Working from a Sketch

In a recent post on Daintytime Sherri Lynn Wood wrote about how images seen daily might be translated into patchwork possibilities, and invited us to share our sketches on the Facebook page Improv Workbook for Modern Quilters.

By coincidence, around the same time I had posted here some photos from a recent walk that gave me some ideas for possible improv projects. I thought I’d use them as a starting place to explore. Usually I just start cutting and sewing, but it occurred to me that perhaps if I was aiming for a more specific result, the result would be better, and perhaps the way to get specific was to draw a picture. Thanks Sherri Lynn, for the lightbulb moment. I chose this photograph of an old apple cannery on a grey day, and made a rough sketch on my tablet. The features of this image that I wanted to emphasize are the tall, looming vertical walls, the strong diagonals of the roof line, and the way all these details occupy the lower right hand half square triangle, leaving the open sky as negative space above.

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I thought the simplest way to render the corrugated sides of the building was alternating shades of the same color. I did not spend a lot of time looking for particular fabrics, but took the first few things I laid my hands on. It only occurred to me later that I could have chosen a striped fabric for that, and I may try that next time.



I freehand cut some narrow strips and stitched them into three sections, but then took each of these apart to make six taller, narrower segments of strips. I liked the look of the strip sets. Then these were  sliced diagonally in a series of progressively taller trapezoids to get the perspective.  I added a narrow strip of the dark color to my “sky” fabric to represent the roof line. I got stumped by how to put together the peaks of the roof line and the downward sloping roof sections, (see photo and sketch) so I changed plans and left them out.  Part of my intention was to make this a quick rendering and I didn’t want to get too far down in the weeds. I tried to just sew, without worrying about whether it would be successful.  I stitched some roof and sky to each of the vertical pieces, then joined them together, off-setting the roof line to get the perspective. In this step I lost some of my vertical dimension, due to my failure to accommodate the off-set in cutting. I should have started with much longer strips for the buildings, and a wider piece of sky. I was not able to achieve my goal size of 12″ square.








In the end my proportions are decidedly un-square (about 9 x 17″), but the general effect is at least on the right track…and it was a good exercise trying to replicate an image and seeing what worked and what didn’t. I actually like the resulting piece, though it is not quite what I set out to make. Here is Rendering #1. IMG_1020

The other day Stephie posted about When Improv Quilting Goes Wrong, and it really struck a chord. I’ll be going back to re-read her post again. I was feeling disappointed in this exercise, but I guess I could also view it as an opportunity to try again. So I will do that eventually. Linking up a little late this week with Ad Hoc Improv Quilters, and wishing you all a very pleasant day after Thanksgiving. And now, for something completely different, while the turkey carcass bubbles in the big pot, I’m off to do a “Buy Nothing Day” cyber sew-in with my Treadle Quilters group. More on that later!


Monday Miscellany

So many irons in the fire here, I hardly know which way to go next. I’ve got a couple of quilts sandwiched and ready for quilting but somehow can’t get myself to start on either. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten sidetracked working on some clothing projects. Found some pretty printed corduroy in the donation store where I volunteer and made myself a shirt. It’s been a long time since I did much clothing construction and I’d sort of forgotten how much I enjoy that. Naturally, this exacerbates my problem with too many ideas and too many unfinished projects. While visiting Vicki Welsh’s Field Trips in Fiber I read her invitation to join in UFO Busting in 2016. That’s for me, I said to myself. So, now I have another new project, making an inventory of all the UFOs that must be busted! I have to set up a notebook for this purpose.

IMG_0984My hubby, TK, is the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. I hoard collect them. I made an attempt to move a project further along by joining about a hundred strips I’d cut from these. This resulted in a piece of new cloth about 42″ by 60″, whose ultimate fate remains a mystery for now. But I only used up about half of the strips I have. Sigh…


At the same time, I was getting new project ideas at an alarming rate. TK and I have started spending Sunday mornings taking lengthy walks and hikes at different places in our part of the world. I always take a camera, and snap pictures along the way, of vegetation, birds, signs, etc. These images give me new project ideas. One recent walk was along the West County Regional Trail, which follows the old railroad right of way passing this old fruit processing facility. More design inspiration!


See what I mean?

I made some progress on my version of a slow stitching project. Last spring in (what I now realize was) a futile attempt to reduce the clutter of small scraps, I spent a day cutting the smallest of them into 2-1/2″ squares.  These I sorted by colors into groups of 9, and put in a box with needles, thread, snips and pins. IMG_1006In all I cut nearly a thousand squares, which will yield 110 nine-patches. I keep the box on the coffee table and hand-stitch together a little nine-patch or two on Sunday evenings in front of the TV. I have done enough now that I can do it in fading light without even really looking. I sewed the first one on March 29, and this past week I passed the half-way point by completing Number 55!

That’s the week that was.IMG_1009 Happy National Button Day! Who knew?

Rehabbing Peter to Pay Paul

This week I resurrected a project I started months ago. I started out this year with a notion about renovation, making things new. Then, while cleaning out a closet, I found the very first quilt I had ever attempted over 40 years ago. The fabrics were leftovers from a summer job as the sewing assistant for a costume maker.  Our project was to create costumes for a production of Moliere’s Les Femmes Savantes. I wish I had photos of the costumes–they were fabulous.

IMG_4032It was really more of a comforter, bordered and backed with some hideous navy blue polyester that was probably all I could afford, but I considered it quite avant-garde in1973. I had a lot of sewing experience at this point, but my focus had always been clothing construction, pattern-making, tailoring, etc. I didn’t think I had the patience for tiny, fiddly piecing, so I made a few quilt tops using over-sized versions of traditional blocks. This item was used for years, and then put away, worn, wrinkled and falling apart. Because I loved this and the memories that are in it, I decided to renovate it.

I started by deconstructing the whole thing, and discarding the borders, backing and batting. I re-stitched all the quarter circles that were coming loose. Then I bonded each square to a piece of light muslin to stabilize it.


I made a paper mockup and played with layouts. I’m going with the one on the right.
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Now it is in the embellishment phase. First, I made some stencils and started painting radiating designs in the quarter circles. I am using Jacquard Neopaque and Lumiere Paints for this. This week, I completed all the painting (48 pieces).IMG_4194     IMG_0814

Then I continued with further embellishment of the quarter circles (and beyond) with machine embroidery. This is my favorite part, because there are no rules and every one is different. It’s like doodling with the sewing machine. I actually started some of these earlier in the year and then somehow a rats nest of thread got down into the bobbin winder part of the machine, which is the only one in my collection that I can’t just take apart and fix (newer, electronic machine). It had to go in for service and the project was put away for months. But this week, I finished a whole bunch more sets with embroidery. I’m still not sure what else might happen to these pieces, but I love how they are looking so far.

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