Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Autumn House

Here's the house in the Autumn panel. The fabrics in the roof and the chimney are Christmas fabrics.  Never underestimate the way novelties can be used out of context.  Here I wanted the gold swirls to remind you of the blowing winds of fall, and the leaves that swirl around.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Let Me Count the Ways

I can hear you all asking... "So? How's the new machine? Do you like it?"

All I can say is, "Let me count the ways!"

I brought the manual to work yesterday, and read it while I ate my lunch. I kept reading it over dinner.  After I had done the dishes and cleaned up in the kitchen, I ventured into the sewing room at sat down at The Machine.

I  was already in love with the automatic needle threader, and the scissors that cut the threads at the end.

I sewed a couple of seams and then set up the knee lifter.

Can you say "swoon?"

Yvonne so totally rocks!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quilting Friends

People who don't read blogs just don't get it. When I tell people about the friends I've made all over the world through the internet, they look at me like I have three heads. 

My story may not be all that unique, but still...

I adopted a cat the internet had rescued, (Millie, the famous cat!) We've made friends all over the world, and she brought me a new family (Monty! Violette, Devon! Tracey!!) My quilting life is directly a result from my blogging (I found Tonya!).  I've met even more great pals all over the world.  Heck, I traded quilts with a friend over 14,000 miles away (Helen!) I sold a couple of kitty quilts to a quilter in Tennessee (Julie) who hooked me up with a longarm quilter (Chris) who now quilts all my quilts.

It's really pretty amazing.  I knew when I asked for help yesterday that you, my quilting pals, would help me find a new sewing machine. I just didn't expect a phone call with an offer!

About a year ago, when I was working on No Rules for Julie, I drove about 30 miles to meet Yvonne. She had made a spectacular wonky log cabin quilt and had used free pieced letters on the borders. We spent a lovely afternoon together looking at quilts and talking about this, that and the other.

I certainly didn't expect to hear from her yesterday morning offering me her third machine to borrow as long as I needed, and that I could buy it for my budget if I liked it. Well knock me over with a feather! Then I thought about it. We quilters are friends even though we may not have met in person.  We ask for help, and we offer each other insights, and we share the things we find.

I did make the drive over to Yvonne's house, and she had the sewing machine all set up for me.  She gave me a few pointers, and after we visited a while, I brought it home and set it up.

It is -everything- I could ever have wanted. It's a Brother Innov-is NX 450Q. It has a needle threader, it cuts off the thread, it's quiet, it has great tension, and a nice deep "throat."

I think I'm in love.

And I -know- I'm lucky - as we all are, to be a part of this wonderful online community!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Worst Possible Thing - Update below!


My sewing machine has just pitched a fit and died.  The feed dogs aren't advancing the fabric, and yes, I did everything the manual told me to do. When I lower them, they won't come back up the way they should. It's 11 years old, and yes, I did blow the dust bunnies out and I oiled itl


Naturally this happened at the worst time of the day (repair shop is closed for the weekend), and the month (other financial expenses take precedence!)


I was so excited about working on the Four Seasons quilt.  

Can you help me?

OK Quilters, now's your chance. With a budget of only $300 which machine do you recommend?  Here's what I need:

1. I make quilts. I sew cotton fabric. From time to time I'll sew through something heavier. Yes, I might hem some jeans.  I need a machine that can handle that.

2. I want a machine with good tension, where I can adjust the stitch length somewhat, and can MOVE when I want to sew a long straight line. (In other words, I don't want a slowpoke.)

3. I do not need embroidery stitches at all. I'm not going to do ruffling, or turn hems. I probably don't need it to make buttonholes either.

4. It should be quiet.

5. It would be nice if it could: a) wind the bobbin; b) thread the needle; c) cut the thread; d) have a deeper "throat" than six inches.

A quick search on Amazon brought me to the Janome HD 1000 which looks good.  I'll keep searching.

Thanks for your help and suggestions. I'll let you know how it goes. 

Updated 4:15 PM Sunday ....

WOW! Crisis resolved! Quilters are a wonderful bunch! 

This morning as I sat at my desk doing the bookkeeping my phone rang. It was Yvonne, my quilty friend who lives about 30 miles away. "You can't be without a sewing machine. I have three and I don't use one.  You can borrow it. You can come and get it today."

WOW! WOW! WOW!  So my sewing machine crisis has been resolved. I'll have more details (and photos) later...

Thank you Yvonne!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Winter and Spring - Update

I'm learning how to make the trees overlap, but I'm not there yet. The spring house is a bit too uptight and needs a bit of loosening up.

I have a nifty idea for the summer panel.

Click the photo to enlarge (I tried to disable the damnable Lightbox feature.)

Updated - (that's what you get when you try to post a blog from your iPhone - a cropped photo!) I've replaced the photo with a better one from my digital camera, and removed the Lightbox cropping feature from the blog settings.

Dear SF, yes, that black and white tree in the cluster of all the others - it's farther away, so you can't see it, and it probably is in a snowbank.

Clare, Right now I'm making the trees without "background" on one side, and then joining them to "fully formed" tree blocks. I have the step-by-step photos but haven't put them together yet. I promise to show a how-to, but that won't be until I have the process down pat in my own head.  Right now I'm still bumbling along.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

This is the time of year to be thankful for your blessings. This is my son and his best friend, who grew up without a family, and calls me her "chosen mother." That's quite an honor. Her new family will celebrate Thanksgiving with the rest of my family tomorrow, and I'm quite looking forward to it.

Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday. I hope you're near someone you love, and the day finds you all safe and happy. Even if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving, have a great day!

I'll be back when all the cooking is over, and all the dishes are done!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts on the Rules

Not those rules. The rules I mentioned in yesterday's post. They were the rules of real houses.

Obviously fabric houses are different, but as Julie observed, it's really a conscious effort to do something deliberately askew.  ("Can you ever," she asked me recently, "make your letters really wonky? Uneven, irregular, symmetrical?")  The answer was... not without conscious, deliberate, effort.

One of the lessons in learning to draw is the ability to measure visually; to relate.  It's always asking, is this thing I am trying to reproduce higher, lower, lighter, darker, bigger, smaller, thinner, thicker.. whatever... and then putting it down that way.

It isn't simply the ability to draw the "thing" that makes it appear real on the page. It's the ability to draw accurately the spaces and objects around the thing. That requires the ability to measure and compare visually. (You know how you've seen artists hold a pencil out at arm's length?  They're measuring something.)

It's the ability to look at an object and tell whether I want to make it exactly the way it looks or if I want to make it more significant, or less so. If I want you to really see it, I'll pump up the contrast.  If I want it to disappear, I'll make it blend in with whatever else is nearby. 

It's the ability to look at a series of (for example) blue fabrics and tell at a glance which are lighter, bluer, cooler, warmer, more yellow (greener) warmer, brighter, less intense, more intense, more "true blue", etc. In short, I can tell instantly whether they will "work" together or not. More importantly, though, I know why they would or wouldn't work.

I have to restrain myself at the quilt shop from commenting on the fabric selections of other customers.  Frequently I have to walk away from a selection of colors I think is monotonous, dull, lacking in contrast or verve, or just plain predictable. (On the other hand, it makes watching their reactions to my color choices all the more amusing.)

I do it all without thinking, and because I've done it for so many years, I do it very, very quickly.  I'm rarely aware I'm doing it. It's so intuitive, and so much of a habit, I'll be sewing merrily along, and then look at what I'm working on and think, "oh hell, it's too damn perfect" when I wanted it wonky.  To make it wonky, I have to concentrate on NOT sewing on auto-pilot.

So what does this all have to do with making wonky houses and trees?  A lot, actually.  If you want to make a house look like it's in the middle of a cold landscape, you have to follow some rules. Where I live, in New England, it gets cold in winter (for my pals in Oz, that means 0 degrees C, or the temperature at which water freezes.)  In that weather, the trees lose their leaves and we get snow on the ground.  Your breath freezes the air, the cold wind hurts your face, and your car doesn't always start on command!

Putting colorful flowers near a winter house wouldn't make it look cold, even though that would be a good example of wonkiness, or rule-breaking.

I made my little winter cabin the way I did because I wanted it to look cold.  I wanted you to feel the cold. So the house is shorter, the body of the house is timber, like a log cabin. The fabric I used for the roof looks like the asphalt roofing material used around here (and it's black to hold in the heat and help the snow melt).  I made the doors and windows blue - cool blues. I wanted the house to look like it was huddled against the cold. I made the ground black and white, to look like the snow.  The only warm element in the house is the red chimney.

It's all a juggling act.  More tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter Cabin

Here's the Winter Cabin for my Four Seasons Quilt.
I like my houses to sit properly on the ground, so mine have a bit of ground higher on each side of the house. I think it gives them more weight and solidity.

I think the house resting right on the same line as the ground looks a little weird.  It's my art background intruding, I know.  For me making truly wonky houses is an exercise in breaking so many rules about how things really look that I just have to give in now and again.

(Rules about how things look: usually the top edge of windows line up with the top edge of doors; the roof is symmetrical; the chimney is higher than the roof point. the eaves are the same width on both sides of the house. And any cat that size would be about the size of a small lion!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New England House

This is a good example of a traditional New England farmhouse with attached outbuildings and barn.

This is the main house. This traditional style was built on symmetry.  The windows and front door are all lined up just so.  Note also the placement of the two chimneys, and the solid granite block foundation. This is a large house, and the family that built it was prosperous. My guess is it's almost 200 years old. It's been very well taken care of.

This looks like a simple house to free-piece, but to get the feel of it just right, it would have to be big! Still, though, isn't it great?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Winter Plan

My back was hurting a lot last night, so after dinner I lay on the couch and drew up this plan for the winter panel of the Four Seasons quilt.It's not perfect - the two groups of trees should be ever so slightly closer together, and I don't want the two biggest trees to be exactly the same height. I may push the house back a little, and even make it smaller, but overall I'm pretty pleased with it.  It's a start, and will give me something to think about.

Like, how am I going to make those trees overlap? Last night I wasn't so sure. This morning, I think I have it figured out.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thinking of Spring

Here are the fabrics I pulled for my Spring Wonky House and Tree panel. In Spring (at least here in New England) the leaves aren't fully out until late May, and they are not yet bright green. There are flowering trees (which are the ones with pink).  The grass isn't quite green but there are flowers popping up.  Often the weather is rainy, so the sky in my spring panel is creamy, with a pattern indicating the spring breezes.
When I selected the fabric for the house, I was thinking "what color reminds me of Spring, but isn't necessarily something I see out the window?" Easter  and Easter eggs came to my mind, so I chose this  lavender striped fabric.  For the windows, I needed something dark for contrast. The darker purple was an obvious choice.  Then to find a couple of little cats to give the little sense of home.
And here is the overall layout of how I planned to use them.  I did make a few changes in the finished panel, but that's what happens.

BTW, I called these large blocks "panels" instead of blocks because they are comprised of different elements.  Each tree is a block, (like this cat under the tree), the house is a block, and then when all the blocks are put together, I have a big collection of blocks, and I refer to it as a "panel." This quilt will be comprised of four panels, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

Monday, November 14, 2011

For the birds

One of my quilting friends told me once, "You always find the BEST fabrics."

I disagreed. I don't think my fabrics are better than anybody else's. In fact, some of my most "inspired" fabric choices were from fabrics that were given to me. (The border of the quilt for DQS8; the lazy dog in The Quick Brown Fox; the spiderwebs on the W in Nine x Nine; the orange roof of the house in Magic Happens.)

I would certainly never have bought this fabric with the pink birds on the green background. I kept it because I thought it might have potential.
It did.

With a little careful trimming, it's perfect as the "ground" in my Spring panel for the Four Seasons Quilt-Along.

I know I keep harping on you to look at your fabrics to see what they can BE.  This is what I mean.

What?  Oh, you can't see the whole thing? Well, oh, of course not...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

House Planning

I don't want the houses in my Four Seasons quilt to be identical. I want them to appear to be the same house at first glance, but I do want each of them to be slightly unique.  Look for the placement of chimneys and doors to be different.  The placement of the house will be different in each panel also. These little drawings from my sketchbook will get me going.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wonky House Sneak Peek

Here are some of the fabrics I have selected for the Four Seasons houses.
 I am really getting excited about this project.

When I select fabrics, I don't just lay them out in a row. I arrange them as closely as possible in their positions in the finished block, like this one:
This house isn't part of my Four Seasons plan, but it gives you an idea of how I plan my houses.  This is also a great example of how collaborating with a child can make a great house.  When I was making a quilt for my godson a couple of years ago, I drew some simple houses on copy paper and asked his older brother and sister to color them and send them back to me.  I then interpreted their drawings in fabric.

Sometimes it's so hard to think of something if you can do anything that it's a good idea to limit your options.  In this case I had to stick with the colors from the drawing. It forced me to be creative about using my fabrics. What if I told you that you had to make your Four Seasons houses with only fabrics that are in your stash right now? Would that help you to think more creatively?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another Scrappy G-block Quilt!

I've got a semi-secret plan going for these leftover blocks from the Gizzy Quilts I used to make. This is the second flimsy I've made so far.  You can see the first one here.  When this second top is complete, I'll get backing for both quilts and send them off to Chris to be quilted, along with the Red Letter Alphabet.

THEN I will start working on my blocks for the Four Seasons quilt. Woo Hoo!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

House Planning

 I've been thinking a lot about my wonky house and trees. I've decided to go with the four seasons idea, and have pulled all my fabrics. I've also been thinking about how I'd arrange them in a quilt.

First, in more traditional rows, like this.
Then I thought of the cyclical nature of the four seasons, and thought about arranging them a bit like this, with the houses in the center, surrounded by trees.  The trees in the border would blend seasons into one another, as they do in real life..
These are tiny little drawings from my sketchbook.  You may have to click each photo to enlarge.

While I hate being too "cutesy" I thought of some additional elements that would help identify the seasons in each house - a porch in summer, a mini quilt on a clothesline in the spring, a pumpkin for autumn, perhaps a Christmas wreath on the door in winter... I don't know if I'll actually include these in the finished quilt, but it's better to have too many ideas than too few.

How are your ideas coming along?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

It's That Time

It's THAT time again.

 Time to clean the sewing studio because it's just to messy to work in.

I've set out my fabrics for three of the four seasons house panels.  What are you doing this lovely sunny weekend?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wonky Tree Thoughts

If you live in an area that gets snow in the winter, you know it's only bright white for a brief time. After a day or so it gets dirty and dingy looking. So the ground underneath a tree in winter isn't pristine white.  Here in New England, the only trees that are green in the winter are evergreens, which are usually tall and narrow. 

Given the almost two feet of snow we got this past weekend, I've been thinking about winter trees.  How do trees in your area look in the winter? How would you represent them? If you live in an area that doesn't get snow, how would your viewers know what time of the year it is?

Making wonky houses and trees are pretty easy.  I'd like you all to think about where you live.  How would you represent your location?  What's different about winters in say, Memphis or southern Florida, or California?  What does it look like in January in Kununurra Australia?  Is it different than what it looks like in July?

Houses in places that get cold and have a lot of snow generally have steep roofs so the snow doesn't weigh the roof down.  What do houses in Hawaii look like? I bet their roofs are not as steep.  I want to see your wonky houses and trees, but I'm much more interested in seeing how you can interpret the world around you without using words.

It's worth thinking about for sure, but also LOOK around you.  Find the clues.  Take notes. Take pictures!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Four Seasons

I think it would be fun to have a Wonky-Along, but it's gonna have to wait until things settle down a bit. I do like the idea of making the same sort of house in all four seasons.
 That reminded me of this little quilt for Doll Quilt Swap 8. I had been playing with making wonky trees, but I didn't really have a concrete idea of how I would arrange them. 

The whole thing clicked for me one cold January morning as I was driving to work.  I looked at the bare trees by the side of the road and wondered how I'd make them wonky style. The tree to the right of the little house was the result. 

One thing led to another... how could I show the difference in the four seasons? What would the trees look like? How would I represent the ground?  How about the sky? Thinking, going through my stash and experimenting eventually led to this little quilt. I've always loved it, and the recipient loved it as well.

So The next wonky along will feature houses and trees.... Quilters, put on your thinking caps!