Thursday, September 27, 2012

Further adventures in quilting by the bay

This past week at the Ruppert's Bay retreat I got some big work completed. The first on my list of "things to do" was the space hungry basting of the three parts in a quilt that has to be spread out flat to accomplish, namely basting the three layers together before they can be quilted. The hand pieced top of 54 Rose-Stars was the quilt top that was ready to do this to and I got right to work. Backing laid out and stretched with painter's tape on a hard wood floor (painted red) layered with batting and finally the color filled top fit just right in the room... with a little room to walk around it on all sides. Last year I used this room to make my first machine pieced quilt. I didn't know last year to tape the bottom layer down while working which this year made the whole process much more accurate and easy. It was still hard labor to crawl on the floor stitching in large basting stitches with a long needle and thimble to push it through the three layers and back up. My figures were sore my knees and eventually my hip from laying on my bony side... But in less than 24 hours it was done folded and set aside to make way for the next project.

Rose-Star quilt basted fully stretched out on the floor of the red house's studio room 

back side of the Rose-Star Quilt is all white printed muslin. Close inspection of the photo shows lots of long dark blue threads running in a star burst from the center.
dark blue pieces for white panels stacked waiting to be appliqued 

 The Dresden Plate quilt a tribute to my great grandmother's of the same design is next. I have 30 blocks with hand stitched central circles appliqued on top of the machine pieced and appliqued plates in blue and white with opposite backgrounds. I also had seven more blocks near complete thinking I might do a small version to experiment with the machine quilting techniques I haven't tried yet with any success.

full sized diamond layout of the Dresden Plate pieces 
Diamond layout for smaller quilt top

The new environment was stimulating and having extra room to spread out and only these two projects on my plate made a new idea pop up. Diamonds? What if I turned the blocks to the side and got a diamond pattern instead of checker board style. It looked great but then I needed half blocks to fill out a rectangle and that would be a step back on this big quilt so I decided to play with the smaller version using the diamond layout and focus on getting the original checkerboard squares laid out and sewn together. It turned out a little bigger than I expected but it fell together so well I am not complaining about extra. I spent 8 months sewing the Rose-Star pieces so I never expected to achieve in one month the machine piecing of the Blue and white project with extra blocks to spare and the green and white fence quilt still on the back burner but getting close to next... The slow hand quilting of Rose-Star will put it all back in perspective.

Queen size Dresden Plate Top seen from my back porch window laid out in the garden
Thirty 18" inch squares appliqued with plates and center circles

Dresden Plate Top spread on the lawn. 
After some time reading in a book on Quilting I discovered a pattern I wanted to try. This is called Seminole after the Indian tribe of Florida who developed it years ago  using only a hand cranked sewing machine. It's a cool strip technique that uses stripes of three colors cut and re-sewn on diagonals in bands. The result of my first experiment is a very neat row of diamonds surrounded by contrasting color and long solid stripes... First I thought I would add some into the Dresden plate blue and white quilt but since it is so large, I think not. The better solution is to make another quilt and get really familiar with this technique. The rotary cutter, ruler and hot iron with lots of starch make this possible and fairly quick work.

first length of Seminole piecing in blues
closer look at detail of the Seminole strip piecing
 It is very exciting to have these two projects so much closer to complete and then a new technique well underway and understood. All that thanks to the time and space provided by our great friends the Rupperts of Fairhaven Cliffs, Md. I am looking forward to playing with all this and more in the coming months as I figure out the next steps. New quilting friends at the DC Modern Quilting Guild gave me a tip to buy a "walking foot attachment" for my machine. I found one on a very sweet web page today devoted entirely to my vintage featherweight Singer sewing machine. It seems from further reading there that the sales man was right it's a highly sought after machine! This link will take you back to the 1930s sewing shop for a little time travel. I ordered the walking foot and expect to have it in a week or two to try machine quilting again using the right foot to keep things smooth under the needle of the crawling foot.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chesapeake bay house autumn artists retreat

cirrus clouds blew in to view for a week of perfect weather 

first arrangement of wild and garden flowers Keith built upon arrival

view from the bay window at dawn one morning 

sun rise on the bay

Kudzu grows up and over trees in the little valley by the red house 

Unknown bug in the field

the boats docked in Chesapeake Beach by the railway trail 

green heron at the edge of the water hunting tiny fish thousands of them were visible from above on the boadwalk

one of many great blue herons stalking

beautiful cirrus clouds and crisp autumn air make for perfect walking weather by the bay

Mallard ducks on the waterway below the board walk trail

wild magenta purple morning glory on a barbed wire fence; ample seeds collected to add to our garden next season

King fisher perched on a pole along the waterway squawked  and fled a closer perch when we passed on the boardwalk 

white snowy egrets on that distant pier and in the shallow water's edge

on the ride home we pass in a Nature Conservancy's preserve and there was a flock of 9 wild turkey's strolling in a field at the edge of the forest.

Here the turkey's are marching off into the shadows aware of us but not panicked by it... still the photo from the car seat wasn't the best. 

beginning to notice some color in the eastern clouds as they approach the bay from the west.

we rushed over to the lake to get the best views of the sunset looking west

Rain had been in the forecast all day but not until sunset did we see any clouds 

by the time we made it to the lake (10 minute quick hike from the house) we began to see not only clouds and colorful sunset but what looked like rain falling

We headed back to the house as it began to get darker since we didn't bring a flashlight

from the bridge where we talked to a few of the fishermen who showed us their catch the white of the clay cliffs by our house are visible across the bay
We had a really great time staying in the Ruppert's red house by the Chesapeake bay this past week. Keith and I packed up everything we would need, including food and linens as well as tools and supplies to make our respective artist projects and drove only 40 miles from our apartment to the bay house Molly and her family offered us to use as an artist's retreat last week. We spent a day getting unpacked, setting up the studios we needed and then rains came and we were ready to work inside. Once the rains passed we were ready for a good long walk and there is always plenty to see and enjoy. I left my Internet and TV at home which allowed me to be very focused on my quilting projects and resting in between with good food and company. We took turns cooking, I made breakfast and lunch then worked while Keith made dinner and our late night egg white & bran galette with fruit, a routine we began while dieting that we keep because we love it so much. We went one day to Chesapeake Beach to the great little thrift shop. I got an armload of quilting fabrics and sheets plus two hand knitted wash cloths two dress shirts two pair of pants and two ceramic vases for a grand total of $7.50. Astounding to walk out with so much for so little. Then we took an ambitious walk on the boardwalk and trail along the old railway path. Nature abounds there with tidal marsh and flowing waterways that empty into the bay. Forest and fields... birds everywhere and a few wild flowers for the careful observer were a delight. I took a limited number of photos for the whole week. Total came to 46 in the end many of those of the amazing sunset and storm that passed over Fairhaven Cliffs the last evening we were there. We got drenched on the warm walk home but it was worth the wet spell to see the beautiful sunset and get a record to end our week with a dramatic show of colors. It is such a blessing to have an occasional retreat from the city where we saw wild turkeys, bald eagles, king fisher, blue herons, crows, ground hogs,deer and more creatures to many to list. Keith heard owls several times very late in the night but I slept through the concerts of hooting on this visit. We enjoyed a night of star gazing on the deck a few times and walks on the beach to collect drift wood and cuttings for Keith's work. I tried my hand at reed cutting (bamboo) to make some pens to draw with like Vincent Van Gogh used. I did only one drawing this time but now I have a collection of bamboo to cut as needed for more this winter. For me completing the Rose-star quilt basting was a major accomplishment for my week but I am going to post later on the quilting accomplishments when I get a few more photos to show.

Monday, September 17, 2012

DC Modern Quilt Guild

Williamsburg fence blocks ready for backing. 
Saturday I went to my first quilt guild meeting. It was an all day sewing affair with about a dozen artists who work with fabric to do wonderful things. The meeting space was perfect for sewing and that is what we did from 10-4PM there were tables and we brought our tools. The goal was to get some work done on a charity 100 quilts for children. I am still trying to figure out how to use my vintage sewing machine to do quilting on a big fabric sandwich. I had my 3x5" quilt top the Williamsburg Fence design ready to quilt. I laid it out twice to pin it together with the batting and the backing just right. I got there on time to help set up in North Arlington at a beautiful new library community room. We had tables with plugs and plenty of space light and chairs. It was perfect. The group was welcoming and I really had a great time. I got lots of tips from everyone but especially Elle who also gave a demo on some triangle squares. I only took a few photos at the end just to show that I was there and help me remember a few faces for future meetings. The green and white project is going on hold until I get a walking foot attachment to make the machine quilting work correctly. I tried but it didn't work with the straight foot I have.
Today we head to the bay for a week of creative work in Molly's red cottage! I can't wait.
Thanks to everyone at the guild for making me feel so welcome and normal. I can't wait for next month's meet up in the NGA sculpture garden. I have to bring some rose star English paper pieced blocks to show and who knows what else...

Jessie was a sweetheart and brought her Dresden plate Epp applique blocks to show me but I didn't know she wanted to see mine until I met her... Next time Jessie~!

I sat next to Carrie who is due in Dec. and was making that great star pattern block you can see in the next photo. 

Two projects begun at the meet up. 

Elle there with her blue shirt and back to us was the most help to me with my first time machine quilting project and she demonstrated a cool block trick for triangle squares. 

Jelly roll in red turquoise and whites makes us all smile

Williamsburg with pins

with backing and batting and ready to sew

the problem with my machine stitching without the walking foot is the bunching of the fabric. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

presently quilting

gate and fence of pickets in Colonial Willamsburg (inspiration)
blue plate parts for Dresden plate blocks 

blue skies and white clouds so clear in September

part of the Williamsburg design

gardens behind the big houses are always fenced in Colonial Williamsburg

I am working in this great weather in the garden a little and with the sewing machine a lot. I set the hand sewing down to move back to the 20th century machine and get a little quick satisfaction. The trip last week to VA to get more green fabric was a boon and I got right to work on a small throw using the green and white pattern I am calling Williamsburg's fences. I am also making great progress on the Dresden plate blocks. The speed that comes with a machine and the rotary cutter and a ruler is amazing. I think I will have a full queen sized Dresden plate top done by this time next week. I have completed a small top in the green and white Williamsburg pattern to test the vintage Singer sewing machine as my quilting machine. Mr. Burger, at the sewing repair shop who sold it to me, claimed it was an excellent machine for quilting in spite of it's age. So we will see soon if he was he was telling the truth. This first year it has done very well on piecing but now I am ready to test it further.

This cooler clear weather of the last week has really been a great stimulus to creativity for me or at least I feel like working long hours on these projects. Also driving my ambition is my first visit to the DC Modern Quilt Guild meeting Saturday. They meet once a month to work and share some time as a group of Washington DC area quilters. I am excited to meet and work with them and share stories. Maybe I will learn something new from the experienced quilters. I am especially excited to see a demo by Elle of something about a stencil for a square made from triangles that is suppose to make them easier to sew.

Then we get to go to the Chesapeake bay cottage we used last summer. At the bay I will have all my tools and lots of time to draw and sew and quilt and walk and enjoy the weather with my partner. We are looking forward to getting out of the city for a little retreat. My first plan is to lay out the Rose-Star quilt and get it basted to the batting and backing on the big bare floors of the bay house. Then I can begin to quilt the layers together.
from Ebay a real blue and white Dresden porcelain plate circa 1880's
The cardinal looking for handouts

sage is so silvery this morning and smells to remind me soon Thanksgiving will be here  

poke berries looking good 
In the garden today a cardinal came to visit and sing and seemed to be looking for the feeder that I put out a couple days ago that the sparrows emptied last evening. He wasn't very shy and I got a quick shot of him perched on the choke cherry tree. I was moved by the color of the Sage and the Poke berries as they ripen and draw the mocking birds to the garden. After taking pictures I spent an hour clipping over grown grasses away from the edges of our side and front yard flower beds. Perfect weather meant this job barely make me break out in a laborious sweat. Now it's time to get back to the sewing and preparations for a delicious dinner.