the technical issues facing me in piecing the blocks together. The blocks on the right edge of the quilt have been pieced and pressed. Here are two.
As I finished stitching the lower right block, I started to feel a real sense of accomplishment. My idea is actually coming together, just the way I envisioned it.
I have been sewing like a mad woman, trying to finish the Oakleaf Hydrangea quilt. It’s very close to finish now – needing only the binding sewn on. I ran out of thread yesterday just as I was finishing quilting. So today, I am giving that project a rest to celebrate the change of seasons.
For the first day of autumn, I am making a block using a technique that I haven’t tried yet: reverse applique. My idea is to do a tree silhouette, with negative and positive images of each tree half. When describing this to my husband, he came up with the idea of making each side equal – to acknowledge that the first day of fall has day and night of equal length. I agreed and got to work on a sketch.
I chose a charcoal gray fabric to make the reverse portion of the image. Here is it, all cut up and smeared with glue.
My background fabric will be a gold print, to represent the forest in fall. Here is the positive image glued to the background and the final block with both images in place.
The other pattern I wanted to try is the Maple Leaf. I have seen really pretty quilts made in this pattern. I plan to use up left over hand painted fabric from the hydrangea quilt as the background color.
I found instructions for this pattern on The Spruce Crafts website, by Janet Wickell. Maple Leaf is an exercise in half square triangle construction. Here are the stem pieces, made with one orange and two small green.
Okay, I didn’t takes pictures of every step in constructing the remaining squares. Basically, you make four half square triangles in the two different colors, then combine one solid background, three solid leaf color squares, the stem and four half triangles to make each block. I made two blocks. Here is the finished object.
I will add some stitching on the tree square, and perhaps quilt a bit on other parts of this work. But right now I am off to buy more thread.
Janet Wickell’s site and instructions for the maple leaf pattern are found here:
Six months into my adventures with Daily Fiber Fun, I find myself surrounded by a bunch of Unfinished Objects. Here they sit, silently reproaching me for leaving them in a partial state of completion: unfinished, unused, unloved.
Resolved to address the cries, I have selected this guy to work up into an FO.
I made this 21 inch square block of hexagons during my week of learning to piece angular shapes. The teacher behind my success is Joanna Figueroa and her class on Bluprint, “Smarter Strip Quilting.” Since I had a bunch of fabric left, I turned to Joanna’s class again for another lesson. This time, I used the same type of piece – a 60 degree triangle, but cut in a way that makes diamonds.
I reasoned that this shape would work nicely with the hexagons as the back side of a large sofa cushion (!) After sewing and cutting many 1/2 diamonds, I came up with an arrangement that ignores the diamond shape (!) I’m going with chevrons instead.
Skills that I learned in class the first time helped me speed through any little technical difficulties encountered while making this block.
That said, it still took me the better part of Sunday and Monday to make.
The next step is quilting. There was so much going on in the chevron block, I decided not to risk messing it up with bad machine quilting. But I did choose to quilt the hexes, using parallel and dot to dot machine quilting technique.
Now to construct the pillow: I recycled a zipper from a disassembled cushion and a king-sized feather pillow which had got slightly mashed over the years. After I squared up the two blocks, the zipper was inserted into a side seam and the four sides sewn together. Using 1/2 inch seams and zig-zagging the seam allowances make it sturdier. Here is the completed pillow, resting peacefully on my sofa: