Sunday, December 29, 2019

Putting scraps of fabric, batting, binding and orphan blocks to a good use!

Although charitable giving should be a year-round activity, I seem to have more sewing machine time during the holidays. I was able to devote some late night hours this month to piecing batting, machine quilting and machine binding five charity quilts for the kitties at the Cat Clinic of Chattanooga. We dropped them off last Friday.
Machine binding small charity quilts for kitties at The Cat Clinic.

Scrap busting and repurposing orphan blocks
I fit scrap-busting patchwork into my schedule throughout the year. It's a great mindless activity to do while de-stressing, mentally sifting through To-Do lists, and overcoming creative blocks... while still being productive! A guild program on re-purposing orphan quilt blocks also prompted an archeological fabric dig to uncover a few of my own. Results of these activities went into completing recent kitty quilts.
Left: flannel scrap buster top.
Right: three re-purposed orphan blocks from a block swap.

Scrap buster quilts.

Leftover 2.5" strips from pre-cut strip collections are put to good use on the bindings. I had fun mixing and matching colors and prints!
Right: a hexagon orphan block upcycle.

These are great little projects for patching together and using up leftover batting bits, too! Use a machine zigzag stitch, fusible batting tape or hand stitching to hold the batting pieces together.
Batting bits are pieced together.

Flannel backings provide softness and warmth
The quilt backs are flannel so the kitties have one side that is extra-snuggly. (These flannels happened to be cat prints.) Due to a scrap collection of flannel fabrics I was working with, a few of the quilts also had flannel patchwork on the front. Double snuggle!
Flannel cat prints are used for the quilt backings.

The quilt with the hexagon orphan block prompted the machine quilting design. I started the quilting in the center of the hexagon block and went out from there (see the quilt's back below).
Hexagon quilt back showing the free-motion quilting.

Eleven kitty quilts donated in 2019
Cassandra (Cassie) is one of the Clinic's office mascots. She was more interested in her box than investigating the new quilts this time. However, the staff is always appreciative of the donation and they like the colorful fabrics and novelty prints in the quilts.
Cassie (left) decided to stay in her box rather than investigate the new quilts.

With these 5 quilts added to the 6 dropped off in September, the total donation comes to 11 quilts—almost one for each month of 2019.

If you're looking for something meaningful in which to use your fabric and batting scraps, small charity quilts are a good solution. Check with local organizations or shelters to see what their needs are. Or here is a list of national organizations that accept donated quilts, fabrics and sewing supplies. Pass along some quilty goodness!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Valencia Pants: a Make Nine to fill a gap

One thing that's so appealing about the Make Nine Challenge is that it's framed as "a gentle, self-guided slow fashion initiative...". Because it's a self-guided initiative, I decided to take the initiative and amend my 2019 list of makes to mirror my personal lifestyle—and fill a gap in my wardrobe. 
Me Made Valencia pants, ikat jacket and knit top.

The Valencia Pants
One of the needs in my Me Made wardrobe is pants. So, to fill in the "pants gap," I pulled out my Valencia Pants pattern [from The Sewing Workshop]—a pattern I have used before. This pattern was fitted for me in a workshop I took with Linda Lee in 2018, so the muslin making and fitting steps were eliminated for this make. 

While traveling in Kentucky on business, I bought beautiful cotton yardage at Birdsong Quilting, an independent quilt shop in Lexington, to make two pair of the Valencia. The fabrics are:

Left: Valencia pants in yarn-dyed cotton from Diamond Textiles.
Right: Valencia pants in Wicked Sky cotton blend from Art Gallery Fabrics.

Left: Valencia pants in yarn-dyed cotton from Diamond Textiles.
Right: Valencia pants in Wicked Sky cotton blend from Art Gallery Fabrics.

Valencia Pants pattern hack: Patch Pockets
For my lifestyle, I need pockets in pants (otherwise, where do you put your Kleenex or handkerchief?) The Valencia is a one-seam pant (the inseam/crotch seam), so to add pockets to this garment, a patch pocket is required because there are no side seams for a side pocket.

I like to include a little surprise by using a fun print for a pocket lining. The pocket for the charcoal pants has this cotton voile fabric lining called He Loves Me Plum [Art Gallery Fabrics].

Fabric lining cut slightly smaller than the outside pocket piece.

The lining piece was cut slightly smaller than the outside pocket piece so when turned and pressed, the outside fabric would roll slightly to the pocket inside. It takes a bit of pinning and fabric maneuvering to match up the edges before sewing, but it's not difficult.

Pinning the pocket lining to its corresponding outside fashion fabric.

On occasion, I have included a piping or faux piping to a patch pocket to expose a hint of a contrasting lining fabric on the outside of the garment. Getting creative with a pocket lining is a fun and easy pattern hack!

The fashion fabric on the pocket outside is rolled slightly to the inside (lining side) of the pocket.

For the other pants, I used a cotton Australian aboriginal print for the pocket lining.

I add two front patch pockets to my Valencia pants.

Two front patch pockets were added to each pair of my new Valencias—one for Kleenex and the other for my car keys.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Fabric studies with quick sewing projects

Don't ya love small, quick sewing projects? Using those eclectic fabric leftovers you can't bear to throw away is so satisfying! But quick projects also offer opportunities for experimenting with color, pattern, texture and different fabric substrates... without a huge investment in time or materials.
The Melba Flower Basket is an ideal quick project for experimenting with color, print and texture.

I've made the Melba Flower Basket [pattern from The Textile Pantry] many times over the years. Recently, I pulled a variety of quilting cottons, batiks, digital prints and yarn-dyed textured wovens to do studies with color, pattern and texture... and crank out a few little fabric baskets in the process.

Fabric Studies
On occasion, quilting teachers and quilt shop owners hear this question, "Can I mix _____ (batiks, wovens... you fill in the blank) with cotton fabrics?"

The answer is: "YES!" ... and these small projects are ideal for experimenting with this concept.
Selecting and pairing fabrics for the flower baskets.

Actually, many different fabrics can be used together in quilts, garments, home dec and other items. Currently, there is a trend out there where quilters are intentionally incorporating recycled clothing in their pieces. This is not a new idea, however, as generations past have applied a "make do" concept to prolong the life of textiles or for economical or emotional reasons. 

When mixing different fabrics in a single project, the maker should be aware of each fabric's properties and its fiber content so the proper tools (needles, threads, cutting tools) are used, and what stitches, machine settings and care instructions are ideal for working with and caring for these fabrics (especially if a project incorporates several different fabric types).

Fabric pairing study.

The basket (below left) is an example of combining a digital print [P&B Textiles] with a Stonehenge blender [Northcott Fabrics]. The other basket (right) combines an Australian aboriginal design [M&S Textiles Australia] with two yarn-dyed wovens [Diamond Textiles].

Left: a digitally printed fabric with a cotton blender.
Right: Aboriginal print with yarn-dyed textured wovens.

Two different textured yarn-dyed cottons were used for the outside of this basket.
Two yarn-dyed textured cottons are used for the outside of this basket.

Half Square Triangle Bonus!
A bonus of making the Melba Flower Basket is the triangles that are generated while cutting the fabric pieces for the baskets. This is another opportunity for a fabric study.
Fabric trimmings.

NOTE: the Bloc-Loc HST ruler tool is very handy for squaring up these HST [half square triangle] units.
Half square triangle units [HSTs] trimmed using the Bloc-Loc ruler tool

What to do with fabric baskets? 
I hope you give the Melba Flower Basket project (or another quick project) a try and experiment with different fabrics. Studies in color and pattern will build your color confidence and help in your understanding of what does or does not work for a project. Experimenting with a variety of fabric substrates—batiks, yarn-dyed, denim, rayon, etc.—will improve skill mastery and expedite the process with larger projects.

And, what can you do with your new fabric baskets?
Fill fabric baskets with Fat Quarters or other sewing notions.

Fill them, use them, or give them away!

Fill the baskets with sweet treats—or even doggie treats—and give them as gifts!

They make sweet, thoughtful gifts.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Quilting Inspiration from the Old [and New] Masters

Following on the heels of my quilt guild's Challenge exhibit, I was extremely fortunate to have an opportunity to visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky. If you're looking for inspiration, go see a quilt exhibit... or visit a museum—especially one focused on the fiber arts!

"Vases with Fruit" by Jane Dunnewold
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

Exhibits at the National Quilt Museum
There are always several concurrent exhibits at the National Quilt Museum. This time, the pieces included contemporary quilts and art quilts [a Studio Art Quilt Associate (SAQA) 25th anniversary trunk show], vintage quilts, miniatures and a Quilts of Valor—50 State Salute to Old Glory patriotic collection. Some quilts were by current quilt artists, some by renowned quiltmakers no longer with us, and some resurrected quilt tops by anonymous quiltmakers were finished by 21st century quilters [from the Old Glory collection curated Mary Kerr]. All the quilts were amazing and the exhibits were impeccably displayed.

A New Master is inspired by the Old Masters
As I wandered through the exhibits, I came upon the museum's "The Corner Gallery" exhibit. The bold colors, complementary color scheme, and a somewhat "painterly" look of one of the front-facing pieces caught my eye. As I approached, it became apparent the piece was mixed media, collaged and incorporated vintage textiles and needlework. Then I saw the placard... the artist was Jane Dunnewold!

Having taken a workshop with Jane in 2018, I was thrilled when I saw she was the artist featured in this exhibit! The exhibit is called, "Inspired by the Masters—Jane Dunnewold."

There are 14 pieces in this exhibit. Going from piece to piece, things clicked for me. I saw and was reminded of all the techniques Jane shared with the workshop participants through our week-long experience with her. In this exhibit, Jane cohesively blends multiple techniques and materials into beautiful, thoughtful and playful compositions that are inspired by works of the Masters—such as Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo and Mary Cassatt.

Mixed Media with Vintage Needlework
My favorite part of these pieces was the incorporation of the vintage needlepoint, hand embroideries and miscellaneous hand stitched pieces by "anonymous" needlewomen. I am a rescuer of vintage needlework and have a small collection of embroidered dresser scarves, pillow cases, orphan quilt blocks and the like. Do you see the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt blocks in this piece?
"Grandmother Matisse's Flower Garden" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

Detail: "Grandmother Matisse's Flower Garden" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

 These are details of "Vases with Fruit," shown above.
Detail: "Vases with Fruit" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

The filet crocheted edging is left to dangle freely from the table and beyond the edge of the composition.
Detail: "Vases with Fruit" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

The vintage textiles are seamlessly blended with the painted areas. It's difficult to see where one starts and the other stops.
"View of the Harbor" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

Sometimes Jane uses hand stitching to bridge different elements
Detail: "View of the Harbor" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

The "Still Life with Cat" incorporates a needlework canvas with longer, bargello-like stitches.
"Still Life with Cat" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

Detail: "Still Life with Cat" by Jane Dunnewold.
"Inspired by the Masters" exhibit #nationalquiltmuseum

In Jane's artist's statement, she describes herself as "the bridge between fine art and craft—linking them inextricably together in a dance of old and new—paint, thread and intention." In the list of materials, she includes, "Techniques are all my own—based on 25 years of fidgeting, fudging and making do."

Jane's work is truly inspirational!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Guild Challenge: Tear, weave, quilt, applique, electrify!

Battery holders, alligator clips and LEDs may not seem like the traditional tools or materials used in quiltmaking... but with the technology advancements in soft circuits, it's very feasible to add electronics to quilts, wearables and other fiber art. I did!
Alligator clips and test leads hooked up to a battery and soft switch on my Challenge quilt.

My latest quilt, A Light Touch, was created in response to my guild's Challenge this year and it incorporates electronics along with traditional quilting materials such as cotton batiks, threads and batting. This is an overview of my process.
A Light Touch.
2019 Choo Choo Quilters Guild Challenge.
18" x 23"

Guild Challenge Parameters

As with all Guild Challenges, participants in the Choo Choo Quilters 2019 Guild Challenge were given certain parameters or guidelines to follow when creating a submission. Through a round robin fabric swap, participants received a total of one yard batik fabrics—7 different batiks in various sizes. A bit of each fabric had to be used in the final piece.
Seven batik fabrics required for the Challenge.

The Challenge was issued at the February guild meeting, and my thoughts were about creating something that was dimensional and had an unexpected element to it. My impetus was to employ aspects of a mixed media workshop with Michael Brennand-Wood I attended in June, but I must have also been influenced by samples I made for a Art Weave class I taught in March.
Weaving the top.
Since the original batik fabric pieces were torn, I continued with the frayed edge concept and continued tearing the fabrics into strips approximately 3/4" wide. My fabrics had a good range of values—lights, mediums and darks—so the plan was to create a woven gradation of color. Sometimes smaller strips were sewn together to get the needed length for weaving.

Preparing the Quilt Sandwich
After weaving the top, I had to figure out a way to keep the woven strips in place. The quilting would solve this. A variety of variegated threads [40 wt. and 50 wt. cotton] were chosen in colors to complement the light and dark areas of the weaving.
Auditioning thread colors for free-motion quilting.
A piece of batting was cut to the size of the woven top. The backing fabric was wrapped around the edges of the batting to enclose them and give the piece a finished look.
Batting enclosed with the backing fabric.
This batting/backing piece was layered with the woven top and pin basted.
Top, batting and backing pin basted.
The sandwich was free-motion machine quilted.
Free-motion quilting.

There was still one more fabric to incorporate—this orange batik with the circle motifs.
The final fabric to incorporate into my Challenge piece.
I anticipated appliquéing the circle motifs to the quilt top. In keeping with the torn edges of the woven strips, the edges of the applliquéd circles were pinked. Extra batting was stuffed under the appliqué shapes for a trapunto effect (satisfying the idea of a dimensional piece).

But I still wanted to push this piece to another level... This is when the idea to add electronics surfaced.

Adding Electronics
The circle motifs seemed an ideal place for LEDs (light emitting diodes). I had six appliqués to work with:

  • perhaps two or four could light up with LEDs,
  • maybe all of them would light up... 
  • maybe they could blink... 
  • could a switch be incorporated? 
It was getting more intricate... but it was exciting and I didn't want to give in... Once I entered the Wonderland of electronics, it was like going down the rabbit hole with Alice.

Appliqué motifs pinned in place.

Interactivity and Soft Switches
Thinking it would be *cool* to make the piece interactive, I was challenged with making a soft switch. Activating a switch (pushing a button or flipping a switch) would close the circuit and make the LEDs illuminate. It might be interesting if one switch illuminated two LEDs and another switch lit up the other two. Was I making this too complex?

The next step was to devise the schematic of the circuit—with 4 LEDs, 2 switches and the battery (power source)—to see if my plan could be executed. The composition and placement of the appliqué circles needed to be preserved, so I had to figure out the best placement of the power source and the traces (connections and paths for the electricity). I enlisted advice from friend and fiber artist, Geri Forkner, about the circuits and placement of the electronics. Geri has done extensive work with soft circuits and incorporating electronics in her weaving and felting art. [Thanks for your guidance and advice on this piece, Geri!]
Drawings of the circuit schematic.

Although aluminum foil could be used for the switch, with a week before the deadline, I found conductive fabric online and ordered it. Sewing with the conductive fabric was a better solution than adhering aluminum foil to the batik fabric. 
Testing the switch.
The soft switch was first tested with the alligator test leads and a battery. It worked well.
The LED lights when the switch is engaged.

LEDs were inserted into four of the trapunto appliqués. Two of the appliqués were un-stitched to incorporate the new soft switches. Actual buttons were stitched to these two circles (so viewers could "push a button"... get it?) . Then, conductive thread was used to hand sew the circuits (from the back of the piece). All circuits were go!
Button switches.

Do you push buttons?
Usually, educated viewers respect quilts and fiber art pieces and do not touch them when they are on exhibit. For the Challenge display at the guild meeting, however, I added a "Do you push buttons?" sign to encourage interaction with my piece. 
Viewer interaction at the Challenge exhibit. 

During our guild's Challenge Reveal, each quiltmaker gives a brief explanation of their piece. I talked about the LEDs, the coin battery, and stitching with the conductive thread (some people think wires are used). For me, determining the circuit and stitching the electronic components took more thought and time than making the quilt itself. 

But, this is what a Guild Challenge is all about: trying something different, expanding your skills and stretching your abilities.
Label for "A Light Touch."

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