Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fables of Fused Floral Fails and Finally a Finish!

Inspiration Photograph Finalists
This is the story about my latest finish...that almost didn't get finished!  This latest project required me to do a value study by translating a color photograph into an achromatic quilt using only grey scale solids and black & white prints!  
The first battle was to select the inspirational photograph.  As I am in the process of organizing my photos (all 12,000+), I had to narrow down the field.  Some contenders included flowers/plants, rocks, pets, and even Legos!  Some were quickly cut while others made it as a finalist.

The second round of auditions involved cropping for more interesting compositions and converting these photographs into black and white to see which had a range of values and interest.

Round 2 of Auditions
Panda was already in black and white and seemed too easy!  I liked the succulent and the pansy, but in the end, it was the lilies (top left) that won out!  I loved all the contrasts present in this photo:  light valued flowers vs. darker value background, soft texture of the petals vs. the hardness of the wooden fence, radiating lines of the flower vs. vertical and horizontal lines of the fencing. 
Using Technology to Prepare my Photograph
Achromatic Fabric Palette
Fail #1:  And this is where I unknowingly cheated with this assignment!  I converted my photo into black and white and then used the posterize function to help establish shapes of different values.  I thought I was being resourceful, but I guess the point was to help train our eye to recognize values on our own.  I will admit that I struggled enough recognizing the different values within my black and white photograph---so I would have been lost using the color version only!

Moving forward--I pulled my palette of black and white prints, along with solids ranging from white, light grey to dark grey and black.  In light of my cheat above, I also tried to choose prints that would help me recreate the interesting textures:  soft lines of the petals, swirls for the wood knots, etc.

Fail #2:  Originally, I started with a 8.5"x11" print out, and quickly realized this was entirely too small to capture some of the details.  So a fellow quilter came to the rescue and helped to print my lily onto larger card stock...thank you Sue!!!

Fail #3:  My new photograph was too large for my small light box, so I had to upgrade to my large light box (aka front window) to establish shapes of various values.  Mind you--I needed to factor in time management to maximize its use before the sun set!  In my effort to capture all the details, I outlined shapes that were entirely too detailed...aka very difficult to cut out!  As I was working with fusible, I kept forgetting to mirror image my shapes, resulting in wasted fusible and/or fabric.  And as there were so many different shapes and sizes, I didn't have a system for labeling or organizing the shapes to keep track of which had been traced, fused, cut out and/or how to put the puzzle back together.  So yeah--it was just one big mess!   Oh--and did I forget to mention the fact that this assignment was due that day!!  Being that it was 10:30 PM and I had 1.5 sloppy flowers fused...I realized I needed to rethink my game plan and requested an extension for more time.
Less Than 2 Hour Left...Not Impressed!!  More Time Please!!
The instructor was very understanding, but I was very disappointed in myself and avoided this project and the studio entirely all weekend.  After a 3-4 day time out, I returned to the studio and set out to establish a more organized game plan.  I started out by hanging two copies side by side, with one of the copies turned over as my mirror copy.  On this mirror copy, I traced out much more simplified outlines and labelled each piece by flower A, B or C, along with numbers to identify all the shapes within each flower!  I used a highlighter to indicate different values.  And then as fusible was traced and fused onto fabric, they were laid out in letter/numerical order to be reassembled later!
Improved Set Up and Organization
I started with the lightest and darkest values for the flowers and set those pieces aside.  But as I moved into the middle values--it was more confusing.  So instead, I switched gears and assembled my background using all solids.  Then I was able to audition my flowers against the background to ensure I had enough contrast and the correct values.
Background and Foreground Flowers
I added a few accent highlights here and there--no tracing, just roughly cut out from leftover fused fabrics.  I could have kept fussing and fussing, but I was afraid it would mess it all up.  So I committed to the final design by pressing it down entirely and moving onto the quilting.  I used a medium grey Aurifil thread and started with stitching wooden grain along the fence background.  Then I moved onto the flowers where I used radiating lines from the center out to each petal shape.  I finished with a faced edge (which still needs to be hand sewn into place!).
Documentation of My Project; FYI--Panda is a Big Fan of the Achromatic Color Scheme!!
I was relieved to finally submit my assignment and return to other more fun and colorful projects!  All the black and white prints and solids have been returned to the stash, and I am relieved that colors will be used for the next assignment.  Alleluiah!!

What did I learn about this assignment?
  • Keep it Simple Silly!
  • "If Plan A doesn't work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet!"
  • It's ok to ask for help and/or more time!  We are human!
  • I need to brush up on how I view and assign values.
  • Achromatic designs can still be beautiful!

Finally Finished Floral, 11"x14"

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sideways Sine Waves Spirals

Confession time:  For the past two years, I've been sworn to secrecy on a special quilt project!  But I am super excited to finally be able to share this special project with you, especially since it is in the process of being published in RaNae Merrill's newest book:  "Sideways Spiral Quilts, Book 1:  Chains & Ropes!"  The book is due to be released in early April, and RaNae has been featuring "Sneak Peaks" on her blog/facebook page, with my "Sideways Sine Waves Spirals" quilt being highlighted in today's post!!  There is a link you can click to read more about my quilt...but here are more photos and information about my design process!

Back in Spring 2014, RaNae sent an email out to her followers, inviting application submissions to be considered for participation in an online laboratory in preparation for a new book.  I had been following RaNae's work for some time and was waiting patiently for her to travel to the west coast so I could take a class with her.  So I seized this opportunity and worked to assemble my application and portfolio for her consideration.  A few weeks later, I was delighted to learn that I had been accepted and the online laboratory would commence soon!

In the online laboratory, RaNae revealed her newest spiral designs:  Sideways Spirals.  There were several variations and our first task was to choose which variation(s) we would use to create an original quilt design!  I will admit that they all piqued my interest, but after going back and forth, I chose her Bracelet Charm design.  With the addition of a parallel curve to one strand, I was able to create some interesting areas of overlap to play around with the illusion of transparency.   I had yet to explore EQ7, but still utilized technology to help tease out my design.  Doug helped to create the Sine Wave curves in Excel, which we repeated to create the basic unit below.  I aimed to create the illusion of transparency in some of the overlapping regions, and selected analogous colors.  Paint Program was then used to audition different color palettes (warm version on the left and a cooler version on the right).  Even though the grid lines and numbering transferred over into Paint, it was enough to evaluate color palette choices.
Basic Sine Wave Unit
These units were copied and pasted into a larger grid design.  Both colorways yielded exciting designs, but ultimately I went with the cooler colorway, on the right, as it seemed more balanced.
Larger Grid Layout--Warm vs. Cool
With RaNae's blessing, I went to work on translating this design into fabric!  I started by copying and taping together the individual units into the larger grid layout.  As I did not have a large enough light box to transfer onto the foundation fabric (muslin), I used my front window!  I used templates to trace the background shapes onto Wonder Under fusible and then onto Kona solids.  
Quilt Preparations
Once all my shapes were traced and cut out, it was time to start coloring inside the lines.  I added one shape at a time to my foundation, and enjoyed watching the overall design evolve and bloom!  While there were a few thin gaps between the shapes, I was not worried as they would all be covered by the 1/4" fusible bias tape.
Color Inside the Lines
I have no idea how many yards of fusible bias tape I made, but it was quite a bit!  Luckily, long lengths were not necessary, as I was able to conceal starts/stops at the overlapping intersections!  I slowly worked my way from left to right, adding a set of 3 braided lines at a time.  While I applied fusible tape to the undersides, pins were still necessary to keep my lines from shifting.  Given the multiple layers, I opted to use curved safety pins as they proved easier to apply without distorting the overall design.  A matching grey Aurifil thread was used to applique the bias tape.  I opted to break thread at every other intersection, which preserved the over/under illusion, but did involve burying lots of thread tails!!
Appliqued Lines
All those solids were just begging for quilted texture!  Again, matching Aurifil threads were used to fill in each area with a different free motion filler:  pebbles, spirals, baptist fans, figure eights, flowers and loop de loops!  A solid grey was used for the backing fabric, and bobbin threads matching the top thread were used, all combined to make for a lovely whole cloth quilt on the back side!!
Details of Quilted Texture!!
"Sideways Sine Waves Spirals," finishes 36"x36"
Be sure to check out RaNae's blog/website for "Sneak Peaks" of the other beautiful quilts that were included, along with updates as to when and how to purchase your very own copy of "Sideways Spiral Quilts, Book 1:  Chains & Ropes."

3/27/17 Update:  Just learned that my "Sideways Sine Waves Spirals" quilt will be a "cover girl" and included on the cover of the new book coming out April 15th.  Super exciting!!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sunrise & Sunset

This week's Project Quilting challenge was "A Goose in the Monkey Wrench" where we were challenged to include at least one Monkey Wrench block and one Flying Geese unit in our quilted/finished project--and oh yeah, we had a total of 7 days start to finish!

Auditioning Color Palettes.
I drafted up some block variations in EQ7 that featured 5 Monkey Wrenches and 56 Flying Geese units.  For color palette, I started with a bundle of hand dyed teal fabrics that I tested in EQ7.  And while I liked it, I decided it was too icy for this time of the year.  So then I went to my bundle of Cherrywood fabrics and tried to incorporate some warmer colors.  In the next version, I found the warm colored monkey wrenches to be too overpowering and the dimensional illusion of the flying geese blocks was lost.  Back to the drawing board and I simply inverted the colors and came up with this exciting design.
EQ Color Mock Up to Basted Top Featuring All Cherrywood Fabrics
When it came to quilting, I kept it fairly simple by free motioning loops along each of the grey triangle and blue triangles, and simply outlining the colored triangles to help them to really pop.  
Sunrise & Sunset, Finishes 21"x21"
Here are some more detail shots of the quilted loop de loops.
Loop de Loops on the Front and Back
Original Blocks Designed in EQ7 Translated Into Cherrywood Fabric...Yum!
Online voting will begin Sunday by 12 noon.  Please be sure to visit the Project Quilting Link Up page to see all the beautiful entries, and vote for your favorites--hint hint!  

This week concludes the Project Quilting challenge series 7 and leaves me feeling bittersweet.  I am excited that I managed to not only complete all 6 challenges within the allotted 1 week span, but I also managed to create some really dynamic designs inspired by each week's challenge.  And then again, I am a bit relieved to be done, as the 1 week time frame can be a bit intense.  Many thanks to Kim Lapecek of Persimon Dreams for hosting this fun challenge series.  Here are all 6 of my quilted projects made as part of this series...enjoy!
Project Quilting 7 Series

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Adventures in Fabric Painting

Today's crafting adventure was all about fabric painting!  My friend Amy hosted and generously shared her painting boards, paints, stamps and a wealth of inspiration for today's session!  And if that wasn't already enough, we were treated to some absolutely glorious weather for our outdoor session!

I started out with two fat half-yard of white pimatex fabric, which we dampened with water and then pinned to the painting boards.  From there, Amy demonstrated how to add layer upon layer of color and texture!!  Below is a preview of my experiments from today.
Fun with Circle & Dots
Layers upon layers of fabric paint were added by brushing it on, flicking excess paint off the brush, and stamping with rubber stamps, toilet paper rolls, PVC, chopsticks, twine wrapped around a block of wood and even Legos!  As you can see, I was all about circles and dots today!!  But we also got in touch with nature by doing some sun printing!  There were supersized clovers in Amy's garden that made for a lovely all over print.  We color washed the fabric and then pinned various foliage on top and let the sun work its magic!  We took a break and had lunch and came back for the big reveal!!  Additional texture was achieved with the use of rubber stamps, PVC and chopsticks!  I am not sure what I will make with this particular print, but I am quite pleased with the final design!
Nature Inspired Sun Printing Fun
I also experimented with some color discharging using deColourant, which was applied onto solid fabrics (orange and blue), using PVC piping to create different sized rings.  Typically the deColourant is applied to a dyed fabric, and once dry--a hot iron is used and the dye/pigment is removed from the area with the deColourant.  Well--the sun was so warm today, that it did most of the work for us, and using a hot iron had little effect once home!

All in all, I enjoyed the process of creating exciting new textures and prints!  Once I got home, I realized that I actually had some fabric paint stashed away in my studio, as well as a Craftsy class on fabric painting--bonus!!  So I am looking forward to expanding my experimentation with fabric painting.

Many thanks to Amy for a truly lovely day of creating!  

Monday, March 14, 2016

CREA-TV in Print!

What's Black and White and Read All Over?  CREA-TV!!
A few weeks ago I received a mystery package in the post.  Inside contained a copy of the April/May issue of Quilters Newsletter.  At first, I thought it might be a reminder to renew my subscription--but then realized that I had already renewed.

Instead I was pleasantly surprised to see a 3-page spread dedicated to the Be Creative! Quilt Challenge, including a picture of my "CREA-TV" quilt!!

Be sure to pick up a copy of the April/May issue so you can read more about the challenge and see all the fabulous quilts that were judged as winners and finalists!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Duo of Dyes

We've been experiencing quite a bit of much needed rain here in Northern California.  And while it dampened my plans for a dye party this coming weekend, I was still able to squeeze in a quick dyeing solo session.  It started out simple by mixing up a small amount of stock and using only two colors dye:  turquoise and magenta.  By varying the ratio of dye to stock, I was able to create 4 values of each color in order to create more ombre fabrics.  And of course, by mixing the two colors, I was able to achieve purples, periwinkles and some red violet.  
Dazzling Beauty Achieved By Using Only Two Colors!
I also experimented more with folding, pleating and using rubber bands/clothes pins to create some fun patterns.
Textures Created by Using Rubberbands and Pink Dye
While I typically use Pimatex cotton for dyeing, I pulled a few prints (black & white along with white on white) from my stash to overdye.  I kept a swatch of the original print, and washed the remaining yardage in order to remove any chemicals that may prevent the dye from being absorbed.  You can see the before and after images below.
Overdyeing Black & White and White on White Prints
My Assistants and Models:  Susie Q (left) and Panda (right)
All in all, I managed to dye a whopping total of 11 yards of fabric in a short session.  And as always, my models Susie Q and Panda were at my side for the entire process from ripping yardage from the bolt, mixing up the dyes and watching as I was out in the rain retrieving my dyed fabrics for the rinsing process!  It's only fair that they were included in the photo shoot!!

Panda - Pretty with Pink
Susie Q Showing Off the  Range of Colorful Hues

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rail Fence Modern Makeover

This month's Modern Quilts Unlimited "Everything Old is New Again" challenge focused on the traditional Rail Fence block.  As part of this modern makeover, I added my own slant...literally!  Centered below is the block I drafted in EQ7, featuring a simple Rail Fence block with a triangle unit in one corner.  Given the small finished size of each unit (3" finished), I opted to paper piece them for accuracy.  Once the units were complete, I had two options for final layout...
Starry TRail Fence Block Unit and Two Possible Layouts
In the end, I really like the layout on the right side, as it seemed to emphasize the Rail Fence with a central starry unit (and it was how I had originally drafted it in EQ7.  But its always fun to experiment with other designs...
"Starry TRails" From Draft Version to Reality, Finishes 12"
You can vote for "Starry TRails" online (facebook account is required) through March 14th.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

One More Mandala

In case you hadn't recognized my new trend...I am in madly in love with Mandalas!!  This week's Project Quilting Season 7 challenge, Through the Eyes of a Child, inspired me to make another Mandala quilt.

As a child, I fondly remember learning Crayon Scratch Art from my mother.  She showed us how to use wax crayons to color an entire piece of paper, and then cover it entirely with black crayon.  Using a pencil or coin, we could lightly scratch away the top layer of black crayon to reveal a colorful work of art!  I decided to apply this process to my new love of quilted mandalas.
Laying the Foundation for My Crayon Etched Mandala
I began by preparing my quilt sandwich containing four layers:
1.  quilt back right side facing down
2.  batting (dream cotton)
3.  colorful 1st layer right side facing up--I chose this fabulous swirled rainbow print
4.  added a layer of Kona black solid and pin basted through all four layers!

I used freezer paper to use as a guide for free motion quilting my mandalas--but stopped using it after completing the first  2-3 rounds and soon began to rely on reference points within my blooming mandala to quilt additional rounds.

I will confess that I had some doubts as to whether my plan would work.  So once I had completed my first round of free motion quilting, I pulled out my seam ripper and small curved scissors and ever so carefully cut away the top layer of black solid fabric to reveal the colorful swirling print below.
Tearing Down Any Lingering Doubt and Tearing Away the Top Layer of Black Fabric
There was a bit of a learning curve to slicing away the black fabric, without accidentally nicking the colorful print directly below.  I found it worked best for me to use my seam ripper at a very shallow angle (nearly parallel to the quilt sandwich) to create an initial slice just large enough where I could sneak peek a look to ensure I hadn't nicked the rainbow print.  Then I went in with my small curved scissors to trim along my stitched lines.  

For me, it was almost instant gratification as I revealed the beautiful color one pebble at a time, and totally loving it!  Now that all my doubts were eased, I returned to free motion quilting my entire mandala and background swirls/pebbles.
Before and After Cutting Away Sections of Black Fabric
Some friendly tips:

  • Use a slightly smaller stitch length.
  • Quilt larger motifs.  Most of my pebbles were approximately nickle sized or larger and were pretty manageable.  I did have a few smaller ones that were a bit more tricky to cut out.
  • Leave a few sections of black in tact as it adds visual interest.
  • Use a fun color of thread as its easier on the eyes and really pops on the black for yet another design element.  I used a bright pink 50-weight of Aurifil thread.
  • Slow and steady when slicing out the top layer.  While each newly revealed section of color was exciting, I had to remind myself to work slowly and carefully to avoid nicking through to the batting layer!
"Crayon Etched Mandala" finishes 18" x 19"
I love, love, love the finished piece and eager to make more!!  In fact, I may have kept an extra fat quarter of my backing print to use on a future Crayon Etched mandala?!?

I will be linking this up to the Project Quilting page, where online voting will begin Sunday, March 6th around 11 AM PST...hint-hint!!