AHIQ – Summer’s End Quilt

In my last post, a Sentimental Journey, I filled you in on what’s been happening in my life the past few months. I had sketched a pretty good (for me) version of a wilting sunflower, and had an idea how to translate it into fabric. Once home, I decided to do an improv-pieced background and place my sunflower image on top of it. It turns out that the background I came up with was, actually, composed of two different improv ‘blocks’.

For the upper part of the background, the ‘sky’ I used strip piecing similar to a couple of earlier projects. I hand cut strips in a more or less consistent width, then stitch them end to end, in a fairly random order, then cut them into lengths equal to the width of the piece I need, then stitch them together side by side. For this project I used a variety of commercial fabrics, including some textural prints, and ginghams and shirting plaids, all in shades of blue.

 

For the “ground”, I put together some Sujata-Shah-style stack-and-cut strips of wedge shapes, also using different textures and shirting plaids, this time in brown and gold colors. They represent a late-summer field of dried grass, or corn stalks.

Here is a progress photo of the background piecing.

I sandwiched and quilted the background first, using a few different variegated Sulky threads, in golds, yellows, browns and greens, using a walking foot.

Then, I made a cartoon of my sunflower sketch, enlarged to fit the size of the piece (20″ by 30″) and cut out all the pieces from several hand-dyed fabrics and batiks. These were fused in place, edge-stitched, and embellished with more stitching, some free-motion, some not, in stages building from the background of the image to the front. The last step was to enhance some of the shapes with shadowing. For this I used Derwent Inktense® pencils and a fine-tipped ‘water brush’ to control the amount of water and prevent it spreading beyond the edges where I wanted it to be.  I used facings rather than bindings on the edges, which has become my preferred mode for these little art quilts. It makes a nice, clean edge that hangs flat to the wall.

One disappointment with the finished piece is that although the stitches do not, the lines of the quilting showed through the applique a bit. This is especially noticeable in the photo, though it is not so much in person.  But I am generally pleased with the finished piece. Even though technically, summer has just begun, here is Summer’s End, all done and ready to share. 

Linking up with AHIQ over at Ann’s and Kaja’s.

Thank you for stopping by!

Sue

 

A Sentimental Journey

I see that my last blog post was on March 28, when I posted about the (non) progress of my original “Coin Toss” piecing, and a spinoff of another piece I am working on which I was not ready to share. Around this time, my private life took a bit of a detour, and I took an enforced break from which I am only now returning. But I had been excited about the AHIQ challenge this year, and encouraged by the collegial nature of the group of quilters who are part of it, especially by Ann and Kaja. I have been lurking online, reading all the posts, following your progress, and making the occasional comment. Finally, I am ready to share.

Mom on Mount Tam

On May 10, 2017, I lost my dear mother, my biggest fan, and my best friend. Mom was my most faithful reader. She followed my blog from Day #1, and never failed to read my posts and comment on them, privately, to me, in e-mails or in one of our frequent phone calls. She loved everything I ever made. Here is a picture of her smiling at my camera, on a sunny day in 2015, when I took her for a drive up to the top of Mt. Tamalpais. The little quilt of Mt. Tam (my very first art quilt and the banner on my blog) hung on the wall in her apartment, where she could see it every day from her favorite perch on the sofa. It represented the view from our front room when I was young. It now hangs once again in my studio.

I was privileged to be able to spend the last several weeks living with her. She had enjoyed a very full, and happy life, and was very independent. When she finally decided to ask for our help, there was not much for my two brothers and I to do but just be with her. There was no real illness, only age and weakness. She was mentally present and articulate about being grateful for what she had had, and also about being ready to go when God called her. Her passing was graceful, accepting and peaceful, and her children were with her. One can only hope to come to such an end. We whom she left behind will miss her every day.

***

Earlier in the year, my art quilting group had set a couple of challenges for the membership. The first challenge was “Flowers” and was due in June. I was not excited about making a quilt with a flower theme, but during the time I was staying with Mom, while going through things in the apartment, I came across my Dad’s stash of art supplies. There was a sketchbook, and some oil pastels. I decided to play with them one evening and made a sketch/drawing of an idea I’d had in my head of wilting flowers. I thought about Mom, also wilting, and what kind of flower she would have been. I decided on a sunflower, for several reasons. She was my Mom, thus larger than life to me; she was born at the end of August, in the hot days at the end of summer; and she was a blonde, all the time I was growing up. So I made a sketch of a sunflower, past her prime, in a simmering-hot summer sun. My drawing abilities are not great, but I was pleased with this sketch. I decided it might be a suitable subject for a small art quilt.

I will leave you with the sketch I made, but I will be back for AHIQ to share the quilt that came from it.

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Thanks for sticking with me.

Sue

AHIQ Linkup – And Now, for Something Completely Different

I didn’t mean to bait and switch, but to be honest,coin-toss-black-web the Coin Toss I posted last month is still in  pieces, in a basket, waiting for my return. This happens to me…I got bored with it, and haven’t had the urge to return and finish. I think I’ll probably put it together in the format shown at left. I like the nine patch grid. I like the threes of everything.  I still haven’t decided on a fabric for the background. I the black that I used in the photoshop image, for its graphic quality, but solid black would not work with the shot cottons that make up the rest. I’ll have to go stash-diving, and I am sure that something will come to my attention when the time is right.

However, this does not mean I haven’t been working on anything, when time permits, or that I have abandoned improvisational work. In fact, I keep re-discovering how much I like working this way. Whatever you want to call it, improv, intuitive piecing, liberated piecing, it is a way of working that I really enjoy. I enjoy sitting down with some materials to see what I could make of them; and, that is exactly what improvisation is.

In my art quilt group, Pointless Sisters, we voted on the theme for our next challenge. We got three choices each out of about a dozen. None of my three top picks were the winners. I voted for Boxes, Architecture and something else I can’t recall. The winners were Flowers and Reflections. Flowers will be due in June. There are no restrictions as to size, medium, colors, or anything else. I’m not inspired yet, but no worries, I will cook up some sassy abstract interpretation of a flower, and have something to show.

But I started to think, if I am not inspired by the Coin Toss quilt, and not by the Flower theme, what do I want to do? And I thought about an recurring idea I had been kicking around for a long time. It involves layers, applique and decorative stitching, and more embellishment, and it required me to use my favorite colors. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that’s all of them.

I’ll call it the “mother quilt” for now, though she has a name. The original project generated a lot of strips and smaller scraps, and I was really liking all these colors and patterns together, so I started piecing with the scraps, first thinking they could be the back of the “mother quilt”. By about the second day I looked at what I had hanging on the wall and realized this was a whole new quilt top and much too complicated to be the back of anything. The smaller strips were all about the same length, between 5-7″ and these turned themselves into some chinese coins sets right away. I started piecing around a leftover square from the original, that hadn’t quite made the final cut, and started building an off-set, log-cabin, medallion style, alternating coins with longer strips, and the piece has now grown to about 45″ square. I plan to add additional rounds to bring it to 54″ x 54″ to match the size of the “mother quilt”. Maybe it is a series!

More-Coinage

Linking up with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters at Ann’s and Kaja’s.

Have a great day.

Coin Toss – AHIQ Linkup Better Late than Never!

Well I’ve been a bit derelict on the blogging, but it is because I have been working on my online course with Pixeladies in Photoshop Elements, and working on a new project that is completely different to the chinese coins, on which I will comment another time. Also, as it happens, my art quilt group (of which I am now in charge of running the meetings, since last October) happens to meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month, the same day as Ann and Kaja post the AHIQ linkup.  So with that and other things, it got to be a busy week. But I enjoy the AHIQ challenge, and the community it has created, so I didn’t want to let the month go by without reporting progress. I have not touched the actual piecing I did when I last posted my Chinese coins, but I have used it as a learning tool to see how Photoshop Elements can help me work out quilt designs. I guess that takes it a little bit out of the improv world but it is an alternative way of auditioning changes, layout choices, color schemes and so on, that I have found helpful. So, by arranging, rearranging and generally fiddling around with my quilt pieces on the computer, I have come up with a layout, and decided that I need a darker, contrasting field to set the pieces in, for this quilt. I am posting this planned layout, on a black background. Now I need to search in the stash for the right background fabric that will serve as the sashing (where the black is) because it is obvious to me that stark black isn’t what is required. I’m enjoying reading everyone’s posts this month and very flattered that my goading of KL Rollag bore some fruit. She has been a regular on the Improv Handbook FB page for awhile and I admire her work, and her pluck! I love that I have developed a web of communication that reaches around the globe. I wish we could all get together for a cup of tea some day, and a good yack!

Here’s my chosen layout for the Coin Toss.

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Linking up with AHIQ, this Fourth day of March, Two Thousand and Seventeen.

Coin Toss 1 – My Three Cents’ Worth

This morning, the sun is shining in Sonoma County for the first time in a number of days. It has been a long beginning of the year here, with lots and lots of rain, wind, trees down, power outages, mudslides, potholes, road closures and flooding, after several drought years during which we all forgot that these things happen. It will be nice to dry out a bit. Perhaps we will get in a hike tomorrow, while the sun still shines!

With my morning coffee, I enjoyed  Ann’s post about the beginnings of her Chinese Coins project. I’ve also gotten started on the AHIQ challenge involving Chinese Coins. In keeping with my promise to myself to limit myself to only materials on hand, I chose a set of various colored shot cottons I’ve had sitting around for awhile now. This fabric is quite a bit lighter weight than most of the quilting cottons I have been working with, and it occurred to me it would be a good material to use for some hand-quilting practice, so that is part of the present plan. I find myself in need of a “slow sewing” project.

I started thinking about stacks of coins, and how in traditional Chinese or Roman Coins quilts the stacks are very regular and straight, and the coins usually of a uniform size. But this is AHIQ, and I imagined my stacks as sort of irregular and wobbly.  I chose five colors for the coins, and found I had plenty of the sort of gray-beige neutral (I think it was called “mushroom”) to use for the background/negative space relief. First off, I made some wide strip sets, each with a color in the middle and background on the sides, and cross-cut them to make the individual coins. I eyeballed the measurements, so the coins would be variable in size. I sorted all the strips into three piles of equal numbers of strips, trying to distribute the colors fairly evenly. Then I stitched them together more or less randomly into three stacks. I say more or less, because I did not allow two adjacent coins to be the same color, and I began and ended each stack with colors different from each of the others.

stacks

old-ccWhile I was sewing them together, I kept thinking about actual Chinese coins and how I always liked the shape of them. I have some on top of an old sewing basket that I’ve had since the 1970s. When the wobbly coin stacks were done, I proceeded to make three blocks with this coin shape.

3-coins

These are fused applique, with the edges turned under. I would like to add some Chinese characters like the ones on my actual coins, and am thinking how I might do that. Now, these three coins made my thoughts turn to all the meanings of coins; coin toss to decide a question; three coins in the fountain; small change; changes. This led me to thinking how three coins are thrown to generate the hexagrams of the iChing oracle. I formulated a question and threw three coins, three times, resulting in the three hexagrams, and made a block representing each of these.hexagrams

This is where I came to a stop, and turned to another project that was needing to be done. All these parts are hanging on my wall, where I see them every day, and I am waiting for them to tell me how they want to be arranged.

Butterflies in January?

Ann at Fret Not Yourself put up the link for Kaleidoscope of Butterflies and that gives me an excuse for a somewhat, but mostly not related post.

After a year of doing the weekly Made on Monday challenge, I found I was ready for a change of pace. Right now, there are a lot of people doing daily art, daily writing, or one thing or another on a regular routine basis. It’s very popular and arguably good advice for people who want to improve their art. As much as I enjoyed the MoM challenge, and as proud as I am of myself that I completed the whole year (and then some), I also chafed at the restraint more than once along the way.

And I’ve tried doing a sketch a day in my sketchbook, but darn it, I just don’t always want to. Same with keeping a journal, which I have attempted on and off since college.  I never developed that habit despite the fact it’s been in vogue for most of my adult life.

I follow Kathleen Loomis’ blog Art with a Needle, and have enjoyed her daily art adventures very much, but none of them are particularly in my wheelhouse. However, early in January, she did a post about an online class in Photoshop Elements, which is a program I have been itching to obtain and learn. I love taking photographs and even more I love messing with them. So, I checked out the web site for the course at The Pixeladies. This is a course in the basics of PSE, but with a focus for quilters (or really any other artists). What a blast! I like the platform, and the instruction is complete, clear and do-able, in small chunks. I am already beginning to see how I might be able to use PSE to create my own fabrics, thence my own unique quilts.

We learned how to do some very useful things, in the way of correcting deficiencies in the photos, adjusting light and contrast, straightening horizons, improving sharpness. But it’s the random surprising results you can get by combining filters and adjustments that is really fun for me. I made a nine patch out of a screen grab of some Kaffe Fassett stripes fabric:kaffe-stripes-1

I practiced adding quilting lines to a work in progress that’s not yet ready for prime time. I created a layer that was just some design lines based on an underlying photograph that I have been contemplating rendering in cloth.

I posterized my cat, Beastie!

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And for my final exam, I worked up three different versions of a very bad-looking photo I took of 100 shell buttons arranged on my cutting mat.

buttons-for-web buttons-ink-outlines button-grid-glass-blocks-with-distortion buttons-cutout-abstract

I like that last one best by far. I’m enrolled for the PSE Essentials II course and am looking forward to that. There is so much packed into this program that I would never have figured it out for myself, given a million years of trial and error (which is how I usually learn new programs). So I’m stoked and thankful to Kathleen Loomis for the hot tip – this is actually something I might do on a regular basis (but maybe not daily).

And finally, did someone mention butterflies? Here’s one of the images I produced during this course, from a photo I took some years ago of an almost ubiquitous butterfly in Costa Rica called the Banded Peacock.

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LInking up with Kaleidoscope of Butterflies! Happy Groundhog Day!

 

AHIQ 2017 – Game On!

A little tardy with this linkup, but once the seasonal festivities were behind us we were overtaken by the seasonal cold or flu – yes, in spite of flu shots. The fun never ends! I did decide to finish the small piece I posted about last time, Abbott’s Lagoon. I am trying to overcome my fear of free-motion quilting, fully realizing that the only way to learn it is to do it, so I just jumped in. I did some quilting, then some more quilting, then some free-motion embroidery for good measure, and finally laid it on the table and colored in some enhancements with water-soluble oil pastels and some dye sticks.

On Tuesday, when Ann and Kaja posted the AHIQ linkup, I was busy, but eventually got to reading it and was very honored to find that Ann had cited my little quilt as an example of one kind of “chinese coins”. That is part of the AHIQ game plan for this first few months of 2017. Then, I went on to Pinterest (which I have neglected for some time) and searched more chinese coin quilts and what do you know, there was me!

So, though I have nothing else new to show for January, I will just post this finished piece and link up with AHIQ…and even though, if I’ve already produced some chinese coins, I could rest on my laurels, that would be no fun; and besides I already have a bunch of ideas of what I might work on next.

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Abbott’s Lagoon, 11″ x 26″, Sue Kelly, January 2017 Machine pieced, quilted and embroidered.