Postcards Project

Advanced Fabric Hoarding

Although I’ve been on a campaign to get rid of excess possessions in other parts of my house, I am a compulsive saver of scraps and odds and ends in my sewing room. I have a very hard time making myself throw anything out. Who knows, I might need it for some project that hasn’t occurred to me yet, right? Confession: I even save thread, because of some Youtube video I saw once that gave me an idea.

Here is my thread jar. FullSizeRenderI’ve been stuffing thread into it since 2013. When I’m sewing, I save all the cut-off ends in a little dish, and then stuff them in here at the end of a project. This has a useful benefit in keeping the threads out of the rollers of my vacuum cleaner (well, mostly).

It’s worse with scraps. This is not going to be one of those posts that helps you to corral and organize your scraps. That is not how I roll. I save just about everything as long as there is one dimension greater than about an inch. I try to sort them by sizes, and sometimes I get energetic and cut some of the smaller ones into squares or strips, but I was getting quite a pile of odd-shaped snippets in my basket, so I began a postcard making project. The scraps are cut and fused to muslin backing, then stitched, then fused again to a Peltex core with card stock on the back, and then edge stitched. Quite labor intensive, but addicting. Today I finished a batch of over 50 cards. My friends and family like them, so I thought I should share.  Here’s a selection.

PA29PA31PA32 PA33PA34PA35   PA38PA39PA41 PA42PA46PA48 PA49PQ18PQ28    PA37PA36PA50

But, is it Improv?

In a recent online conversation about improv, we were discussing the difficulty people have setting their rulers aside.  I commented that I do not believe that rulers and straight lines are antithetical to improvisation.  Following a particular pattern to replicate something someone else created is not improv, but if one uses methods of one’s choice to create something spontaneous and unique, that is improvisation. So, this week, I decided to explore more about triangles, and what a triangle is, is three straight lines between three points.   I started by cutting a dozen random sized ‘core’ triangles from a piece of neutral colored cloth, and a lot of long strips from a selection of fabrics from my “stripes” box. I’ve done some other piecing with stripes and I like the way they contribute a graphic look to the patchwork. I used my ruler to keep the sides straight, but did not cut to any particular measurement. I also used the ruler to make the strips a regular width, though the widths varied from strip to strip. One by one, I bordered the triangles with three rounds each of the strips, log-cabin style, choosing the border strips more or less randomly.  Here are the twelve resultant triangles.  (I apologize for the picture quality, the lighting in my work room is not great and many of these photos were taken at night.)

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Each time I finished a new triangle I arranged, and rearranged whatever was up on the wall:

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When I had all 12 of them done, I must have rearranged them 20 times, and never was satisfied, so I printed out a photo and made “tiles” from it, and played with them some more.  IMG_0537

In the end I decided that placing them right next to each other worked better than if they were separated by areas of negative space. But I still didn’t really know what to do with them.

Finally I hit on an arrangement I liked. IMG_0588 - Version 2I assumed that since I’d cut the triangles randomly (as to angle) that there would either be a gap or an overlap at some point in the circle of points where the pieces would not fit together, but when I sewed them together, clockwise from the left side, and got all the way around, by some miracle they all fit together and laid flat (well fairly flat). I took this as a sign that this arrangement was meant to be. IMG_0589Heavy steam pressing ensued to seal the deal.

Two of the triangles ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor”.

Throwing star mockup:color schemesThen I had to decide on background.  I imported this photo into my iDraw app and auditioned various colors of backgrounds, and came up with this mockup.

I had to do a fair amount of estimating during the cutting of the background pieces, to make sure they extended outward far enough to provide a roughly rectangular border.  They were attached one at a time to the “outside” side of each triangle, and then trimmed and fitted to the next adjacent one, again working in a clockwise direction.  During this process I re-introduced some warping in my piece, so when it was all sewn together it got spritzed with water and steamed and blocked on the wall for a few days.  Yesterday, I trimmed it to its final size and started preparing it for quilting; here is a picture of the pieced top.IMG_0611

The two improv exercises I tried this month were both a lot of fun, but not without frustrations, disappointments and surprises. With the Crazy Mountains I really tried to squelch my organizational instincts and let the piece evolve.  I like the end result, I think, mostly because of the wild colors, but it is not really what I envisioned.  I noticed how I tend to want to plan things as I go along, and decided not to fight that feeling with this piece, and I think I like this one better.

I allowed myself more control over the techniques and the process, rather than consciously trying not to follow any rules.  (It is interesting how self-conscious you can get all alone in your sewing room, isn’t it?) I permitted myself to use my tools to keep straight edges, and I did a lot of playing with placement of the pieces before I was satisfied.  Also did a lot of pondering about backgrounds making it up as I went along, and making things fit together.

I can hardly wait to see what others have done!

Try Angles

Day 1 – Why don’t you try this?

“…take a shape, any shape, and see where it leads you“, said Kaja in this post for Ad Hoc Improv Quilters, over on Sew Slowly.  Kaja was doing squares, and I had been toying with the idea of trying the Floating Squares score from the Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, which has been my story-time favorite ever since it arrived in May.  Kaja and Ann Brooks at Fret Not Yourself have started an Ad Hoc Improv Quilters monthly link-up and I was intrigued.

Ad Hoc Improv Quilters

But squares just weren’t ringing my bells. So, having challenged myself with this AHIQ thing, I decided to use a different shape.  In the wakeful wee hours one night, I began to think about triangles. Triangles are wonderful.  They are the simplest polyhedron; if they had one less side they would just be a line.  They define, and can only exist, in a plane, which is why three legs is the ideal number for a stool, or for anything you want to balance on.  You can use triangles to solve interesting problems such as how steep is that hill or how far away is that star.

Recently I had been doing some traditional piecing with HSTs, and was enjoying how they lined up so elegantly.

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But that is hardly improv, so what else could I do with triangles?

Traditional quilting typically uses symmetrical shapes that fit together neatly, like right triangles, and isoceles triangles.  But, you can get a lot of variation in the shape of a triangle, by stretching it out, leaning it backwards or forwards, making it tall and thin or short and fat. My Triangle DreamNow my mind was teeming with triangles of all shapes and colors. They formed a mob and were marching towards me, through negative space…I had to give in to their demands.   So, triangles it is.

I went shopping in my stash.  First, I decided on some “negative space” fabric.  It’s mandatory, right? I had a cut of Kona Ash left from another project.  I chose that, it is a nice, silvery, soft gray. I picked a favorite batik piece and then found a few more including a piece of gray batik, that I thought might be an interesting transition to the solid gray.

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I put away my ruler and cut a bunch of strips about 8 inches wide. IMG_0447From one of the multicolor strips, I cut some random triangles.

I decided to combine them with some other triangles to create some roughly rectangular units.  This involved cutting other triangles from the other fabrics. If your starting triangle is a right triangle, you only need one other one to make a rectangle which is approximately equal to a HST.  However, if it is not, you have to add triangles to two sides to create a more-or-less regular rectangle.  Which gives you something like a Flying Goose.  Okay…

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This process also leaves you with some angled end cuts and…more triangles! So I went ahead and rectangular-ized all my first set of random triangles and got these.  Basically some irregular HSTs and some items that resemble flying geese.  But I like them.

Oh yes, and duIMG_0453ring that part, I introduced one additional fabric.

Then I veered off on a sidetrack I later regretted, involving some some Sujata Shah style stack-slice-shuffle and came up with eight more slightly irregular HSTs. This is a great technique for creating a lot of HSTs quickly, but the result was too uniform to suit my present purpose.  I tried re-stacking, slicing and shuffling them with some other fabrics, but was still not happy with the result, for this quilt.  (They got recycled later on.)  IMG_0455 This became my stopping point for Day 1.  And what
else is wrong with the picture so far?  Remember that nice gray negative space I decided on first of all? I had forgotten it entirely.  As usual, I was seduced by the riot of color.  Stay tuned for Day 2, to see what happens next!

Day 2 – Still trying; getting in the groove.

IMG_0457I began today having decided that it was okay to keep doing what I liked and not to stress out about what wasn’t working. I began by addressing the pile of triangular scraps I had left over from yesterday. I used these, and added to the pieces I had felt were most successful yesterday. These were a series of mostly “flying goose” type blocks and some approximate HSTs. I ended up with a larger collection of the blocks that I really liked.  IMG_0458 I still had some IMG_0459composite triangles left over, when I thought again of my “negative space” fabric.  IMG_0460 I decided to ease into the negative space thing gently, kind of like sticking one toe into the water to test it. I began with the gray batik as a ‘transitional’ fabric between riotous color and pattern to the quiet, smooth, gray of the Kona Ash. So I made a few four-sided pieces using the multi-triangles and the patterned batik.  And a few more HSTs, and a few more flying geese. It was during this process that I had to come to terms with the fact that some of the points on my triangles were going to be compromised, when the pieces were put togethIMG_0461er:  I channeled Sherri Lynn Wood and said “Yes, and…so what?!” I spent the rest of the afternoon putting groups of the blocks together into larger sections.  I decided to just piece them in ways that appealed to me.  This was the first one I put together.IMG_0466

Then, some of my original “geese” stepped forward and demanded to be placed in a row, thus forming the bottom row of my quilt (for now).IMG_0467 This row was so nice, I added another on top of it, and finally a third, on top of that, where some of the transition fabric has been introduced.  This brought to mind a place I saw in Montana on a vacation called the Crazy Mountains after a woman who reportedly an away and lost her mind there. Or maybe lost her mind and ran away there.  Does it matter?  They were off in the distance, to the west of us.  Sunset on the crazy mountains!IMG_0469The remaining geese wanted to flock together, so I made three sets of these, and played with placement.IMG_0470

The other days!

I really got on a roll then and stopped taking pictures. The quilt started building itself from the bottom up. As I got toward the top I introduced the solid gray and dropped out the colors entirely. I had to create more triangles, and worked with smaller and smaller scraps. I did a lot of fitting together, and a LOT of steam pressing as I went along. Due to choices I made about which portions of some rows to keep in, I ended up having to trim off both of the vertical edges, though by some miracle, the bottom and top edges were fairly even and horizontal. Here is the final top, all pieced.  IMG_0519

My New Situation, the Demise of Threadbias and Improv Bee Blocks Progress

I am now in week three of retirement, and the joke about it is quite true, I don’t know how I ever had time to work!  I’ve been that busy.  I expected to get right back to my wanna-be blog here, but the last of the summer weather has been lovely, and there’s so much to do elsewhere, I haven’t wanted to sit in front of the computer too much.  Specifically, I’ve been using my free time for actual sewing.

Today I want to start a post about the Modern Block Party-esque Bee I was part of on Threadbias, the lately decommissioned online sewing community.  Hopefully, some of the folks who were part of this bee with me will eventually be able to find out how I used their blocks in my own quilt top.  Alas, for better or worse, Threadbias is no more, as of August 31.  I belonged to several groups there, over the course of the past year, and one of my favorites was a bee based on the book Modern Block Party.  Every month one of us was Queen and sent out packets to the others (12 of us all together) with instructions to make a block.  During my month as Queen, I sent each of them a couple of large squares of Kona Snow color and instructions to create improv blocks, more or less based on Joe Cunningham’s “Wheel of Pattern” process of randomly selecting several actions to modify the initial starting block.  In Joe’s Craftsy class he actually had a little spinner wheel with the different instructions on it, but I just charted them on a piece of paper and asked people to shut their eyes and stab a finger at it to find out what to do next.  Or to just make it up as they went along, aka “improv it”.  I asked them to stay within the part of the color spectrum from orange to magenta and aim for a block about 15″ x 15″, or so.  Otherwise no rules.  Various people reported various levels of comfort with this approach, but I think everyone succeeded in making a useable piece of fabric for my further manipulation. Here, then, are the blocks I received.  Next up I will show some progress I’ve been making in putting them together.  But the sun is shining and that is for another day.IMG_2201                 IMG_2199               IMG_2198                 IMG_2197 IMG_2196                 IMG_2195 IMG_2194                 IMG_2193 IMG_2192                 IMG_2191 IMG_2190                 IMG_2189 IMG_2188                 IMG_2187 IMG_2186                 IMG_2185 IMG_2184                 IMG_2183 IMG_2182                 IMG_2181 IMG_2180                 IMG_2179 IMG_2178                IMG_2200