Monday, March 31, 2014

With or Without?

As I was finishing up the Black and White Crayons, I needed a way to figure out how big the finished flimsy would be, so I stuck a piece of black fabric up on the design wall so I could see the left edge. When I stepped back, I had an AHA moment.

So I stuck up strips of more fabric to indicate what it might look like, and then I added some BW striped fabric I might use as a binding. I wasn't quite sure, so I tried it the other way.

I already know which I am going to do, but I thought you might like to see both versions and decide for yourself. With, or without? And why do you think so?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Birds, Please

White bird #2

Black bird #2 (Note these two have the same leg and beak fabric.)

Black bird #3 (Love those "Mondo" legs.)

White bird #3

Saturday, March 29, 2014

First Draft

By the time you read this I will have resolved some of the issues with the various letters in the Black and White Crayons flimsy.

I need to:
  1. Make the birds the same size (or decide to leave them as they are).
  2. Fix the C in CRAYONS. (It's not making good use of the pattern in the fabrics.)
  3. Make the N in IN of more than one fabric.
  4. Fix the dot (cat) in the I to be a bit higher up, or lower down, I can't decide which.
  5. Make the H in the second THE a bit more interesting. (Right now it's rather pale.)
  6. Make the E in the second THE a bit thinner.
  7. Figure out a way to fill in the extra negative space on the right side of the quilt. (Another bird, perhaps?)
Time to tweak!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Y, oh Y?

This isn't quite right (the dividing line isn't in the middle) but at least the dividing line is straight,  right?

Nope. Look again.

So I had to fix it...

OK. The V of the letter is exactly on the dividing line, and the dividing line is nice and straight.

Go figure. 

Actually it's an optical illusion.

So here's a conundrum.  Should I make it LOOK RIGHT but BE WRONG or leave it BEING RIGHT but LOOKING WRONG?

What would YOU do?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Give Me a Y!

and when I do, I'll have all the letters made for the Black and White Crayons Quilt.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


That "N" is supposed to have a dark background, not a white one! 

 This is much better!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Black Bird, Black Bird

I knew I had to have a pair of black and white birds in my black and white quilt

 I knew I wanted them to "echo" each other. I also wanted them to be the same size.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Black and White Box

I am very excited to work on the Black and White Crayons quilt letters.

I like the little funny cat in the "i". I'm happy with the "T" but I'm worried the white "HE" might be too light.

I was delighted to find I had both black and white versions of the three fabrics I used in the letter "O".

Here, (obviously) is "BOX".

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Black and White

I started sewing up my Black and White letters yesterday.  Here is what I have so far.

I like the way the "e" and the "a" mirror each other both in fabric used and shape and scale. I'm not quite sure about the bats and the striped fabric for the "l"s but I find them both rather humorous.

Let me show you some of the letters in detail.

There are three different fabrics in the "U", and their placement is quite deliberate.

There are five different fabrics in this "S" and their placement was very carefully orchestrated. That curve that connects three different pieces and patterns of fabric was no accident.

When I was trying to figure out how to arrange the fabrics for the "T", I moved the two fabrics around each other, and noticed that if I arranged them just right I could get that little point where the two fabrics met. Another advantage of this placement was the center of the circles look like eyes staring at you!

This letter "H" will straddle the light and dark dividing line, and that fabric in the crossbar was also very precisely placed.

To answer some questions posed in the comments yesterday...

Rebecca, I often keep my sketchbook near my bed, but I've never used it in the middle of the night to write down an idea. However I have been known to jump out of bed and run into the studio in the middle of the night. I never draw quilt designs in colored pencils

Terri.. HOLY CRAP, What an AWESOME idea!!! I never thought of anything LIKE that! So cool, THANKS!

Julie, You're welcome. As soon as I saw them I knew they were PERFECT!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Black & White Crayons

 I've been wanting to make a Black and White Crayons quilt for a while, and really wanted to divide it in half somehow so I could use the whites on black and the blacks on white. I never could work it out in my head.

Lying in bed the other night, the solution came to me just before I fell to sleep. I couldn't believe the solution was so simple. Arrange the black and white side by side, cut some letters in half and make them straddle the edge! My plan would look like this, although the shapes of the letters would be different.

Last night as I got out my BW fabrics I wondered... Should I make the quilt high contrast, like in my drawing, or low contrast?  Only one way to tell. Throw fabric bits up on the design board and take a look.

Here's the "low contrast" version, with the "white" BW on the white side and the "black" ones on the black side.

 This is the "high contrast" version. It's pretty clear to me that this one is a lot better.

As long as we're on the subject, here are my new glasses:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Queen Elizabeth was a Ruler...*

I love rulers. I don't know why, but I do. They are also dead useful, especially for squaring up quilts. You can use 24" rulers for squaring up small quilts. but you can't use them to square up big ones. It just doesn't work. I have a 48" ruler, and now I have a 60" one. Woo hoo!

I had a hard time squaring up the Black Crayons quilt. It seemed to have four 90 degree corners, but there was a 1/2" difference between the top and bottom. I have a large 16" right triangle, but I still had a hard time figuring out where I went wrong. 

So I asked a woodworking friend of mine for advice. He suggested I look into one of these, a 48" adjustable drywall square. I did more than look. I ordered two.

These will make squaring up my larger quilts a lot easier, and a lot more accurate!

*Dunno why this sticks with me, but some of you may remember this ditty.. 
"There are 12 inches in a ruler, Queen Elizabeth was a ruler. Queen Elizabeth was also a boat. Boats sail on the sea, the sea has fishes, the fishes have fins, the Finns fought the Russians and the Russians are red, that's why fire engines are red because they're rushin' all over."  
 It's from the Three Stooges.  I have two brothers who loved the Three Stooges. They recited this ditty ("Why Are Fire Engines Red?") over and over, and over forty years later, I still remember it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mashed Potato Crayons - Finished!

Woo Hoo.  The Mashed Potato Crayons quilt is finished. I wanted to play with the "low-volume" fabrics in a way that was unexpected.

(OK. Truthful moment here. I never want to do what's expected.)

I knew that a word quilt would be successful if I used the fabrics properly. It's okay, nothing more. It's useful as a teaching sample, but it's not exactly a favorite of mine.

I hate sewing the hanging sleeve on the back. The reason why is that I have to crumple up all that fabric and it hurts to hold it in my hand.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


A famous piece of advice for writers is "kill your darlings." It means if something isn't working, you need to get rid of it, no matter how much you love it, or how much work you've put into it.

As soon as I made these two letters from the word FLY, I knew what I had been trying to deny for days.

The PIGS have to go.  I'll show you.

The LY letters are light and flirty, but if those letters fly, then the PIGS are definitely earthbound. Flying pigs are supposed to be whimsical, but real life pigs aren't.

Of course my "wings" won't be selvages, I just threw those up on the wall to see if my idea for wings would work. I don't think it will. Those will probably go too.

And I am even considering tossing out the WHEN.

Ah yes, murder...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hanging Sleeve

I only add hanging sleeves to quilts that are designed to hang on the wall.  Judy in Michigan asked if I sewed the hanging sleeve to the binding. I wasn't quite sure what she meant, so I thought I'd show you how I do it.

I make the hanging sleeve, and then line it up with the top edge of the back of the quilt, centering it. Often I run it through the sewing machine to get it to stay in place, because when I line up the binding on top, it's hard for the pins to hold everything in place without getting bent or broken.

 Then I lay my binding right on top. I like a 1/2" finished binding on my quilts, so I cut it 3" wide, then fold it in half.

Next I sew through all layers, using a 3/8" seam. I often use a larger needle to make this a bit easier.  I want that top edge of the hanging sleeve to be securely attached to the quilt.

I fold the binding over to the front of the quilt, and blindstitch the edge down. When that's done, I'll hand sew the rest of the hanging sleeve on the back of the quilt.

This is the way I attach the hanging sleeves to all my "arty" quilts. It works great, and the hanging sleeve never shows from the front.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bright! Bright! Bright!

I always try to find the perfect backing for each of my quilts. I never use something cheap or left over. Here you can see the wild backing I have selected for the Bright Crayons, the fabric I am using as the hanging sleeve, and the equally bright fabric I am using for the binding.

I got all the binding sewn on this quilt last night too. It's easy when the hanging sleeve and binding are all made ahead of time. That isn't usually the case.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Anybody who knows me knows that if I'm excited about a project I work on it every single available minute.  The Flying Pigs have languished on my design wall. It just isn't singing for me. Fortunately I have a distraction.
I got a box of quilts back from Chris, who does my longarm quilting.

 First, the low-volume Crayons.

Next, the Bright Crayons,

 And here's a detail of the Black Crayons, showing Chris's wonderful quilting.

 Finally, Sliced, for one of my "fairy nephews." (If you're a Fairy Godmother, you get to have Fairy Nieces and Nephews.)

I've already added the binding to the low volume Crayons quilt.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Shove Over!

You can't tell how things look until you move them around. I thought I wanted PIGS to be centered under WHEN, like this:

It just didn't sing for me.

I slid the word PIGS over a bit to the right, and it looks better. It gives a sense of movement, like this is going somewhere.

Why? Arranging items in a diagonal increases tension.

Now I have to work on FLY.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Diagonal Hell

I'm always telling students they have to make sure to add enough fabric to letters with diagonals, because if they don't, "they'll bite you in the butt."  See the piece of backing fabric I had to add at the point of this big triangle? This what I mean, but in this case, it isn't a problem.

In this photo, I didn't add enough fabric on under the H so that when I sewed the long diagonal seam I got too close to the selvage edge.

I'm going to leave it as is, because this piece will be used as a teaching sample, and won't be quilted. I can tell students to leave extra fabric, but when they actually see the error, it will make them think twice.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Duds, Glorious Duds!

Every word quilt I make generates lots of duds or "misfit" letters.
These are from Nine x Nine.

The letters in the lower half of this photo are the "duds" from my quilt Daft Zebras.

The only letters worth keeping in this photo were the "out of the box" ones that formed an arc above the box in The Black Box quilt.

The BOX letters on the bottom of this photo are all duds.

Now, duds aren't BAD letters, they just don't "work" with the rest of what I've made. So I set them aside. I might use them in another project, and I might even raid them for bits of fabric.

But most of my dud letters have made their way to my friend Julie.

 Back at the end of 2010 she told me I should send her my dud letters "because students need to see that the first letters they make aren't BAD and can still be used to make a beautiful quilt."

 She made this quilt, Hidden Potential, for me. I love it.  I then sent her another box of my leftover bits including some houses, stars, butterflies and other stuff.

The result was this quilt, Magic Happens, a collaboration between Julie, Chris (our fabulous long arm quilter) and me. I love this one so much it lives on my bed.

Julie and I have talked about how she takes what I consider a dud and makes magic out of it. "When I get your castoff letters, they don't have any negative associations for me," she says. "So it's easy for me to use them in something new."

Good point!  Check out what Julie made with my castoff letters from the Black Box, Red Letter Alphabet and Mashed Potato Crayons.

The letters may be mine, but the rest, Create With Abandon, is all Julie's.

The lesson, Rebecca, is that it's all in how you look at it; that inspiration, and (hidden) potential, is everywhere.

Even in the castoff bin!