Monday, February 1, 2016

Progress on Several Fronts...

I don't like complaining (though I confess to being a world-class whiner!), but I've had a rough month.  I won't belabor the details other than to say that I passed through the worst virus I've had in years only to tear some muscles in my arm which left me in such pain that I was unable to sleep for more than two hours at a time over the course of two more weeks.  I could barely sew and could not lift my big iron at all.  It was my definition of misery!  But so far, February has been great (ha!  It's only February first!), so the year is looking up.  I've started sewing again and lifting my iron more.  As a result, I do have a few things to show you this month.  I can't show them all to you because I ended up crunching a month's worth of sewing into 10 days... and didn't get a chance to take many pictures.  You'll see my un-photographed projects next month.

This month, I'll show you some of the things that I've been working on, along with some Sally Collins quilts.  Her work is unbelievable!  I'll also show you some more quilts from the Houston International Quilters Association show last Fall, and several quilts from friends.  Let's roll!

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Sally Collins is known for her exquisite piecing.  She doesn't use paper foundations at all.  Take a look at the quilt below.  There is so much detail in the quilt with its borders and frames.  And I love the hand-quilted cable design in the border.

So what makes this quilt so amazing?  Besides its beauty?  Its size.  Here's the same quilt... with my finger in the picture so you can see the relative size.  Wow!

How does Sally do her piecing so well?  She is a perfectionist when she cuts and when she stitches:  her seams are a perfect quarter-inch.  She measures them after she stitches them to ensure they are the right size.  She places pieces she has pressed underneath a ruler so the seams are heat-set.  It all makes a big difference.  Check out another of her quilts.  Note the size of the little baskets.

I love the scalloped border on this quilt.  Again, below is a photo with my finger in it so that you can see how small the quilts pieces are.  Oh my!  And without paper foundation piecing!  I want you to also note how Sally carefully chooses fabrics that fit the scale of what she is working on.  Look at the border just inside of the outer blue border - it is a border print and she made sure that the mitered corners meet beautifully.


Again, here's another quilt by Sally with some miniature Lone Star blocks in it, along with half-square triangles.  I like how the stars are so scrappy -- and notice that there are two larger stars (half-stars, actually), as well as two small half-squares in the lower corner.  I like symmetry but once in a while, having these little surprises makes a quilt interesting.

Below, you can see some of the wonderful hand-quilting that Sally did on this quilt.  What's nice about making little quilts like this is that hand-quilting them isn't an overwhelming task.


Okay, here is a double wedding ring quilt by Sally.  Be still my heart!  Such tiny little pieces, so perfectly stitched.

Note the perfect scalloped border binding - the corner circles are fabulous.

You can even check out the back of this quilt and see the binding, below.

For most of us, a lone star block is challenging.  But try this quilt... and look at the borders in it.  Now here is a REAL challenge!

 Here's a close-up of the quilt - again, with my finger so you can see the size of these units.  I can't even pretend to think that I could make a quilt like this.  Sally is unsurpassed in her skills.

I love this quilt with its set of nosegay blocks.  These are not easy to make, either, as they are full of set-in seams.  And this quilt adds the challenge of an inner scalloped border.  Oh my - Sally's outdone even herself.

Look at the beautiful hand-quilting she did in this quilt, too.


Now if you have not been impressed yet (which is doubtful), take a look at this quilt with its variety of blocks -- goose in the pond, basket, tree, and more.  And all those little half-square triangles, all done in a wonderful rainbow array of colors.
And again... the pieces are all very small!

Here's a basket quilt that would challenge the best among us.  Could you make something like this? 

This beauty, below, uses a wonderful border print that picks up all the colors in the inner blocks.  Eek - those half-square triangles that include the purplish "inner frame" are quite a challenge, too!


Last but certainly not least, here is a two-color lone star surrounded by frames and borders.  It is amazing.

And below is a picture of the back of the quilt above, so that you can see how carefully Sally pieces... and presses her seams.  Beautiful doesn't even begin to describe her work!  Thanks for being a great quiltmaker and teacher, Sally!

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Next, I'll show you some more quilts that were in the juried exhibition in the Houston IQA quilt show.  These quilts were all included in the Innovative Pieced category.

Emi Chabata of Kobe City, Hyogo, Japan, made Flowers in Bloom in the Rainy Season.  She said she wanted to create a quilt with her mother's favorite flower, the hydrangea, in it.  She sound it quite challenging to applique small fabric petals with yam-dyed fabric, but she was intent on portraying "gracefulness."  She arranged the Grandmother's Fan pattern as a series of umbrellas in order to represent the rainbow after a rain, and she cleverly used beads to represent the raindrops.  Emi said, "I always feel Mother's smile from this work."  Her quilt is entirely hand pieced, hand appliqued, hand embroidered - and she inserted trapunto in the quilting.  It is unfortunate that the description stands that are used at the IQA show always seem to be in the wrong spot for photographers like me.

Hiromi Yokota of Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, made Piece Peace Piece and described her work as follows:  I was piecing small, small pieces.  I arranged several places of slanted lines.  Because the piecing is aestheometry, the border expressed pleasure. 

I don't know about any of you, but I had to go to the dictionary to see what aestheometry meant.  In the simplest of terms, it involves drawing straight lines to form geometric shapes, such as a circle.  I pulled the illustration to the right off of the internet and you can see here how these straight lines form a round shape.  Now... below is Hiromi's quilt.  She machine pieced it, and then added hand applique, embroidery, and hand quilting.  Her lovely border includes bead balls that she made from felt, along with felt flowers.  Her piecing is astonishing!  I think I'm a pretty good piecer until I see a quilt like this and feel like a rank amateur.

Ole'  is the work of Hope Wilmarth of Spring, Texas.  She created this quilt during the cold, dreary winter months, and found the juxtaposition of robust reds to be invigorating.  She says, "the varying directions in the piecing further adds vibrance and energy to my surface design."  I love the fabric choices Hope used in her quilt -- including the black and white strips in it that break up the red a bit.  This was a very attractive quilt at the show, and I love the name that Hope chose for it!

Nariko Kawashima machine pieced and hand quilted her quilt, My Family.  I do not have all the details about this quilt, but what I can tell you is that I love this quilt!  It drew me in as I tried to envision the meaning in the letters and the hearts and the colors.  It is a refreshingly simple quilt, though making it was probably no easy task.  Even the border, with its many layers of strips, is unique.


Jane Frenke of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, created Spheres XLVII, saying, "I have been working with circles for years.  Salada tea bags quote, 'circles always have their ends meet,' struck me one morning.  Oh no, you have to work hard to have them meet - that was the beginning of the 'Spheres' series."  Jane used hand-dyed cottons with vat-dyed discharged designs on them, and then longarm quilted the quilt.  I am always a bit envious of quilters who can make quilts that (intentionally) do not have straight and parallel edges.  Doing that would be a real stretch for me, who lives in a structured, symmetrical world where I can plan everything and have it come out perfectly.  I need to go to a workshop one day and push myself to "think differently" than I currently do.  It might be a real eye-opener for me!

 Jaynette Huff of Conway, Arkansas, made Captured Blossoms, saying, "I truly enjoy mixing intricate paper foundation piecing, Broderie Perse hand applique, and 1/8-inch wide curved knotwork - adding laters of design to my quilts."  Jaynette's leaves are made of ultrasuede.  Her design is based on a modified log cabin block, which she used in an original setting with the placement of her applique.  This was an unusual quilt in the show - the setting was very unique, along with the broderie perse applique.

The work of Karen Eckmeier of Kent, Connecticut, is often seen at the Houston IQA show - and I'm glad to see it, every time!  In Rambling Roses, Karen says, "The children's song, 'Ring Around the Rosie,' and the line, 'we're painting the roses red,' from Alice in Wonderland inspired me to play with my Random Roses blocks in a different format.  I wanted the piece to have a musical playful feel to it.  The entire quilt is topstitch pieced."  Karen's work also includes computer-generated text that was transferred to fabric.  At the Houston show, this was a very dramatic quilt with tremendous visual impact.  Photographs can never capture that, unfortunately.
Karen also entered River Stones.  She says that rocks, pebbles, and stones fascinate her, and when combined with water, she is mesmerized.  Her challenge when making this quilt was to capture the "flowing meditative quality of a riverbed within a grid format."  The color palette Karen chose was inspired by photos of rivers and stones in New Zealand.  She did some photo transfer to fabric (rocks and ripples of water) to complete the work.  Honestly, when I see this quilt, I immediately hear the sound of rippling water in a creek.  The colors are wonderful and so soothing.  What a great job!

Keiko Ike of Kochi, Kochi-Ken, Japan, created Magical Zone.  She said she intended to create a mysterious quilt with the design and color, noting, "I could perfectly piece the extremely sharp points in the Mariner's Compass, which is normally difficult to finish flat."  She is right about that!  I find it interesting how she combined a very striking, spiky geometric shape (the compass and the wandering spikes) with the very soft, fluid design of the feathers.  Those combinations are not often seen except where the quilting, itself, is done using feathers.

Below is a close-up of Keiko's compass.  Note that she heavily quilted her compass.

Kiyoko Ishihara of Ashikaga, Tochigi, Japan, made Flowers in the Crystal based on a valuable crystal ornament that she owns.  It has pretty flowers inside -- which are included in her quilt, below.  The quilt is hand pieced and appliqued, hand quilted (including trapunto), and hand embroidered.  Her quilt combines cotton and wool.  Her design is original, based on a class she took from Noriko Masui.  The details in this quilt are wonderful - as is Kiyoko's choice of fabrics.  I think that she chose some difficult fabric colors to work with as they often mush together, but she managed to make them play together nicely, resulting in a very striking design.

This next quilt, Ravendale Star, was made by Linda Fleschner of North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  Linda didn't design the entire quilt before she made it.  She used the Ravendale paisley print in a Radiant Star pattern and when she finished making that, she designed the border feather, sticking to a black and white palette.  She used modified English paper piecing, fused applique with machine satin stitches, hand-guided free motion and ruler work longarm quilting, and hand-sewn beads in her quilt.  Her strong use of contrasting colors left her quilt with a dramatic visual impact.

In this close-up, you can see some of the colors and quilting in Linda's quilt.  Notice the fussy-cutting that she did in making her star; that's quite a fete!

Marilyn Badger of St. George, Utah, made Exuberance, which was dear to her heart, as she did all the hand-applique and embroidery while sitting with her husband during his illness.  She says that before he passed, he was able to tell her it was his favorite quilt; he was the one who named it Exuberance.  Marilyn said she could not get it quilted for months after his death as she just couldn't face the quilt.  Finally, one day, she decided that if he were alive, he would be asking her when she was going to get started on his quilt.  Six months later, she finished the quilt.  I love the colors and designs in this quilt - especially the delicate outer border.  Many of us make quilts that are tied to deep memories that will be in our hearts forever - this is certainly one for Marilyn and I'm certain that her husband is smiling down at it now.

Here is one last quilt from the IQA show - at least in the Innovative Pieced division; I'll have more quilts from the show from other categories in future blogs.  This quilt, named Ghosts, was made by Ruth Montalvo of Madison Heights, Michigan.  It was based on a doodle and put together on a whim - and completely pieced (there isn't any applique!) on Ruth's 50-year old Singer sewing machine.  What a fun quilt this is with the doodles circling around.  How Ruth made it without any applique amazes me. 

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Next, I'll show you some quilts that my friends and I have been working on.  I feel a bit guilty because this post is a little short... but that's what happens when you lose 3 weeks out of a month! 

Becky Stephenson was busy this past month.  First, here is her Square-Square quilt.  I love this quilt -- the square-in-square blocks are 3 inches in size.  Some are "dark" and some are "light."  Now here is an interesting thing about this quilt.  Do you notice the off-white "border" in the interior of the quilt?  It's not really a border -- it is a set of half-square triangles that form a faux-border.  I thought that was pretty cool!  Becky is now starting on a larger quilt (bed-sized) using little square-in-square blocks, but she's doing it by doing a block-exchange with a few friends.  The blocks are all paper-pieced, which makes them simple and quick to make.  I'm jealous, but I won't be participating -- I have too many other projects in my to-do box!
Becky also brought me a 4-block feathered star quilt that I had agreed to quilt on my longarm.  We are going to produce the pattern for this quilt in the next few weeks and kit it with fabric for those who want to buy the pattern and the fabric together.  I would show you my version of this quilt, done in similar fabrics, but I didn't have a chance today to take a picture of the quilt.  My quilt has 9 blocks in it and is a good-sized bed quilt.  I can't wait to get it on the machine and to quilt it, too!  This past month, despite some challenges, I have been determined to make progress on several projects.  And I did!

Jerrianne, Becky's sister, finished her basket quilt and had it quilted -- it is one of those "happy quilts" that we get to see every once in a while.  By that, I mean that when you see it, it just makes you happy -- you actually can't NOT smile!

Here is a close-up of these simple basket blocks.  I saw Jerrianne working on these at many bees over the past year -- they are the perfect take-along project.  And you all must know that I love, love, love the shirting backgrounds!


At the same time, friend Sharon Meyer finished her 35-basket "Little Baskets" quilt.  It still needs to be quilted, but isn't it nice?  I love how the little 2-inch baskets form a faux-border and sashing, too -- they were about to drive Sharon nuts, as there are so many of them!  But the effort paid off with an eye-catching quilt.

Here is a close-up of Sharon's quilt.


And once Sharon and I decided that this design needed a pattern, I put together my own 9-block version of her quilt, appropriately named, "Little Baskets."  It is quilted, though I still need to stitch down the binding.  The pattern for this quilt will be on my website sometime this month.  Except for the basket handles, both the big and the small baskets are entirely paper pieced, making them quite easy to make.  The quilt below is about 45 inches square.

Those of you who remember that I'm working on a "woven blanket" quilt will be happy to see that I've finished assembling the center portion of the quilt.  I was blown away by how easy and how quickly this quilt went together.  Really?  With all those little 1/2-inch squares?  No, I'm not certifiably crazy -- every single unit in this quilt is strip pieced:  stitch together one, 1-1/2, and 2-inch strips and then slice them up and suddenly you have a quilt!

But wait... wait... there's more!  Yes this quilt will have a pieced border, surrounded by a white outer border.  Below, you can see how a portion of the border will look on this quilt.  I laid one of my partially finished border strips against the edge of the quilt center.  I think I'm going to LOVE this quilt when I'm done and, as I said, cannot believe how easy it was to make!  Because all the seams are pressed toward the dark fabric, when you stitch the strips together, they all nest absolutely beautifully.  Honestly, it could not get easier!  I doubt that I'll have this pattern finished this month, but it should be done in March - it will be called Blue Heaven.  I still have to quilt it after piecing the borders, though - so that might be the brakes on this project if it's not done in March.

I've got one and half borders done...

And I've got all the strips to be sliced up and stitched back together ready to go... so there's nothing stopping me, really!


And some of you with longer memories may remember this quilt, called Target Practice.  I love this quilt and it has been sitting on a rack in my sewing room for a year, awaiting inspiration before I quilt it.  That inspiration never came, and so this past week, I drove it over to Cindy G who will quilt it for me.  Sometimes, it's better to let things get done rather than to have them hang around forever!

Here's another shot of this quilt.  I love the layout of the blocks and borders; I had always wanted to make a border out of little circles and this quilt let me do that.  If I had the time, I'd do another one in read and green fabrics, as I think it would be the perfect Christmas quilt design!  Once I get the quilt back from Cindy G, I'll have the pattern ready for this quilt.  Yay!

And here, you can see that those long zig-zag borders are all appliqued.  Easy does it!

Well, gang.. that's all I have to show you this month, despite having also worked on a new Princess Feather design (one block left to applique), a grape vine quilt (lots left to applique but at least the stems are all basted in place), and a new surprise quilt made with fabric from The Quilt Show's Rajah quilt.  Frankly, it's pretty slim pickings, but it's 4 a.m. and too dark to take pictures and I'm determined to get this posted on February 1!  During this coming month I'll take more pictures and have them all ready for March 1... hopefully with some more finished items.  Until then... happy quilting!

Sue Garman
(c)2016 Susan H. Garman