Thursday, September 26, 2013

Veggie Quilt Progess

Well I have been meaning to post this for quite some time. I last posted about buying the fabric for my veggie quilt. A lot has happened since then!

First off, I washed all of my new fabrics and then spent a few hours ironing and starching the heck out of them. When I stitched the edges before tossing them in the wash, I experienced a lot of bunching. For a while I thought it was a tension issue, but then decided it was just related to stitching on the edge of fabric.

See the bunching?
So, as I ironed, I would pull the fabric edge taught to break a few stitches and relieve the tension mismatch. All went well until one particular fabric, where all of a sudden the entire thing ripped as I tugged on it!


I actually gasped out loud. There's nothing in here to show scale, but that was a good three to four inches.  I think it actually indicates that it's a low quality fabric. None of the others ripped or showed a hint of that kind of strain. 

So after I got over that shock, I cut the background squares and inset triangles. I was heavily aided by my awesome scale drawing.

I made this guy in indesign at 60p, and whenever I wanted to know the size of something I just used the ruler, saw how many p it was, and added seam allowance.  I also discovered the magic formula for half square triangles: add 7/8" to whatever your FINISHED size should be (so no seam allowance). It worked out perfectly. For each of those 5" triangles that make up the larger 10" inset triangles, I cut a 5 7/8" square and then cut it in half.  Perfect!

Then it came time to create pinwheels. I gave up agonizing over it, picked a style, and went with it. The pinwheel patterns were for 12," and mine are 10," so instead of trying to figure out weird measurements to cut of everything (which I originally tried to figure out), I foundation pieced them. I actually re-drew the design in illustrator and was able to print it out to scale very easily.

Foundation piecing in progress!

I have to say that I LOVE foundation piecing. I get into a rhythm of it and I really enjoy how precise everything comes out.  But it also highlights how shockingly bad I am at stitching a straight line. I would finish stitching a seam, pull it away from the machine, and see that my stitches wibble wobbled all around the drawn line. And those subtle wobbles really are noticeable when you fold the seam over. It's definitely one thing I want to work on.

I pretty much always work at night, so here is one of the few daytime shots of the layout in progress.

Of course kitty provided a lot of "assistance" throughout.
Trying to cut, are you?

What, you want to lay out this fabric? You don't want me rolling on it? Nonsense!

 Since completing the pinwheels, progress has slowed down for me. Do you ever find yourself procrastinating on hard parts of quilts? I sure do! I kept finding all kinds of excuses to drag my feet on figuring out the applique. Finally last week I got all the shapes chosen and laid out on the quilt.

Sorry, taken at night. All the colors are screwy because I was trying to darken it enough to make the veggie line drawings visible.

 The middle block will be a little herb garden, with lots of cute insects.

Then it was time to actually start the applique! I discovered I was out of my trusty Heat N Bond Lite, and the nearest Joann's is somewhat far, so I spent a few days debating what to do about fusible web. I want this quilt to be soft and cuddly, not crinkly. I have mistyfuse, but it's not paper-backed, which I find critical.

So, I thought I would give the steps in Simply Successful Applique a shot.

I bought this book, got super psyched about it, and then got distracted and busy.  I'm not saying I'm going to hand stitch these guys down (although you never know...I actually love hand sewing...) but I thought I would try turned edge applique.

I started with the carrots, which for some reason I thought would be easy. It's a little hard to get used to Jeanne's technique after using fusible for so long, because here you iron the template onto the front of the fabric, not the back.

Then you sit down with an iron, awl, and cup of liquid starch, and go crazy. I did get a lot of satisfaction from getting the fabric to conform to a curve or dip, but it's slow going. And I've noticed my eyes hurt afterwards from staring so hard.

Here are the carrots!

You may be wondering about the colors. My dad plants funky carrots that come out in red, yellow, white, and purple!

So you san see those curves are a bit jagged and not as smooth as I would like, but not awful.  I thought things were going well until I sat down tonight to do the carrot stalks.

I left this uncropped so you could see the cat, who loves to interfere.
Um, what was I thinking, right?? I gave it a shot....

...and here is the result of my first one (took about 40 minutes).

Not so hot. I am debating if it would be a travesty if I used fusible just for these guys, because I don't really have the skills to do such tight points yet. I did try, but this is TOUGH!

So that's the status for now. Stuck on some super tough shapes. And to be real, there are other tough shapes in this design too if I persist with turned-edge. E.G. everything in that center herb block. Hmmmm...maybe it's time to switch back to fusible?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Quilts and Balloons

I wanted to share some quilty-related photos with you.  Yesterday was a big balloon race in St. Louis, and Friday evening was the balloon "glow."  It was a very fun event and we were actually able to walk to it due to the wonderfully central location of our apartment. Like a chump I forgot a camera so you have to put up with lame iphone photos...

This is the sight that greeted us when we arrived. We estimate there were about 40 balloons there. You could walk right up to each basket and talk to the pilot. They were even handing out trading cards for each balloon. You can see even from this picture that many of the balloons had lovely patchwork designs.

Every ten to fifteen minutes a train horn would blow, and everyone would light their balloons at once. I thought the design of that one on the left was quite pretty.

Here's one that almost looks bargello!

This is not a good picture, but I wanted to share it because this was our favorite balloon. It had lovely chevrons and a great color scheme.

This one was called "Patches" (as I learned from its trading card) and was intentionally designed to be scrappy. Pretty cool!

There were many more beautiful balloons, but my battery died. Now my boyfriend thinks I should make a hot air balloon quilt.  If you're ever looking for quilts of a particular flavor, pinterest is a great place to start. I did a quick search for hot air balloon quilts and here are some standouts:

This quilt is by Cathy Arney and is based off the big hot air balloon race in NM each!

This is by Laurraine Yuyama. Doesn't it look like a painting?

Okay so pinterest is a black hole so I'm going to stop myself there before I spend all day staring at amazing quilts instead of working on my own.

Sunday is my sewing day, so today I plan on getting a lot done. It is also chore day so I am going to intersperse sewing with housecleaning (yippee!) I always get lots of sewing help from this one:
"What, you want to use this cutting board?"

Yes, that fabric under her bum is stuff that I *was* attempting to cut. Okay progress on the veggie quilt will be posted tonight!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Visiting a New Guild

Today I went to my first meeting of the St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild. I had high hopes and the guild lived up to them! The group was much smaller than my last guild; I would estimate about 40 people in attendance. It was nice because it felt more intimate than my last guild. It was obvious that everyone knew each other's name and they were all on very friendly terms.

I do not consider myself a modern quilter. I do not like to use exclusively solids and I don't like asymmetrical designs or anything super abstract. But the real reason I was interested in this guild was to make friends my own age. I was not disappointed; I estimate that many if not the majority of the men and women in the room were in their thirties. Very, very different from my guild in California where nearly everyone was retired (hence the daytime meetings).

One thing I didn't think about when joining this guild was how inspired I would be. These modern quilts emphasize a lot of color and design concepts that I have never considered, and I think even if I don't take up modern quilting I will learn a lot from these ladies. The members of the group were also incredibly accomplished; we had multiple quilt book authors in the room! Cool!

All in all I had a great time, and I even if I don't quilt "modern" myself, I think I will get along with this group just fine. At today's meeting they were revealing the results of a recent challenge. The challenge was to make a quilt that incorporated the Ohio Star block. The variety of interpretations was really astounding.

I only got photos of half the entries, but hopefully you can get an idea for the cool stuff that was displayed.  These modern quilts exhibit a lot of use of whites and greys, colors I shy away from.  I think being in this guild will really expand my horizons!

This one was the winner. It looks so cool!

After the guild meeting I had another big accomplishment: I bought fabrics for my veggie quilt!

These are just the purchased ones; I have a lot of scraps I will use as well. I spent probably an hour or more in the store puzzling over the color combinations. An intrepid saleswoman made a huge difference in helping me make the right fabric choices.  I am really excited about how these colors look together, in no small part because they are not the colors I would have chosen for my own quilt, which made the selection process far more difficult.

I used my boyfriend's fancy pants camera for these photos; I have been taking pointers from the first iteration of Beth's quilt photography link-up.

Below they are sorted by color group. It was a long, tough road to getting these colors picked but now that I have them and the hardest part is over (to me), I feel nothing but excitement! I am ready to get this show on the road!

Once I got these home I tried to stitch all the edges to get them ready to be pre-washed...omg most boring task ever. I actually stopped halfway through and looked up pinking rotary blades online. Unfortunately they don't appear to make them in 60mm, which is the rotary cutter size I have. So I actually did suck it up and manually sew all the edges. This reminds me of why I never pre-wash! Blah!

Okay more updates soon since I bet the majority of my Sunday will be spent on stitching.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fun With Illustrator

Last night I went a little crazy in Illustrator and made about a million veggie designs.  If you recall, we previously left off here:

Here's how I was feeling:

  1. The edges look too plain given the complexity of the center pinwheels
  2. My eye goes to the pinwheels instead of the vegetables

So I set about fixing these issues.  First I tackled the edges by looking back at "Stunning Angleplay Quilts."  Here's where it took me:

I thought the triangles did a good job of enhancing the design, but were still not meeting the pinwheels in intensity. So I tried this:

 Much more fun! Now the quilt feels a bit more balanced. However, the veggies seem like an afterthought. Then, and I'm not sure why I didn't realize this before, I figured the veggies need a nice dark background.

Looking better! Now the veggies feel more like they fit, but they blend in too much with the pinwheels.

Pale pinwheel backgrounds! Then I spend about a million years trying to figure out how to color the pinwheels...

Okay so things got a little wild and crazy in that last one so I reverted back to the edge triangles that were monochromatic.

Okay still too crazy and I want to make the veggies more prominent, so I switched to a simpler edge design.

Okay still struggling with the pinwheels here! This is just a sampling of the many I've tried, once I realized that I should start saving each iteration in case I wanted to go back.

So that's about where I am. I still cannot decide about the pinwheels, so I think the next step is to calculate some fabric requirements and figure out the pinwheels once I have real fabric to test with.  More updates soon!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Even MORE Veggie Designing (Getting Closer!)

Yes, I spent even more time last night toodling around on my computer.  I won't regale you with the long and winding tale of all the color schemes I tried out, but I finally ended up with one that I like.

It turns out Adobe Illustrator has an incredibly awesome tool that uses fancy math to create perfect color schemes for you.  Select a color, and it provides a whole list of great schemes that match that color.

I finally selected the following color scheme, which brings in some purple, greens, and veggie colors of red/coral. Then the color guide gives a range of tints and shades! So great!

Ah, I must backtrack a bit.  I was sitting and staring at the cover of my book "Stunning Angleplay Quilts"and thinking about how the color scheme of the cover matched well what I wanted to attempt in my quilt.

Suddenly I realized that the solution to my problem of what blocks to use was staring right at me! I had an entire book of over 40 cool optical illusion quilt blocks! I ended up choosing one called "Marigold," which I think has a lot of opportunities for cool 3D effects while allowing to use many colors in one block.

Then I created this scale drawing in illustrator to play around with coloring. If I were really advanced in Illustrator, I would be able to create "global colors" so that I could change all the colors in the doc with one click, but I didn't get that far. Maybe next time!

Then I took my color palate and went crazy!

The borders will have more - I like to wait until the center of the quilt is made to figure them out. However, I am thinking the edges of the background might need at least some kind of pieced design, to help make those pinwheels less stand-alone and more integrated into the quilt as a whole.

Then I popped in some of the veggies that will be in the quilt to see how it looked with veggies in it.

 What do you think? Right now my eye is drawn more to the pinwheels than the veggies. However, I really like the colors of the pinwheels! Also to stick to the color scheme you have to take some liberties with colors, such as the pink carrots.

Then again, I am a person who really loves bright quilts.  Working with this more subtle color palate might be tough for me and means I won't be able to use much of my stash. So I think I am going to run off and try a brighter color scheme, more like the cover of that book. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

More Veggie Designing

I went to upload some pics to my blog this morning and made the unpleasant discovery that when I recently updated my iPhoto, it lost the built-in Picasa web uploader.  After some internet sleuthing I discovered it was not Apple's fault but Google's; they decided to stop providing developer support for the product.  After eliminating Google Reader - one of the most widely used RSS readers out there, this really sends to me the message that Google no longer cares about good products but instead only about products that can make the most money.  Disappointing.

On the happier side, I was able to find a legacy download link for the old Picasa plugin, and make it work with my new iPhoto. So we are back up and running! I may have to look into alternative photo storage options soon though, as I have used 50% of my free Picasa space and I certainly don't plan on paying.  Any suggestions?

I spent a bit of time this morning setting up my sewing area.  Here is where it is now:

I'll be honest, I miss my old desk.  It had so many huge drawers and cool pull-outs.  If only it wasn't so huge and heavy, I really wish it could have made the trip cross-country with me!  I am getting lots of plastic drawers for this one, but they aren't as awesome as my old wooden drawers. Plus I discovered this morning that they are too short to accommodate my rolls of Heat N' Bond. Grr.

However, as you can see from this photo, the natural lighting in my new apartment is really wonderful. We have a corner spot so tons of huge windows and lots of light but almost no direct light - it's perfect!  Here I have been reironing everything in my stash and sorting it out. That stack on the table isn't the full stash, some has already been transferred to drawers. Also this photo was taken with my boyfriend's fancy schmancy camera, which he has generously agreed to let me use for all future blogging needs. Now I just have to figure out how to use it!

In addition to getting my sewing area set up, I've still been devoting a significant amount of time to trying to figure out this new quilt.  I decided last night that the square option just made more sense:
This version allows the vegetables to take center stage, and I can still have a fun design in the blocks between the veggies (the dark). Last night I was thinking that in-between design would be a log cabin.
In this version I shrunk the blocks down to 10" so I could have a fatter border, possibly with some fun bean applique on it (and a gnome! I really want to sneak in a gnome!)

With this tentative design in mind, it was time to figure out some color. For this I turned to the book in my stash that I use most often, "Color Play" by Joen Wolfrom. Seriously, I love this book. Most books I buy for a single project and don't look at ever again.  This one I flip through pretty much before any project I make. She uses a lot of images which works for my visual mind, and I don't have to read any text at all to figure out what color combinations will work.

Now for this quilt, selecting colors has been very tough.  One reason is that I have to work around a pre-defined palate of veggie colors, primarily green, orange, and red. Another reason is that this quilt is for my dad, so I need to try to tone down my usual tendency for really bright girly colors and think about what colors he would like, not what I would like.

Given that color palate, last night I went through all of my quilt show photos to find some that exhibited those colors. I was painfully reminded during the process of just how awful most of my quilt show photos are.  To get the right colors you need to turn the flash off, but then they always come out blurry. And no, I have no clue who made any of these. Apologies.

This one I found especially striking. Of course, my photo sucks, but it uses reds, oranges, light greens, and some pinks, all standing out against that black background. This put the possibility of a black background in my head.

Here is another that makes use of yellow, orange, and green on black. It also throws in purple as an accent.

This was one of my favorites from PIQF. Of course my photo is awful. I have some close-ups below that show the colors better. This has rich purples, coral pinks, burnt oranges, and teal greens.

I think this next one does a great job with color. However, can I add magenta and purple to a quilt for a guy?

I pulled this one out thinking more about the purple/green/yellow connection, which I was seeing on many quilts.

Here's another, from Sisters, that pulls in purple with green and yellow.

 And here is a photo of a veggie quilt! I had no idea I had this photo. I like the idea of making the background brown like soil, although her veggies don't pop out of the background as much as they could.

So from all of those photos, I thought of the idea of a bright quilt of red, orange, yellow, and bright/lime green, with a magenta or purple accent. Potentially with a black background. Then the question became: How should I shade those log cabin blocks? Most log cabins are half one shade, half another. Plus, my current quilt design just has a LOT of colors in it. How do I pick which log cabin is which color? Do I do a progression somehow?  Here is where I was last night when I gave up:
(The circles are placeholders for veggie applique). You can see I didn't even finish coloring (also I was trying a few different coloring options and sort of threw my hands up). Sigh. I think the log cabin is limiting it. So either I do a different block (any suggestions?) or I am thinking of making my log cabin blocks 5" instead of 10" so I can fit a four pack in each square and do some pretty diamond shading.

Back to the drawing board!