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!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

QuiltStorm Part II: The Gathering Storm

Edit: This just in: I'm Famous! I'm featured on a podcast! It's the CraftyPod "Men Who Craft" Show!

After my first post on the QuiltStorm project, I got many helpful suggestions on what I can use for scrap or salvage batting. So, since I was running early for my guild meeting last week, and since “The Bins” (which I talked about a few weeks ago) is close to where we meet, I decided to poke around and see what I could find. I left with about 27 pounds of (mostly) batting surrogates, and some serious curiosity to find out what is going to work as batting, and what isn’t.

The haul included:

  • A thin wool blanket. Perfect!
  • Two fleece blankets. Rather small. I may have to custom design some of the quilts around available scrap batting sizes.
  • An open-weave throw blanket, probably acrylic. Well, maybe it will work....
  • Two large flannel sheets. I’ll use these as batt instead of backing, because they are unattractive and slightly discolored.
  • One “101 Dalmatians” flannel sheet. Total batt.
  • Large Commercial child’s quilt, sports theme. I’ll probably cut this one in half, and use it as batting for two StormQuilts, which are only going to be lap-sized.
  • One mattress cover. I’ve used a mattress cover as batting before; it was heavy but effective.
  • One very large, heavy sheet. This is slightly discolored, too, so I will fold it double and try it as a batt.
I paid twenty-seven dollars for all that crap, plus three other large sheets that I can use in StormQuilt faces and a few random pieces of scrap fabric. Think I got ripped off? Well, the final odd item in my haul was a pair of wool dress pants, virtually like new, in exactly my size (36W, 32L) and the very item of clothing I had been trying to find recently. Weird, huh? Just another little thrift store miracle.

Oh, there was also one other thing. A Linus Quilt. It’s very simple and a little slapdash, but still in very good shape. I’m not sure why I grabbed it; I think I had an irrational reaction against seeing it in there among all of the castoffs. Stupid me; I took it away from where it might have been picked up by someone who needed a nice baby quilt. Any suggestions for what I should do with it now?

Meanwhile, the first five StormQuilts are in some stage of assembly. What I’ve done is pick out and order the strips for each quilt, then sew them together in pairs. After I press down the seams, I sew pairs of pairs together, but also start on the new quilt. So for instance, in the coming round I will put together
  • 14 pairs on SQ5 ("StormQuilt #5," that is)
  • 7 chunks that are 4 strips wide on SQ4
  • 3 chunks that are 8 strips wide (with one 4-strip chunk left over) on SQ3
  • and two halves of SQ2
  • and, I’ll put in the last seam to finish the face of SQ1.

As you’d probably expect, they all look pretty scrappy and scruffy, but basically pretty good as well. I’ll get you some photos soon.

Happy Quilting!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Quilting Goals: November, 2001

Most quilters seem to have more ideas for projects than they could ever possibly get to. I'm continually making, revising, re-revising, and discarding lists of potential projects, and I think I'm fairly typical in that way.

I was flipping through an old notebook last week, and a list of my intended quilt projects from November 2001 fell out. It was a strange souvenir from a point when I was trying to decide whether or not to take quilting seriously (I eventually decided that, yes, I will). It was also a good reminder of how these lists are, sure, very much subject to change, but also of how some of the things that you put on your to-do lists sometimes actually get done.

Like a lot of my quilt project lists, the 2001 plan laid out three top priorities and several "other" potential projects that I could maybe work in if I found the time. And here they are, the quilts I intended to make six and a half years ago, along with the stories of what happened, or didn't happen, next.

"1) Autumn Puzzle" For this, my top priority on the list, I have... no real memory of what I had in mind. I can kind of put together what I must have been thinking from the title, but I don't remember wanting to make such a quilt or why I thought it would be a good idea. This one never even made it to the graph paper stage.

"2) Denim Quilt" This one, my first ever scrap-and-salvage quilt, DID get made. A clunky design from 6" x 6" squares of scrap denim, it is an unlovely but incredibly warm (and heavy!) winter blanket.

"3) Log Cabin Quilt" This turned into Log Cabin, the piece that was to occupy much of the next four years of my quilting life. It's possible that I started the denim quilt and the log cabin piece imagining that they would be easier than the "Autumn Puzzle," and would be a good warm-up for it after a couple years in which I hadn't done a lot of quilting. That would have been good reasoning, but apparently I got immersed in Log Cabin and forgot all about the piece that I was ostensibly warming up for.

"--> Around the World for {redacted}" This one is kind of funny and kind of sad. My relationship with the person in question had never been especially stable, and the gesture of friendship that I had in mind in November 2001 is especially ironic now, since I have only seen the person at three or four formal events in the intervening years. Maybe if I'd actually made the quilt, we'd be closer friends today. But, I kind of doubt it.

"--> Landscape With Animals" One of the first quilts I made, the Cow Quilt, has always been a crowd-pleaser. I've often thought about making a bigger, better version of the same idea someday. But so far I haven't."

"--> Book of Flags" This was a strange idea for a quilt-and-bookarts project, and I actually did quite a bit of work on the text (although none on the quilting) before shelving the idea sometime in 2002. I recently dug it back out, tinkered with it a little bit, and changed it from its complicated original form into a still strange but much simpler blog project. It no longer has much to do with quilting, but at least it is seeing the light of day. You can see bits of it here, and here.

"--> Kim & MB" This was to be a wedding quilt for friends, so it's kind of surprising that it's the last item on the list. Did I think that I would knock the other six items out in a few months, and then get to the wedding quilt? Surely I wasn't ~that~ naive. It might be that I was just unsure of whether or not I could pull a good wedding quilt off, so I was waffling about whether or not to try. Whatever the case, I ~did~ make the quilt, and presented it to the lovely couple the following summer.

Overall, this makes my completion rate about 3 1/2 out of 7. I suppose I could do a lot worse than to hit 50% on all of my to-do lists.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

QuiltStorm2008: The Beginning

I've alluded several times now to a project I'm calling, tongue firmly in cheeck, QuiltStorm2008. Always before, I referred to it as a project I would be taking on sometime in the vague future.

Well, the future is now.

Last weekend, Mrs.5000 and I made our way down to "The Bins," which is formally called something much more diplomatic, "The Portland Goodwill Outlet" or like that. It is where merchandise that can't be sold at a regular Goodwill goes to die. It's great. There's a big, unadorned industrial space with concrete floors and no decoration whatsoever. The stuff on offer is literally heaped in long rows of rolling bins, with next to no organizing principle whatsoever. After a given bin has been literally rummaged through for a few hours, it is rolled back offstage, and a new bin is rolled up to take its place.

No matter what you buy, it's 69 cents a pound, so long as you buy at least fifty pounds of it. Last weekend, I bought fabric.

Six washing machine loads later, I was ready to commence the pressing and folding of, at a rough guess, around 150 yards of salvage fabric. But first, of course, there was some minor disassembly to be done; although I found several yards of whole cloth, most of this haul was in the form of sheets, curtains, futon covers, and clothing. My rule was to avoid anything that would likely attract a buyer -- no matched sets of sheets or wearable clothing allowed. Basically, I was reclaiming waste textiles, in bulk.

This motherlode of cotton and cotton/poly salvage will now join pieces from my existing collection of sub-standard fabric to make up the raw materials for QuiltStorm. The idea is to create a series -- an "edition," as they say in Mrs.5000's bookarts circles -- of very simple, very easy to make, 100% recycled lap blankets. I've prepared about 20 different designs, but they really all just boil down to sewing a lot of strips together. Here, as mocked up on the fabulous MicroSoft quilt design utility "Excel," is a typical example.:

Or maybe this:

Now, you may be wondering "Why? What is the point of all this?" And that's a reasonable question. But I've got answers!
  • I've been spending a lot of quilting time lately challenging my precision and my ability to do fairly detailed work on a bunch of labor-intensive projects. It seems like it might be liberating to work very quickly and loosely on projects that have more room for error.
  • Having a lot of scrappy quilt tops around means I'll be able to experiment with machine quilting technique without it being a stressful, high-stakes business.

  • If it turns out that the finished quilts are really cool, I'll have a lot of really cool little quilts on hand.

  • And, the recycling aspect of the project really appeals to me. It's theoretically possible that the raw materials I'm using would have found another buyer if they hadn't found me, but I'm fairly certain that 90% of it would have continued to circle the drain for a short while, or maybe a long while, and then wound up in the landfill. The idea of using them for something useful and interesting, instead, makes me feel connected to the practical roots of the Craft.
I've started by cutting out backs for an ambitious number of, um, "StormQuilts." Eighteen, if I count them correctly (20 would be a nicer, rounder number, but I'm sure that salvage fabric will continue to trickle in). Now, I'll just start cutting lots and lots of strips, and sew them back together to make the faces.

One concern I have -- well, "concern" might be overstating the case, but anyway -- is that if these guys are going to be 100% recycled, I'll need to use scrap or salvage batting. I have enough scrap batting and batting-like stuff for about five quilts, but after that I might have to actually go out and buy batting for these things. Does anyone have ideas for alternative salvage batting?