Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Quilt for Niece #2: Design Development.

Last week, I talked a little about how I interviewed Niece #2 about her quilt preferences in order to come up with this plan for her graduation quilt.

(I didn't mention that I drew the above while thinking with Caspar David Friedrich's The Wreck of the Hope on my mind, mostly because I forgot but also because people sometimes look at you funny if you mention art-historical influences for quilt designs).

Anyway, with the basic concept in place, the next step was to figure out the relative widths of the strips. One option was just cutting them all to the same width and fudging the angles, but we're talking about Niece #2 here and I wanted to shoot a little higher than that. To help me get the geometries right, I used simple graphics software to overlay a more exact pattern over the original sketch.

This seemed pretty good, but I wondered if I could create a sense of depth by making the top "shard" with thinner strips. I came up with this:

I checked with N#2, and she agreed that this second version was better.

After that came the torturous application of high-school geometry, as I experimented with different strip widths. Ultimately, and despite the numbers on the above mock-up, I decided that making the vertical black-white strips 3.25 inches wide will yield the right size of blanket. That makes the stripes of the three shards, from bottom to top, 2.9, 2.3, and 1.45 inches wide, not exactly measurements that are marked on your standard quilting rulers. Cutting the fabric involved quite a bit of eyeballing, with some help from this "annotated" mockup:
At this point, I have lots of strips cut long, and a vague hope that I'll actually be able to tie all those weird angles together. Maybe it will be easy? But I totally doubt it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Devil's Claw

A Collaboration With a Stranger from an Earlier Generation

In September 2007, I wrote about a "salvage mission" to make something out of a set of 20 hand-pieced blocks, almost certainly from the 1930s, that I had discovered in a box of scrap fabric. They were, as I said at the time, nothing objectively special:
the craftsmanship is moderate at best, the fabric quality was poor to begin with and has not improved with age.... They are neither uniform in size nor especially square. Any given side can vary between 12 and 14 inches.... Nor do I have any idea who made them; certainly no one with any connection to me or my family.
And it was love at first sight.

Two months later, I had worked out a quilt face using sixteen of the blocks. And then things slowed down dramatically. With fabric as poor as all that -- you can see my green desktop right through that muslin, did you notice -- I knew the quilting was going to have to be pretty dense and pretty structural to keep the thing from disintegrating within a few years. For a year, I was too hesitant to even begin quilting. Then, at some point, I quilted in the basic grid, but still balked at working within the individual blocks.

Last spring, I finally bit the bullet. It was a lot of work, and lasted me through a couple of classic novels on tape. By June, though, the quilting was finished, and I was able to take the piece on a vacation with my wife's family to bury threads and finish the binding. Sometime in the summer, I made a sleeve for it. And last Friday, I was finally able to hang it.

So here we are:

Here's a little more detail:

An individual block:

And here's a look at what I came up for a quilting pattern. Eight-pointed stars and pentagons!

I am, I'm afraid, quite pleased with myself. I'm going to be a bit quilt-insufferable for a while. I just wish my collaborator, whoever she (presumably) was (almost certainly), could share the moment.

Dimensions: 86" x 86"
Batting: Commercial low-loft cotton
Backing: A subtle white-on-white calico, which is the same fabric used in the latticework on the quilt face.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Quilt is Born

When Niece #1 graduated from high school, I set a precedent to launch all four of my favorite young punks into adult life with, you know, a blankie. Now it's #2's turn. I sent her a collection of my quilts (with a few of Rebel's thrown in for good measure) and had her tell me what she liked and didn't like.

Things that N#2 like include stripes, asymmetry, and a look inspired by modernism. Sweet! They also include black and red, which are the only two colors of fabric that I do not have coming out of my ears. For the first time in a couple of years, I will actually have to buy short lengths of fabric. But that's OK.

After some fussing with graph paper, I had two designs I liked. They are not something I myself would want to sleep under -- hence the working titles -- but hey, I'm not Niece #2.

UnQuiet Dreams #1

UnQuiet Dreams #2

N#2 has given the nod to the second -- as I'd hoped! -- so at some point I will be moving into fabric acquisition mode. Probably it will become "UnQuiet Dreams," dropping the "#2", and "UnQuiet Dreams #1" will disappear into the vast literature of quilts that never happened. But who knows?

Friday, September 10, 2010

The 2010-11 PreSeason List

2009 - 2010 feels pretty much like the quilt season that didn't happen, but I don't think that' entirely true. We'll see! In this post, I've just copied last year's Pre-Season list over, and we'll just sort of annotate it in color to make this year's list and to get a sense of what happened over the last 12 months.


First Priority

Top priorities to finish this year. It would be nice to get ALL of these done.

Devil's Claw -- This is one I've talked about a lot in the last few years. The face is complete, and it's been pinned, so it just needs quilting and binding. "Just." -- Well! This took a lot of quilting! But I'm happy to say that it is only half a sleeve from finished. I'll probably finish it next time I watch a movie.

Jennifer Challenge -- Me and my friend Jennifer both bought a set of fabrics, and she is currently putting the hanging sleeves on the quilt she made with hers. I started cutting and piecing mine last night. I need to catch up, or Jennifer will hurt me. -- Finished!

Mondrian I -- My awesome (if I do say so myself) reproduction of a Mondrian painting in scrap corduroy. The face is finished, so it needs a back, some batting, and some quilting. -- This one only needs a sleeve.

Symbol -- Another one I've talked about a lot here. The face background is complete. I need to select a fabric for the symbol and finish the face. -- The face is mostly finished, but I pinned it to the back and batting before remembering the symbol's diacritical marks. Shouldn't be a problem.

StormQuilts -- I have four of these on the First Priority list, but I won't belabor the details. -- I finished three of those four.

So that's really not so bad in the first tier. In fact, it's so good that we'll STOP RIGHT THERE and ignore the Second, Third, and Forth Priority Quilt goals. You can see them here, and for the most part, nothing whatsoever happened with them. So either I was good at identifying my priorities, or disciplined in pursuing them.

So let's say the main priorities this year are:

1) Finish and show the Devil's Claw
2) Finish and show Mondrian #1
3) A New Project: Design and Create a Quilt for Niece #2
4) A New Project: Design and Create a Wedding Quilt for Austin and Vida
5) Finish the Symbol
6) Finish SQ #6
7) Finish SQ #13
8) Finish the mess that the Four Seasons Project turned into (I'll talk about this later).

And then see what's down there in the other priorities. Meanwhile, of course, I can always

9) Zip out SQs #14+ if I feel like it.

That seems ambitious enough for now.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Season Opener: SQ#13 is Off and Running

It's the opening Saturday of the college football season, and therefore of course opening day of the 2010-2011 Quilting Season! Unfortunately, my #1 team is under suspension, but my emergency backup team, Oregon State, put up a pretty good fight against #6 TCU.

As the pregame rigmarole was happening, I thought about some various season-opening tasks I could do, such as getting a mental inventory of projects in progress, coming up with a list of ideas for new projects, or even just organizing fabrics. But then I thought -- no, I just get some momentum going. I want to some good old fashioned cutting and sewing without thinking too hard.

So here's a one-game face for a new Storm Quilt -- It will be SQ#13.

Now this is obviously not a masterpiece, but I love it because it's exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of when I came up with the QuiltStorm idea. It is, of course, made of scrap and salvage. The green is from a piece of salvage that's been around for years, the red is a poly/cotton gingham that I bought at 50 cents for 2 3/4 yards at an estate sale last weekend, and the beige was a sheet with a big hole in it that Mrs.5000 brought home out of a freebox earlier in the week. The thread was garage-sale C&C -- from your garage sale, Sarah, if you're reading this. The batting and back are still to come, but they'll be salvage too.

But more to the point, it was FAST. The StormQuilts were supposed to be made simply and quickly, but I immediately started getting fussy and reducing the scale of the pieces. That takes time. Whereas, a full-size quilt top that can be conceived, cut, sewn, and pressed during four quarters of football -- that's fast enough to deserve the "storm" appellation.

Game on, people!