Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Help, Name my Pickle Dish

I have completed the layout for the quilt top using my UFO pickle dish blocks, but it desperately needs a name of its own. Naming your quilts may sound frivolous but it is so much easier to call them by a name than a lengthy description.

So to prevent me from saying "you know, my quilt with the pickle dish blocks that kind of look like flowers and more half pickle dish blocks on the bottom and the curvy orangish lines with the dots on top and the print leafy looking shapes", please, help me name my quilt!

Now, I will be busy dreaming up borders and quilting designs.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What's Important? What You See or Don't See.

Today, it's what you don't see that's important. Although, I have to admit my mind is racing with ideas about that which I do see. The remainder of my fat quarter (minus the center circle) jumps out as a fabulous border for a future project.

But back to what I have removed - that center circle. As I worked on my pickle dish project, it was shouting for some glue, some fabric to draw it all together. Searching through "the stash", I found what could serve as that glue. The center of this fat quarter combined the green and the coral.

I cut the circle into wedges, backed them with lining, stitched and flipped them to use on the quilt. Check back tomorrow to see how I will place these. Can you guess?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Lowdown on the "Lay-down"

After a short deviation, a minor side trip on some curving improvisational roads, I am back on track again and working on the pickle dish quilt.

I find it much easier, at least in the initial stage of a project, to lay it down on the floor rather than trying to make pieces stick on a design wall. They never fall off and I can quickly change and evaluate my options. So, here are my choices laid out on my design floor.

The traditional pickle dish block has been broken down and the parts have made new and fascinating shapes. The shapes are fun and interesting but the dull monotony of the green needed shaking up. Enter the bright red/orange hand-dyed fabric with its curvy lines snaking through the picture. All we need now is a little music.

A good beginning.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Perfect Quilt

Passion, not Perfection
8" x 8"
Sharon V. Rotz

Ah, to make the perfect quilt. The one where every corner matches, every applique stitch is hidden, there are no knots in the back of the quilting and the binding has perfect corners.

Are you working so hard to achieve perfection that you are losing your passion? Do you love selecting fabrics, playing with color combinations, stitching pieces together, and selecting quilting designs to hold the whole piece together?

In this little quilt,, I had so much fun just playing. Putting fabrics together in a creative, no holds barred fashion. I love the fabrics, and the colors and I love the fact that the piecing is free and improvisational. The edges aren't even and I didn't want them to be. Take that, oh judge of perfection! For me, this quilt is full of my passion for quilting.

Today, don't forget to have fun!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What are You Doing while You're Asleep?

You hop into bed. You cover up your head and you are off to a few hours of deep restful sleep.

Then things start happening. Little brain cells start firing, ideas start popping and soon there is a party going on in your head. Your subconscious starts designing quilt blocks and they are flying around and flowing into fantasy quilts. Quilts so good that they would get world-wide acclaim. The only problem is that they disappear before the sun comes up and we spend the day in vain trying to remember them.

Of course, there is the notion that we could capture these fantastic quilts if we awaken in the night and immediately sketch our idea. One night, I saw a plan for my pickle dish block and went into action. The next morning I realized that, boy, I sure can't draw in the middle of the night when I only half awake, without my glasses on and in the dim illumination of a nightlight. Of course, my night-time sketch was nothing like the quilt that zoomed through my head.

In the light of day, ideas did start to roll around and I came up with this plan for my pickle dish blocks. What do you think? Are there possibilities?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Super Highway or Scenic Country Lane

Pickle Dish
38" x 52"
Sharon V. Rotz

Which is path are you taking as you are working on your current quilting project? Are you zooming down that super highway, with the fastest time ever from start to completion of your quilt. I know I have made numerous quilts with my blinders on, focused entirely on finishing the project.

My current project is using some pickle dish blocks in an art quilt. As you see from the previous posts, this project is going slower with plenty of scenic side trips. Along the way, I've found some interesting machine stitches, I will incorporate in my project. Tomorrow may bring more side trips as I explore further.

Here is a photo of my previous pickle dish, it will be fun to see how different my new composition will be. Stay tuned.

Question of the day: Are you that totally focused, get things done person or are you happily meandering through your quilting day?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Machine Stitched Applique

As I am working on ideas for using my pickle dish blocks in a quilt, I was playing with appliqued stems. In a continued effort to make use of more stitches on my sewing machine, I tried this stitch. It certainly gave a new dimension to the applique. I couldn't see it repeated on both sides of the appliqued stem so I finished it off with two rows of straight stitching on the second side. The thread is a variegated Sulky rayon.

I think I have a winner here. Ah, it feels so good to stretch myself out. I must be up to ten stitches now. Way more than the number of sewing machines I've had. (refer back to to 6/19 - Looking at Stitching Options)

Have you tried a new stitch today or have you found a favorite stitch on your machine? Please, share your thoughts.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

With Dad in Mind

Mowing Around the Violet Patch
8" x 8"
Sharon V. Rotz

With my small sample of machine feather stitching in hand, I thought of using it for inspiration and finishing it into another "tile" quilt. My thoughts came back to my dad mowing around the violets. (previous post 6/17/10 - field work)

Since we are all thinking of our fathers this weekend, I decided to re-create that wild violet patch that he so lovingly mowed around because he couldn't destroy the beauty of it.

Silk ribbon embroidery became the skill of the day. Boy, I haven't done this is so long. I do enjoy hand work but found myself a little rusty. Guess that would be expected (the rusty part), since I'm older now! (Sorry about that, my mind often wanders into the world of corny humor.)

I had a peaceful and soothing afternoon making little violets using silk ribbons and adding 'grass' from silk thread. Thinking of you, Dad!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Looking at Stitching Options

In my lifetime, I've sewed on six sewing machines and I've probably only used about six different stitches and that includes buttonholes and stretch stitches that I used for garment construction, not quilting. On my present machine there are over three hundred stitches to choose from and I go back to the same few stitches. Of course, the workhorse is the straight stitch, followed by the zigzag. But, what about some of those other options?

As I am preparing to work on my 'pickle dish' quilt, I'm motivated to find ways to incorporate new stitches. As I was preparing to try some applique ideas, instead of the satin stitch or the blanket stitch, I tried stitching a sample with the feather stitch.

Hmmm, could this be that stem that isn't smooth, but full of little pokies? What do you think? Do you have a favorite stitch that lends a different look to your quilts?

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Idea for an old UFO

My good friend, Chris Lynn Kirsch, just started a wonderful new blog. She has been speaking of UFOs, all those unfinished projects we have been storing. It just fits into my thoughts because I am presenting challenging myself to use these bits of blocks in a new way. The traditional block is called pickle dish and I taught this several years ago.

Armed with many paper pieces all ready to stitch, fabric gathered and stored is a nice little plastic box (for how many years?), I now feel the time has come to move on with the project. I haven't paper pieced for a while but fell right into it again and remember how I love those precise points.

Where do you think I should go with this project? Add your comments and come back to see how things progress. Meanwhile, check out how Chris is working to complete her UFO pile.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In plein air or in my case -- in plain air

After several days of welcome rain, today the sun is shining and instead of being in my studio, I will be outside doing "field work". In other words, I will be chasing our lawn mower across the yard before the grass overtakes our house.

If you are a traditionalist, you may be appalled as you as you see the track I take as I mow. You see, I can't bring myself to mow down delicate wildflowers so leave patches (a quilt term for sure) of them all over. I could never understand my compulsion to do this until the day I mentioned it to my mother. She said your father could never mow over the spring violets and left them growing in the lawn.

Well, there it is. It's heredity and you know you can't do a thing about what you inherit, you just have to live with it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Binding Technique

As I said yesterday, my goal was to use my magazines instead of just storing them. In the December/January 2010 issue of Quilter's Newsletter, I saw a new binding technique that I thought I would try on this small tile. The "Magic Strip Binding" makes a two color binding that I feel does add to the piece.

It was completely machine done with the final top stitching showing on the outer dark green binding. I felt a little clumsy doing it, and I wasn't completely sold on the idea of pinning on one side of the quilt sandwich and then more pinning on the other side to align all the edges. But, then, it was a first attempt and it would undoubtedly go smoother next time.

I've added the instructions to my notebook and I am on to my next magazine.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are you using or storing?

I've been looking at the pile of quilting magazines that I have. I love to stop at the mailbox and come in with a new magazine, so many possibilities. I can't wait to open the cover. I can't wait to check out the articles.

Then, other things pop up that must be taken care of. My magazines have now started their holding pattern. I want to come back and visit them again. I can't eliminate the pile from my life. I know there were good ideas that I want to explore. Meanwhile, they've become merely weights to hold down something that needs gluing or an easy place to dry leaves.

Today, I plan to open one of the magazines in my pile and try a new technique. It's time before my pile reaches the ceiling or my pile (and I) crash through the floor.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dragons Aplenty and Not a Damsel in Flight

Dragons Aplenty
18" x 18"
Sharon V. Rotz

Choosing three fine fabrics is only the start of the background. Each would get a special treatment to make that fabric shine. The subject matter draws your interest but the details hook you and stop you for a second look.

The dragonflies are definitely eye catching, more so in person, when you can see how they pop off the surface of the quilts. But, they are not the only show in town. Each fabric has developed its own personality to keep your attention.

The lovely lighter blue fabric has branches and shadows and delightful small white berries. This is my "new" fabric and while it truly is a favorite by itself, could it not be improved with a touch of small pearls added to it? I chose not to hand stitch a pearl to each berry but to keep them in a cluster in the lower center.

The deep blue is enhanced by hand stitching using pearl cotton thread. This thread is a little heavier and adds dimension and relief to the center strip of the quilt. In the right section, rows of tiny seed beads climb up echoing the flight of the dragonflies.

The combination of machine work and hand work is a plan that keeps me interested in the project. There is speed and there are moments of contemplation, both serve to keep me balanced.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

One old, One new, and One all blue

Picking fabrics for my quilts is always an exciting time for me. I love the colors, the fabrics designs and, just face it, I love touching all that fabric. Fabric just attracts people and we just want to run our hands over it. (Maybe that's why we can't resist those bolts of fabric in the quilt shop and all too soon we are carrying around as many as we can lift.)

My final selections are made. One is an old favorite, just a scrap left. One is new, well, new as in never cut into but well-seasoned in my stash. The third fabric is just blue, a deep, rich shade. I wish I had more of this one!

My sheer dragonflies seem to feel at home. They have jumped on and will look fine swooping across the surface. And I'm thinking of what added touches could make this piece complete.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Today we have flight

Yesterday, my dragonflies were grounded by faulty techniques. Today, after reviewing and making a new plan, I now have dragonflies to spread their wings across my quilt.

I layered the water soluble stabilizer over two layers of sheer blue polyester fabric. I took it to my machine which was set up with silver metallic thread and started to free motion stitch the dragonflies. I went over all the lines at least twice and added more stitching to give detail to the wings. After completing the stitching, I trimmed away the excess fabric and soaked off the stabilizer.

The dragonflies have just enough body and the wings tend to curl up slightly gives them a dose of character. Perfect for what I have in mind. Actually, I found they are so much fun to make that one more, and one more, lands on my table.

Now to press on and give them a quilt to permanently land on.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Going from sketchbook to quilt involves trying techniques which may be new. It seems like I never get over the learning curve. I'm always attempting something a little different than I've done before.

I had a sketch of a dragonfly that I wanted to create in fabric and thread. I chose a wonderful silver metallic thread that would add sparkle to the dragonfly. I traced the dragonfly unto the water-soluble stabilizer with a Sharpie permanent marker. I tried thread painting (or free motion stitching) on the stabilizer but obviously this was the wrong plan. It just shriveled up and chewed up the stabilizer.

Second plan: I found a sheer blue left from my daughter's wedding (the bridesmaids looked lovely in blue). I re-sandwiched with the blue sheer over the stabilizer and am trying again.
Let's see if this works.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blowing Soap Bubbles

In a earlier post, I was sitting with a collection of spare parts. It's fun to look at those spare parts with new eyes and play around arranging new combinations. I started with several circles which I added to an established block. For a daring backdrop, I choose a multi-colored stripe. I machine appliqued the bits and pieces to the center.

This all combined into a lively display of color. Pushing myself still further over the edge, I considered a bold circle print for the the border. The more I looked at it, the more I liked the idea. A little narrow black strip framed the center and temporarily stopped the eye. Then on to the border and a narrow orange (with black dots) binding.

This piece is not the for the timid. It's exuberant with excitement. What I thought of was blowing soap bubbles on a hot summer day.

Blowing Soap Bubbles
26" x 22"
Sharon V. Rotz

Today, consider the parts you have left over. How could they be used? You may even create a solution that is more spectacular than your original project.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blast through a Sticking Situation

Spring Poplars
9" x 9"
Sharon V. Rotz

Applique is all about adding layer upon layer of fabric. Hand applique is lovely, traditional, very calming and portable. But it is not quick.

Some days ideas burst forth and I'm in a fury to get things done. Fused applique is my answer and I use it often.

Recently, I was asked what brand of fusible adhesive do I use? In my fusing past, I have tried fusibles only to find they "unfused" if I heated them a bit too long. I have had the sad problem of release paper that didn't release. I have had a fusible adhesive that "fused" to my machine needle leaving it a gummy mess.

Now, I only use Lite Steam-A-Seam and Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 and would recommend it. Not only is it easy to stitch through, I can heat and reheat it to add layers to my project. As they say "The bond is strong and permanent, yet leaves your fabric soft and supple, even with several layers of applique."

Fusible adhesive may not be showy, but you will love it when it hugs your fabric and keeps it secure.
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