What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath (40”x18”)

What Lies Beneath (40”x18”)

What Lies Beneath is another new quilt for this year. This was made for the Central Oregon SAQA challenge, “Beneath the Surface”. When I was trying to figure out what to do for the challenge I had other ideas, ones that were really quite different from this. However, when I have a challenge quilt to do I try to make something that could be used for other purposes besides the original exhibit. In this case, I wanted to do something modern and I was inspired by mid century modern design.

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I came up with this idea as an abstract way to illustrate how people, animals and nearly everything else in the universe are more complicated that they first appear. The original idea had a midline going across the width of the quilt, but at some point I decided it was better without it.

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First I did a small sketch of some shapes, then had to decide the order of putting it all together. I also had to consider shrinkage since the size was supposed to be 18x40 (either vertical or horizontal). I had to make the background extra big and then guess that shrinkage would occur mostly in the width rather than the height due to the vertical background quilting.

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I made a full size drawing and used hand applique and freezer paper templates to add the shapes. Then I layered and machine quilted the background. I started and stopped each stitching line at the shapes and since I like to bury the thread tails that took a really long time! Lastly, I added the hand quilting and hand embroidery. It was a lot of fun to to doodle on the shapes. I used a Pitt Artist pen to draw the doodles and then stitched over the lines with embroidery floss with mostly back stitch and satin stitch.

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Finally, I added my hand stitched signature to the front of the quilt. I’ve been doing that on most quilts in recent years and I like the look. It feels like signing a painting.

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I really love how this quilt came out and it was enjoyable to do (except for all the ends to bury!). The background fabric is Essex linen/cotton blend which is one of my favorite fabrics for hand stitching. I also love the backing print which is very busy, but so very cute. Those tiny houses are about 1/4”! It worked out great because I didn’t worry to much about doing the hand embroidery. Normally I would try to keep my embroidery stitches in the batting layer rather than going through to the back, but with the machine quilting lines it would have been very frustrating to do. With that backing being so busy all the errant stitches on the back don’t really show so I don’t mind them.

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Happy Town

2019 Happy Town (41” x 41”)

2019 Happy Town (41” x 41”)

Happy Town is challenge quilt that I was obligated to keep secret until the reveal a couple of weeks ago. This original design was made for the Mt Bachelor Quilters’ Guild “My Hometown” challenge. Rather than doing a specific place I did one of my imaginary hometown scenes of whimsical houses. Because it’s Happy Town, I also added the Bluebirds of Happiness. This cheerful quilt was a lot of fun to make!

The background was improvisationally pieced. This includes the grass, the sidewalks, lawns, and sky. All of the other elements were added with hand applique. The fabrics are all prints designed by Marcia Derse, except for a few solids and the grunge for the sky. I machine quilted the whole thing and then added some hand embroidery to finish it. My favorite part was fussy cutting the art history:101 graphic print to make the doors, windows, trees, and flowers.

The challenge quilts were shown and voted on at our July meeting. Then the quilts will be shown at our August Quilt Show at Pioneer Park in Bend, August 17, 10am to 4 pm. They will also be shown at the Sisters Quilt Show next year.

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Maria and the Finch

Maria and the Finch, 40x40

Maria and the Finch, 40x40

The past few weeks have been super busy getting this quilt ready to show last Saturday at our guild quilt show.  If you were following my Instagram feed I was noting the amount of time it took for the machine quilting.  It turned out to be about 20 hours just for that, plus another 5 hours to do the facing, sleeve and label.  Not to mention countless hours I spent designing and creating the fusible pieces.  You could also count the hours spent making the four smaller faces which gave me the confidence to start this quilt.  All in all, I'm only counting hours so I can have an honest answer when the inevitable question comes up.  I don't do that for every quilt I make and I know there are some quilts I've sold for a pittance compared to the amount of hours that went into them.  Luckily, I don't think I'll ever sell this one.

Maria and the Finch is 40x40 inches which was the size my book club determined for every quilt in this exhibit. A consistent size helped make this a very cohesive exhibit which you'll see in a future post.  

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My first task for getting on with this quilt about a month ago was to make the marten face.  I based this image on the book cover.  You can see the cover in the last photo of this post.  I wanted to make it look like Martin was hiding in the flowers and originally intended to put a lot more flowers in the mix. As I was adding flowers I changed my mind and made it a bit more simple.  

Once all the pieces were fused down I pinned it and got out a bunch of threads to get ready for quilting.  I ended up adding more colors of thread.  This free motion quilting included lots of thread changes which is one reason it took so long.  In addition, I prefer to bury my thread ends and I like to do that as I go which makes things a little slower.

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I started with the all important face.  First I got out my previous face samples to study for a bit. It had been a while since I did them and I wanted to get a feel for the process again.  Then I just dived in!  It's not perfect, but do you know a face that is?

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I love looking it at on the reverse too.  In order to keep from having the fabric bunch up I worked my way from the face out to the edges.  I did the shirt next, then the flowers and the marten before heading up into the sky.

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The bird got it's quilting, but the legs didn't get done until later.  They are just heavily free motion stitched lines.

I attempted some fur texture on the marten's face and body.

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Doing a person's skin is a particular challenge.  I've gotten used to doing the faces, but when it came to the arms I wasn't sure what to do and ended up with these lines.  The rest of the quilt is pretty densely quilted, so I wanted to keep the amount of quilting similar throughout.

As with my other face quilts, I don't do any stitching at all until the applique is fused and the quilt is layered with batting and backing.  Therefore, the stitching I do to hold the fused pieces down is also the quilting.  I also add stitching to every single piece.  I just prefer it that way and I don't trust the fusible stuff to keep it all together over time.

Below you'll find my label which I create in Microsoft Word and print onto printable fabric.  I hope you'll consider reading Martin Marten yourself. It's a wonderful book and the quilts our group made are really fantastic.  More on that in the next post!

Autumn Meadow

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I have been busy this spring and early summer!  Here's another challenge project for this year.  This time it's the local Central Oregon SAQA group challenge with the theme "Threads that Bind".  I really didn't have any good ideas that fit the theme exactly, but it did sound like one of those quilt challenges where anything goes, so I decided to just do whatever I wanted.  

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This quilt was created in a roundabout way and if I were to do it again I'd probably do something different.  In this case, I got together a bunch of green silks and cut strips that I pieced for the background.  I then layered them with batting and backing and quilted the heck out of it with dense straight line machine quilting.  This piece measures 18" x 40" (our standard size for these SAQA challenges), so it was very easy to do that quilting.  I put on an audio book and just stitched away for a few hours.

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I decided that it would be an abstract meadow, so I added the silk stems with machine stitching.  When I was at QuiltCon this year I picked up some kantha quilt scraps at one of the vendors.  These scraps were so beautiful and truthfully, I was kind of horrified to see the vendor cutting up perfectly good kantha quilts for this, but in the end I was glad to get those scraps and decided to use them for something special.  I cut them again into the flower and leaf shapes and hand appliqued them to the completed top.  Did I mention that sometimes I don't fully think things through??? 

Well, that was a horrible idea.  It was really hard on my hands and wrists to try to hand sew through all that.  In the end, I did complete the hand stitching, but it took a long time.  My original plan had been to hand embroider over the flowers and stems to add some texture and color, but the experience of the hand applique cured me of that notion right away.  I knew I had to do something.

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I decided I'd machine stitch some defining lines on the leaves and flowers, but when I did that the edges started to stick up and it did NOT look good.  Horrors!  I finally decided to machine stitch around each piece I had hand appliqued.  The hand stitching was mostly obliterated, but it got the job done.

In the middle of the kerfuffle I came to hate this piece and that's one reason it sat on the design wall taunting me.  In the end it actually came together beautifully and I really like the result.  Sometimes we just have to suffer for our art, don't we?

I proudly machine stitched my name to the front, added a facing using my favorite technique  by Terry Aske.  I added a handwritten label and a sleeve and it was finally done.  Whew!

This SAQA exhibition will debut at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show this July 14.  I wasn't able to attend the quilt reveal, but the SAQA special exhibit is always one of the best, so check it out if you're there!

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Faces in Fabric Part 4- Maria and the Finch

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So, let's get back to our faces in fabric series. Today I'll start a two part post about the largest quilt in the series.  This one is for my Undercover Quilters book challenge this year.  The book is Marten Martin by Brian Doyle.  It's a fantastic read and you are in for a treat if you've never read Doyle before.  He was a local Oregon author who died last year, well before his time.  His books celebrate language and nature in the most delightful way.  In this book I've chosen to depict one of the main characters, a girl named Maria.  The scene about her birthday party in a meadow on the flank of Mt Hood was a real favorite for me.  

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This quilt has to be a certain size, so rather than leave it up to chance and my crazy improv instincts, I decided to draw a mock up to make sure I can fit in all the parts.  I then traced the face onto tracing paper with a Sharpie.  This allows me to use it as a guide, but not as a pattern.  Remember, I got help for this from Melissa Averino's book, Making Faces in Fabric.

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The next step is to choose a face fabric and start building the face.  I keep the tracing out as my guide as you'll see below.

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I first refined the shape of the mouth.

I first refined the shape of the mouth.

As I said before, I always start with the eyes. I cut the white of the eye, irises and pupils and use the guide for a rough idea of shape.  There will be changes as we go along, but that's ok.

As I said before, I always start with the eyes. I cut the white of the eye, irises and pupils and use the guide for a rough idea of shape.  There will be changes as we go along, but that's ok.

Then I decide on an upper and lower eye lid.

Then I decide on an upper and lower eye lid.

Before I go further I like to fuse the eyeball so I don't lose the little pieces. Then I do a couple of hand stitches in the pupil.

Before I go further I like to fuse the eyeball so I don't lose the little pieces. Then I do a couple of hand stitches in the pupil.

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Tweezers are a necessity in my opinion!  I also added the  highlight with a couple of little stitches.

Tweezers are a necessity in my opinion!  I also added the  highlight with a couple of little stitches.

Once the eyes are complete they are fused, then I can decide on other features.  The lips have a dark fabric placed under the upper lip for definition between the upper and lower.  Melissa also recommends having the upper lip a shade darker than the lower lip.

Once the eyes are complete they are fused, then I can decide on other features.  The lips have a dark fabric placed under the upper lip for definition between the upper and lower.  Melissa also recommends having the upper lip a shade darker than the lower lip.

cheeks

cheeks

rosy cheeks, even better!

rosy cheeks, even better!

eyebrows

eyebrows

Once I have all the features ready I use the translucent tracing paper to guide placement on the face fabric.

Once I have all the features ready I use the translucent tracing paper to guide placement on the face fabric.

At this point they can all be fused.

At this point they can all be fused.

This time I used some very tiny pieces to just outline the nose.

This time I used some very tiny pieces to just outline the nose.

I also used some skinny pieces to define the shape of the lower face and the neck.

I also used some skinny pieces to define the shape of the lower face and the neck.

Next time I'll talk about how to do the hair!