Sunday, January 20, 2019

Not So Big Bird

I always try to have appropriate samples for my classes. I've made some giant birds to have on hand because it's easier to show something on a big sample than a little one. I need a sample that's quilted, but I didn't want to make another gigantic bird.

The hardest thing is choosing the right fabrics. I'm a big believer in "auditioning" fabrics. Here are some options for the bird I made.

This one didn't just look right. The colors were OK, but that was it.

 This was the right tone of blue green, but the scale of the print was about the same as the bird breast and didn't seem to have any zip.

This seemed to be too much, and the colors of the beak fabric were too mushy.

 This was the fabric I chose, and I also decided to fussy cut it. The big flower with the stem of blossoms pulled all the colors and shapes of the rest of the bird together.

Once the beak was made, I had  to decide on the legs. The one on the far left was too dark, and the blue on the right just didn't fit, so the solution was the one in the middle.

Here is the finished bird panel. It's 24" tall by 26" wide. Scale is very hard to show. So how big is big?

This "medium sized" big bird is about 3 times bigger than the average bird.

I really like this bird, even the big print I used for the background.

If you would like to make your own flock of birds, you can get my tutorial here, at my Etsy shop. It has everything you need to know to make a bird, even how to make bigger ones.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Do The Egyptian...

My newest bird was inspired by the Egyptian-themed fabric on the wing. The rest of the fabrics were obvious selections. I made the bird because I liked the fabrics. I don't know where or if this bird will fit in my New Hampshire quilt, but hey, that's never stopped me before.

We're supposed to have a big snowstorm this weekend, and I'll be inside sewing and rooting for the team Millie calls "the guys named Pat." They are, of course, led by a guy named Tom, who is also a GOAT. I haven't decided if I am going to make a bird based on him though.

If you want to make some birds for your own flock, you can get my tutorial here, at my Etsy shop. It's an instant download, so you can get started right away.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


I've cleaned up a bit of the studio and am gradually making headway in the office, which is in danger of being overrun by paper. Taxes are a big motivation there. I have also decided to go back to the "New Hampshire Quilt," a quilt of birds based on people I know or admire, places and things that I love or anything else I decide to add.

If you have been reading for any length of time you know that I love to watch tennis, and that my favorite player is Roger Federer, widely considered to be the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT). Right now the Australian Open is underway in Melbourne Australia. Roger has won the last two years. So naturally I am watching. Roger (he's known by his first name) is from Switzerland, and the Swiss colors are red and white, ergo a red and white bird inspired by Roger.

The musical fabric for the wing, with the stringed lyre, is meant to represent (loosely) a tennis racquet, as is the checkerboard fabric of the beak is meant to represent the strings on a tennis racquet. The letters of the body are a nod to Roger's logo, a stylized RF.

In the past I have always used WOW (White on White) fabrics as the backgrounds for my birds, but I have seen birds made with a mixture of WOWs and some small prints on White or some variant, and I thought they looked good, so I am going to use that idea in this quilt. Not every bird will have a patterned background.

And yes, that little "crown" on top of the bird's head is meant to remind you of a crown.

All these little things just go to show you how much freedom you have in constructing and personalizing your own birds. If you want to make one of these birds, you can get my tutorial here, at my Etsy shop. It's an instant download, so you can get started right away, but I should warn you. Bird making can be rather addictive. It's hard to make just one!

Sunday, January 13, 2019


There's a thing going on on Instagram about hands. I'll post this over there later, but I thought it was worth talking about here.

I always thought my hands were homely with all those veins showing, wrinkly knuckles and uneven fingernails. They were never the long slender hands and fingernails of the pretty girls.

An aside: My mother told me at fourteen that while I would never be a beautiful swan, I would always be a very pretty duck. While that sounds terrible, and at 14 it did, she also told me something else that would turn out to be true. "You have the kind of looks that will stay. You will be more beautiful when you are older than all the other girls your age." She was right. Nobody ever thinks I'm as old as I am.

My hands, however, look my age, although I don't think we know what old hands ought to look like.

When I hold my hands up, the blood runs down, and the veins in my hands aren't so prominent.

Years ago I was talking about my ugly hands to a girlfriend. "I think your hands are beautiful," she told me. "I think they have character."

One of my contour drawings from 1973
I taught Drawing to Adult Ed students for many years, and the first class was always blind contour drawing. You draw without looking at the paper. Everybody's eyes cross. Huh? The drawing will be crappy. Well, kinda. And you draw your hand, because it is the hardest thing to draw and if you're not looking at the paper, then it's going to be really weird looking. But that's not the point. What happens on the paper is irrelevant. The exercise is designed to teach you to SEE. As a drawing teacher I could look at the paper and know if the student was "getting it" even though they saw a bunch of jumbled lines. The side effect was I looked at a lot of hands.

I made an interesting discovery. Most people had boring hands. I stopped caring about what my hands looked like, except when I drew them.

After finding that drawing of my hand (above) from 1973, I wondered if I could recreate the way I held my hand in that drawing 45 years ago. I guess yes, and it proves that it really was MY hand.

Lynne Tyler, Self Portrait, 1987, Contour drawing.
Contour drawings are known for their expressive line quality and freshness. This self-portrait above, is a particularly nice example. The biggest thing contour drawing teaches is to see, but it also teaches you to measure with your eyes by teaching your eye and your hand to move at the same time, at the same speed and in the same direction.

We think about our hands as doing the tasks we do, but it's really our brain telling them what to do.

Hands are simply tools.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


If you live where it doesn't snow, you think snow is just snow. But it isn't. There are many different kinds of snow.

This is wet snow, that clings. We didn't have much of it, and even though the temperature was just above freezing when I took these pictures, the sun wasn't out, so the snow clinging to the branches on the trees hadn't melted yet.

I always tell you to look around for inspiration, because it is everywhere, and I took these pictures so I could remember the patterns of the snow covered branches, but somehow I knew there was inspiration here too.

I don't know what I will do yet, but an idea is forming...

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Back to Normal?

The Christmas decorations have been taken down and put away, the table quilt has been changed and I decided to put the Dark Majesty quilt on the back of the couch.

But first I had to wash it. I used three Color Catchers and I was surprised how dark they were when they came out of the washing machine.

Here are the dirty color catchers with a clean one on top so you can see how dirty they are. What's amazing about this is that I wash ALL my fabric in warm water before I ever let it into the studio.

The Dark Majesty quilt looks so good on the couch, and now that it is soft and wrinkly, it may have found a new permanent home.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

So Do You Quilt?

This is SewGirl from California (and her husband.) Her real name is Nancy. I met Nancy several years ago when I was waiting at a gate in Boston's Logan Airport for my flight to LA. I was bringing my diamond ring to give to my son. I asked a lady if she could keep an eye on my suitcase while I went to the ladies' room. It was SewGirl. When I got back I pointed to the luggage tag she had on her bag. It was handmade. She was surprised as she said she didn't meet many quilters while traveling.

We got to chatting and I told her I made quilts and gave her my card. I also told the story of the "secret" I was carrying. I give my cards to a lot of people, but I'm pretty sure most get tossed. Nancy confesses she checked out my blog to see the kind of quilts I made, but mostly to see the end story of the ring.

That was in 2013, and SewGirl has been reading my blog ever since, and although she comments rarely, we are still in touch. I love hearing from her.

I love reading all comments and like it even better when I get to meet my readers in person.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Flip and Flop

After the not-success of diamonds in the bottom area of this quilt, I wondered if I should just fill it with the lightest of the black on white fabrics and see what happened.  What happened was I got mush and mush is never good.

But there was one more option. The other day I had tried making diamonds of the darker black on white fabrics, and that seemed to be too much like a whack upside the head. Maybe I needed a gentler approach?

Here I made the diamonds the lightest of the black on white fabrics, and surrounded them (mostly) with the darker black on white fabrics.  I like this  a lot better, The lightest diamonds disappear like I wanted them to, but the integrity of the overall design is maintained.  I'll look at this over the next few days, and then I'll start sewing these blocks together.

By the way, this isn't the whole quilt. The bottom part was so close to the floor I had to get down on my hands and knees to work on it, which wasn't helping. So I folded up the long vertical rows and pinned them higher up on the design wall so I could work comfortably.

This is the whole thing. The five big vertical rows are sewn together. Four more seams and the top will be complete. It will measure 60" x 66".

And now to reply to some of your comments:

Somebody asked if I was going to make the top like the bottom. NO! Because to do that I would have had to rip out six blocks and then recreate the black on white diamonds like I did on the bottom. The hardest part of THAT was I was running out of my really light fabrics, and let's face it... One long diamond block had eight different black on white fabrics, and those fabrics could not be adjacent to each other in neighboring blocks. It was a logistical nightmare in the extreme to make the ones I did make. I was in no mood to rip things out and go through that again!

I considered adding some White On Whites to the bottom of the first photo of yesterday's post, but that would have added an element that was not present in the rest of the quilt. It wouldn't have fit, and it would have been the lightest light area in the whole quilt, and it would have been concentrated at one part of the quilt, and that kind of contrast would have drawn the eye there. That's a design flaw, so nope.

I also nixed the idea of a zig-zag edged quilt. It would have been too cutesy and too tricky. I don't mean tricky = difficult, I mean like a trick, like bad thing. I wanted to suggest the idea of floating panels, but I had no intention of representing them literally. (Remember, I can draw anything I want and make it look exactly like it is, so if I want a picture, I'll draw one.)

Adding "piano keys" of light blue to the bottom would have added another element that was not present in the rest of the quilt. It would have been a "what is THAT for?" or "Where did THAT come from?" and therefore not an option.

I had to continue with the black on white fabrics, because that was an element that was common throughout the quilt. It's another reason why I also did not use any of the "new" fabrics I bought recently.

I've always felt that at some point, a quilt starts making demands. "The quilt wants this, the quilt wants that..." What's really happening is a design develops and you have to respond to it, but find ways to continue to what's going on in the quilt and yet expand upon the idea that is there. I tell people that the farther you get along with stuff like this the more limited your options become. In other words, every choice you make informs yet limits the choices you have yet to make. So in order to continue the design I had yesterday (in order to make it cohesive), there were some things I simply could not do.

If you are interested in making a scrap slab quilt like this one, you can get my tutorial in my Etsy shop, here. It's an instant download, so you can get started right away!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Guessing Game

I like this, with the bottom stopping like this, with complete hex stars. I like the way it looks like fluttering banners. If I keep this layout, I have to figure out how to fill out the rest of the space at the bottom.

 If I filled the design with scrap triangles, the quilt would look like this. It's fine, but it's kinda predictable.

I thought, well, if I am going to go with dropping the blocks off, I need to fill the space. What if I made triangles from White with Colors fabrics and tried them as the diamonds? Uh, nope! Damn those are ugly!

Here I've filled the space with black on white fabrics. If you look closely you can see I've tried to use the darker black on white prints to create the diamonds. I'm not sure this is working for me.

I'm going to have to think about this a bit more.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Replenishing the Blacks on White

From time to time it's necessary to do some stash replenishment. I felt the need for more black on white fabrics for my scrap slab triangle quilts.

I bought sixteen fabrics. All of these were half yard cuts except for one. As you can see I shopped for a variety of pattern, scale, pattern density and design.

I really liked the scale of the print on the left, and I deliberately chose the paintbrushes with their pops of color on the right.

I also liked the little bits of color in this science based print.

I bought a full yard of this jungle print.

These llamas struck me as delightful. In all likelihood they will not be used in the scrap slab triangle quilts, but you never know!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my readers, all around the world!

This is my Happy Holidays quilt, made with my free pieced birds. It's all original and designed by me, Lynne Tyler. It is totally free-pieced, made without patterns, templates or paper piecing.

If you want to make these birds, you can get my tutorial here at my Etsy shop.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Critical Mess

I never really cleaned the studio after making the Early Autumn quilt, and now I'm sewing up the Whirlygig quilt. It's manageable, but every time I looked at the floor it made me crazy.

 There were thread and fabric bits all over the place, so I cleared out the big stuff and let the robotic vacuum cleaner loose.

This was what it picked up. Wow. Needless to say the studio looks much better now!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

One Small Problem

There's one small problem with this arrangement. Well, more than one actually, and the biggest one sure as hell isn't small.

I don't like it.


Well, it's perfectly symmetrical, for one thing, which can be boring. And it's a bull's-eye for another. Which means the center of the quilt is in the exact center of the quilt and everything that surrounds it is the same and predictable. And you all know me, predictable isn't exactly what I like best.  So it's boring. There's nothing here for the viewer to discover on their own. The green hex star and the others are basically stars-of-David and while there is nothing wrong with that, I just don't want that to be the one thing that everybody sees.

Blah and bleh.

I like making my viewers work for it. I like making them discover things on their own.  And I really like the large lazy hex stars this way. They are more open, and they don't hit you over the head with their being stars. And the horizontal diamonds are much more relaxed and soothing. I like the overall pattern of this, with all the area full of stuff.

There was a part of that top design I liked, so I wondered if I could have it both ways. I filled in the "sides," took away those pointy purple triangles and flipped it on the side again.

(I rotated the picture, so it looks funny.)

But this I can work with.

I can't work with it much until I sew more things together, because rearranging all the pieces is crazy work, and I am not willing to do that. The four vertical rows on the far right are all sewn together. When I get more sewn together I'll figure out what to do on the bottom edge.

Maybe I can have it both ways!