Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fabric plates and fences

This week I went to work first on the Williamsburg quilt project inspired last year by fences and boxwood hedges, green and white blocks of pinwheel fence parts. That was so original that I didn't make a pattern and now have a bunch of uneven sized blocks to try to resolve which has me in a real muddle. That awful feeling of not knowing how I want to solve the problem led me to set it aside and think  while I picked up another project I have been wanting to do for a very long time.

Fence and window and corners ?

pinwheel fence parts are the best but not evenly sized. 
Dresden plate is the only heirloom quilt in our family chest from my Mom's Grandmother who raised her in Roanoke Va. It's a simple design with wonderful vintage fabric patterns that I have always loved to look at and think about where these little bits of colorful fabric came from. I have been admiring other quilts on the net and Pinterest who use just blue and white fabrics so I decided to get a bunch of blue and white and do my first Dresden plate quilt using just those colors like a real Blue Willow Asian design of blues and white porcelain. I watched a couple tutorials on YouTube and got the basics of how to make the arrow shaped pieces... then assemble them. I got right to work and tonight I am happy to say in the first two days made up 4 plates. Two light and two dark to go on opposite back ground blocks in a checker board pattern. 
New tools make cutting exact shapes much easier. 

First block and first time I used the little micro iron to fold down small edges! Keith won this tiny iron on a stick at the Manassas Quilt show two years ago in the door raffle which I wasn't sure I would ever use. Now I can say I needed it for this quilt project. 

The first four blocks laid up on the felt wall. 
Dresden plate is the only heirloom quilt in our family chest from my Mom's Grandmother who raised her in Roanoke Va. It's a simple design with wonderful vintage fabric patterns. I have always loved to look over all the fabrics in that quilt and think about where these little bits of colorful fabric came from. I have been admiring other quilts on the Internet and Pinterest who use just blue and white fabrics. I collected a number of blue and white patterns and solids to use in my first Dresden plate quilt using just those colors like a real Blue Willow plate design of blue and white porcelain. Keith found a couple tutorials on YouTube and we got the basics of how to make the arrow shaped pieces... then assemble them. Yesterday I got right to work and tonight I am happy to have 4 plates pieces. Two light and two dark to go on opposite back ground blocks in a checker board pattern. I have some more choices to make on this one but it is going to go a little faster than the Rose Star Quilt because I am using my birthday gift from last year to sew up the blue and white designs from this year's gift. I believe I have to make 30 plates to cover an 90 x 108 sized top. It's going very well this time. Then I can get back to playing with the green and white Williamsburg project again and I have a urge to look at a red and white quilt after seeing the slides from the big show in NYC last year.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

beginning the 57th year

Let him eat cake!  Some to the fun things we did for my birthday week celebration...

57th Birthday portrait prior to eating the amazing chocolate sunflower cake. Clearly a winner in my book!  
This week after a fun day with Keith at the Bread Line for lunch and a visit to the excellent 40 Under 40 show (link to slide show of the artworks) of young crafts artists at the Renwick Smithsonian American Crafts Museum we had a quiet evening at home we ate birthday cake and watched the funny & sad movie Beginners which tells the story of a 75 year old man coming out and his son's romance with a lovely French actress. It was funny and had a great role for the little Jack Russell Terrier. Christopher Plummer (82 years old) won his first Oscar for the role of the gay father this year which is one reason I wanted to see this film.

I received, just what I wanted, from my guy, a beautiful copy of the exhibition catalog from Vincent Van Gogh The Drawings, at the Metropolitan Museum of art up in NYC that I saw a number of years ago. It's a great collection of his works on paper and a few paintings to show how he sketched his finished works in letters to show his supporter Theo, other artists and his family what he was creating. It also has some great reproductions of his formal reed pen and ink drawings which are very detailed and very accomplished works on paper. I used to draw with a reed pen but we don't have any bamboo growing in our pots in the garden any longer to cut flexible green reeds from. I need to go scouting to see if I can find some near by that I can cut and use to draw again.
Rose star quilt top over the curtain rod 

Light pouring through the quilt top looks like stained glass windows

 The next day we arrived in Manassas to celebrate with my Mom late in the afternoon. I wanted to photograph my Rose Star quilt top hanging over her bay window before it got too late and did that then we had to go eat lunch right away. I had seen other quilters paper pieced tops hanging in the sunlight and wanted a few of mine to show how much they look like stained glass windows. We later went to a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner. She had never had Vietnamese and we always liked the dishes at a restaurant that was closed up in Clarendon, Va. a few years back to make way for condos by the metro station. Closing of Cafe Dalat was a real loss to our list of restaurants we love. Pho in Manassas was OK but nothing to write home about the way Cafe Dalat once was.

Thursday we took off to Warrenton to find a bakery that made a delicious Lemon cake my sister Jenny sent mom for Valentines earlier this year. We enjoyed the ride through the country side and were also looking for lunch and some thrifty shopping at a number of shops Keith found on his google maps. Red Truck bakery was sold out of sandwiches at 2 PM when we arrived and wouldn't have any more until they opened the next day. They sent us to a little nature shop that was a complete time warp back to 1970's that served us up some delicious sandwiches way upstairs in an old house turned vitamin, herbs, books, massage and incense, etc. store. It happened to be right across the street from Salvation Army shop. I went back later for some red truck shaped and iced short bread cookies too attractive to pass up after going to the bakery so far from home.

Keith escorts Phyllis across the street to Salvation Army store in Warrenton
We didn't find anything thrifty to buy but we had a good time looking and seeing the old town of Warrenton before we headed home. Friday we went to Lowe's hardware for a bucket and found that they had several plants Keith and I wanted. Mom treated Keith to a red December blooming camellia called Yule Tide. We also found several big white clematis on the discount racks for $2.50 each a super bargain at exactly the right time of year to plant them for next year's flowering. Remember: first year sleeps, second year creeps, third year leaps is the rule for perennial vines.
Keith's red camellia is already planted as I am writing this post , that was fast.

white clematis x two 
New York Asters
 I spent some birthday money at Joann's Fabrics again to select gifts from Mom myself since she can't get out and buy them alone. I picked out a rotary cutter and blades and a few blue and white fabrics to go with the old sheets I found at thrift stores recently. I am dreaming of a Dresden plate design to mimic the antique one that she has which was made by her grand mother. I borrowed it and plan to make some adjustments to the design but I wanted it handy to guide my work in the coming weeks. I also got my backing & batting washed and shrunk up in the dryer at home because we don't have laundry in our apartment building.
Great grand mother's Dresden plate quilt 

These are some new & old blue and white fabrics for a new quilt project were a gift from Mom this year in addition to the bumpy off white bedspread I found at Salvation Army store Manassas. It reminds me of being a kid and napping on my parents bedspread just like this one.

I have to say it was a great week from beginning to end. Thanks too all my friends and family who sent best wishes on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

57 and counting

Limenitis arthemis astyanax on the green brier leaves in the woods! 
 This is my 57th Birthday and it's a typical August day. Heat is building and rain storms are possible later as it peaks a down pour is possible. I was lucky to have a cooler day this past Saturday to go with Keith to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens for an afternoon of walking and photographing and a picnic lunch... I took about 45 photos and it took me three days to get them and my other daily pictures edited. I am going to load them up on my pages for those who want to take a look. But here is a sample of the things we saw.
asclepia the swamp milkweed flowering (we have some in our garden too!)

the tide was out and so the muddy flats are exposed

lotus pod with leaf

Look closely for the frog!

Keith with the zoom lens and lunch in his shoulder bag 
a quick self portrait with the marsh background

the mud when the water is gone shine in the bright light

the Anacostia river banks have stone walls along the edges

Anacostia River isn't so wide but looks like it could have been a great place to swim years ago

black and blue butterfly that posed was a high point on the forest walk. 
we even had a face to face with this faun who soon high tailed it off into the marsh 
It was a great day to be out in nature. We are fortunate to have this national park less than five miles from our home. It's a shame we missed the peak bloom of the lotus flowers but the pods and late bloomers are always worth the trip and the creatures were delightful to see not all of them posed for the cameras.

I also received a box from my pal Betsy Kidder for my birthday. It came early and is loaded with 25 years worth of the letters I have written and sent to her a few other choice gifts for quilting and art making. I found these photos of us together back in 1995 when I was on chemo therapy for Kaposi's Sarcoma and expecting my life to be over soon, who knew I would still be here to celebrate 57 all these years later! I am looking forward to re reading the stories I wrote over these crazy years of fighting for my life and pursuing my creative dreams.
Betsy lives on the beautiful Ipswich River and tidal marsh next to the Atlantic Ocean. I was there a few years ago for a birthday and it is a magical place to be this time of year in New England.

1995 Betsy and Frederick 17th St. NW Washington DC. 

We became good friends at Pratt Institute Brooklyn NY in the 1970's where we both majored in Printmaking fine arts.

To top off my birthday week I also finished the piecing of my Rose Star Quilt and now am ready to begin the quilting of it with batting and a backing cloth. It means I can begin to play with new designs and patterns on my quilting felt wall which is very exciting after 8 months of working on this one project. I took a couple photos of the back of the quilt top laid out on our living room Asian carpet. If you look carefully and blow up these photos you will see many of the paper pieces are still in place. I have since removed them all but the edges. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

some more quilt pictures

detail of rose star quilt on the felt wall
 Here are a few more shots of the rose star quilt english paper pieced project hanging up.
most of the rose star quilt top on the felt wall with some red fabric under the upper right showing the finish of zig zag edge. 
I am still thinking about how to finish off the edges. two sides are straight and two sides are zig zag edges currently. I could add some triangles of white or a color to make the zig zag straight. Or I am thinking about adding diamonds of color to the zig zag edge for a colorful edge. But then what to do with the straight edges? I am not sure how I want to end this hand stitching and piecing. Designing is fun but on some days no clear answers present themselves. Ideas? Comments welcome. 

back side of a rose star with paper pieces basted in place

bag of paper pieces after I pulled them out sitting on the 6 yards of white muslin print for the backing

ball of multi colored basting threads pulled out of the finished section

winged white hexagons ready to put between the colored rose stars. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Quilting and flowers

showing the zig zag edge over the side of sleigh bed

showing the zig zag edge on the blue pillows at the top of the bed
My English paper pieced rose star quilt is making good progress this week I finally got the last roses connected with the winged hexagon bits that go between and attached them all together to arrive at a finished size of about 86x84 inches. I went out to visit mom and see about getting it put with a backing and batting and getting it professionally basted together so I can hand quilt it more easily. I was not quoted a very good price for that work so I most likely will do it myself. As I have been working I decided to give it a decorative edge of points on the two sides that works out to be part of the design. You can see one edge is completed and the other side is soon to be done to match. Top and bottom or sides will be straight with maybe a border of a few inches added to give it more length for tucking and turning to keep dirty hands off the important parts. It was really difficult to choose but my conservative nature won in the shop when I was choosing the backing. I decided to back it with the same printed white muslin fabric that is between the colorful rose stars. I almost regret not being bolder and going with a red and white Jacobean line print I found but it was what my gut was telling me to do at the moment, use the white... it said. I took time to photograph some of the threads that were pulled out from a section as I removed the basting stitches used to hold the paper parts in place while assembling all the pieces. What a nest of thread it is and it's only about a third of the quilt that these came from to make this pile of threads which balled up is as big as both of my fists side by side.

pile of basting threads from the paper pieces of a third of the quilt after removing them and the paper. 

Now I am home getting ready to finish up the last of the zig zag edge on the other side of the Rose Star quilt. It has been a long haul from Jan. 15th when I began making rose stars in the challenge. It was a small block quilt group on set up with a simple tutorial by Clare who goes by the Nome De Plume Selfsewn. She is the blogger who started the group for us to share photos in the "Rose-Star block party" on Flickr. I am very happy that I kept going making rose stars beyond the challenge number of six making 54 which is just large enough to fit our queen sized sleigh bed top. It's going to be fun finishing it off over the remaining months of this year. At least I hope it won't take much longer than a year to complete the quilt even with quilting by hand. It could be that I need two years to finish but I hope not. 

quilt with zig zag at top and bottom on the bed 

quilt top with straight top and bottom.

The next thing we did was stop at the Merrifield Garden Center in Gainesville to see what we could find. I was hoping to find a dark purple 'Nicky' summer phlox but they didn't have a single one. Some others that were pretty but not that dark and rich in color. Mom got excited about some of the day-lilies that were still in bloom this late in the summer. She went out and picked one called Vanilla Fluff which is a big 6 inch doubled flower that smells of vanilla and the one she selected had three flowers open. So we brought it home and I planted it strait away. Another flowering plant in the green house caught her eye from half way across the nursery and we went to see it. Crossandra's orange flowers were pretty spectacular so she said she would like one of these to go home too. We packed it up and went back to Manassas. I sketched it at her recommendation this morning before I came home to DC.

Vanilla Fluff big day lily blooms

Vanilla Fluff daylilies

crossandra in the rose pot Manassas 

sketch of crossandra