Monday, January 5, 2015

zipper bags (with an update 2015)


Finally I had guts and time to try my first zipper and bag this past weekend while nursing my nasty head cold with antibiotics and mourning my broken molar tooth. Regrets to the Christmas caroling party I missed while I got completely caught up in the excitement of making something new with new tools and techniques home, all alone.
It began months ago with a inspiring blog post that made me think it might be simple, on Linda Fasules "I Finally Have Time" blog.
I bought a zipper foot for my antique Singer Featherweight machine and some zippers with thread to match some of my fabrics. Then they all sat in the bag for many weeks as I learned more about what I needed. I had collected some of the wrong materials which I discovered in emails with Linda. In any case the right stuff was collected several times over until it was just a matter of getting the time and intestinal fortitude to try inserting a zipper. My mom says they are not easy for her but "you should be able to do it with your skills" implying I am a better sewist than her. I wasn't so sure but eventually I dove into research on Google and YouTube and found out how to use the zipper foot and how to sew in a zipper.  Keith got off on his holiday travels and I set to work. I followed the free pattern on Noodlehead  to build the whole pouch, piece by piece while learning a few things about zippers as I went along. In the end I was pretty happy with my first zipper installation and the resulting bag that I am using right now to store a big fist full of loose charging wires and cables as well as mini speakers and my old iPod.





Now that my illness is past and the holidays are too and I have given away one bag as Christmas gift. I can share the whole story as it has developed into more of a rainbow of fun bags than when I sat down to write this post back on the weekend before Christmas.
I was home alone some of that week before Christmas sick but slowly recovering and I had a collection of zippers and lots of fabrics to choose from to make more zipper bags. I tested out shifts in details of how the batting went in with the zippers and the length of the "tab" on the end of the loose zipper eventually adding a folded loop to use as a handle or hook to hang the bag up. This feature of the zipper hanging out rather than embedded in the walls of the bag allows the top to fully open in a way the other bags do not . I finished up one amethyst Downton Abbey bag using the fabric line designed to show elements of Edwardian to Deco fabric designs inspired by the popular PBS Masterpiece series we watch. I wanted this bag to be special and to incorporate four fabrics from the Andover's Women's Downton Abbey line so I made half-square-triangles to run on the top side of the bag and used the dark art deco black with gray fan print for the bottom. Inside is a black feather print on creamy white for the lining.

Then I took off in a more colorful direction and added some Kaffe Fassett Studio blues and turquoise solid to go with the peacock blue-green zipper! Followed fast on by a very pretty big print Toile de Jouy fabric I found and fell in love with a while back. That got a blue bottom and has a castle on one side with a tree that meets the same tree on the other side where a boy stands with a fish trap he has just pulled from the passing river... It's got a white print on creamy lining which Linda schooled me makes it easier to find things inside your bag if the lining is a light color. 



Next another blue Kaffe Fassett bag this time with bright blue, a black zipper and a gray modern brushed printed lining fabric. 


Last, but not the least, as I think they just keep getting better as I make them. Last came Coral with the special fabrics from Finch Sewing Studio in Leesburg, VA I got last summer in Coral red and pinks. I  find that the last one I made is always my favorite one. Do you have that experience when you make things? 





Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Modern Log Cabin Quilt finish 2014

I began the year 2014 with a quilting theme, the Log Cabin. It is a very traditional pattern I have always admired so when I got a request for a tiny 4 inch log cabin block from my modern quilt guild to add to a member's new baby quilt I thought it was time for me to try log cabins in my own quilts.
the first four inch log cabin block for the guild's baby quilt.
The finished quilt with baby Vivian can be seen here: Jessie Aller's Flickr

 I also listened to a new thing called a Webinar presented to the Modern Quilt Guild which said that modern quilt design is full of neutral areas that work against bold new colors. Naturally, orange came to mind as my favorite bold color to begin with and I found this red, orange and purple mixed print fabric really appealed. I also liked the notion of using mixed whites and neutral colors that almost blend to be one tone but are not quite a solid field. At first I just played with the colors and fabrics learning how to build the log cabins and what contrasts I liked making in the combinations.


I used oranges and purples to build a series as well as white and off white with gray. As I worked with the blocks and learned the formula it felt like I had too many different colors in my blocks. I eventually  pulled out the purple and orange log cabins and kept making those 5.5 inch squares until I completed enough to build the smaller "log cabin quilt" I finished in May...
 Determined to create a large quilt with this log cabin theme I held on to the gray,
mixed whites and orange blocks and experimented with scale of the strips in the blocks. Instead of just one inch strips I began making a mix of one, two and three inch strips to achieve a larger block scaled to assemble together in an improvisational group. At this stage the felt wall was really important to lay out the various blocks and see where I was headed before I began assembling the different blocks into an overall design.


Along the way I discovered an antique quilt on Pintrest which was called a Triple Bar Log Cabin.  This one appeared to be a slightly rectangular shape and I began using it in an off shoot to keep having fun. I played with a broader spectrum of colors which cried out to me as the orange, gray and mixed whites project was accumulating enough blocks to cover a queen sized bed.
antique triple bar log cabin quilt photo from Pintrest 

My first triple bar log cabin block using a red-orange center to represent fire in the hearth.

This triple bar log cabin finish I called the Cantilever Cabins quilt thinking of the cool new buildings that use prefabricated rectangular cubes or steel shipping containers stacked up to make buildings in modern architecture. It was a very colorful finish that really tickled my fancy. To do the hand quilting I used some near matching multicolor pearl cottons to add an extra layer of color. The neutral blocks really added a modern feel to the finish as the Modern Quilt Guild Webinar had instructed.

Still I had this big set of blocks waiting to come together and I plugged along playing over and over with the various ways to combine the quilt blocks and create a modern design. It is a real struggle to set these designs and commit to the arrangement. The variations were only limited by my own taste. In the end I had too many blocks and pulled some blocks that didn't fit in well, out. This became another kind of Neutral block with pink log cabin quilt. The Untitled Log Cabin creation was fun and finished next as I got closer to the big quilt finish.
All along the queen sized finish was getting closer. It was time to make up my mind how big and how the layout was going to be set and sewn down. On the felt wall I tried symmetry then asymmetry... square and rectangular formats all working around the one big orange and gray block  from the beginning seen in the center below. 

I decided on a big 88 inch square format to fit my sleigh bed. But I wanted to add lots more orange-gray blocks to the mix feeling for a need to see more color in the large field of paler neutrals. It is filled with rich wool batting and backed with a white on white print then hand quilted with ecru pearl cotton #8. That means it was going to take a while to complete. Once I determined the shape, all three layers went together fast and the quilting spiral was marked in a day. It was ready to begin the hand quilting. Using a hoop of 18 inches I find it is easier to do the center sections where grabbing by hand alone is a little difficult.   As I work the lines of quilting towards the edges I abandon the hoop and just hold the three layers with no frame. 
Lucky for me that the summer wasn't hot as it usually is, so I could endure working under all that wool and cotton fabric for long evenings in front of the TV. In the end I added a binding of orange and made a white label for the back. Now I am having difficulty photographing such a big quilt at home. I need another DC Modern quilt guild meeting at the large Arlington Library where we made finished quilt photos last year using our professional photo set up to get a really nice finished quilt photos for our portfolio and blog posts. In the meantime here is the quilt pinned to my bedroom felt wall and a few other detail finished quilt photos... 

With this quilt I think I am about to finish the log cabin series but there are still some strips of orange and white laying on the pile of left overs I cut so who knows maybe there is another little block or two of log cabin waiting to find form. That fire red orange color is a recurring theme in my quilting work. The hand quilting was done in a squared spiral beginning in the biggest orange block radiating out to the edges at two inch row intervals. 






Last night we slept under the orange explains it quilt  and the big log cabin seen in this photo. It was toasty warm with the layers of wool and cotton piled high. Ending the year of log cabins I am ready to move on to something with a new challenge. Curves are calling to me to come play in 2015. Happy new year! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Middleburg Show and the newest quilt project


As the year comes to an end I am very excited to be showing my quilts at the Middleburg Arts Project my friends Tom and Peter opened back in September. This weekend I will be visiting the gallery on Friday and Saturday Dec. 12th and 13th to show and talk about my smaller sized wall quilts. I hope some of you can drop by to see them and visit Middleburg is a great little village full of charm with many fine shops and restaurants.  
After a year of log cabin quilts I am moving on to some new shapes that are challenging in a different way than log cabin blocks, curves of tea leaf or tobacco leaf quilts has captured my interest. The pattern is from a prolific blogger I follow named Tim who writes and photographs about his hand quilting in Michigan. Tim Latimer Quilts He designed this free quilt pattern based on the old tea leaf blocks from antique quilts he has restored and tops he has finished.  I cut out a few of the leaf block pieces to give it a try... and the quilt block building begins but in a different colorway than these below.
Anyone care to guess what color leaves I am making?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blue Hungarian Fabric Quilt Finish

In 2013 the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the national mall hosted a big beautiful display of Hungarian crafts and folk arts for two weeks. Keith and I went and enjoyed it about four days out of the ten that they were there performing for our education and entertainment. My younger sister is married to a great guy who's parents both immigrated from Hungry during the Soviet era to the midwest. Elizabeth his mom was so excited that this cultural event was coming and wanted to go so badly but her poor health at the time made the trip here to Washington DC in the heat of July impossible. That's why I went and dug into the events so fully to collect pictures and memories to send to her and to learn more for myself. I remember it as being an excellent cultural experience. One full of so many different crafts and songs and dances unlike most countries we see at the festival in DC there is a very strong youth cultural education model in Hungry. They have folk dancing clubs and all this great fun stuff for teens to do that American teens don't have.  Earlier this year Elizabeth sent me a surprise package in the mail. Inside were a couple yards of  beautiful hand made blue Hungarian fabric, printed with a tiny dot design of white flowers and strings of dots. 
Elizabeth's blue and white Hungarian fabric gift.

It is handmade in Hungry and I had seen the same type of fabric being made at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. It is a resist process where the crafts people, after making a hand made wire block, dip the block in a resist type waxy substance and hand print it onto white fabric. Then the whole length of fabric is dyed blue and the resist holds out the dye everywhere it was printed on the white fabric. Voila, a blue field covered with delicate white designs. The woman presenting the process said it takes her husband about three months to make a new block from wood and copper wires, seen in the first photo below. They use a waxy resist which is turquoise colored in this picture below and you can see the print of turquoise wax mixture on the white fabric as well as the results after the fabric is dyed blue. 

The color of blue is a delicious rich blue and was seen around the festival in a few different places. This handsome young folk dancer was wearing a big shirt and wide legged trousers with a heavy wool coat of a shepherd and later a woolen suit jacket when he danced for us... he sweat up a storm in the heat of Washington DC July afternoon. I was very inspired by all the young performers who were the best in Hungry after winning a "Hungry's most talented folk performers" TV show contest of 2012. They were amazing. Getting some of this beautiful fabric was a dream come true so I set to work making a new quilt soon as I figured out a block I wanted to try.  




 I finished making it from the fabric sent by Elizabeth Poti in a modern jumbled pinwheel design. It's 46 inches square now after washing. I called it Blue Hungarian as I expect Elizabeth is a little blue being so far from her home culture, living in Iowa. I will be displaying my quilts for sale at the Middleburg Arts Project gallery December 5th-30th, 2014 Reception is Friday Dec. 12th 5-8 PM and the following day  "meet the artists" event Saturday Dec. 13th from 2-5 PM. The gallery will also have work by two other very different quilting artists I am looking forward to meeting.

Blue Hungarian is 46x46 inches all cotton hand quilted white and blue #8 pearl cotton. 
back of the quilt showing the diamond quilting and the huge pinwheel in blue and white.





Monday, November 3, 2014

Fort Stanton walk

Sunday with all the wind and the burst of cold from the northwest we ventured out with our Brookland neighbor and landscape architect to meet up with other native plant society members to do a walk in Fort Stanton park. Mary Pat Rowen from the Maryland native plant society was our guide. The park is in Anacostia with the community museum perched right in the middle of it making a great place to warm up and see a little art. The point of our walk was to see the native plants and trees of our forests and help each other learn about them. I took photos and I can't describe everything but I wanted to share a little of the experience with you and tell some of what I learned. The first image is of Mary Pat Rowen who was our leader on the walk. She also gave Keith, Meron and myself a ride down to the park and home making it even more fun because we got to see the city from a new point of view. Here she describes the difference between two types of Hickory tree side by side with bright yellow leaves and the Anacostia Community Museum in the background.
We had a total of eight naturalist beginners to expert on the hike. 
Along the two hour walk we were in the woods protected from most of the wind which was blowing hard up above in the tree tops some 75 feet or more above. This civil war era fortress was constructed on a hill overlooking Washington DC from the east side of the Anacostia River. At the apex of the fortress hill there was a commanding view of the city and everything around it. We could see all the major landmarks from Brookland's Basilica, National Cathedral, Capitol dome in scaffolding this year, the whole of Roslyn Va. the Pentagon and Air Force memorial sculpture, looking around to National Airport and the rivers that wrap around them all as well as closer in view the Navy Yard and a stadium... It was astonishing to see this all from one vantage point. The point of this trip wasn't sight seeing but that was a nice bonus thanks to Mary Pat stopping to show us the commanding views before we trekked off into the woods. Once inside the woods we got tips on how to tell one type of oak from the next and many other tree's by the shapes of their leaves and the bark on the mature tree. Some we scratched to get a sniff of the scent in the plant like Sassafras and Spice bush. 

First view of the trail shows that someone decided to dump some tires and we could see how the invasive plants seem to grow mostly at the edges of the woods. She explained that the soil isn't rich in the right ways to support them in the depths of the woods where the natives still rule. 
Right off I was looking for plants I knew to point out. The green Brier a vine that has sharp long thorns was the first after poison ivy and English ivy that came to view. This plant had rich blue berries hanging on the mostly bare stems. They form low thickets that are refuge for birds and small animals. But I didnt' know there were two types of green brier plant until the other type was pointed out. It is smaller and has a longer oval type leaf and is light color on the underside. The thorns on the vine are much smaller but there are dozens of them compared to the smooth green brier. Very distinctive the two plants are so different but similar in a few ways. 

Next think I noticed was a fallen tree covered with my favorite fungus I called lichen. I now realize I was wrong, it is a type of fungus classified with mushrooms. That caused some debate we also discovered another type of mushroom also growing on the same logs. 

I really like the ruffled shape of the fungi commonly known as turkey tail or Trametes versicolor  and the mushrooms were kind of like rounded buttons. Looks like all those fungi that grow on wood in this shape are related and are generally called polypores or bracket fungi Wiki has a discussion of this that was enlightening for a novice. 
The colors of the trees were everything from brown to red and yellow and a little pinkish orange. 
Tulip poplar leaves were so high in the tree tops that I had to use my zoom lens to distinguish them. Then a new tree for me was the lovely orange pink black gum tree below. These leaves were more down to earth in the understory of the tall oaks and poplars.

Red maple leaves were there and best seen on the ground among the fallen oak leaves they stood out. 

One plant I hadn't ever seen or known about is the maple-leaf viburnum ,Viburnum acerifolium which turns a sort of red or pink in fall making it stand out but the plants.

rich pink of Maple-leaf Viburnum 

My last photos are of the view down into the woods where a gully runs and some of the huge trees had fallen making an opening in the forest canopy. The one plant I didn't expect to see was mountain laurel Kalmia latifolia and there was a lot of it all along the trails and off in the woods on the forest floor. The link on mountain laurel will take you to the wiki page that has some great photos of the beautiful spring flowers. This would be fun to see next spring right here in Washington DC. I am so glad we ventured out with Mary Pat Rowen taking Meron, our Ethiopian friend, who is very brave to go out for a long forest walk in the cold but I think she had a great experience just like Keith and I did. 
Mary Pat Rowen and Meron 

Dan, Keith, Meron, with Mary Pat who gets us started.

Dave, ______, Dwight, Dan, Keith, Meron, Mary Pat as we began the sky was gray and the wind was cold and everyone was adjusting to the weather... later it warmed up and we enjoyed a visit to the museum where they had a great beading and quilt display.