Tuesday, March 18, 2014

when colors give the wrong vibrations

“Color is all. When color is right, form is right. Color is everything, color is vibration like music; everything is vibration.” 
― Marc Chagall

I wrote and then deleted a post a couple of days ago regarding this quilt project. I had been working on it for a couple of weeks, struggling with the design. The quilt top I finished was so hideous that I couldn't leave it up here. :)

Theoretically, the reds, green and yellow of the 1950s tablecloth, the green and white polka dots from a girl's dress, a yellow and red mini-print from my 1980s stash, and the yellow gingham should work together. In the photo above, they look all right. Cheerful even, which is what I was going for: spring.

But the final result was bad in composition (an ambitious attempt to take inspiration from this gorgeous painting by Linda Vachon) — bad vibrations (thank you, M. Chagall) — and one of the main factors was this yellow and white gingham. When looking at the final piece, the gingham faded in juxtaposition with the yellow and red mini-print, which came off as golden/olive by comparison. I wish I had the heart to post it here so you would be convinced. Maybe you can picture it.

Chagall also said,

“All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.”

At first this sounds contradictory to his other statement at the top. But I think it's important to keep both in mind while designing a quilt. Color is everything.

I haven't ripped this top apart yet, but I've begun another project: a modern flying geese quilt in white, cream and soft blue/green. I needed to get away from bold colors, which need a good deal of design skill to pull off.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Rose and her sisters"

I finished the first quilt for my etsy shop (not launched yet), which I call "Rose and her sisters." I feel excited about my goal for the shop: to create homemade modern improv quilts from 100% repurposed fabrics and fabric scraps.

This quilt really expresses my aesthetic. It has an old world feel, with deep, rich tones and lots of close quilting. It has the colors and feel of a tapestry. The toile linen in the two panels of "Rose and her sisters" was leftover from a chair recovering project. More about the quilting in a minute. The brown mini-floral is from my fabric stash and must be thirty years old. The large cabbage rose print is from a Ralph Lauren dust ruffle my sister Nancy gave me long ago. I never used it as a dust ruffle. It is a beautiful soft cotton with the sheen of chintz.

This could also be "Ruth and her sisters" since I have three sisters.

I sewed straight line quilting on all the panels and strips except for the two toile panels with ladies, which I free motion quilted. The sisters remind me of characters in a George Eliot novel, maybe that's because I'm reading Middlemarch now.

I can picture Miss Brook sitting in Mr. Brook's library reading with this quilt on her lap. All my quilts will probably be this size: 65" x 43 1/2" or so, perfect for laps, naps, thrown on a bed, sofa, or porch swing.

I only learned about improv quilts recently, since getting back into quilting. Back in the 1980s I only pieced traditional quilts (log cabins, lone stars, traditional blocks). When I started following Pinterest quilt boards recently, I discovered the exciting world of improv piecing. (My Pinterest quilts board is here with inspiration galore.) No measuring or straight lines. Just cut and create as you go. This is so satisfying for me and feels just right. You can see the wonkiness of the four brown bars in the full top below, like tree trunks or fence posts in the ladies' rose garden.

Cutting up the fabric into strips this way deconstructs the elegance of Ralph Lauren's world and puts it back together with an embrace of folk art, of women who for centuries have used what they had to create beauty for themselves and their family. She may think the sumptuous life of toile ladies is gorgeous, but she will probably never attain it. She'll piece together what she can.

The back of the quilt is pieced with more scraps, mostly from my 1980s stash. The rose print on the top right was another gift from Nancy, an upholstery linen. The deep red and the olive green were scraps from Henry's quilt and my granddaughter's quilt (due to be born Thursday!).

You know how they say you should follow your passion and see if you can find someone to pay you for it? Well, that's what I'm about these days. It will be thrilling when someone decides they need to own this quilt.

For the binding I chose the same olive green I used for my granddaughter's quilt. I wanted a bright contrast.

Now a bit about the quilting. I stitched straight lines on the strips and panels, except for the linen toile. I alternated horizontal lines with vertical from panel to panel for interest. Because the fabric is flowery, I wanted straight lines as a balance. The great news is that the walking foot worked very well on my old Singer! I still didn't get it to fit just right (it knocked a little), but it breezed over the layers without a pucker! The back of the quilt testifies to this (above).

About three quarters through the quilting I decided to invest in a new quilting sewing machine, the first new sewing machine I've ever owned. It is a Brother PQ1500S. The "new product shock" was incredible, and wonderful. On the old Singer, I had to crank the wheel with my right hand to start every new row of stitching. If you imagine this with every turn of the quilt, back and forth, back and forth, over the whole top, I was an aching mess. With the new machine, I only have to touch the pedal with my toe! What a breeze. I guess I've been living in the dark ages, happily. So I finished the straight rows of quilting, and I saved the two toile panels for last.

Though I'd tried free motion quilting on the bottom half of James's quilt on the old Singer with decent results, I knew I could not progress in FMQ with the old machine. You really need to lower your feed dogs (though a few quilters don't), and I could not figure out how to lower mine. I found instructions online for an old Singer, but it wasn't the same model as mine. This contributed to the decision to buy a new machine, one that had all the settings, feet and possibilities I was looking for.

After some practice, I tackled the free motion quilting on the ladies. I was terrified. But the control I felt with the new machine was much greater than on James's quilt, and I am happy with the result of the echo stitching.

For me, the best part of creating a quilt is designing it. I have the next two in my head and will post about the process. After the deep old world hues of this quilt, and after such a very brutal winter, I am ready for a spring quilt next, which I'm calling either "jelly beans" or "crocus and jonquils." After that, a black and white one from Goodwill skirts.