August 29, 2014

Fabric Play

The end of summer . . . I used to think that by the time my kids were done with school the end of summer wouldn't be so full of angst. You know the feeling. How can it be over already? What about all those summer plans? Even with grown kids I still feel the same way. How can it be over? I had lots of plans and ideas and didn't get half of them done. All the more reason to refocus and get busy.

Entry deadlines are coming up for QuiltCon and since I'm actually going this time I thought it would be fun to enter a couple of quilts. Now to get them done. The main problem is making up my mind which ideas to pursue. Never a shortage of ideas in my studio.  : )  Just an inability to narrow down the choices and get started. Here's a glimpse of the fabrics I've pulled and played with this week.

I did cut and sew several HSTs for an idea I've had for ages. It's so nice seeing it begin to take shape for real. This is just a peek.

I guess it's rather obvious I love cool colors. What are you playing with this week?

August 20, 2014

WIP Wednesday; Color Choices

My primary WIP of the week is to get everything ready for a workshop I'm taking this Saturday taught by Latifah Saafir. It's called Perfect Puddles and is a lovely sampler quilt based on inset circles. Inset circles is something I've wanted to learn for awhile now so this is the perfect opportunity.

Photo from Latifah's Pinterest Board.

She gave us a great handout with instructions on several different patchwork designs to choose from for the circle centers. Each circle uses a different patchwork method and the finished quilt becomes a patchwork sampler. In my usual way, I wanted to do something a bit different and Latifah was very ok with my plan. Rather than a patchwork sampler, I decided to use a single fabric for each circle and turn the project into a free-motion sampler. I can use all the practice I can get with my free-motion skills and the simplicity of the design seemed like the perfect place for some practice. Here's my plan.

Selecting fabrics is usually the fun part, but of course can also be the challenging part, of designing any quilt. I first considered using an assortment of dotted/striped fabrics from my stash. I thought it would be a fun play on the circle theme. But instead, I decided to stick with solids so I would better see the free-motion quilting I hope to try in each circle and background area. Pulling a good mix of greens was a challenge though. I love green and have several green solids but once I starting pulling colors it became obvious I needed more. Can you believe I found an excuse to buy more fabric?

Here are the colors I plan to take to the workshop. Something to keep in mind when making color choices, especially solids, is that your perception of each color is relative to the other colors surrounding it. There was a point in my selection process when I felt like I didn't have a single green that was green. Of course that wasn't really the case but when you put several greens together they take on all degrees of green interpretation. Some will seem blue, some yellow, some not green at all. I'm taking more colors than I think I'll need and will create pairs of circle/background colors once the circle/rings are done.

Another problem when choosing colors is not pushing the values enough. It's easy to settle into the middle value range but the end result can be flat and mushy. This is totally fine if it's the effect you're after but quite often a quilt will be improved when the values are pushed more. We're comfortable in the middle range and don't notice the lack of contrast until the quilt is done and then feels flat or dull.

For my concept, I plan to keep the rings all the same blue color and I'm quite tempted to use the first blue shown above simply because I like the underlying slight green color. But I don't think it's as dark as it should be to really give the final blocks some punch and contrast. Here's another option that would probably be better. Again I'm going to take both and decide when I start. What do you think?

This will be the first workshop sponsored by our Boulder Modern Quilt Guild and should be a fun time. Latfah will be doing a show and tell and talk afterwards that is open to anyone for a small fee. Check out the guild Facebook page for more info.

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

August 10, 2014

Inspiration in Chihuly

I had the pleasure of visiting the Denver Botanical Gardens this week to see the Chihuly exhibition and it was a most wonderful experience. So much so that I plan to go again before the exhibit ends in November. If you are not familiar with Chihuly's work, please visit his website and learn about this amazing glass artist.

I think natural settings like botanical gardens are the absolute best location for viewing his pieces. The juxtaposition of glass art set amidst the various plant forms is striking to say the least and brings the plants to life in a whole new way. Each piece is carefully placed in such a way that it accentuates or contrasts with the surrounding landscape in a very deliberate way. Nothing seems left to chance. Each composition of glass and plants is both thoughtful and beautiful.

An added bonus was attending in the late afternoon and staying till dark. The glass takes on an even more remarkable quality at night when lit amid the gardens. There is a glow as if each piece is lit from within. I would highly recommend going in the evening so you can get a bit of both the daytime and nighttime experience.. The Denver Botanical Gardens are even having special Chihuly Nights in October and November with extended evening hours and special admission prices.

Here's just a glimpse of both the art and foliage that I found inspiring. In some cases the art is juxtaposed next to plant photos just for fun. I love the similarities of line and shape. Enjoy.

And here is my favorite of all. Monet Pool Fiori placed in the Monet Pool of course. The purple spikes contrasting with the curvy green shapes are absolutely beautiful. Love the reflections.

Visiting any botanical garden is always inspiring to me. You will most likely find me taking close-up after close-up of as many different leaf patterns as I can find. No surprise there is it? Leaves make me happy and I'm also happy to report my daughter has the same addiction. It's quite interesting to compare photos after we get home to see the different perspectives we each have. This visit was intended to be all about the art but I managed a very healthy dose of leaf photos as well. Confession . . I actually used all the available memory on my camera and couldn't take any more photos.  : (

Have I convinced you yet to see this exhibit?  I hope so because you definitely will be inspired.

August 8, 2014

Catching Up, Getting Ahead

July was simply non existent around here in so many ways. I didn't blog, I didn't read many blogs, I didn't even sew much other than what had to be done. It wasn't a planned absence . . . but perhaps I needed the break. As of today, I've cleaned the studio, gotten a few things organized and am ready to jump back in. A workshop with Latifah Saafir is coming up in a couple of weeks. Technical issues on my patterns need to be solved, a submission needs to get written up and new designs are just waiting to become new quilts. One of those ideas just might involve these beautiful Kaffe blues. I have soooo many ideas. Wish I could just do them all.

I'm also embarrassed to say that since joining two bees I have become the queen of procrastination. ok ok, I was already a procrastinator, the bee commitment just amplified the bad habit. Sigh . . . .

Almost without fail, I have waited until the very end of the month to get my blocks done. My only excuse is that I wanted to see what other bee members were doing before making mine so I wouldn't use the "wrong" fabric. We work from our stash in the Mid Century Modern Bee and I wanted to be sure my choices weren't too far off. In the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild bee, the fabric is provided, so I can't really use that excuse.

Anyhoo, this past month things really slipped as I didn't even get my block for Suz done in the month it was due . . . it was due in July and needed mailing to Australia. I finally buckled down and not only caught up but got ahead of the game. Feels soooo good to have both July and now August blocks done. WaHoo!!!!  Here they are.

Mid Century Modern Bee blocks:
The first one was for Suz of Patchwork 'n Play. She originally didn't want us to make anything for her since she was on holiday and wanted to give the rest of us a month off for the summer. (I took the month off anyway Suz) We talked her out of it so she asked for a star block of our choice in solids with a black background. I think she's going to have a very Amish style quilt when all the star blocks come together. I chose the Martha Washington Star and used this tutorial to make the 12" block.

These sweet little blocks are for Mary of Molly Flanders.  Super simple HST units yet very fun when lots of prints are brought together. Mary wanted scrappy prints with light shades of blush in the background to set them off. Of course I had to throw in a touch of Kaffe. I work a bit of his prints into every bee block I can as a little reflection of me and my style.

Boulder Modern Quilt Guild Bee blocks:
Various log cabin blocks for Cynthia using the blues, grays and greens she provided along with a few of my own fabrics. I love the unusual fabric prints in the mix. She dyes and prints a lot of her own fabric and they have a wonderful look.

Next came a scrappy cross done for Denise of Every Hour Here. Denise is the queen of I Spy quilts which she makes on a commission basis so the scrappy style is so her. She's also a master scrapbooker and blogs about Project Life on her blog.

These off center log cabin blocks in solid yellow and gray are for Amanda. They aren't really due till September since we have no August sew day. Feels really good to have these done so early.

Well, that about does it. It feels so good to know I'm caught up and even ahead for this month. They have even been mailed.

My months are coming up in Sept and October for both bees so I think I'll have both groups do the same block and capitalize on getting more blocks for the bang. The hard part is deciding what to have everyone do.

If you do bees, do you have a hard time choosing a block? I have several ideas but can't decide. Time to narrow it down and make a choice. But I'll probably procrastinate that too . . .  : )

Adding my link to Amandajean's Finish it Up Friday.
Something went crazy with the Bloglovin link that I can't fix. I'm really not trying to beat you over the head to become a follower. Promise.

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August 1, 2014

Four-in-Art Challenge #4; Urban Contrast

Time for yet another reveal in the Four-in-Art Urban series. This quarter it was my turn to choose the topic within the overall urban theme. I must admit when urban was selected as the year's theme my first thought was what will I do? I'm a small town girl. Cities have always seemed like such a contrast to what I am used to and what I am comfortable with. So it just seemed appropriate to choose contrast as the topic for this quarter. Urban Contrast.

When I go to a big city I am always struck by how things contrast so much with what I'm most familiar with. I'm also struck by the contrast within the city itself.
  • Noisy vs quiet
  • Big vs small
  • Man-made vs natural
  • Fast vs slow
  • Differences in social/economic status

Here are some photos I took in Houston least fall while at Quilt Market. These images became the point of origin for my Contrast concept.

I fell in love with the trees in Houston. Such wonderful huge trees with branches spreading everywhere. The contrast between the trees and the buildings was beautiful. The trees made me feel at home amid the vast concrete urban environment. I much prefer a natural jungle over a concrete one. (Although I don't much like the humidity of a real live jungle. Been there in Belize and Guatemala and sweated way too much if you know what I mean.)

The contrast of the rigid concrete building and it's strong repetitive linear structure offset by the fluid lines of the tree was the perfect example of Urban Contrast for my mini. The contrast of man-made vs nature. Rigid and straight vs organic and curved. Perfect. 

I started by creating the building as my base. I wanted to mimic the strong vertical lines of the building in the photo. Two shades of cool gray plus a cool blue gray where used to keep the building rather cold and austere. Once it was pieced, I layered the top, backing and batting, stitched around the outer edge leaving an opening and then turned the whole thing right sides out. Then the opening was hand sewn closed. I chose this method over traditional binding because I wanted to allude to the building continuing beyond the actual frame. I quilted vertical lines in the ditch between all rows.

This became the foundation for the rest of my concept . . . the natural aspect with free form branches and leaves. The next step also became the hardest part for me. I know what I'm doing with a grid and structure but find myself less sure and less skilled at knowing how to achieve my vision when it comes to improv. I started by fusing brown fabric and cutting free form branches based on a loose sketch to get the scale and shape of the tree right. Even this wasn't easy for me. I wanted to draw it out precisely and then cut. Once I had the main trunk and a few branches cut, I tried various arrangements. Here is one of several I tried.

Next came figuring out how to create the leafy areas of the tree. I knew I wanted to add individual leaves as the final element but felt I needed to create clumps of color to indicate the mass of green areas before individual leaves were added. I tried cutting free form pieces of tulle in two different shades of green but once they were sewn on it was obvious this wasn't what I was after. Out came the ripper . . . away went the tulle.

Searching through my scrap bins, I grabbed a leafy green print and cut a large leaf shape. This seemed more like what I wanted. I used a darker leafy print for the base and added a few lighter ones here and there for highlights. I tried so hard to avoid the leaf shape for this underlying part of the tree only to find it was just right after all. Many times going against the obvious solution works and leads to better, more creative results . . . other times the obvious answer is the best after all.

Once the foundation leaves were positioned, I fused them and the branches in place and free motion quilted each one around the edges. Then medium sized leaves were positioned and quilted in the same way. These leaves were brighter in color and from a Kaffe print, a less traditional fabric than the larger leaves. The final layer was an even smaller leaf in an even brighter more modern print. These were stitched to allow the edges to be a bit more loose than the others and curl up. Here are the fabrics I used and a close up of all the leafy layers.

That was the process . . . now here's the end result. I'm quite happy with how it all turned out. Perhaps my favorite so far in this series. I haven't come up with a name yet. Any ideas?

As I worked on this project I came to realize the concept of Contrasts was at play not only within the Urban theme but also symbolically within my own quilting journey. 

  • I am a structured quilter. I rarely do improv or free form quilt designs. Planning and working with predetermined pieces and parts is more within my comfort zone and style. The building perfectly illustrates this love of structure and form.
  • The tree symbolizes the type of quilting I'd like to explore more . . . a looser more free style that I admire in art quilts. Perhaps my inner artist is breaking out a little.
  • The fabric choices also represent my journey from traditional to modern prints and solids. There was a time when I didn't own a solid and never envisioned using them let alone featuring them in a quilt. My fabric preferences have changed a lot in the past few years but I still love large scale Kaffe prints the most. 

I hope you've enjoyed my Urban series. You can see the first three quilts following these links:

There will be one more round in our Urban series and then we'll start the new year with a brand new direction. The quilters in this little group are all so very talented. It's a joy to see how they interpret each new theme. Follow the links below to see their work.

Amanda  at
Betty at a Flickr site:
Elizabeth at
Leanne at

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