Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Modern Quilt Comes Together

My readers' choice from the first half of the 12-week Design Challenge was "Between Two Rivers," and it's coming together.  I confess that your choice surprised me, but it's been fun to put it together and I thought I'd share how I translated it from drawing to quilt.

The design evolved during Week 6 of the Challenge, starting out as one concept in the "different paths" challenge that my friend Ann proposed.  After the fact, I decided it reminded me of Iowa, which means 'Between Two Rivers."   The rivers run north and south, rather than east and west, as the design depicts, but what's the fun in creating art if you can't use artistic license?

Between Two Rivers quilt design

Translating a Design into a Quilt

The first step was to choose fabrics.   I didn't want any large scale prints for it (except for the background), but neither did I want solids; texture was important, especially if the greens were representing fields full of crops.  I played with the idea of representing fields in different seasons, and maybe that will happen someday, but for this quilt I stuck with high summer.  Not all of these fabrics made it into the quilt.

Then I set out to work on proportion.  I knew that I didn't want the fields to be all the same length and width.  This is more artistic license, as Iowa is laid out quite grid-like, for the most part.   The order and placement of the fabrics in the layout, as well as the relative sizes and proportion required some trial and error.   And it changed.  Many times.

Even as I pieced the fields, the sizes and proportion saw some adjustments.  I also added narrow brown strips between the fields, which was not part of the original drawing.  It felt like it needed a bit of "pop" between, to accent the change in the fields/crops and brown was logical; Iowa has rich soil.    I worked it until it looked as I thought I wanted it, then just sort of closed my eyes and sewed it together.   At some point, you just have to say, 'Enough with the tweaking," and do it.   That usually works for me, though I have been known to rip out an entire quilt top and re-do it.  I'll tell you the story of the Abacus/Soroban quilt some day.

The last of the layout decisions were the shade and curve of the rivers.  There were really only two possibilities for the shade of the blue, and the lighter fabric won.  The textural print of the blue was just what I wanted for the flowing rivers.

The top is almost finished--just finishing the applique on the rivers--and will be loaded on Molly, my longarm, soon.  I'll let you know how the quilting goes!

If you're interested in updates on designs and quilts that I'm working on, please follow the Spinster on Facebook; I'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The votes are in!

It looks like the voting has settled, and the winner is.....

Feynman Lives!

I'm working to finish up the applique of the two rivers on your choice from the last challenge poll, then it will be ready to quilt.  Gotta figure out that quilting scheme soon!  (A friend is here, getting acquainted with Molly (my longarm) as she learns to quilt.   "Between Two Rivers" might take awhile to quilt, so we'll see what the training schedule is going to be.  That's a reprieve, right?  I have more time to figure out the quilting, and get started on Feynman.  :-)

I'll post an update on Between Two Rivers soon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Getting to Work (Part II)!

The second half of the 12 week Design Challenge is over, and it's time for you to tell me which of the weekly designs you'd like me to work on first.   I've chosen the design I like best from each week's concepts, and your votes will decide where I start.  (I'm still making progress on "Between Two Rivers," which should be ready for quilting soon.  Which means, I suppose, that I have to settle on a quilting scheme.)

Anyway, back to this half of the challenge.  You can vote for your choice on this survey/poll, which shows the choices, but I'm reviewing your choices here, as well.   (Disclaimer:  Colors may change, on any of these, when they are actually made.)

1. Life is Chocolate
What can I say?

2. Feynman Lives
Perhaps not as true to a Feynman diagram as some of the others, it still retains a tiny bit of the spirit of them.

3. Elemental
All good choices, as I liked them all.  I had to choose one.

4. Inca
I liked all my choices, but this was still in keeping with the original, beautiful Inca counting device.

5. Knife Skills
I will probably do "Diced," anyway, at some point (I'm thinking hand-dyed cottons) so Julienned was my choice for your choosing.

6. Window on Wings
This was a tough choice, but in the end this is the one from last week that would be most different for me to try.

Please help with your vote! (You surprised me last time.)   Thanks for your input!  Here's the link again:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Design Challenge Week #12 Results

It's the 12th and final week (for now) of my Design Challenge, as I'll be taking a break before my next challenge.  (I think the next will be something to do with architectural details.)  I have plenty of designs to make into quilts, and in the next week or so I'll be posting a poll that will let you choose which of the most recent 6 designs you would like me to work on first.  Or, next--I'm making progress on the previous hexdesign poll.  (The background is all finished, I've chosen the blue for the rivers and have actually created them, and now I have to work out the curve that I want.)

So, back to this week, which revolves around photos of moths that my sister, Rita, sent me.  There are many beautiful and intriguing patterns on the wings but one of my favorites, and the one I chose, has a pattern of straight, black lines on a beige wing.   It reminded me very  much of improvisational piecing, though the patterns on the two wings mirrored each other, which is less likely to happen on an improvisationally pieced quilt.

Because the moth's wings were triangular in shape, I first "pieced" some black bars into triangles. following the pattern on the moth's wings (to some extent).  Not quite what I wanted.
I made some more, and combined them, again following somewhat the shape of the moth with its wings extended.  Still didn't do much for me.

How about some color?   No, that's not it, either.
Then I tried circles.  You know me--and circles and bars!

I tried it with colors, and like that rather better.

I tried it with the circles having a different background from the main field.

I tried it with the main field a different color than the circles.

The circle design is my favorite thus far but, though I promised myself I wouldn't worry about construction while I'm designing, I'm worrying about how to get a good, crisp appliqued circle with those bars cutting across the edges at odd angles.  (Hmm.  Reverse applique might be a possibility.)

Then, going back to my fascination with weaving, I tried straight, woven bars in a square "window."  (Yes, at this point I abandoned the improvisational piecing aspect.  The wings were just an inspiration, as a jumping-off point.)  Just one window was too plain, and didn't really show off the weaving effect as much as it might, so I started combining windows, lining them up so the warp threads and one weft thread would tie them together.  Not bad; I like this one, also.  I'd want to play around with the number of windows, and how to place them.

I can't leave a design without trying some other effects. What if I stretched the windows, vertically and horizontally, and again match up warp and weft threads, as I can.

I'm not certain which I like better--one of the circle designs, or the first woven pattern.   I'll ponder that, as I need to make a decision before I post your 6 choices for the poll!

Which do YOU like best?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Design Challenge Week #11: Results

This week's challenge:  design a quilt around the kitchen, specifically knife skills.

My knife skills are not in the perfection category, but I still have all my fingers.  (I did lose the veriest little bit of the tip of one finger, but that was a rotary cutter accident, not a knife crisis.)

My first thought was dicing: lots of nice, little squares.   If I were really good with knife skills the dice would be even and consistent in size.  However, my diced is dicey.  (Besides, an even dice in a quilt would just be squares of the same size and, while I love postage stamp quilts, that wouldn't meet my objectives here.)

I'm picturing many colors of hand-dyed fabric.  I guess it would be a diced salad, with LOTS of different ingredients.

A cutting board with piles of dice:

Next up in knife skills is slicing; think "red onions."   Here we have all sorts of choices, changing sizes and colors, and arrangements.  I started with "rings" that are really discs with red onion rims.

Actual onion rings could also be grouped, stacked, whatever.

Just for fun, stacking closely creates a sort of Slinky effect.

And changing colors in a different kind of stack makes for a bit of an optical illusion.

The final knife skill for the challenge is cutting julienne strips.  (This one was the most fun, to be honest.)  Think carrot strips.

It's easy to make a pinwheel from the strips.

But, in the end, I like the overlap design the most:

I tried it in a block arrangement but it was pretty blah, and didn't look at all right.  So, I returned to my favorite vertical strip, which I would offset from the center, placing it at about 1/3 the width of the background.

Oh, and I was shifting the strip sets around, I ended up with something that looked like an old-fashioned camera case (with the "bellows" look), so I added some sliced rings.  Just for fun.

Because fun is what it's all about, right?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Design Challenge Week #10: Results

This week's challenge is based on a photo in an article about ancient Inca calculating devices. My brother sent me the link; it's the first photo on the page.

As a spinner, I was interested in the concept of the fiber and knots, and a quilt that combines both quilting and spun threads/yarn is a possibility that holds some considerable interest.  That's an exploration for another day.

Today I played with designs that are just fabric, and which are pretty close to the look of the original piece.  You could easily deconstruct it and play with individual strands and knots, for example but the piece as a whole is so compelling as a design that stuck pretty closely to that design.

There are a number of choices for a background; it could be a plain, solid piece of fabric or a pieced background in very subtle shades of natural whites and tans.  As it's a calculating device, I think I would do it in small(ish) squares, to add an additional layer of texture.

Now, on to the focus piece.  I thought about making the "strings" all the same length, but it wasn't at all the look I wanted.   My first concept used varying lengths, but the same width. However, hand-spun fibers are never exactly, perfectly even (well, mine aren't!) so I tried varying the width of the strips and liked that much better.

I wanted more variety of color, still using the brown palette.

Actually, I like that but I wanted to represent some knots in the strings and, of course, I decided to use small circles.

One per strand was good, but what would it look like with more than one knot on some of the strands?  I varied the color of the knots a bit which wouldn't be strictly accurate, as the knots on any one strand would be the same color as the strand of which it was made, but I'm invoking artistic license here.

Just to see what would happen, I did a little bit of duplicating and juggling, to create a few other designs with multiples.  They look fine, but I think I might like the single representation the best.

In the end, the piece might end up with more strands and more--or fewer--knots.  Another quilt might have strands from hand-spun fibers and actual knots, or perhaps wooden beads as the knots.