Thursday, August 5, 2010

Additons and Subtractions of Quilting


I worked all day yesterday (not quite) to put together all the blocks, strings and scraps and very pleased with this little quilt top that evolved!
 

Putting all those blocks with the wonky edges together was rather challenging.
Once I had few blocks ready, I decided to start piecing them to avoid careful selection process.
I laid two blocks side by side to see if they match in size.




This block came closest to the length of the large block. At this point my choice was to cut the other block to match the seams or add a little to fit them together.
I chose to trim away a little.  


and stitched them together.


Next came new pair of blocks


 I realized that bock on the left needed a little strip added to the bottom to fit.


So I stitched a strip. Do you see my little red strip (basic instinct)? When I put them next to each other they were the same size but I needed to fill the triangle hole on the top. I added another strip and trimmed to fit the edge.



That filled the hole just right! I went on sewing as they fit together.


This one up here needed a little help growing so I back stitched, and added a strip and stitched again.

 


As the quilt kept growing I laid it on the floor along with few more blocks and strips.

I was contemplating on what would fit next or where should I add more. My daughter walked in the room and saw my puzzled face and asked, "Mom, how is this different than using a design wall?"
To that I said, " Good question Coco, (that's what I really call her) but this is different. With the design wall, I stop and stare and walk away, I go back and keep moving the blocks and squint my eyes until my head hurts. Then I use the reducing glass and take the digital pictures... I can go on and on  and on...
And I did!!! She interrupted me and said, "Mom, I get it!"

That's when I got it too. That is the difference. The thought did cross my mind too and I gave myself permission to use the floor to place the blocks next to each other and do my addition and subtraction. As I would finger press the seams open and gently flatten the blocks so they lay relatively flat, I was wondering if I was still trying to create the quilt with minimum bubbles and bumps. I would question myself if that was intentional or just a habit of touching and feeling the fabrics.


I was unsuccessful in achieving that flat quilt! Thank goodness! Because, I love how this looks when the evening sun shines on all the bubbles and bumps and brings it to life!


By the way, do you remember that little red strip and my basic instinct theory? Ha!
I can't even see it anymore... Can you?
So there goes the basic instinct theory too.. Out the door. Especially with these kind of quilts. 
I really learned that in a bigger picture small things really don't matter. In life and in quilting alike!
I added and subtracted both, the scraps and my thoughts while making this quilt and the result is just right!

I have had time to think about why I make quilts. I am not going to bore you with that today. You have been  gracious friends and read my ramblings and even responded with your kind comments. 
I thank you for that!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Continuing 'My Way'

Yesterday I sat for few hours piecing my scraps.( Not working on the scrap quilt. just piecing the scraps) You know, It was interesting that when I was focused on not following the rules or the final result, there were so may things I discovered that I would not have otherwise paid any attention to.

Here is how the process went! 
I would pick up two pieces to stitch together. Sometimes their size wont match so I would toss one back and pick another one that would fit. I want to maximize the use of my scraps so I don't want to trim away anything unless I have to. 

At this point I was not thinking of the colors.. Just the size of the scraps.
I chain pieced a few scraps. By the time the tenth piece came around, I had forgotten the colors and size of the first pieces I stitched. When I nail pressed that piece open, I said to myself, "Oh would you look at that?"
I noticed the crooked edge, the combination of colors and odd sizes of pieces and started adding them as they fit to each other in to blocks.
At the end of the day I ended up with blocks that looked like this.
 

By keeping them out of my sight as I finished them, the new ones were not influenced by the colors or the size of the previously made blocks. So I was not thinking of balance, harmony and how am I going to put them together! Just sewing the pieces together and went on for a while.

After finishing few blocks I started making the strips and smaller blocks.


Click on the picture to look at a close up. They are pretty wonky.
 
 
And, I learned that the wonky strips could be the design element or a piece that squared up the block!


The block on the left ended up being really crooked. When I put those two side by side on the floor, I knew that one block had to grow just a bit. ( I am still following the fact that I don't want to trim away anything.) That's how the gray triangle piece came in the picture! 
In this quilt it was no accident but it was also not a preconceived idea to add a few triangles or diagonal strips to the quilt. It is just a filler to put the blocks together.

Here is another example of the same surprize! 
 

It makes me wonder about the crooked and wonky strips in many of the quilts of Gee's Bend.

The lessons learned so far with this process are,

  • I don't need to deliberately cut curved pieces with rotary cutter. Use Scissors instead. The difference is huge!

  • If I just sew those pieces together without being too careful, they become organic and fluid.
  
  • Depending on the scrap pile, some blocks are heavy and saturated with one color and others with a different color. It could also mean that I ran out of one pile of scraps and had to add whole another pile with different colors and textures.

  • This process was not as mindless as I thought! The only difference was that all the thoughts occurred with the outcome of all bits and pieces coming together. My mind was racing with pleasant discoveries as I went on. 

  •  I want to learn new ways of doing things. Even if that means going back to the old ways!
With no final outcome in mind, I have discovered a lot by doing things differently. As I like to put it, following rules of quilting, 'My Way'.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rules of Quilting 'My Way'

Quilt designer, author and speaker Deb Rowden recently did this post with a question, "How do you quilt?"
The very same day,  Victoria @ Bumble Beans was focusing on 'Calm' .
It made me think about my process of the quilt making once again.
  
How do I quilt?
Why do I quilt?

We often ask ourselves these questions. We find the appropriate answers to fit that particular time in our lives.  We change and grow as we go on. I know I am not the same quilter today as I was just a few years back!

As I searched for the answer of the first question, I realized that I have found myself drifting back and forth with my way of quilting all through my quilting years. Answer to that question has also changed as I have grown as a quilter. 

I started quilting by taking a basic quilting class back in 1992. That's when I learned all about cutting straight lines, quarter inch seam allowance and matching points. It was the best thing I did at the time! I made many quilts using those tricks and tips. I still do! One thing was established quite early though.. I never liked following patterns and matching points. I bought many patterns and books to get inspired and went my own way while making quilts.  

I was very fascinated by appliqued quilts! The free form of designs were quite attractive. After making   couple of applique quilts, I started changing those patterns to fit my artistic needs. Those quilts were followed by designing my own applique patterns. Not all of them are finished yet.. I like working slowly and enjoy the process.

I like to design patterns, I love changing the old classic patterns and put my own twist on them. I also love working with old fabrics. My definition of old and vintage fabric is not the ones from the antique stores but worn and loved by someone I don't know and people I do know! And, there is no greater satisfaction than using up all of the scraps of fabrics from previous quilts. Using solids and making quilts without patterns is my way of making sure that I never get tired of looking at them.

When Deb asked the question, I wondered  about my way of quilting. I do focus on design and colors and all the elements of art  I learned in school. 

Is it hard to put all that aside? Absolutely YES!

Today, I realized something new about the way I quilt. I am not free of all the rules. Not just yet!

I have made many improvisational quilts and quilt tops. Honestly there are more quilt tops than finished quilts in my closet. I have also taught classes based on the concept of Improvisational quilts. The brown bags, the swapping of the fabrics with the person next to you, making do with what you have and tearing up loved ones cloths and making the quilts... All have been done in my classes. I even had my students make their own feed sack fabrics by using sharpie and writing something  meaningful on a piece of fabric and then using that fabric in the quilt! Ahh... Those were some good days of teaching.

My students cut their fabrics with scissors, learned cutting and sewing gentle curves, tried using fabrics and colors they disliked to free themselves and unlearned lots of rules as they went along their journey through the class I called, 'Inspirations from Quilts of Gee's Bend'.

Some students took my whimsy ideas in a stride and went beyond and some really had hard time breaking away from what they were used to. I too learned a lot along with them and improved as a quilter!

As I sit here and think about my way of quilting, new questions have popped up in my head today!

Am I really free of all the rules?  

Why do I still need a design wall?

Do I need to have all my quilts lay flat?

My favorite designers Anna Williams and Annie Mae Young  made their quilts with a utilitarian purpose in mind. Beds and floors may have been used to lay the blocks out. Their quilts hung beautifully with the waves and curvy edges just fine.

So the answer is, No I do Not! 

I realized that after all the curve piecing and improv stitching, I occasionally square  up my blocks. It is necessary  to put the whole quilt together and also it would lay flat and look right when I finish it.

While commenting on Deb's post, I challenged myself to not use the design wall for my next quilt. I really want to see if I can put all the fears of it not looking right in the end to rest. 

So, yet another personal challenge has evolved.

No rotary cutting tools.
No piece of fabric cut out of the yardage.
No accurate quarter inch seam allowance.
No matching and coordinating the pieces.
and   
No design wall!
Just my scissors, bits and pieces of fabrics and my sewing machine!

 This is what I have done so far!


I gathered the leftover scraps. These started out of the size of palm of my hands.


Cut them in to smaller pieces by hand with scissors. No ironing required! No straight edge needed!


I then stitched them one at a time and piece by piece into small rows. 
Check out the edges of these pieces. No straight lines!




I pieced the rows into a small block. Added bits and pieces as I continued sewing. Do you notice that tiny red piece?  That row on the side was small and the red piece was added to meet the length of the block. Also, no deliberate curve cutting or stitching needed. It just happens when you let loose! Not ironing every seam helps a lot to get the raw look. 
The artist in me could not overlook the fact that a contrasting color would look great in small doze. (Couldn't help it. I promised to throw away the rules not my basic instincts!)


Made a few blocks and put them away in a drawer or away from the sewing table.
NOT ON THE DESIGN WALL.


Started a new block. I will not worry about the size or the shape and keep making blocks until the pile of scraps is gone.

I will also keep you posted as I go along this little journey. It might be a slow progress. I am in no hurry. If you decide to try making a quilt 'My Way' I would love to see pictures of your progress. 

I must thank Deb Rowden for the inspiration. As I continue with this quilt, I will be thinking of the reasons I quilt and for that, I must thank Victoria! 

Thanks for stopping by!