Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Quilt for Niece #1: Done

The Quilt for Niece #1 isn't really called that. It's called "[Neice #1]'s Quilt," except with her actual name. Discretion on the Internet, see.

I had been thinking for a few years that I would make graduation quilts for each of the four (4) neices, and when Niece #1 finished her junior year last spring, it was time to either fish or cut bait.

Since I don't have enough day-to-day contact with her to have a great read on her aesthetics -- she lives far from the City of Roses -- I come up with my "diagnostic instrument" so that I could find out what kinds of quilts she likes.

Her single favorite quilt from the deck of examples was actually one of my own pieces, one I made for Mrs.5000 back when she was still Girlfriend5000. It is the one shown below. Niece #1 liked the squares a lot, even thought the color scheme was not especially to her liking Her own color tastes tended to run to greens with some kind of strong value contrast across the quilt surface.

So, I decided to use the pieceing pattern from Mrs.5000's quilt, but using Niece #1's color preferences and, while I was at it, a much denser and more visible quilting pattern. It's the first time I've re-used a design, and it was interesting to revisit the procedure for pieceing it together. Even though the pattern is all squares, they do not line up in blocks, so getting the thing together requires some moderately complicated sewing.

The new piece looks much different than the earlier one, as you can see. My mom says it looks like moonlight in the forest, which sounds fine to me. It is flannel-backed and, hopefully, durable enough to withstand a few years of college life. I stuck a temporary hanging sleave on it last weekend; it will appear at the Clark County Quilters 33rd Annual Quilt Show this week. Here's the info:

Clark County Quilters
33rd Annual Quilt Show
April 3, 4, 5, 2008
Thursday 10 AM to 5 PM
Friday 10 AM to 6 PM
Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM

Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary
2921 Falk Road
Vancouver, Washington

Maybe I'll see you there on Saturday.

After the show, I'll take the sleave back off, pack it up, and that will be that. No more graduation quilts for a bit. Niece #2 is only a freshman, so I'll hold up on starting hers for now.

Next time: I'm starting QuiltStorm2008 tomorrow! I'll explain what I'm up to, one of these days....

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Around the World Quilts

An "Around the World" quilt looks something like this:

It's a very gratifying kind of piece to make, as it looks a hell of a lot harder than it really is. What you see when you first look at it, if you don't know the trick, is just how many individual pieces of fabric there are. Even in the little piece shown above, there are 15 little (1 1/2", 1" cut) squares in each row and column making, what, 225 pieces total. But! you do not have to cut out and sew together 225 pieces in order to make an Around the World.

Here's the trick. (I will illustrate with images from the very finest quilt design software application available, the name of which is “MicroSoft Excel.” Ask for it at your quilt shop!)

1. Once you've chosen your sequence of fabrics -- at least seven, in a clear progression from light to dark color values, is best -- cut long strips of each of them.

2. Sew the strips together, in sequence.

3. Cut new strips, perpendicular to the original ones, out of the units you made in step two. Make them the same width as you cut the original strips in step one.

4. Then, piece these new strips back together, offsetting them by one fabric width each time.

Voila! There's a little more too it, of course, but you get the basic idea.

I've only made two true Around the Worlds, the one above – it was a gift for my mother, which is the very definition of "coals to Newcastle" -- and this one, which you've seen before.

Then there's also a few that have played with the Around the World idea, like this one from 2000:

Or these two, from 2006. These are called Partway Around the World I & II; one hangs at our house, and the other belongs to friends in England. So, the name is a kind of double-meaning sorta dealie.

Incidentally, although all of these I've shown are wall hangings, it's possible to make very large quilts with the same method. You just either a) make your strips wider, b) use more fabrics, or c) repeat your sequence of fabrics two or three or four times. It looks great, but I've never done it myself.

OK, I’m out of here. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I Am My Mother's Son

I wrote a long time ago about how I started quilting. Summary: In 1994 I was sick, I stayed with my parents for a few months, I got fascinated watching Mom quilt, and one thing led to another.

I've been wondering lately how much I've been influenced by the specific piece that Mom happened to be working on that summer. Here it is:

Now, to be clear: I would never make this specific piece in a million years. I don't know if I could, for one thing -- when my mother does something, she tends to do it right -- but also, it's a bit, well, girly, isn't it. Hearts aren't really my thing. There, I said it.

Nevertheless, I think this quilt had a really profound effect on me. Let's start with its method of construction, in which a pattern is formed from a grid mosaic of 2-inch squares (1 1/2" finished, for those of you taking notes). The first eight quilts I made were all composed with 2-inch squares; Cow Quilt, my fourth quilt [shown at right], had a few larger blocks interspersed, but the basic idea was still the 2" grid. My ninth and tenth quilts mixed things up by using different sized squares, but they were still basically grids. It wasn't until the eleventh quilt I made that I finally tore myself away and used something other than squares. It's as if the grid was what quilting was for me, because the one time I had watched somebody else quilt, that's what she was using. Any deviation from that, I had to make up on my own.

Another thing: Mom, and me, were both very impressed and influenced by the Deidre Amsden's "Colourwash" books (my first quilting memory is getting Mom an Amsden book off of her Christmas wish list and thinking, "Woah, this is awesome!"), but if you are familiar with that genre you'll notice that Mom's heart doesn't look at all like the conventional colourwash or watercolor quilt. Mom was a lot more interested in using fields of color, and that gives her piece a lot of its power.

Well, maybe it's just that I, too, am drawn to fields of color. Or maybe it's the influence of that heart quilt. Whichever, I can watch myself experiment with my own far less subtle fields of color all the way from my very first quilt:

...through, say, my 10th quilt, a Scrabble board:

...or my 20th quilt, the unlovely Green, Blue, Purple, the name of which gives away what I was experimenting with:

Or even this wedding quilt I made for my friends Mary Beth and Kim in 2002:

Looking through my photos, it seems like at least a good half of my quilts are still working out the implications of that first quilt I watched my Mom make, trying to create a pattern using fabric value, in the colourwash tradition, but with a fairly blunt use of pure color.

Both of these qualities, by the way -- the 2-inch grid and the colourwash-with-fields-of-color -- are running riot in the last major piece I've finished, Labyrinth, or in the Quilt Map of Oregon I showed in the last post.


All of this makes me wondered what would have happened if Mom had been working on some other project when I happened to be sick. If she had been working on one of her more classic colourwash quilts, how different would my own ideas about design be today?

Or what if she had been working on this one? I might not have ever become a quilter; I admire this all-green piece on a technical level, but I can't imagine that it would have fired up my enthusiasm for color and mosaic. If it had somehow got me quilting, I'm pretty sure that the work I'm doing today would look quite a bit different than it does.

Or here's a scary thought -- what if I had found a really good book, and hadn't gone in to watch Mom work on her quilt at all? It would have been a whole different life, I'll tell you what.

It would certainly be a whole different blog.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Show Season

The half of the year that I call "Quilt Season" is the opposite half from when almost all of the quilt shows are. I made the arbitrary goal a while back of putting quilts into ten (10!) shows this year -- they are listed in the sidebar -- and the first one is coming up in two weeks. It's the 14th Annual "Airing of the Quilts" in Milwaukie (Oregon), and I've entered Two Complex Shapes and Quilt Map of Oregon (might as well put pictures of 'em up yet again, I suppose!). When I dropped them off and registered them yesterday, one of the women referred to me as "the new good-looking young man from the Guild." Well, I'll take it.

I mentioned all this to a non-quilting friend last night, who was puzzled by the whole concept. Was I entering the shows in order to sell the quilts? Hell, no. Well, then, why was I bothering with it? Probably it's a sign of how immersed I am in the whole process that it had never occurred to me to think of the question. But for all that, I think I came up with some pretty good answers.

I suppose the starting point is that you show a quilt because you consider quilting a medium of artistic expression, as opposed to, say, an esoteric method of blanket manufacture. You make things "to express yourself," or at least to bring into being an idea that you thought was interesting, and to have people see that and, with any luck, think that it's cool validates your process. Put another way, you want attention. Recognition for your work. Ideally, praise. Well, who doesn't?

Connected to this is that participating in shows is a way of participating in the community. Shows are quite literally put together communally by quilters. They are generally fairly festive affairs, places where people can get together and share ideas, feedback, praise, and of course sotto voce nasty remarks about each others work. The more quilts submitted, the bigger and better the shows are, so to a small extent submitting your work is a way of pitching in.

Finally, putting work in shows is for me a way of lighting the proverbial fire underneath my buttocks. Planning to have Quilt X in Show Y gives me, first and foremost, a deadline. It has to be done in time. Moreover, there are going to be a lot of knowledgeable people looking at it, so that encourages me to do better work. If I want to get something into a juried show, I know I need to bring my absolute A-game. And, participating in shows in general has forced me to gradually learn more about the generally accepted standards of excellence in quilt shows as a whole.

There are shows and there are shows, of course. For this Milwaukie show, anybody can show anything, and I expect it will be a fairly low profile event. So, I'm not showing my best, brand-new stuff; I'm saving that for my Guild's show, in a few months. Even at the intermediate level that I operate at, it's fun to save the "major debuts" for the "high profile venues."

Here's the details on the Milwaukie show. Live in the City of Roses? Then maybe I'll see you there!
March 21-22, 2008
Milwaukie Center
5440 SE Kellogg Creek Drive
Milwaukie, OR 97222


Meme Duty

I was tagged by The Quilted Philosopher a while back, and it's about time I did something about it. The concept is pretty broad -- I'm just supposed to "post 7 weird or random facts about myself." Here goes:

1. I followed objects with my eyes at birth. The doctor put me down, walked away, noticed, came back, and said "You aren't supposed to be able to do that." I don't remember this, of course. But my mom says so.

2. In high school, I won my division of Oregon's state mathematics tournament. Twice. Yes. Thank you.

3. I have a large map of the United States on which I keep track of every county I've been in. Sometimes I will fly to a city, rent a car, and drive around for a while, checking out the area and collecting new counties.

4. I like kids, but never wanted to have kids of my own. So, I didn't.

5. I'm not above painting my face green and yellow if it might help the fortunes of the University of Oregon football team. This confuses some of my more intellectual friends.

6. Although not at all a religious person, I have a
blog about the Bible. This, also, confuses some of my more intellectual friends.

7. I have never eaten at a MacDonalds.

Those seem weird and random enough.