Tag Archives: Design

The Muslin Mock-Up

I’ve been working on lots of parts of my quilty life the last couple of weeks. The biggest project has been toward completing my Fire & Ice medallion quilt in red and white. In my last post I described my intended process for quilting it. That process included designing the stitching, , transferring the design to Golden Threads paper, and quilting a muslin mock-up. It’s DONE! I think the design is very pretty and I hope it translates well to the pieced top.

I was inspired by traditional Welsh quilting designs, as well as Gaelic/Celtic motifs. These photos give a sense of the design. Lighting is everything, isn’t it? :/

And these should give some idea of the process. Jim was a big help in thinking through drawing and transferring the design. First we spread the quilt top on the table and covered it with plexiglass. Jim put a clamp on either end so the plexi wouldn’t slide while we worked with it. We experimented with different markers and methods of drawing arcs. You can see the outer border in these two pix.

Once I was happy with the designs for the borders (outside border above, corner blocks, and the hourglass border,) we removed the quilt top and placed a piece of batting under the plexiglass. The batting was simply to put a light background under the plexi so the blue lines would show. Then I traced the designs onto the Golden Threads paper.

I cut more pieces of paper to stack with the traced ones, and I stapled each stack together. The staples keep the pieces of paper from shifting.

Each stapled stack of paper had the pencil tracing on top. I used a basting stitch and no thread in the longarm to punch the design through the whole stack. I made enough to do both the practice quilt and the real thing. One thing I found was that pinning the papers to the quilt made the paper warp and pucker. After a couple of times like that, I simply stabbed long pins through, clear up to their heads. There were enough of them to keep the paper from moving much, and the paper stayed flatter to the fabric.

The next two pictures show the muslin on the frame, after quilting the first border and also after removing the paper. In truth, it took as long to remove the paper as to quilt it. The paper tears away pretty easily, but of course you have to be careful not to stress the stitches too much. Also it comes off in big pieces and tiny shreds. I brought a vacuum cleaner in with hose attachment, and cleaned up the little bits with that. (I also vacuumed everything in the room once I was done, as I’m sure lots got away.)

You can see by the picture above that the quilted lines are not smooth and crisp as they are in the blue marker drawing. I chose to do the spirals as roses, so that was intentional. As for the rest, the longarm is large and heavy and hard to maneuver smoothly. I am not experienced with rulers, so wasn’t able to perfect them that way. While I wasn’t thrilled with the look at first, I quickly decided to embrace the wobbliness. As long as it covers the quilt evenly, it doesn’t look like a mistake. 🙂

Next to do on this project is to load the real deal, change the needle, change the thread to white, and get started quilting. The actual quilting time is not huge, so I hope to have it quilted by the end of the week.

 

The Perfect Set-Up

Remember the fun we have as the year turns, defining our resolutions or choosing a word of the year? For the last few years I’ve tried the “word” game. When it’s working well, I have my word in mind often, and consider how to move my life more in line with the word’s intended values.

This year, I’ll admit, I haven’t thought much about my word. Actually, it’s two three words, “challenge and opportunity.” My intention is to see barriers or obstacles — and problems! — as chances for creativity and growth, and to face opportunities bravely, even when they are hard. But while I haven’t thought much about it, I’ve been living it. My quilty world has been rife with opportunities for growth, for re-engagement with my guild, for creativity in my quilting, and for cultivating speaking and teaching gigs.

One personal challenge I set was to create a special red and white quilt for my guild’s upcoming quilt show. I’ve shown you the unquilted top already.

Creating the top presented challenges of its own, including interpreting the original quilt in a way that would honor it, learning to paper piece those triangle borders, and appliquéing various parts of the motif.

Originally I planned to have it quilted professionally. For various reasons, including encouragement from my brother, I decided to do it myself. As you can see, it is a challenge and an opportunity! 

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a plan, including both design and implementation. For the stitching design, I’m inspired by Welsh hand-quilting motifs. My draft includes double arches and spirals, among other traditional elements.

Implementation is multi-steps. To start, I’m drafting the design with markers on plexiglass sheets, overlaid on the quilt top. I’ll transfer the design to a product called “Golden Threads” paper, a specialty tissue paper intended for quilting right through, and tearing away. If this works, it will allow me to avoid marking on the quilt top itself. I’d rather not, as I don’t want marking to stain the white fabric.

I’ll test the Golden Threads paper with a first go, which will also allow me to practice the shapes. I have a muslin whole-cloth top the same size as the red and white top. It won’t have the same effect without the piecing, but I’ll be able to tell whether the whole plan will work or not.

The muslin backing is loaded on the longarm frame, and I have batting the right size, as well as the top. Within a few days I’ll start quilting it. I’ll do the borders at each end (top and bottom,) and stabilize it through the middle with basting. Then I’ll take the whole thing off the frame and turn it 90°, reload it, quilt the other borders, and quilt the middle. IF it all works okay (learning as I go, I’m sure,) I’ll use the same process on the real deal.

Wow. This is the perfect set-up for challenge and opportunity. Wish me luck.

What’s the Worst that Would Happen …?

[Note: I published this long ago, in the early days of this blog. Recently I read a post by Kathy Loomis on fear and art, wondering if we focus on the fear too much, teaching fear rather than boldness. That may be so. But the most important thing to learn about fear in art and in most making is, there is really nothing to be afraid of. In that context, I post this again.]

A friend recently posted on Facebook, “Usually I’m a pretty good cook… today was not one of those days. Man did I mess breakfast up. Oh well, the dogs liked it.”

I said, “If you ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that would happen if…’ and the answer is that the dogs will get to eat it, you might as well try it!”

There’s a lot of stuff I don’t try in my quilting. Sometimes I actually don’t have interest in a technique or style. Sometimes I do but feel a little (or a lot) intimidated. While I definitely have favorite styles and colors, I want to push my creativity by being open to failure. I want to, but honestly sometimes I have trouble doing so.

There are many sports metaphors about risk and winning – Wayne Gretzky’s famous quote is “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” However, we don’t always apply the same thinking to our art. In reading about creativity, I understand that we don’t take risks because we fear failure. Really, failure or success is determined by setting some standard to reach, and then measuring whether or not we reached it. The worst part is, we set our own standards in quilting, and usually we set them too high. We hesitate to try new things because we fear we won’t do them as well as our heroes, or as well as the best thing we ourselves ever did, or because we are worried about others’ opinions.

Another facet of “failure” for me is I am a finisher. If I try something, I want the results to be “good enough” to finish the project. (Others might have an odd fear of success with the same result — those who don’t finish projects may not wish the obligation that comes with a successful experiment!)

Could we measure success as having been bold enough to try something new, and having learned something from it? Then every project we undertake could be a success. And every experiment would be its own finish, with or without a completed project.

Another friend, an actor, talked to me recently about stage fright. A particularly bad commercial shoot several years ago led to lingering anxiety about how each “next shoot” would go. But the stage fright makes him angry and he refuses to succumb to it, becoming stronger all the time in overcoming it. He says, “Perhaps we are too ‘full of ourselves’ and think that we should be ‘perfect’…and when we are not, we just can’t handle the thought….”

Stage fright, writer’s block, quilting fear, all part of the same structure. There is fear to try, to be judged a failure, if only by ourselves.

In Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird, she talks about the process of creation. As a writer, she’s well aware of the desire to create perfection each time we begin a new project.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Or more bluntly from her, “In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.”

Shitty first drafts, practice blocks, even finished quilts we assess as failures, are the predecessors of better work. Go ahead and write that shitty first draft. Only when we begin something can we learn from it, improve on it, and be done with it, one way or another.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of bestselling Eat, Pray, Love, gave a TED talk about the elusive nature of creative genius. Genius, inspiration, the “muse,” when they show up at all, sometimes show up at inopportune times. Whether or not genius shows up, she says, keep at it, keep showing up. Do your job, whether or not genius does.

At the end of the talk she reiterates, “Don’t be afraid, don’t be daunted. Just do your job.

Sometimes it feels like we’re doing our job with little guidance, no clear path.

Anne Lamott again:

“E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

It’s okay to not know where you’re going, or how it will turn out. Don’t let fear stop you. Don’t be afraid. If the worst that would happen is the dogs eat the breakfast, the first draft is shitty, or the block goes into a pile of orphans, try it anyway.

What’s the worst that would happen?

Make Good Art

Thanks to all who read and commented on my recent post, in which I muttered about motivation for making quilts. If I make quilts and no one wants them, is there still a good reason to make them? In truth, the question should be somewhat different: who is the audience or “market” for my quilts?

When I began blogging, I knew I would have very few readers. Jim would read my writing, and I anticipated a few others might wander in by accident. Though readership has grown over time (thank you!) I try not to take that for granted, and know that any given post might capture little attention. Because of that, I write primarily for an audience of one: me.

My quilting is the same. While I will always make some quilts for specific people or causes, each quilt must be made to please me. Why? Once a gift is made, it is not mine. The new owner might love it or not, use it or not, abuse it or not, thank me or not. Only in the making is it truly mine. In the making it must please me. And if it is never given to someone else? Then also it must please me. So who is the audience? Me. And if it pleases me, that is enough.

So, back to work! Let’s catch up on my current project, using that odd historical print.

20160401_182819After attaching my on point border, I was stuck. Though I had a pretty good idea of what to do next, I was out of French blue fabrics like the darker blue in the photo. A quick shopping trip to Amana and South Amana refilled my coffers. In fact at each shop I found exactly one blue fabric of the right type, and at each shop I bought 3 yards. What I don’t use on the front will end up in the back. I also bought a yard of a cheddar orange, which is used in the center block as an accent.

I decided to use a narrow spacer border in the cheddar, only 3/4″, to take the center to 48″ finished. (The “center” is whatever is being bordered at the moment, regardless of how many borders there already are.) That size gives me options for a straight-set block border. For example, I could make blocks that are 12″, 8″, 6″, 4″, 3″, or 2″ length along the border edge.

I chose 6″ square blocks, with 8 blocks on each side. The zigzagging chain is made of double-4-patch blocks. The line created repeats the diagonals of the prior on-point border, as well as the diagonal setting of the center block. It also provides a nice change in value from the relatively light values coming before, especially the broad cream-and-tan toile corners surrounding the center.

20160406_084502

The lights that create the chain are all from my scrap drawer and pretty well cleaned it out of that type of light-neutral. Right now the blocks are built but not assembled into strips and not attached to the center.

The finished size of the center once they’re on is 60″. That is 48″ + 6″ + 6″. After that? More. I have the feeling this is going to be a big quilt, perhaps for a king-sized bed.

Finally, I’d like to offer author Neil Gaiman’s commencement address to art students in 2012. He talks about failure, disappointment, and discouragement, success, and work. The transcript provided by The University of the Arts says this:

And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art.

And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that’s been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.

Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

Here is the video if you’d like to watch the whole thing:

MAKE GOOD ART.

 

 

 

Playing Today

My word for the year is PLAY! While I generally enjoy my creative time, some is more playful than others. Today I’ve played at two things so far. Both are designs.

Last evening I googled images for “urn flowers applique“. One of the images selected was an antique quilt done in only two colors, peach and white. (I couldn’t find out more about it. It had been a sale listing and the information was gone. No date, no name, no provenance.) The two colors formed a primary design as well as a secondary. I grabbed a piece of paper from the recycling bin and scribbled part of the design, enough so I could replicate it today in EQ7.

On analysis, it was done in 256 half-square triangles, in a 16×16 layout. The antique also included a peach inner border and a white outer border. My drawing below in blue and white skips the borders but includes a narrow white line to emulate the binding.

Binary Stars blue

Really cool, huh?

Here is a corner to show you the construction. Make the corner 16 times, and your quilt is ready for assembly.
Binary Stars blue 4 by 4

And since I was playing, I wondered how it would look in multiple colors. I love two-color quilts, but frankly I think this is a lot more interesting.
Binary Stars multicolors

And the corner for this one:
Binary Stars multicolors 4 by 4

Notice, if you will, that this design has absolutely NOTHING to do with “urn flowers applique“. That was my original search because I’m planning to start an urn flowers applique project! But first I need a design.

Since I don’t draw well, I decided to cut shapes and arrange them on paper. This gives me a pretty good idea of how big the shapes should be and how they might be arranged. The crumpled white paper is the wrapping label off a roll of batting. (Do you save some of that paper, too?) I taped two strips together and then started cutting shapes from another chunk. To save my arrangement I traced quickly around the shapes. It should be pretty easy to transfer to freezer paper and then fabric.

20160126_124416_resized

I’m planning to do old-fashioned needle turn applique, without all the glueing and pressing and fusing and fussing that some of the other techniques use. This will be relatively primitive, both due to my skills and my intention. The colors I’m choosing are joyful, not stuffy. I’ll show you progress as I make it.

What are you playing with these days?