Friday, July 24, 2020

Color Quest Squirrel

My color quest for July has been squirreled. I'll get to that in a few minutes. Let's first look at what the July exercises were in the online workshop I've been doing this year with Rachel Hauser's book The Quilter's Field Guide to Color

I have to say, this month has been a lot of fun. We are beyond color theory now (not that I didn't like it, but I didn't always "get" it) and into inspirational things that are more like the emotions exercises we did earlier this year. Our first assignment this month was to use colors to tell a story based on an idea, feeling, experience, or something more tangible like a photo or a piece of fabric. I ended up doing three stories. As usual, I made my interpretations with Bear Paw blocks.

1. Riding the School Bus with my Lunchbox
The first one that popped into my head was related to my lunch box that I had as a kid. I don't know what got me started on that. Perhaps I saw a picture of my old Aladdin lunch box on a resale site. Anyway, that little tin lunch box was red and black plaid, and I loved it. Maybe that was a precursor to my love of fabric patterns? Thinking about the lunch box made me also think about riding the school bus. Our bus covered a lot of territory from the city, to the outlying areas and a little country town. I loved riding the bus. There was one little neighborhood with a dirt road. It was almost always bumpy with ridges and potholes, and I remember that everyone would try to sit behind the back wheels where it was bumpiest. If you were really lucky, you'd get to sit on the aisle end of the seat so that when the bus went over a big bump, you might accidentally/on purpose fall out of your seat into the aisle. Hilarious for kiddies just starting out their school career. Frowned on now, I'm sure. I chose colors to represent the lunch box (besides the red and black, there were little yellow and white lines) and the school bus (school bus yellow, of course--although now that I think of it, the actual color is more orange--and grayish green seats). 
Here are the possible fabrics:
Wouldn't it have been awesome to find a red and black plaid in there? I tried out lots of combinations but eventually settled on some sweet flower prints because they kind of suggested the vintage of my school days (late '50s/early '60s). No, those fabrics aren't that old, but some are pretty old.
Squeal...there's even that grayish green in the stems of the flowers.

2. House of Flavors in Ludington
The second story came to me quickly, too. I was thinking about the restaurant we like to eat at when we vacation (well, not this year) in Ludington, Michigan: House of Flavors--both a restaurant and an ice cream parlor that makes its own ice cream. It's in a beautiful area on the west coast of Michigan. There's a park with gigantic trees and a huge beach on Lake Michigan, a lighthouse, a short drive to the hiking trails in the State Park  (and another gorgeous lighthouse), a delightful downtown to stroll around and a sweet little Mom and Pop motel that we stay at that includes what used to be the lighthouse keeper's home. We usually go during shoulder season--either May or late September. The motel we stay at gives us a coupon for breakfast at the House of Flavors (within walking distance), which is a great start to a day of hiking. In the evening, we watch the sunset at the beach and then walk down to get ice cream at--you guessed it--House of Flavors. So I had to honor the place with a block. The floors of the restaurant are black and white alternating tiles, the bench seats are crisp white with turquoise trim and pink vinyl upholstery. From time to time, yellow makes an appearance in vinyl records or other decor hanging from the ceiling. The walls are covered with wallpaper murals of photos of the restaurant way back when it was a cafe. Such a cool place!
I didn't even make a collection of fabrics to choose from. I knew exactly what I wanted: solid color fabrics in those exact colors.I couldn't decide how to include them all in the block, so I made a pieced block for the paw of the Bear Paw, and used the black and white floor colors in the claws.

Doesn't this block just make you want to eat some ice cream?

3. Camping With Our Kids
When our kids were young, our vacations were tent-camping at Hoffmaster State Park in west Michigan. Our tent was khaki and dark green--a heavy canvas Hilary tent from Sears that blended in wonderfully with the wooded campsites. Sometimes my husband's parents and brother camped near us. Lots of fun memories living outside. The park has miles of hiking trails, two beaches and miles of shore along Lake Michigan. We spent our days hiking or playing in the waves (our daughter still has the Seahawk inflatable boat our kids played in more than 30 years ago) and always went to the beach in the evening to watch the sunset. 

At first I was going to make a block related to the tent, but then I wondered how to include other colors to represent memories of our times there. Here's what I came up with. 

It's easy to see the beach colors in the blues in the left column and the buff swatch and the campsite colors on the right. The other colors in the middle column as well as the pearl swatch represent what we found on our hikes depending on the time of year: trillium blooming in the spring; hoary puccoon, a yellow flower that grows in the dunes; hawkweed, an orange flower along a camp road to our favorite sunset view; black raspberries that our kids picked; and all the greenery everywhere. Here's my pull of potential fabrics:

I would love to make a quilt that has all of these colors in it. But for this exercise with my Bear Paw blocks, I divided the swatches into the three groups and made one block for each.
Pretty self-explanatory, I guess. It would be interesting to determine what proportions of all those colors would work to make a whole quilt that tells this personal story.

I really enjoyed this exercise. I tried a couple of other stories--the look of the misty fields at sunrise when I commuted to a rural school district during my career days, and the experience of a recent bike ride along algae covered ponds with their neon green. But I couldn't quite find a palette that worked for me. Maybe someday.

The other exercise for July was to start with an inspiration piece--a photo, a fabric or even something less tangible like a movie or a song--and build a palette from that. My inspiration piece was a photo I took of a coleus pot I planted in the spring.
I've grown fond of these plants in recent years. So much color in a shaded garden. And I knew I'd have a lot of fabric bits to interpret this photo. Many are very old burgundy leftovers, and then I have some newer limes that I bought for another project. I started with swatches. Kinda went crazy with them.
Then, the fabrics. Oh, yes, this will work. 

I was going to make just a few blocks. But then I kept thinking of other combinations.
And before I knew it, I had completely forgotten that these were Bear Paws, and I went straight into squirrel territory. Forget it that I have two quilt tops basted and waiting for quilting. This needed to be a quilt top. After I got these eight blocks done, I got the urge to make letters. Why not? Foundation paper letters! And I had lots of skinny strings from some old projects that would be just the right size.
I picked a three-inch square for each letter block that worked perfectly with a slanty font. And  lucky for me, these letters are similar in shape and proportion to each other. No weird Ws or M's to fit in somehow. It took me maybe 10 minutes tops to make a pattern. And this is what these turned into. So much fun!!
When I sewed the blocks together, I trimmed them down for more pleasing spacing.

Well, now I was far afield of Bear Paws. I knew how I wanted to place these letters, but one more thing was needed. As I said, I love coleus plants. But you know the flowers they sprout? Not so much. I would think such beautiful plants would have glowing flowers to match. But no. The flowers are thready, and their colors seem incongruous. They are even tough to focus on as you can see by this blurry photo I tried to take before I snipped all the flowers off, as I've heard that the plant gets all straggly if I leave them be.
But, now that I was in coleus mode, I set about drawing a bloom. Here is the pattern along with my blossom stalk

The blossom is kinda thready, a little hard to focus on. Just the way I see them.

So here's where this squirrel/Bear Paw/coleus is now.
I still have to plan some sashing and other minor elements. 

I think this exercise did what it was supposed to, yes? I did get inspired. And I'm still working with color--particularly colors I would not have usually chosen. And there are still Bear Paws. If you ask my husband, though, he will tell you that this whole quilt top thing is a form of procrastination because I'm really not sure how I want to quilt those two waiting quilts. He knows me so well. 

All in all, July was a success. It stretched my exploration of color and helped me see how I can make a quilt that tells my personal story instead of thinking in terms of what's trending or what fits my decor. We have one more month to go in this workshop with the book. I'm going to miss it when it's over, but I think that I now have a lot of seeds for future quilts. And I'm pretty sure that what I've learned about value, wheels and theory will kick in when it's needed--or not, and that's okay if I want to make a quilt that speaks for me. 

I hope this has been a good quilting month for you, and that you've found inspiration in unexpected places. 

(Just a reminder: I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Butterfly Strings

Oh, the finishes are coming fast now. Strange how that happens. I'm excited to share this one: my second finish from my Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks from 2019. If you want to see the blocks as I made them, you can click on the RSC19 or Butterfly Quilt labels on the right sidebar or at the bottom of this post. 
This quilt was just so much fun. It's the third quilt I've made from the Dancing Butterflies Mini Pattern by Ellis and Higgs. The quilt in the pattern is just four butterflies and is 15 1/2 inches square. I've made the equivalent of 40 mini quilts (plus one butterfly) or 161 butterflies. So far. Because I wouldn't be surprised if I make another butterfly quilt someday. Or more. If you want to see my other butterfly quilts from this pattern, click on that Butterfly Quilt label. I've made slight variations in each. For this quilt, I made the wing parts with strings from my scraps, the upper wings from lighter scraps and the lower wings from darker. I made the brown bodies when brown came up as the color of the month. I know I messed around with the color of the month a bit throughout the year. I skipped red. When you take a closer look, you will see that the background has little yellow-green dots. The layout only took a few minutes. I knew that I wanted a rainbow progression diagonally across the quilt. 

We were under stay-at-home orders when it was time to pick out a background fabric. I often piece my background from what I have on-hand, but I didn't have enough big chunks to make that practical or fun, so I went online and found a fabulous Splotch Dropcloth (by Whistler Studios) wide back at Backside Fabrics. Their service was wonderful at a time when mail was usually turtle-slow. My only regret was that I didn't buy a whole lot more of this. I love it. I do have a little left, so it will sneak into another quilt someday.

Isn't it interesting how wholecloth pieces take on a different pattern when viewed from far away? Here's a close-up:

I love how it picks up almost all of the colors of the butterflies on the other side--and it's like a butterfly's view of a flower garden.

Let's go back to the front. Close up.
Yes, that's my signature "Piedmont" quilting--wavy lines across the quilt diagonally, and then perpendicular to that section across the rest of the quilt. It goes so fast, is easy on my shoulder, and makes such a luscious texture. For this quilt, I spaced the lines about 3/4 inch apart, extending my guide on my walking foot with a taped-on paper clip to try to keep the spacing even, but there are wobbles, and I don't care. Butterflies can fly however they want to.

Here's the edge. I used excess fabric from the backing for the binding. This narrow, it's kind of delicate looking, but I like it. It lets the butterflies take all the attention. 
This photo is after washing, so the light is different.

And it doesn't really show at all on the back.

While I was sewing the binding on, I looked up and noticed in the mirror behind my machine (I quilt in front of a dresser that holds my quilt) that my top matched the quilt, so of course I had to stop for a photo. Good quilting tip, right? For extreme happiness, match your outfit to your quilt.

Here's a view of my initials and the date before washing. I love using a washable marker that I can trace. So much easier than the tracing paper I used to sew through. 
After washing, I'll be the only one, probably, to know they are there. But it does serve as documentation of a sort, and a way to identify the quilt should it (perish the thought) get lost along the way. Sometimes my thread contrasts a little more, but I don't mind if the initials don't show.

Here's an indoor view:

Here are the stats:
PatternDancing Butterfly Mini by Ellis and Higgs times 14. I trimmed my blocks to 8 inches for a 7 1/2 inch finished block. There's ample leeway in this pattern to adjust size.
Fabrics:  Scraps from my supply going back more than 40 years. I don't know who makes the dotted background fabric. The backing as noted above is Splotch Dropcloth from Whistler Studios. 
Batting: Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 
Thread: Superior-- Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; King Tut in Temple for quilting;Treasure in Old Lace for handstitching on binding. 
Binding: 2 1/2 inches cut, double layer, machine sewn to front and hand stitched on back.cut 
Finished Size: 53 inches by 60 1/2 inches pieced; 52 1/4 by 59 3/4 inches after quilting; 49 1/4 by 56 after washing. 
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer Treadle 115 for walking foot quilting.

And now, my favorite photos in the evening light after washing.

My link-ups this week:

I hope quilting is a bright spot in your week, and if you have RSC or scrap blocks lying around, I hope they are becoming quilts.

Let's close with one more photo, because you know, butterfly. This is from our bike ride this week--a brand new monarch strengthening its wings:

Take care and stay safe.

(Just a reminder: I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.) 

Friday, July 10, 2020

First Quilt Finish 2020

Yup. You read that title right. It's what, July something? I've lost track. This is just how the year has gone. And more than half is gone. Which, now that I think of it is maybe a good thing. At first I stressed out over not seeming to accomplish much this year. But I did do some things. That sail boat project for one. And a pillow project with my granddaughter way long ago before we closed down. And I have been doing a relaxed-pace online workshop. And I have a couple of projects that are slowly getting there. And I've finally made peace with the slower pace. I'm not pushing myself, but I'm enjoying doing just a little something each day. I don't worry about whether I have something to share. And wow, it's all coming together! At the beginning of last week, I had 4 (!) tops ready to quilt. Now, the timing is not great. We have entered the dog days of summer (never mind that Google tells me they don't start until July 22), and quilting in 90+ degree weather is not ideal in the warmest room of our house (with the AC on).  But I have been limiting myself to just a bit of quilting each day, and I have a finish!!
This is from blocks I made during the Rainbow Scrap Challenge of 2019. If you want to see close ups of all the blocks, you can click on the RSC19 label on the sidebar or at the bottom of this post. It's been so long, I'm not even sure which colors are ones that were officially part of RSC and which I subbed in. I know that I did not use purple. I focused on the colors in the background fabric which I had purchased before the year started. There was purple in the fabric, but I did not have enough of the kinds of purple I wanted to use. I can't recall if black was part of the colors for the year, but there were black dots in the background so I used it. Most of my photos are post-washing because my pre-washing photos were off-color. They are better anyway, as there was no breeze!


Signature (with washable marker before washing--bad lighting)

After washing (marker all gone--love it), and I will probably be the only one to know my signature is there:

And here's the back. More dotty paisley.

Close up.

 I had to piece the backing, but I had enough to sew three pieces together with matched seams!! Probably not necessary, but it was fun to do. Do you see them?

So let's just back up for a minute, and then I'll show you some yard "glamour" shots--the best I could do since we aren't going anywhere much these days. Before I could put this quilt together I had to trim the crumb blocks. I wasn't really sure how big I wanted to make them, and during the course of last year, they tended to get a bit bigger. My final plan was to have the blocks finish at 5 inches. Here's the pretty pile of trimmings.

Then I had to figure out a layout. (Sorry, the picture rotated, but you get the idea. I didn't over think the layout. Just sprinkled the colors around.

All basted and ready to go.

And then, the quilting. But what to do? I decided to let the quilt tell me what to do. Well, either I didn't listen or didn't hear it correctly. I thought it wanted wavy lines with some crisscrossing. I started with the sashings with two lines that wobbled back and forth crossing each other. Then I began on the crumb blocks, making two REALLY wavy lines that crossed over somewhere in the block. It needed more quilting than that, so I made some less wavy lines along side of those. I wasn't sure of the first set, but listened to neither the quilt nor myself and doggedly (it's the dog days of summer, remember?) kept quilting in the same pattern. And soon I was done. 

But. I didn't like it. At all. I waited until the next day to see if I'd like it any better. Nope. Instead of making me feel all cozy, it made me uncomfortable. And if it was doing that to me, I couldn't give it to someone else and make that person uncomfortable. 

So I spent two afternoons picking out stitches on 16 lines of quilting--those really wavy lines that cross each other. I (weirdly, maybe?) sort of enjoy ripping out quilt lines. Maybe it helped that it was 90 degrees out and humid so staying in was appealing. I enjoyed some home renovation shows on TV and picked away. I replaced those two lines with one less wavy line, and all was right. Aah. It just goes to show, if something bothers you with your quilt, it's probably worth it to undo and redo. Just compare that photo with some of the close-ups farther up the page and see if you agree with me.
Now that that little confession is out of the way, let's see a few "glamour" shots. In the evening sun--please ignore anemic grass. It rained today, and that's all greened up again. These are pre-washing.

Another angle:

Front and back:

And a swirl shot. (I need some practice.)

Some stats:
Fabrics  A variety of scraps from more than 40 years of quilting. The background is Mexicali Fresh Beaded Paisley from Benartex.
Batting Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 
Thread Superior-- Masterpiece in Granite for piecing; King Tut in Temple for quilting; Treasure in Old Lace for handstitching on binding. 
Binding 2 1/2 inches cut, double layer, machine sewn to front and hand stitched on back; scrap pieced.
Size Pieced: 46 1/2 by 60 1/2 inches; Quilted: 46 by 59 1/2 inches; Washed: 43 by 55 1/4 inches.
Machines: Singer Featherweight for piecing; Singer Treadle 115 for walking foot quilting.
How about a porch photo?

And finally, a deck photo:

In a normal year, this would have been donated through the Hands2Help Challenge. My year had a shaky start, and I never signed up. I will probably donate this quilt to my favorite "local" organization: The Mother and Baby program through Margaret's Hope Chest, except that I haven't checked to see if they are accepting quilts right now in this different world we're living in. Perhaps I'll hold onto it until I have a batch of quilts to send. We'll see. It will go somewhere sometime.

I'll be linking this post with Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict for Can I Get a Whoop Whoop, with Angela at So Scrappy for Scrap Happy Saturday, because, you know, RSC (even though I'm not participating in this year's round), and with Cynthia at Quilting is More Fun than Housework for Oh Scrap on Sunday.

And stay tuned. I finished quilting another RSC quilt this week and did the machine part of the binding today, so there will be another finish to share next week. 

Please, please, please stay safe, and if you live in the U.S., keep wearing a mask, wash your hands, physically distance, and do whatever else you can to turn this country's viral mess around. And keep seeking justice. And keep quilting, but that generally goes without saying. (The other things have to be said a LOT.)

(Just a reminder: I'm not affiliated with any company, so when I mention products, services, or stores I'm just documenting what I used or liked.)