Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Frustration on the Landscape Quilt

Hi to anyone who comes from WIP Wednesday.

Here's the background about what I'm working on this week: I am making my first-ever art quilt/landscape quilt, whatever you prefer to call it.  I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm trying to enjoy the ride.  The quilt is of a scene of Denali National Park.  I'm currently at the machine embroidery stage, and have committed to doing a little bit every day to make sure this thing progresses at a good clip.  I've been working my way from the bottom of the piece (sheep!) to the top.

Since I've never done machine embroidery, there's been a bit of ripping out going on:

Sheep #1's nose looked like a dog nose: I ripped it out and made it look more sheepy, although it's a little low in his face now.

Big sheep had a weird eye that just didn't work
 This eye makes a lot more sense!
He also had a bit of a frown going on, as you might have noticed. So I made him look more cheery.
Now I drew on these guys with pink chalk pencil, and it hasn't really come out.  Any tips?

But today I am stuck with a big dilemma about my piece:

Yesterday I finished the foothills on my Denali quilt, and I don't really like how they came out.  :(  I am currently debating whether to rip it all out, or just soldier on.  Normally I would be okay with taking forever waffling over this, but I need to get this wallhanging done by August 15 if I want to submit it for my guild's quilt show, so I need to make a decision about what to do relatively soon.

What should I do? What would you do?

Below are two shots of the mountains, one taking outside and one taken inside.  You can click to see a larger version. Somehow the parallel lines just aren't doing it for me.  I can't specifically describe what I don't like about them, and maybe I'm over-reacting or being a worry wort.  Honestly, do you like them?  The mountains are covered in a layer of tulle under the embroidery, dunno if that matters or not.

Any thoughts or opinions are appreciated...I'm hooking up with WIP Wednesday for the first time to solicit even more opinions.

In terms of WIPs on my plate:

This week I've finished nothing lol, no surprise there.

Still on the to-do list:

  • This wallhanging!
  • The charity wholecloth I'm supposed to be quilting before my guild meeting in August
  • July FMQ (I need to get on that!)
  • Quilted Jacket for my mom (on the back burner a bit)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Denali Quilt Inspirations

Today I did a lot of fun machine embroidery on my landscape quilt to start to flesh out its features.  Since this is my first landscape quilt, it's hard for me to feel really confident in knowing how to stitch certain areas.  For inspiration and ideas, I've been referring to two different quilts I saw on my visit to Denali.

The first was created by Linda Beach in 2005 as part of Denali's artist in residence program.  Through this program different artists stay in the park for a few weeks and create a piece of artwork inspired by their stay.  It was pretty cool to see one of these be a quilt, and a gorgeous one at that!
I would love to have the piecing skill to make something like this.  The photo doesn't do justice to how striking the blues of the streams were.  You can learn more about it here.

The second quilt, even more impressive, is the centerpiece of the Eielson Visitors Center in the middle of the park.
The full piece

Check out the quilting!

More awesome quilting

A display board showing the different techniques used to make this
This was made especially for the new visitor's center by Ree Nacarrow, who has a great webpage giving the story behind it.  The most amazing fact?  Every piece of fabric in that quilt began as plain white cotton, and she hand painted, dyed, and stamped ALL of it! WOW!

Anyways, I've been staring at these a lot to figure out how I'm supposed to quilt things like streams and mountains.  Now time to stop procrastinating and get back to stitching!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Back to Work on the Landscape Quilt

Well I got all set to write this post and then remembered that I'm not supposed to post pictures of this quilt.  :(  It makes it hard because I wanted to ask for advice on lots of topics!!

Today I finally had time to drive to quilt shop to buy border fabrics for my Denali landscape quilt.   Picking fabric for the border was incredibly difficult because I couldn't decide what color I wanted to highlight.  I am not used to quilts like this one where there is no defined color scheme.  I tried out a dark purple, dark teal, tan, reds, and every color in between.  After getting advice and suggestions from two different people in the shop, I ended up with two colors that I am pretty happy with: a lovely pale teal and a burnt red.
Border fabrics

The teal is for a thin inner border, and the red for the main outer border.

Inner border attached!
Now I scratched my head for a while trying to figure out how the heck to attach the border pieces due to the uneven mountain portion at the top of the wallhanging.  Finally I decided that it would just be easiest to sew the whole thing down to one giant piece of red fabric.

This is definitely not the world's greatest sewing technique, but it did the job.  I basically created a giant reverse applique of the wallhanging onto the border, because after I sewed it down I cut out the back so that all the lovely red border fabric wouldn't go to waste.

Backside of the wallhanging, reverse appliqued onto the border fabric

Next step was to put that arch along the top.  I printed out a big arch from my computer that was sized to the dimensions of the quilt.

Printed arch-very high tech :)
At this point the top is ready for sandwiching.  I am debating how thick I want the border to be.  Right now it is pretty big and gives the image a sort of distant feeling, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

border all cut out with the arch in place!
I am planning on getting this done in time to enter in my local guild's quilt show in September.  But, I do need advice if anyone has it: how do I hang a quilt with a curved top? To enter it in the show it has to have a hanging sleeve.  As of right now if I just hold it by the two upper corner the top flops over.  If it's stiffer once quilted, I might be able to get away with a normal horizontal hanging sleeve and the top bit can hold itself up.  But I'm not quite sure...

Tomorrow I will start quilting this thing! I am very excited about entering this next stage :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Staycation Day 5

Well today was a much more productive day than yesterday.  I decided to set aside my landscape wallhanging and just work on something completely different.

I ended up spending the day on my guild's current challenge project, which is to do something with a panel fabric.

I've never done a challenge before, so it will be interesting to see the results of this one and if I was in the right vein with my project.  In August we will all display our results at the guild meeting and members will vote for their favorites.

I decided to convert this panel into an apron.  I went mostly off of the apron pattern in my book "Sew Liberated," which has a lot of patterns I would characterize as "hip."  I altered the pattern slightly because it had a deep v neck and for me an apron is worthless if it doesn't protect your shirt front, because that's the only thing I ever seem to get grease/sauce/flour on.

First I thought pretty hard about what I wanted to do, then carefully cut the panel into its component pieces.

It was pretty easy to know that the center panel was the skirt, and my apron pattern called for a wide waistband, so I immediately flagged the line of snowmen for that.  Then I spent a long time arranging and rearranging the other pieces to find something I liked for the top.

One hard thing about cutting up a panel is that there are no seam allowances.  I did an incredibly scant seam by edgestitching all of my seams (so like 1/8" or less seam allowance) to try to minimize how much I cropped each image.

I made a lot of dumb errors on this, and they reinforced the importance of reading the instructions.  I added a ruffle to the bottom of the skirt, following the pattern, but I figured I remembered how to make ruffles myself and didn't need to read how to make them.  Well, much seam ripping later, I finally read the instructions for a refresher.

Same with sewing together the component parts, to eliminate raw edges you basically stuff things inside each other and topstitch.  I discovered this after I had already stitched the waistband closed and had to rip the whole thing open again!
skirt with ruffle

close-up of ruffle

bodice and waistband

mostly asembled


The pattern calls for eyelets on the waistband and a little string running between them, so this won't be completely done until I get some eyelets, but otherwise I was happy to have pretty much completed something today.  The entire apron has muslin on the back side.  Honestly the stitching isn't great, there are a lot of ripply parts, but it should be functional.

I'll be curious to see how it is received at our August guild meeting!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Staycation Day 4...Frustration!

Well today was pretty much unproductive (and yes, it's still early in the day, but I need advice before I can do more because I am just so frustrated!)

I am stuck on my landscape quilt.  The next step is to sandwich it up and start quilting all over (I decided to skip the machine embroidery step since I'm not thread painting).  But before I do that I need to figure out the border situation.

I want a border for this quilt.  I think a border ties a neat bow on it, plus provides a really great frame that bits of the picture can sort of leak onto.  I love quilts that extend out onto the border in little ways, it just makes the quilt feel alive.

For example, check out this quilt from PIQF (sorry, I didn't get the artist's name, but she was from Australia and had a special exhibition at the show).  The leaves extend onto the frame (I think they were actually three dimensional too!)

My snowy mountains have no sky behind them.  I figured they could be the part that extended out of the picture and onto the border.  This would also emphasize how tall Denali is, since it extends even beyond the frame of the quilt!

However, when I measured those mountain tops, my border would have to be about 5 inches wide since the mountain tops slope so much from their lowest point to their highest point.  This is just too big of a border.

Okay, instead I figured I would do a little arched border over the top of the quilt, so the mountains can extend onto it but it doesn't need to be so big.
I cut my template arch out of paper.

Now, how do I actually piece an arch?  I have no idea!!!  Either I cut it out of a really big piece of fabric, or I could attempt to paper piece it based on that arch I just cut out of paper.  I haven't paper pieced in years though...

Well the next dilemma, even if I can figure out how to make an arch, is color.  I liked a red piece but don't have enough.  So then I was thinking about splicing together a bunch of reds/pinks probably just in wonky slices so I don't have to worry about making them look perfect for the arch.

My boyfriend thinks these colors might be too strong.  I think he's probably right but I don't know what colors to use.  The most annoying thing was I brought this to the quilt store with me today to figure it out and then got so distracted buying quilting threads that I forgot to look for a border fabric.  And the quilt store is a long drive away, so I don't really want to go back soon.

I also have a whole lot of this totally gorgeous fabric, but it has nothing to do with the design.

One alternative is no border at all.  But then I would have to sew my binding on over the very wobbly tips of the mountain which would cut them off and be hard to sew.

What colors would you use for the border?  What do you think about the arch?  Any easy ways to piece it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Staycation: Day 3

Today I was so excited by my landscape quilt that it was the only project I worked on all day.  However, I accomplished a ton! The top (it's only wallhanging sized) is completely assembled and ready for machine embroidery.

Below the snow-covered mountains that I worked on yesterday are brown mountains.  I had two batiks that were along the purple-brown lines that I wanted, but were too close in color to each other.
So this morning I tried painting the lighter one a little bit, to no avail.  Then I realized that bleaching it might be just the trick.  I poured a random amount of bleach with some water into the sink, cut out a little 3x3 square, tossed it in for about 2:30, decided that was just slightly too pale, and popped the entire piece in for about 1:30.

Bleaching is definitely intimidating, instead of making the colors lighter it might jsut wash them out or do something funky.  But this time it worked great!  Check out the two fabrics after I bleached the lighter one.
I'm really glad I took the plunge and tried it.  These mountains came out great, even better than the snowy ones in my opinion.
 Above, they are assembled.  Below, the tulle overlay has been added to add depth and make them look more distant.
Next, there's an alluvial plain with a lot of interlocking/braiding rivers and sand bars.  I originally had the same blue from the snowy mountains for the river, but today, digging through my stash, found a lovely teal that really stands out.
Above is the design wall for the sandbars and river.  I think the teal goes great with the pale tan/beige colors.

Then, in the foreground are some cliffs with Dall Sheep.  Here they are!  You can also see the assembled river and sandbars.
Now there are two things I might potentially change before I move onto the next stage.  You can very faintly see the other fabrics under the big Dall Sheep, so I might stick a second piece of fabric under him, or some stabilizer/interfacing.  Also, my boyfriend thinks the darker fabric I used for the cliffs doesn't fit.  He had a problem with the pattern, but I think the value might be too strong.  What do you think?

Tomorrow (or maybe tonight!) I will start on the machine embroidery.  I'm not quite sure what to embroider, aside from faces onto the sheep.  I'm still a little vague about what goes into the machine embroidery step and what goes into the quilting step, because they both seem pretty similar to me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Staycation: Day 2

I realized that "staycation" (which I saw on the cover of the latest Quilting Arts mag today) is a more accurate term for how I am spending this week.  I am having a lot of fun and feeling really accomplished at the end of each day.  That feeling of satisfaction you get from seing tangible progress on a project is I think one reason I love quilting so much.

Today I started quilting my charity quilt and finally got to start putting together my Denali landscape quilt.

Here's a shot of the center medallion I worked on quilting today and some zooms on the various components. I am basically just doing a fancy-looking echo.  Right now the sections are so small there isn't much more I can do, but as we move outward the designs get larger and thus so will my quilting space!  I also realized I can't make the July meeting since it's in the morning, so this isn't due for me until August, which is a relief.

Now...prepare for a long section about this landscape quilt.

Ever since I visited PIQF last year I have wanted to do a landscape quilt.  They are just gorgeous and so creative and fun!  Recently, once the rest of my projects-in-progress were out of the way, I decided it was time to start.  I bought/borrowed many different books on landscape quilts to get ideas, including Luscious Landscapes and Beautifully Embellished Landscapes by Joyce Becker, Photo-Inspired Art Quilts by Leni Weiner, Landscape Quilts by Nancy Zeiman and Natalie Sewell, Fabric + Paint + Thread = Fabulous by Pat Durham, and Exploring Embellishments by Rose Hughes.  In addition I took an embellishments class.

I have found Joyce Becker's books to be the most helpful in giving inspiration and real step-by-step instructions for the type of quilt I want to do.

My first step, a few weeks ago, was to pick a design.  I was incredibly intimidated by trying to work off a do you narrow it down to a few simple lines and colors? So instead I decided to work off an existing piece of artwork that shows a scene of Denali split into a few basic lines and color (imagine those vintage posters).  I then spent a few weeks trying to get permission to use it.  I am excited to have been granted permission, but as previously mentioned I'm not really supposed to be showing images of it so I'll have to be vague about it.  I figure I'll show shots that don't give away what the design is.

My first step was to pop the image into photoshop, blow it up to the size I wanted, and convert it to a line drawing. 

 Then I traced over that on a clear sheet (eg a bunch of page protectors that I taped together) to give me an overlay to work under.
I also created my first-ever design wall, which you can see under the clear overlay.  I just took a piece of foam board and taped some spare batting onto it.  It's small, but big enough for this project which is all I need for now.

And here is the design wall testing my color ideas!  This was before I got my new giant bundle of batiks from Fat Quarter shop, so I have many more suitable colors in stock now. it finally same time to start.  First I had to spray starch things, which I haven't really done before.  I ended up buying some spray starch because when I tried to make my own last time I think I read tsp as Tbs and ended up with a pot full of very thick goop!

Below are the fabrics that will go into my snow-covered mountain:

Then I cut out the white of my mountains, and painted it with glittery fabric paint, because to me snow always sparkles and shimmers.

 My paint board is another foam core that I taped a trash bag onto :)

Now I wasn't really sure how to go about actually cutting and assembling the pieces.  I ended up going with what I know, which is the technique you use for fusible web applique.  It probably wasn't best for this project.

First, I cut the pieces out of paper and numbered them.

Then I pinned them to the fabric and cut it in their shape.  This is really easy to do with fusible web because it makes the fabric all stiff, not so easy with paper just pinned on.  I think I would have needed many more applications of spray starch to keep the fabric from slipping around my scissors.

Then I sprayed all the pieces with spray adhesive and laid them out on that white bg piece.  Pro tip: don't spray it on your hands.  I was trying to hold down the tiny pieces while I sprayed and ended up with fingers so sticky that I had to use acetone to clean them!

 Can you see the beginnings of a snowy mountain range?  It will need some embroidery to show the actual outlines of the peaks, but it's coming along okay.

Now, I really want to use this piece as a sampler of sorts, and experiment with many types of embellishment and styles of making art quilts.  Joyce Becker uses a lot of overlays, which I find really cool.  So I experimented with tons of overlays for these peaks.  I bought a white, very shiny/iridescent piece of organza that was just too crazy.  I also tried a lavender because I think snow looks blue from far away, but it dulled the white down too much, and I really wanted that bright, bright white that snow has.  I also had an iridescent purple that was also too crazy.

So today I went to Joanns with my mountain fabrics in hand and ended up with this wrinkled organza.  Pretty cool, huh?  I hope it works as planned, but in my mind it emphasized the craggy nature of mountains.  Also I want this row of mountains to be a little hazy because they are way off in the distance.
So that's what I've accomplished today!  And the night is still young, I think I will try using nylon thread for the first time to invisible baste down all of these pieces.  :)