Friday, June 22, 2018

Improv Quilt Finish That Took Forever

This past week, I finally finished a long neglected project that I started back in 2014.  You can read about its beginnings HERE

I had been given some corduroy and other fabric by a friend who was cleaning out her scraps.  After making a little corduroy and flannel quilt, I took the left over corduroy scraps, along with some other scraps from deconstructed clothing, and started playing, improv style.  I even made a video about it (see above link).


I had in mind a Gee's Bend style quilt, something like this one:
(Image source)
My quilt top was completed in late 2014.  In 2015, I started quilting it (see HERE and HERE).  First, ditch quilting to hold the layers together, then hand quilting in a few places with pearl cotton. 


What bothered me a little was that I wasn't able to bury my knots in the quilt.  I tried hiding them in a seam where I could, but it seemed that more often than not, they were going to be visible on the back. 
- - -
Let me digress for a minute here and tell you a funny/interesting story.  It'll relate back to this quilt, I promise.

This past winter, February 2018, I went to a presentation by Heidi Parkes at the Museum of Wisconsin Art.  I didn't know anything about her, just that she was a quilter, and that was enough for me.  I did know that I had a serious case of cabin fever and needed to get out of the house.  The weather was cooperative that day, so I hopped in the car and drove a couple counties over to where she was speaking.


(Heidi Parkes at MOWA)
She talked about her process, how she came to quilting from not a sewing background, but from an art background.  She used repurposed clothing, linens, etc. in her work, and she often hand quilted with pearl cotton across the entire quilt in lovely, long parallel lines.

During the Q and A, I asked her how she hid her knots.

She said she didn't.

She explained that she just started with a long, long thread (however long she needed) and quilted in one continuous line until she reached the other end of the quilt.  That blew my mind!

I realized she didn't have any particular rules ingrained in her (like I did) about not using a super long thread when hand sewing or quilting, because...I don't know, it might knot or otherwise be too unwieldy? 

For Heidi, having a long distance to quilt meant using a long thread.  Simple as that!
- - -
Back to my improv quilt, my intention for finishing the quilt had initially been that I would free motion quilt the rest of it...somehow, some way, some day, no real clue as to a specific plan.

Having no real direction, and a varying sense of indifference bordering on disappointment, it was easy to let myself get distracted by shinier things. 

Fast forward to last week.  I picked up the quilt to move it (AGAIN), but then stopped to look at it more closely.  Then, I can't say "I decided to finish it," but I decided to thread a needle and take another stab at it, literally. 

I made it up as I went along. Moving around the quilt, looking at what it needed where.

Starting with some vertical lines through the center portion, which had always seemed so starkly divided looking to me.  

Some cross-hatching stitches, too.


Hand quilting some single lines here, and parallel lines there.

More cross-hatching stitches.  

I thought of Heidi Parkes as I stitched long parallel lines in the borders of the quilt, with several feet of thread in my needle, sufficient to make it from one end to the other without stopping.  It worked just fine.

Finally, in the tan corduroy spaces inside the border, I didn't have a coordinating colored thread, so tried simply tying the quilt there in a contrasting thread.  That didn't look right by itself.  Anchored with buttons, though, it was better and added a little something.


And soon enough, that was that.


It measures about 40 inches square(ish).  The back is a vintage thrifted piece.


It's currently on the wall in the living room.  No more moving it around the sewing room, neglected and unfinished.  It's officially done!

Linking to:  Can I Get a Whoop-Whoop?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's the Little Things

This is absolutely my favorite time of year.  I just came back from a walk and the sky was such a clear blue, the trees and lawns so lushly green, new flowers vivid and bright, the air light and breezy.  What's not to love?
(View from the bike trail a couple weeks ago.)
(Another bike trail view.)
Pollen, I suppose.  Mosquitoes, depending on the time of day.  There are those too, but the good things far outweigh the nuisances most days.

I have been posting regularly on Facebook (mostly family in that group), but I need to catch up a bit here on the blog.  
(Purple martins enjoying the evening.)
Sewing-wise, I've finished up a couple small things in the past few weeks.  These star pillows, from Dad's shirts and ties, got backs made and were stuffed.
I used a denim shirt of Dad's for the back of one.  He was a big man, so his size XXL shirt back was just right for an 18-1/2 inch, envelope style pillow back.  For the other pillow back, I just used a medium brown Kona cotton.
My niece got married last September and my Dad was able to attend the wedding.  She posted a picture on Facebook recently where I noticed Dad was wearing the blue shirt I'd used in the pillows, so I gave her one of them as a keepsake.
I also picked up the memory quilt from Betty, the longarm quilter.  She did a great job with an overall design.
(Memory quilt from Dad's shirts.)
I bound the quilt in the same brown Kona as mentioned above for the pillow back.

As I was tidying up the sewing space recently, I came upon a small pile of bonus half-square triangles.  I thought I'd given the whole lot of these to a friend to whom I'd recently sent a box of orphan blocks.  Yet here were some stragglers that got left behind.
Well, you know how it goes when you start playing with scraps.  Pretty soon I had them laid out, then sewn together, then bordered, etc.  And then I thought it needed buttons, just because.
I call this a procrastination project.  Had other things I probably should have been doing, but following this little bunny trail seemed more compelling.  

Another thing I found while putting things away was an Amish doll quilt flimsy I'd pieced well over 15 years ago.

(Found Amish doll quilt flimsy)
I'd stuffed it way back in a drawer.  I remember being somewhat disappointed in the fact that I'd had to piece the border in two places because the scrap of purple fabric I was using wasn't quite long enough.  And I didn't want to buy more fabric just to finish a silly little doll quilt.  

It makes me chuckle now, remembering that I was bummed about the minor details of having a couple extra seams in a border.  Since then, I've pieced together a lot of borders and know it doesn't matter much at all in the scheme of things.

I also remember getting to the "now what?" point after it was a flimsy.  I didn't have any free-motion quilting skills yet, and the thought of hand quilting felt like too much effort.  So it was put away.

After rediscovering it recently, I decided it deserved finishing.  And so I did.
I used a walking foot and cross-hatched the center part in red thread.  Then I used an older plastic template I had to chalk on an outline for the wavy braid-like border.  I used a vintage turquoise thread from the 1970s called "Super Sheen" (thrifted!) to quilt the border, again with the walking foot.
Interestingly, I had bought that template for an Amish quilter to use many years ago.  She hand-quilted a Smoky Mountain Stars quilt for me and used the same quilting design in the border.

Next in line (maybe) is to finish quilting a String-X quilt that's been basted and waiting for a few weeks already.  It might be aged just enough to start—unless I find another procrastination project in the meantime.   
And did I mention it's my favorite time of year?  There are trails to hike or bike, roses to smell, sunsets to watch...

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