Last week found me sick, distracted, and stuck, and so I did not post. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, with the kids home and all, it was that I couldn’t stand to hear myself. Today my need to show up outweighs the need to feel presentable (and I DO feel better!).
These three ‘sketch’ quilts were made over the last two weeks. The Journal Quilt on the far right did not start out as a house, but once I put the windows on there was no going back.
Journal Quilt Feb 15, 09
The thing I like most about this quilt is not the final result, but the way the cotton batting took the needle as I hand-quilted the background. So often, I am quilting through four, five, six layers of fabric, one of which is drapery weight, with poly batting (almost necessitating pliers!), so I want to remember how smooth and easy this was for future projects. Also, I dyed the muslin in coffee and the aged look is nice. The house I can take or leave, mostly leave. Perhaps the slumping roof expresses the time of year and the wish to get out of town while staying home. For future projects, I also want to explore using that silk of the roof for ‘drawing’ a fish — I can just make out the beginnings of a large Pacific salmon in a leaping arc there.
I seem unable, however, to generate any polar bear that I can stand to incorporate into the kitchen table quilt. The bottom is nearly done, and the top, still waiting. I experimented, unsuccessfully, with printing onto lutrador, and also tried using oil pastels on fabric.
If I am going to include this in the quilts that will be showing at the Arsenal Center for the Arts starting Friday, I’ve got to hustle. Or jettison the idea of a polar bear altogether!
Try mixing in polar fleece if you are working with wool felt. It is much cheaper and can add interest with patterns and shadings. It is just as forgiving as felt to sew. In the flower mounted on linen pictured above, all the purples and grey are wool and everything else is fleece. The two-toned leaves were cut from a striped pattern in fleece.
Recycling wrongly-shrunk sweaters and felting thrift store finds are two other good sources of wool felt. Be sure a second hand purchase is 80 to 90% wool if you plan to felt it, and use hot water in the wash. I recently bought Betz White‘s book, “Warm Fuzzies” for some great ideas on using felt — the wool cupcakes are especially fun! She has a blog and a website, as well.
In the selection of fabric jewelry above, the black is a cut-up sweater and the soft purple (dotted with a gold-silk-covered button) was a wool, tailored jacket. Jackets, I have decided, especially if lined, may not be worth the work required to cut them up (they tend to cost more than sweaters and the panels of wool uninterrupted by seams are smaller).
It is amazing how many New England quilters resort to hot colors and tropical, summery prints in their winter work. The view out of our kitchen windowsill and recently hung quilt demonstrate the contrast.
Martha's Vineyard Tile (quilt, 13 1/2" x 14")
Red as Neutral, Uglies, and Rogue Fabrics
Three of the best fabric tips I can pass along are as follows:
Treat red as a neutral,
Buy ugly fabric, and
Include rogues in your work.
A guest speaker at a meeting of the Quilter’s Connection (a guild that now meets in Watertown, MA) offered the first tip, and I think I heard people gasp. I didn’t believe it at the time, but subsequent experience has proven her right. (If I track down who said this, I promise to come back and give her credit).
Ruth McDowell, quilter, writer and teacher extraordinaire, offered the second tip. To look at her quilts is to be astonished by the fabric combinations, so I have followed this advice ever since (especially since I can’t/won’t ever be able to piece the way she does!). I actually don’t have to work too hard at this because I am a scavenger at heart and all kinds of fabric comes my way that I haven’t consciously selected. The point is, though, you never know when some repulsive print in colors you abhor is going to be THE right touch.
The last tip is mine, though I have to say it was exalted by the Gee’s Bend quilters long before I ever started quilting. A rogue is a vagrant, a scoundrel or a mischief-maker. A rogue animal is one that misbehaves. So, to include fabrics that aren’t quite part of the plan, or don’t quite look like they belong, is to follow the rogue rule. (I suppose it is a corollary to the ‘buy ugly’ rule – and meant to expand one’s choices). And, by the way, even if one is an ‘improv quilter’, one can follow this rule by selecting a piece of fabric that is not in the picking pile.
Below is a quilt where the red serves as a neutral rather than as an accent and the black is a rogue, although I’ll admit I’ve used black as a rogue often enough that it has become formulaic — and certainly, a formula cannot be a rogue!!
K's 2007 Christmas blanket
Supplies and Goodbyes
One of the great things about being a quilter is that when people have fabric to unload, they think of you. It is only recently that I have begun to say ‘no’ because of space. Today, I received the most gorgeous selection of fabrics from a friend returning to Japan that I am humbled — not just at her generosity and the exquisite quality of the fabrics, but at the whole notion of abundance. With the economic news so uniformly and unrelentingly negative, how lovely to receive this bundle!! Good luck Yoko!! I don’t think I will be able to cut the silk obis, but if I do, some creation will be packaged and sent to Japan.
Clearly, being open to receiving whatever fabric comes your way doesn’t just expand your palette (and sometimes help satisfy the Ugly Rule), it can also open you to treasure!