Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Quilting Pattern on the Name-That-Quilt

Are you here to Name That Quilt? That's going on here.

Rebel asked about the quilting pattern I'm using on the Name-That-Quilt quilt. It's basically concentric lines at one inch intervals within some of the shapes of the pattern. Here's what is looks like, kind of, although all of the red in the design makes it kinda difficult to photograph:

I'm pretty happy with how exact I've been able to get the quilting lines. Want to know how I do it?

Painter's tape!

Since the tape is an inch wide, you just stick it to your quilt face in adjoining strips. Then, you sew in between the strips.

I actually finished this stage of the Name-That-Quilt quilting today. The question I'm mulling over now is whether I want to do more quilting on it -- maybe even go in-between those one-inch lines to make concentric shapes 1/2 inch apart -- or whether this much is good.

(In fact, I did more quilting today than any other day, ever. I decided last week that today was going to be breakfast-to-bedtime quilting -- The Quilting Death March, I've been calling it, with my usual impeccable good taste -- and it turns out that you can get a hell of a lot done when you throw a whole day at it. I'll show you what I've been up to in a progress report next weekend.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Name That Quilt!

As Quilt #40 zips towards the finish line, I'm starting to wonder about its name. At some point, I fell into calling it "Stained Glass Batik," which is not terrible but not great either. Since there is a whole genre of "stained glass quilts," and this ain't one of them, it seems kind of misleading. But on the other hand, no other name has grabbed me either.

Therefore, I am turning to you, the State of the Craft readership, for help in my time of need. Please! Help me name my quilt!

Here are the rules, because I like making up rules:

1. Submit your suggestions in the comments section.
2. Submit as many suggestions as you like.
3. If I really like one of them, I'll use it and you WIN!
4. Maybe there will be some kind of prize, if you want. A fat quarter or something.

How does that sound?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Didn't Have Enough Projects Going

On the bus to work the other day, I sketched out a quilting "work plan." I listed the four projects I've been working on this September and what specific tasks I'd been doing on them week by week, then projected out three more weeks. Strange behavior? Sure. But, this exercise in overblown project management made it clear that a couple of quilts were reaching points where they'd have to be set aside for a while. Since I've been enjoying the pace of having four different projects to work on, that gave me an excuse to bring a few other pieces up into the active pile over the next few weeks.

Here's the progress report for the last two weeks:

Labyrinth: I've laid it out and pinned it to its backing and batting, so it is ready for quilting at this point. But, I'm still quilting Batik Stained Glass and for some reason don't like the idea of having two pieces at the machine quilting stage at the same time. So, Labyrinth is the one that leaves the active pile for a few weeks at this point.

Batik Stained Glass: All of the loose threads from the "cool" areas have been buried, and about 1/3 of the "warm" areas have been quilted. I'm postponing for now the decision on whether there will be another finer round of quilting after this first go-round. It is looking pretty good....

Niece #1's Graduation Quilt: is now underway! At the beginning of last week, I set out a cutting mat and the fabrics I had selected...

...and over the course of the week, gradually cut out a couple three hundred squares in the various sizes I'll need. It went faster than I expected, and I might be able to do some preliminary laying-out next weekend, depending on how things go.

Four Seasons: Two weekends ago, I showed pictures of a layout for the "spring" piece and a fabric selection for the "summer" piece of this, this, um.... what's the word for it? Two elements makes a diptych, three makes a triptych, but is there such a thing as a quadtych? No?

Anyway, I was a little dissatisfed with the innermost two fabrics in "spring," and also thought that the innermost two fabrics of "summer" were a little too, you know, springy. So I did the obvious thing, and transferred the "summer" fabrics to "spring," and found two better fabrics for summer. And now we're good. I'm in the process of assembling both of them at this point.

And Introducing Project #51: Indigo Stars

The project I selected to take Labyrinth's slot in the active roster is a salvage mission. Earlier this year, in a box of scrap fabric, I found a set of 20 hand-pieced blocks, a star pattern (anybody want to ID it for me?) in indigo-on white. They are, in a sense, nothing special -- the craftsmanship is moderate at best, the fabric quality was poor to begin with and has not improved with age. Nor do I have any idea who made them; certainly no one with any connection to me or my family. And of course, I am completely smitten by them, and want to do something lovely with them.

There's no way of knowing what my anonymous collaborator had in mind, back in the (probably) 1930s. My own original idea had been to simply alternate the blocks in a checkerboard pattern with a nice white-on-white print, which would provide a simple but not especially striking setting in which to show them off. That idea seemed pretty good until I started measureing them yesterday, so I could figure out how much white-on-white I would need. That's when I realized an important ramification of the iffy craftsmanship -- they are neither uniform in size nor especially square. Any given side can vary between 12 and 14 inches. Eek! So much for a checkerboard pattern.

After an hour or so of fussing with fabrics on hand, and a page of notes, diagrams, and calculations on graph paper, I came up with Plan B. In Plan B, each individual block will be custom pieced to 2-3" indigo borders, which will produce a somewhat larger block a uniform 18" square. These will be placed in either a 4x4 grid or a 4x5 grid (we'll see), set off by a three inch sashing (if that's the right word) of white-on-white. It will look just a tiny bit like this:

Having got that far, I hopped on the bike and rode to our local fabric megastore, where I drove the cutters a little batty with a change of mind and a stock check before coming up with two fabrics that I think are going to be do the trick. It's been prewashed and pressed, and is ready for cutting.

And that, my friends, is the State of the Craft.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dude! Check Out My Stash!

Love Your Stash
It's not surprising that most quilters accumulate a fabric collection. Every project generates a certain amount of scrap fabric, and fabric gets purchased for projects that never quite manage to happen. Plus, since people who quilt have a lot of of native enthusiasm for fabric in the first place, it's not too startling that most quilters occasionally -- or frequently! -- buy fabric just because it's pretty, it speaks to them, and they'd like to use it in some future project, someday.

What is strange about stashes is the love/hate relationship that so many quilters have with their collection. I have seldom heard anyone boasting, reveling, or simply sharing the joy of owning a lot of really beautiful yardage. By all appearances, most quilters love to hate their stash, and hate to love it. Within the community, quilters constantly joke -- and I mean constantly -- about their "addiction" to shopping for fabric, about their concealment of fabric purchases from spouses, about their fabric storage problems, about their need to get rid of fabric or "go on a fabric diet." Fabriholic and stashbusting are well-worn psuedo-words in the culture.

There's a nervous undercurrent to all of this joking. Talk about the stash comes with a little edge of... something. Guilt, I think. Fabric costs money, after all, and there seems to be a sense among the (mostly) women who quilt that it's a questionable use of money. A sociologist would probably say that women have been conditioned to feel ashamed of spending money on their own activities, rather than on their husbands and children. And she might be right.

I can't relate. I love my stash. My feeling about having a large fabric collection (which I was inflicting on Rebel just this morning) is that there's nothing wrong, if you've got the dosh and the space, with keeping supplies and materials on hand to fuel and support your creative endeavors. "As an active and proficient craftsperson," I sloganized, "you should be proud of having the essentials of your craft on hand!" That's my view, and I'm stickin' to it.


I am lucky to have a small room that I can devote mostly to quilting (although my computer stuff, our household businessy stuff, and other various odds and ends share the space). It is perhaps a little more, um, rough-hewn and utilitarian than most quilt studios. Here's what it looks like.

The heart of my stash, pieces from 1/8 yard to 1 yard, is held in twin IKEA "Robin" dressers. With 8 perfectly-sized drawers apiece on smooth sliders, they feel like they were custom-made for fabric storage. Safely away from sunlight, folded fabric can be stored vertically, like index cards. A little strip of every piece in the drawer is visible at a glance. I have two drawers apiece of blues, greens, purples, multicolored prints, and batik prints, one drawer apiece of rusts, reds, aquas, and solids, and a two-drawer sequence of black-and-whites, yellows, browns, and oranges. Within the drawers, fabrics are roughly organized by value. It sounds more finicky than it really is.

The "chifferobe" (a word I have never heard uttered by anyone except my mother) in the other corner holds special sets: African fabrics, 2-inch wide strips, a group of batik half-yards that my big sister gave me for Christmas, and the tie-dyes I made last month, for instance. There's another crate for extra storage on top of it, and a little stereo on top of that, but I had the "Four Seasons" pieces set up for reference when I took this picture.

Turning to the right, you find my studio closet. There is a shelf for musical equipment, but also four little bins for scrap pieces (cut squares, uncut blues & purples, uncut greens & aquas, everything else) and about a dozen shoe boxes holding (among other things) juvenile prints, cut denim squares, unused blocks from old projects, flannel scraps, 4", 4 1/2", and 5" squares, and good-for-nothing-but-machine-quilting-practice fabric. (This is also where the household mending goes.)

Pwew! Had enough? But wait. Because oodles of unused space was left under the roof when our house was built in 1906, I was able to cut a door into the left-hand wall of the closet, lay down a plywood floor, and wall in the attic space behind it to create a storage room. It's not all fabric storage space, naturally, but there's room for these tubs of batting and larger flannel pieces. Quilt books and magazines go on the bookshelf on the right.

Finally, two tubs of large pieces, 2 yards and longer. I keep these separate in case they need to be backs, or to be the dominant fabric in a quilt. A third tub is usually here as well, full of the non-quilt fabrics that tend to wash up at my feet, everything from stretch synthetics to upholstery fabric to fake fur.

If you are doubting the wisdom, or sanity, of holding on to this much fabric, here's a lil' anecdote: This morning, I started cutting fabric for Niece #1's graduation quilt. I'm going to need, among other things, a couple hundred 3 1/2" square blocks for this project. That's a lot of work, so you can imagine how pleased I was to discover in my stash a stack of around 100 blocks already cut to 3 1/2" square! They have been waiting for this moment ever since I abandoned the project I originally cut them for. In 1994.

Thanks for taking the tour. I'm proud of my stash. You be proud of yours, too!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

New Quilt Year: the Second Weekend

Quilt Year 2007 - 2008 is off to an aggressive start! I'm continuing to pour effort into my four chosen projects -- so far, resisting the temptation to dig any deeper into the project pile -- and have been very happy with the progress. And if Mrs. 5000 has made a few pointed remarks about housework equity, well, I can catch up with that.... in a while. She won't get too angry. I think.

Progess Report:

  • Stained Glass Batik. As the OSU football team got their big, mud-slapping Beaver tails handed to them on Thursday, and during the first half of Oregon's exhilerating win over Michigan on Saturday, I finished the first round of quilting in the "cool" areas of this quilt, which is about half of the total surface. I'm very happy with the progress. I'll need to spend a few hours of hand-work time with it before doing the other half, hiding the many loose threads by burying them within the quilt. I'll also need to pick out which specific thread I want to use for the top thread in the "warm" areas.

  • Labyrinth. I selected and prepared a backing fabric, and laid out a sheet of batting to relax and lose its folds and wrinkles. After work on Monday, I'll take apart our bed so that I can use the whole bedroom floor to do the pinning. For you non-quilters, "pinning" is the process where you stick together the three layers of the quilt -- top, batting, and back -- in preparation for the quilting. You have to spread the back out fairly taut for it to work well, and I do this by pinning it into a carpet. For a big piece like Labyrinth, the only carpeted space in the house big enough is the bedroom, sans bed. Mrs. 5000 has agreed that we can sleep in the guest room on Monday night. She is a trooper.

  • Niece #1's Graduation Quilt. This one is still in what you might call "pre-production," but I did some thinking and some pencil-and-paper work with the design. I also entered it into the "official" list I keep of my quilts. Auspiciously, it is Quilt #50, which means it is more or less the 50th project I've started. It doesn't necessarily mean that it will be the 50th project I'll finish. Stained Glass Batik is Quilt #40 on the list, and Labyrinth is Quilt #37, and they are both conspicuously unfinished!

  • The Four Seasons. Numbers #35a - 35d on the list, this aging fiasco is the oldest unfinished project I have going. Last weekend, I was working on picking out a series of fabrics for "Spring" that would match the color values in "Fall" and "Winter."

After a little editing this weekend, and quite a bit of laborious cutting, I
have this "rough draft" laid out:

And, feeling good about the progress, I went ahead and picked out a possible
color sequence for "Summer."

Blogging About Blogging

Joining the Q4P blog ring has been great! Hello to everyone who has stopped in from the blog; I really appreciate all of the kind comments to last week's post! It has been fun to start to explore other blogs on the ring as well!

I've also been spiffing up State of the Craft a little during my lunch hours. The posts from the first year, back when SotC was on (shudder...) Friendster, were until recently lumped together in one big ugly unreadable post called "The First Season." I've gone back and separated those out; not all of them have their images yet, but they will in a day or two. I've been going back and indexing everything, too. Why? you ask. Well, why not?


Monday, September 03, 2007

New Quilt Year: the First Five Days

I've managed to put some time into quilting on all five of these first days of the 2007-2008 season, and it has felt good to get my head back into some projects. I feel like I made some solid initial progress. Right on.

I concentrated my effort on four projects from my list. Or maybe that's not the right word. Maybe I dispersed my effort over four different projects from my list. Whichever. In any event, here's what I did:

The Four Seasons. "Fall" and "Winter" are basically done. I laid out a possible color sequence for "Spring," and dropped by our local fabric megastore to fill in one gap. I'll let that sit for a week or two, and then revisit the sequence to see if it still looks good.

Niece #1's Graduation Quilt. I pulled fabric -- greens and tans, largely -- to try to establish a basic color set for the piece. Again, I'll just play with the colors for a little while until they feel right, before I start doing any cutting.

Batik Stained Glass. Did a respectable amount of tedious machine quilting on this one. That's going to be a constant for a while -- lots and lots of tedious machine quilting. Lots and lots and lots of tedious machine quilting. Why do we do this, again?

Labyrinth. This was the exciting one. When I started the weekend, this 3000-piece project was still in seven pieces. Lots of pinning, and a few quick sessions of sewing and pressing, brought it to the "finished top" stage. This thing has been in the making for four years, by the way, so it's especially nice to have it reach this point. I'm cautiously happy with it. Here's a sneak preview for ya:

The Focus Question

Do you work on one thing at a time, or do you like to have several projects moving forward at once? I can see why having just a single iron in the fire would be a good idea, but I like to mix up what I'm doing in terms of cutting, pieceing, pinning, quilting, and so on. Plus, I get excited enough about a variety of quilts that it's hard for me not to be distracted from the main one I'm working on. In addition to the four quilts above, there are no fewer than four additional projects from the queue that are also kind of on my mind. Is working on eight projects simultaneously allowed?

Fabric is Yet Still Drawn to Me

My odd little streak of tripping over free fabric everywhere I turn has slowed, but not stopped. Mrs. 5000 brought me home a yard or so of a nice upholstery fabric, and maybe five yards of a very handsome linen, but she had actually shelled out a few bucks for them at a garage sale, so it wasn't really free. I found about a yard of a faded maroon solid in a free box on my Saturday run, which is not great but if nothing else will be good for machine quilting practice. So maybe my luck is winding down. But I'll still keep my eyes open.