Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Fan Improvisation on a rainbow. Quilt finish

This is the completed Improv Fan Quilt which has been a long time coming.

I began with a request from Jessie Aller for some improv blocks for a DC Modern Quilt Guild charity project she was putting together in 2014  for a member named Angela. It was simple rectangles of mixed fabrics building a block using a scrappy theme. After I made several I decided it might be fun to try and make a bunch of these blocks to use as fabric in my own quilt.
My new blocks would be in the colors of the rainbow because our apartment is flooded with these spectrum every sunny morning and lots of quilters are really into "rainbow" as their color theme, I wanted to try my own version but I wanted to do it with black as my background like the Amish quilts I like. It was in part a reaction to all the gray and white used by many modern quilters. They rarely choose black to work into a quilt design. The bold colors of Amish and Mennonite quilts really appeal to my eye and they are usually dark and have black or dark blue as a ground. 
gratuitous chicken shot taken at the Zenzendorf Hermitage Pitman PA

Back in 2006/2007 I went to a retreat and for an artist residency to a magical place in the mountains of Pennsylvania called the Hermitage founded and run and created entirely by the Zenzendorf Brothers who have a huge collection of early American log buildings filled with all sorts of tools, furniture and implements of farm life circa 1800's from the many farms around their Pennsylvania Dutch valley. In the oldest house there was a sort of loft room with beds piled high with antique quilts. At the Hermitage they used no electricity and candles or oil lanterns (flashlights) under the stars.  A shower house with water from the well and a propane gas tank to heat the water and run a refrigerator were the only modern comfort luxuries. It was such fun to be there and In the 1747 reconstructed Moravian house (see image below) I discovered this antique fan quilt. I got a snapshot of it on the bed in the loft where I slept under it one chilly autumn night. The bed was antique too with no box spring just ropes holding the lumpy mattress off the floor. 

When I began I wasn't sure how I would use my rainbow blocks this row of colors with black edge and solid strips was an early sketch and it helped to keep count of how many improv squares of each color I had completed and how they looked as a group.

This shows one idea I played with before I moved on to add a magenta to this spectrum and then came to the conclusion I wanted to do a 2015 year of curved piecing in my quilts. I looked around for design ideas and realized that I would like to try a fan quilt like this antique crazy pieced fan quilt from The Zenzendorf Hermitage which I slept under years ago. I took the fan idea and built my blocks to be my color fabric in a curved pieced design using the black as background.
Cut glass crystals hang in my windows where they cast spectrum all over our living room in the morning when the sun rises. I took careful note of the order of the colors to do my layout then forgot it in the end as I split the colors up to place the orange near the center.
Rainbow lighting on the White house to celebrate Marriage Equality decision by Supreme Court last summer was just one of the many reminders about rainbows last year.
I made this rope bowl for a charity auction early on in the year which pushed me to create more blocks in more colors of the rainbow after the orange and blue ones I did for the guild quilt. 
It was challenging to cut and piece so many small curves my fan block size is 8" finished with the colored fabric having so many seams to sew over in danger of being chewed by the feed dog... By the time eight fans of each color were pieced I ran out of steam and decided it was big enough to be a nice nap sized quilt and laid them on the wall and pieced them together in a diagonal design that shows off the rainbow effect. 66" square is the finished size.  

I used pins to make each fan, that helped keep the colored improv seams under control as I rounded the curves. Then I got a number made and began experimenting with how to assemble the fan blocks.

Lots of ways to put them together with the black background were considered but in the end I chose to do the diagonal layout and save the stars for another quilt top design. 
The view across the 2012-13 English Paper Pieced Rose-Star quilt to the wall that holds my quilts in progress. You see on my design wall an early layout of the shapes. I had two shapes from my curved cuts pieced with matching curved black grounds. 

Once I got the fan top together I wanted to use the traditional fan quilting pattern to do my quilting on this project and I chose rainbow pearl cotton size 8 thread in colors as close to the row as possible.
 I don't have a great source for pearl cotton threads anywhere locally and I don't like to buy by mail order due to the high cost of shipping. I did it once and at $13 for a single spool it is just too high a cost so I continue to hunt for shops that sell pearl cotton #8 in a wide range of colors. 

 There you can see the orange red rows of quilting and then below the oval label I embroidered using regular two thread embroidery floss with a peek at the back a print that has butterflies and dots in a lavender gray on black ground. The binding is solid colors laid out in the spectrum around two times in a row all around the edges.

finished quilt on the wall 66 x 66"

Another antique crazy quilted fan quilt I saw last summer done by a lady Esther in 1896 which reenforced my creative process to building my own.  She did a nice hand embroidered label that puts mine to shame but it's not a new idea to embroider a makers label. 

That is all. Carry on, quilting whenever possible. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Finished Floating Squares Quilt

Floating Squares quilt finish, 54 x 41 inches 

Big stitch quilted in squares and embroidery label. 
Detail of the quilting using the shapes on the top to dictate what size and shape the squared linear quilting pattern took was fun but very time consuming as must hand stitching always will be. 

This quilt was built using a "score" from the new Handbook for Improv Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood 2015 I receieved for my 60th Birthday gift from my partner last summer. I am really enjoying reading and using her techniques many I am already using but finding new ways to go forward through her writing. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Patchwork Improv "Floating Squares"

First project in the Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters is a challenge to set aside the usual modern quilter's tools and get back to a more intuitive use of scissors and build from a two sets of pre-cut squares. The assembly begins with a third color as the "filler"  to make these pre-cut squares fit together into larger and larger blocks. It was suggested one begin with a limited amount of fabric for each color and an unlimited amount of filler fabric to make it work until you ran out of squares.


I chose all solid fabrics which is a popular choice with modern quilters and I haven't done much work with pure solid color fabrics. I was always drawn to the tiny print calico style fabrics for it's interesting visual textures, but I am learning to use both and wanted to be pure in my first attempt at doing a Score from the Handbook. I used Kona Solids: Cinnamon and Chartreuse and Lilac as the filler color.  It worked out rather nicely I thought and I quit assembling them when I had three blocks that were about the same size. The total wasn't big enough for anything but a new born infant quilt so I decided to choose a second set of colors to work that would mimic my first set but be different. 
Next color selection was Salmon pink, dark Magenta and Silver gray for the filler.

Once those were joined up I took a third set of Turquoise, Orange-yellow and used Corn yellow as my filler.

Then I had enough to make a throw quilt top and started trying to figure out how to join them all together. It was an interesting project but I found in the end I didn't care much for the three sets together.

I was surprised at how easy it was to cut and sew fabric in straight edged shapes not using a ruler which is actually how I began before I had a set of rotary cutters and rulers and mats. In the future I will decide on all the fabrics going into a project before I get into a mix up like this one was.

finished top "Floating Squares" 43"x 56" 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Orange Raspberry Quilt finish

Orange Raspberry quilt finish 29' x 57' 
This was a small quilt project I made as a gift. It's for a friend from my college Printmaking classes at Pratt Institute who has a new home of her own she acquired last summer. It is her first home which Keith and I went to visit during our big road trip last August. She has a big collection of artworks and had reserved a special place for one of my quilts. While we were there we measured the spot she reserved, intending for me to match up the space to fit the finished quilts I have at home. It is a place of pride by the wood stove in an alcove right in the center of the living room. I suspected right away that my finished quilts are a little bigger than what would fit in this space but I kept quiet because the idea to create a custom quilt suddenly leapt into my head.
left or right of the wood stove spaces reserved for a quilt

The 1930s bungalow front porch
I began this quilt with orange fabric because of the reactions to my finished quilts she had given while visiting Washington, DC and I know she likes orange.  I wanted to experiment with several new techniques. The fabric colors I limited to orange, orange-red solids and a raspberry stain magenta print. I began with several blocks from the improv workshop with Denyse Schmidt last summer that I decided not to put in my bigger all orange quilt. It took off from there making new blocks by whacking those improv blocks up to making new ones.  Then I began using a new technique of the eighth inch strip stripe inserted in a block which I discovered on Instagram. This is an example below. 
these colors are closest to the real quilt colors. 

While working I was thinking about handsome mid century chair's upholstery color and dots and the lines in the architect's modern garden features as references to fit this angled improvisational quilt design with round dots and triangles of hand quilting on the finish. 
orange dots on pink mid century chair

garden view 
It fell together quite fast since it is small and I had a lot of fun playing with the colors and pieces to create the top. Once the top was assembled I used an art quilt technique to put the three layers together. Instead of a binding tape around the raw edges, I used an envelope or pillowcase technique for the first time. It worked quite well and gave a nice finish without a tape frame. 
The quilting was fun. I used a contrasting pearl cotton size number eight with big stitch to show the piecing off and followed the angles then added circles to reflect the chair's dots. As you may notice the quilt colors are different in each slide. While photographing these close value oranges and high contrasting magenta I learned it confuses the camera. In some lights it looks like yellow and purple but that is not the way it looks in person. I marked the slide that comes closest to the real colors.
I gifted the finish to my friend just after Christmas when she came to visit and it was such a surprise and I gather she is very happy. She went right home and hung it in the space she showed me she wanted to display an original quilt last summer on our visit. Bonus shot includes one very interesting cat named honeybee passing by the new art work and she is the reason this collector doesn't think she can take home a quilt to use on  her beds since miss Honeybee sleeps on them. I liked the cat and wonder if there is a color quilt I could make that wouldn't show her fur? 

Finished Orange Raspberry Quilt 12-21-2015 
size 29" x 57" all cotton 
hand quilted with pearl cotton #8

label on the back 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

add a border block quilt label update

In the previous article about the Add-A-Border block I used to improvise a nine patch quilt top I neglected to show the back and the label I embroidered for it in my post. Trying to update the post by adding more photos and text wasn't working this morning. I decided to just post these photos with this story all on it's own.
Ever since I began quilting the label at the end was the part I felt was very important and it was a challenge to make. I was influenced to do simple big embroidery letters by a lovely lady in England Claire O. known as Selfsewn who had a blog post a number of years ago on her blog about her own labels you can read it here: Selfsewn Label Tutorial that was totally inspiring. For me it was the answer to the problem.
 So thanks Claire! Here is my latest kind of simple label on AAB quilt project seen in my previous post.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Add a Border block quilt finished

A few years ago I joined an Internet group of quilters who swap small blocks and add borders to each then send them off to others to add more rounds until a 6 inch block becomes 24 inches then it is given to the first to lay claim to the block. A nice fellow in Kentucky hosts the block swap sending and resending the blocks from one quilter in the group to the next. Here is a link if you want to see some of the work or join in the fun:  AddABorderBlockSwap on 

AFter a while in the group I never got to select a finished block so a second option was to keep one you liked and replace it. I chose this block after adding a round to it because I fell in love with the orange/magenta striped background fabric and the hexagon hand pieced block on it that looked like a toy block. It was made by Ed Hart who goes by Cattail in the group. I chose it as my block to keep and pinned it to my design wall to ponder how to build it into a queen size quilt top of my own improvising from this beginning. 

Not long after deciding to keep this block I put it away because I had so many quilt projects already underway and this project was not clearly worked out in my head.
The following year once all my Log Cabin quilts were completed I tried again. This first block built up to about 24 inches square and I realized that to keep going, like some other quilters do making it all a giant medallion, was going to be really difficult to keep my quilt squared. The wobble was starting to distort the square shape after adding only three more rounds! 
Next idea was to make more blocks like this improvising my way along with my core design element taken from the original block, the three diamond hexagon on a bright background that looks like a three dimensional toy block sitting in a field.

Next step was to make some three inch diamond English Paper Pieces and try to match the fabric of the original block with purple, white and green from my stash. It was fun making them up and hand stitching them together a couple at a time. 
The second block was different because the background was different and so it went on and on with each new block. Once I had four I decided I was going to organize them by doing a big nine patch design for the overall quilt pattern. 
Second block used a tartan shirt fabric given to me by Melinda Newton as my background
 The colors shifted to the purple and aqua range and I wanted to keep the magenta, red and oranges in the quilt so I chose another tartan in red and dark blue as the third block's backgrounder.
Third block 

4th block got a different colored hexagon in the center using a warm pink with magenta and white then the  flower background with oranges purples and magenta pinks. 
In this 4th block I was ready to take a step aside from the aqua purple theme and move back to the pink purple orange end of the range of colors. I am not sure why but it felt right when I headed in this direction looking at all four it needed this brightness. 

Three of the 3 inch central hexagons trying a new orange magenta color theme in the center hexagon. 
Then I wanted to throw a twist in and added a block with a diamond setting of the central hexagon. It was fun and a little tricky to add triangle blocks split in two...

I blogged earlier about messing this one up at our guild sewing day. I  cut that orange edged block in half the wrong way first thing and had to start it all over when I got home but that is a good example of how much thought and concentration is required to get the results you want in quilt top piecing.  This is how they looked before I cut them in half to create a triangle to add to the diamond block center. 

The various blocks all improvised pieces totaled nine which took a while to even up with extra rounds of thinner and thicker bands. In the final judgement I chose to add some solid magenta as sashing to draw all these unmatched blocks together to make a top to fit my queen sized sleigh bed. 

I was influenced by the hand work movement to make up some one inch English paper pieced tumbling blocks to include as a sort of button decoration on the intersections of the sashing. I wanted to add some scale to the theme small and large. 

one inch and three inch English Paper Pieced blocks in the quilt side by side
They were so small that I had a struggle to figure out how to get them on the intersections of the sashing and decided that applique was my best bet once the whole was hand quilted. I chose # 8 pearl cotton in contrasting or matching colors to detail the big blocks and surround them on the sashing leaving room for these small tumbling blocks at the intersections. 
Hand quilting with big stitch purple pearl cotton # 8

quilt top before the quilting began laid on my bed with four tiny one inch tumbling blocks at intersections 

detail of finish 

detail of finish hanging 

detail of central block finished 

Finished hanging by my bed (see the foot board lower left blocks the full view)

Hanging Tumbling block quilt improvisation based on the original "Add a Border" block from Ed "Cattail" of the block swap group. 
I wanted to thank Ed Hart for the inspiration and Dustin Cecil for sending me this block that has kept me busy for the last couple years. I regret that my home is kind of small and tight so the finished quilt shots are cramped but maybe next weekend when I show it at the Washington DC Modern Quilt Guild meeting I can get a better photo to add later. 
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