Monday, May 31, 2010

Love & Live, Better

I requilted the border on Tonya's quilt. I like it a lot better. Basically I used the same color thread as the border. It's quilted by eye, in keeping with the general wonkiness. It isn't perfect, but I'm happy.

Next time I see Chris, I'm going to kiss her feet.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

No Longer Paranoid, But...

I outline quilted the letters on Tonya's quilt, then tried doing some parallel lines all around the border, but I don't like them, and have already ripped them out. I have another idea in mind.

I'm thinking the pink will be the binding.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paranoia Is...

It's one thing to fret about quilting one of your own quilts (especially when you aren't completely confident in your quilting abilities), but paranoia is what you feel when you get to quilt one from your mentor....This is the top Tonya made for me in exchange for the Rules quilt top I made for her.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Rules for Tonya

While I was making "The Rules" for Helen, I sent Tonya some pictures of the quilt in progress. She was "blown away" and asked if I would make a "Rules" quilt top with brightly colored letters on a white background in the same "font" for her to display on her website.

Who was I to say no?
I didn't want to do just that. I wanted to push the envelope a little. I liked making letters with different fabrics, so I wanted to do more of that. But I wanted to "ease" into it.

So the "IF YOU OBEY ALL" was pretty straightforward. One (fairly boring) fabric per letter, except for the little cats that popped in unexpectedly.

"THE" of course, in black and white, was made that way to alert you "something important" was coming up. The word "RULES" obviously pokes fun at the concept of rules in the word itself, with two letters made up of rulers. Since Tonya had lived in Paris, adding a cat wearing a beret was de rigueur. I simply had to use that Laurel Burch fabric full of cats somewhere, and the letter "U" seemed to be the perfect spot. A sedate "L" leading up to a freaked out "E" and then one of my favorite fabrics in one of my favorite letters to sew, "S."

Then all hell starts to break loose.

The second "YOU" has letters made up of multiple fabrics. For the word "MISS" I really wanted the word to get lost, because you are missing something. I love the "M" with four fabrics. I really racked my brain to do something creative with the "I". Searching through my bin of leftover bits, I found some Jane Sassaman fabric and I thought, "this could work if it were trimmed just right." Then the two wonky "S's" with the cat hiding in one.

The next "ALL THE" simply had to be made from multiple fabrics, and here I started adding slightly different colors and variations to each letter. I made no effort to disguise the fact that these letters were made from different fabrics.

I am all about readability though, so the letters don't stray too far. I love the little cat hiding in the "E."

Then, the riot of the word "FUN." How, I wondered, could I break apart the letters in a unique way, using multiple fabrics and colors in each, yet maintain readability. I confess I drew out the letters first. Then I hit the fabric stash, tossing fabrics around and arranging them. I love the "U" although I think the "N" looks pretty good too.

The original quote by Katharine Hepburn does not include an exclamation point. The phrase ends in a period (full stop). To me the feeling of the quote required an exclamation point. In Helen's quilt, I had used an image of a red-haired woman in the "dot."
For Tonya's, I knew I would add one of her cats. But when I examined this Timeless Treasures fabric I had, I realized I could include all four of Tonya's cats. But how? "FUN!!!!" with four exclamation points after it seemed a bit ordinary... so I broke with tradition (and the rules) and put two on each side of the word "FUN." A green sharpie helped me with Lily's eyes. The rest, I think, are pretty obvious, but for me, the pièce de résistance was adding the dancing skeletons for Howler's mark.

Halloween is Tonya's favorite holiday!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival - Spring 2010

"The Rules" Quilt for Helen

This quilt was made for my friend Helen. We became friends as Swap Mamas of the Doll Quilt Swap and decided to do a private swap. Helen lives in Australia, and I am over ten thousand miles away in the northeastern USA.

Helen had said she liked my wonky letters, so I chose this quote from Katharine Hepburn. The letters are based on Tonya's free-pieced alphabet. Helen asked for red and orange and yellow, so I went through my stash and had a lot of fun. If you look closely at the dot of the exclamation point, you can see Helen herself!
The letters are about 4" tall. The entire quilt is about 30" x 33". Helen loves her quilt!

You can see more about making this quilt here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

See more quilts at Amy's Blogger's Quilt Festival Spring 2010 here!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quilting The Rules

My sewing machine has a very narrow "throat" and I use a walking foot for quilting. Quilting with a walking foot is a royal pain in the butt. (Sew, stop, raise the pressure foot, move the fabric, move half the quilt around and through the really tight "throat" of this damn sewing machine, flatten everything out, lower the pressure foot, sew [quilt] two or three inches, repeat...) I outline quilted around the letters, trying to stay an even 1/8" away from the edge of the letter. I worked out a way to do each row in one long continuous line. I did it all by eye. No rulers, no tape, no marking. You can click the photos to enlarge.

In the big blank area to the left of "FUN" I zig-zag quilted the space in 3 parallel rows. After all, it was supposed to "break the rules."
All in all, the quilting took two evenings. By this time I was teasing Helen unmercifully, and having a grand time doing it.

I had also been neglecting any and all housework. I'd come home from work, make myself something to eat, pile the dirty dishes on the kitchen counter, and head right into the sewing studio to work. I'd work on it all day on Saturdays, and clean the house a bit on Sunday.

I was having a ball. I also knew very early on this quilt would be a stunner. I knew Helen would love it, and it made me very happy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Line Up The Rules

Once I had sewn the letters for the Rules into blocks, and sewed the blocks into rows, I had to decide how to line up the rows. I had designed the quilt with the rows "left-justified", but they looked pretty good centered, too.
In the end I decided I liked the letters lined up to the left, and the word FUN off to the side, breaking yet more rules. But then I wasn't sure if I liked all that empty space up there in the upper right hand corner. Should I add a butterfly?In the end, I decided not to. I had planned for a tight quilt, with little space around the letters in the finished quilt, so I left it out. Next up, I had to figure out how to quilt it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two Rules

Tonya's Rules are on her way to her today. She will have them by the end of the week. At which point I fully expect to hear her laughing with delight.Because there's a little "cat action" in the quilt for her.*

*You all know, of course, that Tonya lived in Paris, so a stylish cat wearing a beret was de rigeur!

Monday, May 17, 2010


My concept for the word "FUN" was always to make each letter out of several different fabrics, but I planned to line them up straight. As I made each letter, I set them on the floor of my studio. My cat Millie would run over them all on her way into and out of the room. During one particularly energetic run, she knocked the letters all over the place. The letters for the word "FUN" were all askew.
I sewed them up just the way she "arranged" them for me. She's a wonderful cat, that Millie!

Now I can't -show- you what I am making for Tonya, but Tonya already knows -what- I'm doing, she just doesn't know what it -looks- like. That means I -can- tell you what I'm doing!

After I made all the letters for Helen's Rules
, I was a bit stumped about the layout, so I sent some pictures to my quilting buddies. Tonya asked if I would do a "Rules" quilt top for her, but with bright letters on a white background.

Well, like duh!

Actually, this letter made from Ruler fabric didn't make the cut!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Seriously Cool, Part Two

The Seriously Cool thing I am making is for a famous quilt blogging lady who used to live in Paris, but now lives in Florida. She loves color and cats.

And I can't show YOU until SHE gets it, but that should happen later this week.

Do you have ANY IDEA how AGGRAVATING it is to work on REALLY COOL STUFF and not be able to TELL anything about it?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Seriously Cool

I'm working on something seriously cool, and I can't show you until I am finished. But I am almost there, so stay tuned...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Inspiration Wall

I've pinned some encouraging emails to the wall behind my sewing machine. It's nice to look up and read something complimentary about what I've done.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sewing Studio Shuffle

You can't always tell how a room will work when you plan it. You have to actually work in it to find out if it really suits your style.
Although I liked the sewing machine in front of the window, it was awkward moving from the sewing machine to the ironing table, to the work table, and then back to the sewing machine. So I moved the sewing machine in the corner. Which is where it was in my original plan. The work flow is much better now.
I have installed homosote panels on the walls behind the French doors. On the wall nearest my work tables I hung my plexiglas templates, cutting rules and triangles.

I've also installed bookshelves in another corner, and have some other changes planned.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bump In The Road

For Helen's "The Rules" quilt, I had originally envisioned the word "FUN" in a bright hot pink, and I wanted to ease into it by having "all the" in pink as well.

But against the bright yellow background, they didn't show up very well. I even tried switching the two "all"'s, but it just didn't work.
So I had to do them over.

Oh well!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Quick Brown Fox

The Quick Brown Fox quilt top is finished!
Woo Hoo!

Happy Mother's Day to all Moms!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Take a Letter...

What do you do when your house is clean, your laundry is done and folded, the bills are paid and you've done the groceries for the upcoming week?

If you're a quilter, you head into the sewing studio and start sewing. After lunch on the Saturday after I came back from my trip to Maryland, I went into the sewing room, and started making the letters for The Rules. I stopped to eat dinner, so I worked about 10 hours. I made 18 letters before taking this picture and going to bed. As soon as I made a letter, I added a piece of the yellow background to the right hand side (this makes joining the letters together into rows easier), and set it down on the floor of my sewing room.

I have learned (the hard way, believe me) not to trim the letters to size until I start sewing them together into words or rows, so these letters are a bit ragged.

Whenever I make letters, I always start with the first letter and work my way through. I never think, "I have to make four "E's", three "O's", three "S's"..." and make them that way. I want each word to "read" as whatever word I am making, so the letters making up that word had to be related somehow, like "THE" and "ALL." I also knew that each letter would be made out of the same fabric (at least until I got to "FUN.")

The "font" I created for these letters are anything but truly wonky. They were much more time-consuming to make. Usually I can make about five letters in an hour, these took about 15 - 25 minutes each. The negative spaces finish out at 1/2" by 2" (the hole in the "O"), and that half-inch was critical to the look I was after.

The letters were coming along beautifully, and I was very excited.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Test Run

You've seen this before. I just didn't tell you it was a test run for the letters on Helen's quilt. See how the space between the letter "I" and its dot, and the upper and lower horizontals on the letter "F" go up at angles to each other instead of making a straight horizontal line? That's when I knew these letters were going to have to be sewn together very carefully. I knew I would have to use the skinniest presser foot I could find on my sewing machine, since many of the elements would finish out at 1/2" wide (just less than 13 mm). That half inch was critical to the way the letters would look in the finished quilt.

More on the Helen's quilt tomorrow.... Back to some unfinished business...

I had hoped to get the top of The Quick Brown Fox finished before my trip to Maryland in March, but it wasn't possible. I hate stopping work in the middle of a project. I like to keep the energy and the excitement going. If the work gets too stressful, I might set it aside for a few days to clear my thinking, but I hate just stopping in the middle of a good run. Once my new sewing studio was ready, I completed the panel for The Lazy Dog.The quilt still isn't complete, it's in four big pieces, the fox, the dog, the two flowers on the lower right are all separate. And the pieces around the four sides are just set down to straighten out the jagged edges. I will sew them down, and then square up the top. The finished top won't be quite so wide.
I'm pretty happy with it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Colors of the Rules

By the time I posted the first hint about the quilt for Helen, I had completed all the letters.

While Helen didn't know anything about the design I was planning, I had asked her what colors she liked. She replied that she liked the close values of red, oranges, and yellow. Throughout the winter, whenever I was at a quilt shop, I would pick up a few fat quarters in those colors (letters don't use much fabric). At one visit to Quilted Threads, I bought half yard cuts of various yellows, since I had decided the letters would be the reds, red-oranges and orange, and the background would be yellow. And I bought a fun fabric for the binding and the background of the word "FUN."I have very few solids in my stash, and although I love the larger scale designs of some of the hottest fabric designers (Amy Butler, Jane Sassaman, Kaffe Fassett, etc.,) for this quilt, I wanted fabrics that were (generally) a smaller scale so the individual letters would be easy to distinguish. The letters had to stand out from the background, so pale or light values of the reds and oranges wouldn't work.Susan says I always seem to find the best fabrics. That's a great compliment, but I don't think it's because I -have- the best fabrics, I think it's because I -use- the right fabrics in the -right- places.

About six years ago I made a quilt made completely of fabrics with black backgrounds. One of the fabrics had a series of stylish ladies wearing black sunglasses. I was going through my stash, and I found it again, and saw a lady with red hair. I was happy because Helen has red hair. Trimmed of the black background, the lady wouldn't be very large - perhaps an inch and a half square. Where could I use this lady? There was only one spot, and it would be perfect - The dot of the exclamation point.They key here is not just to look at something for what it -is-. Look at it for what [else] it can -become-.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Plan for "The Rules" Letters

"If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun."

It works on so many levels. First, it's a fun quote. We all like to have fun, and we all bristle a bit at some of the "rules." Next, Helen and I both love "wonky," "whimsical," and "free-pieced" quilts, all of which break the "rules." Lastly, the quilt would be made of free pieced letters that by definition, don't obey any rules.

Once I had the quote I liked, I drew the letters out in my little graph paper notebook. I needed to get a feel for how big (small) they could be. If one square represented one inch, these letters, and the quilt would be enormous. My letters had to be more compact.I wasn't trying to do anything creative with them, I just wanted to get them down so I could see them. This first go-round was pretty boring.

Then I started playing a bit. The letters would have to be smaller, so I tried three units by four units - the letters would be four inches tall finished. I had to get the "Y" in "you" a lot smaller. I had to get it to be the size of the "O." I drew it again, squeezing the tail of the Y up.
I liked the play of very thick and very thin. A capitol "B" would be tricky, but I knew from experience that sometimes a mix of upper and lower case letters could be visually interesting. It was also a good way to break the "rules."
You can see how once I got the rhythm going, the design of the letters fell into place. Notice the evolution of the "R".

Once I had a design I felt would work, I drew the quote again on a larger sheet of graph paper. I wasn't concerned about the spacing between the letters at this point. Next I got out a sharpie, and colored the letters black. A trip to the photocopier gave me several copies. (This way I don't have to re-draw letters from scratch.) From these I cut away letters that didn't seem to work, and replaced them with variations I liked better, and taped them into place.
I like the plan of the letters, the fact that they are big and blocky. I also particularly like the way the open spaces in the letters go vertical, then horizontal. Notice all four "E's" are different; how I inverted one of the S's" in "MISS", and the mirroring of the negative spaces in the "EY" of "OBEY." All quite deliberate.

I wasn't worried about the word "FUN" as I knew I was going to break the pattern with that particular word. It couldn't be as formal, or as stiff as the other letters. I didn't have any idea what I would do, but I wasn't worried. I had 33 letters to sew before I had to decide.

I wanted the design to at first appear simply to be blocks of color, then the letters would reveal themselves, and finally, the quote itself would be revealed.