Monday, December 22, 2014




Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my faithful readers.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Finding Designs

I design my own quilts.  Have you ever tried it?  Of course you have.  You may have used a published pattern, but if you chose your own color palette you have taken a baby step into designing.   There are many ways to design, but here are a few:

*Try mixing two standard blocks.  It is amazing what you can come up with.

*Use a one or more of a familiar block and place them creatively in space.

*Add something new and different to your block.

*Make a grid of triangles on paper and fill them in with color.  See what designs you can create.  Substitute fabrics for the colors.

*Try appliqué.  There are tons of ways to use almost any beautiful shape.

Look around you and see the designs in your environment: flowers, clouds, fences, trees, leaves, wrought iron gates, houses, wildlife, floors, rugs, wallpaper, etc.  What tools do you need?  Only pencil and paper, a sprinkle of imagination, and a pinch of inspiration.  Optional aids might be the computer and crayons or colored pencils.

I had the wonderful good fortune to take a cruise through the Mediterranean in 2009.  Every surface is heavily decorated in the whole region from southern Italy to North Africa.  There are mosaics, sculptures, frescos, paintings and architecture.  Magnificent!  I took many pictures that now reside in the quilting folder on my computer for reference, and I look at them often.  Here are some examples:

Mosaic for patchwork and border
Overall plan for a quilt.

Love the black and white detail. 
I have incorporated the black and white arch idea in the quilt I am currently working on.

Black and white and Pumpkin Seed
Look at that background.  It is a beautiful, popular FMQ design.

A bowl - whole cloth or appliqué
Mosaic compass with extras

A door with FMQ designs
Look at other peoples' work as well, but find your own way.  It is not cool to just copy someone else's designs precisely unless you buy their pattern or take their class.  You can use elements from different sources and put them together in your own way.  Caveat:  Don't mistake my meaning here.  You can learn a lot by taking a class, but take that new technique or idea home and incorporate it into your own creations.

My greatest leap into quilt design came from doing Rhapsody quilts (Ricky Tims) and Spiral quilts (RaNae Merrill).  When you design you truly start from scratch and end up with something that is uniquely yours.  It does not provide instant gratification, but it is so much fun.

TIP:  Reach out, stretch your intellect, try something new.  Grow.  You may not think you are an artist now, but you can become one.  It is up to you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What's Next?

Contemplate. I am always thinking about what project to do next.  I sew for a couple of hours almost every day, but get worn out sometimes doing tedious tasks.  Don't get me wrong I LOVE to sew, but my body and my brain become fatigued and mistakes ensue.  That is when I go back to my computer and work on painting, genealogy, and often on new designs.  I hate to be without something percolating in my future.  My previous post related a problem in one of my designs.  I got lots of comments and ideas on that post and everyone who participated can be sure that their suggestions have been added to the box in my brain.  Thank you for taking the time to share.

At the moment I am quilting an intricate quilt with lots of different quilting designs and a lot of stitching-in-the-ditch.  I often find my dulled mind pondering new ideas or solving problems or thinking about what to get the grandchildren for Christmas.  Yes, it sometimes is mind numbing, but the results are so thrilling when they turn out right...not so much when they have to be ripped out.

There are times when you need a good seam ripper and here is my very special one.  My daughter and her husband gave this to me.  They made it from wood and purchased innards, shaping it on a lathe, and applying a beautiful finish.  I love it.  It fits my hand like a pencil and the business end is longer and sharper than any I have ever purchased.  No clunky, monster handle.  No tiny implement to cramp my fingers.  No covering top to get lost or broken  The upper photo shows my ripper closed.  Pull the silver top off, turn it around, push it into the handle, and there is the ripper.

My special seam ripper.
TIP:  Do you get numbed by the repetitive tasks of quilt making?  That is part of the process and can help relax your mind if you let it do so.  I love to count and stack the pieces I've sewed or admire the parts I have quilted.  It is a self-esteem booster to watch a product grow to completion.  Get up and move around for a minute and get a glass of water.  Embrace the occasional tedium and recognize how much you are accomplishing.

Ruminate.  One of the emerging designs that crawls around the edges of my mind is a flower.  Specifically, a wild Gaillardia, also called Indian Blanket.  I was desperate to take a photo so, in lieu of anything else suitable, I honed in on this poor blossom that was coming to the end of its beauty.  The photo turned out to be particularly appealing to me.  I want to make a quilt from it and will try painting with pencils, ink or thread to bring it alive.   It won't be large and I still have to audition production possibilities.  I  haven't even looked at fabric yet.

Dancing Gaillardia
Cogitate.  Last weekend I bought Lea McComas' just-released book on thread painting faces so I sat down and did the preliminary tasks for creating a design for a quilt of my dog.  We'll see if that one works out.  I never start a new concept with something simple.  Oh well...I am what I am.

Reflect.  I have another spiral with a Native American theme that I am eager to do, but it is pretty big and since my present quilt is large and ungainly, I am in the mood to do some smaller projects.

Deliberate.  Then there is that whole cloth quilt to be done from a design on an antique plate.

I don't think I will worry anymore about what to work on next.  It will depend on my mood.  Maybe I will start more than one!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Design Flaw

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.  I think all that turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie gave me a case of Blogger's Block.  I also have a case of Designer's Block.  Well not exactly, but I ran into a problem I haven't solved yet.  I played around with a spiral design by skewing it in Illustrator.  Is that fun, or what?  I came up with the following plan for a 48 x 48 inch quilt with lots of room for magnificent FMQ.  Not so bad.  Then I started breaking it up into the pattern pieces that will be needed to make the quilt.

Roman Candle
See the part that runs from the center ending in a paddle with red and blue? It is made up of two long, skinny triangles, mirror images of each other.   Well, I isolated that triangle in Illustrator and it is about 24 inches long!  Oooops!  Design flaw.  How on earth am I going to print a paper piecing pattern on 8.5 x 11 inch paper?
Recalcitrant fan or paddle piece.
*Can I glue pieces of paper together with washable glue?  I don't have any Paper Solvy on hand to try it.

*Can I tape two pieces together?  I am reluctant to to do that because of increased bulk and sticky on the needle.

*How about tracing it onto freezer paper?  I worry that some of the points are too narrow to do it that way.

*The best idea I have come up with is to trace it by hand on Golden Threads tissue, which comes in a roll.  I haven't used it for paper piecing and I am afraid it is too thin to put through my printer (worth a try though).  Maybe tracing paper?

*Of course, I can always redesign that portion of the pattern.  Last resort!

Now is the time to incubate the problem and let the ideas percolate as I walk the dog, practice the piano, cook dinner, sleep at night, work on the current UFO.   Finally, I will sample some of the possible solutions.  I also welcome any ideas from you, my readers.