Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's Christmas! (2004)

When I was at my sister's house for Thanksgiving, I finally managed to get a photograph of a blanket I made for her -- four Christmases ago, already.

Here it is:

Oops, wait. Wrong side. That's me (left) and Niece #3 (right) holding that sucker up, so that Mrs.5000 could take THIS picture:

So. Obviously, it's kind of an old-fashioned and very simple pattern, both chosen to match my sister's aesthetic. This was before I started making scrap & recycle quilts, but a lot of the fabrics here, especially in the nine-patches, is from very old scraps that I had come across. The quilting, which you can't really see here, isn't bad -- this is probably the first quilt where I really tried to make the quilting a decorative element.

I used some of the extra pieces from this project to make a smaller lap blanket as a present for my inlaws:

So, that's that.

Merry Christmas 2004!

And 2008!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Finished: "Batik Boxes"

There has been relatively little actual quilting going on lately, but the annual Thanksgiving family-chatter-and-handwork downtime let me finish off one that was threatening to become a perenial UFO. It's called Batik Boxes, and it's one that I also bought the material for and designed (in that order) on a Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving 2004, it says here in my notes. It was maybe 20% quilted at the beginning of this quilting season, so in the scheme of things it came together fairly quickly.

I've long thought of this one as a bit of an ugly duckling, so I was surprised to get quite a few family complements on it. But then, they're family! What are they going to say?

I had intended to do a dense stippled quilting of the orangish fabric, but recently abandoned that idea as more work than the quilt was worth. However, I will say that the workmanship is not at all bad, by my standards. It's likely the last piece I'll quilt "in the ditch" for a while -- I've found I much prefer quilting "near the ditch" -- but I was pleased by how consistently I was able to keep most of the stitches actually in the ditch, without slowing to a crawl.
[The back, with a book on it so that the camera could figure out how to focus.]

The pieceing, which happened a few years ago, was certainly easy. It was just a matter of cutting the two fabrics into two-inch wide strips, sewing the strips together in pairs, cutting lengths in increments of 3 inches + seam allowances, and sewing them back together like so to make the blocks:

The only tricky part was making sure to make the same number of blue-centered and orange-centered blocks.

(illustration made with my favorite quilt design software, Microsoft Excel)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sara and Patrick's Wedding Quilt: Finished

So this is the gift quilt that I've been working on for the last couple of months. I finished it Saturday evening and gave it away at the wedding Sunday afternoon.

It's a fun, simple graphic pattern, cheerful and hopefully in line with the aesthetic of our friend the bride.

Noteworthy aspects of this one from a construction perspective are:
  • it went fast. Without focusing all my effort on this one quilt, I nevertheless managed to whup it out much faster than I've ever made a full sized blanket before.

  • it's the second quilt I created with the help of my "Pre-Design Chromatic Evaluation Instrument"! The two key design criteria were (a) the bride likes jewel tones on a light background, and (b) I needed to work fast.

  • The original plan called for a simple border rectangle, but I decided to scrap that idea in favor of an unusually wide binding. Hopefully, the wide binding won't turn out to cause structural problems.

  • It's backed in royal blue flannel for those chilly Portland evenings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Symbol Background

It's been a while since I finalized the design for Symbol, which you might remember looks something like this:

A few weeks ago, I also finished putting together the background that the symbol is going to sit on top of.

Those fabrics are a set that my sister picked out as a Christmas gift a few years ago, and when I saw them I immediately knew I wanted to applique something big and red over them. Except, now that everything is ready, I'm not as sure about the "red" part anymore. I haven't actually started placeing fabrics up against it yet -- that will be how the decision really gets made, of course -- but I've tinkered around on the computer a little bit, wondering how various colors would look....

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Michael5000 Gets Press

I grew up in a very small town, and I like to enter quilts in the fall shows there and in a few of the neighboring communities. My mom still lives there, so it's kind of fun to have our stuff showing together.

I put Labyrinth in the hometown guild show this year, and ended up with a mention in the local newspaper -- a first, as far as I can remember, for anything to do with quilting. The article gamely tried to be enthusiastic and descriptive, but was written (I suspect) by a non-quilter for a general audience, and so has lots of charmingly meaningless sentences like "Vibrant reds, greens, oranges and blues competed for attention alongside more subuded pinks and pastel tones" and "One visitor... was overheard saying that the exhibition was like being in an art gallery."

My entry was, I'm proud to say, selected for a list of quilts that were singled out for special mention. Most of the quilts on this short list got a one-word description, such as "bedazzling." Labyrinth was described as "mind-wandering." I've never heard "mind-wandering" used as an adjective before, but what the heck. It's praise! I think! I'll take it!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

QS#3: Done

It's not exactly a finish to write home about, but it's the first finish of the 2008-09 Season, so here I am blogging about it.

This here is QuiltStorm #3. (Last seen here.)

QS#3, the fourth (!) StormQuilt to be completed, is batted with an old mattress pad and backed with some sort of stretchy, slightly slippery synthetic fabric. Using this unfamiliar material was what gave my quilting on this project such a, shall we say, singular aspect. I think what happened was that when I pinned the backing fabric out taut, its elasticity let me stretch it out quite a bit. Then, after the pinning, it snapped back to its smaller relaxed state. This means that the area of the face is quite a bit greater than the area of the back, which in turn means extreme puffiness on the quilt front.

It was difficult to get the quilting right under these circumstances -- and in fact, I didn't. It is without question the worst technical quilting I've ever done. But I learned a lot from dealing with the challenge, which is what QuiltStorm is all about. And, in a kind of sloppy, naive sort of way, I actually kind of like how it looks. I'm not crazy about how distorted the overall shape of the blanket is, but the crazy puffiness is kind of fun.

Other projects are coming right along! See ya soon!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Boring Progress Report

Why boring? No pictures, that's why.

The Wedding Quilt. Has been coming together right on schedule. I will be putting the finishing touches on it the face this week. But I don't like showing pictures of wedding quilts before I give 'em away. So.

Batik Boxes. It has been a long time since I thought this would be an interesting quilt. I just want to finish it now to get it DONE. I guess it's been long enough since I last talked about it that I can justify showing you a picture:

It was maybe 25% quilted two weeks ago. I think I'm up to around 60% now. It will be a less complex quilting pattern than I originally intended, but it's not worth throwing a lot of detail work at.

Symbol. Well, I finalized my faux-symbol for this one. Here's what I finally settled on (OK, OK, I guess I had some pictures after all):

I'm not sure yet exactly how I'm going to transfer that onto fabric, but we'll worry about that later. Meanwhile, I've been pieceing the background part together. It looks pretty cool.

QuiltStorm. And I've been tinkering with some of the StormQuilts, too. But I'll just bother you with finishes for those.

That's all this time!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Show Situation

I was all fired up about quilt shows last year and decided I was going to enter pieces in ten shows in 2008. That started to fall apart when I missed the Sisters entry deadline by a country mile. Then, the Pacific Northwest Quiltfest in Seattle turned down Labyrinth, which was fine. Then, the Northwest Quilting Expo here in Portland first accepted Labyrinth, then said it was too big, and then two people from the Expo were telling me too different things, and it became more of a hassle than I wanted to deal with in summer. And by now I had missed the deadline for the Columbia Gorge show and figured, eh, who needs it.

Meanwhile, I turned forty in August and threw myself a birthday party featuring, among other things, a retrospective quilt show upstairs! It was fun to "curate." I started with a properly somber-sounding exhibition title:

The hallway walls were festooned, if that's the right word, with quilts of various vintages.

And the bedroom showed off another several pieces.

So, it was a fun and fairly easy to show things off.

I had pretty much decided to punt on entering any more shows for now, but my mom suddenly got fired up for me to enter the fall shows in and around Hometown5000, so I humored her. You have to humor your mom. So, a few pieces hung in a show this last weekend. This morning, rather incredibly, alert reader The Calico Cat sent me this link:

...which is really pretty amazing, as to the best of my knowledge Calico lives about 2500 miles from Hometown5000. I had forgotten I even had a quilt in a show, but I did, it was photographed, the photo was posted on the internet, and Calico happened to see it, recognize it, and tell me about it. What are the odds?

The bad news is, they hung it sideways. The good news is, it doesn't matter.

Next Weekend

If you happen to be within striking distance of the beautiful South Coast of Oregon and feel like catching some quilts NEXT weekend, I'll have two pieces in the 2008 Festival of Quilts in Gold Beach. It's Saturday and Sunday at something called the "Event Center at the Beach"; I've been told it is one of the better local shows in the Northwest.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Looking for a Sign, part IV

OK, to bring yourself up to date on this "Looking for a Sign" business, you should first read Tuesday's post.

Then, make sure you've read yesterday's post on the Life & Times.

OK? Good.

Having looked at the last itteration ("Symbol #4") in yesterday's post, Fingerstothebone suggested:

You can try closing the bottom so that the 2 pointy ends meet up, and then extending a downward gentle curve to reference, but not copy, the two curls at the top.

So when I did that -- and oh yeah, pared down the upper left "arm" of the figure -- it ended up looking like this (Symbol #5):
And that got me thinking that it might look lighter, and more alphabetic, if I made the upper-left arm and the bottom curl into two separate elements. When I did that, and flipped the whole thing on its vertical axis, it looked like so (Symbol #6):
Then I flipped it vertically (Symbol #7)...
And finally rotated that puppy twenty degrees to the left (Symbol #8).Out of all of the options presented here and in earlier posts, are there any that particularly appeal to you? Please feel free to jump into this democracy-assisted design process!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Looking for a Sign, part II.

It's the first ever post featured both on the Life & Times and State of the Craft! I'm so efficient I can hardly stand myself.

Last year I asked my readers of the Life & Times of Michael5000 blog to suggest a neutral symbol for me to use as the dominant element of a new quilt. I wanted something that appeared to have meaning but that was actually meaningless, or that meant something completely trivial. I wanted a signifier without a signified, for all y'all who have dipped into semiotic theory. "Why?" you might ask. Reasonable question! I've got no answer for it, however.

The readers came back with some fabulous suggestions! But then the suggestions pretty much just laid around the studio floor for a year, until last week. Having put Symbol on my quilting to-do list, though, I clearly needed to start thinking about what the symbol in Symbol would be.

To review: Symbol is going to use a set of neutral batiks that BigSister5000 gave me for Christmas a few years ago. They will to be pieced together too form a very simple background, and then the symbol itself will be appliqued over the top of them, probably in scarlet. If all goes well, it should look attractive and interesting. With me? Good.

OK, so back to the question of the symbol. As I started chasing down the leads that readers had tossed me, I got kind of interested in the concept of the irony mark. I love the irony mark! Although, if people used it, it might reduce the impact of irony. Ironically. But anyway, in terms of this project, it is perhaps both too meaningful, and too graphically simple to be impressive when rendered at four feet tall.

Similar considerations torpedoed the interrobang.*

I flirted briefly with this symbol for something-or-other from mediaeval alchemy. I could have reversed it or something. But I ultimately rejected it for being, maybe, just a tiny bit too figurative. Which is to say, it looks just a little too much like a critter.

Heather's suggestion of letters from the ancient Soyombo alphabet of the Mongolian language -- see why I pose these questions to readers? -- was pretty awesome. I think they are lovely. I was afraid of what the straight lines of the right and top sides would look like at large scale, though. It seemed like they might be too rigid.

Then, I thought I had it! The letter "aum" in the Devanagari alphabet, used in Hindi and several other languages:

It's lovely! It's curvy! It's simple! It's arbitrary! But... as I soon found out... it is the most common graphical symbol of Hinduism out there. My "arbitrary" symbol was just as content-free as a crucifix, star of David, or yin-and-yang symbol.

Back to the drawing board.

Another reader, G, had suggested I look into Maori design, and I was taken by this pendant I had found:

I don't know if that shape conveys meaning in a Maori context or not, but I wasn't taking any chances. I took out the details on the top left to reduce it to a more graphic level, flipped it around the vertical axis, and "cut a hole" to make it look slightly more caligraphic. Here's what I came up with:

Now, here's the question: Have I successfully come up with a completely arbitrary symbol? In other words, have you ever seen this shape in a corporate logo, in religious iconography, in a foreign alphabet, or anyplace else? 'Cause I don't want to make this thing and discover I've just made an elaborate advertisement for the Americaplump MegaAgriCorp, Inc., or whatever.

* Very possibly the first ever use of this sentence in human history.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The 2008-2009 Pre-Season Report

And, after a busy few months during which I didn't think about quilting at all, here we are with only a few days between us and the first college football games of the year (Oregon State at Stanford, Thursday the 28th; Oregon v. Washington at Autzen, Saturday the 30th). And you know what that means, football fans! That means it's time to QUILT!!!

[Crowd Roar]

Yesterday, I worked out a "game plan" (last football metaphor. I promise.) for the 2008-2009 Quilt Season. Unlike last year, when I tried to focus on getting out some show quilts, this year will be more about utility quilts and skillbuilding.

First Priority

I've got a quartet of pieces that I'm putting in my first priority category this year. Only one is underway, and two of them haven't even been designed yet, but I'm expecting them to be relatively simple and fast-moving projects.

  • Sara's Wedding Quilt -- With no plan or ideas, and an 11-week timeline, this one will be at the top of the to-do list immediately.

  • Labyrinth II -- Second place on the to-do list, this one has already been mocked up on graph paper. Beyond that, I'm telling you nothing -- except to say, it's a much simpler design than the original Labyrinth.

  • Devil's Claw -- This is the one I used to call "Indigo Stars." It's well underway, and a probable candidate for the spring shows.

  • Six-Fabric Challenge -- My friend Jennifer and I each bought quarters of the same six fabrics. The challenge is to make something a yard square, without comparing notes. I haven't even thought about the design yet.

Second Priority

  • Batik Boxes -- 'Boxes was on the Second Priority list last year, too, but it didn't get touched. This year, I'm putting it on the to-do list from the get-go, and I'm hoping to finish it. (If it seems strange that the to-do list isn't just the First Priority quilts, the reason is that I don't want to focus all my energy on just quilts that are most important to me. That would stress me out. I want to be working on some low-pressure pieces, too)
  • Four Seasons -- Seven or eight years old now, this project is getting pretty long in the tooth. I made progress with it last year, and would like to put it to bed this year.
  • Symbol -- A couple of Christmases ago, my oldest sister gave me a great set of neutral batiks. I am going to use them as background for a vivid non-symbol. Hard to explain. It should go quickly after a little design work, and it is the fourth item on the starting to-do list.

Third Priority

If I blast through those seven projects and am feeling good, I might take on one of these. Or, I might putter with one from time to time with the idea of having it ready for serious attention next year.

  • The Legacy Quilt
  • Labyrinth III -- Not designed yet, but I suspect I will end up playing with the labyrinth concept for years to come.
  • Scrap Fabric Quilt -- An experiment with my collection of found, non quilt-weight fabrics.

Fourth Priority

There are six quilts in this category, It's unlikely that I will touch more than one or two of them this year, if any -- Fourth Priority is more of a holding pen for ideas I hope to work on sometimein the future. For now, I'll just give you the working titles:
  • Sarah Horowitz inspired light on light-light design
  • Requilting my own baby quilt
  • Oregon Map II
  • Denim Quilt
  • Silhouette
  • Flags of the Forgotten Lands


Finally, I will be making some progress in the QuiltStorm project. There are two StormQuilts basted and ready for quilting, and I will be selecting designs for three others as we get this season underway.


That makes thirty-three quilts (16 normal + 17 StormQuilts) are on my plate! Nine of which (4 normal, 5 Stormquilts), I am supposedly going to be actively working on. This should keep me out of trouble for a while.

Anyone else ramping up for the season?

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Un. Be. Lievable.

But I'll take it.

It's for Labyrinth.

You have no idea how happy this makes me. Does that make me a dork? I can live with that.

O.K., we now return to our regularly scheduled Summer Sabatical. See you in August!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Signing Off for the Summer

I havent' shown the first finished QuiltStorm quilt, which is (strangely enough) QuiltStorm #4. It's the first time I've ever sealed the binding by machine, rather than tacking it down. The technique looks, um, not quite perfect when you look at it up close:

...but looks just fine once you get your face out of it. And I figure these are quilts to be seen from a distance.

QS#2 is right behind it, with only a half-hour or so of work remaining.

The 2007-2008 Quilt Year is Officially Over!

And that's all for now! SoTC is now officially on its yearly summer sabatical. I'll be back in August to gear up for the new quilt season.

In the meantime, by the way, I'm going to scrap the "Quilt Blogs by Men" webring. The platform that hosts it is very cumbersome, and not worth the trickle of traffic that the ring has seen. Apologies to those who went through the work of setting it up.

Meanwhile, if you are in the City of Roses, maybe I'll see you this weekend at the Northwest Quilters annual show (I'll have two pieces in it). Or, maybe I'll see you in Sisters in July. Or in Seattle in early August. Obviously, we're going to have a lot to talk about when I get back from break.

Have a great summer!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Am I Done Quilting QS#2?

The problem with this whole QuiltStorm thing is that, even though the quilts are supposed to be fast fast fast, I keep thinking about quality control. Well, I guess that's a good thing, since it's supposed to be a skill-builder.

I've got a question for you. On QS#2, here, I made roughly parallel meandering lines widthwise across the quilt at about 2" intervals. Does that look like enough to you?

Functionally, it's fine. I found a thin wool blanket to use as batting (per Libby's idea), and the backing is a high-quality surplus bedsheet, so this sucker is going to be both warm and comfy. But, I've wondered whether it would look sharper if I doubled up the quilting, either by adding new lines between the existing quilt lines, or by adding lengthwise lines to make a kind of meandering grid.

Or, should I just declare victory and bind that sucker? What do you think?

(To get Mrs.5000's fancy camera to photograph the back of the quilt, I had to put the book on the quilt to give it something to focus on. Undifferentiated olive green was blowing its little camera mind.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Good Reason to Quilt

In the spirit of Jovali's post about Quilts in Their Native Habitat, here is an almost perfect picture from the today's inbox showing our new friend Baby Roy resting on his quilt.

(The quilt is the one I did the walkthrough on earlier this year.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Second That Free-Motion

In the end, Rebel only beat me to meander quilting by about a week. I finally bit the bullet and did free-motion quilting over an entire quilt surface. I used QuiltStorm #4, and here's what it looks like:

And on the flip side....

Fairly crude, plenty of mistakes if you know what you are looking for, but all in all a great learning experience, and that's what these StormQuilts are for after all. It still needs a binding, of course.

For QS#4, I used some kind of synthetic knit back and a flannel sheet for batting. It quilted easily but is, predictably enough, a bit limp and very light -- a summer quilt, perhaps. Meanwhile, I've got QS#2 and QS#1 pinned up and ready to quilt next. I used a thin old wool blanket for batt in one, and a mattress pad in the other, with cotton sheet for backing on both; I think they are going to be both warmer and a bit more snuggly when they are done.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Lazy Man's Stashbuilding

It was supposed to be a quilting-free week, so how did I end up spending so much time with fabric?

My mom is paring down some of her stuff, and showed up at my doorstep on Monday with four large shopping bags packed with fabric. A tactical error on her part; she could have waited a few months and called it a generous birthday present.

I spent much of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings preshrinking and pressing, until I had the loot separated out like so:

For those of you keeping score, that is (left to right) two piles of non-quilting weight fabric, some suitable for the QuiltStorm project as backing; one big pile of quilting fabrics of at least a full yard length, one pile of quarters, halves, and such, one pile of big scraps, and one pile of small scraps. And all of this stuff is premium grade. What a bonzanza!

Saturday morning, within minutes of having sorted out all of the above, Mrs.5000 suggested we walk down to the Sunnyside Neighborhood Useful Goods Swap. Well, you see where this is going...

One small stack regular fabric scraps, one stack of flannels and torn but highly salvageable flannel bedding, and a small stack of childrens' denim clothing from the throwaway pile. The latter aren't considered wearable, so I'll add to my stack of 6" denim squares.

I may never have to actually ~buy~ fabric again. I'm just going to let it come to me.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


"QuiltStorm" is my current project. The goal is to make around twenty very simple quilts, very quickly, from scrap, salvage and recycled materials.

QuiltStorm Quilt#5


Where QS1 had the sophisticated theme of "blue," this one explores the concept of "green." I find it a little bland, but Mrs.5000 claims it's her favorite of this first batch of five. It is slightly wider than the others, for no particular reason.

And with that, I'm going to back off for a bit. I declare a quilting-free week! After which, maybe I'll lay a few of these suckers out.

Friday, April 25, 2008


"QuiltStorm" is my current project. The goal is to make around twenty very
simple quilts, very quickly, from scrap, salvage and recycled materials.

QuiltStorm Quilt#3

So, when I finished QS#3, it looked like this:


It's basically the same set of solids as in QS#2, except with fewer lights. Only those two pale yellow strips, in fact. And when I finished it, and saw how strong those two light strips were as design elements, it drove me kind of nuts that they were offset to the left, with nothing special on the right to balance them. So, I removed the rightmost four strips and added them, plus one extra strip to get the pacing of colors better, to the left hand side. Now it looks like this:

Much more satisfying, to me anyway. I'll probably need to add a little supplemental strip to that short red piece eventually, but that's no biggie.

QS#3 is an awful lot like QS#2, but that's not such a bad thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


"QuiltStorm" is my current project. The goal is to make around twenty very
simple quilts, very quickly, from scrap, salvage and recycled materials.

QuiltStorm Quilt#4

Q: #4 already? What happened to #3?
A: I'll explain tomorrow.

Comments:After QS#2, made entirely of solids, here's one that is emphatically not made from solids. This kind of look is perhaps what most people were expecting from the description of the project, and surely there will be several more, I bet, that share this level of visual chaos. It's kind of a crazy quilt without the crazy quilting, you might say. Good for someone who has a highly scrappy aesthetic going already. Perhaps not such a great quilt for a dude.

There is a sequence of four darks that stack up on the right side, and no similar block of visual weight anchoring the left side. I'm trying not to let that bother me. But it's hard.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


"QuiltStorm" is my current project. The goal is to make around twenty very
simple quilts, very quickly, from scrap, salvage and recycled materials.

QuiltStorm Quilt#2

Comments: Made entirely from solids, this quilt has a certain "mid-century office" feel for me. Or, it could be used to represent a mediaeval tapestry in a junior high costume drama. Like QS1, this one feels pretty masculine. A good quilt for another dude, but not the dude who has QS1, because he doesn't need TWO quilts...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

QuiltStorm III: The Storm Begins

"QuiltStorm" is my current project. The goal is to make around twenty very
simple quilts, very quickly, from scrap, salvage and recycled materials.

A few weeks ago, emphasizing that the QuiltStorm quilts are going to have very simple pieceing indeed, I gave this design as an example:

If the more charitable among you thought I was kidding, you were wrong. That is indeed the design for this first series of five "StormQuilts."

The first two faces are complete at this point, and numbers three, four, and five aren't far behind. Just for fun, I thought I would show them in all their modest glory over the next few days.

So, with no further ado:

QuiltStorm Quilt #1

Comments: When Jovaliquilts asked me if the StormQuilts would be completely random, I admitted that I probably wouldn't be able to keep myself from imposing some organizing principles, and that has obviously happened. QS#1 is a collage of cool blues and greens. My mother would say it has a "masculine look" -- she tends to say that about all my quilts, but in this case she would be right. This would be a good quilt for a dude.


Hey, Speaking of Jovaliquilts...

Her current post, about two quilts that were made by (probably) her grandmother, was the coolest thing I saw today. I'm making scrap utility quilts for the hell of it, but these came from a community that made scrap utility quilts because they needed the blankets. You need to check out this post for the graceful simplicity of the "everyday" blanket, and the scrappy vitality of the "fancy" one. Priceless!