Sunday, December 15, 2013

Colour Blocks Baby Quilt Completed

Well on Thursday evening, other then removing the marking lines, the quilt was finished. My sigh of relief must have been heard in Hawaii.

Even though the quilt came together rather easily and quickly, there were a few hiccups along the way. First of all, I must confess that I broke down and bought some new fabric for the backing.

After a sleepless night last Friday thinking about the pieced backing that I had just finished basting onto the quilt, I got up Saturday morning realizing that this backing just wasn't working for me. So, contrary to my initial intent of only use stash fabrics, I had to give in and head to the nearest quilt shop for new backing fabric.

Alternative backing fabric was purchased on Saturday and by late Sunday afternoon, the original backing had been removed, the new fabric had been pre-washed and prepped, and the quilt was sandwiched and basted. Still on schedule.

I find that basting on a clean floor is still the best way to get the quilt sandwich tension even and taught.

Early Monday morning, I was rolling down the Bernina highway, stitching happily to Christmas tunes. (This year's favourite Christmas tunes are the instrumental jazz play lists found on YouTube. There's a lot of variety available and the longer playlists don't require a CD change.)

By Tuesday evening, the grid was well established and the free motion butterfly was completed. The butterfly is my husband's creation, so I only had to stitch it into existance.

Progress report on Tuesday evening.

Wednesday late afternoon, all of the the quilting had been completed. The only thing left to do on Thursday and Friday was stitching the binding into place and cleaning up the marking lines.

Close-up of the free motion butterfly.

The final step was attaching the binding, for which I used the backing fabric. Because of a primarily white binding on a white quilt top, I added a little accent and contrast to the front of the quilt, with a narrow red trim stitched into the binding.

Close-up of the binding and trim.

So wrapped and packaged, the quilt has been sent on it's merry way and the Bernina has been carefully parked until sometime in early January.

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Colour Block" Baby Quilt

A reminder again that "life happens when you're making other plans" and, as my yoga teacher keeps reminding us in class, "Don't become too rigid and unbendable in your routines that you can't let the moment carry you to new places." So, with that in mind, when a new baby arrives in the family, it takes priority and all else will just patiently wait it's turn. I started this baby quilt this week, and am hoping for completion next week.

These four finished rows of blocks will be placed in the upper half of the quilt.

When I made the "Flights of Fancy" baby quilt (see post of Jan.11/12), I had hoped to make several quilts at the same time. Now, 2 years later, I am finally getting to quilt #2. Still committed to using mostly fabrics from my stash, I am able to make this entire quilt without a trip to the quilt shop. (Once I quit patting myself on the back, I'll get back to work!)

Pulled from the stash.

These blocks had been cut at 3 1/4" square for the previous quilt, so I needed to trim them down to 3" squares.

Using Sally Collin's book "Mastering Precision Piecing" as inspiration, I was reminded that precision should never be sacrificed for speed. Accuracy and consistency in cutting and stitching are the two major contributing factors in a quality product, and in her book she outlines a number of ways to achieve these every time. And slowing down and using the proper tools and aids is a great place to start.    

Sewing the white sashing to the coloured block.
The 1/4" seam allowance is much easier to keep precise with a piece of tape on the machine as a guide. The patchwork foot helps as well, however, I have found that even a minute difference in the placement of the presser foot onto the fabric can effect the measurement after an entire row is stitched together. The masking tape helps keep this placement accurate.

The finished blocks were not perfect, but pretty good.

Another tool to improve accuracy and to help keep the quilt square, is the walking foot.

The bottom row was stitched using the 1/4" presser foot. Not happy with the result, I switched to my walking foot for the other rows (see top row). What a difference it made! I love my walking foot.

The top is now completely pieced and the quilting lines are marked. I hope to sandwich it today and machine quilt next week. (It's got to be in the mail by the end of next week.) Yikes!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blocking and Squaring Boutis

The door of her cage has been opened. She is free to fly off and find her destiny.

After many months of hand stitching and then many more months of cording, my little "calibri" is ready to set off on her own. As this was my first attempt at designing so large a boutis piece, it has been a bit of a learning curve. All of the tight swirls, curls and circles are a great deal more difficult and time consuming to cord then are the longer more gentle channels. Maintaining an even tension is absolutely necessary throughout the process, so patience comes in very handy when doing the cording.

Once all of the stitching and cording is complete, the boutis must be washed and squared up. After it is soaked overnight in a basin of water with a mild detergent, it gets rinsed gently in several clear washes, then rolled in a towel to remove the excess water. 

If some of the pencil lines have not disappeared after the inital soaking, it can be soaked again, as often as is necessary.

The final step is the blocking process. There are a number of ways to block a boutis piece, but I have found that the easiest method for me is to place the damp work onto a sheet of styrofoam and with the help of thumbtacks, coax it into it's squared off shape.

Because there has been so much pulling and tugging involved in getting the cording to ease snuggly into all corners of the channels, this final step is crucial. The slack that is visible around the edges was very difficult to avoid. Because the design itself is quite heavily stitched, there will be a great amount of slack around the perimeter of the work where there is no stitching. I am beginning to understand why most boutis wall hangings have the frame butting right up to the work. Something to rethink for my next design. I'm hoping that a professional framer will have some ideas of how to help me solve this problem.

The second of my bird designs is already on the boards, but there are a number of other projects pulling at my shirt tails saying "me first"! But in the meantime, this little "calibri" will get a frame and maybe if I'm very still and silent, she will come back from time to time and tell me of her adventures.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Traditional Russian Shawl

A friend, recently back from Russia, brought this stunning traditional shawl for me.

The shawl was hand crafted near Moscow, using traditional materials and methods.

The yarn is spun from the fleece of goats, and is most commonly knit in only it's natural colours of white and grey. Said to be as warm as a fur coat, they are very highly prized in their home country where winters can be very harsh.

Similar in texture to a mohair/cashmere mix, the shawl is lightweight and feels luxuriously soft and silky.

Having only limited experience knitting laces, I can still appreciate the complexity of this hand crafted design. This highly prized, heirloom quality gift will be worn with great care and valued for generations.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Patchwork Canada: Prairie Elements

Design and Colour

Where to start?

Never having worked on a landscape piece before, I am relying on the knowledge and experience of quilters and embroiderers, who have published books on the subject, to help me through the process. These are a few of the books that I am finding helpful for this process.

Top to bottom/left to right. "Adventures in Design" and "Color Play" both By Joen Wolfram; "Nature's Patterns" by Joyce R. Becker; "Luminous Landscapes" by Gloria Loughman; "Serendipity Quilts" by Susan Carlson; "Machine Embroidered Flowers" by Alison Holt.

What have I learned so far?
How to proceed?

1. Choose a theme.

The quilt will be a triptych, 3 long wall hangings, each representing a particular region of western Canada.

There will be 3 pieces, exact size yet to be determined, and for current purposes I'm working with a 12" x 24" dimension for each piece. The first in the series will be of the prairies, this will be followed with images of the mountains, and the final piece will represent the Pacific coast, sea to sky.

2. Find your Inspiration. 

This photo of the prairies will be the starting point. The image will give me the basic outline for the wall hanging and still allow me to add, subtract, ignore, etc., as the spirit moves.

From the sprinkling of the blue and yellow wildflowers in the green grasses to the golden field meeting the blue sky on the horizon, the photo will also help with the colour choices.

Here it's been converted into black and white to offer more contrast between the shapes and to better visualize the flow of lines.This made it easier to trace.

3. Create the design.

The small tracing (above) was enlarged on a copier to make a full size pattern which will serve as the design board. A second enlarged copy will be cut apart into templates.

 The size and placement of the tree may change. A scattering of flowers in the foreground will add a sense of perspective while the field and sky gradually disappear into the horizon.

4. Decide on colours. 

To find the value and intensity of the colours, it is easier to work with a black and white photo.

I will aim to sort each colour family into 5 values.

A self imposed goal for this project is to use only (well mostly)  fabrics from my stash. (Borrowing from my daughter's stash will be allowed. ...and the occasional purchase of a fat quarter or two may also be necessary!). Here are two colour palettes that I have been able to pull from my stash so far. I had hoped for colours that were more neutral, but given my self imposed limitations, I may have to alter the plan.

The first palette is somewhat softer then the collection below.

These colours are a little deeper and richer.

I'll have to start cutting them up and playing with them to get a better feel for the mood of the piece. I constantly have to remind myself that this is a learning experience, and when experimenting, making some wrong decisions will be part of the process.  I have to to allow myself freedom to play, as Susan Carlson indicates in her title: "Serendipity Quilts: Cutting Loose Fabric Collage".

5. Think about technique.

Books are a fantastic resource.

From Susan Carlson's free-style fabric collage, "Serendipity Quilts", to Gloria Loughman's use of a more structured piecing technique, "Luminous Landscapes" and Alison Holt's free motion machine embroidery embellishments, "Machine Embroidered Flowers", these books are all a great resource for teaching and for inspiration. Joen Wolfram's books, "Adventures in Design" and "Color Play" are both great references for designing any quilt.

There are as many different ideas and techniques as there are quilters. The trick will be to find something that works for me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Autumnal Table Linens

With company visiting last weekend and with Canadian Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, I took a little time-out from my regular stitching to add some colour to the table linen scene.

Two years ago, when sewing some rather large drapes for a patio window, it was necessary to buy a whole bolt of fabric in order to get the colour and weight of linen required. Because there were about 12 meters of linen left over, there was easily enough for a tablecloth. It was made to fit our table with an added extension, but here it's on the table without any extensions.

(The colour of the linen is actually a brownish terracotta. The colours on the first two photos are much "pinker" then the true colour. I'm not sure why; all photos were taken at the same time?!?)

To get the width that I wanted, some additional lengths of fabric had to be added to each side of the fabric.

In staying true to my goal of using only (well mostly!) fabrics from my stash this year, I was also able to make coordinating napkins. When working with linens, I make sure to square up carefully before cutting. It's always time well invested.

There are six dinner napkins and six cocktail napkins.

While "rifling" through my "stuff" looking for coordinating linen for the napkins, I unearthed some autumnal WIP placemats that were started about 5 years ago. Because I love needle turn applique, and have not done any for far too long, I kept these out in the hopes that between now and Thanksgiving 2014, there may be an opportunity or two where I could finish them. Here's hoping!!! The placemats have been pieced and the applique finished on one. Everything else is organized and ready to stitch. It really should be possible to complete without too much stress!

The colour of the linen tablecloth in this photo is much closer to the real colour. Not sure why the first two photos turned out to be so "Pinkish", even after several edits in Photoshop.

Wishing all of my Canadian friends a Happy Thanksgiving, and everyone else (wherever you are) a very happy weekend.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Patchwork Canada

"Prairie Palettes"

"Stitchery" is truly an exciting medium for those of us inclined that way. We really can't help ourselves, nor stop ourselves. When my hands are not engaged in some form of "stitchcraft", my mind is whirling with ideas for the next project (or more then likely, projects) to be started. The idea of making a landscape quilt has been floating around in the back of my brain for the last 8 years or so, but something has always taken priority. So now, the time has come to experiment a little with a landscape design. It will be a simple little wall quilt, but it will give me the opportunity to experiment with and learn to use some of the different techniques and resources that are available.

The last part of our travels this past summer was a road trip from Winnipeg, in the heart of the Canadian prairies, to our home in Vancouver, on the Pacific coast of Canada. The opportunity to take endless number of photos has become possible because of digital cameras, and because of this repetition, I started to see the uniqueness and the beauty of my country with fresh eyes. Through the lens of my camera, I discovered that the quiet, unassuming prairie landscape can be as varied and as beautiful as the majestically chiseled mountain peaks further west. From this plethora of photos now in my files came the idea of playing with a landscape project.

Never having designed a landscape quilt before, the first step for me is to single out some of the elements in the photo. Using Photoshop Elements, I enjoyed a little play time transforming the original image using different textural effects.

Photo#1: Prairie landscape: Original photo

Photoshop Image: noise. Emphasis on detail.

PS Image: Crystallize. Simplified, but with interest in the edges.

PS Image: Palette Knife. Very basic.

Photo#2: Original

PS Image: Cutout. Simplifies the colours.

PS Image: Stained Glass. A tad dizzying, but shows good colour separation.

PS Image: Patchwork. Hmmm... .Too many little pieces for a "quick" patchwork!

Photo#3: Original

PS Image: Cutout. I like this one for the simplified landscape and colour separation.

PS Image: Stylize.

PS Image: Accented Edges

The next step will be to choose one of these 3 original photos, or maybe even a combination of them, and using the simplified images produced in photoshop, work out the basic design of the piece.

Another priority for this project is to use only fabrics from my stash. The colour choices may have to adapt a little to what's available. (Is that what they mean by artistic license?!? I somehow doubt it!)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pieces of Summer

After what seemed like a nomadic, sometimes chaotic spring/summer, our travel bags have finally been completely unpacked and placed into storage. Phew! Often, because of travel or circumstances, we were without internet access as well, and as much as we would all like to take ourselves off the grid from time to time, I found myself feeling isolated and lost without it. But we are now finally back in Vancouver, enjoying an unusually warm and sunny late summer.

The Seams French "staff" (that would be me), will be back on track shortly, with some new projects, some "in progress" work, and perhaps even unearthing some of those pieces that have been deeply buried in one closet or another.

In the meantime, I thought that I would share a little of our travels of this past July and August.

Montpellier is on the Mediterranean coast of France in the Languedoc region of France, and is surrounded by mountain ranges to three sides. Other then when driving to the beach, any other drive into the country takes us through one of these mountain ranges.The Pyranees are to the west, between Spain and France; to the east, in Provence, are the Alpilles; and to the north are the Cevennes and the larger Massif Central. The highway that took us to CERN in Switzerland (our first stop on this trip) wound it's way through the Luberon, the northern region of Provence, the area of France that Peter Mayle wrote about in his first book "A Year In Provence".

Ancient ruins of a fortress on the edge of a cliff in the Massif Central in the Luberon region.

CERN, (European Organization for Nuclear Research) on the French/Swiss border, near the city of Geneva, is a very large research facility for high energy physics and the birthplace of the "World Wide Web". A must-see for the serious "I love all things science" junkie on this road trip (that would not be me!!!)
This symbol marks the gateway to CERN.

And they mean that very seriously here!

Having escaped the "Big Bang" unscathed, we drove towards Burgundy through yet another mountain range, the Juras, on the Swiss/French border. Yodalaheehoo!

In Burgundy, we met friends in the town of Beaune, where the vineyards never tire of producing some of the worlds best wines, both white and red.
Beautifully maintained vineyards as far as the eye can see.

The last stop, before we headed back home to Montpellier, was in Lyon, where I paid homage to the gods of fibre at "Musee des Tissus".
The entrance courtyard at the museum.

Back in Montpellier there were serious gastronomic explorations that had to be undertaken. We were both up for the challenge.
"La Forge", in the town of Bédarieux, is one of our favourite restaurants.

Just outside of Montpellier is "Ma Maison", whose garden setting is as much a delight as the chef's creative menu choices.

For 3 of the last 5 years, the Tour de France bike race has come right through our neighbourhood.
This photo was taken at the end of our street.

Since our flight home to Vancouver was from Paris, we got there a few days early and enjoyed a few leisurely days of a Paris summer. We strolled up and down the tree lined streets, lingered in the heavily shaded parks and enjoyed watching the life of the city while sipping something or other in one of the many cafés.

Walking towards the Rodin gardens.

In the Rodin Gardens.

"The Burghers of Calais" by Auguste Rodin.

And then it was on to Vancouver. See you soon France!
Taken from our balcony the last night we were in Montpellier.