Alpaca Fun Day and quilt update

Last weekend my pal Sam invited me to go to an Alpaca Fun Day event at a local alpaca farm. I didn’t even know that there WAS a local alpaca farm! It’s called Isabella Alpacas (no web presence that I could find). I was pretty excited to see what it was like.

The alpacas were SUPER CUTE, of course. They had some who were young and had just been sheared for the first time this year, and others who were older.

Alpaca Fun Day

One of the folks there handed Sam a bowl and the nearby alpaca was VERY enthusiastic about eating the kibble. He also made some really cute snorting noises that reminded me of Coraline.

This weekend I also made a beeline for CraftyTown and worked on my current quilt project. Hooray! I haven’t been making enough time for it lately so I was really happy to have several consecutive hours to give to it this weekend.

Day off means quilting and podcasts #joy

I’m working on the background of the quilt in quadrants which are six squares (each 3.25″ square) square. I find that I have a neater result when I do it this way, though in the case of an art quilt like this I’m not 100% upset if things aren’t perfect. I have my sketch drawn out on graph paper (you can see it on the left side of the photo above) and this helps me to know what fabric I want to put where.

Quilt in progress

Having the 36 squares laid out, I then match them up so I can do smaller sections and then attach them to each other to make the whole 6×6-square quadrant.

Quilt in progress

I’m using a non-traditional seam allowance on this quilt. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to do this – it’s been ages since I started this project – but when I picked it back up, it was obvious that’s the seam allowance I chose, I’m going with it.

Quilt in progress

Not too long ago, Susan hipped me to these Wonder Clips, which I now adore. They make piecing SO EASY! I love that they’re red on one side and clear on the other, so I can use that to remind me which was is up, if I happen to jumble my clipped squares. They’re also a lot easier to put on and take off than pins are – though I will often use pins along with the clips to designate the position of various sections so that I remember which way it goes throughout the transport from the cutting table to the sewing machine and back.

Quilt in progress

I’ve also started to use chain piecing, which for a project like this is saving me all kinds of time. Thanks to the Wonder Clips and my pin “labeling” system, I can sew a bunch of bits together in one go and not worry about forgetting which piece goes which way.

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CMU: New Acquisitions art show

My goodness! So much has been going on lately that I have a bunch of stuff to post that has just been waiting for me to make time to sit down long enough.

We found out (through a careful reading of our new lease documents, NOT through the direct questions we asked the office staff, mind you) that the new owners of our apartment complex decided to raise the rent AND give us the bill for a number of things that were previously covered in the rent (water, trash, etc.), which has effectively priced us out of living here. In addition, our current non-smoking community will no longer be such, and that is a big issue for me (remember when we had to move to a new building here, only a month after moving in the first time, because our neighbors inside the first building were smoking a lot and it was invading/permeating our unit? I am NOT doing that again). So, we’re going to have to move AGAIN before our next, hopefully final for the foreseeable future, move when we buy our next home. We are, as you can imagine, not thrilled about this, but we are trying to see the bright side (even after paying movers, we will still likely save money in the long run due to paying a much lower monthly rent at the new place) (*fingers crossed* that we get the place we’re looking at). We also have to go through all the hassles of moving, having our mail forwarded, and so on – it’s just a huge time- and energy-suck that we were not anticipating.

ANYWAY! On the bright side, I recently went to see an exhibit of new art on CMU’s campus, in the beautiful Baber Room at Park Library.

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Paint by Number (ceramic) by Amy Dziesenski (2014)

I love the juxtaposition of something ephemeral, generally considered to be “low art” with a fine art like ceramics. This piece is really fun (note: all my photos from this show are TERRIBLE and should not be considered to be accurate representations of the artworks).

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

The Spirit: Graham, Dickenson, O’Keefe (multi-media quilt) by Ann Kowaleski

I was really excited to see that CMU acquired one of Ann Kowaleski‘s art quilts from her show earlier this year. I am a fan and admirer of her work.

 

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Batman (ceramic) by Brett Sauve (2013)

This piece was an unexpected delight. It’s Batman, of course, but it’s also a lot more than just that. I really like the artist’s interpretation of the character. I feel like this piece highlights the humanity of the character (rather than focusing on the brutality or sex appeal, as the movies so often do). For me, the eyes especially convey the haunted, lonely life that led Bruce Wayne to take on the Batman mantle. The ears are almost dog-esque (this may just be me – given my love for bat-eared dogs) and their waver-iness gives a feeling of vulnerability. The way his cape is tied reminds me of how a child would tie on a cape, which also leads to that feeling. At any rate, this piece is also just really cool.

This show will be up through July 18 and I highly recommend checking it out.

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like sands through the hour glass…

…so are the days of my quilting. Time always rushes by when I’m sewing and I can never seem to make enough of it.

I’m continuing to work on the Modern Venus quilt, specifically the hourglass quilt blocks for the sky.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I cut the squares using a rotary cutter and included room for seam allowances. Then, for one hourglass block, I selected two fabrics. It helped me at first to press one of the blocks diagonally so I could really see the line. After making a bunch of them, though, I found I didn’t need to press anymore. After cutting and pressing, I placed the squares right sides together and made sure the corners were matched up neatly.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I sewed 1/4″ on either side of the pressed diagonal line. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the other.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So I ended up with a piece that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I then used the rotary cutter to slice down the center, on the pressed diagonal line, cutting the block into two equal (identical) pieces.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I pressed each of these two pieces open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

After that, I matched up my new two blocks so that the contrasting fabrics were facing each other, right sides together. I made sure to align the center seams very precisely to ensure a neat result.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I repeated the process of sewing 1/4″ to either side of the diagonal. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the second side.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So then I had a block that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I sliced it in half with the rotary cutter and pressed the block open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

The back of the block looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

And the front of the block looks like this! An hourglass pattern, as you can see, very precise and with a crisp spot where all four points meet in the middle.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I need to make approximately 300 of these for the sky, and I’m almost done with that process. After that, I’ll make a final decision about what quilt block I want to use for the sea and select my fabrics for that section. I know I’d like a fairly simple block pattern since I’ll be making a lot of them, but I’m not sure exactly what it should be yet.

Have you ever used a particular technique to make a specific quilt block? I’d love to know what your favorites are!

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next song! I mean quilt.

My next art quilt is underway! And it will be more than one note, I promise. As usual for me, I’m working from a fairly ambitious idea and figuring out how to do things as I go along. So there will be lots of notes, including some wrong ones, but I’m comfortable with that.

My inspiration for this quilt is Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It’s a massively famous painting and I selected it because it’s very recognizable, has a lot going on in it (plenty of things for me to riff on), and the main focus is a woman. I also like that it has been interpreted in many different ways by different scholars and critics.

Working on a pattern for my own quilt, which at this point I’m calling Modern Venus (that may change), I started out by just looking at the original and noting the various components and details. Then I work to create an outline using Pixlr (it’s free! And you can use layers to isolate various parts of a collage which makes this kind of image manipulation easy) as well as making a graph paper outline by hand so I can be sure of the scale and dimensions I’m planning.

WIP: art quilt

As you can see, these are very rough outlines that don’t have a ton of detail in them. They’re also what I would consider a rough draft in that I haven’t for sure decided on all the specifics yet – I’m just playing around to see how things look.

Modern Venus pixlr photo ModernVenus_zpse0d4c3c2.png

I make sketchy outlines of the figures in Pixlr so that it’s more like a coloring book than a photograph or drawing. It’s easier for me to see the shapes that way. As you can probably tell, I’m not going for super crisp outlines, though, as I don’t want to spend too much time on that, especially since I’ll likely make changes along the way and things won’t end up just as pictured anyway.

Right now I’m looking at Venus having a Blythe-esque head again. I do want the body to be less skinny than the Pullip doll body I have in the collage above – it’s just an easy model to use since I have it handy, and it’ll do for the moment. I’ve also switched out the shell for a book, and the trees will be White Pine trees, which are native to this area and where I grew up. One of the themes I’ve been thinking about is mental illness/stability, so I want to include some symbols related to that theme. The full moon and moths are in my outline at the moment, though I’m still exploring other symbols and we’ll see what I end up with.

Using the graph paper outline, I calculate how many quilt blocks I’m going to use for the various major sections of the quilt as well as making a decision about the size of the background quilt blocks for the piece. For this quilt, I decided to make 2.5″ quilt blocks for the background including sky, sea, and land.

I also selected what quilt block patterns to use for the various areas. I am using a traditional hourglass quilt block for the sky, using mostly pretty traditional quilt-y prints. My goal is to have the quilt contain a lot of traditional quilt design and features, even though it will be an art quilt and not super traditional as an overall product.

Then I went through my fabric stash to see what I have that fits the colors that I’m looking for.

WIP: art quilt

Here I’ve got my blue fabrics and am grouping them by tone as much as possible. This process usually takes me a little while and involves me moving things back and forth from one pile to another and back as I decide what looks best with what else.

Then comes the selecting of the actual fabrics for each section and cutting out squares to make the blocks. Another post will be coming soon on that!

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Figure and Flock – complete!

It’s done! It’s done! Hoorah and huzzah!

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I’m so happy that I finally finished it! I had so much fun and learned so much while putting this project together and I’m anxious to move on to the next one. Figure and Flock turned out to be 32×43.5″.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

Learning how to use the free motion quilting foot was quite fun and I know I’ll use it a lot in the future. I’m so pleased with the texture of her hair. I also love the dragonfly-inspired fabric I used for her eyes.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I love the way these thread-painted birds came out. The look of thread painting is so pleasing, especially on a bird where it can mimic the texture of feathers. I wanted the birds to appear to be disturbing the air around them, so I did some free motion quilting around each one. My goal was also to have the birds appear slightly menacing and I think that the button and bead combination I used for their eyes helped this come through. Birds have often been used as symbols in paintings and other works of art, and I drew on that here. Sparrows are sometimes used to represent the souls of the deceased and robins symbolize change and new growth, both of which I was thinking of here.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I’m quite pleased with the way the quilting worked out, too. I did free-hand grass-esque shapes in the grass and radiating curved lines in the sky. To me it feels effective in conveying the difference between the two areas.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

In the interest of adding more dimension to the piece, I also added some thread-painted birds that I sewed separately and then fussy-cut. They’re a little rougher around the edges, purposely, to carry on that subtle sense that all is not quite right with them.

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I’m still very pleased with my Dresden Plate-inspired dress, too. The sections radiate out from the figure’s heart, where a bird also lives. In designing this figure, I was inspired by Blythe and I feel like my interpretation of her came out effectively. You can tell (if you’re familiar with Blythe) that it’s her, but it’s not so literal as to scream, “I’m a doll!”

Figure and Flock -  art quilt by Anne Heidemann

I chose a wood-grain-esque fabric for the binding (it’s not the same fabric as I used for her hair – you can tell the difference better up close), which I finished by invisible stitch on the back. I thought that the wood grain look seemed apropos to frame on a piece of art. I also added a channel so that it’s easy to display (that channel is in the same fabric as the quilt back, which is lilac with tiny white polka dots). I used only fabrics that were in my stash to make this quilt, with the exception of the bird fabric which I purposely selected and purchased with this intention. In case you wondered, I didn’t even make a dent in the stash! I probably need to do some really big projects in order to achieve that. 🙂

I haven’t figured out yet what my next project will be, but I think that I will rely more on piecing than on applique for that one (though of course I always change things around a lot during the process of making a project, so we shall see). Another art quilt is for sure on the docket, though I may opt for something smaller this time. Having made a lot of very-small-scale doll clothes, I’m interested in the applications for very-small-scale in quilting. In the future I’d also really like to make a useful quilt for our bedroom, though I will probably wait for that until we find our next house, so I can use the room as inspiration.

Now I need to find some quilt shows in which to enter Figure and Flock. I just missed the deadline for the big one happening in Grand Rapids later this year, which is a bummer, but I’m sure there are other shows out there.

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art quilt updaterino

Here, finally, is a long-overdue update on my first big art quilt project!

So, last I posted, I had finished the background and had added the main figure of the woman. I’ve had limited time for sewing over the last couple of months, due mostly to my efforts to get out and about and experience art and activities in the area. I don’t regret that, but I am hoping to balance things more evenly in the future. I’d like to make time for sewing at least once a week, ideally. Part of my issue, too, is that I end up fretting about work during a ridiculous portion of my free time, and I really need to stop doing that. It’s pretty unproductive and I feel like it’s stealing time from me. Here’s to striving for balance!

Art quilt WIP

Here’s where we left off. She’s on the background and I started the stitch work on her, notably using thread to bring more contrast/texture to her hair.

I was apparently really bad about taking photos through the next steps of making this quilt, so I offer my apologies for that.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

I wanted to add some birds around her head, so I found some bird fabric. Some of the birds were less active than others, and finding fabric that actually showed birds in flight (rather than perched on branches) was a more challenging task than I anticipated! I considered adding some bugs or bats or other flying things, but didn’t find any fabrics that I liked for this purpose, and in the end I’m glad I stuck with just the birds. I like the consistency of theme and color that resulted from that decision.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

For the birds, I fussy cut each one and then did a simple machine stitch around the edge to adhere it to the main quilt top.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

Then I took a big leap and did thread painting on top of each one! I used a free-motion foot and just freehanded the stitches back and forth, adding one color of thread at a time. As you can probably see, this caused some distortion of the background. I’ve since read that most folks will use a hoop when doing this kind of stitching, and maybe that would help avoid the base fabric from stretching. It may also be that because the background is made from squares sewn on the bias, it was more likely to get distorted? (any fabric experts know more about this?) SPOILER: a lot of the distortion is hidden by the quilting later on. All in all, though, I’m pretty happy with how these birds turned out. I haven’t quite finished them yet, but they’re close and the last part will be hand-stitched after everything is put together. I’m pleased, also, with how the thread colors I chose worked out. They’re not exactly the same as the fabric underneath but you really can’t tell. They work well with the overall color palette I chose for the quilt and I’m satisfied with the outcome.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

After the birds were complete, I assembled my quilt sandwich and basted it by hand. Then I machine quilted the areas surrounding the figure. I used freehand grass-esque shapes for the green land, and waves of freehand and regular stitching for the sky quilting.

Art quilt in progress #artquilt #quilt #sewing

I seem not to have taken any photos yet of the piece after quilting the sky, so that will have to wait for my next post. I’m definitely at that point in the project where I’m feeling the tension of both wanting to make this project last (that whole thing of having fewer possibilities left than you’ve eliminated) and feeling antsy for the next one. As that’s normal for me in the home stretch, I’m taking it as a good sign.

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FO Friday: pink and green and yellow quilt

This is a child’s quilt that I started ages ago and finally finished recently.

pink/yellow/green quilt for Isobel

It’s a simple subway tile style pattern that I sort of made up as I went – I’ve done four quilts in this style and I really like the way they turned out.

pink/yellow/green quilt for Isobel

I used this quilt as an opportunity to use my new stitch-in-the-ditch sewing machine foot and it worked very well.

pink/yellow/green quilt for Isobel

I considered doing some additional quilting on top of that, but couldn’t decide what I wanted and ended up being happy enough with it as it was, so I left it. I had previously sent a quilt to Carrie Anne for her soon-to-be-born son (like an idiot, I forgot to take any photos of it, d’oh!), and thought that her daughter would probably appreciate a gift at a time when the new baby was getting a lot of presents.

pink/yellow/green quilt for Isobel

For the back, I used panels of the same fabrics from the front of the quilt, and for the border I picked a hot pink polka dot fabric that I thought set a nice, bold edge.

pink/yellow/green quilt for Isobel

Aren’t these fabrics so springy and happy?

pink/yellow/green quilt for Isobel

I’ve already sent this to its recipient and have been assured by her mom that she likes it (whew!). I know she loves the color pink, but I wanted to have a bit more than just one color going on in this quilt. I’m relieved that she’s pleased!

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monkey business

Some friends are having a baby soon, and I got inspired when I heard that they were expecting. I haven’t made a quilt before, but I thought – why not? I have solid sewing skills and it was a fun challenge to learn techniques specifically associated with quilting. In typical me fashion, I made up a pattern and jumped right in.

monkey quilt

I picked out some fabrics that I thought would go well together and would suit the jungle theme their nursery already has, and started cutting out squares.

monkey quilt

Then I started sewing them together into squares and then pairs and then rows.

monkey quilt

monkey quilt

monkey quilt

(Note: since taking the photo above I have learned that in quilting, you press the seams to one side rather than to both sides like in garment sewing.)

monkey quilt

Until finally I had the entire quilt top put together:

monkey quilt

I was quite pleased with how well it turned out. Not every seam is exactly perfect, but generally speaking things lined up well.

monkey quilt

Then I put together the quilt sandwich, with the backing fabric and batting. I chose to use the dark brown/white polka dot fabric for the backing so that it would not be prone to showing wear/spills/etc. It’s important to me that it actually be usable.

monkey quilt

I hand basted it using thread in a contrasting color so it would stay neat and not get any puckers or folds:

monkey quilt

I chose to do a very basic stitch-in-the-ditch machine quilting. It worked well and thanks to my careful basting, I didn’t have any folds or other faults:

monkey quilt

Then I removed the basting threads and attached the binding by machine-sewing right-side-to-right-side on the front of the quilt. I finished the binding on the back by hand-stitching an invisible stitch.

monkey quilt

And here we have the finished product!

monkey quilt

monkey quilt

I’m just so pleased with it. I’ve presented it to our friends and they like it so much and told me it will fit with their new nursery gliders & rockers too, so to me, that’s success!

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