Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Rediscovering Improv

I took the 10 Ways to Love Improvisational Quilting class with Malka Dubrawsky on CreativeLive last week. It was free when it was live, though you have to buy it if you want to see the recording now - it's $79. It was the first time I've taken a class on CreativeLive. It was an experience, I decided on a whim. I had some free time, and needed something to pick up my mood and my sewing mojo.

Improv log cabins: warm, cool, & rainbow

I did find that the class was poorly explained in advance. I did know it was live, and that it would be running from 11am to 6pm my time. But I didn't realise at first that it was on for two days, thankfully I had both days to spare. They didn't provide a list of required materials ahead of time either so the first day was quite the scramble. I just pulled two black and white fabrics, a white fabric, and a collection of solids I bought over a year ago for a different project. I culled that project off my to do list at the end of the summer so they were looking for a new home :)

Pinwheels made with improv'd HSTs

Sewing along at home was ambitious, they really raced through the projects. True Malka had some pieces half prepared, and the people in the studio had baskets of materials provided, whereas I was dashing about, but Malka is a machine! I'd say I only attempted half the blocks Malka demonstrated. But it was so much fun!

Flying geese - I have a not great track record with
making these look nice, so we'll see!

I forgot, somehow, that the answer to how much I hate the cutting part of making quilts is improv quilting. It's so freeing! I had so much fun, I learned some new things, re-learned some stuff I'd done before but let flow out of my brain through lack of use. It is exhausting though, there are so many decisions to make all the way through. It's like when you go and do the groceries, and then they try and get you with sweets at the checkout because they know you're exhausted by making choices and you're weak now and will just buy random crap. After two days of improv, even with Malka leading the way for me, I was exhausted - thank god it was a Project Runway night!

I always sew these better super slowly and without pins.

I did some more sewing over the long weekend and added in some more blocks, including a giant HST star.

Really like this star that Malka suggested making with HSTs

I'm now thinking about trying to join all these up like a medallion quilt - ambitious! But I'm loving these colours and shapes so much, plus I want to see if I can do it ;)

Dodgy pic, but thinking a triangle border after this, then drunkard's paths,
then a final string/strip border.
Linking up to WIP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Nominated by Audrey from hot pink quilts - Audrey's great, she makes such a range of things and she uses fabric in such a different way to me. I love seeing what she comes up with, always gorgeous, always left of my field, and always inspiring. Go check her out if you don't know her already!

What am I working on?

Right now, I'm finishing a bag for my niece that I started earlier this summer. I took a pattern I have and made it a bit smaller and planned to add a flap, that has made this much harder for me than I ever anticipated. Using denim for the first time hasn't helped either. This is how it stands right now - I'm tempted to call it a day and have a funky new clutch for my own!? Too cruel though, too cruel - it'll be my next finish, but it's not going to be the greatest one ever.

It would make a great clutch though!

Then next up is a shirt for Paul, my first foray in to menswear. I'm using the Negroni pattern from Colette and hoping that the myriad of sew-along material online will help me through this - I'm scared of the buttons. It's his first anniversary present, already a day late - but I've had an awful flu-esque cold this last week and it's really knocked me sideways.

Between now and Christmas I'm trying to be realistic, and take into account all the regular life stuff I want to achieve too. So, I want to finish this Retro Flowers AMH quilt for my sister, it needs squaring up and sewing together before I even get it to a top.

Then I have a possible very large, the biggest I've ever made quilt, in the works. I have all the material bought, the block chosen, the vague layout planned on my computer. The fancy material (shot cottons - eeeeee!) washed but only half ironed. I'm stalling. I don't know if I can do it all before Christmas. I want it to be really good. I'll think about it during the shirt, I think I need to just bite the bullet and start. No pics of this yet...

Always the quilts for me on the longest finger!

Then I've made a little drawer of smallish projects that I can work on when I get bored or need a change of gear or hit a wall on one of the big important projects. These don't have a deadline and are all selfish, so I can take them out and pop them away at whim. Oh, and let's not forget finishing my Texas quilt, I haven't forgotten and I still love it.

These leftovers will become a large cushion!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

All I hear is Scooby-Doo shrugging 'I don't know, Shaggy' to this.

I think I'm too young a quilter. I don't know my own style yet. I'm learning things I don't like, I hate following a pattern - that's why Retro Flowers has taken so long (over a year now). However, this doesn't follow to clothing and bags - I love those patterns, I've learned so much about construction from them. So maybe I need to try out a couple more quilt patterns and see?

My 2nd quilt, made two years ago.

What I am trying to do more and more is just follow my own instincts. I'm much more likely to see a quilt through if it's something I really want to see when it's finished. I think I also need to make something for a clear reason - not that it has to be for a specific person, or a specific bed, or wall (something I never thought I'd say, I used to be 100% anti-wall-hangings), but just I'm making this quilt to test out x technique, or to see what happens if I mix this and that. I have a plan to make a mini applique quilt and then wash and tumble dry it every day for a month just to see how it wears. But yeah, I think I need everything I do to have a defined purpose.

Could I render a photo in fabric? Draft my own paper piecing? Do
interpretive quilting?

I've definitely rambled here.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I started because I wanted to give something tangible to family who were really far away and going through major life stuff we couldn't be there for. I discovered that quilting drew together the geometric designs I'd been scribbling in the backs of science copies since I was a teenager and the pieces of fabrics I'd been buying just as long but doing nothing with. I'd always hated clothes making when I came across it because of the bloody tissue paper the patterns come on, though Swedish tracing paper and pdf patterns are changing that for me now. But quilting, quilting had it all.

Rainbow Skittles - the first quilt I designed.

Plus it was a creative outlet that I'd never had. I'd played music as a kid but never been interested in writing any. I always thought I was terrible at drawing because I have no innate talent, and it never occurred to me (so stupid) that practice might improve things. But sewing is creative and practical, and I love it for that. I really really like making things that can serve a practical purpose when you need them too, but are also just gorgeous or clever or surprising.

How does my writing/creating process work?

I generally don't think about this too hard in case I frighten it. I think at different times it just prefers to come out in different ways. Some days it's all about the actual making, some days it's the pulling colours and fabrics and putting them together. Other times I'll sit down with pencil and graph paper, or Adobe Illustrator, and design pattern after pattern. The latter only happens a few times a year, and other times I could sit there for days and nothing would come. If it was my job, I'd probably have to work on making each happen a little each week and rotating them, but I can just enjoy them as they burst forth. It's nice.

Another one of my own designs.

I am easily distracted, if I have to get up and walk to the iron too many times I'll easily get lost on the way so it's important that I have the radio on or a podcast. Something to keep my mind from wandering. The writing portion is easier, way easier than any of the academic writing I did before this. I actually write straight to the computer for the blog, for work I always had to jot a plan by hand first - sometimes I can be very analog.

Kate's Quilt, this summer, my quilting's come on a lot!

It's always hardest to make quilts for others, for me anyway. The added pressure of figuring out their aesthetic and incorporating that into how you do things. It's a good challenge, but it can be stressful - generally in proportion to how much you like the person I find. I've also learned this year that I really do put a lot of myself into the quilts I make, and when I'm feeling down or in need of recharging it's really hard to continue to make things for other people. So I'm definitely going to be taking that into account in the future, and making sure that I have a greater balance of projects for me, that further my growth in sewing, as well as sewing gifts here and there for the people I love!


Now, the idea behind this is that I nominate two people to post their contributions to the Around the World Blog Hop next Monday. Honestly, I'm having a hard time remembering who in my feed hasn't done this already and so I thought I'd leave this open to any of you reading this who haven't taken the opportunity to post yet and want to! Next Monday is your day, I nominate you - just let me know when you post or if you plan to and I'll come and have a read, I really do love seeing how differently we all approach the exact same thing. It's fantastic :)

Friday, 12 September 2014

Kate's Quilt: A Colourful Journey

One of my oldest friends had her very first baby this summer. I've know her well for 14 years, and of her for longer. I've known her partner for close to 12 years. I didn't stop smiling for at least a week after I heard about the baby, and knew instantly I wanted to make a quilt. I emailed and asked if there was anything they would like or definitely wouldn't like (I definitely went overboard, I made a Pinterest board especially for their baby!), and I was told something colourful and maybe an applique animal. It took me from DC to Houston via Ireland, and Christmas to Easter, to finally come up with a design and fabrics I really loved. In the end simple lines and the rainbow won out! I was majorly inspired by two quilts: Dare to be Different by grapes and hearts; and Don't Worry Be Happy by Carina E-H.

My biggest challenge was deciding on what sort of applique animal to do, I considered owls for a long time, but was won back over to elephants because of the Eames elephant that I know has lived with these two for some years now. My drawing skills are all kinds of atrocious unless it involves a ruler, or a full on doodle, so I totally cheated when it came to drawing up the elephant applique. I bought a giant kid's sketchpad and drew a grid on it, then I found an outline of an elephant on the internet that I kind of liked and placed it over a grid in Adobe Illustrator (though I could have printed it and manually drawn a grid onto it either). Then I just copied from square to square in order to scale up the drawing to the size I needed for the quilt, about 20" x 20".

I made some changes as I went, my elephant has no tail because I wanted to hem it for longevity and I'm really terrible/new at applique and sharp turns and points for a tail were right out. I also made sure his trunk was upwards cos that looked happier to me! I think I got him attached to the backing with no puckers on the first try purely through luck, the sheet I used had a little bit of stretch to it and when I was halfway through I suddenly realised that this could all be about to go to pot. But it didn't, thankfully.

I also tried pin basting for the second time ever, and it went horrifically. Mostly because of the aforementioned stretch in the backing fabric, and a little bit because I need to buy a few more basting pins. So the first few lines of quilting had to be unpicked, then everything unbasted, re-basted with trusty spray and I was on my merry way again. I quilted diagonal lines, the spacing set by the square patchwork section, in a yellow thread. And really, it was very hard to send off by the end.

Don't freak out, some pins had been removed during quilting!

But we took it on a walk early one morning beforehand and had a lot of fun taking photos with it in the Houston sun! If I could change on thing, I would make the binding satin. I searched all the local fabric shops here but I couldn't find a navy satin that was the right colour. They were all too blue, and not dark enough, and the ones that matched had glitter in. So that was just a no. Someday I'll make a baby quilt with a sating binding, and that one will be next to impossible to give away!

Quilt Stats
Size: 42" x 45"
Pattern: My own
Top: Free Spirit Designer Solids
Binding: Kona Solid
Backing: Super soft old white sheet
Batting: Warm & Natural

Linking up, for the first time in a long time, to TGIFF over at Quilt Matters today!