Thursday, March 30, 2017

When Can I Use the Selvage Edge?

As part of an effort to bring clarity to quilters who need more information, here is my first post about some of the little things that many quilters take for granted. Eventually this post will be part of a "Page" on the blog devoted to tips and tricks and some of the basics that we sometimes forget. I've got plans for posts (pages) on straight of the grain and bias (among others) planned as well. As usual, your suggestions and comments are welcome.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The selvage edges of fabric are sometimes printed, as in this example, and sometimes not as in most batiks. Nevertheless, you should cut them off and not use them in your patchwork piecing. They don't always press flat, and they often pucker and tighten when washed, meaning what they are sewn to doesn't lay flat. They are often thicker to sew through, and longarm quilters often have difficulty quilting through them.

Even though it may be tempting to leave the selvage intact when you are piecing the backing of a quilt, it's best to remove them. I often piece two long lengths of fabric together, matching the selvage edges, but I sew a 1-1/2" seam, using the selvage edge as a guide, and then I cut the selvages off before I press the seam open.

A few years ago using the selvages, particularly those with colored selvage dots, was all the rage.

Unless you plan to show them of like this, don't use the selvage in your patchwork.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Color Might Not Be a Tutorial

In the next few days I will write pages about the gnarly little topics that caused so much angst earlier this week. I need to think about what I want to say, and may need to make some samples to say it. If there is any topic you would particularly like me to discuss, please let me know in the comments. I can't promise anything.

Anything, except one topic, apparently.

Way back in 2010, I bought these fabrics at a visit to Quilted Threads. I wrote about it on the blog at the time. One reader wrote to me. "I think the fabrics you selected are beautiful, and I can understand why you say they go together, except for one. I don't understand why you picked that raspberry color. If I cover it with my finger, the selection looks lost without it, but I would never have chosen it. Why did you do that?" (What was really weird about that comment was that I was surprised she did not say the BLUE was the oddball.)

I talked to my Mom about it. Remember she's an artist too, and has made her living as an artist and art teacher for over forty years. "That," my Mom said, "you can't teach."

Which was pretty demoralizing for me, a teacher, to hear.

One of the comments yesterday, reminded me of this story. Lynne from County Durham in the UK wrote: "I'm constantly in awe of your use of colour - I have real problems with mixing colours and have several times looked at what you are doing with a quilt, thought "Ugh that's going to look awful" and then been stunned at the final fantastic result!!!! Not sure that's something that can be put in a tutorial - but if it is I reckon you could do it !!!"

Believe me, Lynne from County Durham. I'd love to be able to teach it. I have given it a great deal of thought.

Here's another example:

Way back in 2005 I made this black quilt. It's all squares, and how I did it can be found if you look in the pages tab for "My Scrap Process." I had been collecting fabrics with black backgrounds because I thought they were interesting. I'd buy half yard cuts. You can read more about the quilt here.

Many were novelties, but not all. Some were Japanese, some were florals, some were full of fun colors (colored beetles, chopsticks, circles and dots or stripes. I collected them without much thought that I would ever use them together, and then, when I decided to make a quilt out of them, I bought more.

What I wanted was to have a quilt that was a mass of color. I wanted the viewer to see color first, dancing across the surface of the quilt. THEN I wanted the viewer to realize there were dozens of different prints. THEN I wanted the viewer to realize the quilt was patchwork. (And then I wanted their mouths to fall open in astonishment. Yeah, I'm a bad woman. I know.)

As I looked over my selection, I knew I needed some blacks that didn't have as much color or pattern as the others. If you look across the quilt, you will see the black with small white circles, the black with small white boxes, the black with white squiggles and the black with white dragonflies. I needed to break up all that color with the less busy black with small white prints, but I don't know how I knew it.

About a year or so later, I showed the quilt to a professional art quilter, and said offhandedly, "There's nothing special about this, it's just made from fabrics with black backgrounds."

"OH NO," she said, "Don't say that. This is a very sophisticated concept, and not everybody could pull this off and get it to look as beautiful as this does."

The point is not that I made a pretty black quilt, my point is that I picked the fabrics and colors and prints WITHOUT GIVING IT ANY THOUGHT AT ALL. Or at least any conscious thought. I was at a fabric store once and the saleslady said, "Can you help me? I need to find something to go with this, and none of us can come up with anything good." She handed me a piece of salmon colored fabric.

"Oh sure," I said, "gimme a few minutes. How many fabrics do you want?" She told me to pick four or five. So I wandered down the aisles, pulling bolts of fabric. It was years ago, so I have no idea what I pulled, but I'm pretty sure I picked some blue green, some blue, some soft greens, and maybe a rich dark blue. I brought the stack back to the counter. She looked up, surprised. "Omigod, those are gorgeous. I would never have come up with those. How did you do that? It didn't even take you two minutes." I shrugged. I didn't know where it came from.

I still don't. To me, it's as natural as breathing.

THAT, I can't teach you. THAT, you have or you don't.

What I CAN teach you is to start with something, a color or a fabric you want to use as inspiration, and to go from there, to look at what you HAVE and to choose colors that RELATE to it (think of the selvage dots, those will always coordinate). I can teach you to think about making a range of lights and darks, a variety of scale of prints. But look at this bird! He breaks all the rules!

I can tell you to think about where the color sits on the color wheel and to venture to either side of your chosen color for colors that will work. I can tell you about warm and cool colors. Yes, there are warm blues and cold ones. Cold yellows and warm ones. You may or may not want to vary the temperature of your colors in your selection, but you should consider that option.

I can tell you to look to nature for inspiration, but also to be aware of the proportion of the zingers. Yellow green and purple and dark green are one of my favorite garden combinations, but in a quilt, using all those in equal amounts can spell disaster. It isn't just the colors that contribute to a successful combination, it's the [visual] amount of each.  Some colors are simply bigger than others.

I can teach you how to look across the color wheel for the complement, the kicker, the diva, the one color that will shake the whole thing up and make it sing.

I can teach you to look and I can teach you to think, I can teach you how to notice and pay attention. I can encourage you to break all the rules from time to time, and see where it gets you. (Look back at the bird, above.)

The rest is up to you.

And I think I just found my way.

Again, folks, have I told you how much I love your questions?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I Love My Readers

Oh dear Readers, how do I love thee?

I love you LOTS, let me tell you! You never let me down. I wanted your answers and you were wonderful enough to take the time to share them. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've got a lot to say about them and it may be a bit disjointed, so bear with me.

I think the best answer is to set up a page on this blog and devote it to things like "Straight of the grain - why you need to pay attention," "Oh those damned seams in the back!" "Positive and Negative" "What the selvage is (and isn't) good for." Then I can simply refer readers of the tutorials to those pages, which frees me from having to repeat myself.

My niece, who, one-handed, learned to make free pieced letters faster than anybody I've ever met.

I don't like the idea of classifying my tutorials as "Beginner," or "Intermediate" or anything. I feel that if students think something is "too hard" they'll shy away from doing it. So I don't like to prejudice them. When anything you want to do or learn becomes important enough, you'll find a way to do it, come hell or high water. I WANT my students to take giant leaps into the unknown, and that takes a certain amount of courage, or just a lot of faith.

Seriously, it's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. It's taking two pieces of fabric, slapping them together and then sewing a straight line to join them. This is not life threatening stuff. So you might waste twenty bucks of fabric. Big whoop. What is that, fancy coffee for a week?  You should go read this post, titled "If He Can Do It..."

You all know I believe in what I call "Quilting Without a Net." I would love to get rid of patterns and templates and anything paper pieced. I love to see students take risks, because I've seen how when they take them wonderful things happen. If you've been in my class you've heard me say, "Look, I'm pretty sure you all got yourselves dressed this morning without any help. You can make successful color choices on your own."

Anybody who's ever been in one of my classes knows I'm a "take-no-prisoners" kind of teacher. I will pester and cajole a student any way I can to get them to let loose and put those "little gray cells" to work. And I don't molly-coddle my students either. In my class, you WORK.

I often ask, at the beginning of a class, "Do you want me to prevent you from making a mistake, or do you want me to let you fail and learn on your own?" They always ask me to prevent them, and they claim it's due to the time restraint of a six hour class. They all know if they screw up on their own they will DEFINITELY learn that lesson, but hey, nobody wants to fail, at least in public!

The back of Snow Day, once I finally figured out how to press those seams.
 I didn't say so on the blog, but the slab triangles I made in the first two Scrap Slab Triangle quilts (Fruit Loops & Treasure Trove) had way too many pieces in them and pressing the rows of blocks was a royal pain in the butt, and frustrated the heck out of me. Treasure Trove was particularly painful, with those points matching. Even Snow Day gave me trouble, until I figured out I should press the seams between the blocks open, and we all know how much I like THAT. (Answer = Not.)

Some part of me thinks anybody who wants painstakingly detailed instructions just wants a crutch. My eyes just cross and glaze over, but then, I've read a LOT of badly written instructions.

OH! And whoever said to one commenter, "Are you a slow learner?," deserves to be shot, in my book. What a thoughtless thing to say to a student. Everybody learns differently and it's a [good] teacher's job to be able to explain it so every student can understand, even if the teacher has to explain the same thing twenty different ways. It's the TEACHER'S job to teach, dammit.

I've read that if a middle-aged woman had to learn to walk she'd never do it, that the fear is too paralyzing, and I think that sounds about right. What the hell is it that happens to us as we get older? Fear of failure? I see it all the time. Over-thinking? Damn, I see that all the time too. Sew the seam already! The faster you make your first ten thousand mistakes the faster you learn your first ten thousand things.

And ask any damn question you want, no matter what the price, no matter how silly or fearful you feel about it. When you ask questions, I learn something. I'll learn it, then I'll share it.

Ladies, and Gentlemen, Put that pattern down. Toss out that kit. Get rid of all those foundation papers. I'm here to tell you that you can make spectacular quilts, and I'm here to show you how.

Have I told you all lately how much I love you?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Now I Have Some Questions

 OK, everybody, LISTEN UP!   One of my esteemed proofreaders has asked me some very pointed questions about what quilters really know, and how much should I explain, and I need some answers from YOU!  Yup, I really do, because I don't feel the need to explain Every. Little. Thing. That most quilters know just from making quilts.

So answer these four questions for me, please. If I am wrong and you really DON'T KNOW, then I get to eat a whole lot of crow and I have to go back to the drawing board and completely, and fully explain the following concepts:

1. So if I show you this picture and I mention that all fabrics in this photo are the same color, do you believe me, or do you think I am crazy?

2. If I tell you to be careful about making slabs (that are going to be cut up later) with too many small pieces because you'll have to deal with a lot of seams, do you know why? Or do I have to explain it in painstaking detail?

3. How much to I have to explain the "straight of the grain?" Do you understand when I tell you that all these triangles, and the slab from which they have been cut are all made from strips and pieces that have been cut on the grain? (Actually the base of the triangles are all on the straight of the grain. The other two sides are on the bias.)

4. Do you know what "Negative Space" is? And do you understand that in THIS example, it's the black, because I've flipped the values here and the white diamonds are the "thing?"

Look, the tutorial is pretty good, and these questions are things that beginning quilters may not fully understand, but my tute isn't written for rank beginners. I'm assuming that the quilters who read my tutorial aren't hung up with perfectly 'matchy matchy' fabrics or colors; know what the straight of the grain is, and to handle triangles cut from fabric carefully so they don't get distorted. I don't think I need to explain (much) about why you should cut away the selvage before you make blocks and that you know that having lots of seams in a block means it's going to be a bitch to press so it lies flat. I assume you know the difference between Positive space and Negative space (Hint: Positive space is the thing. Negative space is the space around the thing.)

That's it.

And yeah, I guess you could say I've got my back up.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Scrab Slab Tute First Draft

Wow! I've finished the first draft of the new tutorial about the scrap slab quilts. It looks good to me but now it's out to my talented team of proofreaders for their review. They love to skewer me over every comma, phrase and photograph. They'll question my thought process and my sequencing. I'll change stuff because they've made good points, and I resist when I don't agree. Believe it or not, it's a lot of fun and a real learning experience for me.

When they're done with it I'll polish it up, publish it as a PDF file and put it up for sale on my Etsy shop. It'll be a downloadable file like the others. I'll let you know when it's ready.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Got Questions?

When I made the scrap slabs for my scrap triangle quilts, I didn't make enormous slabs and then cut them down. It didn't take me long to figure out that I only needed to make them taller than the triangle. But sometimes I'd make a slab it would be too small. 

So I cut some triangle shapes out of scrap fabric (the light fabric here) and moved them around on the slab to figure out the most efficient way to cut my triangles. In the example above, it looks like I can't get two full triangles without adding something to one edge.  But a little creative thinking proved me wrong.

I just flipped the triangles, and was able to cut two of them out of this slab as it was.

That's two great hints. What else do you want to know? You've all watched me make these quilts since last fall. I know what I think I want to say, but my readers always have really great questions I would never have thought to ask.

So here's your chance. What do you want to know? If you could ask me a question about how I make my quilts, what would it be? Leave it in the comments and I'll try to answer.

Thanks and have a nice weekend.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Working on the New Tute

As I promised, I am working on the tutorial for the Scrap Slab Triangle Quilts.

Since I decided to write this tutorial, I've been taking photos as I made the last two scrap slab quilts (Treasure Trove and Snow Day) and now I'm arranging the photos in sequence. When I think I've got the story told in pictures, I'll start adding words and then the fun really begins.

It will take a couple of weeks, so if I go quiet you'll know why.

I also have to do my taxes. (bleh)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Whack Upside the Head

I try.

I really do.

But there are times I forget that, as my friend the Selvage Fairy says, "You know more than you think you know," and it takes a comment or email from a curious reader to bring me back to reality. Which is a good thing for all of us.

For those of you confused by the term "WOF" on yesterday's post, let me elaborate.  It means "Width Of Fabric."

When I sewed the backings together for the Fruit Loops and Snow Day quilts, I had bought 6 yards of the backing fabric for each. I threw the fabric in my washer and dryer, then ironed it. I folded it in half lengthwise and cut it into two pieces. I rearranged the fabric so the two pieces were side-by-side and the pattern was going in one direction. Then I sew the two pieces together using a large, 1-1/2" seam (about 4 cm). Then, before pressing the seam open, I trim away the selvages on that long seam.

Make sense now?

Thank you, Joan from Scotland.

If I at any time make reference to something you don't understand, please don't hesitate to shoot me an email (patcherymenagerie AT gmail DOT com) and I'll do my best to enlighten you.

And I'll eat my share of crow if needed.

dunno where I found this, but it's appropriate.

Thanks for reading.  Really!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Backing Backing Backing

My least favorite part of making a quilt is getting the backing ready. Not because it is difficult, but it is just such a pain to wrangle so much fabric around.

But with the studio clean and the Green Barn block finished, it was time to get going on the backings for the three triangle scrap slab quilts. For the Treasure Trove quilt, I picked a large print, so that was easy, two WOF pieces sewn together.

For Snow Day, I had to shop for the backing. I usually like large prints, but I like the backing to relate to the front, and it was not that easy. The usual things I liked didn't seem to work, but this fabric did. It's low key and yet has the same colors in the quilt, so it was a go. Again, this was two WOF pieces sewn together, but here I made sure to match the pattern so it would look like one piece of fabric.

 For the Fruit Loops quilt, I couldn't find one big print I liked, so I bought equal amounts of three fabrics whose colors were represented in the quilt. Yesterday I ironed them all and set them out on the studio floor. Now I just have to figure out a not stupid way to arrange them. That ought to be interesting. We all know where that got me last time.

Anyway, this will be a good job done. Next up is to write a class description, plan and supply list for the Barns class I will teach at Quilted Threads in June.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Peppermint Swirl in the Snow

OK, maybe not IN the snow, but ON it. You can see the quilting and the backing in this.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Green Barn by the Town Line

The Green Barn is done.

I decided to use the big print because the barn is surrounded by trees, and this print conveys that. Viewers from outside New England ask why our barns are so close to the roads. Gee, I don't know, but I can tell you that New England is small, and the terrain is rarely flat. Barns here often have two levels because they are built on the side of a hill. So it is with this barn. The left side is at ground level,and the right side is not. That light area under the right side of the barn is the lower level foundation. The smaller green below the big leaf print is my attempt to suggest small bushes and shrubs in front of the larger trees behind. You can find a photo of the inspiration barn here.

The block is quite large, 32" tall by 36" wide (about 81cm x 91cm).

Friday, March 17, 2017

On The Table

Here's the Peppermint Swirl quilt on my dining room table. I was pleased as I was designing it to discover how perfectly it fit on the table.

As I've been showing this to friends and coworkers since I finished it, they've all asked where this one is going. "It's staying with me," I say.

"I'd keep it too," most of them have replied.

The idea for this quilt came a little over a year ago when I was talking to my friend Julie and I told her I wanted to make a red and white quilt for my table to use in February, as an homage to Valentine's Day. I didn't have enough reds then, and didn't have any idea of a design. When I don't know where I'm going, I don't just jump in. I set the idea aside to germinate and grow. The idea percolated in the back of my head until August and September, when I finally got fabric and got going.

I remember when I was making it and I just wasn't sure it was working at all. Check out this post, and this one, when I finally got it. I didn't give up, I didn't settle. I just kept pushing. I knew there was a great quilt in there somewhere.

Now it's in great company. Literally!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Peppermint Swirl, done.

I don't usually finish the binding on a quilt in one day, but if you're snowed in, and something good is on TV, it helps.

I would like to take beauty shots of this quilt in the new snow.

Happy Birthday Rubylocks!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Snowy Day

What do you do when you're staying home because you are supposed to get 16-24" (41-61 cm) of snow? The New York Times has a complete list you can read about here. As for me...

You bake cookies. I like these Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies.

You work on a quilt. Here I am sewing the binding on the Peppermint Swirl quilt.

You watch TV. I'm a tennis fan, and will be watching the matches at Indian Wells in California. As I write this I am watching the reruns from last night. These matches will take place later today.

Speaking of Snow Days...

When I was in California we had dinner with my brother, who was driving up to Yosemite from Mexico. I was showing him photos of my recent quilts and he said if he didn't have this one, Triangle Dance, he would ask for my newest, Snow Day, which he really liked.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Back in the Saddle...

OK, I'm home from sunny California. I've unpacked, done the laundry and put everything away. I've done the groceries, paid the bills, cleaned the litter boxes, and planned the menus for the week. I've made granola and I have bread rising as I write this. I've also changed all the clocks and given Millie enough attention to last her maybe an hour. Amazingly enough she stuck to me like glue the night I got back, and even slept beside me, which she never does.

I'm making the binding for the Peppermint Candy (Peppermint Swirl?) quilt. With the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells on TV this week, I won't be short of something to watch while I hand stitch the binding down.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Home Again

My little grandbaby loves me. After giving her a bit of time to get used to having me around, she warmed up and smiled whenever I approached her. That was the best thing.

Here are all of us before we went on a walk along the beach.

Along "the Strand" in Manhattan Beach, the houses that faced the beachfront had various styles of privacy walls. This was by far the most interesting.

This gives you an idea of the scale. It was in the 50's and quite windy on this day.

I think Little Miss loved the hat I bought her.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Color Inspiration & California So Far

As my family and I were walking along the beachfront houses I saw these fabulous flowers, and thought the colors were amazing. Who would have thought the almost black succulent would have such a brilliant yellow green flower? It's even more amazing next to the hot pink flowers and the warm blue of the house behind.

We'd seen the same plant at the Arboretum a day before, and its colors had excited me then too.

The cacti are pretty amazing. This one was easily eighteen feet tall.

It rained yesterday. Very. Big. Deal. So unlike the California of my memory, this one is green. There is green everywhere. The grass is green, the flowers are blooming and there are actually weeds growing!

I've been eating some wonderful food too. I always try to eat things I could never get at home. The Carne Asada breakfast burrito at Phanny's was a revelation,

as was the cornflake crusted French Toast and Coconut curd at Manhattan House in Manhattan Beach. When the waiter came by to ask how the food was, I told him the Chef should be kissed it was so good!

And I just loved the Tortilla Scramble at the Ocean Diner. I took a picture of the description in the menu, because even though I knew I'd never be able to duplicate it exactly, it was something I want to try when I am back home.

I met a fellow Patriots fan while we were in Long Beach the other day, and was introduced to his two Airdales, one of whom was named.... Tom Brady, so the T-shirt has been a hit.

I've also had lunch with another California friend and quilter and spent a lot of time playing with the baby.

Funniest thing so far... was talking to somebody and somehow it came out that I was not a native Californian and would be going back to chilly New Hampshire soon.  This person's reply:

"Well, why would you want to do that?"

Why indeed.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Am a Bad Woman

I really wanted to have a New England Patriots T-shirt when I visited my son in California, but I couldn't find anything I liked in the stores. I was chatting with a friend of mine and she said, "Oh just order it online."  Yeah, but it won't get here before I leave, I told her.

"Have it shipped to his house," was her perfect and utterly logical reply.

OH HOT DAMN! What an awesome idea...

So I ordered the one in the photo above, which says everything.

Hey, I said I was a bad woman!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Inspiration, Again

You know how I keep telling you that inspiration can hit you anywhere?

Sometimes it can come from the darndest places. In this case, my granddaughter threw it at me.

These colors will make a very interesting quilt. Yellow, Orange, Light Blue and Dark Blue with a touch of red. I can see it already!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Happy Birthday Nephew

My nephew, for whom I made the quilt Lightning in the Night Sky, is 20 years old today.

I have no idea how that happened.

Happy Birthday, Sweetie!